After letting starting pitcher A.J. Burnett find another home in free agency prior to the 2014 season, the Pirates knew they would have to find another arm to round out their rotation.
Gerrit Cole is the only starting pitcher in Pittsburgh's rotation who has a winning record, currently sitting at 2-1 on the season.
While Edinson Volquez has exceeded expectations so far in 2014 pitching to an earned-run average of 1.93 in four starts, the rest of the rotation has struggled.
Francisco Liriano, who was the ace in the rotation last season, has gone 0-3 with a 4.22 ERA in his first five starts in 2014. Charlie Morton has been even worse going 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA in five starts.
In all, the Pirates starting rotation has amassed only three victories on the season. However, that is also due in large part to the almost nonexistent offense.
The Pirates are batting .229 as a team this season, as batters throughout the order simply aren't getting the job done. Pittsburgh has been limited to just four runs scored in its last three games losing all three and six out of its last seven overall.
This would not be such a big story if the Pirates were losing against teams outside of their division. Instead, they are falling further and further behind as every single game they have played so far has come against a member of the National League Central division.
The Pirates will travel to St. Louis to play the Cardinals, who most people expect to win the division again in 2014. The Cardinals currently sit in second place with a record of 12-11.
Pittsburgh has to find a way to shut down the dangerous Cardinals this weekend to avoid falling completely out of the race early on.
Andrew McCutchen has come out of his slump picking up eight hits in his last four games and raising his average to .299 on the season. Still, the Pirates need production from a lot more players than just McCutchen himself.
Two of the best young pitchers in the game will square off Friday night as Gerrit Cole will face St. Louis's Shelby Miller in the first game of the weekend series.
Cole can really make a statement tonight if he goes out and pitches well, as he could set the tone for the rest of the starters in the series.
Liriano will be given a chance to get on the right track Saturday afternoon against Tyler Lyons before Volquez and the Pirates have to deal with Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in the final game.
The pitching has not been awful, but with the lack of production on offense, the pitching will have to be nearly flawless to win games.
If the Pirates don't start hitting soon (as in tonight) and the Cardinals come away with a series win, the Pirates will find themselves in an even deeper hole. They cannot afford to let that happen, and a turnaround will have to start tonight in St. Louis.
*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball-Reference
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