Thursday, July 31, 2014

7/31: Sellers & Buyers, B-Days, Ejections, AJ Gem, Spotlight Games & More...

Sellers, Buyers, B-Days, Ejections, AJ Gem, Spotlight Games & More...
  • 1870 - C/1B Joe Sugden was born in Philadelphia. Sugden spent the first five seasons (1893-97) of his 13 year career with Pittsburgh as a catcher and utilityman, hitting .277.
  •  1892 - LHP Erv ”Peanuts” Kantlehner was born in San Jose. Working mostly as a starter for the Bucs from 1914-16, he went 13-29 with a 2.85 ERA.
  • 1896 - After a disputed call‚ Pirate P Frank “Lefty” Killen punched umpire Daniel Lally in the face. When Lally responded in kind‚ hundreds of fans charged onto the field and eventually Killen was arrested for disorderly conduct, according to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology. Pittsburgh won in spite of the rhubarb 9-7 over the Cincinnati Reds at League Park.
Frank "Lefty" Killen - Baseball Revisited (uncredited photo)
  • 1912 - The Pirates scored three runs in the 19th inning and then barely held off Boston to take a 7-6 decision at the South End Grounds. Honus Wagner was the man of the hour, stealing home and later driving in the final, game-winning run for Pittsburgh against the Braves. 
  • 1936 - OF Vic Davalillo was born in Churuguara, Venezuela. He played for the Bucs from 1971-73, hitting .290 while a platoon player in the outfield and first. Vic played on two Pirate playoff clubs, and when he was traded to Oakland in 1973, he was on his third. 
  • 1939 - The Pirates obtained 6' 9" LHP Johnny Gee from Syracuse of the International League for $75,000 and four players. Nicknamed “Gee Whiz,” he lasted parts of four seasons (1939, 1941, 1943-44) with the Bucs, winning five games. Also known as “Long John” (and as the “$75,000 Lemon”), he never fully recovered from a 1940 arm injury. Gee was the tallest person to play MLB until 6’10” Randy Johnson debuted for the Montreal Expos in September, 1988. Not too surprisingly, he also went on to play pro hoops for the NBA Syracuse Nationals. 
  • 1957 - Manager Bobby Bragan was ejected for arguing a call (actually, he held his nose) during a 4-2 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. After being tossed, he got an orange drink from the stands; the umps told him to take it into the clubhouse, and he threatened to toss the juice into their faces. He quickly relented and offered them all a sip, but the men in blue weren’t amused. After their report to the league, Bragan was fined $100 and threatened with suspension if he didn’t clean up his act. After the game, Bragan was quoted by the Pittsburgh Press’ Les Biederman as saying “My only regret is that the hot dog didn’t arrive in time.” Bragan was fired three days later and replaced by Danny Murtaugh on a “temporary basis.” The temporary hire managed until 1964 and was brought back as skipper three more times after that. 
  • 1959 - RHP Mike Bielecki was born in Baltimore. His first four years (1984-’87) were spent in Pittsburgh, where he went 10-17 with a 4.57 ERA. He was the Pirates first round pick in the 1979 draft (secondary phase) and went on to have a workmanlike 14 year MLB career. 
  •  1961 - C Smoky Burgess, OF Roberto Clemente, P ElRoy Face and 1B Dick Stuart repped the Bucs in the second All-Star game of the year at Fenway Park, a 1-1 tie called after nine innings because of rain. Clemente went 0-for-2, Burgess and Stu 0-for-1, and the Baron of the Bullpen was uncalled upon by manager Danny Murtaugh. 
  • 1964 - It happens to the best of them. The San Francisco Giants took advantage of three errors by Bill Mazeroski and three more by the team to edge the Bucs 8-6 at Forbes Field. Maz's last error, a dropped catch on a potential around-the-horn DP ball in the ninth, would have ended the game with the Pirates on top 6-5 if he had held on and completed the turn. 
  • 1983 - Rookie Jose DeLeon held the Mets hitless for 8-1/3 innings before Hubie Brooks singled, but Mike Torrez countered with 11 shutout innings as New York won 1-0 in 12 frames. In his previous start‚ DeLeon had held the Padres hitless for 6-1/3 innings. 
  • 1985 - The Pirates scored twice in the bottom of the 10th to rally past the Phillies 4-3 at TRS. Cecilio Guante picked up the win despite allowing a home run in the top of the 10th and tossing a wild pitch in the ninth that tied the game. Former Bucco Kent Tekulve suffered the loss after Steve Kemp lined a two-out walkoff single to left to bring home Larry McWilliams, pinch running for Jason Thompson. The batter before Kemp, Marvell Wynne, hit into a force that plated Lee Mazzilli and knotted the score again. 
Steve Kemp 1986 Fleer series
  • 1987 - The Pirates traded RHP Don Robinson to the San Francisco Giants for C Mackey Sasser. The Giants turned Robinson into a starter the next season and he became a rotation pitcher for the next three years while Sasser was flipped to the Mets in 1988. 
  • 1992 - Knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield made his debut against the Cards at TRS, replacing Zane Smith who was hurt, and pitched his way to a 3-2 win. He was in hot water early giving up a couple of unearned runs in the fifth after working his way out of second and third frame jams. But he left the bases full of Redbirds in the fifth and cruised afterward. He got all his support from a pair of bombs, a two run shot by Barry Bonds and a solo homer off Jay Bell’s bat, and made the three scores stand up. The Bucs went into first after the win and never looked back. 
  •  1993 RHP Jon Lieber was traded by the Kansas City Royals along with reliever Dan Miceli to the Bucs for closer Stan Belinda. 
  • 2001 - The Pirates traded the well-traveled LHP Terry Mulholland to the Dodgers for pitchers Mike Fetters and Adrian Burnside. Mulholland, from Uniontown, pitched for 11 teams in a 20 year career, and had a pair of stints with the Cubs, Phils and Giants. The FO also swapped Mike Williams to the Astros for RHP Tony McKnight. It was actually more like a lend-lease, as Williams signed with the Bucs again as a free agent after the season. 
  • 2002 - The Bucs sent first round bust OF Chad Hermansen to the Cubs for OF Darren Lewis, who refused to report to the Pirates and retired instead. 
  • 2003 - Pitchers Brandon Lyon, Anastacio Martinez and Jeff Suppan were traded by the Bucs to the Red Sox for LHP Mike Gonzalez, 2B Freddy Sanchez and cash. Originally, Gonzalez had gone to Boston for Lyons and Martinez a few days earlier, but Lyons flunked the physical causing a reworking of the deal. The mulligan panned out pretty well for the Bucs. 
Mike Gonzalez 2002 Bowman's Best sereies
  • 2004 - GM Dave Littlefield reportedly rejected an offer to deal pitcher Kris Benson to the Phillies for a power-hitting prospect named Ryan Howard, who would eventually become a NL MVP. The Bucs thought they had a Howard clone already in their system with Brad Eldred. 
  • 2005 - The Cubs sent young OF Jody Gerut to Pittsburgh for vet OF Matt Lawton. The Cubs shipped Lawton to the Yankees for a minor leaguer in August. Gerut, hampered by a bum knee, barely played and was released after 2006, appearing in just four games as a Pirate. 
  • 2006 - Busy at the deadline: The Pirates traded pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to the Mets for Xavier Nady. Pittsburgh also sent P Kip Wells to the Rangers for P Jesse Chavez, traded OF/1B Craig Wilson to the Yankees for P Shawn Chacon and acquired RHP Brian Rogers from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for 1B Sean Casey. 
  • 2007- The Bucs traded OF Rajai Davis and IF Stephen McFarland to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Matt Morris. Morris, who was under contract to make $9.5M in 2008, was released on April 27th of that year after going 3-8 with a 7.04 ERA in 16 starts. Many believed this deal was the straw that broke the back of GM Dave Littlefield’s era in Pittsburgh. 
  • 2008 - Jason Bay and Josh Wilson were traded to the Boston Red Sox in a three team deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andy LaRoche with Bryan Morris to the Pirates from LA, with Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen coming to the Bucs from Beantown. 
Jason Bay 2007 Upper Deck Artifacts series
  • 2010 - A lot of dealing: RHP James McDonald was traded to Pittsburgh with OF Andrew Lambo by the LA Dodgers for RHP Octavio Dotel and cash. The Bucs also flipped LHP Javier Lopez to the Giants for RHP Joe Martinez and OF Joe Bowker. In a housecleaning/change of scenery deal, SS Bobby Crosby, RHP D.J. Carrasco and RF Ryan Church were sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash, C Chris Snyder and SS Pedro Ciriaco. 
  • 2011 - OF Ryan Ludwick was sent to the Pirates by San Diego for cash. He hit .232 with two homers during the stretch run and then signed with the Reds in the off season. 
  • 2012 - AJ Burnett held the Cubs hitless through 7-2/3 innings before giving up his only knock, a single to right by Adrian Cardenas. The Bucs won 5-0 at Wrigley. Burnett pitched a complete game while Neil Walker had all five RBI. 
  • 2012 - 1B Gaby Sanchez and RHP Kyle Kaminska went from the Marlins to the Pirates for OF Gorkys Hernandez and 2013’s sandwich compensation draft pick five minutes before the deadline expired. Before that trade, the Bucs dealt 3B Casey McGehee to the Yankees for RHP Chad Qualls.
  • 2013 - The Pirates took their fourth straight game of the series over St. Louis with a 5-4 win at PNC Park. With Card ace Adam Wainwright on the hill, Pittsburgh rallied three times from early deficits to tie the game 4-4 in the fifth. The score stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth. Neil Walker opened with a single and tagged to second after Pedro Alvarez’s drive to left died in the corner for the second out. Russell Martin turned on a slider and lined it into short left center for the game winner. The Pirate bullpen tossed five scoreless innings in the victory, with Tony Watson getting the win and Mark Melancon earning the save.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bucs Lose Ugly Finale 7-5

