The White Sox are heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates, another team toward which it is hard to work up any animosity. Unless you’re as old as I am, and remember the early 90s Barry Bonds/Bobby Bonilla teams — now best known for kickstarting the Braves pseudo-dynasty — the Pirates have been mediocre to bad most of your life.
The one exception was those mid-2010s teams who were cool and good, and for whom you found yourself rooting unless you were a Cubs fan or a nitwit. That team featured Andrew McCutchen, who is great, and a good litmus test for friendship. He might not be your favorite, but if you actively dislike Cutch, well, you and I just don’t see eye-to-eye.
Anyway, the Sox are 23-19 all-time against the Pirates, including a stirring 6-2 this decade. Don’t stop now, boys!
How Have They Been Doing, Anyway?
You know what, pretty darn good! They opened the season dropping two of three to the Reds, but then swept Boston, which is always fun no matter how good or bad Boston is. Starting the season at 4-2 is already better than you’d expect from the Pirates. I deem them to be feisty in the early season.
If you would like, you can attribute this to the spark provided by bringing back Andrew McCutchen. We won’t blame you.
Also Ji Hwan Bae has some leather. You don’t even need to hit play to see how ridiculous a catch this is.
JI HWAN BAE WITH THE PLAY OF THE DAY! pic.twitter.com/YBk1GNt3zv— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 5, 2023
Any Hitters to Worry About? Should I Worry About Dingers?
You should worry about some dingers, yeah. The almost-well-first-named Bryan Reynolds already has four bombs, and has 24 total bases in 24 at-bats. I didn’t major in math, but that’s a really good 1.000 slugging percentage.
There is also the well-first-named Oneil Cruz, who according to Bucs Dugout (an invaluable source for this article) has been “impressively unimpressive.” He’s still huge and good and can send a ball rocketing into the stands like it’s on the last bus out of Hell, but he’s no longer a phenom. That’s good. He’s becoming a regular good major league ballplayer, and baseball will be better for it.
And the Pitching Matchups? What of Them?
Before we get to that, I insist upon you knowing that the bullpen has been good.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the very early season so far:— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) April 5, 2023
The Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen.
25.6% K rate
Now that we have that out of the way, onto the matchups!
Friday, April 7
Sox: Lucas Giolito (0-0, 3.60). Lucas’s first start was divisive. Raw numbers aren’t terrible, but innings weren’t clean. He’s still struggling a bit.
Bucs: Rich Hill (0-1, 5.40) The ageless … well, not wonder. He was middling last year, and will probably be middling this year, but not bad for a guy born in 1980.
Saturday, April 8
Sox: SP4 (1-0, 0.00). He was very good his first start.
Buccos: Vince Velasquez (0-1, 5.79). Old friend alert! In his first start this year, Vince went 4 2⁄3 innings, giving up three earnies and striking out three. That seems like the platonic ideal of a Vince Velasquez start.
Sunday, April 9
Sox: Michael Kopech (0-1, 13.50). Kopech had a bad start at the Home Opener, with a lot of suspicion that he was tipping pitches. Let’s hope so, because that was brutal.
Buccaneers: Johan Oviedo (0-0 7.71). He had a rough start in his first game, which is literally all I know about him.
Why Do We Hate Pittsburgh?
We don’t hate Pittsburgh. We like it. It’s a truly gorgeous city, flanked by impossibly old hillsides rising out of a foggy riverbed. It sits where the Allegheny and the Monongahela flow into each other to form the Ohio, which then traces through its vast valley before linking with the Mississippi. Pittsburgh is great.
And yet, when I tell people I like it, I talk about how it has bloomed since its post-industrial wreckage. How it has a vibrant tech sector, and really good restaurants, and a thriving beer scene, and … and I could be talking about anywhere. I could be talking about Denver or Austin or, hell, Naperville. Pittsburgh’s resurgence has been to flatten it out to be like anywhere else, filled with guys like me doing vague computer-y jobs and talking about “the thriving beer scene” and pricing everyone else into the roiling and bitter hinterlands. Pittsburgh is a success story, but only in a very narrow and atomized and ultimately destructive way. It’s a true 21st Century American story.
Also they all still probably like Ben Roethlisberger, so they can pound sand.
Why Do We Hate the Pirates?
I don’t hate the team, I have always kind of liked them. But as a franchise they are abominable. Robert Nutting, the owner, makes Jerry Reisndorf look like Brandon Johnson. He runs his franchise with the sole intent of being even more profitable than it already is and making himself even more obscenely wealthy. He thinks payroll is a number that exists as his own personal tormentor and does whatever he can to slash it, and uses his influence to hurt player power in every way.
They have one of the best stadiums in all of sports and a passionate fan base, who are treated like supplicants, like they should be grateful for having a place to spend money in the first place. Nutting has an almost unbroken track record of failure, unless you count his ability to make more money, which is probably all he counts anyway.
Let’s hear it from White Sox Twitter!
The Cutch Factor
they have cutch and we don’t. pic.twitter.com/hWK7K3OHgN— Chrystal OK (@chrystal_ok) April 6, 2023
They earned their name by being hated for "stealing" players from other teams. They were found innocent, but the perception stuck.https://t.co/CkAQRbgsNs pic.twitter.com/0ynbeaK2io— Early Sports 'n' Pop Culture History Blog (@EsnpcB) April 6, 2023
Their stadium is too beautiful for the brand of baseball they've provided since the last time Cutch played for them https://t.co/qtXMCTH09v— Dante (@DontizzleJones) April 6, 2023
Ballpark envy. That sorry franchise doesn't deserve such an awesome park.— Ryiin (@rfoto) April 6, 2023
The team is actually a money laundering operation.— colleen sullivan, smiling politely (@colleensullivan) April 6, 2023
I don't hate the team, but I do hate their cheap-ass owner.— Kindableu (@kindableu) April 6, 2023
Not paying stud players like Cutch, Reynolds for example.— Father Sean (@sean_janko) April 6, 2023
I hate them for making it seem like the White Sox aren't cheapskates.— White Sox Twitt3r (Is Baby Hippo) (@SoxTwitt3r) April 6, 2023
They stole Vince Velasquez from us and make an awesome hype video for him— Melissa Sage-Bollenbach (@soxmom72) April 6, 2023
Steelers fans are the worst and sidney crosby is ugly— Barack Obama for White Sox Owner (@ChanceyPaul) April 6, 2023
There’s a non-zero percentage of their fans that also defend R*ethlisberger— baltimoreabortionfund.org/donate (@rahulastrohl) April 6, 2023
I will always have love for the City of Steel because of this legend right here https://t.co/usM0ADcAei pic.twitter.com/j1yLelGVWy— Mark Buehrle’s Hat (3-3) (@SouthsideSacred) April 6, 2023
We ... Don’t.
No reason at all. Great park. Great city. And they play the Cubs multiple times a year. And I feel bad for them ever since they became a farm team for the rest of the league— Bruno Vander Velde (@BrunoVelde) April 6, 2023
No hate, just enormous amounts of pity.— Chef Josh (@XXLrgPopcorn) April 6, 2023