What’s on Tap: Previewing Saturday’s action

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With 16 games left before the end of the season, the Pirates and Reds will try to squeeze in one last doubleheader on Saturday at 12:10 PM EDT and 6:10 PM EDT. It’s the fourth postponed game the Pirates have had to account for this year, and the Reds’ first.

Kicking off Game 1 is Pirates’ right-hander Jameson Taillon, who was skipped over in the last rotation cycle in order to preserve his innings limit as the season winds down. Barring a five-run, three-inning hiccup against the Brewers in late August, the rookie has been rock-solid for the Pirates, polishing a 3.27 and 1.5 fWAR over 15 outings with the club.

Opposite Taillon, Reds’ starter Anthony DeSclafani is chasing his ninth win after giving up four runs on four homers in his last two outings. The right-hander was scratched from his last scheduled start, and although it reportedly had nothing to do with physical setbacks, the mental and physical break should do him some good as he approaches his final appearances of the year.

DeSclafani has worked to improve his peripheral stats in 2016, bringing his 2.68 BB/9 rate down to 1.84 and raising his K/9 rate from 7.36 to 7.88, but his home run rate has jumped from 0.83 HR/9 to a career-worst mark of 1.17. The problem isn’t confined to his pitching line, either — the Reds’ pitching staff currently ranks last among major league clubs with 236 home runs issued in 2016.

In the evening, the Pirates and Reds will duke it out a second time with rookie right-hander Trevor Williams and Cincinnati southpaw Brandon Finnegan. It’s the first MLB start for Williams, who contributed four innings in relief after getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on September 7. Finnegan, meanwhile, is facing a potential season shutdown after grinding through 164 2/3 innings in his first full season as a starter, though manager Bryan Price wouldn’t completely rule out a comeback. Finnegan is 9-10 on the year with a 4.04 ERA, due in no small part to his league-leading 29 home runs allowed.

You can find more from Saturday’s action below.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Jameson Taillon) @ Cincinnati Reds (Anthony DeSclafani), 12:10 PM EDT, Game 1

Pittsburgh Pirates (Trevor Williams) @ Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan), 6:10 PM EDT, Game 2

New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell) @ Boston Red Sox (David Price), 1:05 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez) @ Atlanta Braves (Josh Collmenter), 1:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Zach Davies) @ Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta), 4:05 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) @ Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco), 4:10 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Jose Urena) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson), 7:05 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Matt Andriese) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana) @ New York Mets (Seth Lugo), September 17, 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Miguel Gonzalez) @ Kansas City Royals (Jason Vargas), 7:15 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Raul Alcantara) @ Texas Rangers (Yu Darvish), 8:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Brock Stewart) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Shelby Miller), 8:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Edwin Jackson) @ Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray), 8:10 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake) @ San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija), 9:05 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (Francisco Liriano) @ Los Angeles Angels (Ricky Nolasco), 9:05 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Houston Astros) @ Seattle Mariners (James Paxton), 9:10 PM EDT

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.