The Bucs got things started against Tim Lincecum with an out, when El Coffee dropped a soft single into right. He stole second, but Cutch went down swinging at 3-2 slider in the dirt; Polanco went down trying to get into third on a bang-bang play that was maybe challengeable, but Clint decided to keep that card in his pocket.

The Giants, who have been waiting for an offense all month, finally put together an inning, a far too typical one for Charlie Morton. With an out, a single, followed by an infield knock followed by a walk jammed the sacks. Another infield bleeder went for a hit, another walk and a flare single made it 3-0 just like that. Then Charlie got a punch out and a bouncer; hopefully, his traditional big inning is out of his system now.

The Bucs cut into it a bit when The Kid opened the second with a double and Ike drew a pesky, eight pitch walk. A wild pitch and sac fly by Travis Snider plated a run, but Jordy went down on a slider in the dirt and Chris Stewart grounded out, so the Bucs got something and left something. Charlie worked a 1-2-3 frame.

Lincecum tossed Morton nothing but fastballs to open the third; four missed the dish for a walk. Josh got his cape tugged on and drove a slider into the left center stands, and we had a tie ball game. The next three Bucs went down routinely. The G-Men had an answer. Pablo Sandovar singled and Michael Morse dropped a bloop just over Walker. An out later, Gregor Blanco got plunked, and a Joe Susak single gave the Giants the lead at 4-3. Fortunately, Lincecum wanted to add on, but instead bounced one to Josh for an inning ending 5-4-3 DP.

With an out in the fourth, Travis singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Jordy got ahead 2-0, was served a heater and dropped it into the left field stands to make it 5-4 Buccos. Stew walked, and that did in Lincecum; Juan Gutierrez climbed the hill and got out without any further damage. San Fran kept the pressure on. Hunter Pence singled and stole second (on a pitchout!), then Brandon Crawford walked. Charlie dodged the bullet, sandwiching a pop between a pair of liners.

The fifth was uneventful. The Pirates went down in order, and the Giants made just a little noise with a one-out single and wild pitch that led to nothing.

