Monday, September 1, 2014

Cole Can't Hang On & Bucs Strand 11 In 5-4 Loss To Cards

Ah, the Bucs love fastballs. Josh Harrison opened the game against Lance Lynn with a single. An out later, Cutch banged a ground rule double to left; the hop over the wall cost the Bucs a run. But just briefly; The Kid's two-bagger brought them both home. Russ walked. With two outs, Jon Jay made things exciting when he first misread Starling Marte's deep fly to center (he had problems with Andrew Lambo's ball earlier), but recovered to make a running over the head grab at the track. Jay led off with a single off Gerritt Cole, but a 6-4-3 DP and a whiff by sat them down quickly.

In the second, Cole blooped a single to right with an out. Josh hit into a force and then circled the bases when he was chased home by a Lambo double off the right field wall. Lynn's been laboring; he's at 52 pitches. Yadier Molina was back after a long stretch on the DL, and made himself known with a two-out knock. Daniel Descalso followed by fighting off a high, tight fastball and rolling a single into right, but Jordy made a nice play in the hole for a force to finish the frame.

After two hard-hit outs in the third, Ike and Starling drew walks. A fly to center ended the frame quietly. Lynn opened the frame with a soft roller through the right side, and an out later Oscar Taveras walked. Matt Holliday ripped a 99 MPH heater to center for a double, plating both Redbird runners. That was followed by a strikeout and another walk, but Cole got Molina to bounce out.

Josh doubled to center after a Cole whiff in the fourth. Lambo reached when Matt Adams missed a throw to first, but it evened out when Josh was thrown out going home; that was a chance he should have never taken with an out and Cutch up. It went to review for blocking the plate, but Molina won that decision. Andrew made it moot by whiffing. Cole Train pitched a clean frame, tho Cutch had to go to the track to run down Lynn's shot.

Russ singled with an out in the fifth. Ike went up 3-0, took a couple of called strikes (the 3-0 pitch was ball four) and flew out. Marte singled to center, followed by a short fly out. The Bucs are up to their same tricks; score early and then pile up stranded runners. Jay walked to open the Card half, but with two down, he was erased stealing on a perfect strike to second by Russ.

The Bucs went down in order in the sixth; ditto for St. Louis. The early innings finally caught up to Lynn; he was pulled after 114 pitches for lefty Kevin Siegrist in the seventh, and he served a line drive homer that went 454' to left to his first batter, Cutch. The Kid walked, Russ K'ed, frozen by a hook. Gaby grabbed a bat for Ike, and Mike Matheny waved on Seth Maness. Walker was nailed at second on a hit-and-run; the pitch was so far off the plate as to be a pitchout (and may have been).  Gaby's bouncer ended the frame.

Well, that lead didn't last long. Pete Kozma singled sharply to left, held to one sack by a nicely played ball by Starling. An out later, Cole missed with a fastball down and on the inside half to pinch hitter Kolten Wong and the lefty sweet spot proved true again as he lined a no-doubter over the right field wall. Jay singled to right; a bad hop got past Marte, allowing him to second and Jay then hustled into third when Starling ho-hummed the throw in. Brilliant one play and asleep at the wheel on the next.

That brought on John Axford; Cole was getting hit hard this inning. Taveras walked on five pitches; that's Axford's downside - he can get the K, but can miss the plate, too. Peter Bourjas ran for Taveras. Axford fell behind 3-0 to Holliday, who took the next pitch and then banged a fastball through the left side to chase home the go-ahead run. Axford got his grounder, but it found the hole. That brought Justin Wilson to the hill, and he closed out the frame with the Cards up 5-4.

Carlos Martinez took the hill in the eighth. Starling started off by drawing a walk. Jordy fouled a couple of bunt tries, laid off a chaser, then singled into left. Travis Snider stepped in for Wilson and softly lined out to short center. Josh got fed three hooks off the plate; he swung through the first two and popped the third one up. Lambo looked at the only strike he'd see, a fastball at the belt, and then went down fishing for curves. Martinez has a nasty hook, but you need a little discipline in the clutch, and the Bucs didn't show the least bit. Jeanmar Gomez came in, and worked a one-hit inning.

Trevor Rosenthal took the ball in the ninth against the middle of the Pirate order. He threw soft stuff - curves and change ups - until he had two outs and two strikes on Russ; he was way late on it and bounced one to first that Adams booted. It didn't help; Rosenthal went all heat on Gaby and blew a 99 MPH fastball past him to end the game. It was a very nice win for the Cards, and one that put them in first place as Milwaukee lost today. But it was a brutal loss for the Pirates.

Can't pin it on Clint Hurdle, either. Sure, he could have brought in Wilson instead of Axford or maybe bunted with Snider, but he didn't lose the game. Cole couldn't hang on to late lead, the Pirates lost a couple of unforced runners on the basepaths, and the winning run got to third due to lackadaisical play. 11 stranded runners and 1-for-10 with RISP aren't because of the skipper. Give Lynn and Molina credit; after the Bucs jumped on the fastballs early, they started going to cutters and sliders. They adjusted; the Pittsburgh batters didn't. And that's a pretty common theme.

