As cool and calm as a hitman stalking his prey, Jeff Karstens tossed a two hit, complete game shutout against Arizona. He was perfect until two were away in the eighth, and the Bucs had back-to-back sweet games from their starters for the first time since...well, it's been awhile.
Karstens didn't dazzle the D-Backs with nasty stuff. But he stayed ahead in the count, moved the ball around, and wasn't afraid to pitch to contact, as his four strikeouts will attest. Make 'em hit your pitch, and usually good things happen.
Now the point of the Pirate's wheelin' and dealin' is becoming crystal clear. No, Pittsburgh didn't land any Cy Young candidates, but it did at last create some competition for the staff and options for John Russell.
Finally, that accountability thing may mean something to the rotation. Ross Ohlendorf will be ready in a start or two, Gorzo is paying his penance, and Phil Dumatrait should pop back up in September. Jason Davis isn't the only pitcher that should be looking over his shoulder.
Now, the Pirates haven't turned it around by any means. Brandon Moss and Steve Pearce teamed up for seven strikeouts, and that ain't what you're looking for out of the five and six hitters. With a chance to put the game away late, the Bucs left runners at second and third with one out in the top of the eighth.
But there's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. You can see that the suits are trying to assemble the pieces. They still have to add a few bricks to the load - maybe more than a few - but if their eye is as good as their intentions, the Pirates may still reach that 2010/2011 window of contention.
Hope springs eternal in the Buc breast...
On the Pirate front: Pittsburgh has nine players that will be eligible for arbitration next year - Adam LaRoche, Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth, Jose Bautista, Denny Bautista, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Tyler Yates and John Grabow.
That's a big group, and with the exception of Joey Bats, who's been in the doghouse longer than Snoopy, we'd think the Pirates would like to keep the gang together, although LaRoche and Grabow are possible winter trade chips.
The key players, eligible for the first time and looking for a big boost in their bank accounts, are McLouth ($425,500), Doumit ($412,000) and Maholm ($424,500). Other first year guys are Denny Bautista ($395,000), Yates ($800,000), and Duke ($400,000).
LaRoche ($5,000,000) is in his last year, as is Grabow ($1,135,000). Jose Bautista ($1,800,000) is in his second arbitration year. Ronny Paulino ($423,500) was supposed to eligible for the first time, too, but we believe his call-down may have stopped his service clock.
So the suits are gonna have to sock away a few bucks to invest in the current crew. They won't bite yet on revealing who they're ready to sign long term, and that will be an interesting sidebar to the off season. There's a lotta logs to throw in the ol' stove this winter.
> Second-round draft pick RHP Tanner Scheppers will be at PNC from Monday through Wednesday to audition his arm for the Pirate suits. He's still unsigned, and a key to having a successful 2008 draft, which so far has been strong on quantity but weak on quality for pitchers.
On the minor league front: New Buc prospect RHP Daniel McCutchen (5-8, 3.73 ERA) outdueled old Buc prospect Bryan Bullington 3-2 tonight. McCutchen gave up 2 runs in seven innings on four hits, walking one and striking out five. Both runs scored on solo HR's.
1B Jason Delaney (.290) had two hits, including a double, scored a run and drove one home.
Indians RHP Marino Salas is 2-1 with a 0.69 ERA over his last eight relief appearances (1 ER in 13.0 IP), while RHP Jesse Chavez has collected four saves and posted a 0.84 ERA over his last eight relief appearances (1 ER in 10.2 IP). RHP Evan Meek has posted an 1.01 ERA over his last 13 relief appearances (3 ER in 26.2 IP).
Salas leads the team with a .194 batting average against, while Chavez paces the club in strikeouts (63) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.70-to-1).
> Altoona lost 6-3 today. RF Brad Corley (.277) had a pair of hits and an RBI. LF Jamie Romak (.121) hit his second home run for the Curve.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that OF Jose Tabata will join the Curve after minimum seven-day rehab stint in Bradenton. If he joins the Curve before his 20th birthday on August 12th, he will become only the second 19-year old player in franchise history, joining Andrew McCutchen. Tabata's on schedule to report Friday.
> Lynchburg romped to a 10-4 victory. RF Miles Durham (.229) had three hits, 2 runs scored and 2 RBI, and LF Jared Keel (.226) went 3-3 with a walk, double, 2 RBI, and a run scored. DH Brian Friday (.300) had three hits and scored.
1B Kent Sakamoto (.258) had two hits, a double, 2 RBI, and scored. C Kris Watts (.335) had two hits, a double, a walk, RBI, and pair of tallies. The Hillcats have taken the first two games from Potomac, assuring their first series win in the last nine sets.
> The Hickory Crawdads had the day off.
> State College won 4-2. 3B Jeremy Farrell (.299) had two hits, one a triple, and 3 RBI. RHP Kyle McPherson (4.76) pitched the last three innings perfectly, striking out 4 and earning his first save.
> The Bradenton Pirates won 11-3. RHP Zach Foster (1-1, 4.62) went 4 innings for the win, surrendering a run on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 4 K's.
LF Craig Parry (.308) was 4-5 with a double and 4 RBI. RF Edward Garcia (.211) had 4 hits with an RBI and 4 runs scored. 2B Adenson Chourio (.346) added a pair of knocks. 1B Carlos Silva (.311) had two hits, a double, an RBI and two runs scored. SS Jarek Cunningham (.311) was 1-4 with a double and 2 runs scored.
C Ronny Paulino (.286) swatted a 2-run homer. DH Jose Tabata (.455) went 1-2 with an RBI.