In the sixth, Gaby walked and Travis reached when Crawford misplayed the throw on a force attempt. Jean Machi came on, and Jordy bunted them over, followed by a Stew walk that became a DP. Snider wandered toward third, perhaps thinking the bases were loaded rather than second and third, Machi threw to get Travis tagged in a short rundown while Gaby broke home, and he was caught; ya had to be there. If the Bucs could have stayed put, they would have had the bases loaded with an out for Pedro. The only good news was that Jared Hughes came on and tossed a clean frame.

The Bucs went down in order in the seventh. Justin Wilson took the hill. After an out, he gave up a walk, a bloop single and a ground ball knock that tied the game. They quickly took the lead when Stew let a pitch get through him, and the short passed ball  plated another run.  There was a play at the plate, but Stewart tossed the ball past Justin and it rolled to second. Wilson got a K and grounder to finish off the frame, but between soft hits, walks and give-aways, Pittsburgh has to rally again instead of sitting on a lead.

Sergio Romo took the ball in the eighth. He lost Gaby after being up 0-2 with two away, but it didn't hurt as Snider flew out. Jeanmar Gomez grabbed the horsehide. He walked Crawford with an out, and Buster Posey reached when The Kid mishandled his grounder. Kung Fu Panda nine-ironed a shoe-top change up softly into right, and the Giants had an insurance run. Ernesto Frieri got the call after that. he got Juan Perez on a pop after a foul-fest and whiffed Panik.

Santiago Casilla came in for the close. Stew singled with an out, but Pedro flew out to left and Josh went down swinging.

Well, simple enough. Morton continues to be the poster child for inconsistency, and it was contagious today. The Giants got a dozen hits, mostly of the soft variety, but they were due to catch a couple of breaks. Add in five walks, two wild pitches, a hit batter, two unearned runs and a base running display that would drive a little league coach to the nearest tavern (can't say that we've ever seen someone walk into a DP), and you have yourself an ugly little loss. Well, 3-3 on the trip with a four-game set to go in Arizona.

Jeff Locke opens the D-Back series against Josh Collmenter tomorrow night.
  • Ken Rosenthal says the Bucs are in on Ian Kennedy, but it's not a given that he's available.
  • Josh Harrison has hit a home run out of the leadoff spot in four straight games, tying Barry Bonds (1987) for the Pirate franchise record.
  • The Pirates have yet to claim a road sweep.
  • Jose Tabata was back in Indy's lineup, so his scratch last night had nothing to do with any personnel movement.

Morton v Lincecum, Lineup, No Trade News Yet, Hot Race, More Josh...

Charlie Morton (5-10, 3.40) and Tim Lincecum (9-7, 3.96) close out the series.

Charlie has gone 0-3 on the road in his past five starts and again suffered from big inning syndrome against the Rox in his last outing. Morton has all the pieces; someday he connects the dots, but is still looking for consistency. But he's had luck against the Giants. He's 3-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 10 career starts against the G-Men. He was strong earlier in the year, going eight frames in a walk-off 2-1 win at PNC in May.

Tim Lincecum has sort of reinvented himself. Faced with diminished fastball velocity (89.8 per MPH per Fangraphs) he's had to become more of a pitcher. He still uses a fastball-changeup-slider toolkit, but depends less on the heat and move on the movement. Lincecum averages 8+ K per nine and has a 48% ground ball rate, and that's not a bad combo. This isn't to suggest he's nearly back to his 2008-09 form, but he is competitive again.

Oddly, he's only faced the Pirates eight times and hasn't fared very well, going 2-4 with a 4.86 ERA, although he has piled up 58 strikeouts in 46-1/3 IP.

The lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Greg Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Ike Davis 1B, Travis Snider LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Chris Stewart C and Morton P. Pedro is down again as Clint plays the hot sticks, and Stew is giving Russ his day-following-night game blow.

The get-away game starts at 3:45 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • The Pirates, Brewers and Cards all have 49 losses. Pittsburgh is one game behind Milwaukee in the NL Central race, and now holds the second wildcard spot, 1/2 game ahead of St. Louis and 1/2 game behind Atlanta.The Pirates were nine games out on May 17th.
  • Since he started getting regular time back on May 13th, Josh Harrison is hitting .303 with 15 doubles, seven home runs, 31 RBI and 11 stolen bases while committing just three errors in 174 total chances in 25 appearances at third base, 19 in left field, 19 in right field and 13 at second base.
  • Home field disadvantage: With their loss last night, the Giants have lost eight of their last nine series at AT&T Park.
  • The Pirates are a season-high eight games over .500.

7/30: Happy B-Day Clint, Manager-Go-Round, Johnny Rizzo, Playing Long Ball, Jack Wilson, Bautista Returns, Josh Arrives, Redbird Sweep & More..

