Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bucs Back In First After 7-1 Win

AJ opened the game with a nice and easy 1-2-3 inning. Lance Lynn gave up a one out single to Neil Walker, and that was it for the opening round. Allen Craig slapped an elevated fastball away into right to open the second. No prob. An out later, Jon Jay drilled a liner to short, Clint Barmes climbed the ladder to glove it and tossed to first for a DP.

Marlon Byrd started off the Buc half by banging a double down the line to left. He moved up a base on a grounder, and the Bucs had the corners covered when Russ Martin walked. Byrd was cut down at home on Clint Barme's grounder to third (welcome to the Pirate baserunning club); why can't these guys hit fly balls? But AJ took matters into his own hands and bounced a single to right to make it 1-0. JT followed by rolling an inside half heater the opposite way for another knock, and it was 2-0. A wild pitch moved the Pirates to second and third. Walker, behind 0-2, worked a walk, likely not Lynn's plan with Cutch on deck. But he survived, as Cutch popped a 3-2 heater on the hands to second, and the Bucs missed an opportunity to break away early. Still, 2-0 ain't a bad way to start.

Kolten Wong led off the third with a single to right, and Matt Carpenter walked two outs later. It hurt, as Carlos Beltran pulled a heater over the plate into right to cut the lead in half; AJ has left some pitches at the belt in the early going. Burnett worked Holliday over with knuckle curves down and away, and got him swinging. Pedro started the third with a double off the CF wall and scored when Byrd's single chased him home. Jones followed with a four pitch walk. Lynn fell behind Martin, gave him a fastball down the middle, and he dropped it into the right center stands to make 6-1. After Barmes and AJ both lined out softly to the outfield, JT singled off Lynn's mitt. He came around when Beltran short-armed The Kid's drive to the wall in right center, allowing it to fall for a triple. Cutch K'ed chasing two-seamers away, but up 7-1, he's allowed to have a day off.

AJ put away the Cards in order in the fourth; his major concern is pitch count, as he's at 56. Lynn kept the Bucs off the board, giving up a two out infield knock to Jones. Descalso singled with an out in the fifth and died at second. Seth Maness took the bump for the Redbirds, and Barmes greeted him with a double to center that ticked off a diving Jon Jay's web. A passed ball moved him to third. AJ whiffed, and with the infield in, JT hit one to short and Barmes, off on contact, was easy pickings at home. It's one thing for the contact play to be on with runners at the corners, but in that situation with the top of the order up...? Walker singled Tabby to third, but Cutch K'ed for the third time, missing a changeup.

The Cardinals went down quietly in the sixth. Kevin Siegrist came on, and escaped with hard hit outs by Pedro and The Byrd. Gaby gapped one to left center for a double, but died at second as Martin flew out to right center. AJ kept dealing in the seventh; he's retired 13-of-14 Cards. John Axford made his first St. Louis appearance, and retired the Bucs in order for the first time in the game. AJ was done after seven, giving up a run on four hits with a walk and six K, tossing 92 pitches.

Vin Mazzaro toed the rubber in the eighth, and had some help. Walker made a diving stop up the middle and a strong throw to get the call on a bang-bang play at first, followed by Cutch running down a shot just short of the bullpen in left center. A single and a K ended the frame. Fernando Salas pitched a clean frame for the Cards. Vin closed out the win, giving up a meaningless single.

So hey, the Bucs are back in first. The lineup looks solid; the addition of Byrd really helped the pieces fall together as far as closing up the holes in the order went. And those quick leads in the hands of veteran guys are like gold - Frankie and AJ went 15 innings, giving up a run on six hits as they could be aggressive from the get go.

Tomorrow afternoon's starters are expected to be Kris Johnson and Joe Kelly, although Tyler Lyons has also been mentioned as a possible starter for the Redbirds.

  • Neil Walker had three hits tonight, while Marlon Byrd and JT added a pair each.
  • Tonight's attendance of 39,514 is the largest of the season and 2nd largest all-time at PNC. 
  • One thing worth noting about recent pick-ups Byrd and Morneau; going into tonight, they each have 74 RBI, the same as Cutch and behind Pedro's 86. No other Pirate has reached the 50 RBI mark yet (EDIT - Martin did tonight; he has 51). 
  • The Pirates ended with a 14-14 August  record; there are 27 games to go.
  • Lance Lynn's even earned runs surrendered tonight ties a personal career high. he went four innings; Shelby Miller went 4-1/3 last night. It's a good thing for the Card bullpen that tomorrow is September first.
  • Jason Grilli tossed his first rehab inning at Altoona. He gave up a hit and struck out a batter, using 13 pitches. 
  • Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror reports that Gregory Polanco has been promoted from Altoona to Indy for the playoffs.
  • Tom Singer reports that "According to sources, the second player (for Justin Morneau) will be RHP Duke Welker."
  • If you didn't watch the game, you missed Greg Brown and Steve Blass on the watch for Justin Morneau's flight; it was like the Santa's sleigh tracker on Christmas Eve. He made it into the dugout in the sixth inning.

Stolmy Pimentel Up, Andrew Lambo, Jared Hughes Down

The Pirates, as expected, optioned OF Andrew Lambo to Altoona to clear a space for 1B Justin Morneau on the active roster. In a more surprising move, they also sent RHP Jared Hughes to the Curve and called up RHP Stolmy Pimentel (6-9, 3.35 Altoona/Indy) from the Tribe. Both demoted players were sent to Altoona because its season ends Monday, so they can be returned to the roster on Tuesday, along with Tony Sanchez and Jeff Locke.

Pimentel's promotion a day ahead of time is the poser. Is he another bullpen arm or will he start Sunday's game? LHP Kris Johnson (10-4/2.39) is also supposed to be in Pittsburgh, so he'll be added to the roster tomorrow and remains the odds-on favorite to go against the Cards, as he's both lefty and has worked in the show, albeit for six innings.

The main difference is that Pimentel now can be added to the playoff roster, so maybe the FO simply decided they'd prefer Stolmy to Jared as an October option. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects offers some speculation that it might be a procedural move if Hughes is the PTBNL in the Morneau deal.

Well, been an interesting couple of days; welcome to the wild and wacky world of playoff baseball.

Burnett v Lynn

AJ Burnett (6-9, 3.18) squares off against Lance Lynn (13-8, 4.02) tonight. AJ is 1-2 in his last four starts, while Lynn is 0-3. Burnett is 2-0 with a 2.96 ERA in four starts against St. Louis this season while Lynn is 2-0/3.85, also in four outings. So the recent trends kinda run into one another headlong.

The game starts at 7:05 and will be broadcast by the MLB Network, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Marlon Byrd RF, Garrett Jones 1B, Russ Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and AJ Burnett P.

Barmes and Mercer continue to flip at SS.

Cardinal lineup: Matt Carpenter 3B, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Holliday LF, Allen Craig 1B, Yadier Molina C, Jon Jay CF, Kolten Wong 2B, Daniel Descalso SS and Lance Lynn P.

Mike Matheny has a different middle infield against a righty.

  • Love that home cookin' - The Pirates have gone 6-2 against the Cardinals at PNC Park this season and have won eight of the last 10 games played here in Pittsburgh, dating back to last August.
  • Jason Grilli will toss today and Wednesday for Altoona, pitching an inning or maximum of 20 pitches. If that works out OK, he'll work for Indy during Wednesday's International League playoff game at Durham.
  • Mike Sanserino of the Post Gazette tweets that "Stolmy Pimentel and Kris Johnson are in the Pirates clubhouse today." At least we know two of the September call-ups, and both are candidates to pitch Sunday.
  • Jerry Crasnick of ESPN has a timely piece on "When the Bucs Last Won."

Morneau To Pittsburgh For Presley

The Pirates have acquired 1B Justin Morneau from Minnesota for OF Alex Presley and a PTBNL or cash. . By pulling the trigger now, he's eligible for the playoffs. He'll replace Presley in the 40-man roster, and our guess is that Andrew Lambo will move off the active roster briefly as he has options; the Bucs believe that Morneau will be in town around game time.

Morneau has hit .259/.315/.426 with 17 HR - nine this month - and 74 RBI. He's lefty, so it'll be interesting to see how he and Garrett Jones coexist; we'd expect to see Jones and Byrd platoon in RF, and Morneau and Gaby at first, although at .292 - RHP/.251 - LHP, JM's splits are bearable though more pronounced this year. Clint Hurdle didn't offer any insights on how he planned to use him.

Like Byrd and Buck, he's a FA after this campaign, and as a long-time Twin could possibly return to Minnesota during the off season. The deals show that the Pirates FO believes in this team; they're building for September and October rather than the long-term.

Morneau is 32, a four-time AL All-Star (2007-10) and 2006 MVP. In eleven seasons with the Twins, the he's a lifetime .278 hitter with 221 HR and 860 RBI. He hasn't quite been the same since suffering a concussion in 2010, and the fact that the Pirates got him for a reserve OF'er shows how far his stock has dropped in a couple of seasons; he cleared August waivers to become trade-eligible.

Presley is a career .261/.299/.419 (98 OPS+) hitter in parts of four big league seasons with the Bucs, and is expected to compete for a roster position in Minnesota, an opportunity he probably wouldn't see as a Pirate. He was out of options in Pittsburgh after the season, so they flipped him rather than possibly risk losing him next year.

All in all, a low-cost deal that strengthens the bench; Morneau is certainly an upgrade over Presley with the stick. Still, both he and Jones are 102 OPS+ hitters; whether he was brought in to be insurance for Jones or a replacement is yet to be seen, and how Clint Hurdle juggles the pair will be challenging. 

8/31: Baron of the Bullpen's Last Outing, Mad Dog, A-Ram, Shawon Dunston, Streakin' and Rallies...

Baron of the Bullpen's Last Outing, Mad Dog, A-Ram, Shawon Dunston, Streakin' and Rallies...

  • 1968 - Steve Blass got the first out against the Atlanta Braves‚ and then moved to LF. ElRoy Face had been sold to the Tigers, and the team sent him in for one last appearance. He retired Felix Millan on one pitch to tie Walter Johnson's MLB record of 802 pitching appearances with a single club. Then manager Larry Shepherd came out for him, Blass returned to pitch and the Pirates won 8-0 at Forbes Field. 
  • 1985 - The Pirates traded former batting champion Bill Madlock to the Dodgers for prospects RJ Reynolds‚ Cecil Espy‚ and Sid Bream. 
  • 1987 - The Pirates won their seventh straight game, defeating the Atlanta Braves 7-3 at TRS. Andy Van Slyke went 3-for-3 with a homer and walk, scored three times and drove home a pair as Mike Dunne went the distance, tossing a six hitter. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates rode six innings of perfect relief by Roger Mason, Bill Landrum and game winner Bob Kipper to a 3-2, 12 inning victory over San Diego at Jack Murphy Stadium. The Buc tallies came in the second on Barry Bonds’ two-run shot and a leadoff homer to left by Don Slaught off Jose Melendez in the 12th. 
  • 1994: In one of their better international deals, the Pirates signed 16 year old Aramis Ramirez as an amateur free agent. 
  • 1997 - The Bucs became buyers instead of sellers when they obtained SS Shawon Dunston from the Cubs to bolster the chances of the “Freak Show” team sneaking into the playoffs after Kevin Polcovich injured his ankle. Dunston hit .394 with five homers, but after an 18 game Bucco career was lost to the Indians in free agency after the season. 
  • 1999 - The Bucs rallied in dramatic style to top the Rox at Coors Field in ten innings by a 9-8 score. Kevin Young kept the Bucs alive with a two out, first pitch grand slam down the LF line in the ninth to tie the game. In the bottom half, Angel Echevarria was thrown out at home by Brian Giles to keep the game knotted. The Bucs came up with four hits and a walk in the tenth, but could only tally a run to take a shaky lead. With two away for Colorado, Dante Bichette singled off Jose Silva and was waved around on Vin Castilla’s double to left center, but was cut down by Al Martin to Mike Benjamin to Keith Osik (7-6-3) to preserve the win.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cards Have No Answer For Liriano and Jones; Bucs Win Opener 5-0

St. Louis was being patient against Francisco Liriano in the first, with Matt Holliday drawing a two out walk. But the Cisco Kid also whiffed a pair, though he did toss 22 pitches against just four Redbirds.

