Thursday, July 31, 2014

Locke v Collmenter, Lineup, No Deals Go Down, Josh...

Jeff Locke (2-2, 3.54) and Josh Collmenter (8-5, 4.03) open the D-Back series tonight.

We'll see what kind of bounce back Locke has today. His command was pretty non-existant in his last outing, an 8-1 thumping at Colorado. But he's been pretty solid, and hopefully he'll be back on the bike tonight. This isn't the ideal club for him to rally against: Locke is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) against Arizona. But he did OK in his only start against them this year, holding the D-Backs to two runs over eight frames on July 1st.

Josh Collmenter was also beat up in his last start, not making it through the third before being chased by Philadelphia. But Chase Field has been home sweet home for him, as he's 5-2 in 10 starts with a 2.89 ERA. And he likes facing Pittsburgh. In four lifetime starts against the Pirates, his ERA is 1.59.

Arizona is 5-2 in their last seven home games and 5-1 in Collmenter’s last six starts while Pittsburgh has won four of heir last five games in Arizona and is 6-2 in Locke's last eight outings. Pretty interesting game by the numbers...

The lineup: Gregory Polanco RF, Josh Harrison LF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Ike Davis 1B, Russ Martin C, Pedro 3B, Jordy mercer SS and Locke P. Pedro's back...we're guessing Travis Snider is still writing on the blackboard "I will not try to advance from second on a walk" 100 times.

The game starts at 9:40 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • The Pirates first and only market move was to claim RHP Angel Sanchez from the White Sox off waivers. Sanchez, 24, was a big-time Marlins prospect who touched 98 on the gun and sits between 92-95, but hasn't picked up any secondary pitches and is joining his fourth organization of the year. Sanchez replaced RHP Josh Wall on the 40-man roster. There's still the August 31st deadline for waiver deals and the possibility the FO promotes someone from Indy, especially for the bullpen.
  • Josh Harrison is 8-for-17 while homering in each of the last four contests. He has a chance to become the first Pirate to homer in five straight since Jose Castillo did it in May 2006. The last Bucco to go long four games in a row was Pedro Alvarez in June, 2013.
  • Pittsburgh won two of three earlier in the year v Arizona at PNC Park. Watch for Paul Goldschmidt, who went 7-for-11 with two homers and a triple in the set and is 4-for-6 lifetime against Locke.

7/31: Sellers & Buyers, B-Days, Ejections, AJ Gem, Spotlight Games & More...

