Pittsburgh must play really well down the stretch and will aim for a successful series this weekend against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays made the playoffs last season but started slowly and never turned it around in 2017. They are in last place in the American League East and simply playing out the string.
While the Pirates have the better record, Toronto is not a pushover at home and will aim to play the role of spoiler in these games.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Dates: Friday, August 11, 2017 – Sunday, August 13, 2017
Location: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Even though the Pirates are one game under .500 on the season, they are still very much in the mix for the division title. The wild card is out of reach so it will be N.L. Central or bust for the Bucs. Pittsburgh has won six of its past ten games to hang around in the race, but with the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers all ahead of them, the Pirates must get even hotter down the stretch.
The Blue Jays’ pitching has been really poor this season and its usually high-powered offense has fallen off. That isn’t a good combination and it has led to a disappointing 54-60 record as the season winds down. Toronto has a talented lineup but injuries and down years have hurt the production.
Game 1 Probable Pitchers – Friday, August 11, 2017, 7:07 p.m. ET (Local TV)
Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays) vs. Jameson Taillon (Pirates)
Stroman enters this contest with a record of 10-5. Toronto’s ace has a 3.17 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. In his most recent outing against Houston last Sunday, he allowed three runs, including two earned, on 11 hits while walking two and striking out six in 6.2 innings pitched. Stroman has to pitch well because the Blue Jays have question marks behind him.
Taillon is in a slump right now and is in need of a big showing to help turn things around. He has a 4.60 ERA currently and has given up 10 combined runs on 16 hits in his last two starts. He is 6-5 on the season and has big-time talent but has hit a bump in the road.
Game 2 Probable Pitchers – Saturday, August 12, 2017, 1:07 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
Unknown (Blue Jays) vs. Trevor Williams (Pirates)
Williams was sensational through seven innings against the Tigers on Monday and will look to build upon that performance. He pitched a one-hitter against Detroit, walking two and striking out five and threw a career-high 107 pitches. The pitching is key for the Pirates the rest of the way, and Williams could be a major component.
Toronto has yet to announce a starter for this matchup, but keep a close eye out as it could be a journeyman, which should give Pittsburgh the edge. Keep an eye on the top-5 sportsbooks to see the odds as the game draws near.
Game 3 Probable Pitchers – Sunday, August 13, 2017, 1:07 p.m. ET (Local TV)
J.A. Happ (Blue Jays) vs. Chad Kuhl (Pirates)
Happ has been a strong on the mound for the Blue Jays and will seek another solid showing Sunday. He comes into this contest having won two in a row against the White Sox and Yankees. He allowed just two runs in his last two starts and accumulated 15 strikeouts in that span, pitching 12.2 innings across the two games.
Kuhl has a 4.53 ERA this season with a 1.42 WHIP. He also enters this matchup on a winning streak, having won the last two against Cincinnati and Detroit. The 25-year-old was solid both on the mound and at the plate on Tuesday, recording his first two RBIs in the majors, with a two-run single in the fourth inning. He allowed three runs on five hits with one walk and six strikeouts in six innings pitched. Happ has the longer track record of success but Kuhl will aim to match him pitch for pitch so the Pirates have a chance at pulling the upset.