Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings...

Ya could see this one coming. All the papers and TV talking heads were yapping about a Pirate sweep of the Nats and the surge into interleague play. Most ballplayers say they don't read the papers; the Bucs sure shouldn't have today.

Well, forget the sweep. In one of the more crushing defeat suffered at PNC, the Pirates lost 7-6 to Washington. The Nats had the middle of its' order out and the fewest home runs in the league, but banged out five blasts, one with two away in the ninth, to stun Pittsburgh, which had one of the best finishing records in baseball.

The Pirates blew a 4-1 lead in the seventh and a 6-5 lead in the ninth.

There were a couple of bright spots. Ryan Doumit was a monster, crushing two homers and adding a pair of doubles. He also slid headfirst into second and escaped with his thumb in one piece, so that's a plus too.

The chatter about Freddie Sanchez' shoulder should also be laid to rest after watching the great relay he made from right to easily gun out Lastings Milledge at the plate.

We're not exactly sure what problem child Elijah Dukes did to set off Manny Acta, but the Nat's manager lit into him during the dugout celebration of Milledge's game winner.

When the team lined up for the customary high fives after the game, Dukes pulled the old junior high snub and ignored Acta. But as the game ended, Acta was walking Dukes back to the locker room with his arm around his shoulder, chatting into his ear. Tough love in DC, we guess.

As for the Pirates, well, they've been resilient all season, and we hope this doesn't launch them into their traditional June swoon. Maybe a little lesson on hubris will do the boys some good.

On the Pirate front: Looks as if nobody outside Pittsburgh appreciates the work that Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady and Jay Bay have done so far this year.

McLouth is the only one getting any All-Star ballot-box love, and he's just 11th among OFs, while Bay and Nady haven't cracked the top 15. As Rodney Dangerfield sez, "I don't get no respect..."

On the minor league front: Altoona RHP Yoslan Herrera was named the Bank of America Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending Sunday. In his lone start during the week, the 27-year-old Cuban tossed a career-high eight scoreless innings.

On the draft front:
A word of caution to those Bucco fans that are goo-goo over the Pirate draft haul. It's true that in the back end rounds they picked some toolsy, upside kids that projected to go much earlier in the draft.

What's also true is that Pittsburgh has little chance to lure them away from college unless they bury them in big bucks. They're not "steals" - their price will be dear.

And they won't hop aboard unless one or two of the kahunas at the head of the list don't ink a deal, freeing up some extra loot. The Buc's pot of gold isn't unlimited (don't we know that!), but the later picks are just a solid Plan B to keep the system bubblin' away if the big boys decide to wait it out another year.

We see it as a nice, professional draft with an acceptable amount of risk, given the state of the Pirate organization. But it doesn't mean a thing if you can't get the right names signed on the dotted line. August 15th, the contract deadline, is draft D-Day. Then we can start rating and debating the newest class of Pirates.

And don't hold your breath waiting. Pedro Alvarez not only has Scott Boras working for him, but intends to finish school (which is a big thumbs-up in our book.) We don't expect a quick deal being cut for him, and the rest of the draft won't fall into place until he puts his "X" on the paper.

On the high school front:
Canon-McMillan cruised past Central Mountain, 14-0, to reach the AAAA-PIAA championship game. AA Burrell whipped unbeaten Sharon 8-1 to advance to the state finals. Carmichaels stopped the Serra try for state A titles in football, basketball and baseball when they jumped on the Eagles early and took a 6-0 victory. AAA Trinity lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Somerset.

>On the girl's side of the ledger, Latrobe's Alexa Bryson shut out Central York, 1-0, in 13 innings, giving up 5 hits and striking out 25. Bryson hasn't allowed a run in the postseason, covering 6 games and 51 innings. Pretty good stuff from the senior, who has one more hill to climb, the AAAA championship.

WPIAL A Champ Vincentian beat Bishop Guilfoyle 7-2 to earn a title shot.

AAA Belle Vernon fell 2-0 to Susquehannock. The WPIAL teams in AA got knocked out early, and Bald Eagle will represent the west.


WilliamJPellas said...