The Bucs tried to blow a golden opp against Shelby Miller, but came through in the end. JT poked a single to right and Neil Walker lined one over short; Tabata drew a throw to third and Walker steamed into second, curiously being credited with a double. Cutch K'ed as Miller stayed hard, up and away on him. With the lefty Pedro up and a base open, Miller pumped one inside and hit him on the first pitch to load the sacks. Marlon Byrd K'ed; he was worked at the top edge of the strike zone. Miller worked Garrett Jones upstairs, too. He fell behind 2-1 and tried to sneak a heater past him, down and in. Jones yanked it into right for a two-run double, and the Bucs had a quick 2-0 lead for Frankie.

Liriano had a much more efficient second frame, although he issued another two-out walk, this one to Shane Robinson. At least it only took four pitches. With an out, Liriano drew a four pitch walk. The trainer came out to check on Miller; he stayed in, but his fastball was down a couple of ticks, from 96-98 in the first to 93-94 in the this frame (which is actually his average). With two down, Walker banged a rocket up the middle; it caught Miller in the lower leg area, and slowed up enough to become a 4-6 force.

The first two Cards went down in the third before Carlos Beltran singled on a 2-1 pitch after plate ump Ted Barrett squeezed the plate on Frankie, but he stranded another two-out base runner. Cutch's bid for career homer #100 died on the LF track by the 383' mark, and a pair of grounders finished the inning.

The Cards went down 1-2-3 in the fourth on seven pitches; JT made a nice diving grab of Molina's flare and Byrd ran down David Freese's shot to RC. The Bucs added on when Jones and Russ Martin went long back-to-back, Jones inside the RF pole and Martin to straight center over the 399' mark. With an out, Liriano drew another walk and JT doubled to right, but the Bucs couldn't deliver a telling blow. Walker popped out on the first pitch, and Cutch scorched one to right that hung up long enough for Beltran to make the grab.

In the fifth, the Cards went down in order and the Jones show continued. With an out, Byrd doubled and Jones drove him home to make it 5-0. A walk and an error loaded the bases with Sam Freeman now on the hill, but Francisco rolled into a DP. It's 5-0 and the Bucs have left a lot of ducks quacking.

Each side managed a knock in the sixth without any damage. The seventh had a couple of hard hit balls, but was a clean frame for both Liriano and Fernando Salas. Felix Pie went to left and Gaby to first in the eighth, and the Cisco Kid kept mowing down Cardinals, getting three ground outs. That ended his night, giving up just two hits and two walks with six whiffs after 95 pitches. The Bucs went down quietly.

Mark the Shark came on, more as a matter of getting in some work rather than leveraging a victory. After an out, Matt Holliday poked a knock into right and Allen Craig lined a single to center that hooked away from Cutch, who originally looked like he had it measured. But no sweat. Molina shot one to first, and a Gaby-to-Barmes-to-Melancon twin killing ended the game neatly.

Nice way to start the series, and tomorrow the two teams go into battle tied for first; the Pirates were nine games back at this time last year. AJ Burnett takes on Lance Lynn tomorrow night, and Pittsburgh fans can sit back and enjoy an actual pennant race.

  • Francisco Liriano became the first Pittsburgh southpaw to win at least 15 games in a season since John Smiley (20-8) and Zane Smith (16-10) in 1991. It's also the lefty's personal high; his 14 wins prior to tonight matched his 2010 total.
  • Garrett Jones made use of those three days off. He hit his 100th MLB homer (98 as a Bucco) and went 3-for-4, a triple away from the cycle, with four RBI.
  • There were 38,036 at PNC Park tonight. It's the 16th sellout of the year; 19 is the mark to beat.
  • This was the 10th time St. Louis has been shut out this season; the Pirates have served up four of the whitewashes. The Bucs have tossed 15 scoreless games in 2013, the most since recording 20 in 1992.
  • We're thinking it may be a while before Starling Marte returns; he's still taking BP one-handed.
  • Casey Sadler replaced Kris Johnson on the bump at Indy tonight. The tea leaves are all pointing toward Johnson to make the Sunday start against the Cards.
  • Utilityman Russ Canzler cleared waivers and was outrighted to Indianapolis after being DFA'ed earlier in the week after the Byrd/Buck deal. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors follows Russ' quite hectic 2013 campaign
  • First rounders OF Austin Meadows and C Reese McGuire have been promoted from the GCL to short-season Jamestown for the Jammers' stretch run.
  • Keep your eye on the Gulf Tower: it will light up for Bucco homers, runs and wins.
  • Pirates Charities donated $210,000 to fund Miracle League programs during the pregame ceremonies tonight.

Liriano v Miller to Open Card Showdown

Francisco Liriano (12-8, 2.90) begins the big three game stretch-run series against the Cards tonight, matching up with Shelby Miller (12-8, 2.90). Both are big time performers, but have had opposite-end results against the clubs they're facing. The Cisco Kid has a line of 3-0/1.57 versus the Redbirds while Miller is 0-3/4.08 against the Pirates. so lets hope those karmas continue tonight.

The game starts at 7:05 and will be aired on the MLB Network, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Marlon Byrd RF, Garrett Jones 1B, Russ Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and Francisco Liriano P.

Jones is back after a couple of days of workin' on the ol' swing, and Barmes gets the start at short.

Cardinal lineup: Matt Carpenter 2B, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Holliday LF, Allen Craig 1B, Yadier Molina C, David Freese 3B, Shane Robinson CF, Pete Kozma SS and Shelby Miller P.

  • The Cardinals have nine wins in their last 12 games; the Bucs are 5-of-12.
  • Marlon Byrd turns 36 today, so happy B-Day to the newest Bucco. And no, he's not the oldest - that's Jason Grilli, followed by AJ.
  • The Bucs aren't going to raid Indy wholesale, though close enough. They expect to add a couple of arms Sunday, bring up some others Tuesday after the season, and finalize the roster when the playoffs finish. They expect to call up to 10 players to Pittsburgh overall.
  • Kris Johnson is scheduled to start for Indy today, taking away another possible Sunday starter.

8/30: Kiki, Pie, Big & Little Poison, Kiner, Arky, the Baron & the Kitten, Dodgers dropped, the Gunner, Cutch

Kiki, Pie, Big & Little Poison, Kiner, Arky, the Baron & the Kitten, Dodgers dropped, the Gunner, Cutch...

  • 1898 - OF Hazen Shirley “Kiki” Cuyler was born in Harrisville, Michigan. The Hall-of-Famer spent his first seven seasons (1921-27) as a Pirate, hitting .336 with a .399 OBP. The end of his Pittsburgh era was rocky. In 1927, Cuyler was benched for nearly half the season because of a dispute with rookie manager Donie Bush. The Pirates went to the World Series, but Cuyler was benched, and that November, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He played 11 more seasons and ended his career with a .321 BA. 
  • 1921 - Dave Robertson connected for the cycle to lead the Bucs to an 8-2 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbet’s Field. He scored twice and drove in three runs. George Cutshaw and Clyde Barnhart had three hits each as Whitey Glazner cruised to victory. 
  • 1929 - Pie Traynor went 5-for-5 to lead a 21-hit attack to take an easy 15-0 win from Chicago at Forbes Field. Heinie Meine tossed a three hitter as Pittsburgh dominated. It was the Pirates' fourth win over the Cubs in three days, with the Windy City snapping their losing streak with a 7-6 win the following day. 
  • 1930 - The Pirates swept a twin bill from Cincinnati 5-0 and 3-2 to win their 12th game in 14 outings. The Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, scored all five runs in the opener, with George Grantham driving them in three times. Spades Wood tossed a six hitter for the win. Grantham was big in the second game with three hits, two runs and an RBI as Larry French outlasted the Reds’ Larry Benton. 
  • 1951 - The Pirates rallied from an 8-1 deficit to take a 10-9 victory from the Giants at the Polo Grounds. Frank Thomas hit his first MLB homer and Ralph Kiner won it with a long ball in the ninth. 1952 - Arky Vaughan, 40, and friend Bill Wimer drowned in California’s Lost Lake. While the two were fishing, their rowboat overturned. Wimer couldn’t swim, and both men went under when Vaughan tried to save his bud. Vaughan retired with 1,173 runs scored, 926 RBI, 118 steals, a .318 BA and a .406 OBP. His .385 batting average, .491 OBP, and 1.098 OPS in 1935 are Pirate team records, and the batting average is a 20th century record for NL shortstops. Arky was a Hall-of-Famer, included in the Ritter/Honig book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time and cited by Bill James as the second greatest SS in history, behind only Honus Wagner. 
  • 1959 - ElRoy Face notched his 17th straight victory of the year, earning a 10 inning win against Philadelphia 7-6 at Forbes Field after Dick Stuart’s two run double in overtime. The Bucs rallied from a five-run ninth inning deficit on the strength of Danny Kravitz and Stuart homers to sweep the doubleheader. They took the opener 2-1 behind Harvey Haddix’s arm and Bob Skinner’s two-out, ninth inning knock that scored Dick Hoak. Face had also won the last five decisions of 1958, giving him a 22 game winning streak. He finished the year 18-1, and his 18 relief wins remains the major league record. The Little Baron went a month (6/11-7/12) without giving up a run. 
  • 1960 - The Pirates defeated Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers 5-2 at the LA Memorial Coliseum. Bob Friend, with late help from ElRoy Face, picked up the win supported by homers from Dock Groat and Roberto Clemente, who is the only right handed hitter beside Frank Howard to hit one out of the Coliseum the opposite way during the season. 
  • 1972 - Bob Prince turned the mike over to ex-KDKA announcer Harold Arlin, the first man to ever broadcast a live baseball game. The Gunner allowed him to call a few innings in Pittsburgh while Harold’s grandson‚ Steve Arlin‚ was on the mound for San Diego. Pap didn’t have much to brag about as the Bucs won 11-0, with Manny Sanguillen and Dave Cash combining to drive in seven runs on five hits. 
  • 1991 - The Rangers traded 3B Steve Buechele to the Pirates for young pitchers Kurt Miller and Hector Fajardo. Buechele, a FA, signed with the Pirates after the season, but was moved at the next deadline for Danny Jackson. 
  • 2005 - The Milwaukee Brewers fell 6-0 to the Bucs behind Paul Maholm’s four hitter at Miller Park. It was an oasis in an otherwise arid stretch of games that saw Pittsburgh lose 11-of-12 contests. 
  • 2006 - Pittsburgh scored three times in the 11th inning to come back against the Cubs 10-9 at PNC Park. Chicago scored twice off Marty McLeary (who despite that got the win). The Bucs scored on Jose Castillo’s single to cut the lead to one. Ryan Dempster walked Jose Bautista on four pitches to load the bases for Freddie Sanchez, who lined a two run, two out single to right for the win, giving him four RBI on the night. Castillo had four knocks while Jason Bay and Xavier Nady had three hits apiece. 
  • 2011 - Andrew McCutchen hit a ninth inning homer against the Houston Astros in an 8-2 loss at Minute Maid Park. He became the eighth Pirate to ring up 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in one season, and the first since Nate McLouth in 2008.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pirates Shut Out 4-0

Scooter Gennett started off against Gerrit Cole by lining a single. Jean Segura banged into a 5-4 force, and Cole, trying to keep him close, instead got him closer to home by throwing away a pickoff, sending him to third. A flare by Jonathan Lucroy into right made it 1-0; a 4-3 DP ended the frame without any more damage. The Bucs tried to answer with two outs when Cutch tripled off Yovani Gallardo, but a Pedro bouncer squelched any two-out magic tricks. Cutch had a shot at an inside-the-park job, but he broke slow from the plate and Nick Leyva threw on the brakes at third; mighta been worth a shot, at least in retrospect.

