Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
After shuffling their rotation slightly, the Pirates should have the ideal pitching set-up for this series: Wandy Rodriguez starts Friday, James McDonald Saturday and A.J. Burnett Sunday.
Burnett has emerged as the Pirates' ace, and the Bucs will be very comfortable turning to him if Sunday's game is in fact the series' decider. Rodriguez has consistently pitched above average, and at the very least, should give the Pirates a solid chance to win Friday. Yet, McDonald is the enigma—a shell of the pitcher who dominated opposing offenses in the season's first half.
McDonald has experienced recurring control problems throughout his career, and they have resurfaced in his four starts since the All-Star break. He's still striking hitters out, but McDonald needs to rediscover his fastball command to give the Pirates the three-headed pitching monster they desire.
McDonald's start Saturday may go a long way toward determining whether the Pirates can trust him down the stretch.