Man, it's painful to watch this team. Eight more walks, and three of them scored in the Astro's 5-1 victory. The Bucs only had four hits, and electing to watch paint dry seems to be the paying public's reaction to the play of the past two months.
Pittsburgh only drew 26,000 for a fireworks night, their one sure-fire attraction. At last check, they have 25,000 sold for tomorrow night's Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. It looks like the best laid promotional plans are finally losing steam to the product on the field. Football and hockey have started, and the Bucs can't compete.
EDIT - Boy, did we miss that. Not only did the Bucs sell out with 36,000 fans, but Pitt drew 50,000 and the Pens sat 16,000 on the same day. Over 100,000 locals backed their home teams Saturday, not too shabby a turnout for a "small market".
Ian Snell was wild, walking five, and his velocity was still down. But he didn't give up a hit until the fourth inning, and that was a ground ball single through the hole.
But it exposed a season-long Pirate bugaboo, the free pass - there were two on via the walk before the hit - and the double-edged sword that's Nyjer Morgan.
Morgan fielded the ball in short left and had an easy toss to the plate, no more than 200'. Any kind of on-line throw would nail the runner, the plodding Lance Berkman. They don't call him Fat Elvis for nothing.
But he threw it belt-high to relay man Andy LaRoche, who was on the infield grass, instead of throwing it through him to home. LaRoche's relay was airmailed to the backstop, and that was about all she wrote for the Pirates. How a guy can be so aggressive on the bases and so passive making a throw is beyond us.
Denny Bautista had another forgettable performance to hand the game to Houston. John Russell, who has changed pitchers virtually every other batter since the horde of call-ups arrived to stock the pen, left Bautista to struggle on the hill. In two innings, he threw 44 pitches, and gave up three hits, three walks, and three runs.
In fairness, one hit ricocheted like a Super Ball off of the first base bag, and another fell inches in front of a diving Nate McLouth. Still, both were smoked, and Bautista's fall into the abyss has more to do with his poor pitching than the baseball gods.
On the plus side, Ryan Doumit nailed two would-be base stealers and Adam LaRoche hit his 23rd homer. That's it. Oh, and the Pirates are one game closer to another top five pick in next years draft. Hmmmm...could that be part of the plan?
> Pirate pitching this year has rung up a 5.17 ERA. The NL average is 4.29. Their 615 walks are the NL's most, with ony the SF Giant staff within hailing distance. Just St. Louis has struck out fewer batters than the Buc's 909 whiffs.
Finding the plate and getting some bats to miss balls has to be job number one for Pittsburgh next year. A 3:2 strike out to walk ratio doesn't cut it.
Throw in the fact that Pirate hurlers have given up the NL's most hits (10.2/game, compared to the league average of 8.9), 101 hits more than the next worse team...well, Jeff Andrews will need Luke Ravenstahl's PR person to spin his term in office.
The hitting, although skewed by the pre-trade production, is right about at the NL average, scoring 4.6 runs per game with a .260 team average and .406 slugging percentage.
> Remember how the new ballyard was supposed to rejuvenate the Pirate franchise? Pittsburgh, which dropped to 38-41 at home, will finish with a losing home record for the seventh time in eight seasons at PNC Park.
The Buc attendance is next to last in the NL, at 19,647/game. They're ahead of Florida, which draws 16,179, and behind the Reds, which have 25,615 spin the gates every game.
> The Bucs record is now 64-90, giving them their fourth straight 90-loss season. That puts them in the same company as the Rickey-Dinks of the early 50's that lost 90 games or more in six consecutive years.