It wasn't much better for Cole in the second. Carlos Gomez singled, stole second, and came home on Khris Davis' double off the RF wall; he had a green light on a 3-0 pitch. The Bucs went Marlon Byrd single, force out; John Buck single, force out; Cole K. With one down in the third, Segura bunted for a hit, but Lucroy's 4-6-3 DP cut that frame short. The Bucs got a line out from JT followed by a Neil Walker knock. Cutch had a long at-bat, but it didn't end well; he bounced into a 6-4-3 DP.

Aramis Ramirez opened the fourth by dropping a fly over the wall in right center to make it 3-0; Gomez followed with a soft single dumped into right. After an out, a walk put Brewers at first and second. But for the third time, Cole got a grounder when he needed it, and a 6-4-3 DP ended the frame with Milwaukee up 3-0. With two down for the Bucs, Gaby walked and Buck rolled a single to center. There they stayed as Mercer froze on a 3-2 heater that nicked the inside corner.

After an out in the fifth, Gennett singled up the middle. Dang if Cole didn't coax another DP out of the Brewers, a 6-4-3 to close out the frame. Somewhat oddly, with an extra bat in the lineup after Locke's brief demotion and September right around the corner, Clint Hurdle let Cole bat, and he K'ed. JT went down on three pitches, only offering at one, and Walker popped out. Guess it didn't make much difference who led off, and Hurdle was no doubt looking ahead to the Card series and keeping some arms fresh.

Cole worked a quiet sixth.  The Buc luck continued; Cutch lined a laser to third; Pedro hit one up the middle but into a shift, and Byrd flew out to the track. The seventh was another clean frame for Cole, and he's now retired seven in a row. Gaby was ready for a 3-1 fastball; so was Gomez, who leaped to haul it in at the 399' mark. Buck collected his third knock, a ground single that ticked off Segura's glove into left. Mercer, who's been having a tough day at the dish, got a heater right down the middle and bounced it to short for an inning ending 6-4-3 DP.

Gallardo was yanked before Cole, who got pinch hitter Norichika Aoki on a grounder. But he hasn't found an answer for Gennett, who smacked his third single of the night. Segura singled to right; a bad throw by Byrd put Brewers at second and third. That brought on Bryan Morris. He worked Lucroy down and in, but went to the well once too often; he pumped out a sac fly to make it 4-0 with the Bucs having six outs to work with. Brandon Kintzler took the ball. Felix Pie pinch hit, and he cranked a ball to straight center where Gomez made the catch. JT rolled over on a sinker away and rolled out to first and Walker bounced out to short.

Justin Wilson climbed the bump in the ninth and put the Brewers down in order. Cutch opened the Bucco half with a walk. It took Pedro one pitch to kill thoughts of a rally, banging into a 3-6-3 DP. Byrd lifted a short fly to left, and the Bucs went down 4-0.

For Cole, this was only the second time that he's been touched for four runs. Considering he came up still looking for command of his secondary stuff, has been yanked around in the rotation to preserve innings and was working on his fourth catcher in 14 starts, it's been a decent go of it for the righty. He hasn't been equal to the hype, but has been consistent. The Buc bats deserved better today, too. While they weren't exactly Murderer's Row - Buck had three of their six hits - they did square up on quite a few balls that found gloves instead of grass tonight.

Well, the stage is set for the Card showdown as Francisco Liriano and Shelby Miller meet. St. Louis is up by a game with three to play at PNC Park.

  • The two teams grounded into seven DPs; Jordy Mercer and Jean Segura each started a pair.
  • 23,747 fans were in the yard tonight.
  • The Pirates are now 12-14 in August; they were 11-17 last year.
  • Indy RHP Vic Black was officially announced as the PTBNL in the Byrd deal.
  • Dan Marino tossed out the first pitch tonight.

Cole v Gallardo

Gerrit Cole (6-6, 3.81) takes on Yovani Gallardo (9-9, 4.61) tonight.  Cole will be making a second straight start on seven days' rest as the Bucs try to nurse him through the dog days. Gallardo will be making his third start since coming off the DL after a hamstring injury and was pretty solid in both outings.

The game begins at 7:05 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Marlon Byrd RF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, John Buck C, Jordy Mercer SS and Gerrit Cole P.

Hmmm...getting serious with Garrett Jones, sitting against a RHP. John Buck gets his first Bucco start

Brewer lineup: Scooter Gennett 2B, Jean Segura SS, Jonathan Lucroy C, Aramis Ramirez 3B, carlos Gomez CF, Khris Davis LF, Caleb Gindl RF, Ben Francisco 1B and Yovani Gallardo P.

  • The Pirates, who were brilliant in closing out series earlier in the season, have lost their last five series concluding games.
  • Bryan Morris (5-7) has taken the most relief losses in a single season since Matt Capps went 4-8 in 2009.

Player Notes:

Players in the news today:

  • Trade Stuff: James Krug of isportsweb likes the Byrd deal, and adds that he believes C John Buck was thrown in at the Mets' request (although Kelly Shoppach hitting under the Mendoza line at Indy could have had some bearing, too). That would explain why NY added cash to the deal. Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs gave it his stamp of approval, too. FG's Nathaniel Stoltz thinks the Mets got a sleeper and a keeper in Dilson Herrera.
  • Marlon Byrd hit a home run and tallied three RBI in his first game with the Pirates. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Byrd is the third Pirates player to hit a home run and have at least three RBI in his first game with the team after playing for another MLB team earlier in the season. Derrek Lee hit two home runs and had three RBI on August 1, 2011 after being traded from the Orioles and Shawon Dunston hit two home runs and drove in four runs on September 2, 1997 after being acquired from the Cubs.
  • Jason Grilli is going to Altoona this weekend to get some rehab work. After five weeks off, he should be ready to rejoin the club next week.
  • The good report on Wandy yesterday does not necessarily mean that he'll pitch again this year. Dr. Andrews' diagnosis, which matches the Pirates, is that he doesn't have structural damage but just inflammation. The lefty won't need to go under the knife but should be ready to go for 2014. The Bucs will continue to work him in a pitching program and see where that leads. OF Robbie Grossman, one of the prospects the Bucs traded for Wandy, is doing pretty well for Houston.
  • A little more to clarify the Jeff Locke/Tony Sanchez demotions: neither is eligible for the playoff rosters right now. The only way they could be added is if someone currently on the active roster goes on the DL between now and October. Locke is due for down time and won't pitch for the Curve; Sanchez should see some PT to stay sharp.
  • Indy won 1-0 last night behind Brandon Cumpton, who went seven innings, giving up two hits, two walks and punching out six. That start knocked him out of a chance to throw against the Cardinals on Sunday; it looks more and more like Jeanmar Gomez will get that start, although Kris Johnson is still alive for the call; his 10 day minor league waiting period is over.
  • Altoona OF Alex Dickerson was named to the Eastern League postseason all-star team. His line was .287 BA, 16 HR and 65 RBI as he put together a scorching second half to the season.
  • West Virginia Power teammates OF Josh Bell (.281/12/75) and RHP Tyler Glasnow (8-3/2.29) were named to the 2013 South Atlantic League All Star Team.

8/29: Trades, Big Poison Dies, Donnie Robinson, Dave LaPointe, Ray Trade, Barry Bonds, Steve Wagner, Kris Benson, Last Gasp...

Trades, Big Poison Dies, Donnie Robinson, Dave LaPointe, Ray Trade, Barry Bonds, Steve Wagner, Kris Benson, Last Gasp...

  • 1909 - The Pirates traded 3B Jap Barbeau, 2B Alan Storke, and cash to the Cardinals for 3B Bobby Byrne. Byrne had his best years as a Buc, playing through the 1913 season and hitting .277 while helping the Pirates to the 1909 World Series title.
  • 1965 - Hall of Fame OF’er Paul “Big Poison” Waner died in Sarasota, Florida at age 62. Among his many marks were a .333 lifetime BA, 3,152 hits and a 1927 MVP award.
  • 1984 - God helps those who help themselves: RHP Don Robinson pitched two scoreless innings of relief, knocked in the go-ahead run and scored the insurance marker as the Pirates beat the Astros, 4-2, at The Astrodome. Robinson broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the 9th inning with a two-out single and touched home for the fourth run after Tony Pena followed with a double.
  • 1987 - The Pirates traded 2B Johnny Ray to the Angels for two minor leaguers, 3B Bill Merrifield and LHP Miguel Garcia. With Jose Lind in the wings, the Pirates thought Ray was expendable after seven years and a .286 BA. Maybe he was, but they Bucs sure didn’t get much - Merrifield and Garcia were gone by 1988 while Ray won an All-Star berth and hit .296 in four seasons for the Halos before closing his career in Japan.
  • 1988 - LHP Dave LaPoint became the first Pirate starter to begin his career here with three one-run or fewer starts when he whipped the Reds 8-1 at Riverfront Stadium. He was obtained for reliever Barry Jones in August from the White Sox, finished the year 4-2, and then signed with the Yankees as a FA the following season.
  • 1990 - Barry Bonds went 3-for-4 with five RBI to lead the Bucs to a 10-0, rain-shortened seven inning win over the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton Stadium. Jeff King added three RBI, two off sac flies, as Doug Drabek won his 17th game. The game ended a four game losing streak and followed a clubhouse meeting held by manager Jim Leyland after a lackadaisical 9-0 loss the night before.
  • 1995 - RHP Paul Wagner came within one out of a no-hitter with a one-hit, 11K, 4-0 win over the Rox at TRS. With two away in the ninth, 1B Andres Galarraga chopped a 3-2 pitch past the mound and over second, where Nelson Liriano made the grab but couldn’t beat The Big Cat to first with his throw. For Wagner, it was just his third win against 13 losses.
  • 2000 - Kris Benson shut out the Giants 8-0 at TRS. He gave up one hit in eight frames, a first inning single to Barry Bonds. The Pirates banged four doubles, a triple and a homer off Livian Hernandez, who only managed to get six outs before getting the hook.
  • 2006 - The Pirates scored twice in the 11th on an error and bases loaded walk to defeat the Cubs 7-6 at PNC Park. Matt Capps picked up the win while Xavier Nady went 3-for-5 with a double and couple of runs scored.
  • 2012 - The Pirates made their last push of the year by dropping the Cards by a 5-0 score behind Wandy Rodriguez at PNC Park. Pedro Alvarez banged a three run homer to lead the attack as the Bucs moved within a game of the wildcard, having shut out the Redbirds 9-0 the day before with El Toro adding another pair of homers and four RBI in support of James McDonald. It was just a tease; Pittsburgh finished September 7-21 and ended the season with just 79 wins.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bats Stay Hot; Morton Stays Cool In 7-1 Bucco Romp

Not a glorious start for Charlie Morton, but it worked. Norichika Aoki hit a ground single to left and was forced out by Jean Segura. Segura was tossed out trying to steal, but a walk and hit batter created a small pickle; another grounder solved that. The Bucs greeted old running mate Tom Gorzelanny with a single, walk, single, with Cutch getting the RBI. Marlon Byrd hit the ball right on the nose in his first Bucco at-bat; unfortunately it was right up the middle, and Gorzo speared it and started a DP. Pedro flew out and it was 1-0 Pirates.

