Pirates play Cubs. Pirates lose to Cubs. Ho hum.
Chicago took the series from Pittsburgh with a 4-1 victory in a pretty lifeless game, except for a Sweet Lou Pinella meltdown and ejection. The two telling differences between the clubs tonight were that the Cubs homered twice, accounting for three runs, and Randy Wells filled up the plate with strikes.
The Pirates had a chance to tie in the fifth, but Jack Wilson was gunned down at the plate with two outs on a one-hop strike from LF Sam Fuld, maintaining a 2-1 Cubbie lead. Then Kosuke Fukudome hit a two-out, full-count homer in the sixth to make it 3-1, and that was the ball game.
Virgil Vasquez danced between the raindrops for much of the game, nibbling instead getting that first-pitch strike as he did last outing, but came up with pitches when he needed them. He just couldn't overcome a two-run first inning homer to Derrek Lee and Fukudome's shot, not with Pittsburgh bats still in the deep freeze.
The Bucs managed just six hits, and scored five runs total in the three game set against the Windy City. Pirate pitching was solid, yielding only seven tallies, but unless the sticks regain a little thunder, the Bucs are just wasting the staffs' effort.
-- In a vote of confidence, Garrett Jones started in left tonight against RHP Randy Wells; Brandon Moss was stationed in right. GW thought it would be the other way around. Jones hit .307 with 18 doubles, 12 homers, 14 stolen bases and 48 RBI at Indy. We guess the 6-4, 245 pound banger has some wheels, too; he stole 14 bases at Indy.
-- Craig Monroe cleared waivers today, and Jeff Salazar was added to the roster.
-- A quick read around the blogosphere affirms that the world outside of Pittsburgh thinks the Bucs pulled one over on the Nats. We'll see; if Lastings Milledge becomes anything near what he was once hyped to be, it will be a steal. If not...
And hey, even Jack Splat took the shoe out of his mouth and apologized for his post-trade rant to the assembled local media.
-- Three players from Altoona will play in the Eastern League All-Star Game: LHP Daniel Moskos (4-6 3.98), SS Brian Friday (.259 5/17), and OF/1B Jason Delaney (.286 4/35). Jim Negrych (.259 1/22), Jose Tabata (.252 1/13), and Pedro Alvarez (he's only been there a week), the cream of the AA prospects, didn't.
-- The Bucs signed another trio of draft picks: third-rounder CF Evan Chambers (Hillsborough CC, Fla.); SS John Gourley (13th round - Eastern Wayne HS, NC); and RHP Ryan Beckham (18th round - Grayson County College, Tex.). Chambers, 20, will begin at State College; the other two haven't been assigned yet.
-- The Pirates quietly signed three teen Taiwanese players in the past week - RHP Sheng-Chin Hung, who throws in the high 80s to low 90s; 1B/LHP Chi-Wei Hsu, who was converted to a pitcher two years ago, and throws in the low 80's, with a slider and a changeup, plus some pop with his bat (he's 5-11, 215); and CF Ping-Hung Chi, a leadoff guy who's been timed at 3.9 from home plate to first base.
Chi and Hung, both 18, were teammates at Shi-Yuan HS. Hsu is 17 and played at Kuang-Fu HS. All three signed for bonuses in the range of $50,000, and were sent to MLB's new training academy in Australia.