Happy B-Day Clint, Manager-Go-Round, Johnny Rizzo, Playing Long Ball, Jack Wilson, Bautista Returns, Josh Arrives, Redbird Sweep & More...
  • 1870 - C/1B Bill Merritt was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. The back up played for the Pirates from 1894-97, with a brief stop in Cincinnati. He hit .280 with Pittsburgh. 
  • 1886 - Enjoying an off day between games against the Metropolitans in New York, Allegheny pitcher Gentleman Jim Galvin decided to take in the NY Giants-St. Louis match at the Polo Grounds, and ended up with the best seat in the house. Still steaming over some verbal blasts unleashed during yesterday’s game, ump John Gaffney demanded a pre-game apology from the Giants. With none forthcoming, he stormed of the grounds, and Pud was pulled from the stands to ump. He must have done OK; the Giants edged the Maroons 2-1 and he escaped in one piece. 
Pud Galvin Old Judge Cigarettes 1887
  • 1890 - OF Casey Stengel was born in Kansas City, Missouri. The old Perfesser spent 1918-19 as a Pirate, witha .280 BA, and performed his famous “bird in the hat” stunt as a Bucco. 
  • 1891 - The Pirates got off to a 31–47 start on the heels of a 23–113 season, demoted captain/manager Ned Hanlon (who had left the team in 1890 for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the upstart Players' League before rejoining Allegheny after that league folded) and hired Bill McGunnigle as skipper. McGunnigle managed the club to a modest 24–33 record over the remainder of the year. He was replaced by Tom Burns, who didn’t make it through the 1892 season before losing his job to Al Buckenberger. 
  • 1905 - C Hal Finney was born in Lafayette, Alabama. He was a reserve that played for the Bucs from 1931-34 & 1936, spending his whole MLB career in Pittsburgh and finishing with a .203 BA. 
  • 1909 - The Bucs ended NY Giant’s Christy Mathewson’s 13 game winning streak by a 3-1 score at Forbes Field. Tommy Leach doubled in Fred Clarke and Alan Storke, and was chased home by Dots Miller in the first. That’s all the support Vic Willis would need, scattering nine hits for the complete game win. 
  • 1912 - OF Johnny Rizzo was born in Houston. He burst on the scene in 1938, hitting .301 with 23 HR and 111 RBI as a rookie; his HR mark for a first year Pirate stood until Jason Bay bettered it in 2006. He cooled off after that red hot start, and early in 1940 was traded for Vince DiMaggio after putting up a line of .283 with 29 HR and 168 RBI in Pittsburgh.  
Johnny Rizzo 1939 Play Ball series
  • 1922 - Max Carey went deep twice as the Pirates beat the Giants 7-0 at the Polo Grounds. Carey hit a two-run shot in the seventh inning and then connected for another two-run blast as part of Pittsburgh’s 13-hit attack. Johnny Morrison went the distance for the Pirates, allowing seven hits in the shutout.
  • 1948 - Pittsburgh unleashed a four homer barrage against Brooklyn to take a 10-5 win at Ebbet’s Field. Wally Westlake hit for the cycle, while Max West, Monty Basqall and Clyde Kluttz homered to chase Dodger workhorse Ralph Branca. Bob Chesnes went all the way for the win.
  • 1956 - Sports Illustrated wrote that “Bing Crosby, one of the 11-man syndicate that made the winning $5,500,000 bid for the Detroit Tigers, is also 16% owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Crosby could own an interest in only one club at a time, the Groaner said he would keep the Pirates.”
  • 1957 - Clint Hurdle was born in Big Rapids, Michigan. After a 10 year stint as a player and then managing the Colorado Rockies from 2002–2009 with a World Series appearance, Hurdle took over the Pirate reins in 2011, replacing John Russell. He broke the Pirate 20-year losing season streak in 2013 when he guided the club to 94 wins and the playoffs.
  • 1962 - In the second All-Star game of the year, this one played at Wrigley Field, the AL bashed the NL 9-4. Dick Groat went 2-for-3 and was HBP while driving home two runs. Roberto Clemente went 0-for-2 and Bill Mazeroski 0-for-1.
Dick Groat 1952 Topps series
  • 1987 - The Pirates traded RHP Don Robinson to the Giants for minor league catcher Mackey Sasser and cash. Robinson had some nice years remaining, jumping from the pen to the Giants rotation, while Sasser stayed in Pittsburgh for a season before moving along to the Mets, where he had a long run as the backup catcher. 
  • 2000 - The Bucs got SS Jack Wilson from the Cards in exchange for LHP Jason Christiansen. Wilson was the starter at short when healthy from 2001 until he was traded in 2009, and won a Gold Glove and All-Star berth in 2004. 
  • 2001 - The Bucs sent RHP Jason Schmidt and OF John Vander Wal to the Giants for OF Armando Rios and RHP Ryan Vogelsong. Schmidt went 7-1 the rest of the year for SF and then signed a big four-year contract. Vogelsong underwent Tommy John surgery two months later.
  • 2002 - Pittsburgh snapped a six game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park. The Bucs broke open a pitching duel between Kris Benson and the Rox’s Denny Neagle in the eighth, scoring three times with two outs. The rally was keyed by Adam Hyzdu’s two-run double. Mike Williams earned the save of Benson’s win. 
  • 2004: The Pirates traded RHP Kris Benson and IF Jeff Keppinger to the Mets for 3B Jose Bautista (who they had lost in the 2003 Rule 5 draft), IF Ty Wiggington and RHP Matt Peterson. Bautista became the tenth major leaguer to play for four teams in a season, having been on the rosters of Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Kansas City. In fact, he was actually on five teams, as he was acquired by the Mets from the Royals but sent to Pittsburgh the same day. 
Jose Bautista 2005 Bowman Draft series
  • 2006 - Pittsburgh concluded a five game winning streak by taking a 2-1, 10 inning victory from the SF Giants at PNC Park. Jose Castillo’s leadoff homer in the ninth forced the game into extras, and Jose Hernandez’s single in the 10th scored Jack Wilson with the tie breaker. Both starters, Zach Duke and Matt Morris, put up zeroes but were gone before the seventh was done, and it took 11 more pitchers to finish up what they had begun. 
  • 2009 - The Pirates shipped lefties Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs in exchange for IF Josh Harrison and RHPs Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio. 
  • 2011 - The Pirates traded minor league 1B Aaron Baker to the Orioles for 1B Derrek Lee, the first time they had been buyers at the trade deadline since dealing for SS Shawon Dunston in 1997. 
  • 2012 - In a trade of 2006 first rounders, Pittsburgh sent RHP Brad Lincoln to Toronto for OF Travis Snider. 
  • 2013 - The Pirates swept a doubleheader from the Cards by 2-1 and 6-0 scores at PNC Park to vault over them into first place in the NL Central. The opener went 11 innings, with the winning run scoring after Alex Presley’s apparent DP ball deflected off pitcher Kevin Siegrist’s glove and into left to plate Russ Martin. Vin Mazzaro got the win. The key blow in the nitecap was Andrew McCutchen’s two-run homer that bounced off Matt Holliday’s glove and into the second row of seats in left. Rookie Brandon Cumpton went seven frames for the win, tossing three hit ball. C Tony Sanchez took his MLB bow behind the dish and became one of seven Pirates to call a shutout in his first game; the last was Jason Kendall in 1996.

