Saturday, April 17, 2010

Duke Da Dude

Hey, Zach Duke started again, and the Bucs - though unfortunately, not Duke - won again. A bullpen that couldn't hit the broad side of a __________ (fill in your own blank) cost the Zachster the win, but some two-out lightning brought down by the Sunshine State crew saved the Bucco bacon.

Duke went seven shutout innings in front of nearly 15,000 fans who couldn't get Penguin tickets, and exited after 90 pitches when he led off the eighth frame with a walk.

He had given up but six hits when he got the hook, and handed the ball to Joel Hanrahan with a 3-0 cushion. Hanny had two away and two aboard - he walked a guy - when JR brought in LOOGY Javier Lopez.

Two walks later it was 3-1, and in came Brendan Donnelly. Another walk made it 3-2, but he did get out of the inning with no further damage. Four pitchers and five walks do not make for a very pretty inning.

Octavio Dotel took the hill in the ninth, but a leadoff triple and sac fly knotted the score. Then Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge, the Cisco Kid and Pancho of the 2010 Pirates, came to save a game that was rapidly getting away from the team.

With two away in the bottom of the ninth, McClutch singled, stole second on the first pitch, and scored when Milledge lined a 3-2 offering into center to drive his Fort Meade bud home.

It was a dramatic finish, but in reality, the game should have been a snoozer. The Pirates left nine runners aboard, not a real bad night, but lost three guys who were thrown out running the bases and hit into a pair of DPs. They also had runners on second and third with no outs in the third without scoring.

The 9-1-2-3 three hitters (Ronny Cedeno, Aki Iwamura, McCutchen, and Milledge) collected two hits apiece; the rest of the order had one, and they were all singles.

Improbably, the Pirates are 5-5 out of the gates, despite showing more holes than the Titanic. We don't see any white knights approaching to help the pitching, but for a change, the team should get stronger positionally at the trade deadline this year. And that makes 2010 a potentially memorable season.

-- Andy LaRoche left the game in the second inning with back spasms; no word on his condition.

-- Reds pitcher Mike Leake made just his second start in the majors. He’s the 21st player since the draft in 1965 to reach the majors without playing a game in the minors.

Among the other players to go straight to the bigs are two with Pittsburgh ties: former Pirates outfielder Xavier Nady (San Diego Padres, 2000) and Gateway High School graduate Tim Conroy (Oakland A’s, 1978).

-- The Pirates are still playing games with the rotation. Ross Ohlendorf is scratched for tomorrow, but they haven't decided whether to pitch Brian Burres, who is still on the roster, or send him down and start Daniel McCutchen. GW misses the point of this hand wringing; we do know that it has to screw with the player's preparation, if not mind.

-- RHP Hayden Penn has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Indy. Penn has until Monday to report or declare himself a free agent.

-- Shannon Drayer of the Mariner's Blog reports that "the Mariners are looking at Ramon Vazquez who was released by the Pirates this spring. A deal has yet to be signed but could happen shortly as the Mariners look to add minor league depth."

-- Both the Pirates and Reds took the field wearing Jackie Robinson's #42. They were off yesterday, his anniversary of breaking into the bigs and cracking the color line.

-- Last night's minor league star: Tony Sanchez went 3-for-4 with a double, homer, four runs scored and three RBI. He's hitting .370 for High A Bradenton.

-- And finally, for the multi-sporters among us - Sid the Kid was brilliant in leading the Pens to a 2-1 Stanley Cup playoff win against Ottawa. He had a goal, a spectacular set up for the game-winner, and cleared a puck that was an inch from skittering into the goal behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Too bad Dave Littlefield couldn't draft first-rounders like Crosby.

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