Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pitching Is The Name Of The Game

The Pirates looked like they were going to jump off to a quick start; Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata led off with singles. Three outs later, they were still there.

But in the second, Lastings Milledge somehow dropped a 1-2 changeup, off the plate and ankle high, into center for a leadoff single. Ronny Cedeno followed by yanking a fastball high and deep into left, and it was 2-0, Buccos.

Bad Brad's training wheels fell off in the third. After an out, pitcher Wade LeBlanc slapped a 3-2 pitch into left, and Jerry Hairston dropped a parachute inside the line between Pedro and RC for another knock. Chris Denorfia doubled them home on a ball Tabata took a bad angle on (and it still may have been over his head) to plate them both. Adrian Gonzalez hit one over the Clemente Wall, and just like that, it was 4-2, bad guys.

They weren't done. With two away, Yorvit Torrealba walked, and stole second. It was a delayed steal; Erik Kratz's throw was in plenty of time and over the base, but no one was covering. With Torrealba at second, Will Venable softly lined a single into center to score him.

The disappointing part is that Lincoln had been locating his pitches pretty well the first two frames, but Denorfia and Gonzalez both got BP pitches down the middle. Sometimes we think his problem isn't stuff, but focus; it looks a lot like he overthrows when he gets into a jam, or maybe doesn't have his mechanics straight from the stretch. Whatever it is, he's working on a return ticket to Indy.

Now if Lincoln pitched as well as he hit...with two away in the fourth, he poked a liner that ticked off Chase Headley's mitt into left and scored Cedeno, whose strong slide just beat the tag. Cedeno was aboard on a double.

In the seventh, Denorfia hit a 3-2 heater that cut across the middle of the plate, letter high, over the 399' mark in center. Evan Meek came in and pitched a clean frame. Lincoln went six innings, giving up six runs on eight hits, striking out three and walking a pair.

Meek hung around for the eighth, too, and Joel Hanrahan threw a 1-2-3 ninth. Maybe JR won't be so quick to save guys for tomorrow, as he did in the first two games of the series with Meek and Hanrahan.

The Buc bats were silent after Cedeno's score. Tabata singled to lead off the fifth; the next Pirate to reach base was Cedeno, who walked with two outs in the ninth. You won't win many ball games with that kind of day at the dish.

In the first four frames, Pittsburgh had seven hits. Three runs may be OK, but they hit 1-for-5 with RISP during that span; there were more scores to be had. And if you let a good pitcher off the hook, games like today result.

The Pirates are off tomorrow, and open in Colorado Tuesday. Zach Duke will start the series against Jorge De La Rosa.

-- After the game, the Pirates sent Bad Brad (1-4, 6.44 ERA) back to Indy, not much of a surprise, and DFA'ed Brendan Donnelly (3-1, 5.58 ERA, 25 walks in 30-2/3 innings), which was, despite his poor performance. Since they're off tomorrow, it may be a bit before we find out who the replacements are.

If the new players are from Indy, LH reliever Wil Ledezema and RHP Daniel McCutchen would be the leading candidates. Ledezema could take BD's place on the 40-man roster (although another lefty, Justin Thomas, is on it), while McCutchen, along with Charlie Morton and Brian Burres, are all currently on the 40-man.

There aren't a lot of strong AAA options right now, so a trade or even Sean Gallagher or DJ Carrasco joining the rotation are possibilities, although DJ is a valuable part of the pen. With the day off, the suits could call up two relievers; they won't need the fifth starter until Saturday.

-- Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated thinks that Octavio Dotel is the Pirates most obvious pitching trade bait: "He's thrived in Pittsburgh's pen this year, and with Evan Meek there, he looks like an obvious trade chip. His original team, the Mets, could be a fit, as could several others."

Heyman doesn't see any Pirate position players as hot items, although he includes a posse of ex-Buccos: Adam LaRoche, Jose Bautista, Xavier Nady, and Nyjer Morgan as being shopped on the market.

-- Tim Brown of Yahoo!Sports sees some love for Paul Maholm.

-- Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk says this about Andy LaRoche:
"With Pedro Alvarez up, LaRoche hasn't made a start for the Pirates in three weeks. It's not as though he didn't deserve to be replaced -- he's hit just .232/.300/.310 in 203 at-bats -- but he probably is worthy of one more opportunity. In 2009, he was pretty much an average regular while hitting .258/.330/.401 and playing very good defense at third. The Indians are one team that might be willing to give him a shot during the final two months, assuming that they can find a taker for Peralta first. The Pirates probably won't require much in return."
-- Though talks with Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie seem to be non-existent, the Bucs this year do have a bit of leverage. The 2011 labor talks with the Player's Association include discussion of a hard slotting system. The agents have to take a future cap into consideration, and that wildcard could work in Pittsburgh's favor.

-- Steve Millar of the Southtown Star reports that Rob Mackowiak had joined the indie Frontier League Windy City Thunderbolts as a hitting coach. (passed on by Charlie at the Buc's Dugout)


WilliamJPellas said...

I always thought Mackowiak would get one more shot with somebody as a super utility guy, given his little bit o' power, little big o' speed, can play most positions kinda game. I'm surprised he didn't get another sniff of the bigs over the past 2 or 3 years. Coaching? Sure, I can see him going the "baseball lifer" route.

I was surprised to see Donnelly get released. Not for his performance, which honestly hasn't been very good for the most part, but because he was such a professional. He was the one who greeted Eric Kratz upon his promotion and told him that it was no big deal to have to wait until you're 30 to make the majors---that's when Donnelly got the call, too. He was also one of the few Pirates who obviously took losing very hard. I could understand cutting him loose if the team had some other youngsters knocking on the door at Double-or-Triple A, but seems to me everybody who's gonna be promoted prior to Sept 1 has already gotten the callup. Just another curious move by Boy Wonder Sabremetric Genius GM.

The bottom line with this team is that its starting pitching is horrible. With a staff that was even as, err, "good" as last season's, I think the Pirates would easily have another 10 or 12 wins, given their very good bullpen. To me this is another failure that has to be laid squarely at the feet of Neal Huntington.

Ron Ieraci said...

He was a locker room leader, Will, but his performance, coupled with a big bonus payment that would have doubled his salary, greased his skid.

They're already eating Vazquez and Iwamura contracts; I guess they figured it was time to quit throwing good money after bad.

Wil Ledezema has been lights out and I expect he'll take his place; another lefty would help. The fifth starter should be interesting, though.

Hey, like the new layout? I'm hoping it's a little easier on the eyes than the old one.