Both sides went down without a peep in the second and third; the Brewers got a two-out knock in the fourth. Cutch singled and stole second (standing up!) in the Buc half. Byrd whiffed and Pedro was robbed on a web gem grab by Scooter Gennett. But Gaby came through with a two out seeing-eye knock, barely past an extended Gennett, and it was 2-0.

Milwaukee got a runner to second in the fifth, and the Pirates began to pull away. JT tripled, came in an out later on Josh harrison's knock, and Josh scored on Jordy Mercer's double to make the count 4-0. Milwaukee got a soft infield single with two down in the sixth. The Bucs answered with two singles of their own, bringing on Tyler Thornburg, who extinguished that flame.

After an out, a single, walk and force put Brewers on the corners in the seventh; a two-out run scored when Russ Martin got frisky and tried to pick off Yuniesky Betancourt at first; the throw got away (actually, it rolled almost into the RF corner)  and the Brew Crew had their first run of the night. An ensuing walk ended Chuck's night. He went 6-2/3, giving up an unearned run on five hits, three walks and two K, tossing 90 pitches. Vin Mazzaro put away Segura to end the frame.

Burke Badenhop took the hill for Milwaukee, and the Bucs not only answered, but ran away and hid. Harrison singled and Mercer pushed a bunt for base hit. An out later, Byrd went long for the Bucs, dropping a shot just into the batter's eye, earning a curtain call from the crowd of 20,634 and making it 7-1.

An error, ground ball single and flare loaded the bases with an out for Milwaukee in the eighth, but Vin bore down and left the bases juiced to squash the Brewer's last gasp. John Axford tucked the Bucs away in their half. Jared Hughes did the ninth inning honors for Pittsburgh, and the Buc bats continue to be hot against the Brewers, backing up Morton by adding on throughout the game for a 7-1 win.

It wasn't quite as easy as it looked; the Brewers stranded 10 and went a very Piratesque 1-for-8 with RISP. But it was a big win, stopping the Bucco bleeding after losing three in a row. Gerrit Cole will try to keep the good time rollin' tomorrow against Yovani Gallardo.

  • Josh Harrison and Gaby Sanchez had three hits each tonight, while Jordy Mercer and Cutch added a pair apiece - it's Cutch's 51st multi-hit game of the year.
  • The last Pirate player to homer in his debut with the Bucs prior to Marlon Byrd tonight was Starling Marte on 7/26/12 against the Astros.
  • The Bucs are back within 1/2 game of the NL Central lead with tonight's victory.
  • RH reliever Vic Black will go to the Mets to complete the trade for outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck, reported the Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel. The proviso is that he clears waivers.
  • Jeff Locke, in only a mild surprise, joined Tony Sanchez in Altoona. They'll both be back Tuesday after the Curve season ends.
  • C Kelly Shoppach was released after the Bucs picked up John Buck.
  • Travis Snider reached in all three trips to the plate with two walks and a single for Indy. Alex Presley has also been hot; he has a 10 game hitting streak since being sent down.

Morton v Gorzo; Notes

Charlie Morton (5-3, 3.42) will try to even the series tonight against old Bucco hurler Tom Gorzelanny 3-5, 3.60). Morton has steadily improved his work product since coming back, and both his velocity and movement are back to 2009-10 levels. The cloud around that siler lining is that Ground Chuck is 0-4 with a 6.25 ERA in seven career starts against the Brew Crew.

Gorzo has been beat up his last two outings, but has been much stronger on the road than home; in fact, he has a 2.25 ERA away from Miller and 4.70 in Milwaukee.

The game begins at 7:05 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Josh Harrison 2B, Jordy Mercer SS, Andrew McCutchen CF, Marlon Byrd RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Russ Martin C, Jose Tabata LF and Charlie Morton P.

We get most of the lineup against a lefty, but shouldn't Josh and JT be flipped? We kinda liked the Clint Barmes at short, Jordy at 2B configuration when The Kid sits down.

Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Jonathan Lucroy C, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Carlos
Gomez CF, Caleb Gindl LF, Scooter Gennett 2B, Juan Francisco 1B and Tom Gorzelanny P.

  • Marlon Byrd is getting here just in time. With Tom Gorzelanny slated to toe the rubber tonight, the Pirates are facing a left-handed starter for just the 26th time this season (fewest in MLB).
  • The Pirates optioned C Tony Sanchez to Class AA Altoona, and he'll rejoin the team Tuesday after the Curve's season ends. No word yet on which OF'er was sent down for Marlon Byrd.
  • Mike Sanserino of the Post Gazette reports some good news: LHP Wandy Rodriguez's meeting w/ Dr Andrews went so well that rehab assignment could be "coming soon."
  • Last night Pedro Alvarez connected for the league-leading 32nd home run. The club record for most home runs hit in one season by a third baseman is held by Aramis Ramirez, who hit 34 for the Pirates in 2001.
  • Jason Grilli tossed a sim game today. He could be on a rehab stint by the weekend if all goes well. As a reliever, he's fast-tracked; they only have to build his arm strength up to 25 or 30 pitches.
  • Mark Klaassen of Fangraphs looks at Justin Morneau and the Pirates' current 1B platoon.
  • Gaby Sanchez will change to uniform #17, so John Buck can wear #14. That's the second time that happened; Buck took #14 from Gaby at Miami, too, in 2011.

Marlon Byrd

Yah, yah, we know he's not Giancarlo Stanton or Chase Headley. But the Bucs' FO, with their hand forced by a lingering ligament injury to Starling Marte and next-to-zero production from right field, finally pulled the trigger and did get a guy they can plug into the middle of the order in soon-to-be 36 Marlon Byrd.

Some think he's having a outlier year at the plate, but to show some power w/average is not a complete anomaly for Byrd. In 2009, he whacked 20 HR with 89 RBI for Texas while hitting .283 and was an AL All-Star the next season. So his .285 BA, 21 homers and 71 RBI this year could be sustainable for a few more weeks, and that's what the Pirates are banking on happening.

They've been using Russ Martin as their middle-of-the-order righty, and he's misplaced. It's not that Martin's been slacking as his stat line is his best since his Dodger days. But he's a square peg being driven into a round hole. The Yankees used him almost exclusively at the bottom of the order, and his bat should play better from the seven-hole. The Bucs have the opportunity now to plug Byrd into the four-five spot and drop Martin a notch or two, making for a more potent attack all the way around.

Byrd also provides some much needed muscle against lefties. In his career, he's a .290 hitter with an OPS+ of 111 against southpaws, and has been particularly zoned in this year with a .345 average and 134 OPS+. So that' another weakness covered; he, Cutch and Gaby should form an acceptable 3-4-5 presence against LHP.

His splits against righties are pronounced, but bearable. He's hitting .255 with an OPS of .738, and it's easy to envision him as an everyday presence in the lineup. Garrett Jones (.245/.729), Travis Snider (.231/.638), JT (.270/.737) and Alex Presley (.258/.657) all have lower OPS numbers against RHP.  His only comparables versus righties are Tabata, who will be locked into left field until Marte returns to action, and Jones, who will be at first base.

His weakness is one he shares with many of his new teammates - he's whiffed 124 times, and that is an anomaly. Byrd's career K rate is 18%; this season it's 26.7%. And he doesn't draw many walks; never has, with a career rate of 6.4% and a current rate of 5.4%. So he'll contribute his share of unproductive outs.

His glove should play well, making for a seamless OF picket line. His centerfield days are done, but he has a 6.6 UZR/150 in right field, so that will be an upgrade over the usual collection of ham-and-eggers the Pirates have been sending out to play in the shadow of the Clemente Wall.

The big question, of course, is the cost. Pirate fans have to look at this deal from a a previously unvisited perspective: that of a contender trying to fill a hole for a playoff run.

Dilson Herrera may not be a well known name to many but the die-hard fans, but he was a strong second tier prospect, right below the elite guys. The fact that he's 19 and in the Sally League (Low A) means that his future is a crap shoot, but be that as it may, the Pirate system is weaker without him. The key, of course, is to pile up multiple prospects at as many positions as possible, and the Bucs aren't particularly deep at middle infield.

But they have Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer for the here and now and Alen Hansen for the future, along with guys like Jarek Cunningham and Max Moroff, with other players who will ebb and rise. And the point of having prospects is for them to become MLB pieces.

Some, like Cutch, Marte, Pedro, etc are keepers. Others are flipped into the likes of Wandy Rodriguez, AJ Burnett, Vin Mazzaro, Gaby Sanchez and company. As long as the FO keep their short term and long range goals balanced, we have no problem with the cost of the deal; it suits the purposes of both parties (dependent, of course, on the PTBNL).

Marlon Byrd may be a rental, but one that's on time to fill this year's needs.

8/28 - Howie Haak, Ray Brown, Roberto Clemente, El Toro and Lots More...

Howie Haak, Ray Brown, Roberto Clemente, El Toro and Lots More...