Frankie's 11 K & Two Bucco Long Balls Add Up To 3-1 Win

Geez, that was quick. Josh spanked a 3-2 fastball to the opposite field and over the wall to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead over Tim Hudson and the Giants. The Kid singled two outs later, but that was it. Francisco Liriano gave up a one-out double to Gregor Blanco, but shut the door the rest of the frame.

In the second, Ike dribbled a single up the left side and trotted home after Travis Snider stayed back on an inside slider and pounded it over the RF fence to make it 3-0. Like last inning, the Bucs got a guy aboard with two outs when Josh walked, but he was left aboard. Michael Morse cut into lead in a hurry when he drilled a slider into the stands; it withstood a review, bouncing back into the field off a fan. Frankie regained his focus quickly and whiffed the next three Giants. Both pitchers worked a clean third frame.

Pittsburgh threatened to add in the fourth when Jordy tripled with two down. Francisco gave it a shot, hitting a ball on the nose, but the liner was snared by second baseman Dan Uggla to strand Mercer. Buster Posey opened with a soft shot to right for a single. Frankie came back with a K and two bouncers; his slider is nasty tonight, and he has rung up six whiffs already.

Hudson spun a 1-2-3 fifth and so did Liriano, with another two K. The Kid opened the sixth with a single, and a roller moved him up a base. Hudson finished strong, though, whiffing Ike and Travis. With two gone, Posey was rewarded for a long at-bat with a single up the middle, and he remained at first.Hudson had an easy seventh; he's shown all his pitches, and the splitter is giving the Buc hitters fits. With one gone, Andrew Susak drew a walk, but another K and a bouncer ended the frame. Both guys are well over 100 pitches, so it's time for the pens to finish up.

Jean Machi came in to pitch the eighth for the G-Men. Cutch cranked a one-out double to left center, and stole third with two gone. Russ couldn't bring him home, grounding out for the fourth time on the night. Tony Watson got the call for the Pirates and Michael Martinez moved into left for Travis. Joaquin Arias started the G-Men up with a single to center. No sweat; a fly to left and a 4-6-3 DP cleaned everything up nicely.

Lefty Jeremy Affelt took the ball in the ninth. The Bucs batted Brent Morel and Gaby for Ike and Tony with no luck. Jordy drew a walk, but Martinez bounced out. Mark the Shark is due to face the heart of the Giant order. Posey greeted him with his third hit - the Giants only have five - a grounder up the middle on an 0-2 cutter. Pablo Sandoval went the other way with a cutter, but El Coffee had it measured for the first out. Morse went down swinging at a curve in the dirt. Travis Ishikawi grabbed a bat as Posey went to second without a throw on defensive indifference. He stayed there as Ishikawi went down on another curve in the dirt. For Liriano it was just win #3; for Melancon, it was save #20.

Well, Pirate pitching has been all that in this series so far against the offensively challenged Giants; Vanimal and Frankie served up gems. The Bucs are just a game back in the NL Central now and looking for a get-away day sweep tomorrow (OK, today). Trade talk is great, but piling up some wins is better. And if Liriano is back, those wins will be a lot easier to come by.

Charlie Morton closes the series against Tim Lincecum tomorrow afternoon.
  • John Peralto of the Beaver County Times believes the Pirates and Red Sox could be working on a "blockbuster" deal involving several players. Jon Lester, btw, was scratched from his Wednesday start, so it will all go down soon to whichever club (and there still are a handful) wins the bidding war.
  • Tonight was Francisco Liriano's tenth career 10+ strikeout game. He had 11 against the Giants.
  • Cutch's double broke an 0-for-14 hitless streak, which was his longest of the year. McCutchen also joined Barry Bonds as the only players in Pirate history with four seasons of 30+ 2B, 5+ 3B, 15+ HR, & 15+ SB.
  • The Bucs are 17-for-17 when scoring in the first frame, tying a team record that goes back to 1928.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review said Starling Marte is definitely not coming off the DL tomorrow, and may play some rehab games before returning. Jose Tabata was removed from the Indy lineup tonight, so the two items may be related. There's also the possibility that he may be involved in a trade, so we'll see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Liriano v Hudson, Lineup (no Pedro), Rumors Flyin', Starling, Josh...

Francisco Liriano (2-7, 4.18) takes the bump opposite Tim Hudson (8-7, 2.65) tonight.

Frankie has made three starts since being returning from the DL and has gone 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA while looking pretty sharp in his last couple of outings. The Bucs generally don't score a lot for him; he's gotten more than two runs of support when he has been on the mound in just three of his first 17 starts

First the good news: Liriano has posted a 3.28 ERA with a .191 opponent BA in his seven starts on the road this season. The bad news: He's 1-1 but with a 7.20 ERA in two career starts against the G-Men, with both games last season.

Hudson has been on a roller coaster ride. He was arguably the ace of the Giant staff for April and May, leveled off in June and then went 0-4 with a 6.07 ERA in his final five starts before the All-Star break. Since the break, he's been on fire again, giving up one earned run in his two post-ASG outings.

The 16 year vet - he just turned 39 - has seen the Bucs plenty of times. He's 6-7 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.136 WHIP against Pittsburgh in 14 career starts.

It should be interesting, as both guys have been strong since the All-Star break and both are keys to their club's playoff chances.

The lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Ike Davis 1B, Travis Snider LF, Jordy mercer SS and Liriano P. No Pedro again, but the guys that are penciled in have all had hot hands recently, so...