It's a tough loss, but they're still in the mix of things as Labor Day ends. Pittsburgh is three behind the Cards in the NL Central. The Giants won too, and are four games ahead of the Bucs in the wild card; the Brewers lost and are two games up for the last qualifier; the Braves lost and remain 1/2 game better than the Bucs, sitting fourth in the wild card picture now.

Jeff Locke faces Adam Wainwright tomorrow night.
  • Cutch's 454' homer was the longest Pirate blast of the year and the fifth longest hit in Busch Stadium history.
  • Last night the Pirates selected the contract of RHP John Holdzkom and optioned him to AAA. Chris McGuiness was DFA'd; the Pirates are knee-deep in first basemen. That means Holdzkom was added to the 40-man roster on 8/31, so he is not only a likely call-up, but is post-season eligible. They also officially announced the call-ups of Cole, Tony Sanchez and Pimentel.
  • Ex Bucs: Dilson Herrera went 2-for-4 for the Mets with a homer, triple, three RBI and a GIDP. He also made two errors in field.

Rags to Riches: John Holdzkom

Neal Huntington suggested there may be a surprise call-up or two for September, and right off the bat we get hit with a John Holdzkom sighting. He's a pretty interesting guy.

Born in Pasadena, he has a Kiwi father, which will later play into his tale. He went to Rancho Cucamongo HS, where he didn't pitch a whole lot and butted heads with his coach. Still, he was a huge kid and could bring some heat, becoming a 15th round draft pick of Seattle in 2005.

He didn't reach a deal with the Mariners and enrolled at Salt Lake City JC instead. That turned the trick, as the Mets drafted him in the fourth round and inked him to a $210K deal the following year.

Holdzkom pitched sparingly in the rookie leagues for a couple of season, and not very well. He worked 34-1/3 innings and gave up 26 earned runs while walking 27 and whiffing 33. The righty was marginally better in 2008, earning a promotion to Savannah in the Sally League after a short-season Kingston stint, but his control issues stayed with him. There may have been a reason for it beyond just plain wildness; he ended up with TJ surgery.

The youngster missed nearly two full seasons recovering from the procedure. After working a few innings in 2010, the Mets released him after spring training in 2011, and no wonder - he had walked 112 batters in the 126 minor league innings he pitched, none at a class higher than low A ball. Holdzkom sat out the season and the Reds signed him over the winter; 8-2/3 innings and 13 walks later, they cut him loose, too.

Much of his performance was of his own doing; he called into a New York talk show and told the hostess how he had frittered away his bonus on a truck, sushi and partying. Give a kid some money and a lot of free time...

Here's where his Kiwi dad re-enters the story. He played for the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League in 2012, which led to a spot on the New Zealand in the World Baseball Classic. The following year, he pitched some for the Adelaide Bite. Baseball being what it is in Australia, he had to pick up a part-time job sorting mail.

he returned stateside, and pitched Indy ball for the Amarillo Sox, Sioux City Explorers and San Angelo Colts from 2013 into early 2014. His control was still eccentric, but Pirate scout Mal Fichman ocaught a couple of his outings with Sioux Falls and reported that Holdzkom’s two-seam fastball was 94-96, his four seamer 94-97 and “touched 98-99″.

That was enough for Tyrone Brooks, the Pirates’ director of player personnel, to buy Holdzkom’s contract and send him to Altoona. Oh, and did we mention that he had the one thing that the Pirates love but can't teach? Yah, he's a tree, standing 6'7" (with some sites reporting him as 6'9", so you can take 6-7 to the bank).

Long story short: in six innings for the Curve, he struck out 10 and walked two. He was quickly given a ticket to Indy, where he's worked 21-2/3 IP, with his wild child returning with 10 walks but also ringing up 27 punch outs. Now he's on the 40-man roster and seemingly a day away from the show after starting the year playing indy ball. Ain't America grand?

The 26 year old is a great feel good story, and he's mentioned improved focus and learning the grind as part of his progression. But he's still a project, even if an interesting one.

The first process involves repetition; his control is bad because his release isn't consistent. The kid has had only about 250 innings of work since becoming a pro, and except for 27-2/3 frames at Altoona and Indy, those innings have been tossed in rookie, low A, indy and Australian ballyards. The other side of the coin is that he's hopefully not locked into bad habits because of that lack of repetition.

The bigger issue is that he has no offspeed pitch. At the levels he's been at, there's probably been no need; with his heat is was just a matter of throwing a strike or not. But apparently the Pirates feel like they can coach him up, and here he is, the first off-the-radar blip of September.

The stretch run just got a little more interesting.

Cole v Lynn, Lineup, Call-Ups, Red Hot Josh, Rule Tweak & More...

Gerrit Cole (7-4, 3.65) takes the bump against Lance Lynn (14-8, 2.79) on Labor Day.

Cole was optioned briefly in a paper move for the Bucs and recalled today. If the burnt option worries you, fret no more - it has to be at least a 20-day demotion to count, so it's as if it never happened. The Cole Train has won four of his last five decisions. His last start was against Lynn, and he got a no-decision in a game the Bucs went on to win 5-2, the contest decided by the bullpens.

The Cards are no stranger to the youngster. He's 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three career starts, all this year. He did see them in the playoffs last season, and went 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA.

Since July 4th, Lynn is 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA. In 63-1/3 IP, the righty has allowed 13 runs on 54 hits, walked 23 and struck out 56 batters. He looks as if he may be developing into the guy that Adam Wainwright will pass the torch to.

