Monday, May 25, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Buc bats continued to smoke as they drilled a season-high eighteen hits off the Cubbies. And they needed them all, hanging on for a 10-8 win at Wrigley.

The game had it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The Good: Freddy Sanchez went 6-for-6, the first Pirate to do that since Wally Backman in 1990. He homered, doubled, stole a base, scored four runs and drove in three, and raised his average from .297 to .320 - in one game. Oh, did we mention three or four pretty sweet plays by Steady Freddy in the field, too? How quickly things turn; two days ago he couldn't hit a ball off a tee.

Also, six Bucco relievers held the Cubs to one run over the last five innings. Gorzo got the win, his second, and Burney the save, his first in the show.

The Bad: 13 runners left on base didn't help the cause. Andy LaRoche hit into a bases-loaded DP with one out when he swung at ball four and tapped into a 1-2-3 twin killing. It was on a 3-2 pitch after Ryan Dempster had just walked in two runs.

Paul Maholm struggled mightily; he gave up seven runs in four innings; his fastball was high and his change-up caught too much of the plate. Good thing the wind was blowing in tonight; 12 pitchers combined to give up 18 runs, 28 hits, and 11 walks on 371 pitches. The game lasted over 3-1/2 hours.

And a special mention to Mr. T; he did "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," and his voice is definitely not A-Team musically. He did manage to snarl a "Pity the Pirates" when he was done. Mr. T did dress for the day, sporting a Stars and Stripes bandanna with matching MC Hammer harem pants.

The Ugly: Matt Capps took a line drive squarely off the elbow in the ninth; it hit him so hard that it almost ricocheted into the dugout. He was immediately taken to the locker room; guess we'll know more about the extent of the injury tomorrow.

So OK, the Bucs are 5-3 on this road trip, and can come home with a winning record for the 10 day trek away from PNC. We expect to see more rock 'em, sock 'em baseball in the next two days. The Cubs were due to explode after scoring just 5 runs in their six-game road trip, and the Pirates look like they've dumped the Slumber and returned to the Lumber.

-- We'll see how a day off affects Adam LaRoche. So far he's gotten his months mixed up; LaRoche hit .269 with 5 HR and 14 RBI during April, but so far in May he's batting .175 with 2 HR and 6 RBI. He's a notorious streak hitter; hopefully he's due.

He spent his day off by pitching a half-hour of BP to his teammates; it must have worked. Adam knows his way around a mound. His dad Dave was a long-time MLB pitcher, and hey, LaRoche probably throws as hard as Mark Buehrle.

-- Not a good sign for the Pirates: their average attendance is 15,668, way last in MLB and a couple of thousand less warm booties per outing than the next-to-last Oakland A's, who draw 17,772. And remember, in spite of TV and revenues, the gate is still the biggest cash generator for teams.

Last year the Bucs averaged 19,865 fans. But the gate is pretty much on pace with 2008's for the early part of the season; Pittsburgh traditionally doesn't draw well until the weather warms up, the kids are out of school, and those pesky Penguins finish their playoff run.

Ya sure can't fault the marketing people. Pittsburgh has more bobble heads, give-aways, concerts, fireworks, buck dog nights, and loaded tickets than you can shake a stick at. But if the attendance lags, Bob Nutting may have to tighten his purse strings as far as the draft and Latino signings are concerned, and that's not good.

As far as extending those 2010 $8M infielders Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez (if he doesn't vest) and Adam LaRoche, well...

-- Today is the anniversary of the Bambino hitting his final home run in 1936, number #714, at Forbes Field. It was said to be a monster shot, landing on Joncaire Street and rolling down to Panther Hollow, gleefully chased by a pack of youngsters. It was the final blast of three he hit that day (the second and third were launched off of Guy Bush) in an 11-7 Boston Brave loss.

-- Memorial Day is traditionally when teams take stock of their position in the pack and how it relates to earning a spot in the pre-season. Is it a good barometer? Eh, kinda, according to's Races Come Into Focus On Memorial Day."
Since 1995, about 60 percent of the teams leading the division or Wild Card on Memorial Day qualified for the postseason, revealed an analysis. Of 116 teams in first place, or leading the Wild Card race on the last Monday of May, 70 made it to the postseason.
The Pirates are six games back, both in the division and wild card races going into today.

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