Last night's loss to Washington was extremely fluky---the much-dreaded Ron Belliard hitting not one, but TWO dingers, and that's just for starters---but it was still potentially devastating. Washington inexplicably kicked us around earlier this year in DC, too. Hopefully the Nats don't have our number and we will recover from it quickly and move on to .500 or better.

I'm curious what you think about Matt Capps, Ron. Seems to me he has sometimes skated on the razor's edge during his tenure as our closer. Although Matt doesn't walk anybody, he is prone to giving up hits and so frequently pitches with runners on base. He has good but not great strikeout numbers, so he misses some bats but not all the time.

In short, he is a good guy to have at the back of our 'pen, but not quite an elite closer. Your take?

Ron said...

We saw one pitch, Bill, of the five that left PNC that wasn't grooved. Admittedly, even in BP you're not gonna go yard on all of them, but play with fire...
Capps is a guy that has had great success because of his mentality. Look at all the meltdowns - Gagne, Isringhausen, et al, and you can see only the strong survive.
But we think that even if Capps can mind-meld like Dr. Spock, his first pitch shouldn't be a 91 MPH fastball down the middle of the plate, right where everyone looks for it. And to have a long career as a closer, he best find that second pitch sooner rather than later. His two seamer doesn't quite move enough for him to get away with it every night.
Still, we'll take him. There's a lot of one pitch finishers, and Capps may provide a little drama, but he's doing the job. But he'll have to evolve as a pitcher, and we're pretty sure that's what the Pirate's are looking at, too, as they consider that contract.

WilliamJPellas said...

Just noticed your comment about Bishop Guilfoyle, the Altoona-based Catholic high school. BG has been a class A and double-A powerhouse in Pennsylvania sports for decades, but they're rarely noted for either baseball or softball prowess, oddly. If they got all the way to the Class A western final this season, I'm pretty sure that that is their all-time high water mark in softball.

Ron said...

We know they're pretty good in football, Bill. The girls won the District 6 championship, and beat Leechburg and Smethport to get to the PIAA semis, so it was a good year for them. Maybe they're starting a new tradition for the Marauders.

WilliamJPellas said...

Yes indeed, they're pretty good in football, and they're great in basketball, or at least they have been for most of their history. Both boys and girls.

Back in the day---when I was in high school and college and doing some play by play on local radio---the old Middle Alleghenies Conference was probably the toughest high school sports league outside of the WPIAL in the entire state. (I don't count the Filth-a-delphia "screwels" since they were so utterly corrupt they were banned from the rest of the state for many years---and might be still, I dunno since leaving PA.) Year in and year out, you had Altoona, Hollidaysburg, Johnstown, Bishop Guilfoyle, Bishop McCort, and one other school I can't recall off the top of my head. But usually at least two of them would go deep into the state tournament, particularly in basketball. Altoona's girls actually won a mythical national championship (USA Today) and BG went to the girls' state title game more than once. Hollidaysburg's girls were tremendous, and so were the McCort boys. They were the only D-6 teams that could consistently compete with, and frequently beat, WPIAL schools. Usually it was the end of the line for D-6ers in interdistricts. Almost every year it was the same script: win the district, beat some D-9 shmoe in the first round, get waxed by the WPIAL in the second round.

Only the MAC had a realistic shot against the WPIAL schools. Those were the days....

WilliamJPellas said...

Duh, it was State College High School that was the sixth team in the old MAC. Heckuva conference, it was.

Ron said...

Good football conference, Bill, but we'll still take the guys from up north, Sharon, in hoops. But we'll agree that the boys from the Jolly J were always a handful, no matter what kind of ball was in play.

WilliamJPellas said...

Yeah, there's been the occasional Erie-area high school that could break through on the state level---I think they are actually District 10, are they not? As I said, in most cases, the D-6 kids would play the D-9 schools in the first round of interdistricts, and then we'd bet the WPIAL in the second round. That wasn't hard and fast, though, as sometimes we got WPIAL teams in both the first and the second rounds.

Ron said...

Yah, the Erie kids are D-10, Bill. And if you can figure out the scheduling of the WPIAL and PIAA, give us a call, because we've been playing and watching for 40 years and don't have a clue yet, hehe.