Eric Hinske, Craig Monroe, Delwyn Young, Robinzon Diaz, and Brian Bixler couldn't do any better than the real lineup, as it is, and they hadn't set the bar too high of late.
The highlight was Diaz going 2-for-3 with a long ball; the low light was Bix K'ing three more times. He's gone down on strikes twelve of his last 15 at-bats; Luis Cruz is looking better every day.
The losses are bad enough; it's the way they're losing that hurts. Nate McLouth turned Skip Schumaker's fly ball into a triple to open the first, and Albert Pujols lifted a sac fly an out later to bring him home.
The Pirates tied it up 1-1 in the fifth, but the Big O's wheels came off in the bottom half of the frame. He gave up a Jason LaRue homer, a single, a bunt single, two hit batsmen, a sac fly, and another single and before you could say mama, it was 5-1.
It's off to brand-spanking-new Citi Field now to take on the Mets. The matchups are Jeff Karstens (1-1, 5.85) vs. LHP Jonathon Niese (first start - up from AAA Buffalo; dang, we coulda used an Ollie Perez appearance about now), Paul Maholm (3-0, 2.97) vs. RHP John Maine (2-2, 5.20), and Ian Snell (1-4, 4.50) vs. RHP Livan Hernandez (2-1, 5.53). MLB.com has the pitching breakdowns.
Let's hope that a minor-league call-up and two guys with ERAs north of 5 can hit a couple of bats and restore some thunder to the Bucco sticks, and that it's not too late to make a difference.
After all, the Pirates are still 12-16 and only 6 back in the loss column; they can still hang around if they can get back to playing efficient, fundamental ball like they did earlier. But if they endure a couple more brutal series, the trade rumors will begin to fly and it'll be August, 2008 all over again.
-- First A-Rod gets slimed in a tell-all potboiler that accuses him of everything short of being Osama bin Laden's BFF, and now Manny flunks his test, blaming his doctor. It's getting so a kid can't have a hero anymore. Where did you go, Joe DiMaggio...?
-- Did the Bucs play it too safe last year? Jason A. Churchill of ESPN's MLB Draft Blog (subscription article) writes:
I polled five talent evaluators on the idea of RHP Tanner Scheppers going in the top 10 in the draft, and I received a wide variety of responses. One club's special assistant was out to see Scheppers' first start for the St. Paul Saints and believes the former Fresno State star is a no-brainer pick. Another club's West Coast crosschecker offered the opposite opinion. In all, three votes went to yes, one voted no and one vote slid into the "let's wait and see" column.Baseball America's Draft Tracker adds:
Late last month, Scheppers pitched in scrimmages at Golden West (Calif.) JC and was reportedly a little wild, but was sitting at 95-96 mph with his fastball, touching 98. On May 4, he pitched in his first game with the independent St. Paul Saints—an exhibition game against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.-- Michael Huang of The Sporting News has a mock draft posted. His Pirate selection is *tada*
"We saw him really, really good," an American League scouting director said. "Our guys said he's going in the first five picks, the top 10 for sure."
4. Pittsburgh PiratesWhite is a starter - even the Pirates wouldn't use the fourth pick on a reliever, would they? - with a 94 MPH sinking fastball, and a good slider. He'll need to develop a change-up for the show. And BTW, Huang doesn't have Tanner Scheppers going in the first round.
Alex White, North Carolina, RHP
Nasty slider and velocity that's suited to 'pen, White is safe, something the Pirates need.