Sellers, Buyers, B-Days, Ejections, AJ Gem, Spotlight Games & More...
  • 1870 - C/1B Joe Sugden was born in Philadelphia. Sugden spent the first five seasons (1893-97) of his 13 year career with Pittsburgh as a catcher and utilityman, hitting .277.
  •  1892 - LHP Erv ”Peanuts” Kantlehner was born in San Jose. Working mostly as a starter for the Bucs from 1914-16, he went 13-29 with a 2.85 ERA.
  • 1896 - After a disputed call‚ Pirate P Frank “Lefty” Killen punched umpire Daniel Lally in the face. When Lally responded in kind‚ hundreds of fans charged onto the field and eventually Killen was arrested for disorderly conduct, according to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology. Pittsburgh won in spite of the rhubarb 9-7 over the Cincinnati Reds at League Park.
Frank "Lefty" Killen - Baseball Revisited (uncredited photo)
  • 1912 - The Pirates scored three runs in the 19th inning and then barely held off Boston to take a 7-6 decision at the South End Grounds. Honus Wagner was the man of the hour, stealing home and later driving in the final, game-winning run for Pittsburgh against the Braves. 
  • 1936 - OF Vic Davalillo was born in Churuguara, Venezuela. He played for the Bucs from 1971-73, hitting .290 while a platoon player in the outfield and first. Vic played on two Pirate playoff clubs, and when he was traded to Oakland in 1973, he was on his third. 
  • 1939 - The Pirates obtained 6' 9" LHP Johnny Gee from Syracuse of the International League for $75,000 and four players. Nicknamed “Gee Whiz,” he lasted parts of four seasons (1939, 1941, 1943-44) with the Bucs, winning five games. Also known as “Long John” (and as the “$75,000 Lemon”), he never fully recovered from a 1940 arm injury. Gee was the tallest person to play MLB until 6’10” Randy Johnson debuted for the Montreal Expos in September, 1988. Not too surprisingly, he also went on to play pro hoops for the NBA Syracuse Nationals. 
  • 1957 - Manager Bobby Bragan was ejected for arguing a call (actually, he held his nose) during a 4-2 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. After being tossed, he got an orange drink from the stands; the umps told him to take it into the clubhouse, and he threatened to toss the juice into their faces. He quickly relented and offered them all a sip, but the men in blue weren’t amused. After their report to the league, Bragan was fined $100 and threatened with suspension if he didn’t clean up his act. After the game, Bragan was quoted by the Pittsburgh Press’ Les Biederman as saying “My only regret is that the hot dog didn’t arrive in time.” Bragan was fired three days later and replaced by Danny Murtaugh on a “temporary basis.” The temporary hire managed until 1964 and was brought back as skipper three more times after that. 
  • 1959 - RHP Mike Bielecki was born in Baltimore. His first four years (1984-’87) were spent in Pittsburgh, where he went 10-17 with a 4.57 ERA. He was the Pirates first round pick in the 1979 draft (secondary phase) and went on to have a workmanlike 14 year MLB career. 
  •  1961 - C Smoky Burgess, OF Roberto Clemente, P ElRoy Face and 1B Dick Stuart repped the Bucs in the second All-Star game of the year at Fenway Park, a 1-1 tie called after nine innings because of rain. Clemente went 0-for-2, Burgess and Stu 0-for-1, and the Baron of the Bullpen was uncalled upon by manager Danny Murtaugh. 
  • 1964 - It happens to the best of them. The San Francisco Giants took advantage of three errors by Bill Mazeroski and three more by the team to edge the Bucs 8-6 at Forbes Field. Maz's last error, a dropped catch on a potential around-the-horn DP ball in the ninth, would have ended the game with the Pirates on top 6-5 if he had held on and completed the turn. 
  • 1983 - Rookie Jose DeLeon held the Mets hitless for 8-1/3 innings before Hubie Brooks singled, but Mike Torrez countered with 11 shutout innings as New York won 1-0 in 12 frames. In his previous start‚ DeLeon had held the Padres hitless for 6-1/3 innings. 
  • 1985 - The Pirates scored twice in the bottom of the 10th to rally past the Phillies 4-3 at TRS. Cecilio Guante picked up the win despite allowing a home run in the top of the 10th and tossing a wild pitch in the ninth that tied the game. Former Bucco Kent Tekulve suffered the loss after Steve Kemp lined a two-out walkoff single to left to bring home Larry McWilliams, pinch running for Jason Thompson. The batter before Kemp, Marvell Wynne, hit into a force that plated Lee Mazzilli and knotted the score again. 
Steve Kemp 1986 Fleer series
  • 1987 - The Pirates traded RHP Don Robinson to the San Francisco Giants for C Mackey Sasser. The Giants turned Robinson into a starter the next season and he became a rotation pitcher for the next three years while Sasser was flipped to the Mets in 1988. 
