Saturday, September 19, 2009

Indy Goes Down To The Padres

Hey, interesting lineup today, partially because of banged up bodies and we suppose partially because it's a day game.

Andy LaRoche is still sick, Delwyn Young's back is achy, and Garrett Jones hurt his shoulder making a Web-Gem play last night and is expected to miss a couple of days.

So Neil Walker is at third again, Steve Pearce at first, and *tada* Ryan Doumit in right. We're supposing that JR didn't want to match up Brandon Moss against the lefty Clayton Richard, but still...let the rumors begin.

Anyway, that opened up the catcher's box for Robby Diaz, and Brian Bixler gave Ramon Vazquez a blow at second. So except for Ronny Cedeno and Doumit, it's all guys from Indianapolis' 2009 lineup. Frank Kremblas should be proud.

Not as proud as Ross Ohlendorf, though. The big Princeton grad went seven innings, giving up a run on five hits. He struck out five and walked one, keeping the punchless Bucs in the game to that point, 1-1. And he was fairly efficient with his pitch count, needing 94 pitches to get through seven frames.

If they shut him down for the rest of the year, it was a fitting farewell - a great start with no decision, Pittsburgh's MO of late. The Bucco brainiac has compiled a 2.83 ERA since the All-Star break, going just 4-3 despite making eight quality starts over that span.

We just don't get JR's bullpen decisions. Again, with the game on the line, he brought in Phil Dumatrait. He got his lefty-on-lefty matchup, the only problem being that his southpaw has a 10.80 ERA.

Dumatrait is getting hit at a .308 clip by lefties, with a 1.000 slugging percentage going into today's game. That's hardly the stuff LOOGYs are made of. Donnie Veal, conversely, has held lefties to an .083 average, yielding one single, although the six walks and one plunk in 19 batters faced is a significant red flag.

Even when Dumatrait's OK, he's like Joe Btfsplk, with a gray cloud perpetually raining over his head. He got the first out, and then Brian Bixler booted a garden-variety ground ball. Dumatrait walked the next two batters, nibbling all around the black but getting no love from plate ump Gary Darling, losing both guys on 3-2 pitches.

He replaced him with Denny Bautista, who fell behind Henry Blanco, hitting .239, 2-0 before serving up a sac fly. Then he walked Tony Gwynn Jr. to reload the bases, but escaped without any further ado. The Padres had manufactured the go-ahead run without a hit.

Of course, it did seem a bit of ironic justice. The Pirates needed an error and two walks to score their run in the first, also without getting a hit

And that gift run was enough. Moss added a little drama when he lined a two out single, followed by a drive into right field by Walker that petered out just shy of the wall, with RF Will Venable making the grab with his back against the fence.

Hey, we can't blame JR for the lineup; guys get hurt, and five singles isn't going to win a team too many games. But why he continues to call on his B team from the bullpen is beyond us. His undermanned team keeps on grinding. When they hang around, he should give them a chance at the win instead of holding auditions or just crossing his fingers.

A manager's job is to best position his club for victory, and for whatever reason - maybe the suits want to see some guys, or he has misplaced confidence, or thinks his regular arms are worn - JR's not doing that right now. As the clock ticks towards 100 losses, it's clear that it's a total, top-to-bottom, team effort.

-- Steve Jackson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth today. He's regained command of his change-up, and when it's on, he's a very nice bridge guy. And while we're on the bullpen, Joel Hanrahan has a sore elbow, but it's not thought to be serious.

-- The Pirates haven't put together back-to-back wins since August 21-22 when they beat the Cincinnati Reds.

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