The game begins at 10:15 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

  • Jon Heyman of Baseball Insider claims that the Pirates are among the top contenders in the Jon Lester sweepstakes; OF Josh Bell seems to be the key Pirate prospect involved. As you can imagine, lots of chatter on the web, with the real story to be told in the next 48 hours...
  • Chris Cotilla of Major League Dish writes that "Pittsburgh has been especially aggressive in the bullpen market, and is definitely a destination to watch on (Joaquin) Benoit."
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN posted "Sources say talks between the Pirates and Phillies about an A.J. Burnett reunion in Pittsburgh are all but dead, largely because the Pirates have been unable to get assurances that Burnett won't pick up his player option for next season."
  • Dan Zangrilli of The Fan 93.7 also reports that Tampa Bay has scouts in Altoona for a second night to look at prospects for both the Curve and Detroit's farm club, Erie. Shi Davidi of the Blue Jays adds that nine scouts are watching the Indy-Buffalo (Toronto) game. So we know that the scouts are scouting and the GM's are playing chess, and that's about all.
  • Starling Marte can come off the DL tomorrow; whether he's healthy enough to isn't certain yet.
  • Josh Harrison has gone 6-for-9 with a double, two home runs, three RBI, four runs scored and two stolen bases in the last two games.
  • Pirate bench coach Jeff Banister, Clint Hurdle's right hand man, will manage the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League after the season.
  • Ex-Bucs: 1B Travis Ishikawa was called up by the Giants.

7/29: Cutty, Hans, Frank Gustine, Gene Clines, Brian Giles, Steady Freddy & More...

Cutty, Hans, Frank Gustine, Gene Clines, Brian Giles, Steady Freddy & More...
  • 1886 - 2B George Cutshaw was born in Wilmington, Illinois. He came to the Bucs in exchange for Burleigh Grimes, and manned second base for four seasons (1918-21). Cutty hit .275 as a Pirate. His best year was his last, when he hit .340. But he was injured in August, and the 35 year old was sold to Detroit, where he spent the last two years of his career. 
George Cutshaw - Image from Out Of The Park
  • 1915 - Honus Wagner hit a grand slam in the eighth inning off Brooklyn Dodger Ed Pfeffer (It was “a dandy drive” per the Pittsburg Press) during Pittsburgh’s 8-2 victory at Forbes Field. The inside-the-park round tripper made the 41-year old infielder the second oldest player ever to hit a homer with the bases full, a record set by 42-year old Cap Anson in 1894. (The mark that stood until 1985 when 44-year old Tony Perez of the Reds claimed it.) Erving Kantlehner scattered nine hits while going the distance for the win, helped by an unassisted DP when RF Bill Hinchman snared a line drive and continued on to to first base to double off Pfeffer. 
  • 1940 - The Bucs scored six times in their final at-bat, with the lead run thrown out at the plate as Frank Gustine tried to score from first on Vince DiMaggio’s hit. It wasn’t enough; the Dodgers pushed across a two-out run in the bottom half as the Pirates went down 7-6 at Ebbets Field. The game was marked by a ninth inning brawl started when Brooklyn C Babe Phelps spiked P Mace Brown at a play at first. Manager Frankie Frisch was fined $100 and ejected, and three of his players were hit with $25 fines. 
  • 1947 - Frank Gustine went 4-for-5 against the Boston Braves to lead Pittsburgh to a 6-5 win at Forbes Field. It ran his hitting streak to 21 games before it was snapped the next day. 
  • 1968 - RHP Mike Williams was born in Radford, Virginia. In six seasons (1998-2003), he went 15-23 and saved 140 games for Pittsburgh with a 3.78 ERA. His mark of 46 saves in 2002 is still a team standard, but fame is fleeting - he was out of baseball after 2003. 
  • 1971 - Gene Clines was the hero of the Bucs 8-5 win over Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. His three run homer was the big blow in a six-run sixth inning, and the CF went 4-for-4 with four RBI and a pair of runs. Bob Robertson and Willie Stargell also went yard in the win that was cemented by 5-2/3 scoreless frames tossed by the bullpen. 
Gene Clines 1974 Topps series
  • 2000 - Brian Giles went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles while Warren Morris and Emil Brown homered as the Bucs ran up a 10-2 count against the San Diego Padres at TRS. Francisco Cordova got the win as three Buc pitchers scattered six hits in front of a Saturday night crowd of 30,118. 
  • 2009 - 2B Freddy Sanchez was traded to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Tim Alderson. The Bucs also traded RHP Ian Snell and SS Jack Wilson to the Mariners for RHP Aaron Pribanic, RHP Brett Lorin, 1B Nathan Adcock, SS Ronny Cedeno and 1B Jeff Clement.

Bucs Ride Big First Inning, Worley's Arm To 5-0 Win

Pretty good start for the Bucs. Josh drew a five pitch walk off Madison Bumgarner, and Jordy singled him up a station. Cutch took a ball four cuvre on a 3-2 count to load the sacks, and Gaby pounded a ball to deep center; the park held it, but the sac fly made it 1-0. Jordy tagged to third, and The Kid singled him home. Then the Bucs got a break. Bumgarner had Cutch picked off second, but skipped the ball into center to put Pirates on the corners.

Russ rolled a ball up the middle, scoring Cutch and chasing Jordy to third. El Coffee hit a sac fly to right; the throw came home and got through Buster Posey, moving Russ to second. Brent Morel couldn't bring him home, bouncing out to first, but it's 4-0 and Bumgarner is already at 42 pitches. Vanimal got three grounders for an easy start.

After an out in the second, Josh fell behind 0-2, worked the count to 2-2 and then launched a slider into the seats to make it 5-0. Jordy followed with his second line knock, but Cutch and Gaby were retired routinely. Two grounders and a K tucked the Giants away. The third was a clean frame for both hurlers, and all the action for the clubs in the fourth was a two out single by Polanco.

Yusmeiro Petit took the bump in the fifth and put the Bucs down in order. Pedro Sandoval collected the Giants first hit after Worley had cut down 12 G-Men in row, a ground ball into right. Vanimal came right back and got a 6-4-3 DP from Michael Morse and a fly to end the inning quietly.

The Pirates went down without a peep in the sixth. Gregory Blanco bled a single along the left side, but was mowed down trying to steal an out later, and after a third out fly Worley has still faced the minimum 18 batters through six and is sitting petty at 58 pitches. Juan Gutierrez took the bump in the seventh and worked a quiet frame; the Pirates have had 10 in a row retired. Vanimal struggled, if that's the word, a little in the Giant half. Hunter Pence lined out and Joe Spanik drew a walk after a long at-bat on a call that could have gone either way. But he stayed at the minimum by getting Posey to hit into a 4-6-3 DP, and it's all roses.

