OK, the pitching has been spotty, and we won't even discuss the hitting over the past three games (well, OK, if you're going to twist my arm - sevens runs, 37 runners left on base, ouch). But the Pirates put it together last night in Phoenix to take a 6-3 victory.
In keeping with recent trends, Pittsburgh treated D-back ace Dan Haren like one of the hoi polloi while Zach Duke cruised. Haren gave up six runs (five earned) on nine hits in 6-2/3 innings; Duke yielded two runs on four hits in his seven frame, 99 pitch outing. Only two outs were hit into the air; his sinker was on yesterday.
The Pirates bopped two homers, from the bats of Jeff Clement and Aki Iwamura, and Ronny Cedeno, Andy LaRoche, and Iwamura had a pair of hits. Oh, and the newly go-go Buccos stole three sacks.
Not that the game was easy; Arizona made a run late in the game. Mark Reynold's two-run shot in the seventh game them life, and the Snakes made big noise in the eighth.
Jack Taschner allowed a double and a walk. Brendan Donnelly came in and promptly walked the first batter he faced to juice the bases. But he came back to get a sac fly and a K, and Javier Lopez - the lefty JR didn't have last season - took the hill and whiffed Adam LaRoche, quelling the comeback.
Octavio Dotel gave the Bucs something they saw precious little of last year, a 1-2-3 ninth to nail the save without any added drama.
Daniel McCutchen gets his first start of the year, and maybe his last, this afternoon against Edwin Jackson.
McCutchen will get sent to Indy after the game to allow Joel Hanrahan to join the staff; the Bucs next need a fifth starter on April 24th, and there's no guarantee McCutchen will be the one they call on when that time arrives. The suits still have hopes that Kevin Hart will blossom, so that's a storyline to watch.
-- JR flopped the middle of the order, batting Lastings Milledge third, Garrett Jones fourth, and Ryan Doumit fifth. Personally, we'd like to see Andrew McCutchen bat third (or even return to leadoff); despite that oddball lineup, he's not a two-hole hitter.
-- Mike Axisa of MLB Trade Rumors has put together a list of trading chips for the Central Division; he thinks the Bucs are most likely to move some veteran bullpen arms.
-- Brandon Moss went 3-for-5 yesterday at Indy with a solo homer as he tries to rediscover his stroke in AAA - and his confidence.
-- In other minor league news, Harrisburg's Steve Strasburg is making his first pro start against Altoona today, and ESPN News will cut into the game to catch his act. Also, the Bucs won 1-0 against H-Burg yesterday; Tim Alderson got the W, going five innings and allowing four hits. Bradenton Marauder 3B Jeremy Farrell drove in two more runs; he has a dozen in three games.
-- Matt Capps is off to a good start with the Nats. In three games, he has two saves and hasn't given up a run, although he has walked five batters in three innings; once a drama queen... Bill Ladson of MLB.com has an item on him in DC.
-- Mike Gonzalez, old Bucco set-up guy signed by the O's to close for 2 years and $12M, is off to a rough start, as chronicled by Hardball Talk's DJ Short.