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Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins, Series Pitching Preview

The Pittsburgh Pirates (16-18) visit the Miami Marlins (18-16) for the opener of a two-game set tonight at 7:10 PM.

The Bucs took two of three from the Houston Astros (15-19) in their last series, including a 12-inning walk-off victory last night.

Tonight, Brad Lincoln will make the spot start with Erik Bedard  scratched after experiencing back spasms after an inning in his last outing.

Lincoln has been nothing short of phenomenal out of the big league bullpen, allowing just one run over 14.1 innings pitched. Opponents are batting just .180 off him. In two AAA starts, Lincoln had a 2.25 ERA this season, giving up 10 hits and no walks in 12 innings while striking out nine.

On the mound tonight for Miami will be Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez has gotten off to a great 2012 with a nifty 2.02 ERA in 40.1 innings (six starts). He’s struck out over a batter per inning and has only allowed two home runs and 31 hits on the year. His seven-year career ERA sits at 3.62 with a 1.351 WHIP, so he’s pitching much better than he has to this point in his career.

The season will tell if the 28-year-old is finally hitting his prime and becoming one of the best pitchers in the game as he was projected to become when he was ranked the number 40 prospect in the minor leagues prior to the 2006 season, or if he’s simply on a hot streak and bound to come back to earth sometime.

Tomorrow, we’ll watch Kevin Correia try and keep up with Miami’s Josh Johnson.

Correia is notably better on the road than he is at PNC Park, and that’s no secret. This season, Correia has a 2.25 road ERA compared to 4.50 at home, each over three starts. All five home runs off Correia this year have come at PNC. Hopefully he’ll continue that trend and have a nice outing tomorrow.

Johnson hasn’t been his old self so far this year. The now-28-year-old was stellar in 2010, with a 2.30 ERA and 9.1 K/9 ratio over 28 starts. After only making nine (dominant) starts in 2011 due to inflammation in his pitching shoulder, Johnson’s ERA sits at 5.87 through seven starts in 2012. His K/BB ratio is closer to 2 than 4 as it was in 2010, and his K/BB ratio is down to 7.5.

Johnson is one of the best pitchers in the game, and it’d be a shame to see the injury have this effect on the rest of his career. Hopefully he’s just getting back into pitching shape after missing about 8 months.

A start against the anemic Pirates offense could be just what the doctor ordered to get Johnson back on track.

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