Friday, August 20, 2010

Another Losing Season Cinched...On August 20th

It's not enough that the Pirates play most games with one arm tied behind their backs talent-wise; in the first, the baseball gods decided to have a yuk at Jeff Karstens' expense.

Jose Reyes, one of the league's top base stealers, hit a little ground ball single. Karstens worked him over pretty well, even picking him off once, except that Jeff Clement dropped the ball. He eventually stole second when it was Chris Snyder's turn to drop the ball while trying to make a throw.

With two outs and Reyes still on second, Chris Carter stuck out his bat on a two strike curve off the plate, and it floated beyond the reach of Ronny Cedeno. David Wright hit a full-count slider off the end off the bat; the soft liner dropped inches over Neil Walker's mitt, who turned just before jumping, costing him a shot at the ball.

With runners on the corners, Ike Davis hit a four-hopper that got past a diving Walker to drive in another run, and then the only hard hit ball of the inning was drilled through the infield into right by Josh Thole.

One ball was hit hard enough to break an egg, but 31 pitches later, it was 3-0. The Bucs went quietly and quickly against Mike Pelfrey in the first.

Karstens got out of the second in one piece, thanks to a diving stop by Cedeno, whose throw dragged Clement's foot off the base, but the ump ruled he kept it on just long enough. Replays showed he probably didn't, and the iffy call saved a run when Angel Pagan followed with a double off the Clemente Wall.

Pittsburgh got a run back when Dewey fouled off a handful of pitches, and put the ninth into the back rows of the right field stands, just missing his second River Walk landing of the home stand.

The Mets tattooed Karstens in the third, and no bad luck was involved. Carter homered to right, Wright lined a single into left, stole second on a weak throw by Snyder, and jogged home on a Thole rope into right. A 5-4-3 DP ended the frame, but put the impotent Bucco attack in a big hole.

Impotent or not, the Bucs took advantage of a Met gift to score in the third. Cedeno hit a soft chop to third, and Wright's throw sailed, allowing the SS to duck under the tag.

He was bunted to second and came in on Andrew McCutchen's single. The Bucs had a big inning set up after two outs when Walker hustled a ground ball single up the middle into a stand-up double, but Pedro struck out for the second time, leaving a pair in scoring position.

Karstens didn't make it out of the fourth. With one out, Reyes doubled and Pagan lined a single into center, just over Cedeno's reach, to put runners on the corners, and the call for Sean Gallagher was made.

Pagan was off on the 2-0 pitch, and came around to score when Carlos Beltran's cue shot into left was corralled by JT, whose throw to third hit the runner in the butt, moving both guys up a base. The Mets lead the NL in stolen bases, and have put runners in motion at every opportunity tonight; the Pirates seemingly have no answer for the running game.

Gallagher got the next pair with no more scoring, but at 7-2, the damage had been done. Karstens went 3-1/3 innings and gave up 11 hits, seven runs, and K'ed one. Yah, you can blame the pitching tonight. JK's ERA went from 4.57 to 4.98 in under an hour and a half.

The Bucs tried for two-out magic again when Snyder singled and Cedeno doubled to put runners at second and third again, but JR decided the game was over in the fourth inning and let Gallagher bat as boos rang in his ears; he grounded out. But then again, maybe he thought the game would really be over if he tried to get a couple of innings out of Chan Ho Park. Flip a coin.

At least Gallagher did his part, and shut down the Mets with just a two-out walk in the fifth. McCutch started off the Bucco half with a single and stole second; two can play that game. Tabata walked to set up Walker.

Walker hit the ball on the nose, but lined it right to Ike Davis at first. Pedro popped out, and Dewey tacked on the third out. Three innings, six runners, five in scoring position, and nothing to show for it.

Gallagher got three ground outs in the sixth. He's given up a hit and walk in 2-2/3 frames; too bad the hit was to the first batter. Pelfrey returned the favor, setting Pittsburgh down in order.

After a line out and single to open the seventh, SG was given the rest of the night off and Wil Ledezema trotted out of the pen. He picked off the runner as he bolted toward second; good thing, too, as Ike Davis next pounded a long single into right. He got the third out, and left for pinch hitter Delwyn Young.

DY flew out, McCutch walked, and JT banged into a 6-4-3 DP, pretty much according to the recent Pirate script. Chris Resop took the hill for the eighth. With two away, Reyes singled for his third hit of the game, but stayed on first as Pagan flew out to short center.

Pelfrey, who likes to throw nothing but his sinking heater and an occasional change, was still touching 94 in the eighth, even after 119 pitches. He 1-2-3'ed the Bucs, and got Pedro swinging again.

Alvarez has three of the five Pirate K's tonight, with an 0-for-4 and four runners left on base. He's seen nothing but fastballs as the adjustment game continues; he's waiting more on the off-speed stuff now, so they're busting him with fastballs. It's a steep learning curve in the bigs.

Ah, so the ninth is what JR was saving Chan Ho for. He got through it, and Bobby Parnell mopped up the Bucs, throwing between 96-99 MPH, getting two grounders and K'ing Cedeno to sent the Pirates to their 18th straight losing season and the Met fans who filled PNC out to party on the North Shore.

Hey, at least no drama and national press this year; guess America got their fill of Pittsburgh jokes last season. But as Dejan Kovacevic noted on a tweet, "The streak is old enough to drive, to vote, and to serve in Afghanistan" now that it's 18 years-old.

We thought the young guys would improve after some time in the field, but with a 6-22 record in their past 28 games, that obviously was a pipe dream. The hitting is every bit as bad as the pitching.

Tomorrow night's game will feature J-Mac against Jonathan Niese.

-- Ronny Cedeno is back in the lineup, and Jeff Clement is getting a start at first after languishing on the pine to give slumping Garrett Jones a night off. JC has played in one game since August 8th; he'll be lucky to remember what a bat is.

-- There won't be any Jay Bay sightings this season. The Mets shut him down for the remainder of the year; he's still suffering from a concussion he got running face first into the wall at LA last month.

-- Charlie Morton missed his start last night at Indy with elbow soreness, but the suits are optimistic that he'll make his next scheduled appearance. OF Jonathan Van Every went on the DL with a muscle pull.

-- The Pirates have reached agreement with Colombian shortstop Dilson Herrera, and gave him a bonus of $200K. The 16 year-old switch hitter is considered a strong glove guy. The official signing may take awhile; the MLB vets the age and things pretty thoroughly before giving their imprimatur.

-- Michael Love of the Plum Advance Leader has a story on Scott McGough, Plum High grad, 2008 Pirate draftee, and current Oregon Duck pitcher and his experiences in the World University Championships held recently in Tokyo.

-- Remember Valley High and Duquesne basketball star BB Flenory? Tonight he received the Pittsburgh Pirates Community Champion award before the game. Flenory, who works at Pressley Ridge, a school for troubled youth, has also served as chairman of the Board of Champions Association, which services at-risk children in and around Allegheny County.

-- No wonder Ronny Paulino was ripping the cover of the ball. He was just suspended for fifty games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

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