He's 1-1 against the Bucs in three starts this year. He gave up four runs in an April game, and in his last two outings has surrendered four runs in 12-2/3 innings, so he's been solid but not dominating against Pittsburgh so far this year. Overall, he has a 4.88 ERA against Pittsburgh in his career; the Bucs have always been a fastball-hitting team, and the four-seamer is Lynn's bread and butter.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Andrew Lambo RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Ike Davis 1B, Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS and Cole P. No word on whether Travis Snider is available; Pedro has pretty much been on ice since spraining his foot.

The game starts at 2:15 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • Call-Ups: The media gang reported that the Pirates added C Tony Sanchez and RHP Stolmy Pimentel to the roster today. Also include Gerritt Cole, who was optioned on a paper move, to the list. Today is the last game for Indy, so more September call-ups should arrive afterward.
  • Josh All Day: Josh Harrison's 41 hits in August were the most by a Bucco in a month since Andrew McCutchen's 41 in July 2012 when he took home NL Player Of The Month. He led NL in total bases (71), extra-base hits (19), hits (41) and slugging % (.602) while hitting .347 and scored 21 runs in August (thx, ESPN's Buster Olney).
  • Post Season: In case you were wondering how the Bucs will manage a post-season roster after all their recent moves, the MLB eligibility rules were amended this year so that everyone on the 40-man roster as of August 31st could be used, probably to eliminate all the end-of-season DL shuffling for hangnails.
  • Ground Chuck: Charlie Morton will toss a sim game tomorrow as the Bucs try to evaluate whether he's healthy enough to help in September and keep his arm stretched out if he is. 
  • Playoff Bound: Bradenton in the Florida State League swept Charlotte yesterday and won the second half division title. They'll play Fort Myers in a best-of-three series starting Tuesday with the winner moving on for a best-of-five championship series. The Marauders were the only Pirate farm team to make it into the playoffs this year.

9/1: First All-Black Lineup, Pud, Joe Brown, The Quail, Bucs Drop Koufax/Drysdale, Teke, Catapult & More...

First All-Black Lineup, Pud, Joe Brown, The Quail, Bucs Drop Koufax/Drysdale, Teke, Catapult & More...
  • 1877 - Jim “Pud” Galvin and the Alleghenies edged St. Louis in 15 innings‚ 1-0. Two days earlier‚ they had beat Milwaukee by the same score in 12 innings, per Charlton’s Baseball Chronology. Both games were played in the International Association, considered a minor league. 
  • 1890 - On Labor Day at Washington Park, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, later known as the Dodgers, won all three games against Pittsburgh in the first tripleheader ever played. The home team swept the visiting Alleghenys, who were renamed the Pirates next season, 10-9, 3-2, and 8-4. The Alleghenys lost the next game to them by a 5-4 count to run their losing streak to 23 games. 
  • 1917 - The Pirates lost their third straight 1-0 game to the St. Louis Cardinals at Robison Field. The Cards‚ behind the pitching of Red Ames, Oscar Horstmann and Milt Watson‚ outpitched Bob Steele, Wilbur Cooper and Hal Carlson. With the three-in-a-row 1-0 wins, the Cards tied the MLB mark and set the NL standard. 
  • 1918 - GM Joe L Brown was born in New York City. Brown served as the general manager from November 1, 1955, through the end of the 1976 season, replacing mentor Branch Rickey. Under his watch, the Pirates became world champions in 1960 and 1971. Ever a loyal Pirate, after a decade of serving as a Southern California-based scout for the Bucs, Brown was called back in 1985 to serve as acting GM when the Pirates, rocked by a drug scandal, poor play and falling attendance, were sold by the Galbreath family to a local group. He oversaw the transition and acted as a bridge between GMs Pete Peterson and Syd Thrift. 
Joe Brown 1985 - photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images
  • 1927 - The Pirates tied for the NL’s top spot by beating the Cubs‚ 4-3 at Forbes Field. Joe Harris homered and doubled, with two runs and two RBI, to back Lee Meadows. The Waner brothers cut down Chicago runners at home and third. The Bucs whipped the Cards the next day to take the sole possession of first place and never looked back, winning the hotly contested pennant race by 1-½ games. 
  • 1963 - The “Quail,” CF’er Bill Virdon, hit a two-out walk off grand slam off Al Worthington to give the Bucs a dramatic 6-4 win over the Reds at Forbes Field. Willie Stargell drove in the other runs with a homer and double. Earl Francis, the third Buc pitcher, got the win. 
  • 1965 - The Bucs laid losses on aces Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale on the same day during a Forbes Field twinbill with last at-bat rallies. The Pirates defeated Koufax, 3-2, in 11 innings in the opener and then beat Drysdale, 2-1, in the nitecap. Joe Gibbon and Vern Law picked up the victories. Jim Pagliaroni doubled home Willie Stargell to claim the opener while Bill Virdon scored on a two-out error in the eighth to take the nitecap. It was the Bucs 12th win in 14 games and moved them within 2-½ games of LA in the NL pennant race. 
  • 1971 - The Pirates fielded baseball's first all-minority lineup 24 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in a 10-7 win over the Phillies at TRS. The card read: Rennie Stennett (2B), Gene Clines (CF), Roberto Clemente (RF), Willie Stargell (LF), Manny Sanguillen (C), Dave Cash (3B), Al Oliver (1B), Jackie Hern├índez (SS) and Dock Ellis (P). Six starters had two hits and every position layer reached base during the game. It went almost unnoticed in Pittsburgh; both newspapers were on strike, Bob Prince and Nellie King, the radio announcers, mentioned it only in passing, and Bill Guilfoile, the Pirate PR man, said they had to check the records afterward to see if it really was the first all-black lineup after receiving a couple of inquiring letters.
  • 1974 - The Major League Scouting Bureau was founded to cut costs and centralizing scouting. Membership wasn’t mandatory until 1984‚ and the Bucs refused to join until then. 
  • 1979 - Chuck Tanner sent reliever Kent Tekulve from the mound to left field and brought in southpaw Grant Jackson to face lefty Darrell Evans against the Giants with two down in the ninth. (He wanted Tekulve available in case Evans got aboard.) Evans hit a fly to Teke, who waved his arms and made the catch to finish the game, a 5-3 Bucco win in the opener of a DH at Candlestick Park. Willie Stargell had two homers and Dale Berra added another in support of the Bruce Kison win. It was Teke’s only appearance in the field anywhere but on the mound during his entire major and minor league career. Jim Bibby pitched the Bucs to a 7-2 sweep in the nitecap, backed by Lee Lacy’s three hits, including a homer, two runs scored and three RBI. 
  • 2008 - Andy LaRoche’s 45’ roller was the only hit against CC Sabathia in a 7-0 Brewer win in Pittsburgh. Sabathia picked up the ball dribbled up the right side and then dropped it. Scorer Bob Webb ruled it a hit almost immediately. Brew Crew players and coaches were livid it wasn’t ruled an error, except for Sabathia, who blamed himself, not the scorer, for LaRoche reaching base. 
  • 2013 - The opening pitch was tossed out not by a human celebrity, but by a trebuchet (a catapult), designed by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. The first machine to ever toss a ceremonial ball at PNC Park (it was named "Rookie of the Gear"), it delivered a strike to the designated catcher, the Pirate Pirate, 10 minutes before the game against the St. Louis Cards was to begin. The Bucs might have been better off keeping the contraption on the mound, as they lost to the Redbirds 7-2.
"Rookie of the Gear" warms up - photo from Gatesman+Dave advertising agency

