The Crystal (base)Ball: Giants vs Pirates Preview

Will the Giants be able to forget their 16-4 pounding by the Dodgers and move on the Pirates? Will Ray Durham make an appearance in the line up? Will J.T. Snow be back as well, and if he is, will he be wearing the black socks? Did this massive loss shake up the Giants??

The Pirates are hoping so. The Giants, for the first time all year, are being tested - not only by opposing teams, but by injuries that have hampered the Run Producer (Durham) and the RBI Man (Snow). I wonder whether or not the loss Sunday night will temper the Giant's flame or make it burn with the brightness of vigilance when they meet the Pirates on their Tuesday-Thursday trip to Pittsburgh.

For the first time ever in the MLB regular season, Jesse Foppert, future Cy Young candidate (thank you Peter Gammons), will start. His energetic fastball and split will hopefully sustain him for 6 innings, and keep an eye on his crazy reverse slider that runs in on righties. He will be facing Jeff Suppan, a four-pitch guy who had an awful season last year, but has gone 3-0 so far. Giants' hitters must be patient; especially if the count is high- he usually will throw his curveball- the pitch he is most comfortable with. Unlike Foppert, Suppan isn't a strikeout guy. This match up, because of Foppert's inexperience and Suppan's lack of staying power, will probably go to the bullpen.

Wednesday sees Kirk Rueter taking on Jeff D'Amico. Pound this guy early and pound his fastballs in particular. He hasn't survived more than 5 innings in any of his 3 starts (1-2), and though having a looping curveball, his pitches get monotonous towards the later innings. Look for more bullpen action today from the Pirates. Woody took a beating last week against Houston- look for him to come back by playing the inside.

Thursday has ace Jason Schmidt pitching against the red-hot Kris Benson, who is .89 ERA and a .195 BAA. Schmidt, who pitched a great game against the Dodgers last Friday against Kevin Brown, has been looking just as sharp as usual. Batters vs. Benson are looking at a four-pitch guy who can power pitch and finesse you at the plate. And be aggressive- this guy does his homework. He takes copious notes on all the batters he faces through extensive tape watching. He isn't hurting anymore.

Hitting power of the Pirates has been off and on as of late. While they came out guns blazing, led by former Giants Kenny Lofton and Reggie Sanders, both have been dim as of late. In home stands, Lofton and Aramis Ramirez are hitting below 2 and the other 3 power hitters of the club (Sanders, Pokey Reese and Jake Wilson) are in the .250 range. Compound that with the loss of Brian Giles, their key guy, and this staff seems to be hard pressed at home.

Tuesday will hopefully mark the return of 1B-man, J.T. Snow, who is recovering from the foul tip that left a grapefruit on his knee last Saturday. It may also mark the return of Ray Durham, who has been day-to-day with a groin pull. Could the health of these two guys insure another Giants victory? We'll see.

Jillian Bailles d'Err writes for SFDugout.com and has been a Giants fan since 1988. She currently writes the column 'The Crystal (Base)Ball', a preview into upcoming Giants series. If you'd like to say hey, or comment about how amazingly insightful she is (or not), contact her at JayBird704@aol.com.


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