Hey, the ballgame was over in the second inning when Jay Bruce deposited a Jeff Karstens pitch into the sixth row in right; it would end up 5-0. But the little things the Pirates were doing to stay competitive in April aren't happening now.
The game got out of hand an inning later, when Karstens walked three men. With two outs, catcher Ramon Hernandez lined one into right. Brandon Moss froze for a second, and the ball ended up over his head, clearing the sacks.
Would he have gotten to the ball if he broke at the crack of the bat? Hard to tell, but a step or two was what he needed. And of course, it's all academic. When a pitcher walks three guys in an inning, bad things are almost guaranteed to happen.
The last run came with two outs again. Joey Votto singled, went to second on a Jason Jaramillo passed ball, and scored on Brandon Phillip's knock.
But when you're shut out for the third time in four games, there's a lot of pressure on the defense to play almost perfectly.
Karstens looks much more comfortable pitching out of a windup. In the stretch, his pace slows down considerably and his control suffers. Then again, when you give up 18 hits (five homers) and 13 walks in 20 innings, you're gonna be in the stretch pretty much most of the time, aside from the leadoff batter and after the homers.
Evan Meek auditioned for the long role, going three shutout innings. He's still a work in progress, with little command of his offspeed stuff, but looking much sharper and confident than he was as a Rule 5 guy last season.
It's hard to fault the Buc attack today. Johnny Cueto was all that and did everything that pitching coaches from Abner Doubleday's time on have touted: pitch quickly, throw strikes, mix speeds, change locations.
Since the Pirates got to him for four runs in April, he's gone 26-2/3 innings and given up just two earned runs, a 0.54 ERA in his last four starts. That's pretty good pitching.
It doesn't get any easier tomorrow night when the Brew Crew visits. Yovani Gallardo (3-1, 2.86) goes against Paul Maholm (3-0, 3.09). Tuesday will pair up Jeff Suppan (1-2, 5.88) and Ian Snell (1-3, 3.72). A breakdown of the matchups is here, provided by MLB.com.
-- The Bucs better be thinking hard about next year's shortstop position. Brian Bixler is overmatched at the plate, Brian Friday is always banged up, and the rest of the prospects are scattered at the A level.
Yah, we know Jack Splat is injury-prone and a bottom-of-the-order bat, but he is the only MLB caliber shortstop in the organization now. So unless they have a deal in mind or love Luis Cruz, they should roll up their sleeves and get to work on a two year, salary friendly deal (maybe sprinkled with some bonus clauses) to replace his current $8.25M option year in 2010.
-- Hey, we've carped about Andy LaRoche's bat, but his glove has made a 180-degree turn this season. He doesn't have the greatest range, but he's made all the reaction plays, and has more than enough arm for the hot corner. His early season throwing woes were primarily footwork related, and the sweat he and Perry Hill have put into straightening out that problem out is apparent.
-- GW promises to never again look at a spring training stat, considering the way Nyjer Morgan and Jesse Chavez are playing in Pittsburgh after bombing in Bradenton. On the other side of the coin, Bix and Jason Davis were training camp heroes. We'll give the suits the benefit of the doubt next year; scouts we obviously ain't.