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Heisey Homers Power Reds Over Bucs 3-2

It was a promising start; Frankie Liriano struck out the side in the first while Josh Harrison took Johnny Cueto's first pitch, a slider, over the fence. Liriano kept dealing in the second, and Jordy cracked a hung slider into the seats to make it 2-0; unfortunately for the Bucs, Starling Marte was picked off first before Jordy connected.

The Reds got a walk in the third while the Pirates action was a double by Andrew Lambo; neither led to any damage. Cincy managed a two-out knock in the fourth; the bucs blew a chance. Ike singled, but was quickly erased on a Marte DP that took a challenge to confirm; Jordy followed with a single. Chris Stewart's pop up closed the book.

Frankie walked the first batter, Ryan Ludwick, in the fifth on four pitches, then Chris Heisey crushed a first pitch change up into the seats to tie the game. A single, walk and wild pitch put Reds at second and third with two gone, but a Brandon Phillips comebacker ended the frame without further bloodshed. The Pirates went down quietly. In the sixth, both teams exchanged singles.

Billy Hamilton singled with two gone in the seventh and stole second, and a fly to Cutch kept him there. Pittsburgh went down in order.

Jared Hughes came on in the eighth and tossed a 1-2-3 frame. The Bucs got Josh and Cutch, both of whom singled, to second and third with two down, but Kris Negron's diving, back-to-the-ball grab of Ike's foul pop left them stranded. With an out in the ninth and Hughes on the hill, Heisey golfed a sinker that was down and in off the plate just inside the left field foul pole to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. Jared got another out, then gave up a single. That brought Justin Wilson in to finish up the inning.

Aroldis Chapman diced up the Bucs in the ninth, hitting 101 with the heater and the high eighties with the slider, and the Reds salvaged a game of the series.

if this home stand is any indicator, hang on to your defibrillator. Looks like a lot of down to the wire, grind 'em out games are in store for the stretch run. we just hope the bullpen holds up; Clint has shortened it noticeably now that it's crunch time.

Gerrit Cole takes on Lance Lynn as the Pirates travel to St. Louis to open a big 10 game road trip.
  • The Pirates are two games behind the Brewers and Cards for first in the NL Central, and three behind the Giants for the top wild card.
  • For the fifth time this year, the Pirates failed to extend a winning streak to five games. 
  • Despite the weather, 37,591 fans showed up for the 18th sellout of the season.
  • In 38 plate appearances against the Bucs, Chris Heisey has three HR's. In his other 216 PA's against the rest of the league, he has four long balls.

Liriano v Cueto, Lineup, 4-In-A-Row, Pitch To Win, On The Road...

Francisco Liriano (3-10, 3.98) takes the bump opposite Johnny Cueto (15-8, 2.26) this afternoon, weather permitting. This is the last scheduled date at PNC Park for the Reds, so while the doppler doesn't look promising, they'll try hard to get the game in today.

