Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mr. April, Adam LaRoche

After the first coupla innings, it looked like the Bucs had a long day in store for them at Petco Park. Jake Peavy was throwing 94 MPH and had every pitch in his arsenal painting the corner at the knees, at least according to plate ump Larry Vanover.

Meanwhile, the Big O was having command issues. Adrian Gonzalez cracked the longest homer ever hit in Petco off him in the first, traveling 458' and staking the Padres to a 2-0 lead. Two guys walked in the second, and only some nice work blocking balls in the dirt by Robinzon Diaz kept them anchored without any further damage.

But Ross Ohlendorf's sinker starting biting, and after a trip around the lineup, the Buc hitters got aggressive against Peavy.

Diaz got a huge clutch hit in the fourth inning. The Pirates had runners on second and third with no one out, but two outs later, they were still standing on the sacks when Diaz hit a soft liner into right, scoring them both and tying the match at 2-2.

An inning later, Adam LaRoche launched a three run shot into right, and the rout was on. He would add another in the ninth, his fifth of the month, and Brian Bixler slashed a two-run double in the eighth.

Ohlendorf went into the eighth when a lead off homer by Edgar Gonzalez, Adrian's brother, chased him. He left with a six-hitter, and got 15 ground outs in seven innings with his sinking fastball. The Big O is now 2-2 with a 3.24 ERA.

The offense was a thing of beauty again, even if it was equal parts starters, bench players, and Indy call-ups on get-away day. Every position player had a hit and either scored or drove home runs. It added up to an 8-3 victory.

There were only a couple of bummers for GW. We've defended John Russell's laid back demeanor, but there are times you have to stick up for your team. Peavy was getting all the calls early, either because everything he threw was around the plate or from veteran courtesy given to him by Vanover.

Either way, Eric Hinske was called out on a 3-2 pitch that was well inside. It would have loaded the bases with nobody out. Hinske beefed, but not a peep was heard from the Pittsburgh manager.

Hey, you have to at least protect your player, right? It may not help, but it would show that the skipper has his mens' backs, and let the men in blue know that he could see what was going on and didn't like it. Save the rant if you like, but say your piece.

And then JR allowed John Grabow to pitch two innings in a 8-3 game, with a big series against the Brewers coming up. It ended up OK; he got six outs on 18 pitches. But hey, you have Evan Meek and Donnie Veal to mop up. Let them earn their paycheck and let the big guys pitch when the game is on the line.

Watching Brian Giles was pretty sad, too, especially with the memories of him from back in his Pittsburgh days. He's a shadow of the guy that wore the Bucco colors, both in the field and at bat. Here's hoping Giles can relive some of his glory days during the summer before it's time for him to hang 'em up.

The final bummer note: it looks like Nate McLouth is going to miss the Brewer series, and he's still up in the air as far as hitting the DL. An oblique is a serious injury, and even a tweak is cause for concern. The bright side is that Nyjer Morgan is playing well in center. He's looking more and more like a keeper.

Give the suits credit. Last season, the team would have been crippled by this run of injuries. Look what happened when Jack Splat went down. They've shored up the talent level enough now that they can still compete, and that's a pretty good year's work.

The pairings for the Milwaukee series: Jeff Karstens (1-0, 3.60) against RHP Braden Looper (2-0, 2.12); Paul Maholm (3-0, 2.03) versus RHP Dave Bush (1-0, 3.86); and Ian Snell (1-2, 4.50) closes the series against RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP (2-1, 3.71).


WilliamJPellas said...

How well I remember the time when Andy Van Slyke's entire season was ruined by a ribcage pull---which I'm guessing is what they used to call "an oblique strain". The last thing we need is for McLouth, who is certainly the best player we have at the moment, to miss extended time. However, if he's hurt, he's hurt. Better to give him sufficient time so he can come back at 100%. I'd rather have him at full speed for 120 games than half speed for 150.

Meanwhile, as you say, our much-improved depth is already paying off big time. Taking two of three from the Padres in San Diego is big. One, because any time you go all the way across the country and can win a series, you've done well. Two, because the Padres are better than many realize. Until further notice, Jake Peavy is the best starting pitcher in the National League. All the Padres really have to do is come up with two halfway decent starting pitchers and a functional bullpen, and they're halfway home. Their starting lineup isn't great, but it's better than most think, and they've got three or four guys who have legitimate power (even if, like 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, they're not very good OPS guys).

So, I think this is a significant series win for the Bucs. It will be important to keep it going against division foe Milwaukee. The Brewers have killed us for what seems like forever. It would be totally sweet to take at least 2out of 3 from them.

Ron Ieraci said...

Agreed on both points, Will. A rib cage pull is a 60-to-90 day injury in many cases, and I can't blame the Bucs for being cautious.

And they have to win in the division. They had terrible records against the Brew Crew and Cubs in 2008, and they can't claim respectability if they can't play with the big dogs.