  • 1911 - Pirate super scout Howie Haak was born in Rochester, NY. Pittsburgh found much of its talent from the mid 1950s through the 1980s due to Haak's efforts in Latin America. He recommended that Pittsburgh draft Roberto Clemente from the Brooklyn system. Among his other signings were Manny Sanguillen, Omar Moreno and Rennie Stennett of Panama; Julian Javier, Tony Pena, Jose DeLeon, and Cecilio Guante of the Dominican Republic; Al McBean of the Virgin Islands and Roman Mejias of Cuba. 
  • 1925 - The Pirates hung on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 10-9 at the Baker Bowl. Kiki Cuyler had four hits, including a pair of inside-the-park homers, Eddie Moore and Clyde Barnhart added three knocks apiece and George Grantham homered. But it was a struggle: Babe Adams and Tom Sheehan gave up five runs in the bottom of the ninth. Ray Kremer had to come on to get the final out with the bases juiced, retiring pinch hitter Nelson “Chicken” Hawks, who was batting for the second time in the inning and already had a hit and run under his belt. 
  • 1929 - Donie Bush resigned as the Pirate manager and coach Jewel Ens was named to replace him. Bush took the team to the World Series in 1927, where they were swept by the Murderer’s Row Yankees and played without Kiki Cuyler, who Bush had benched. The Pirates had lost 8-of-9 when Bush resigned and were 14-½ games behind the eventual titlists, the Chicago Cubs. 
  • 1930 - The Pirates scored in double figures for the third straight game, beating the Cincy Reds 11-2 at Forbes Field. They defeated Cincinnati 16-12 in the game before, and started the streak at Wrigley Field with a 10-8 win over the Chicago Cubs. 
  • 1940 - Homestead Grays RHP Ray Brown earned his 27th consecutive victory over a two year span when he shut out the Baltimore Elite Giants 5-0 on three hits, bringing his record to 12-0 (he finished 15-4). Brown played for Cum Posey's Grays from 1932 to 1945, winning 109 games in his career and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006. 
  • 1951 - The Bucs ended the New York Giant’s winning streak at 16 games, the longest since 1935, when LHP Howie Pollet tossed a six hit shutout for a 2-0 win at the Polo Grounds. The Pirates only had three hits (two by rookie Frank Thomas), but were issued eight free passes (three to Ralph Kiner), and both Bucco runs were unearned. 
  • 1956 - The Pirates spotted Warren Spahn and the first place Milwaukee Braves a four run lead at County Stadium, then scored four times in the seventh to tie the game on the back of Dale Long’s three run homer. The Bucs took command the next frame when Dick Groat’s two-out infield knock to the SS hole plated Frank Thomas. A tag team sixth-inning catch may have ignited Pittsburgh: per The Milwaukee Journal's Cleon Walfoort "Clemente and Bill Virdon robbed Spahn of an extra-base hit and the Braves of one or more runs. Clemente got his glove on the ball against the fence and Virdon grabbed it as it squirted out. It was just after this remarkable catch that the Pirates came to life." 
  • 1959 - Vern Law whitewashed the Philadelphia Phillies 9-0 on five hits at Forbes Field, striking out seven and supported by three solo homers off the bats of Roberto Clemente, Smoky Burgess and Rocky Nelson. Clemente’s was an inside-the-park four bagger that hit off the flagpole in left center 457’ away on one hop, the deepest part of FF. Pittsburgh banged out ten hits and were helped by being issued nine walks. 
  • 1967 - Roberto Clemente had three hits, including two homers, to lead the Bucs to a 4-3 win over the Braves. He hit the game winner with two out in the tenth at Atlanta Stadium. 
  • 1974 - The Giants banged out 14 hits at Candlestick Park, but the Bucs took home the win 3-1 in 11 innings on Ed Kirkpatrick’s two out double. San Francisco stranded 16 runners as Jerry Reuss and game winner Dave Guisti bent but didn’t break. 
  • 1996 - LHP Denny Neagle was traded to the Atlanta Braves for RHP Jason Schmidt, OF Corey Pointer and 1B Ron Wright. 
  • 2012 - Pedro Alvarez hit the longest homer by a Pirate to date at PNC Park, bombing a sixth inning Brandon Dickson delivery 469’. The shot cleared the seats in center and bounced onto the Riverwalk beside the Allegheny River during the Bucs 9-0 win over St. Louis. El Toro also added a 422’ shot in the third off Jake Westbrook as James McDonald got the win.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Brewers Second Wind Blows Past Pirates 7-6

If it weren't for bad luck... Jeff Locke gave up an infield single on a jam shot rolled to short by Norichika Aoki, another on a bunt single by Jean Segura, and then lost Jonathan Lucroy on a 3-2 fastball that looked a lot like strike three. It became 1-0 when Locke hung tough and got a 6-4-3 DP from Aramis Ramirez , followed by a soft roller to third by Carlos Gomez; it was a nice job of damage control. The Bucs got a one-out break against Kyle Lohse when 2B Scooter Gennett made a wide toss on Neil Walker's bouncer; it was ruled a hit, but was a boot all the way. Cutch cranked the next pitch to The Notch, where Carlos Gomez ran it down and then doubled up The Kid easily, who quite ill-advisedly decided to tag.

Locke tossed a clean, nine pitch frame in the second. The Pirates added a couple more hits, but still no one has reached second. Pedro lined a knock into right; Russ Martin bounced into a 6-3 DP. Gaby roped a hit to left center; Andrew Lambo whiffed on three pitches. With an out in the third, Aoki chopped one off the plate and over Locke for his second infield knock; he has two singles on 100' of grounders. Segura lined an ankle-high shot to Pedro; he snagged it and easily doubled Aoki, who slipped reversing fields, off at first. The Bucs went down in order, with JT on the losing end of a bang-bang call at first.

In the fourth, A-Ram drilled a flat change into the second bullpen to make it 2-0. Gomez added another infield knock, this one a chopper deflected by Locke, but it led to no further leakage. Pedro rapped a second single through the shift with two down, but was left on the gateway.

Gennett singled to open the fifth and was bunted to second. Aoki drew a 3-2 walk, followed by a Segura K. Lucroy lined a knock into left; JT's throw and Martin's swipe tag were just missed Gennett, and it was 3-0. Ramirez lined a shot to left; Tabata wasn't playing him particularly deep, raced back, twisted and had the ball tick off his glove as two more runs scored. That brought on Vin Mazzaro. Locke didn't have much luck - the inning may have been scoreless in Starling Marte was in left - but three of the balls this inning were spanked. We're sure they'll be some discussion about his continued spot in the rotation come September. Vin walked Gomez and got Davis to end the frame; we'll see if the Pirate hitters have anything in them.

With an out, Lambo singled. With two down, Felix Pie rocketed one to right center, but Aoki had it measured after a run. Then he stopped, apparently in a mixup with Gomez coming from center, short-armed the ball. It kissed his glove and fell out for an RBI double. Lohse was halfway to the dugout when it bounced of Aoki's mitt, and perhaps mentally was out of the inning. JT singled up the middle; only a diving stop by Gennett prevented Pie from scoring. Nice effort, but fruitless; Walker drilled one out of the yard, over the upper walk, off a couple of trees and coming to rest on the River walk. Cutch singled and then some back-to-back bad luck - Pedro's drive to the Notch jumped over the wall for a ground rule double, and Martin's liner to left was zapped right at Davis. But at 5-4, it's a game now.

Jeanmar Gomez came in for the sixth and worked a quick frame, with a pair of K. The Bucs chased Lohse. With one gone - a Gaby at 'em ball to left - Lambo and Mercer singled. So did Pie - two of the balls went by Yuniesky Betancourt, who apparently isn't all that comfy with the trapper mitt - and it was a tie game with Bucs on the corners. Rob Wooten came on, and Garrett Jones grabbed a bat to face him. But hey; it's the Pirates with a runner on third. Jones popped out and Walker K'ed, but it was a new ball game.

Not for long, though, as Justin Wilson didn't have the strongest outing. He walked Aoki to open the inning. Segura hit a DP ball to Walker, who bobbled it before flipping to Mercer, who got the force before dropping the ball on the turn. Walker did better on Lucroy's hit-and-run bleeder, breaking back across the infield to make the stop and then gunning down Segura at third on a bang-bang play. But Lucroy stole second on a napping Wilson and scored on A-Rams third hit - he's a triple short of the cycle and has four RBI - to make it 6-5. Pedro tied it again with a liner high off the RF pole, and it was 6-6 after seven.

Again, not for long. Bryan Morris gave up a double with one down in the eighth to Belancourt. He went to third on Gennett's bunt single, and a sac fly brought him in. Aoki walked, but Segura closed out the inning with an opposite field slapper to Lambo. Brandon Kintzler worked a 1-2-3 inning.

Tony Watson tossed the ninth. Lucroy stuck out the bat and rolled a soft single to center; A-Ram slashed another hit to left. Gomez got cute; he showed bunt, then pulled back and hit a short hop to Walker. The Kid went to second for the force and Mercer tossed to third and Pedro for the tag to finish the not often seen 4-6-5 DP. Another grounder, and it was the Bucs last at-bat. Jim Henderson took the bump. The Kid lined out to second to open, then Cutch tased one down the third base line; A-Ram knocked it down but it still rolled far enough for a double. Pedro walked, but it wasn't to be - Martin's soft liner to left center hung up for Gomez, and Gaby hit a weak one hopper off the bat handle to short, and the Bucs went down 7-6.

Hurdle used the entire bullpen, save Mark the Shark and Jared Hughes. They could have done better, but the two long men, Gomez and Mazzaro, both were yanked for pinch hitters after an inning; after all, it is the NL. Wilson faced the top of the order, Morris the bottom, and Watson the top, so that's sensible. Should Melancon have been in the mix? A home game is a strong incentive to use him; facing extra innings is a strong incentive to save him, so pick your poison.

The Bucs did everything they could at the plate, and made it a game coming out of a 5-0 hole. If Pedro's ball didn't hop the fence; if Jones hit a fly instead of a pop with the runner on third; if a couple of Buc liners dropped like the Brewers early dinks did...but the ifs didn't, and the Pirates have their third straight loss, falling 1-1/2 games behind St. Louis.

Charlie Morton and Tom Gorzelanny go at it tomorrow.
  •  Felix Pie and Andrew Lambo sure went about making their cases for a roster spot today after the Byrd/Buck trade with a pair of hits each.  Pedro didn't have to worry but he chipped in with four knocks and a walk anyway, while Cutch added his 50th multi-hit game of the campaign.
  • Milwaukee had gone 27 straight games without scoring in the first inning until tonight.
  • The Pirates have been burned several times by ground rule doubles this season. There's some movement to make it an ump's decision as to where the runners go when the ball leaves the yard rather than give a flat two bases. That's probably too logical to pass muster.
  • Both Mike Sanserino of the Post Gazette and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports think the Pirates have interest in the Twins' Justin Morneau.

Byrd & Buck

The Bucs landed their right handed right fielder today and got a veteran backup catcher to boot when they dealt for Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

The Pirates claimed Byrd, who turns 36 this week, and Buck, 33, from the Mets on revocable waivers. It cost West Virginia Power second baseman Dilson Herrera and a PTBNL. There's no hint as who is on that "to-be-named" list, but GM Neal Huntington told the media that  “New York’s going to get a pretty good second piece." You can be sure of that; the Mets threw money in as part of the deal to make sure they maximized the player return. We're a little surprised the Reds didn't try to block the move; we'll have five weeks to see if that was smart of them or not.

New York, after holding on to their pieces in hopes of a 2013 rally/2014 resurgence, have gone into fire sale mode since Matt Harvey's ligament tear, placing five players on waivers, including Byrd and Buck.

Byrd has a 2013 line of .285/.330/.518, and his 21 homers, 71 RBI and 135 wRC+ (runs created) are both career highs. More importantly, he's mashing lefties at a .345 rate rate season (.255 v RHP) with a .290 lifetime BA vs. LHP. He'll give Clint Hurdle a bat to insert into Russ Martin's mid-order spot, and provide one less square hole to fill in the lineup card. Byrd also provides the flexibility of taking over in left if Jones is flipped into right, an interesting scenario if the Bucs are indeed still sniffing around Justin Morneau. But a bit of caution: He has an outlandish BABIP of .350, and has struck out 124 times with only 25 walks, so...

The former CF'er is targeted for right field in Pittsburgh, and he has a +6.6 UZR/150 at that spot. Pirate right fielders, on the other hand, hit .245/.307/.368 this season with a wRC+ of 89, and Travis Snider is the only RF with a positive UZR/150 at 2.6 - Jones, Tabata, Presley, Harrison and Lambo are all negative fielders.

