After losing their first two games in Boston, the Pittsburgh Pirates will look to get into the win column against the Atlanta Braves.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will host the Braves in their home opener today at 1:05 with Ivan Nova getting the start.  Here are a few matchups in this series to keep an eye on.

R.A. Dickey vs Pirates offense

After a four year stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, the 42 year-old knuckleballer returns to the National League for the first time since winning the Cy Young award with the New York Mets in 2012.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will face him Saturday night.  Francisco Cervelli has had success against Dickey going 5-7 with two doubles.  Josh Harrison is 6-17 with a double and triple against the old righty.  On the other hand, Starling Marte is 0-6 with four strikeouts against Dickey.  Andrew McCutchen is just 3-18 with eight strikeouts.

Interestingly enough, Dickey was originally scheduled to start this afternoon but was pushed to Saturday night.  Today’s game is going to be wet and cold so perhaps the Braves think that the knuckleball will play more effectively on a warmer, dry night.  Whatever the case may be, the knuckleball is a tough pitch to hit and the Pirates will have their work cut out for them.

Gerrit Cole vs Braves Offense

After a less than stellar Opening Day, Cole will return to the mound this Sunday to wrap up the series.  In his first start, Cole cruised through his first four innings without giving up a run.  After getting two quick outs in the fifth inning, Cole went into meltdown mode.  A triple and three singles followed by a three-run tater was more than enough for the Red Sox to eventually win 5-3.

In his first taste of right field fielding, McCutchen did not disappoint in Boston.  

When Cole faces the Braves this Sunday, he will have some positives going for him.  He gets to pitch in front of the home crowd.  He’ll be itching to get back out there after a poor first start.  But most importantly, the Braves have a pretty weak offense.  Freddie Freeman is great.  Dansby Swanson is good but very young.  Matt Kemp is okay.  Noted Pittsburgh Pirates killer Brandon Phillips is now with the Braves thoguh he is well past his prime.  Other than that, there’s not really any thump.  Cole should be able to carve up this lineup.

Cole’s fastball was buzzing this past Monday.  It was sitting at 97-99 mph.  He looked strong and healthy.  His secondary pitches were the problem.  He couldn’t finish anybody off.  He only had two strikeouts.  If Cole wants be the pitcher he was in 2015, the slider will have to play much better.

Andrew McCutchen vs baseballs

In his first taste of right field fielding, McCutchen did not disappoint in Boston.

He made a few nice catches and even threw out a runner trying to score. At the plate, McCutchen is still without a hit.  He is 0-9 with three strikeouts and zero walks.  Obviously, it is nowhere near the time to worry.  Reigning MVP Kris Bryant is currently 0-13 on the season.

McCutchen actually had some nice at bats against lefty ace Chris Sale.  He hit the ball hard three times last game but right at defenders.  Although he has struggled against Dickey, McCutchen does have success against Julio Teheran who will be starting Sunday afternoon.  He is 5-15 with two home runs and a double.  This series will be a good opportunity for McCutchen to lift off.

The Braves do not have a strong pitching staff.  They have nobody at level of a Rick Porcello or Chris Sale.  It is going to be pretty cold this weekend but the Pittsbugh Pirates need McCutchen to warm up at the plate.

Nathan Hursh

Nathan is a graduate of Duquesne University with a degree in journalism. He has been a lifelong Pirates fans and loves watching baseball. Along with baseball, Nathan also has a passion for watching football and basketball. When he is not sitting on his couch indulging in sports, Nathan likes to be active outside. Along with Twitter, he can also be found on Instagram at nathan_hursh.