Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Buc Bats Baffled, Lose To Cards & Pujols 3-2

Hey, the Pirates got about as much as could be expected from J-Mac; he carried them into the fifth and left with the score 2-2. It wasn't a particularly auspicious return, but after missing three weeks with a muscle pull, he kept the team hanging around.

His final line was 4-2/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits and four walks with four K's. McDonald threw 87 pitches, and started the fifth with a 2-1 lead and hoping to get out of it still eligible for the W. But he repeated his MO from 2010; too many pitches, especially on a night when he couldn't get his hook over the dish.

The Bucs drew first - and their only blood - in the first frame, when Jose Tabata led off with a hustle double and came home two outs later after Lyle Overbay knocked one into the Card bullpen 420' away. And that would be it; the Pirates had but six singles left in the lumber over the final eight innings.

The Cards nickled and dimed the Bucs, scoring single runs in the fourth, fifth, and seventh innings. Sir Albert continued to kill Pittsburgh; a sac fly brought home one run and a seeing eye single that was a step away from being a DP brought home the game-winner. Allen Craig drove in the first run, singling home Lance Berkman, another guy who feasts on Pirate pitching.

Garrett Olson took the loss; his biggest mistake was walking Ryan Theriot, who scored. Both he and later reliever Chris Resop were victimized by hit-'em-where-they-ain't knocks to bring home Theriot.

The team is falling into bad habits early in the season. Don't let the record fool ya; it's more a reflection of how weak the Central is this season than how strong the Bucs are.

The pitchers walk too many guys (they issued six more free passes, and lead the NL with 22 walks in 43 frames, 4.6/nine innings) and their WHIP is 1.488. Worse, they work from behind in the count too much. It's the double whammy of too many runners and too many pitches.

The hitters do the opposite; they look at too many first pitch fastballs and start off in the hole, a throwback to JR days.

The challenge for Clint Hurdle and his staff is to get the players to buy into their more aggressive tactics; ie, for the pitchers to allow balls to get in play instead of nibbling off the plate, and for the hitters to be ready to swing as soon as they step into the box instead of working the count.

They have other problems that are harder to fix; the fielding and speed are below par. The mental miscues - calling for balls, throwing to the right base, etc - can be addressed; the physical errors have to lived with.

Hey, the coaching staffs of 2010 and 2011 aren't just different personalities; they're different tacticians, too. Right now, the players seem caught between the old and the new.

-- The Pirates signed LHP Dan Meyer and RHP Tim Wood to minor league contracts and have assigned them to Indy.

Meyer was released by Philly; he has parts of five seasons in with Atlanta, Oakland and Florida with a career 3-9 record and 5.46 ERA. He was converted to the bullpen in 2009. Wood pitched two years with Florida and was released by the Nats. His career line is 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA.

-- Scott McCauley, the voice of Indy, tweeted that the Tribe's rotation will be Brian Burres, Sean Gallagher, Justin Wilson, Daniel McCutchen and Rudy Owens. McCutchen, we assume, is the placeholder for Brad Lincoln until his sore arm recovers.

-- Bryon Morris will be the Altoona Curve's Opening Day pitcher tomorrow when they visit Erie.

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