The Highlights

  • The Dodgers will look to get to .500 for the first time since April 24 against a Pirates team that has lost 12 of 16.
  • Both teams will send a hot pitcher to the mound, as Joe Musgrove will start for Pitt and Ross Stripling will do so for LA.
  • Each club also features a streaking bat in the outfield, but only one bullpen has performed well recently.

Fresh off a sweep of the Rockies, the Dodgers (29-30) have a chance to get back to .500 with a win against the Pirates. L.A. hasn’t been .500 or better since it sat at 11-11 on April 24. Only two games back in the NL West, the Dodgers need to just continue to hang around. Don’t forget that LA will eventually get back Kenta Maeda, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Julio Urias and Hyun-jin Ryu from injury this summer.

While things have started to trend up in La La Land, things have taken a turn for the worse in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have dropped 12 of 16 and find themselves in fourth place in the NL Central — 6.5 games back of the Brewers.

Let’s take a closer look at Tuesday’s series opener to see if the Pirates can get back on track or if the Dodgers can finally get back to .500. On paper, we have a very underrated pitching matchup.


Los Angeles Dodgers (-121) at Pittsburgh Pirates (+110) | O/U: 8

Ross Stripling (3-1, 1.68 ERA) vs. Joe Musgrove (2-0, 0.64 ERA)
7:05 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup

Joe Musgrove: It had to hurt Pirates fans to see Gerrit Cole dominate, while Musgrove (a key cog in the Cole trade) sat injured on the sidelines. However, after Musgrove’s first two starts, Pittsburgh fans might look at that trade through a different lens. The 2011 first-round draft pick by the Blue Jays has pitched seven innings in each of his first two starts — both of which also came in Pittsburgh. He allowed only one earned run over those 14 innings against the Cubs and Cardinals, and picked up the win in both.

While we don’t have much data on Musgrove — who made only 25 career starts before this season — the stuff is certainly there. He can hit 95-plus on his four-seamer and has a very effective sinker, both of which pair nicely with his changeup. The righty also features an outstanding cutter, which he now throws more frequently — after dropping a subpar curveball from his arsenal. I expect Musgrove to have a great deal of success as a starting pitcher in the Steel City. — Stuckey

It looks like Musgrove hasn’t felt any ill effects from the shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the first two months of the year. Though his ERA will certainly rise from its current level, he’s had outstanding velocity in his first two starts back. If he can keep up his current 57.5% ground-ball rate (12 percentage points higher than his career average) — he’ll have plenty of success. If he doesn’t, he’ll need to strike out more guys (career K/9 of ~8) to be a true front-of-the-rotation arm. — Mark Gallant

Ross Stripling:  Through six starts this year, Stripling (not Kershaw) owns the best ERA on the Dodgers. In fact, Stripling had the fourth-lowest ERA (0.93) in baseball in May — trailing only Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Jake Arrieta. Impressive company.

And you can’t say he’s benefited simply from luck. He’s actually pitched very well, as evidenced by his 2.17 FIP (a more accurate measure of performance), which doesn’t differ too much from his minuscule 1.68 ERA. He’s actually been a tad unlucky, as his .333 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is the highest of his career.

What has changed? Nothing much, really. Like Musgrove, Stripling doesn’t have the largest sample size, but his velocity and pitch mix haven’t changed significantly over the years. However, he’s still found a way to significantly increase his strikeout rate to 10.99 K/9. That’s more than a 20% increase from his career average and puts him in the top 15 among all starting pitchers this season (min. 40 innings).

 

The right-hander has a filthy curveball, and his slider has been absolutely devastating this season. He just seems to have a better handle on both, and looks like a much smarter pitcher. As a result, he’s actually struck out at least nine in three straight starts. Pretty impressive for a guy who had never struck out more than six in a game before this season. Experience pays off, and he certainly has plenty of great pitching minds around him. — Stuckey

Bullpen Barometer

While the Dodgers’ bullpen comes in full of confidence, the Pirates’ pen has looked absolutely awful of late. Closer Felipe Vazquez has blown four of his past six save opportunities, and setup man Michael Feliz has allowed earned runs in five straight appearances. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t have many arms he can trust right now out of the pen. If this becomes a bullpen battle, the Dodgers should have a major advantage. — Stuckey

Fantasy Focus

In an odd occurrence, Stripling and Musgrove have pitched so well over the past month that their salaries on DraftKings have increased by more than $3,000. Both were priced at the bare minimum of $4,000 a month ago but have seen a significant rise after a number of dominant outings.

Before Stripling’s last start, I wrote about how much fantasy value he had. Well, he made me look smart by putting up 32.15 points. However, his newfound strikeout ability may not help much against a Pirates team that owns MLB’s second-lowest strikeout rate. Fantasy Labs projects just five strikeouts for Stripling, putting him in just the 46th percentile historically.

Pitchers with a monthly salary increase of at least $3,000 with a sub-50th percentile strikeout prediction have not panned out as great DFS investments in the past, averaging a Plus/Minus of -2.37. — Mark Gallant

If you’re looking for hot offensive bats, look no further than the outfield Tuesday night at PNC Park. Matt Kemp has looked five years younger this season and is swinging a red-hot bat for the Dodgers. Meanwhile, despite not making his MLB debut until May 18, the Pirates’ Austin Meadows still won NL Rookie of the Month in May.

Getting Trendy

The Pirates suffered a 5-0 loss against the Cardinals on Sunday. Since 2005, teams coming off a shutout loss — followed by a day off — have won 57% of their ensuing games when played at home. Pittsburgh has gone 6-1 in this spot since 2012 under Hurdle, winning four consecutive overall. — Evan Abrams

The Dodgers scored 10 runs Sunday. In the past five years, LA is 19-24 following an offensive outburst of 10 or more runs. The Dodgers have scored an average of only 4.2 runs in the following game. — John Ewing

Under manager Dave Roberts, the Dodgers own an impressive 51-31 record when riding at least a three-game winning streak. However, if you bet the Dodgers in each of those games, you would have actually lost -1.4 units. That perfectly sums up the nature of betting on baseball. — Evan Abrams

 

Stats via Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and MLB.com

Credit:

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Joe Musgrove