Friday, September 25, 2009

Is That The Jolly Roger Flappin' In The Breeze?

JR went with his spring-training, pitcher-of-the-inning theory today. And hey - the red hot Dodgers, averaging nearly seven runs per game the past two weeks, were shut down by the boys from the bullpen tonight.

The Bucs came out smokin' - well, as much as they can, anyway - and jumped out ahead of the LA gang 1-0. Andrew McCutchen chopped one off the pitcher's mitt for a single, a wild throw on an Andy LaRoche roller put runners at first and third, and Garrett Jones lifted a fly into center to plate a run.

Then Ryan Doumit came within inches of going yard, the ball just flying inches outside the foul pole. And hey, that was the excitement for the time being.

The Dodgers came back with two outs in the second with bloop doubles up each line; kinda makes you wonder where the outfield was positioned. Either the ol' straightaway D bit Gary Varsho's charges, or Karstens was supposed to be working outside and caught too much of the dish. Either way, it was worth the tying tally.

The Pirates added a pair in the third, when with two on and one out, Doumit bounced a possible DP ball to first, clanging it off James Loney's mitt for an error to juice the sacks. Brandon Moss made them pay with two outs when he dropped a soft single in front of the hard-trotting left fielder Manny, plating a pair.

The pitching committee made those runs count. Karstens went three, giving up a run on three hits and a K. Donnie Veal followed, and gave up two hits, a hit batsman, and whiffed a trio in two innings. Steve Jackson got three fly outs, and Jesse Chavez came on to pitch a pair of shutout innings, giving up two hits and fanning one.

Matt Capps threw like a real closer, sandwiching strikeouts around a weak grounder. Veal got his first win, and the Pirates proved that with a lot of pitching (they gave up seven hits, had seven K's and didn't walk a soul) and a clean game in the field, anyone can win.

Not that the underlying problem was addressed. All the runs were unearned, and the Pirates were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. In a telling stat, the Pirates struck out eighth times. Seven were with runners in scoring position.

But hey, break out the Jolly Roger tonight. It's been a long time.

-- Steve Blass had an interesting take on tonight's pitcher-by-committee approach taken by the Buccos. In a FSN interview, he said he didn't like it, not because of the strategy, but because he doesn't approve of anything that strikes at the integrity of the game (although he hedged his comments a bit because Jeff Karstens was a starter, once upon a time). He's old school; when a team in a race comes to play, you should send your best out.

Hey, it's not unusual for teams on the wayside to play oddball September lineups for a variety of reasons, even against teams in the hunt, but it is nice to hear that somebody thinks you should play games that count straight-up.

-- Craig Calcaterra of NBC's Circling The Bases on the Pirates' JR:
"Firing (John) Russell would be temporarily cathartic, but ultimately pointless. The Pirates aren't going to win with a better manager. They're going to win with better players. And at present, there's no reason to believe that John Russell isn't the guy to lead them if those better players ever happen along."
-- The Pirates named Pedro Alvarez (.288 27/95) their minor league player of the year and Rudy Owens (11-2 2.10 ERA) their minor league pitcher of the year.

-- Nyjer Morgan, by the numbers: Pittsburgh with Nymo was 32-39 (.451), without him, they're 24-56 (.300). The Nats playing with Nyjer are 23-26 (.469); minus him, Washington is 29-74 (.282). Funny what a top-of-the-order guy with wheels, a glove, and boundless enthusiasm can bring to a team, hey?

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