Frankie tossed six scoreless innings in his last start on Monday, but received a no-decision. He's the Bucs poster child for non-support, going 2-4 but with a 3.12 ERA in nine starts since returning from the disabled list. One thing to watch for is his home splits: Liriano has posted a 1-5 record and a 4.78 ERA at PNC Park this season after owning the yard in 2013 when he went 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA.

The Reds have been his Achilles' heel. Francisco has gone 0-5 with a 4.25 ERA in seven career regular season starts against them (he did have that four-hit win in the wild card), and 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA in three starts this season.

Johnny Beisbol is human; he's lost his last two decisions after reeling off seven wins in a row. So maybe he won't oust Clayton Kershaw from his Cy Young throne, but he's sure on the short list of guys talented enough to do it.

Cueto feasts on the Buccos. He's 3-0 in four starts this year against Pittsburgh, giving up 18 hits in 30 IP and just six runs (1.80 ERA), though the last couple of outings the Pirates at least nicked him some. That's even better than his 16-4, 2.16 ERA line against them in 25 career starts.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Andrew Lambo RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Ike Davis 1B, Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Chirs Stewart C and Liriano P. Hey, who said Russ was allowed to take a day off? He's been an ironman behind the dish; this is his first game off after donning the tools of ignorance for eight straight contests.

The game starts at 1:35 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • Going For Five: The Bucs have again tied their season-high with a four game winning streak. It's the fifth time this year they've strung that many wins together.
  • Coin of the Realm: In the last nine games, Pittsburgh starting pitchers have posted a 2.31 ERA while tossing at least six innings eight times.
  • On the Road: Starting tomorrow afternoon, the Pirates are scheduled to begin an 11-day, 10-game road trip with the first of three games in St. Louis, then three with the Cubs and four with Philadelphia.
  • Minor League Draw: With a sell-out crowd of 15,250 on hand to witness a 4-2 win at Indianapolis' Victory Field, the largest single game crowd in five years, the Tribe broke its all-time attendance record with 660,289 fans spinning the turnstiles in 2014.

8/31: Red, Ray, Ramon, Bye-Bye Baron, Johnny Ray, Mad Dog Deal, A-Ram, Shawon Dunston & More...

Red, Ray, Ramon, Bye-Bye Baron, Johnny Ray, Mad Dog Deal, A-Ram, Shawon Dunston & More...
  • 1868 - RHP Phillip “Red” Ehret was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He played for Pittsburgh from 1892-94 and put up a 53-59/3.79 line in 109 starts and 15 relief appearances. Red also played some outfield and got 438 PA in that span (mostly as a pitcher), though he hit just .201. 
  • 1907 - C Ray Berres was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was a Bucco back-up from 1937-40, a good glove guy that hit .225. After his playing days, he was the pitching coach for the Chicago White Sox from 1949 through 1966, then mid-season of 1968 through 1969, primarily under manager Al Lopez. He and Lopez had an interesting history together. Berres served as Lopez’s back-up coming up, and then was later traded to the Pirates for him. 
  • 1940 - LHP Ramon Hernandez was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The reliever tossed six years (1971-76) in Pittsburgh after being signed by Howie Haak, going 23-12-39/2.51, and was a bullpen member of the Bucco division champs of 1972, 1974 and 1975 (he was a September call-up for the 1971 team). In a nine-season career, Hernandez’s line was 23–15-46/ 3.03. 
Ramon Hernandez 1974 Topps series
  • 1953 - The Pirates sold RHP Johnny Lindell to the Phillies. His knuckler fluttered wildly that year, leading the league in walks and wild pitches. He was listed as a pitcher with the Pirates, but was often used as a pinch-hitter and hit .286, once tying a game with a three-run ninth-inning homer. The Phillies released him in May 1954 after his hybrid pitcher-outfielder role proved to be a not very strong pairing. Lindell was an odd story; he entered the league in 1941 as a pitcher, then was converted to outfield, where he played from 1943-50, earning an All-Star berth once with the Yankees, and then tried to come back again as a pitcher after a couple of years in the minors. 
  • 1968 - Steve Blass got the first out against the Atlanta Braves‚ and then moved to LF. ElRoy Face, 40, was in the process of being sold to the Tigers, and the club sent him in for one last appearance (legend has it he was asked whether he wanted to start or relieve, and opted to make his last outing from the pen). He retired Felix Millan on one pitch to tie Walter Johnson's MLB record of 802 pitching appearances with one club. Then manager Larry Shepherd came out for him, Blass returned to pitch and the Pirates won 8-0 at Forbes Field. 

