The Pirates complete a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins Thursday night, with Liam Hendriks taking on James McDonald at 7:05.
This is by far the best pitching matchup of the series for the Pirates. In fact, it might be their best pitching matchup of the season. McDonald is in the midst of a breakout campaign, and Hendriks — well, if things hadn’t gone so badly for the Twins’ pitching staff this year, he probably wouldn’t even be in the rotation.
Hendriks was cruising through the Twins’ minor-league system, putting up excellent walk numbers and very good overall results despite underwhelming stuff. The Twins, facing a disastrous major-league rotation situation, called on him after just 16 Class AAA starts (he also had four major-league starts last year), and he’s gotten bombed so far, allowing a remarkable eight home runs in 23 innings. Some of that is probably bad luck, and there’s still a decent chance that Hendriks will be a fairly good pitcher in the long run, but some of it is probably inexperience, along with the fact that righties typically have a much harder time getting major-leaguers out with 90 MPH fastballs than they had in the minors. This is a very winnable game for the Bucs.