Pittsburgh went down in order in the eighth. Kung Fu Panda opened with a single up the middle. Two routine outs later, Worley fell behind Blanco 3-1 and tossed what would have been ball four, but the catcher helped by rolling over on the outside heater and bouncing it to Walker, so no Giant has reached second yet tonight.

Russ bounced out to open the ninth, and the Giants then waved in Javier Lopez to face Polanco. El Coffee foiled the plot by breaking the Pirates' 14-out string with an infield single to second. Morel bounced out, moving Polanco to second, not that it helped as Vanimal whiffed.

But he's paid to pitch, and he's earned that paycheck tonight. After an out in the ninth, Andrew Susak gave him a nine-pitch workout before lifting a routine fly to left. pence, a thorn in the Bucs side ever since his Astro days, lined a triple to right, but Vanimal retired Panik on a grounder to earn the complete game, shutout win.

Well, pitching wins games, and a big fat zero is about as good as it gets. Worley faced two batters over the minimum and allowed one runner beyond first, giving up four hits, a walk and whiffing a trio. With Cole due back, Worley has another start to show he can be consistent and perhaps bump Edinson Volquez, with his swing-and-miss stuff, to the pen. But the Bucs have 10 days or so to consider that next move.

While it's obvious that they could use a RH reliever to help in the late innings, it appears more and more that if they go after a starter, it should be a top-end guy; the back end of the rotation is pretty solid. We'll see if Neal Huntington and the brass agree.

Tim Hudson and Francisco Liriano mix it up tomorrow night.
  • Vance Worley picked up his first career shutout. He had one complete game before tonight, tossed in 2011 when he was with the Phillies, also against the Giants. It was a three-hitter, and he gave up a pair of runs. That one took him 114 pitches; tonight's gem used up just 100. It was Pittsburgh's first complete game shutout since AJ Burnett tossed a one-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley on July 31, 2012.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe thinks the Bucs are in the mix for Jon Lester.
  • Jon Morosi tweets that the Pirates are kicking the tires of the Phils' Antonio Bastardo and Marlon Byrd.
  • Pittsburgh is two games back in the NL Central and 1/2 game away from a second wild-card spot.
  • The Bucs are 16-for-16 this year when scoring in the first inning.
  • Gerrit Cole tossed five shutout frames for Indy in his rehab start tonight. He wasn't exactly sharp, though, giving up five hits and three walks, but he did K seven, throwing 81 pitches.
  • Clint Barmes took BP and some grounders today, so he's slowly getting back into the swing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Worley v Bumgarner, Lineup (Pedro Out), LaTroy, Travis, Stop Thief! & Top Guns...

Vance Worley (3-1, 3.10) gets the call against yet another lefty, Madison Bumgarner (12-7, 3.19).

Worley has come back to earth this month, posting a record of 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA after going 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in June. He has one more slated start after this before Gerrit Cole returns. Vanimal is 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA in three career starts against the G-Men, bute hasn't seen them since 2012.

Bumgarner and the Giants have had their problems at home. He's gone 4-5 with a 5.22 ERA in 10 home starts with at least four earned runs surrendered in seven of them. The team has dropped 19 of their last 25 at AT&T Park; they're 28-28 overall by the Bay. Bumgarner is 1-2 in three career starts against the Pirates but has a 1.71 ERA and .211 Bucco BA in those matchups with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings.

He will, btw, be the eighth lefty in the past 10 games to start against Pittsburgh. After tonight, the Pirates return to looking at righties with Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum next up for San Francisco.

The Giants are coming off a broom job by the Dodgers and have dropped four in a row. Of course, facing Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke and Hyun-Jin Ryu in a row will do that to a team; they hit .180 against that foursome. Still, San Francisco squandered what was once a runaway in the NL West, going 10-16 in June and 11-12 so far in July. They're now 1-1/2 games behind LA.

The Giants hold the last wild card spot; they're 1-1/2 games ahead of the Bucs, so this series has implications for October, too.

The lineup: Josh Harrison LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Russ martin C, Gregory Polanco RF, Brent Morel 3B and Worley P. El Coffee had some nice swings against a a couple of lefties yesterday, including a homer. Alvarez gets a seat again.

The game starts at 10:15 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan for the night owl club.
  • Tom Harding, the MLB.com beat man for the Rockies, posted that the Pirates have shown some interest in 41 year old LaTroy Hawkins.
  • Travis Snider leads all MLB players with 12 pinch hits this season and the Pirates lead all big league teams with 42 pinch hits while ranking second with five home runs and tied for first with 27 RBI. The Bucs had seven pinch-hit homers a year ago.
  • Pittsburgh pitchers have caught 11 runners attempting to steal this season, tied with San Francisco for the most among all major league teams. The Pirates' 33 caught stealings is tops among NL teams; the Tigers lead the majors with 34.
  • Gerrit Cole will make a rehab start tonight for Indy. His goal is 80-85 pitches, with one rehab start to follow to get him up to 100 pitches. That schedule would have him return for Thursday, August 7th against the Marlins, with the Padres due the next day.
  • The Bucs had seven of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects. The RHP Tyler Glasnow was #20, RHP Jameson Taillon #32, OF Josh Bell #33, OF Austin Meadows #50, RHP Nick Kingham #66th, SS Alen Hanson #80 and C Reese McGuire #81. The Top 20 in the Pirate system per MLB.com are linked here.
  • Ex-Bucs: The Rays DFA'ed LHP Eric Bedard.

Deadline Dealing: 2011-13

The deadline is right around the corner, dropping at 4PM on Thursday, and this down-to-the-wire dealing stuff is getting to be old hat now; this will be the fourth year in a row that the Bucs have been active acquiring players instead of shedding them.

The Pirates joined the buyers mart in 2011, the first year the Pirates were contenders into the dog days. For the first time since 1997, when the "Freak Show" added Shawon Dunston to the roster, the Bucs were adding to the roster.

