MIAMI — The finale of this weekend’s Pittsburgh Pirates-Miami Marlins series won’t offer a pitching matchup worthy of a marquee.
But perhaps the Pirates’ vaunted rookie class of 2017 can spice things up before these teams part ways.
The Pirates start right-hander Chad Kuhl, a 24-year-old who is 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA in his two-year major league career. He is 1-2 with a 6.63 ERA this season.
The Marlins start right-hander Tom Koehler, a 30-year-old who is very reliable in his mediocrity, posting a career record of 36-49 with a 4.19 ERA. He is 1-1 this season with a 5.14 ERA and has averaged 10 wins in each of his past three years.
Kuhl didn’t make it through the second inning in his most recent start, allowing eight hits, four walks and nine runs in a loss to the Chicago Cubs.
“I wasn’t really good today,” Kuhl told the media in a bit of an understatement. “I tried my best to extend the outing as long as possible.”
Koehler, in contrast to Kuhl, won his most recent start, pitching six innings and allowing three runs against the host San Diego Padres.
“He was able to keep battling, which is what he does,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Koehler. “It didn’t look like he had his good stuff (against San Diego). He missed some spots with his location. But he fought hard.”
The Pirates, who ranked 27th in the majors in runs scored and 28th in homers entering Saturday, can certainly use a boost. Miami ranked a bit below average offensively: 18th in runs scored and 16th in homers.
Defensively, the Pirates are 26th in the majors in most errors committed while Miami is second in that category.
Pittsburgh has the edge with its pitching staff, ranking 10th with a 3.90 ERA. Miami is 23rd with a 4.34 ERA. Pittsburgh is tied for third in the majors in the number of quality starts. Meanwhile, there is only one team in the majors, the Tampa Bay Rays, who have fewer quality starts than the seven produced by Miami.
Four Pirates rookie hitters are making an impact, including starting first baseman Josh Bell, a switch hitter with power.
Bell, drafted in the second round out of a Texas high school in 2011, made his big-league debut last year, producing a .775 OPS. Now, the job at first base is his. He is below average defensively, but his bat is why he’s in the majors.
But the Pirates rookie class is more than just Bell.
Because of the 80-game suspension given to 2016 All-Star and Gold Glove winner Starling Marte — who is ineligible to play until July 17 — the Pirates are starting rookie Jose Osuna in right.
In addition, rookie second baseman Gift Ngoepe made his first big-league start Friday, going 3-for-3.
And in Friday’s game, Ngoepe and the Pirates’ fourth rookie hitter, Alen Hanson, hit back-to-back triples.
“Gift and Alen give us a lot of speed,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Ngoepe and Osuna have made the longest journeys to the majors among these four Pirates.
The 27-year-old Ngoepe this week became the first native of an African nation to make the majors after originally signing in 2008. Osuna, a native of Venezuela, is only 25, but signed his first pro contract eight years ago in 2009.
Osuna was a pitcher initially, but showed a power bat and is now a first baseman/right fielder with a strong arm.
Hanson, a native of the Dominican Republic who was one of baseball’s top-100 prospects as recently as 2014, has seen his stock as a middle infielder drop somewhat since then. He’s a switch-hitter with excellent speed.