Let's see - the Mets bring up a kid from AAA Buffalo, lefty Jon Niese, of the 8.44 ERA and 0-2 record. He had a 1-1 record and a 7.07 ERA in three starts and 14 innings with the Mets last season.
Piece of cake, right? Wrong. Nothing is easy for Pittsburgh this month. Niese went six innings and gave up two runs, thanks more to usually sure-handed Carlos Beltran having a rare sloppy day in center than the Bucs actually hitting the ball with any authority.
He threw 95 pitches and struck out five, and the Pirates helped by going 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. But Jeff Karstens was up to the task, going six innings and leaving with the score 2-2.
Used to be that the Bucco bullpen was money. Now it's a train wreck waiting to happen. Tyler Yates went an inning, and JR trotted him out for another. The Mets were waiting.
A single up the middle was followed by a walk of a guy that was trying hard to bunt the runner over. A dink hit barely over Andy LaRoche's head brought in a run and Sean Burnett. Carlos Delgado greeted him by launching a rocket into the right center seats, and the Pirates were on the way to their tenth loss in eleven outings, 7-3.
Donnie Veal got the last out. GW wonders why they're trying to hide him and his 4.15 ERA and yet trot out Yates and his 8.71 ERA when the game's on the line.
The top three hitters, Nyjer Morgan, Freddy Sanchez, and Nate McLouth went 5-for-13, drew a walk, scored a run and drove in all three. The LaRouche boys, Brandon Moss, and Robinzon Diaz went 1-for-16 batting four through seven. (Bix had a couple more strikeouts, but he did have a pair of hits tonight.)
Can some of it be the absence of Ryan Doumit? For sure, but he's certainly not the savior. And the Pirates have gotten better-than-expected work out of his replacements, Jason Jaramillo and Diaz.
Doumit was hitting .244 in 45 AB, with 4 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI and 5 runs. His replacements have batted .295 in 61 AB, with 8 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI and 5 runs, not quite matching Doumit's run production, but more than holding their own.
No, the blame belongs middle of the order. The poster child for futility is Brandon Moss, who has 3 RBI in 81 AB, an RBI every 27 AB. The Pirate pitchers have 2 RBI in 54 AB; do the math.
The LaRoche brothers have 25 RBI in 192 at-bats, one every 7.7 at-bats. Nate McLouth has 19 RBI in 88 at-bats, one every 4.6 trips to the plate. You just can't have a gaping hole in what should be the most productive spots in the order, negating all the good work that the top three hitters have been doing.
Hmmm...the bullpen is understaffed and overexposed, and the money players are crapping out. Sounds like a bad recipe to us. Maybe they're one stopper and break-out game away from coming out of the tailspin. Then again...