Monday, August 30, 2010

Thank God For The Steelers

The Cubs tried to be kind to the bumblin' Buccos; 2B Jeff Baker booted the first ball in play to put McCutch aboard. Two outs later, Garrett Jones dropped a soft single into right, but it came to naught - mighty Pedro struck out.

Paul Maholm didn't start out quite as well as Carlos Zambrano. After an out, Starlin Marte doubled and Marlon Byrd singled him home. Byrd stole second, and with the open base, PM went ahead and plunked Aramis Ramirez. Maybe the Brew Crew had a right to holler; the Buc staff leads the NL in hit batters.

The X-Man flew out, but Alfonso Soriano spanked a double into left, and it was 2-0. The game calmed down in the second. The Bucs went 1-2-3, and the Cubs managed a two-out single.

In the third, McCutch drew a one out walk; an out later, he stole second but to no avail; Walker grounded out. Maholm pitched a clean inning; he even struck out a pair. So far he has 3 K's and Zambrano 5; the Bucs can't resist his high heat, nor can they catch up to it.

Jones led off with a single, his second hit. It was wasted, though, when he was thrown out at second trying to stretch it, not a very smart move for the leadoff hitter. Dewey walked after a Pedro ground out, and Milledge ended the inning with a bouncer to third.

Maholm walked Soriano to start the fourth, followed by a Tyler Colvin single through the right side. Koyie Hill singled Soriano home - and hey, that's just the 6-7-8 hitters. The Big Z bunted the runners over to second and third.

In an odd (OK, unbelievable) sequence, Doumit called for five straight curves from Maholm, even when he fell behind 3-1. Baker caught a hanger and banged it for a double into left, and it was 5-0.

Castro singled through the left side - all three of the singles were ground balls - to put runners on the corners. Byrd doubled on a pop that Walker and Lastings Milledge let fall between them, scoring a run and putting Cubbies on second and third. Sean Gallagher was called in from the pen.

Nady greeted him with a double to make it 8-0 and close the book on PM. Maholm went 3-1/3 innings, giving up eight runs on nine hits with a walk, a hit batsman, and three K's, eerily matching Charlie Morton's line from yesterday (except PM had one more K). That's a couple of bad starts.

One he got the inherited runners out of the way, Gallagher nailed the last two outs.

With an out in the fifth and down 8-0, JR pinch hit for Gallagher (with Andy LaRoche, who K'ed). We'll never understand what goes through his mind; he used four relievers yesterday, six on Saturday, and one is out today with a bruised hand.

Brian Burres took the mound; Hill welcomed him with a ball up the middle. Zambrano followed with a homer drilled well over the left field wall; Pittsburgh is half-way to another 20-0 loss.

Baker walked on five pitches, and Castro spanked a double to left. Byrd stemmed the bleeding for the moment, hitting one to Pedro, playing in. But A-Ram doubled them home. It's already the seventh two bagger by the Cubs, with one out in the fifth frame.

Nady singled to put runners on the corners. Soriano popped out, and Colvin got BB out of the inning by swinging at three shin-high off speed pitches. And, btw, while all this was going on, the Pirates had no one warming up in the bullpen. Burres gave up four runs and threw 29 pitches, so it looks like he's tonight's sacrificial lamb. Baaaaa...

Walker led off by hustling to third when Soriano butchered his ball in left. Jones struck out on seven pitches; one may have been a borderline strike. El Toro doubled to left center to get the Bucs off the schneid. Dewey walked, and the Big Z's night was over. Thomas Diamond, a 2004 first round draft pick the Cubs took from the Rangers off waivers (sound familiar?), came on.

He struck out Thrilledge on a high fastball, and Cedeno tapped back to the mound. Pedro and Dewey probably need to hit the oxygen tank; RC fouled off four 3-2 pitches before bouncing out, and they were going on each one. Burres didn't exert them much; he threw a clean sixth.

The Pirates went down in order, too. Diamond isn't a hard thrower, but he hasn't left anything over the middle of the plate yet, and the Bucs have been helping him out. Burres almost got out of the seventh, but back-to-back two out doubles added another run.

James Russell took the hill in the eighth. Walker smacked a double to start the frame. Jones dinked a single to put runners on the corners; Pedro whiffed. Dewey hit into an RBI force play.

Burres had thrown 67 pitches; JR had some mercy on him and brought in Wil Ledezema. He showed some competence, striking out a pair. Scot Maine got the job of shoveling the last bit of dirt over the Pirate grave. It was easy as 1-2-3.

This is getting way too old. No pitching, every game has fielding and base running errors, the glovework isn't there (maybe Perry Hill did know his stuff) and the hitters either watch strikes sail by them or go after pitches that would take a 2 X 4 to hit. No one sits after a screw-up; what happened to that vaunted Pirate accountability?

The Pirates have to bring in a big league staff that not only knows but can impart fundamental baseball approaches and discipline, and they have to examine their teaching methods in the minors. The suits might be able to evaluate physical tools, but they sure as heck aren't denting many skulls with baseball smarts.

Jeff Karstens is back to face Ryan Dempster tomorrow.

-- In his career, Paul Maholm has held lefties to a .207 BA, best in the NL for pitchers with 600+ at-bats against. He's fourth in MLB ranks, behind Jonathan Papelbon (.192), Mariano Rivera (.192) and Scot Shields (.205).

-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette tweeted that the Pirates will have Chris Snyder catch Charlie Morton's next start Saturday (yes, they're giving him another chance) after he repeatedly shook off Ryan Doumit yesterday, John Russell said. You can blame Dewey for quite a few things, but Morton's meltdown probably isn't one of them.

-- Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that the shots to improve Jeff Clements' knee aren't helping. His knee has been scoped twice; if the injections don't work, it may finally be time for the knife.

-- OF Adalberto Santos, 22, of State College was named NYPL player of the week. His line is .318/3/35. The Oregon State product was the 22nd round pick in this year's draft.

-- LHP Rinku Singh, one of the the Indian "Million Dollar Arm" winners, was promoted to State College. He had a 2.61 ERA for the Bradenton Baby Bucs of the GCL.

-- Jim Callis of Baseball America has a list of the 50 bonuses that paid out the most over slot in 2010. The Pirates have two: Jameson Taillon was #1 ($6.5M over slot) and Allie Stetson was #11 ($2.25M over slot).

A hard slot is on the table for the next contract, which takes effect in 2012. Next year may be the last season that Pittsburgh can draft all those high school kids and bring them into the system with big bucks if it's adopted.

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