Thursday, August 12, 2010

Can't Sleep? Tune In The Bucs

Zach Duke and Jon Garland started off with quiet firsts. Garland got the Bucs 1-2-3, and Duke gave up an opposite field single to Adrian Gonzalez, who must be lovin' the Pirate shift.

The Pirates got a couple aboard with one away in the second when Pedro walked and Dewey got smacked in the shin, but a short flyout by Delwyn Young and and swinging K by Argenis Diaz left them stranded.

Garland walked a couple more in the third, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, but they too stayed anchored. A couple of hits with the free passes would be nice, but...

The Padres had no trouble putting together some hits off the Zachster in the third. Garland led off with a seeing eye roller up the middle. A bunt got him to second, and Miguel Tejeda's rope into left scored him easily. Adrian Gonzalez got a broken bat knock to put runners on the corners. But Duke got the pitcher's BFF, a 4-6-3 DP from Ryan Ludwick, and kept it 1-0.

Dewey collected the Bucs first hit in the fourth, a one-out double, and there he stayed. The Pirates stranded six in the first four frames, and put together an 0-for-5 with RISP.

It was Duke's turn to get wild in the bottom half; he walked the pitcher and Jerry Hairston. But he called on his ol' bud again, and got a 6-4-3 DP from Tejeda. He'd need the help; after six, Garland had mowed down eight Pirates in a row and given up just one hit.

And that's when the wheels began to wobble for Duke. Gonzalez started the inning with a grounder to short; Diaz made a low throw that Jones couldn't pick to put him aboard. On a 2-0 pitch, Ryan Ludwig launched a fastball over the 402' mark, and suddenly it was 3-0. Can't DP your way out of a homer.

With a three run lead, Luke Gregerson came on for Garland; remember back when the Pirates could shut you down for three innings? Diaz got a one-out ground ball single. Andy LaRoche pinch hit and smacked a low liner to second; Hairston snagged it and Diaz was easily doubled off first.

Duke left with a line of 6 IP, six hits, three runs (two earned), three walks and two K's, and Chris Resop took the hill. He struck out two of the three hitters in the seventh; his heater started at 92 against the first batter and was up to 95 for the last.

With two away in the eighth, Walker lined a single to center. That brought on lefty Joe Thatcher, who got Jones on a short fly to left.

JR made a smart call in the bottom of the eighth, bringing on Joel Hanrahan in a non pressure situation. He struck out two, and his heater went from 95 against the first hitter to 99 for the last. Heath Bell closed in the ninth, and the Bucs stumbled on the road again, 3-0.

Just a couple of observations. It's another game where the Pirates had a chance to make hay early and let the moment pass; they have to be more opportunistic, although it's hard when both McCutch and Jones are stewing in two-week slumps.

Secondly, and this is a season-long problem, the Pirates are always behind in the count and seem to bat with two strikes on them way too often. It doesn't show in the K rate; they're league average there.

But it sure shows with the batting average; they're defensive and looking at pitcher's pitches all night, and that's reflected by their .242 team BA, last in the NL and 15 points below the norm.

Maybe Donnie Long is preaching deep counts or has them looking at a certain hitting zone; maybe they're waiting for the perfect pitch. But if opponents are going to keep pumping first pitch strikes, sooner or later you have to swing at them.

The Pirates had four hits tonight and seventeen for the series, not even six per game, and scored just six runs, two per game. The pitching has to be perfect to win games with that kind of support. And except for Chan Ho Park's inning, the pitching was good this series.

You have to wonder what all the losing is doing to the players mentally. One school of thought says that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...but what if it is killing them?

Ross Ohlendorf starts the Astro series tomorrow night against Brett Myers.

-- Jose Tabata celebrated his 22nd birthday today. Let's hope his gifts are nicer than the 0-fer the Padre pitchers gave him.

-- Zach Duke made his 150th MLB start today; Paul Maholm hit that benchmark Sunday.

-- According to Tim Williams at Pirate Prospects:
"The Pittsburgh Pirates have reached an agreement to sign 23rd round pick Jared Lakind, Pirates Prospects has learned and confirmed with multiple sources. Lakind is an Arkansas recruit who plays first base and is also a left handed pitcher. As a pitcher, he gets his fastball up to 90 MPH, although he is probably best as a hitter."
Jim Callis of Baseball America tweets his bonus is $400K.

Williams also heard that SS Drew Maggi, the 15th round pick, has inked a deal for $460K, but that's unconfirmed.

If they are both signed for the reported bonuses, the Pirates have dropped about $3M on the draft to date - and that's without Taillon or Allie.

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