Tuesday, May 6, 2008

they might be giants...

zach duke

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The Pirates got a strong start from Zach Duke, the bats boomed, and it was a romp in PNC Park against the Giants.

Nate McLouth dropped a pair of bombs, Adam LaRoche added one, and all eight Pirate starters scored at least a run and seven of them drove in a run or better. Freddie Sanchez was moved to the top of the order and came through with three hits.

Duke pitched well, giving up 8 hits in 7 innings before running out of gas after 104 pitches in the 8th. He got his first win since June 12, 2007 tonight and it was well deserved. The story of today's game was his pitching.

Duke put up goose eggs over the first six innings. And when the Pirates score first, they're 11-5, so a strong start is key to them winning a game. He's now had five quality starts out of the seven games he's climbed the hill.

Sean Burnett didn't look like the second coming. In his first MLB appearance since 2004, he gave up a three run homer to Jose Castillo, who went 18 months without a long ball and has now hit two in the past week.

But his slider moved, and his heater was 90-92 on the PNC radar. He was given a typical Pittsburgh welcome when Jose Bautista nonchalanted a slow hopper to third and then botched the force play, dropping the ball.

Inexplicably, the ump gave him the call. We can only suppose that he had a hot date to meet after the game. Burnett also watched a ball go through Doumit and another bounce off him, scored as a wild pitch. Welcome to the bigs, kid.

McLouth was livin' large today. Batting second, he had a couple of extra RBI chances and he's closer to the big boppers. It was his second straight multiple HR game at PNC, as he ripped a pair against the Phils on the last game of the past homestand.

He scored a big feature article in today's Post Gazette. And to top it off, Teke compared his compact swing to that of Bill "Mad Dog" Madlock, one of the great sticks of baseball.

A good day. Now hopefully they'll break their MO and score more than 2 runs tomorrow.

On the Pirate front: With the additions of Sean Burnett and John VanBenschoten to the staff, the Pirate pitchers now boast, if that's the right word, of eight home grown arms on the 25 man roster. The Bucco bred hurlers are Burnett, JVB, Matt Capps, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny, John Grabow and Ian Snell.

Damaso Marte came to Pittsburgh via trade (Rob Mackowiak to the White Sox) as did Tyler Yates (Atlanta for Todd Redmond) and the other pair are waiver wire pick ups Frankie Osaria (LA) and Phil Dumatrait (Reds).

The position players have less of a Pirate background. Home boys are Brian Bixler, Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan and Ronny Paulino. Chris Duffy, on the DL, is also a Pirate product.

We'll add Jose Bautista to the list, as he was a Buc for all his career except for a seven month Rule 5 odyssey in 2004, eventually landing back in Pittsburgh as part of the Kris Benson/Jeff Keppinger deal with the Mets.

Players Pittsburgh traded for are Jay Bay (SD - Brian Giles), Adam LaRoche (Atlanta - Mike Gonzalez and Brett Lillibridge), Xavier Nady (Mets - Ollie Perez & Roberto Hernandez), Freddie Sanchez (Boston - with Mike Gonzalez for Jeff Suppan), and Jack Wilson (St. Louis - Jason Christiansen.) Wilson has played every MLB minute as a Pirate.

What, nobody left from the big A-Ram/Kenny Lofton deal with the Cubs? Go figure.

The bench is made up of free agents Chris Gomez, Doug Meintkiewicz, and Luis Rivas.

So the 25 man roster, plus DL'ed Duffy and Wilson, breaks down to 14 players raised by the Pirates and 13 brought in from other organizations. Wilson, btw, is back on "day-to-day" status with his calf. There's no timetable set for his return.

Barry Zito's banishment to the bullpen didn't last long. He's pitching against Phil Dumatrait tomorrow night. Why the quick reprieve from the role of mop-up man?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman, "By having Zito work Wednesday instead of Saturday, he will return against Pittsburgh instead of Philadelphia, a much stronger team. Also, Zito will not have the added pressure of pitching again at home, where he has been booed."

Nice to know your team is so respected around the league. In a pitching funk? No worries, we'll save you for Pittsburgh.

Jose Castillo, btw, is hitting .239 for the Giants as their every day third baseman. But he does have a home run this year.

On the ex-Buc front:
Oakland's Emil Brown, who spent five largely forgettable seasons in Pittsburgh, is leading the A's in RBIs with 27. Before that, he was the club RBI leader for three years running at KC, with 86, 81, and 62 runs driven in.

Rajai Davis, who they recently picked up, is still a role player, but he's hitting .333 for Oakland in 18 at bats. He's 5-5 in stolen bases this year with the G-Men and A's.

The Rockies are actively pursuing depth for their rotation, discussing trades with the Reds for Josh Fogg and the Red Sox for Julian Tavarez, a pair of old Buccos, according to the Denver Post.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Phils GM Ruben Amaro said righthander Kris Benson, who has been sidelined with a strained right groin, was improving. He said Benson was throwing long toss, although there was no timetable for his return to the mound.

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