Also playing into the equation is that Starling Marte isn't expected to swing a bat for at least a couple of more weeks. The need for another outfielder was pretty pressing for the Bucs with the low RF production, JT penciled into left for the short term and a bunch of games with the Cards coming up on the dance card.

Byrd is also owed just $130K for the remainder of the season before he hits free agency, so the pocketbook price is right. The Pirates were thought to have some interest in him in July, so it may be that a preliminary structure was in place for the deal.

Buck started off on fire, but has settled in at .215 with 15 HR and 60 RBI. He's also tossed out 30% of wanna-be base-stealers, so he'll fit in with the Bucs season-long commitment to reining in the running game.  Buck lost his starting job when the Mets called up uber-prospect Travis d'Arnaud to become available and will be a FA after the season, so there's a very good chance that both guys will end up rentals.

They're expected to report tomorrow, and that's when the Bucs are going to have to clear room on the active roster. That puts Felix Pie in the middle of a bulls eye, but with September so close, the second call  could go a couple of ways. The 40-man was cleared by DFA'ing Russ Canzler and doing a paper shuffle to flip Kyle McPherson from the minor league DL to the MLB 60-day DL.

Herrera, 19, is hitting .265 with 11 homers, 56 RBI and 69 runs and 11 stolen bases in the Sally League. He played in the All-Star Futures Game, and was ranked as the  #20 Pirate prospect by Baseball America and 11th by

Herrera projects an above-average hitter and excellent runner whose arm strength limits him to second. He's one of the Bucs top 15 minor-league prospects, and including whoever joins him from the PTBNL list - which may include players from the current MLB roster - represents a fairly hefty rental price. But what it really represents is a commitment: the Pirates FO is finally going all in. The message is clear and loud to both the fans and players - "we've got something special goin', and we're not collapsing, not this time." Let's hope Byrd and the boys have enough pixie dust left to continue the 2013 magic carpet ride.

Locke v Lohse To Open Brew Crew Set; Byrd and Buck Join the Bucs

Jeff Locke (9-4, 3.01) opens the Brewer series against Kyle Lohse (9-8, 3.22). Locke has had a rocky road since the break, with a 1-3 record in his last eight outings. Ground balls are finding the outfield grass, a regression would dictate, and he's responded by nibbling off the plate (14 walks in his last 17 IP), and regression is an innocent bystander for that. It's not been a pretty combo for the past few weeks.

Lohse, meanwhile is a sabermetric anomaly. This is the third year that he's out-performed his FIP, and he looks like the rare breed whose counting rather than predictive numbers tell the tale.At any rate, he's been consistently good since June, and he's always good against the Bucs with a lifetime 9-2/3.35 line..

The game starts at 7:05 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russ Martin C, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Andrew Lambo RF, Jordy Mercer SS and Jeff Locke P.

Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Jonathan Lucroy C, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Carlos Gomez CF, Khris Davis LF, Yuniesky Betancourt 1B, Scooter Gennett 2B and Kyle Lohse P.

  • The Bucs have acquired OF Marlon Byrd, C John Buck & cash from the Mets in exchange for minor league INF Dilson Herrera & PTBNL. Byrd is batting .285 w/ 26 doubles, 5 triples, 21 HRs & 71 RBI in 117 gms this season and is hitting .311 since the All-Star break. Buck ranks third among all NL catchers in RBI (59) & fourth in HRs (15) this season. More on these guys later; neither will be in town for tonight's game.
  • The Cards beat the Reds last night 8-6 to dislodge the Buccos from a share of first. St. Louis is up by 1/2 game on the Pirates. 
  • Both Pittsburgh and Milwaukee are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Pirates have gone 9-4 against Milwaukee this season, including wins in five straight games and in eight of the last nine meetings. The Bucs haven’t posted more than nine wins in a season against the Brew Crew since going 12-6 in 2004.
  • The Pirate pitching staff has an ERA of 3.21 with the starters at 3.44 and the bullpen at 2.82.
  • Michael Clair of Yahoo Sports expects a bounce-back from Jeff Locke.
  • Eno Sarris of Fangraphs discusses AJ and his two-pitch arsenal.
  • He may be in Pittsburgh, but Tony Sanchez was been named an International League Postseason All Star.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review tweeted that "...the Pirates are sending RHPs Tyler Waldon & Zach Thornton, INFs Alen Hanson & Gift Ngoepe, and OF Alex Dickerson to Arizona Fall League. Two more P TBA."

8/27 - Pitching, Van Lingle, Josh Gibson, Kirby Higbe, Tiny Bonham, Clemente's Heads Up Play, Jordy, Pedro, Homers...

Pitching, Van Lingle, Josh Gibson, Kirby Higbe, Tiny Bonham, Clemente's Heads Up Play, Jordy, Pedro, Homers...

  • 1910 - Babe Adams, who took the hill in spite of a stomach bug, tossed a six hitter to down the Superbas 4-2 at Forbes Field. The outfielders played as an afterthought, as the only out recorded in the pasture was a fly caught by Chief Wilson, and Brooklyn’s sole contribution was an assist by Zack Wheat, who threw out Bobby Byrnes trying to stretch a double into a triple. The lone OF put out set an NL record. 
  • 1925 - The Bucs tossed their second straight shutout against Boston at Braves Field, winning 1-0. The Pirates Vic Aldridge and Boston’s Larry Benton traded four-hitters; Pie Traynor drove in Eddie Moore in the third with the game’s only run. The day before, Lee Meadows threw a nine hit, 2-0 whitewash of the Braves, and did it without striking out a soul. 
  • 1936 - The Pirates beat the Brooklyn Dodger 6-3 at Forbes Field. The highlight came after the game, when losing pitcher Van Lingle Mungo, in a snit because of the four errors the Dodgers made that led to four unearned runs, left the team and returned to Brooklyn. He would later become famous when the 1969 novelty song "Van Lingle Mungo" by Dave Frishberg hit the charts. 
  • 1939 - Game Two of the Negro League East-West All-Star game was held at Yankee Stadium. The East, behind Homestead Gray C Josh Gibson’s four RBI, won 10-2. 
  • 1948 - The Phillies lost on a walk off homer by Bucco pitcher Kirby Higbe, who went long in the ninth at Forbes Field to give himself a 4-3 win after he worked a scoreless inning of relief. 
  • 1949 - Pitcher Ernie “Tiny” Bonham won his last MLB start by an 8-2 count over Philadelphia. The ten year vet had complained of stomach problems, and died September 15th at the age of 36 after surgery performed the week before at Presbyterian Hospital uncovered intestinal cancer. His wife Ruth was the first baseball widow to collect a death benefit under the new player pension plan, receiving $90 a month for the next 10 years. 
  • 1965 - The Bucs scored six times in the ninth at Forbes Field to take the Astros into extra frames, eventually winning their seventh game in a row in 11 innings 10-9. Andre Rodger’s two-run knock was the key blow in the ninth; Harry Walker sent him up to pinch hit for Willie Stargell against lefty Danny Coombs. Al McBean, the Pirates sixth pitcher, took home the win. Roberto Clemente threw out a runner going from first to third the hard way. The Pirates ran a wheel play with runners on first and second, and Bob Lillis rolled the ball through the vacant SS hole. Bill Mazeroski described what followed in BR Bullpen "Roberto raced in from right field, dove for the ball, and with his face in the dirt threw out the runner going to third base." Walker told Les Biederman of the Pittsburgh Press that “Clemente made the doggondest (sic) play I ever saw.” It kept the Pirate comeback alive; Houston banged out two more hits after his play. 
  • 1986 - IF Jordy Mercer was born in Seiling, Oklahoma. He was third-round draft choice in 2008, and the Oklahoma State product also played for Team USA. Mercer rode the pine in 2012, but saw some serious playing time in 2013. 
  • 2008 - Pedro Alvarez was placed on the restricted list after the MLBPA filed a grievance against MLB over draft picks being signed minutes after the August 15th deadline. On September 22nd, Álvarez agreed to renegotiated terms on a four-year major league contract at $6.4M to resolve the complaint.
  • 2009 - The first and last hits left the yard, and that was enough for a 3-2 win against the Phils and JA Happ at PNC Park. Cutch opened the game with a long ball, and Garrett Jones ended it with a two run walkoff shot in the ninth.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pitching In September...Mostly OK, But With Some Workload Issues

With today off, the Bucs get to play with the rotation a bit. What they came up with was: Jeff Locke Tuesday, Charlie Morton Wednesday and Gerrit Cole Thursday to work against the Brewers. Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett then get to toss in the St. Louis series, with a TBA for the third game.

It makes sense to save the top two for the Card set, plus Frankie and AJ are in line to pitch the final 2013 regular season series September 6th-9th at Busch Stadium.

And the top three guys should, barring an injury, be plenty strong through September. All have gotten an injury time out somewhere along the line, so none have burnout issues.

AJ, a 200 inning guy, is sitting at 153 IP. The Cisco Kid is at 125 IP; he worked 156 last year. Ground Chuck has tossed just 76-1/3 frames and if anything, should be getting stronger. Jeff Locke may be showing signs of wear and tear, but that may be more due to the mental rather than physical  workload of an everyday MLB pitcher. He tossed 175-1/3 frames last year and is at 143-2/3 now, so he's right on target if he holds on to his spot.

Cole is the only pitcher with a possible inning overload, and the Bucs are carefully monitoring his outings.  He'll have seven days off before starting Thursday, as he did earlier in the month. He's worked 146 innings between levels this season after tossing 132 innings in 2012, but if the Pirates have an inning cut-off for him, they haven't leaked it yet. We think they'd like to work him semi-regularly through September and have him available for post-season bullpen work.

That won't be easy during the stretch run. The Pirates are off on September 5th, then scheduled for 20 straight games until their next holiday on September 26th.

The options grow in a week when September rolls in. Brandon Cumpton and Kris Johnson, who have both acquitted themselves well in brief MLB stints, and Stolmy Pimentel should get calls to the big club. Cumpton is in good shape as far as IP goes.

But Johnson has already topped his inning count (141-2/3; 101-2/3 in 2011), as has Pimentel. Stolmy has 163-1/3 frames under his belt, with a start today, after working just 115-2/3 innings in 2012. So if they're worried about Cole's inning count, the FO should be downright manic over Johnson and Pimentel's 2013 workload.

Wandy is effectively out of action, it doesn't seem like Jeff Karstens will be back this year, and Kyle McPherson/Jeff Irwin are also out. So the trio of Cumpton, Johnson and Pimentel is the cavalry for the Pirate rotation next month, and they've been ridden pretty hard except for Cumpton already this year.

The bullpen is in decent shape, a credit to Clint Hurdle's sometimes mystifying but generally effective use of his relievers.

Mark Melancon is at 59-1/3 IP, and worked 66-2/3 last year between Boston and Pawtucket. He's maxed out at 74-1/3 (2011 - Astros). Jason Grilli has gotten a mid-season break, admittedly the hard way, but enough to keep him well under his 2011-12 inning count. The alpha shark should be ready to circle the mound again perhaps as soon as Labor Day weekend or just beyond if he doesn't have any rehab setbacks.

Tony Watson may bear some care. He's made fewer appearances, but they've been longer, and he's put up 62-1/3 innings this year compared to 53 in 2012. But he did work 75 frames in 2011, so he should be fine if limited to one inning outings.

For Justin Wilson, Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez, the only potential fly in the ointment is the number of appearances. All were at least part-time starters last year, so the innings are well under control if the up-and-down of bullpen life doesn't wear them down in their first full season as part of the relief corps.

