Thursday, April 3, 2008

arrrrgh, mateys, it was ugly but...

zach duke
Zach Duke from Pittsburgh

Zach Duke deserved better. His infield deserted him in the sixth.

A little roller gets past Jose Bautista. Defensive replacement Luis Rivas gives Jack Wilson a weak feed to put the kibosh on a possible inning ending DP ball.

He came in, we would suppose, because Freddie Sanchez had done the same thing an inning or two earlier, although they got the DP on that try. The official word was they didn't trust Sanchez' arm to hold up in the cold weather.

And Pittsburgh eventually lost Wilson, too, when his calf tightened (they said after the game that it was a day-to-day strain) after Mike Diaz took him out hard on that play.

But before he went, with two outs in the inning, Wilson let a soft bouncer go through him to give the Braves the lead (although he redeemed himself with the game tying hit, his first of the year, before hopping off the field.)

For some reason, John Russell left Duke in for 116 pitches in 5-2/3 innings. Russell wanted him to struggle through it, but this early in the season, well, Lawdy, have some mercy!

Duke looked sharp during his first five innings (he'll never be a low hit guy), with only Chipper Jones solving him consistently. He worked inside very nicely and spotted his fastball all night, either on the black or out of the hitting zone.

The much maligned bullpen? They were stellar tonight. Frankie Osaria, John Grabow, Tyler Yates (and it's sweet to see a guy throw 95 to everyone), and Matt Capps, take a bow. Yates got the win and Capps the save.

They went deep into some counts, but never caved in to the Brave batters. Combined, the foursome pitched 4-1/3 innings, gave up 1 hit, struck out 6 and walked nary a soul. Pirate errors put on more runners than the Buc bullpen did.

Which begs the question of how much Ronny Paulino's game management as a catcher had to do with the turnaround. You can't expect Ryan Doumit to be sharp. He's getting OJT and does a lot of little things not so well yet.

The difference in the pitching was striking tonight, and it just may be because of the catching of Paulino. Then again, maybe it was because he didn't have to catch Marte, hehe.

He gave the guys a target, framed the pitches around the black, changed the rhythm went he felt he had to, and called a nice game. Even Duke, who gave up 10 hits - and he had to throw 40 pitches in the 6th - was only tagged hard twice.

Maybe Paulino is rising to the competition. His hustle on the basepaths made us check the scorecard twice to make sure it was him - he even took out a guy at second. At any rate, he's far more polished behind the dish, and if John Russell is going to let the catchers call the game...

It was great to see McLouth take charge in the outfield after that opening day gaffe when he and Jason bay watched a soft fly drop between them.

He was vocal and visual, waving his arms like a little leaguer sometimes, calling balls, making a great catch on a shot that looked like it was Nady's, playing it with all the aggression that competent and confident center fielders do, and just looked downright comfy at Turner Field tonight.

Xavier Nady's value ought to be through the roof if he keeps raking, winning another game and collecting his 7th RBI of the very young season. And the Pirates do scrap, coming back with Rivas and Gomez as their middle infielders and Nyjer Morgan keying the winning rally. It was classic small ball.

A walk, a sacrifice bunt, a passed ball, and a bouncer up the middle; bingo, raise the Jolly Roger.

Now they just have to do some other small things, like getting the starters a little deeper into games and catching the ball, to compete most nights.

The Bucs are 2-1, but the series with the Braves was anything but well played by either squad. Pittsburgh has to learn how to prevent that one big inning.

They didn't in Atlanta, and it cost them the chance to sweep and made cliffhangers out of games that should have been easily put away. Let's hope it's just part of the learning curve of the much ballyhooed Bucco attitude adjustment.

Still, better to win a sloppy series. It's the kind we lost regularly last year.


Deanna said...

I have to differ on the evaluation of the catcher...Osoria, Yates and Grabow pitched fairly well on Monday night, when Doumit was catching. Marte faltered both nights, though.

I think it's a little too soon to judge the game calling on a total of 3 games that were strewn with errors by both teams.

Defensively, I think Doumit is better, and having seen him during Spring Training games, you're selling him a little short on 2 outings thus far.

I'm not knocking Paulino...he does his job well, I'm just pointing out that it's a little soon to be putting the same wrap on Doumit.

Benny Benack's Ghost said...

Deanna - Doumit is the classic example of Littlefield's inability to evaluate players. Doumit was a catcher, then a 1B/outfielder, now he's a catcher again. It's really hard to develop when you get yanked around like that.
I'm pretty confident he'll get better as he gets some games under his belt. He did only catch 28 games all of last year (the ERA when he caught was 5.47, and Paulino's was 4.61, though in the second half of the season Doumit's came down and Paulino's rose.)
And I certainly agree that it's way too early to tell; we still have 98% of the season to go, hehe. And it may be the only diff is that Doumit had to catch Marte twice and Paulino didn't.
We'll see how it plays out over the year. I'm not writing Doumit off, but he does have a ways to go yet.