  • 1992 - Knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield made his debut against the Cards at TRS, replacing Zane Smith who was hurt, and pitched his way to a 3-2 win. He was in hot water early giving up a couple of unearned runs in the fifth after working his way out of second and third frame jams. But he left the bases full of Redbirds in the fifth and cruised afterward. He got all his support from a pair of bombs, a two run shot by Barry Bonds and a solo homer off Jay Bell’s bat, and made the three scores stand up. The Bucs went into first after the win and never looked back. 
  •  1993 RHP Jon Lieber was traded by the Kansas City Royals along with reliever Dan Miceli to the Bucs for closer Stan Belinda. 
  • 2001 - The Pirates traded the well-traveled LHP Terry Mulholland to the Dodgers for pitchers Mike Fetters and Adrian Burnside. Mulholland, from Uniontown, pitched for 11 teams in a 20 year career, and had a pair of stints with the Cubs, Phils and Giants. The FO also swapped Mike Williams to the Astros for RHP Tony McKnight. It was actually more like a lend-lease, as Williams signed with the Bucs again as a free agent after the season. 
  • 2002 - The Bucs sent first round bust OF Chad Hermansen to the Cubs for OF Darren Lewis, who refused to report to the Pirates and retired instead. 
  • 2003 - Pitchers Brandon Lyon, Anastacio Martinez and Jeff Suppan were traded by the Bucs to the Red Sox for LHP Mike Gonzalez, 2B Freddy Sanchez and cash. Originally, Gonzalez had gone to Boston for Lyons and Martinez a few days earlier, but Lyons flunked the physical causing a reworking of the deal. The mulligan panned out pretty well for the Bucs. 
Mike Gonzalez 2002 Bowman's Best sereies
  • 2004 - GM Dave Littlefield reportedly rejected an offer to deal pitcher Kris Benson to the Phillies for a power-hitting prospect named Ryan Howard, who would eventually become a NL MVP. The Bucs thought they had a Howard clone already in their system with Brad Eldred. 
  • 2005 - The Cubs sent young OF Jody Gerut to Pittsburgh for vet OF Matt Lawton. The Cubs shipped Lawton to the Yankees for a minor leaguer in August. Gerut, hampered by a bum knee, barely played and was released after 2006, appearing in just four games as a Pirate. 
  • 2006 - Busy at the deadline: The Pirates traded pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to the Mets for Xavier Nady. Pittsburgh also sent P Kip Wells to the Rangers for P Jesse Chavez, traded OF/1B Craig Wilson to the Yankees for P Shawn Chacon and acquired RHP Brian Rogers from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for 1B Sean Casey. 
  • 2007- The Bucs traded OF Rajai Davis and IF Stephen McFarland to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Matt Morris. Morris, who was under contract to make $9.5M in 2008, was released on April 27th of that year after going 3-8 with a 7.04 ERA in 16 starts. Many believed this deal was the straw that broke the back of GM Dave Littlefield’s era in Pittsburgh. 
  • 2008 - Jason Bay and Josh Wilson were traded to the Boston Red Sox in a three team deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andy LaRoche with Bryan Morris to the Pirates from LA, with Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen coming to the Bucs from Beantown. 
Jason Bay 2007 Upper Deck Artifacts series
  • 2010 - A lot of dealing: RHP James McDonald was traded to Pittsburgh with OF Andrew Lambo by the LA Dodgers for RHP Octavio Dotel and cash. The Bucs also flipped LHP Javier Lopez to the Giants for RHP Joe Martinez and OF Joe Bowker. In a housecleaning/change of scenery deal, SS Bobby Crosby, RHP D.J. Carrasco and RF Ryan Church were sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash, C Chris Snyder and SS Pedro Ciriaco. 
  • 2011 - OF Ryan Ludwick was sent to the Pirates by San Diego for cash. He hit .232 with two homers during the stretch run and then signed with the Reds in the off season. 
  • 2012 - AJ Burnett held the Cubs hitless through 7-2/3 innings before giving up his only knock, a single to right by Adrian Cardenas. The Bucs won 5-0 at Wrigley. Burnett pitched a complete game while Neil Walker had all five RBI. 
  • 2012 - 1B Gaby Sanchez and RHP Kyle Kaminska went from the Marlins to the Pirates for OF Gorkys Hernandez and 2013’s sandwich compensation draft pick five minutes before the deadline expired. Before that trade, the Bucs dealt 3B Casey McGehee to the Yankees for RHP Chad Qualls.
  • 2013 - The Pirates took their fourth straight game of the series over St. Louis with a 5-4 win at PNC Park. With Card ace Adam Wainwright on the hill, Pittsburgh rallied three times from early deficits to tie the game 4-4 in the fifth. The score stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth. Neil Walker opened with a single and tagged to second after Pedro Alvarez’s drive to left died in the corner for the second out. Russell Martin turned on a slider and lined it into short left center for the game winner. The Pirate bullpen tossed five scoreless innings in the victory, with Tony Watson getting the win and Mark Melancon earning the save.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bucs Lose Ugly Finale 7-5

