Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Last Ninety Feet...

Twenty-one losses in a row at Miller Park. The sad part is that so many of them aren't beatings at the hands of the Brewers, but self-inflicted losses, like today.

At some point, the Pirates will figure out that with a runner on third and less than two outs that a run should score. For the eighth straight time they failed to do so, this time in the second inning.

With runners at second and third and nobody out, Andy LaRoche popped out behind the plate on the first pitch. Kenny Macha walked Ronny Cedeno, and Ohlendorf bounced into a DP. It had nothing to do with the Big O's at-bat; LaRoche killed the inning, just like Garrett Jones did in the first frame yesterday.

The team doesn't have enough firepower to pass up easy runs. It's obviously a matter of approach, and they best find one that works. Swinging aggressively and aimlessly sure isn't getting the job done.

In the first four innings, the Bucs had the leadoff runner on three times, and stranded six - and that's with two double plays. They hit into four twin killings in Suppan's six innings. Work soft and away against the Buc batters, and Pittsburgh will bounce out all night.

After trading home runs, the Brew Crew took the lead in the fifth, in an inning that mirrored the Pirate's second. A pop up that fell behind the mound and spun away from Ronny Cedeno (where were you, Ollie?), a two-hop double that ricocheted off the tip of Andy LaRoche's glove, and an intentional walk loaded the bases for pitcher Jeff Suppan.

It was the same situation as Pittsburgh had earlier: bases juiced, one out, and the pitcher up. But the results were decidedly different.

Suppan walked on a 3-2 pitch, and never took the bat off of his shoulders. Suppan was taking every pitch; Kenny Macha didn't want him to hit into a DP like his counterpart did. Then a two-out bloop single, after being ahead 0-2 on the count, plated another pair in an inning that would have been long over with a play or a strike.

So, just like yesterday, the Pirates fail to break out early, and it cost them the game. They're not going to win late; in the three game series, the Milwaukee bullpen has shut out Pittsburgh over a stretch of ten innings.

The Pirates continue on the road, going to Cincy for a day-night double header tomorrow. Here's the probable pitchers from (Daniel McCuchen will pitch the first game; they have it listed as TBA. Let's hope he doesn't know how badly the team plays on the road.)

-- The Bucs got their A team on the field today. Ronny Cedeno tested his achy finger out at short, and Ryan Doumit was let out of the doghouse and went back behind the dish.

-- The Pirates regained their senses and called up RHP Daniel McCutchen, who will arrive tomorrow. He was lights out at Indy, going 13-6 with a 3.47 ERA. The other McCutch was slated to pitch for the US World Cup team, which was a nice honor in itself.

But the Bucs need an arm now, with a couple of doubleheaders - one tomorrow, in fact, at Cincy - on tap and spot starts coming up when Ross Ohlendorf and Kevin Hart reach their inning limits later in September. McCutchen was the obvious choice to fill that bill.

The Pirates will have to take a guy off the MLB roster, probably for a day, and cut someone loose from the 40-man to make room for McCutchen. No moves have been announced yet.

-- Jeff Clement, who had a hot start at Indy after coming over in the Jack Splat trade, has a strained oblique. That will delay, if not prevent, his September arrival. He was hitting a combined .274-21-90 in AAA, but just .221 at Indy.


WilliamJPellas said...

I think the Pirates really need to just put Garrett Jones at first base where he belongs, and forget about Steven Pearce and Jeff Clement.

Ron Ieraci said...

And then you have Brandon Moss starting in right. I think it's one of those danged if you do, danged if you don't things, Will.

WilliamJPellas said...

Well, funny thing is, I'm not as down on Brandon Moss as many are. The reasons for this are two: one, I looked at his career numbers recently, and through the equivalent of slightly more than one (1) full big league season, he has more than 30 doubles about about 15 home runs. That means he definitely has some extra base power. Not like an elite power hitter, mind you, but a guy who can hit ropes from gap to gap that sometimes leave the yard.

Two, I just don't want to write him off until I see what he looks like with another year post-surgery under his belt. Remember, he had a very serious knee operation last winter. It was "micro fracture surgery", which is sometimes the last resort for a guy who is trying to avoid forcible retirement.

On the whole, I still suspect that even when 100% healthy, Moss isn't really a legitimate starting corner outfielder. But I'm just not sure. And we probably have the luxury of one more season to experiment with this or that player to see what they do or don't really have.

In any case, if I had to choose, I'd rather see Moss out there every day in right with Jones at first, than Pearce/Clement at first with Jones in right. I AM sure that Moss is better than either Pearce or Clement.