Thursday, April 17, 2008

and the award for the best comedy...

piarte logo 1997

Ah, there's something about that big ol' HOLLYWOOD sign in La-La land that brings out the show biz hambone in the Bucs. Tuesday they looked liked Bela Lugosi. Last night they did their best Bad News Bears imitation.

We'll spare you most of the gory details of the 8-1 whupping, but we have to share the first inning. It was Mack Sennett at its' most hilarious.

It started off when Adam LaRoche fielded a bunt and tried to shovel the ball to Paul Maholm. It dropped harmlessly to the ground, and there's no telling if it would have got Rafael Furcal anyway.

Then Maholm's foot got in the way of a double play ball, and it ricocheted into right. Following a conventional single, the next Dodger rolled another DP ball to second. But inexplicably, Freddie Sanchez was darting behind second base, playing with the runner.

Xavier Nady came up on the ball, fired it in to Brian Bixler, and the Pirates had Matt Kemp hung out to dry between second and third after he took an ill advised wide turn. Jose Bautista got the relay, went to tag him, and Kemp dropped to the ground, backwards.

Admiring his move, Bautista failed to lay a glove him. Kemp dusted himself off, raced to the bag, and there were now runners on second and third. That was the only physical error charged in the inning, as the NL fortunately doesn't count mental miscues.

That was followed by a wild pitch and a bunt single that worked when Maholm got to first base late. And hey, it's 4-0 with one legit hit and that's all she wrote for Pittsburgh.

Other highlights? Nady was easily thrown out at home plate to end the second inning trying to score from second base on catcher Ronny Paulino's single with the Pirates already trailing 4-0 and third base coach Tony Beasley giving him the stop sign.

In the third, Maholm turned to throw to first base in an attempted pickoff of Nomar Garciaparra, but first baseman LaRoche was already charging in, expecting a bunt from pitcher Brad Penny. Maholm was charged with a balk. The laughs never stopped.

The Pittsburgh pitchers are doing a pretty poor job of holding runners and fielding their position, and that's hurt the team's D just as much as Luis Rivas, Bautista, and the gang. Pitcher, short and third have committed 16 of the team's 21 errors.

Nate McLouth keeps chugging along. His streak is now at 15 games, and he's got Al Oliver lined up next. Scoops hit safely in his first 18 games in 1972.

The Pittsburgh Baseball Club has the day off. The fans may need it more than they do.

On the minor league front: Early though it may be, the Buc's that aren't holding their own in the pen - yah, we mean you, Evan Meek and Phil Dumatrait - might have to watch their backs. We know it would take a lot, as the Bucs would most likely lose either one if they were sent down.

But there are five pitchers in Indy that have a WHIP (walks + hits per inning; a measure of how many runners allowed on base) of under 1.00 - John Van Benschoten, Marino Salas, Sean Burnett (in fact, he's given up more walks than hits and is still under 1!), Jesse Chavez, and Jonah Bayliss.

Their ERA's range from Van Benschoten's 2.92 to Salas and Bayliss, both at a perfect 0.00.

It might not mean that much in April, but if they get into May and still have those numbers, and the Bucs that are in the bigs still have theirs...well, it could get interesting.

On the college front:
Pitt beat Duquesne 17-6 at PNC to claim the City Game bragging rights for this year (they won an earlier match 9-8 at Pitt's Trees Field.) The Dukes did their best to play like the Pirates, committing five errors.

Don't cry for them. They're 15-17 overall, but in first place in the Atlantic Ten by a game with a 10-2 conference record with the heart of their schedule coming up. Pitt is 11-21, and the young team is 11th in the Big East with a 3-9 slate.

Pitt fireballer David Kaye (1-1), from Riverview High, held Duquesne to one hit over the final 41/3 innings to notch the win. The freshman was was drafted in the 30th round by the Toronto Blue Jays after high school and has a chance to be a good one for the Panthers.

Old Bucco skipper Jim Tracy and his wife Debra were in the stands. No, they're not a new scouting duo. They came to watch their son Mark, who transferred from Pepperdine to the Dukes, play ball. He's an outfielder hitting .277 for the Bluff nine.

College baseball will have some odd scores this year, particularly the colder weather schools. To help them get as many games in during the year as their southern counterparts do, the season was shortened by the NCAA.

Conference games are usually weekend twin bills with exhibitions on weekdays and little time off. And everyone saves their aces for their league. So there are some wild games Monday through Friday as the young and second string arms do their thing.

And a tip of the cap to the managers, Joe Jordano of Pitt and Mike Wilson of the Dukes. Their teams are always fundamentally sound, play hard and compete well, especially in conference.

That's not an easy thing to accomplish in these chilly, damp climes when you're going up against the Florida teams for baseball talent. Sun, sand, and surf are in short supply in Pittsburgh, along with dry fields.

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