By Harry Allison
The 2015 Battle of Pennsylvania begins tonight as the Phillies play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a four-game series.
Gerrit Cole will take the mound for the Pirates. The 2011 first-overall draft selection will look to rebound from his worst start of the season, when he allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings of a 3-0 loss to the Reds. He was dominant in his four starts prior to that, going at least six innings in each outing, allowing just three earned runs and striking out 29.
Veteran right-hander Jerome Williams will start for the Phillies. He is 2-2 with a 5.18 ERA and is coming off an outing of six runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves.
This will be Cole’s first career start at Citizens Bank Park. In two previous starts vs. the Phillies, Cole is 1-1 with an ERA of 2.61 and 10 strikeouts.
One matchup to watch will be the duel between Williams and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is 3-for-6 lifetime vs. Williams with two home runs, both solo shots. Only Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton have more career home runs off Williams.
This series will pit one of the Pirates’ defensive strengths against one of the Phillies’ offensive strengths. The Pirates enter the series among the best in baseball in catching attempted steals on the basepaths, having caught a majors’ best 13 entering Sunday’s action. The Phillies have only been caught stealing five times this year, the third-fewest in the National League.