Elroy Face 1958 Topps series
  • 1981 - The Pirates acquired 2B Johnny Ray and two PTBNLs (pitchers Randy Niemann and Kevin Houston) from the Houston Astros in exchange for IF Phil Garner. Ray spent seven years in Pittsburgh, hitting .286, and was Rookie of the Year runner-up in 1982 to Steve Sax. 
  • 1985 - The Pirates traded former batting champion Bill Madlock to the Dodgers for prospects RJ Reynolds‚ Cecil Espy‚ and Sid Bream in a pretty solid deal for the Buccos. 
  • 1987 - The Pirates won their seventh straight game, defeating the Atlanta Braves 7-3 at TRS. Andy Van Slyke went 3-for-3 with a homer and walk, scored three times and drove home a pair as Mike Dunne went the distance, tossing a six hitter. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates rode six innings of perfect relief by Roger Mason, Bill Landrum and game winner Bob Kipper to a 3-2, 12 inning victory over San Diego at Jack Murphy Stadium. The Buc tallies came in the second on Barry Bonds’ two-run shot and a leadoff homer to left by Don Slaught off Jose Melendez in the 12th. 
  • 1994: In one of their better international deals, the Pirates signed 16 year old Aramis Ramirez as an amateur free agent. 
A-Ram 2001 Fleer series
  • 1997 - The Bucs became buyers instead of sellers when they obtained SS Shawon Dunston from the Cubs to bolster the chances of the “Freak Show” team sneaking into the playoffs after Kevin Polcovich injured his ankle. Dunston hit .394 with five homers, but after an 18 game Bucco career was lost to the Indians in free agency after the season. 
  • 1999 - The Bucs rallied in dramatic style to top the Rox at Coors Field in ten innings by a 9-8 score. Kevin Young gave the Bucs an 8-4 lead with a two out, first pitch grand slam down the LF line in the ninth. In the bottom half, six straight runners reached off Mike Williams to make it 8-8, but Angel Echevarria was thrown out at home by Brian Giles to keep the game knotted. The Bucs came up with four hits and a walk in the tenth, but could only tally a run to take a shaky lead. With two away for Colorado, Dante Bichette singled off Jose Silva and was waved around on Vin Castilla’s double to left center, but was cut down by Al Martin to Mike Benjamin to Keith Osik (7-6-2) to preserve the win.
  • 2011 - Pittsburgh shipped OF Matt Diaz to the Braves for a PTBNL, who ended up being P Eliecer Cardenas, who was quickly released. Diaz hit .259 in his brief spell as a Buc and spent two more bench years before hanging up his spikes after the 2013 season.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Vanimal, Pen Make The Kid's Bomb Hold Up In 3-2 Win

With one away, Vance Worley walked Todd Frazier, but an around the horn DP ball smacked by Brandon Phillips ended the frame, and *whew* Vanimal has escaped the first. Andrew Lambo singled the opposite way off Alfredo Simon with one gone and Cutch walked. The Kid got a fastball middle-out, and popped it over the right center fence to give the Bucs a quick 3-0 edge. Russ followed with a double to center before Simon doused the flames.

The Reds went down in order in the second. Josh banged a two-out single, but was erased trying to swipe second on a bang-bang call. Cincy went three up, three down in the third, and Worley has navigated the first trip through the lineup successfully. Simon settled down with his first quiet frame.

Vanimal's control, spotty so far today, cost him when with one out in the fourth Frazier creamed a knee-high 3-1 fastball over the deepest part of The Notch over the 410' mark. Simon picked up a couple of K in a 1-2-3 frame. Both guys have four whiffs after four innings.

Brayan Pena walked to open the fifth, but Vanimal worked out of it without breaking a sweat. The Bucs added two more whiffs to Simon's total as they sat down without a peep. With one down in the sixth, Hamilton dropped a bunt single when Josh, who was on the grass, couldn't pick the ball with his bare hand. No sweat; an out later he was caught trying to swipe second by Russ. The Pirates didn't get a ball out of the infield; Simon has retired 16-of-17 batters since going soft, especially with the splitter, after his rough first frame.

With an out in the seventh, Devin Mesoraco was plunked on the ninth pitch of his at-bat and Pena rolled a single through the left side. That brought in Justin Wilson, and he K'ed Jay Bruce, who is having a terrible year trying to play through a knee injury. Zack Cozart popped one into short right that dropped between Walker, Lambo and Ike; Ike was hit with the error (it looked like Walker's ball, but either should have been able to make the grab; Lambo was a little late to the party) that allowed a run to score and sent Pena to third. Wilson whiffed Schumaker, but the Bucs put Cincy back in hunt at 3-2.

Russ worked a 10 pitch walk off Simon to open the Bucco half. Ike got a 2-0 fastball he liked; he flew out to center, but deep enough to move Russ up a station. Starling bounced out to third, freezing Martin. Jordy put wood on the ball, but his liner to third was gloved by Frazier. Interesting; after going soft most of the game, Simon went back to the fastball this inning.

Tony Watson climbed the hill in the eighth and used 11 pitches to get three outs. Fireballer Jumbo Diaz came in for the Reds and faced JT, who flew out to right. Josh walked, but was cut down on a 4-6-3 DP of Lambo's bat. It's Mark the Shark time, with the middle of the Reds order due up in the ninth. Melancon got one of everything - a fly (and it was a deep one by Mesoraco), a grounder and a K - as the Bucs iced a third straight series win and keep chipping away at the front runners.