The Bucs had Lyle Overbay at first base (.227) and shored up that spot by bringing in Derrek Lee, 35, from Baltimore for minor league 1B Aaron Baker, 24. Lee hit .398 with seven homers and 18 RBI in 28 games, but was on the DL with a bum wrist while the Pirates slowly swirled around the NL drain. Lee was a strong pick-up for virtually free who retired after the season while Baker never got above AA for Baltimore and was released from the Bird's system this year.

The other addition was OF'er Ryan Ludwick, who was bought from the Padres to add a little muscle to the bench and get some platoon work with Garrett Jones, who was primarily a RF that season. He didn't do much here, hitting .232 with two HR and 11 RBI in 38 games. He left as a free agent to sign with the Reds. Ludwick had a strong 2012 season for Cincy and has been spotty since.

The Bucs did pretty well for themselves in 2011; they weren't really serious contenders yet, brought in a couple of vets and plugged a big hole with Lee without giving up any major league assets.

In 2012, it was a little more of the same; a strong early push with a huge fade at the end. The front office realized that it was still a mirage and went a slightly different route, bringing in future pieces. The big deal, off course, was for 33 year old Wandy Rodriguez. The Bucs sent the Astros Colton Cain, Rudy Owens and Robbie Grossman, with Grossman being the key piece.

Wandy pitched as advertised, going 5-6 with a 3.72 ERA. But injuries derailed him in Pittsburgh. A guy that was hoped to be an inning-eater in Pittsburgh ended up making just 31 starts with 11 wins for the Pirates until his release with a bum knee earlier this year.

Owens has the look of a Quad A guy, Cain is still young at 23 and toiling in AA, and Grossman has spent part of two season with the 'Stros, hitting .240.

They also swapped out Brad Lincoln for Travis Snider. Both were first rounders that never quite lived up to the hype. Neither guy has put up any worthwhile numbers, but at this point in time, Snider is trending up as a fourth outfielder (.256, 6 HR) while Bad Brad is taking his lumps in the Philly system, being demoted from the big club and sent to AAA, not a good sign for a 29 year old reliever.

Pittsburgh also brought in Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins for Gorkys Hernandez, a gifted fielder but weak hitter, and a compensation pick. Gaby has turned into a useful platoon player, hitting .289 against LHP while a Pirate and playing a steady first base. Gorkys is chasing baseballs in Venezuela now, so the comp pick will prove to be the key element of the deal.

In more minor deals, the Pirates deepened the pen by bringing in Chad Qualls for Casey McGehee, who had in effect lost his job when Gaby joined the club, and Hisonari Takahashi was claimed off waivers. Qualls and McGehee are having rebound years while Takahashi is pitching in Japan; none offered more than depth.

Again, the Bucs did OK. They didn't get over the hump, and though the verdict has yet to be rendered because of the youth of the guys they traded, they got a couple of solid bench pieces in Travis and Gaby, though they struck out on Wandy, without losing anything but a little potential bench depth.

Last year was different. It wasn't all smoke and mirrors; the Bucs had a solid club in 2013 with excellent pitching, but needed an offensive bump. They struck two big deals, both in August, to strengthen the lineup.

The biggest difference maker was OF Marlon Byrd, and they paid pretty dearly his rental, sending the Mets RHP Vic Black and 2B Dilson Herrera. The Bucs also landed John Buck, an offensive-minded catcher, to serve as Russ Martin's caddy rather than untested Tony Sanchez. Byrd did all that for the Pirates in right field (.318, 3 HR, 17 RBI in 30 games), and was strong through the playoffs (.364, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 6 games). He left for the Phils after the season; seems like the Bucs already had another right fielder just about ready in Gregory Polanco. Buck was adequate (.333 in 24 at-bats), and he was allowed to go the free agent route too, not having the glove that the Bucs like behind the dish.  

Black has been up-and-down and has the arm to fill a spot in a MLB bullpen but Herrera, 20, was the prize for NY. The youngster represented the Bucs, along with Gregory Polanco, in the 2013 Futures Game. He's already the Mets #8 minor league prospect. Herrera is batting .345 at AA Binghamton, and while he's still working on improving his defense, he could be a starter in the show maybe as soon as 2016.

That's the first deadline deal where the Pirates had to send away a prospect with potential everyday MLB talent in Herrera; it shows the urgency that the FO felt to end the streak, break through to the playoffs and capitalize on all the feel good vibes the club was generating.

The other trade was to bring in Justin Morneau from the Twins to provide a glove and more consistent stick at first while foreshadowing the non-tendering of Garrett Jones. The cost wasn't very high as the Pirates sent Alex Presley and Duke Welker to the Twinkies. Morneau did OK, hitting .260 with a .370 OBP. But three RBI in 25 games from a middle-of-the-order position didn't cut it, and he was released at the end of the year, with Ike Davis eventually filling the first base spot.

Morneau has revived his career at Colorado, hitting .312 with 13 HR and 60 RBI, and the numbers aren't Coors Field phenomena; his home/road splits are not that wide. Could be that the Pirates missed the call on keeping him around for the short-term (The Rox gave him two guaranteed years at $11.75 total, with an option for $9M/$750 K buyout), but at age 33 and with his power numbers non-existent, it was a gamble they were understandably reluctant to make.

Presley is a bench outfielder, and Welker returned to the Bucs in exchange for Kris Johnson. Duke was released after TJ surgery, so again it was another deal of spare parts. They also added Kyle Farnsworth, who they signed to a minor league deal in August and brought up in September.

2014 showed that the higher your target, the more you're willing to give up. The Pirates got exactly the push they needed from Byrd, and to them, that was worth the price they paid.

Now it's time to get that push going for the stretch run. While the rumor mill has been dead, especially as team's approach the deadline wire, we'd expect the Bucs (as does everyone else) to look for a top end or mid-rotation starter; they have the back end covered. Likeliest is some bullpen reinforcement, especially seventh inning or later guys. And it's possible that they'd like to add another infield bench guy, one with a stick if the price is right. But they've been patient, as last year showed, and may wait out the market again.