Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Things To Watch As Home Opener Series Wraps Up

Photo Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images

 The Pittsburgh Pirates dropped their home opener by the score of 4-2. While threatening in the eighth inning, the Chicago Cubs went to their closer Craig Kimbrel to get an extended save and secure the victory.

Now a loser of six straight games, Pittsburgh hopes to salvage their Home Opening series against the Cubs with a pair of games over the weekend.

Here are three things I'm looking for from the Pirates that could help them end the losing streak.

More Contact From Colin Moran

The Pirates cleanup hitter has come up with some big at bats this season already, something he hasn't been a stranger to during his time in Pittsburgh.

He's tied for the team lead in hits with seven, four of which are extra base hits. His overall batting line of .280/.379/.600 is actually really good. The slugging percentage may be hard to maintain, but he is hitting his prime years so you never know.

Imagine how much better his batting line might be if he made more contact.

In 25 at bats this season, Moran has struck out 11 times, the most on the Pirates so far. The Pirates would especially love to see him make contact when runners are in scoring position.  The 28-year old former first round pick has struck out in all four at bats he's had with RISP.

A Center Fielder To Emerge

We figured that the jockeying for playing time between Anthony Alford and Dustin Fowler would probably carry over into the season. Fowler got the nod in the Home Opener, as part of the intrigue in trading for him was his pull-hitting right into the short right field fence.

He got good contact on his SAC Fly, but has looked lost at other times at the plate.

Alford has yet to record a hit in his 11 at bats, and combined the two have an average of .120 (3-for-25). In those 25 at bats, they have collectively struck out 14 times. That's over 50% of the time they come to the plate, that they go down on strikes.

Something is going to have to give at some point, or the Pirates are going to have to start looking elsewhere to put out in center field.

Can a Starter Pitch Deep Into A Game?

There was a reason that the Pirates went into the season with 14 pitchers, they knew they were going to need a lot of bodies to get through the year. 

It played out as they have through so far, as their starting pitchers have worked some of the fewest innings in the league this season, and the bullpen has had their hands full.

Pittsburgh gets maybe two of their more talented pitchers on the mound for them this weekend, with Mitch Keller going on Saturday, and J.T Brubaker closing the series out on Sunday.

The former top prospect, the Pirates are still waiting for Keller to put things together. The stuff is there, but he hasn't been able to harness it enough to be effective.

Case in point, he held the Cubs to a .182 average in his first start, but only lasted three innings and allowed three runs. Most of that was due to the four walks he allowed.

Brubaker has good stuff as well, but he also walked four batters in his lone start of the season, striking out six batters in four innings pitched. The high pitched count forced him out the game before the fifth, and Luis Oviedo surrendered a home run that tied the game up before the Cincinnati Reds took control and walked away.

Who do you feel is more likely to step up, Fowler or Alford? What are your predictions for the weekend? Let us know in the comment section, subscribe to the site at the link at the top of the page, and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.


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