The Bucs got things started against Tim Lincecum with an out, when El Coffee dropped a soft single into right. He stole second, but Cutch went down swinging at 3-2 slider in the dirt; Polanco went down trying to get into third on a bang-bang play that was maybe challengeable, but Clint decided to keep that card in his pocket.

The Giants, who have been waiting for an offense all month, finally put together an inning, a far too typical one for Charlie Morton. With an out, a single, followed by an infield knock followed by a walk jammed the sacks. Another infield bleeder went for a hit, another walk and a flare single made it 3-0 just like that. Then Charlie got a punch out and a bouncer; hopefully, his traditional big inning is out of his system now.

The Bucs cut into it a bit when The Kid opened the second with a double and Ike drew a pesky, eight pitch walk. A wild pitch and sac fly by Travis Snider plated a run, but Jordy went down on a slider in the dirt and Chris Stewart grounded out, so the Bucs got something and left something. Charlie worked a 1-2-3 frame.

Lincecum tossed Morton nothing but fastballs to open the third; four missed the dish for a walk. Josh got his cape tugged on and drove a slider into the left center stands, and we had a tie ball game. The next three Bucs went down routinely. The G-Men had an answer. Pablo Sandovar singled and Michael Morse dropped a bloop just over Walker. An out later, Gregor Blanco got plunked, and a Joe Susak single gave the Giants the lead at 4-3. Fortunately, Lincecum wanted to add on, but instead bounced one to Josh for an inning ending 5-4-3 DP.

With an out in the fourth, Travis singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Jordy got ahead 2-0, was served a heater and dropped it into the left field stands to make it 5-4 Buccos. Stew walked, and that did in Lincecum; Juan Gutierrez climbed the hill and got out without any further damage. San Fran kept the pressure on. Hunter Pence singled and stole second (on a pitchout!), then Brandon Crawford walked. Charlie dodged the bullet, sandwiching a pop between a pair of liners.

The fifth was uneventful. The Pirates went down in order, and the Giants made just a little noise with a one-out single and wild pitch that led to nothing.

In the sixth, Gaby walked and Travis reached when Crawford misplayed the throw on a force attempt. Jean Machi came on, and Jordy bunted them over, followed by a Stew walk that became a DP. Snider wandered toward third, perhaps thinking the bases were loaded rather than second and third, Machi threw to get Travis tagged in a short rundown while Gaby broke home, and he was caught; ya had to be there. If the Bucs could have stayed put, they would have had the bases loaded with an out for Pedro. The only good news was that Jared Hughes came on and tossed a clean frame.

The Bucs went down in order in the seventh. Justin Wilson took the hill. After an out, he gave up a walk, a bloop single and a ground ball knock that tied the game. They quickly took the lead when Stew let a pitch get through him, and the short passed ball  plated another run.  There was a play at the plate, but Stewart tossed the ball past Justin and it rolled to second. Wilson got a K and grounder to finish off the frame, but between soft hits, walks and give-aways, Pittsburgh has to rally again instead of sitting on a lead.

Sergio Romo took the ball in the eighth. He lost Gaby after being up 0-2 with two away, but it didn't hurt as Snider flew out. Jeanmar Gomez grabbed the horsehide. He walked Crawford with an out, and Buster Posey reached when The Kid mishandled his grounder. Kung Fu Panda nine-ironed a shoe-top change up softly into right, and the Giants had an insurance run. Ernesto Frieri got the call after that. he got Juan Perez on a pop after a foul-fest and whiffed Panik.

