Saturday, August 16, 2008

Skyblast Strike Three

The Pirates have played in front of nearly 110,000 fans and two sellouts in the past three evenings and, keeping with long time tradition, lost all three.

But at least tonight they gave the ticket holders a little jolt of pre-fireworks excitement before going down 7-4 to Pedro Martinez and the Mets.

Pittsburgh rallied for three runs in the ninth and had two runners on with one gone for Ryan Doumit and Adam LaRoche. But they left them aboard, although the game wasn't lost then. Zach Duke (4-11) let it get away long before that.

He gave up a lead off homer and eventually six runs on nine hits over six innings. And with Gorzo and Ross Ohlendorf biting at the bit to get back to the bigs, that's not the road for Duke to take if he wants to keep the competition at bay. The lefty hasn't won a game since June 9 against Arizona, and his ERA is 5.26.

The team is still feeling its way to its new identity. The young guys are getting their first prolonged look at life in the majors, and the vets are getting used to them in the field and trying to overcome the production - and protection - that Jay Bay and Xavier Nady brought to the lineup.

It really shows up in plate discipline. The pups, all touted to have great eyes, are flailing away. And the older guys are trying to do it all. At one point, the Bucs hit into three weak outs in a row on the first pitch offered by Martinez.

John Russell needs to lace the clubhouse cooler with a little Valium, Don Long has to keep preaching patience, and the troops need the calm & confidence to play within themselves.

Let's hope that it doesn't get uglier before the parts start to mesh. All the players know they're on a six-week audition for 2009, and that's a performance they don't want to bomb.

On the minor league front: Gorzo (3-1, 2.06 ERA) must have taken his demotion to heart. He led Indy to a 1-0 victory tonight, giving up one hit in 7 innings, striking out 5 and walking none.

Gorzelanny was flawless through through 5-1/3 innings, retiring the first sixteen Durham batters. The left-hander's bid for perfection ended when he beaned a batter, who was promptly erased on an inning-ending double play.

The leadoff batter in the seventh singled to break up his bid for a no-hitter, and he was pulled after the inning. He faced the minimum 21 batters after picking the runner off first. Pretty good stuff from Gorzo tonight.

LF Nyjer Morgan (.300) tripled and scored in the first (one of his 3 hits), and Joey Bats brought him home. C Ronny Paulino (.385) and CF Andrew McCutchen (.277) added a pair of hits in the win.

We wonder if a trip to Indy is a wake up call for these guys, or if they were just more AAAA players drawing a MLB paycheck? We'll find out in the spring and beyond.

> Altoona banged out 15 hits in a 7-2 win. RHP Jared Hughes (2-1, 3.90 ERA) went 6 innings for the win, giving up 6 hits, 1 earned run, walking 3 and striking out 4. RHP Juan Mateo (2.50 ERA) went three scoreless innings for his third save, yielding 3 hits and striking out 5.

2B Shelby Ford (.287), CF Jose Tabata (.261), and DH Melvin Dorta (.290) had three hits, while 1B Jamie Romak (.213) and SS Angel Gonzalez (.307) added a pair apiece. Ford (4), Tabata (4) and Romak (5) homered.

RHP Yoslan Herrera (5-9, 3.44) is expected to be activated from the DL to make the start for the Curve Sunday afternoon.

> Lynchburg went down, 6-2. 2B Jose De Los Santos (.213) and OF Miles Durham (.230) had two hits each. The Hillcats are on a five-game losing streak.

> Hickory got shellacked 10-0. RHP Bryan Morris (2-6, 3.47 ERA) got beat up, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits with 3 walks in 4-2/3 innings. He struck out 5. 3B Matt Hague (.322) and CF Austin McClune (.206) each had a pair of knocks.

Hague has hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games.

> State College dropped another one run game, 6-5, tonight. SS Chase d'Arnaud (.346) had three hits and a walk, an RBI and run scored. 3B Jeremy Farrell (.300) had two hits, including a double, and 2 RBI. RF David Rubenstein (.197) had a solo homer, his first, and a walk.

The Spikes rallied from a 6-0 deficit, and had runners on second and third with two out in the ninth before the game ended with a K.

> The Bradenton Bucs romped again, winning 7-2. LHP Nelson Pereira (5-2, 1.50 ERA) went five innings, giving up a run on 2 hits with 2 walks and 5 K's. C Jesus Aguilara (.295) led the attack with 3 hits and 3 RBI.

At 31-16, the baby Bucs have the best record in the GCL.

On the draft front:
In all the euphoria of the recent draft and Pedromania, here's a stat that may sober up the fans - the Pirates signed fewer of its top ten picks than any team in the Central Division according to Baseball America's list.

The Brewers signed 14 (some teams had supplemental picks), the Cards and Astro's 11, the Cubs 10, and the Reds 9. Pittsburgh inked 8 of its first ten selections.

The Pirates are certainly in a position where quality counts. But as the performance of its Class A clubs shows, some capable kids, especially pitchers, are badly needed at the lower levels of the Bucco realm. And you don't find them on the waiver wire.

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