Jared Hughes and probable call-ups Ryan Reid and Vic Black are all have their innings under control. Duke Welker has 60 IP, near his limit, so he may be on a short leash. J-Mac should also be primed for bullpen duty if he can get through rehab, which he's already begun. We wouldn't look for starter-turned-reliever Andy Oliver. Since July 4th, his ERA has been 7.00 and he's walked 30 batters in 27 IP.

So going into September, the Pirate starting pitching is thin - it'll be interesting to see who the Bucs plug in if Jeff Locke continues his free fall - but the bullpen will be deep. Hopefully the two will mesh during the upcoming run for the roses.

8/26 - Giles For Bay Trade, Chief Wilson, Big Poison, Pie Traynor, Boom-Boom...

Chief Wilson, Big Poison, Chester Williams, Pie Traynor, Boom-Boom, Tim Wakefield, Giles For Bay Trade...

  • 1892 - The Bucs mauled the Philadelphia Phils 11-3 at Exposition Park. Elmer “Mike” Smith, Doggie Miller and Jake Beckley led the way with a pair of hits each. Smith, usually an OF’er, was the pitcher (he appeared in 17 games, starting 13), and per the Pittsburg Press, the “(Phils Ed) Delahanty found a package of lard in centerfield and the Phillies tried to work up a story that the ball had been greased...” The Pirates pled innocent, and the game stood. 
  • 1912 - In a doubleheader split against Boston at Forbes Field, Chief Wilson collected three triples. He finished the year with 36, which is still the league standard. 
  • 1926: Paul Waner went 6-for-6 with two doubles and a triple as the Pirates beat the New York Giants 15-7 at Forbes Field. He used six different bats to collect the hits. Pie Traynor and George Grantham each had three hits; Traynor and Johnny Rawlings added three RBI apiece. 
  • 1927 - The Boston Braves defeated the Pirates‚ 6-4 at Braves Field. Paul Waner‚ who went 4-for-4 the day before‚ started off with three more consecutive hits off two Brave pitchers before ending his streak at seven. 
  • 1934 - Chester Williams of the Pittsburgh Crawfords led the East with three hits in the East-West Negro League All-Star game at Comiskey Park. The East won 1-0 in front of 30,000 fans when Jud Wilson drove in Cool Papa Bell in the eighth inning, giving Crawford Satchel Paige the win. 
  • 1935 - Player-manager Pie Traynor blasted a grand slam and ended the day with five hits and six RBI as the Bucs battered the NY Giants 10-2 at the Polo Grounds. Woody Jensen and Tom Padden also homered to smooth the path for Ralph Birkofer’s win. 
  • 1947 - The Pirates scored four times each in the first and second innings and added seven more in the fifth as they rolled over the Brooklyn Dodgers 16-3 at Ebbet’s Field. Wally Westlake homered, doubled, and drove home five runs as Billy Cox and Cutley Rikard added long balls. Ralph Kiner went 5-for-5 with a walk and Frank Gustine added four hits to help Fritz Ostermueller cruise to victory. Brooklyn’s Dan Bankhead, via the Negro League Memphis Red Sox, became the first black pitcher to work an MLB game when he came on in relief of Hal Gregg. The Bucs lit him up on the hill, scoring eight runs in his 3-1/3 frames, though he did swat a two run homer in his first big league at-bat to help even out his rough debut. 
  • 1951 - The Pirates scored eight runs in the seventh frame to overcome a 9-2 fifth inning deficit and beat the Dodgers‚ 12-11 at Ebbet’s Field in the opener of a twin set. Pete Castiglione and Bill Howerton had three RBI each to lead the comeback. They dropped the nitecap 4-3 in 10 innings. 
  • 1975 - The first eight Pirates hit safely against the Braves’ Jamie Easterly and Ray Sadecki before P Larry Demery flied out‚ tying the MLB record. The Buc scored six runs on their way to an 8-2 victory at TRS. 
  • 1992 - Pirate rookie Tim Wakefield defeated Tom Candiotti of the Dodgers 2-0 in the first matchup of knuckleballers in the NL since 1982 when Phil Niekro and Joe Niekro faced off in a Braves-Astros game. Wakefield scattered six hits for the victory. 
  • 2003 - The Pirates shipped Brian Giles to San Diego for Jason Bay, Ollie Perez, and Corey Stewart. Pittsburgh had wanted Xavier Nady in the deal, but SD refused and threw in Bay instead. He worked out pretty well, as Bay ended up the NL Rookie of the Year in 2004 and the Bucs reeled in the X-Man in 2006.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bucs Pack Up Bats Early, Lose 4-0

Ryan Vogelsong mowed down the Bucs in the first; AJ returned the favor to the Giants. The Pirates went down in order again in the second, but the Bay City made a little noise. Brandon Belt banged a double off the brick wall in right to open, jumping a two strike fastball. After a K, Pablo Sandoval dropped a pop in no mans land , too short for Cutch to reach and a step away from the twisting Jordy Mercer to put runners on the corners. But Roger Kieschnick grounded sharply to Neil Walker, and the 4-6-3 quieted the frame.

Andrew Lambo led off the third with a single to center. He made it to second and no further; Vogelsong has three K, two looking, as the Bucs are early on giving on on his pitches, which are running back over the corners. With two down in the SF half, Gregor Blanco drew a walk and went to third on a hit-and-run when Brandon Crawford smacked a 3-1 pitch to right. Buster Posey grounded a ball toward the second base hole, and it got over a diving Walker's mitt (he was cheating to the middle) to make it 1-0 Giants.

Pittsburgh went down in order again in the fourth, but at least were squaring up, as Cutch and Pedro both roped at 'em ball liners to left and right. AJ tossed a clean frame. Lambo drew a two out walk in the fifth, but was easily gunned trying to steal second. Burnett had two out woes again; Blanco singled and Crawford was HBP in the lower leg, setting up Posey again. A curve ball in the dirt got away from Russell, moving the runners up a station, and Posey, behind 1-2, coaxed a walk to bring up the hot Belt. AJ got ahead of him 1-2, couldn't get him to chase as he ran the count full, and challenged him with a heater down the middle that Cutch hauled in at the track in center to end the inning scorelessly.

Mercer opened the sixth by taking one for the team. AJ tried to move him up, but dropped a bunt right in front of the dish to start a 2-6-4 DP, and JT tapped out to end the frame. Pence fell behind 0-2 but walked; AJ is chewing up a lot of pitches against a team that's pretty patient at the plate. An out later, he stole second, but never got past the mid-way station.

With an out, Cutch reached second when Panda made a diving stop of his ball but airmailed the throw. No diff; he stayed there as Pedro hit a soft liner to right and Martin whiffed. AJ tossed a clean frame.

A whiff looking, a hot shot to second and pop to right took care of the Bucs in the eighth. With a day off tomorrow, the heart of the order up and AJ at 106 pitches, Clint Hurdle made the curious decision to give him another inning. It was a bad decision. A pair of ground ball singles around an out put Giants on the corners. Panda crushed a triple to deep right center - and it is deep at AT&T Park - to end AJ's day. Tony Watson came on, too late. The infield played in, and stopped one run on a grounder, but Joaquin Arias hit a ball inside the third base line past Pedro - he was cheating toward the SS hole - and it was 4-0.

Sandy Rosario took the ball in the ninth. He gave up a leadoff single to Felix Pie, and then shut the door.

After a promising 4-1 start to the road trip, the Bucs stumble home with a pair of losses. No point in muttering about the offense; it is what it is, and unless somebody joins Cutch - Pedro, Jones, The Kid - and heats up in September, the daily grind will continue for the next five weeks. Vogelsong worked the black and got some help from plate ump Lance Barksdale, but the zone was the same for both teams all game; the players have to adjust, not the guy in blue.

The Bucs are off tomorrow, then welcome the Brewers and Cards to town. September is gonna be one hot baseball month in Pittsburgh for a welcome change.

  • The Pirates missed a golden opp today, as both the Cards and Reds lost.
  • It's gonna get interesting now. The Cards play 13 games in 14 days against the Bucs and Reds.

AJ v Vogelsong

AJ Burnett (6-8, 3.09) takes the hill in the Giant finale against Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.29). AJ was strong in his last outing, and has been tough on the Giants, with a lifetime 6-2/1.95 line. Vogelsong is making just his fourth start since coming off the DL after breaking his hand while HBP in May. The righty has posted a 3.78 ERA with three no-decisions since his return. He hasn't had much success against his old mates, with a 1-3/4.50 line.

The game begins at 4:05 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russ Martin C, Garrett Jones 1B, Andrew Lambo RF, Jordy Mercer SS and AJ Burnett P.

Giant lineup: Gregor Blanco CF, Brandon Crawford SS, Buster Posey C, Brandon Belt 1B, Hunter Pence RF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Roger Kieschnick LF, Joaquin Arias 2B and Ryan Vogelsong P.

  • The Pirates are tied for first place with the Cardinals coming into today after spending the last 42 days in sole possession of the top spot in the NL Central.
  • The Bucs have a road record of 34-31, equaling their road victories in 2012. In 2010, John Russell's last season, the Pirates won just 17 road games.
  • Russ Martin has thrown out a MLB leading 32 baserunners. Pittsburgh’s catchers have combined to throw out 38 baserunners this year. Last year, Pirate receivers threw out 19 wanna-bes for the entire season. Opponents have stolen 74 bases so far this year; they swiped 154 last season.
  • Travis Snider went 2-for-4 with an RBI last night for Indy on rehab. He's hitting a combined .278 with three RBI and three runs scored in five games between Altoona and Indianapolis.
  • Wandy is slated to get an MRI for Dr. Andrews on Tuesday.

8/25: Wilbur Cooper, Bobby Byrne, Never Say Die, Mike Dunne, Gary Redus Cycle, Bombs Away, AVS...

Wilbur Cooper, Bobby Byrne, Never Say Die, Mike Dunne, Gary Redus Cycle, Bombs Away, AVS...

