Zach Duke from Pirate.com
(photo by Don Wright - AP)
Ya know it's your day when your opponent gets 8 hits, draws 6 walks, and the team chips in with four errors, and not only do you win, but by shutout, yet.
Zach Duke and the bull pen gang were the proud owners of that pitching line. Duke went 6 goose egg innings to even his record at 2-2 and drop his ERA to 4.04. It was an amazing performance.
He allowed a lucky 13 baserunners - and a dozen of them got on after two outs! And the DP didn't save the bacon this game - the Braves only hit into one, a line drive twin killing in the first to erase his only lead off runner.
Of course, the next three batters reached base, but it set the tone for the rest of his outing. Runners galore, but not a one crossed home. The Braves stranded 15 men on base during a very frustrating (to them) nine innings.
Even more worrisome to Atlanta, Mark Teixeira left the game due to back spasms.
The Bucco offense was paced by Freddie Sanchez, who cleared the bases with a double - with two outs, hehe - and an eighth inning, two-run long ball by Adam LaRoche. Sanchez used his pink bat to do the honors.
The Pirates gloves had gone the equivalent of six games (54 innings+) without a boot before their meltdown, but at least this time, it didn't come back to bite them. It did, however, put them back on top of the error race with 36.
Hopefully Duke left a little magic on the mound for JVB in the second game. We'll cross our fingers and knock on wood.
Forget the juju working all day. Tim Hudson weaved some black magic on the Buc bats in the night cap, going 7 innings and surrendering just two hits and one unearned run. JVB was the sacrificial lamb, struggling in the fourth and collapsing in the fifth. The Braves romped, 8-1.
The Pirates added two more errors to their collection. Six errors in one day is not a good thing. The team's up to 38 miscues in 38 games. Ouch.
Van Benschoten was optioned to AAA Indy after the game. He's one of those enigmas, a AAAA player - too good for AAA, not good enough for MLB. The Pirates will fill his spot tomorrow.
And it doesn't look like it'll be with Evan Meek - the clock is ticking, and the Bucs haven't been able to reach a satisfactory deal with Tampa, although holding up filling the spot could mean they hold out hope for an 11th hour deal. Of course, the odds are that he won't end up back on the MLB roster even if signed.
There are three or four RH candidates throwing at Indy that could get the call. Unlike the parent club, the Indians have nothing but righties on its 13 man staff. Then again, maybe they're using the time to see who they can bring in from outside the organization.
We'll see tomorrow, but we're leaning to Jesse Chavez, who's tearing it up. He has a 1.61 ERA, a WHIP of 0.67, and a K per inning as a set up man. Chavez is a fastball - slider pitcher.
The six-game streak that Hudson so rudely snapped is the Bucs longest since 2004. The Pirates spend the rest of May and early June against division foes, and it'll be a telling three weeks if they have any plans of hanging around in the Central. They're off to St. Louis tomorrow for three, then to Wrigley.
All together, the Pirates will play 22 straight games against NL Central opponents, starting tomorrow.
On the "insult to injury" front: Last week Fox Sports selected the top 10 worse run franchises in sports. Would their top pick surprise you?
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
Never mind championships, pennants or division titles, the Pittsburgh Pirates haven't even had a winning season in 15 years. One more losing season and the Pirates will tie the record for most consecutive losing seasons among the four major sports. They continually field one of the youngest and most inexperienced rosters in the league and are always rebuilding. The black and yellow team colors fit their plan of constantly being under construction.
Puzzling personnel plays: Signing Derek Bell, Jeromy Burnitz and Tony Armas, Jr.; and trading Aramis Ramirez.
Remember ... 1997: The closest the Pirates have come to 82 wins (otherwise known as a winning season) in the last 15 years was in 1997. They were expected to push 90 to 100 losses, but ended up as one of the league's irrelevant surprises when they finished with 79 wins. The entire team salary was $9 million, which was less than what Albert Belle made that season.
But the readers poll was kinder to the organization. They have the Pirates pegged at number two, behind the Detroit Lions.