Well, it would be nice to add on after a big opening frame, but whatever works, right? Tough to get two better starts than Eddie and Vanimal put up against the Reds, and it doesn't seem like there's gonna be any run explosion tomorrow either with Frankie and Johhny Cueto closing out the series. The Pirates have got into a knack recently of blasting three-run homers; somehow, they've been channeling the inner Earl Weaver ("pitching, defense, and the three-run homer") and it's been working.
  • Neil Walker leads all NL second basemen with 18 homers and is one HR away from the club record for second basemen in a single season, held by Bill Mazeroski.
  • Today's crowd of 38,023 was the 17th sellout of the season; Pitt should have drawn so well.
  • There's a lot of reports out on Charlie Morton, and none sound promising. He's more than a long shot to help the team this year, and it looks like the biggest decision will be whether he should rest his hernia during the off season or go under the knife.
  • The Bucs did make it official - Brent Morel is up and Jeff Locke, who isn't due to pitch until Tuesday, was optioned (on paper) to Indy. That move and Cole's yesterday suggest that it'll be at least a couple of more days before Travis Snider and Pedro are due back, if not longer.

Worley v Simon, Lineup (Lambo In), Morel Back, Josh, JT, Bench Bats, Streaks, Oh So Close...

Vance Worley (5-4, 3.14) faces Alfredo Simon (13-8, 3.26) in today's sun-deck special.

Vance has lost his last three decisions, and needs to come out of the chute ready to go, having surrendered 10 first & second inning runs in his last two starts (eight in the first frame alone).

He hasn't done very well against the Reds, going 1-1 with a 5.21 ERA in four career games (three starts) against them. But Vanimal hasn't started against them since 2012, so that's not a lot of help. Cincy did jump him for two runs in two frames as a reliever this year, but given his recent spate of rough opening innings, that's not surprising.

After a brilliant first half, the Reds have lost all six of the games Simon has started post All-Star. His record is 0-5 with a 5.46 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and .317 BAA. Hopefully, the Bucs can chase him back into the bullpen where he has spent most of his career. Spoiler alert: he was sharp in his last outing against the Braves, so maybe a second wind is blowing behind him now.

He's beaten the Pirates twice this year without being overly impressive; in 13 IP, he's given up five runs (3.46 ERA) on nine hits and eight walks.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Andrew Lambo RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Ike Davis 1B, Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS and Worley P. No word on Pedro or Travis' injuries; probably one (or both) should be DL bound, though the expanding rosters make that unneccesary.

The game starts at 4:05 and will be on Fox Sports 1, Root Sports and KDKA 1020 AM.
  • More Moves: Rob Biertempfel of the Trib reports that Brent Morel is in the house today, and that Jeff Locke, like Gerritt Cole yesterday, will be optioned in a paper move as the rosters expand Sunday; tho  that's not been confirmed by the team yet..
  • Bang for the Buc: Josh Harrison has drilled 25 extra base hits since the All-Star break. To compare, last year Pedro and Cutch led the team with 27 extra base hits following the break.
  • Quietly clutch: Jose Tabata is hitting .353 with runners on base and .406 with RISP this season.
  • Fitting right in: Andrew Lambo singled as a pinch hitter and scored the game-tying run while making his 2014 Pirate debut last night. Pittsburgh’s pinch hitters lead all MLB teams in hits (51), RBI (38) and runs scored (23) this season.
  • Streakin': The Pirates have won 6-of-8; the Reds 4-of-6. For the Pirates, their winning ways have coincided with the starters posting a 2.42 ERA during those last eight contests.
  • Heartbreak City: The Redlegs have suffered a MLB-leading 32 one-run defeats this season.

8/30: Kiki, Robby Cycle, Pie, Waners, Long Ball, Arky, Elroy, Arlin Returns, Deals, Steady Freddy, Cutch, Frankie & GI, More...