  • 1901 - The Pirates traded for 20 year old LHP Arley “Wilbur” Cooper from Columbus of the American Association for a pair of PTBNL. He became the Pirates all-time leader in wins with 202, lasting 13 seasons (1912-24) as a Bucco. He started 369 games and appeared in 469 outings for Pittsburgh with a 2.74 ERA. 
  • 1910 - In the 12th inning at Washington Park, Bobby Byrne doubled, stole third, then swiped home to beat the Brooklyn Superbas, 4-3. It was the NL's first twentieth century extra-inning steal of home. 
  • 1929 - The fans were able to hear the calls of home plate umpire Cy Rigler, who was wired for sound, a first in major league history. Wearing a mike and metal-plated shoes, standing on a flat metal sheet, Rigler's calls were broadcast over the Polo Ground speakers as he somehow avoided electrocution. The Giants topped the Pirates, 10-5 as the Bucs committed three errors and allowed six early unearned runs. 
  • 1959 - The White Sox sent 3B Bob Sagers and OF/1B Harry "Suitcase" Simpson packing to Pittsburgh in exchange for vet 1B Ted Kluszewski, looking to improve their bench. Klu hit .297 during the rest of the season and .391 with three homers in the World Series for the Sox. Simpson retired after the season and Sagers was a career minor leaguer. 
  • 1962 - The Pirate players called off a threatened walkout in objection to a rained out game that was rescheduled as part of a Saturday doubleheader with another doubleheader scheduled on Sunday. Bob Friend, team rep, was irked that the players were bypassed in rescheduling the game. Friend lost the opener 3-2 to St. Louis at Busch Stadium, giving up a run with two down in the ninth. The Bucs took the second game 4-0 behind Earl Francis, who tossed a three hitter and was backed by homers off the bats of Dick Groat and Dick Stuart. They also split the next day’s twinbill. 
  •  1979 - The Bucs scored twice in the ninth after two were out and no one aboard to send the game into extra innings, eventually winning 4-3 in 14 frames over the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium. Dave Roberts pitched out of a pair of bases loaded jams, once with no one away, to earn the win. The contest lasted six hours and twelve minutes, the longest Pirate contest until the Jerry Meals 19-inning game at Atlanta in 2011. 
  • 1982 - The Pirates gave up a 4-1 lead at TRS, allowing San Diego to edge ahead in the eighth. But they tied the game in their half when Tony Pena’s grounder scored Lee Lacy and walked off with a ninth inning victory over the Padres when Jim Morrison singled in Enrique Romo, running for Willie Stargell, with the game winner. Kent Tekulve claimed the W. 
  • 1987 - Mike Dunne fired a two hitter as the Bucs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 1-0 at TRS. Dunne made a first inning Johnny Ray RBI single that scored Andy Van Slyke stand up. He struck out seven, allowed just one runner to reach second, and retired the last 10 batters. 
  • 1989 - OF Gary Redus hit for the cycle in a 12-3 win over the Reds at Riverfront Stadium, scoring three times and driving in four runs. 
  • 1991 - Pittsburgh banged out four homers from Cecil Espy, Jay Bell, Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla to whip the SF Giants 8-3 at TRS. Bell scored three times with a pair of RBI while Espy added three RBI and a run to back John Smiley’s win. 
  • 1992 - Andy Van Slyke had three hits, including a homer and double, and drove home four runs while scoring twice as the Bucs beat LA 10-3 at Dodger Stadium. Leadoff hitter Alex Cole had three hits and scored three times as Danny Cox got the win in relief of Danny Jackson.

Bucs Buried In First Inning Hole, Go Down 6-3

JT opened by ripping a single to right off Tim Lincecum; a bounce straight to Hunter Pence kept it from being extra bases. But that was the highlight; Neil Walker K'ed fishing for changeups and Cutch rolled into a 6-4-3 DP. Francisco Liriano had one of those innings that the Bucs suffer from on occasion.

A single up the middle started it, followed by a double on 290' foul fly to right that the ump miscalled after it hit outside the chalk. Oddly. the Bucs didn't protest, but mostly wandered around looking bewildered. Buster Posey had his bat blow up, but he pushed the ball a step away from Pedro, who was dodging splinters, for a knock and RBI. After an out, a swinging bunt single to third by Brett Pill scored another run when a hard charging Pedro one hopped the throw to first and Garrett Jones played it off his chest. Pablo Sandoval hit one weakly to second, too soft for a DP, and a third runner touched home. Gregor Blanco slapped a single to right, and it was 4-0.

Lincecum fell behind Pedro 3-0 to start the second, but came all the way back to K him swinging at a change; then he caught Jones and Tony Sanchez looking. The Giants added a couple of base hits to their total in the second, but Liriano kept them off the board. The Bucs went down in order in the third, and the G-Men got just one more knock, although The Cisco Kid is up to 72 pitches.

The first two Bucs, Jose Tabata and The Kid, walked to open the fourth, but it didn't help as the middle of the order couldn't cash them in. Cutch hit a jam shot fly to right, moving JT to third. Pedro looked at strike three, down the middle and at the knees, then Jones whiffed swinging over a change up. With two down for SF, Posey golfed a single to center and Pence walked, both after long at-bats. He worked out of it, but is at 101 pitches.

Tony Sanchez cracked his first MLB homer when he drilled an elevated 3-2 pitch halfway up the LF stands. Lambo followed with a walk, but the Bucs couldn't move him along. Jared Hughes took the bump; Liriano didn't have his usual command, but kept the score in hand after breakin' bad in the opening inning. Hughes woes continued; a hit batter, single, bunt, wild pitch and walk gave the run back as Tony Sanchez got his aerobic workout chasing down Jared's deliveries.

With an out in the sixth, Cutch walked and Pedro doubled over first base. Pence again played the ball nicely to hold McCutchen at third. Lefty Jose Mijares took the ball from The Freak. Gaby hit for Jones and drilled a single to center to plate Cutch and put Pirates on the corners. Bruce Bochy called on Jean Machi to face Tony Sanchez, who lined his pitch into center to make it 5-3. Machi got Lambo to sit down after three off speed offerings, and then was spared when Panda made a nice pick of a Barmes shot up the 3B line and had his short throw picked at the other end by Posey.  Vin Mazzaro took the bump. With an out, he lost Pence on a 3-2 pitch. A passed ball and slow roller moved him to third, and the Bucs decided to work on Sandoval instead of Hector Sanchez. That was a mistake, as Panda singled Pence in with a rip to right.

Sandy Rosario took the bump in the seventh. Jordy Mercer lined out to short, followed by a JT single. The Kid hit a tailor made DP ball to second, but Marco Scutero tried to flip it to second before he had the handle, and everyone was safe. Cutch again was jammed and flew out short of the track in right, moving JT to third. Veteran LOOGY Javier Lopez came on to face Pedro and punched him out on four pitches. Vin gave up a couple of liners, but JT and Cutch were up to the task and the Giants went down 1-2-3.

Santiago Casilla put the Bucs away in order in the eighth. Bryon Morris toed the rubber for Pittsburgh and tossed a clean frame with swinging K's of Posey and Pence. Sergio Romo climbed the hill to look for the save in the ninth and got it easily, despite a two out dink double by JT.

A blown call by an ump, four balls hit too softly to break an egg and a bullpen that was human were the ingredients for tonight's loss. And watching Tony Sanchez work a sweat chasing after the all the balls the Buc pitchers delivered in the dirt only renews the admiration for the defensive job Russ Martin does behind the dish.

A.J. Burnett gets the call against Ryan Vogelsong this afternoon.
  •  The Bucs had seven hits; Jose Tabata had three of them, along with a walk.
  • The Cards and Reds won. The Bucs are tied for first in the division, with Cincy 2-1/2 games behind.
  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review reported the good news that Starling Marte is not a candidate for surgery to repair the strained ligament that connects his right ring finger to his hand. 
  • The Tribe's Alex Presley has posted multi-hit efforts in six of his last eight games, and helped lead the Indy Indians to their second International League West division title tonight with a 6-4 win over Rochester.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Liriano v Lincecum; Marte Out, Lambo Back

Francisco Liriano (14-5, 2.53) and Tim Lincecum (6-13, 4.53) hook up tonight. The Cisco Kid, after missing a few weeks to start the season with a broken wing, is six innings from qualifying for the leaderboards. Lincecum still has his moments, but it's not like the old days. The game will start at 9:05 and be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Garrett Jones 1B, Tony Sanchez C, Andrew Lambo RF, Clint Barmes SS and Francisco Liriano P.

Russ Martin gets an R&R day, Lambo gets the start in right, and Barmes is rewarded for his game winning long ball with a start at SS.

Giant lineup: Marco Scutaro 2B, Joaquin Arias SS, Buster Posey 1B, Hunter Pence RF, Brett Pill LF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Hector Sanchez C, Gregor Blanco CF and Tim Lincecum P.

Brandon Belt gets the day against against a lefty; Buster Posey slides from behind the dish to 1B.

  • As rumored yesterday, Starling Marte was today placed on the 15-day DL with a right hand contusion/sprain. Andrew Lambo has been recalled from AAA. So Marte will be out until Monday, September 2nd and will miss the upcoming Brewer and Card series, but will be eligible, as all DL players are, for the post-season.
  • Dayn Perry of CBS Sports explains why Clint Barmes home run last night was more unlikely than you thought.
  • Jared Stonesifer of Yahoo Sports asks what people expected from Garrett Jones?

8/24: Jewel, Monsters in the Middle, 10 in a Row, One Hitter, Gotta Believe, X-tra Xplosion

Jewel, Monsters in the Middle, 10 in a Row, One Hitter, Gotta Believe, X-tra Xplosion...

  • 1889 - IF Jewel Ens was born in St. Louis. He played for the Pirates from 1922-25, hitting .290 as a seldom used bench player. Jewel came back to manage the club from 1929-31, and put up an overall 176-167 slate, finishing second once. 
  • 1928 - The Pirates romped over the NY Giants 16-5 at Forbes Field. The middle of the Pittsburgh order - Paul Waner, George Grantham and Pie Traynor - pounded out seven hits, including a homer and three triples, drove in 11 runs and scored six more. Every Pirate position player had at least two hits as the Bucs banged out 19 knocks. 
  • 1956 - The Cards defeated the Pirates‚ 6-2 at Busch Stadium in a game notable for its batting order. Manager Bobby Bragan batted the pitcher seventh, Maz eighth and Hank Foiles ninth. Mazeroski went 1-for-3 while Foiles hit a HR. The pitcher, Fred Waters, went 0-for-3. 
  • 1959 - Bob Friend gave up 12 hits‚ but shut out SF‚ 6-0. He struck out eight and stranded a dozen G-Men at Forbes Field, backed by a pair of Rocky Nelson homers. 
  • 1965 - The Pirates defeated the SF Giants 5-2 at Forbes Field behind Don Cardwell’s five hitter. It was a nondescript win except for Willie Mays, who according to Les Biederman of the Pittsburgh Press “...made an almost unbelievable throw...Mays took Donn Clendenon’s shot off the wall in left center (at the 406’ mark) and threw a strike to home plate on one bounce as the startled (Willie) Stargell was out by 15 feet.” Bob Stevens of the San Francisco Chronicle called it “...the greatest throw ever made in ancient Forbes Field.” 
  •  1978 - The Pirates won their 10th game in a row by dropping the Braves 5-1 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Bert Blyleven not only pitched his way to victory, but his two-out, bases loaded double in the seventh cleared the sacks to break a 0-0 tie. Pittsburgh dropped the next two games, then started a fresh 11 game winning streak. 
  • 1984 - Jose DeLeon went into the seventh against the Reds pitching a no-hitter, but lost it and the game when ex-Buc Dave Parker singled in a run to give Cincy the lead and eventual 2-0 win at TRS behind a three-hitter by Jeff Russell. Parker had the only Red hit; Cincy scored thanks to a walk and two errors. 
  • 1987 - As reported by Peter Gammon in Sports Illustrated, GM Syd Thrift called a team meeting for his young and underachieving Pirate club (53-71). He asked the team to set goals; reliever Jim Gott suggested aiming for 25 wins in the final 38 games. “Be realistic,” Thrift replied. It ended up that Gott was indeed a bit unrealistic - the team won 27 down the stretch, starting a seven game winning streak that night with a 5-4 win over the Reds. Gott earned the save.
  • 2007 - The Pirates’ Xavier Nady hit a two out homer to tie the game in the ninth and then the Bucs erupted for five 15th inning runs to take an 8-3 victory from the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Adam LaRoche’s three run shot in the 15th off Travis Driskill was the big blow. Shane Youman picked up the win after two innings of scoreless relief with four K against Houston. Six Pirate relievers tossed eight shutout frames, giving up just six hits and striking out eight.