Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's Not Over Until the Third Out...

Maybe it was because Dirt Dog Doug questioned his teammate's desire in this morning's Dejan Kovacevic piece. Maybe it was because Joe Torre stuck to the book instead of his eyes. But whatever it was, the Bucs should bottle it.

They brought down the thunder and rolled to a 15-8 vicory over the Dodgers tonight. It wasn't as easy as the score would indicate, with some sloppy fielding and another very pedestrian performance by the Zachster.

But the Bucs scored four times in the fifth inning and added eight more in the seventh frame, all with two outs and the bases empty. It was plenty enough to thwart LA, and proof positive of the old admonition to not be the third out.

Dodger ace Chad Billingsly was cruising along with a 4-2 lead, and struck out the first two Pirates he faced in the fifth. He'd finish the inning on the bench after giving up two hits, a walk, and Adam LaRoche's grand slam, a shot that hit the batter's eye backdrop in dead center.

By the seventh, it was 7-7, and Scott Proctor had mowed down five straight Pirates. But Torre went with the odds and brought in lefty Scott Elbert, their #1 draft pick in 2004, with Nate McLouth due up. He walked, and Ryan Doumit went yard.

And that was just the start. The Bucs pounded out 7 hits, the Dodgers added an error, and eight Pirates in all crossed the dish.

The Zambellis weren't in the house tonight, but the Pirates provided a Skyblast of their own for the faithful.

A couple of things became painfully obvious tonight. The Pirate attack will go as far as their first five hitters will take it, the pitching has miles to go, and Brian Bixler doesn't have much of a future in Pittsburgh.

Those have to be addressed for 2009. For tonight, just enjoy the show.

> The Pirates seem to be rethinking moving Adam LaRoche in the off season. He's under team control for one more arbitration year, and they plan to talk to him after the year on extending his contract. That's a good move, with no one else in the system ready to take over first base. The results of those talks will determine his future in Pittsburgh.

> The Pirates announced today that they've come to an agreement to affiliate with the Class-A West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League through the 2010 season. Charleston plays in Appalachian Power Park, which opened in 2005.

"We are very pleased to move to Charleston and re-establish Pirates roots with a great community," said Neil Huntington. "It is an opportunity for us to have another of our affiliates close to Pittsburgh and develop players in a beautiful facility."

The move from Hickory marks the return of Pirates baseball to Charleston. From 1971 through 1976, the Charleston Charlies were Pittsburgh's Triple-A affiliate in the International League. From 1978 to 1979, Charleston was Pittsburgh's Single-A entry in the Western Carolinas League.

You can go home again.

> The Pirates also announced their schedule for the 2009 season, which will start late because of the World Baseball Classic.

The Bucs are slated to begin the 2009 campaign on Monday, April 6 in St. Louis. Following a seven-game road trip to St. Louis and Cincinnati, Pittsburgh will return home for a nine-game homestand.

The PNC Park lid lifter is scheduled for Monday, April 13, against the Houston Astros. The Pirates will also face the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins during the first homestand

The Bucs will face all five members of the AL Central during interleague play, taking on the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers (June 12-14) and Kansas City Royals (June 26-28) at PNC. The Pirates will travel to Chicago to face the White Sox (May 22-24) and to Minnesota (June 16-18).

That three-game set against the White Sox will be followed a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Double your pleasure...


WilliamJPellas said...

Ron wrote:

A couple of things became obvious tonight. The Pirate attack will go as far as their first five hitters will take it, the pitching has miles to go, and Brian Bixler doesn't have much of a future in Pittsburgh.

Dead on it. I was mildly intrigued about Bixler coming into this season, but the kid is completely overmatched at the major league level. The pitching does have miles to go, but I still believe Karstens, McCutchen, and Ohlendorf will all be average or better pitchers for us, and sooner rather than later. I think Zach Duke needs to be elsewhere, or at minimum, needs to prove next spring that he deserves any kind of major league job.

Regarding the hitting, our first five actually are not bad. It's the bottom 3 or 4 hitters that are just killing us, and have been killing us ever since the Big Trades. Keep in mind that we've been without Jack Wilson for much of the season, and while he's not exactly Robin Yount with the stick, neither is he Ray Oyler. If we deal him and have to choose from among the likes of Bixler to replace him, the bottom of the order goes from terrible to a black hole.

So, we need to sign or acquire a replacement for Jack if we trade him. I'd welcome a bold move such as a free agent signing of someone like Rafael Furcal.

Ron Ieraci said...

Well, Will, I hope the pitching stabilizes next year. Just being in the middle of the pack would help tremendously. As you say, you have more faith in them than I do, although just the laws of probability would suggest they have a better 2009.
Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche have to hit, oh, .265 or so next year with a little pop, or the bottom of the order will be in terrible shape until Cutch and Tabata come to town.
I'm still not sure why Neil Walker wasn't given a sniff this September. He'll go on the 40-man this off-season anyway - and I can see where they'd like to keep Cutch's exemption open - and could at least light a fire under little LaRoche's butt.

WilliamJPellas said...

Moss will definitely hit .265 or so, with some power, and good defense. All in all, a solid if not spectacular major league outfielder. I suspect his future here is ultimately as the fourth outfielder once McCutchen and Tabata come up---that's assuming, of course, that the front office does the right thing and signs McLouth to a multi-year deal. If they let McLouth walk I'll be leading the angry mob armed with pitchforks and sickles. Anyway, McLouth, McCutchen, Tabata, and Moss would be about the best four outfielders any NL team has. Now, about the rest of the team....