Kiki, Robby Cycle, Pie, Waners, Long Ball, Arky, Elroy, Arlin Returns, Deals, Steady Freddy, Cutch, Frankie & GI, More...
  • 1898 - OF Hazen Shirley “Kiki” Cuyler was born in Harrisville, Michigan. The Hall-of-Famer spent his first seven seasons (1921-27) as a Pirate, hitting .336 with a .399 OBP. The end of his Pittsburgh era was rocky. In 1927, Cuyler was benched for nearly half the season because of a dispute with rookie manager Donie Bush. The Pirates went to the World Series, but Cuyler was on the pine, and that November, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He played 11 more seasons and ended his career with a .321 BA. 
  • 1921 - Dave Robertson connected for the cycle to lead the Bucs to an 8-2 win over the Brooklyn Robins at Ebbet’s Field. He scored twice and drove in three runs. George Cutshaw and Clyde Barnhart had three hits each as Whitey Glazner cruised to victory. 
  • 1929 - Pie Traynor went 5-for-5 to lead a 21-hit attack to take an easy 15-0 win from Chicago at Forbes Field. Heinie Meine tossed a three hitter as Pittsburgh dominated. It was the Pirates' fourth win over the Cubs in three days, with the Windy City snapping their losing streak with a 7-6 win the following day. 
Pie Traynor 1970 Rold Gold Pretzels series
  • 1930 - The Pirates swept a twin bill from Cincinnati 5-0 and 3-2 to win their 12th game in 14 outings. The Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, scored all five runs in the opener, with George Grantham driving them in three times. Spades Wood tossed a six hitter for the win. Grantham was big in the second game with three hits, two runs and an RBI as Larry French outlasted the Reds’ Larry Benton. 
  • 1951 - The Pirates rallied from an 8-1 deficit to take a 10-9 victory from the Giants at the Polo Grounds. Frank Thomas hit his first MLB homer and Ralph Kiner won it with a long ball in the ninth. Gus Bell and Pete Castiglione also homered for the Bucs. Pittsburgh climbed back to take the lead in the eighth only to have the Giants tie it, but the G-Men were trumped by Kiner in the end. Murry Dickson blew the save but ultimately got the win, one of 20 he earned during the campaign. 
  • 1952 - Arky Vaughan, 40, and friend Bill Wimer drowned in California’s Lost Lake. While the two were fishing, their rowboat overturned. Wimer couldn’t swim, and both men went under when Vaughan tried to save his bud. Vaughan retired with 1,173 runs scored, 926 RBI, 118 steals, a .318 BA and a .406 OBP. His .385 batting average, .491 OBP, and 1.098 OPS in 1935 are Pirate team records, and the batting average is a 20th century record for NL shortstops. Arky was a Hall-of-Famer, included in the Ritter/Honig book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time and cited by Bill James as the second greatest SS in history, behind only Honus Wagner. 
Arky Vaughan 1989 Pacific Legends series
  • 1953 - Led by Jim Pendleton's 3 HR‚ the Milwaukee Braves tied the Yankees' 1939 MLB record for the most homers in a game with eight in their 19-4 pasting of Pittsburgh in the first game of a doubleheader. Eddie Mathews (2)‚ Del Crandall‚ Jack Dittmer‚ and Johnny Logan also went yard. The Pirates were also walloped in the nitecap by an 11-5 tally, giving up four more homers, making for 9,458 disappointed fans at Forbes Field and one very deflated pitching staff. 
  • 1959 - ElRoy Face notched his 17th straight victory of the year, earning a 10 inning win against Philadelphia 7-6 at Forbes Field after Dick Stuart’s two run double in overtime. The Bucs rallied from a five-run ninth inning deficit on the strength of Danny Kravitz and Stuart homers to sweep the doubleheader. They took the opener 2-1 behind Harvey Haddix’s arm and Bob Skinner’s two-out, ninth inning knock that scored Dick Hoak. Face had also won the last five decisions of 1958, giving him a 22 game winning streak. He finished the year 18-1, and his 18 relief wins remains the major league record. The Baron went a month (6/11-7/12) without giving up a run. 
  • 1960 - The Pirates defeated Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers 5-2 at the LA Memorial Coliseum. Bob Friend, with late help from ElRoy Face, picked up the win supported by homers from Dock Groat and Roberto Clemente, who was the only right handed hitter beside Frank Howard to hit one out of the Coliseum the opposite way during the 1960 season. 
  • 1972 - Bob Prince turned the mike over to ex-KDKA announcer Harold Arlin, the first man to ever broadcast a live baseball game. The Gunner allowed him to call a few innings in Pittsburgh while Harold’s grandson‚ Steve Arlin‚ was on the mound for San Diego. Pap didn’t have much to brag about as the Bucs won 11-0, with Manny Sanguillen and Dave Cash combining to drive in seven runs on five hits. 
The Gunner & Harold Arlin - photo from National Baseball Hall of Fame Library
  • 1990 - The Pirates picked up vet OF/1B Carmelo Martinez from the Phillies for OF’s Tony Longmire, Wes Chamberlain and Julio Peguero. Martinez lasted less than a season with the Bucs, while the young outfield prospects ended up with bench roles during their brief careers, with Chamberlain the only solid producer of the three. 
  •  1991 - The Rangers traded 3B Steve Buechele to the Pirates for young pitchers Kurt Miller and Hector Fajardo. Buechele, a FA, signed with the Pirates after the season, but was moved at the next deadline for Danny Jackson. 
  • 2005 - The Milwaukee Brewers fell 6-0 to the Bucs behind Paul Maholm’s four hitter at Miller Park. It was an oasis in an otherwise arid stretch of games that saw Pittsburgh lose 11-of-12 contests. The Bucs put up a five spot in the first inning, keyed by Jack Wilson’s three run, bases loaded double. The Bucs had the bases empty with two outs, but Doug Davis walked four of next the five batters, all on 3-2 pitches, before Wilson cashed in. 
  • 2006 - Pittsburgh scored three times in the 11th inning to come back against the Cubs 10-9 at PNC Park. Chicago scored twice off Marty McLeary (who got the win), but the Bucs scored on Jose Castillo’s single to cut the lead to one. Ryan Dempster walked Jose Bautista on four pitches to load the bases for Freddie Sanchez, who lined a two run, two out single to right for the win, giving him four RBI on the night. Castillo had four knocks while Jason Bay and Xavier Nady had three hits apiece. 
Jose Castillo 2005 Topps series
  • 2011 - Andrew McCutchen hit a ninth inning homer against the Houston Astros in an 8-2 loss at Minute Maid Park, becoming the eighth Pirate to ring up 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in one season, and the first since Nate McLouth in 2008. 
  • 2013 - The Pirates defeated the St. Louis Cards 5-0 at PNC Park behind Francisco Liriano’s two hitter and a 3-for-4 night by Garrett Jones, who had four RBI and was a triple short of the cycle. The HR was #100 of his career. Pittsburgh moved back into a Central Division tie for first with the Redbirds in front of a sellout crowd of 38,036.