It's getting kinda masochistic to watch the Pirates this month. Again, a starter that goes only five innings and one implosion inning by the bullpen were the keys to a 5-3 loss to the Cards.
Charlie Morton went five innings and only gave up a run. But he struggled over the final three frames, giving up six hits, two walks, and constantly falling behind hitters.
His pitch count was up to 93, so he could have gotten another inning or two in, but we have no qualms about JR lifting him for a pinch-hitter. These guys have to learn to get ahead and get some 1-2-3 innings under their belt; these five and six inning outings are killing the team.
The bullpen had to do the Curly shuffle with Indy to recover from the load dropped on it, and it bit them tonight. Chris Bootcheck, a veteran guy, got the ball in the sixth. Control is his calling card; he walked seven batters in 43+ innings at Indy.
Well, he walked three in his lone inning tonight. He walked the batter ahead of Albert Pujols with the bases loaded for one run, and then Sir Albert unloaded them with a double to left. With two outs. Goodbye ballgame, hello, Fat Lady.
The Pirate hitters continue to have growing pains at the dish. And until they master the off speed pitch and indecision at the plate, they'll struggle at the dish. No one in the past two weeks has intentionally thrown them a heater for a strike.
Why should they? On any given night, six of the position players have just a few months experience, and no one to protect them. And frankly, a couple of them don't deserve to be getting many at-bats in 2010, but we'll see how that plays out in the spring.
Andrew McCutchen and Delwyn Young, while inconsistent, have shown signs of becoming professional hitters, but the rest still need a lesson in plate discipline. You can't be batting with an 0-2 or 1-2 count all night and expect success.
One of the two veteran bats, Ryan Doumit, is doing a mighty good impression of Adam LaRoche at the clean-up spot. In 23 games and 96 at-bats since his return, he has 4 homers and 13 RBI, but is hitting just .229 with a .176 average with runners in scoring position. Doumit has struck out 11 times, hit into six DPs, and drawn not one walk.
Ronny Cedeno, touted as a no-stick SS, is hitting .323 in 31 at-bats, with 2 homers and 7 RBI, out of the eight spot. Small sample, but it sure shows who has the bigger hole in their swing right now.
It's a team in a painful transition, and they'll need patience. The pitchers are young, too, but Joe Kerrigan has to get them to attack hitters and the strike zone. A quality start is a misnomer; six innings every night doesn't cut it.
And a final thought: if the suits want a model to copy, forget Cleveland and Oakland; they're both in shambles. Look at the dugout across the field and try to put together a team that keeps its stars, develops pitching, and plays the NL game. Then they'll have a future.