Santiago Casilla came in for the close. Stew singled with an out, but Pedro flew out to left and Josh went down swinging.

Well, simple enough. Morton continues to be the poster child for inconsistency, and it was contagious today. The Giants got a dozen hits, mostly of the soft variety, but they were due to catch a couple of breaks. Add in five walks, two wild pitches, a hit batter, two unearned runs and a base running display that would drive a little league coach to the nearest tavern (can't say that we've ever seen someone walk into a DP), and you have yourself an ugly little loss. Well, 3-3 on the trip with a four-game set to go in Arizona.

Jeff Locke opens the D-Back series against Josh Collmenter tomorrow night.
  • Ken Rosenthal says the Bucs are in on Ian Kennedy, but it's not a given that he's available.
  • Josh Harrison has hit a home run out of the leadoff spot in four straight games, tying Barry Bonds (1987) for the Pirate franchise record.
  • The Pirates have yet to claim a road sweep.
  • Jose Tabata was back in Indy's lineup, so his scratch last night had nothing to do with any personnel movement.

Morton v Lincecum, Lineup, No Trade News Yet, Hot Race, More Josh...

Charlie Morton (5-10, 3.40) and Tim Lincecum (9-7, 3.96) close out the series.

Charlie has gone 0-3 on the road in his past five starts and again suffered from big inning syndrome against the Rox in his last outing. Morton has all the pieces; someday he connects the dots, but is still looking for consistency. But he's had luck against the Giants. He's 3-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 10 career starts against the G-Men. He was strong earlier in the year, going eight frames in a walk-off 2-1 win at PNC in May.

Tim Lincecum has sort of reinvented himself. Faced with diminished fastball velocity (89.8 per MPH per Fangraphs) he's had to become more of a pitcher. He still uses a fastball-changeup-slider toolkit, but depends less on the heat and move on the movement. Lincecum averages 8+ K per nine and has a 48% ground ball rate, and that's not a bad combo. This isn't to suggest he's nearly back to his 2008-09 form, but he is competitive again.

Oddly, he's only faced the Pirates eight times and hasn't fared very well, going 2-4 with a 4.86 ERA, although he has piled up 58 strikeouts in 46-1/3 IP.

The lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Greg Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Ike Davis 1B, Travis Snider LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Chris Stewart C and Morton P. Pedro is down again as Clint plays the hot sticks, and Stew is giving Russ his day-following-night game blow.

The get-away game starts at 3:45 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • The Pirates, Brewers and Cards all have 49 losses. Pittsburgh is one game behind Milwaukee in the NL Central race, and now holds the second wildcard spot, 1/2 game ahead of St. Louis and 1/2 game behind Atlanta.The Pirates were nine games out on May 17th.
  • Since he started getting regular time back on May 13th, Josh Harrison is hitting .303 with 15 doubles, seven home runs, 31 RBI and 11 stolen bases while committing just three errors in 174 total chances in 25 appearances at third base, 19 in left field, 19 in right field and 13 at second base.
  • Home field disadvantage: With their loss last night, the Giants have lost eight of their last nine series at AT&T Park.
  • The Pirates are a season-high eight games over .500.

7/30: Happy B-Day Clint, Manager-Go-Round, Johnny Rizzo, Playing Long Ball, Jack Wilson, Bautista Returns, Josh Arrives, Redbird Sweep & More..

Happy B-Day Clint, Manager-Go-Round, Johnny Rizzo, Playing Long Ball, Jack Wilson, Bautista Returns, Josh Arrives, Redbird Sweep & More...
  • 1870 - C/1B Bill Merritt was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. The back up played for the Pirates from 1894-97, with a brief stop in Cincinnati. He hit .280 with Pittsburgh. 
  • 1886 - Enjoying an off day between games against the Metropolitans in New York, Allegheny pitcher Gentleman Jim Galvin decided to take in the NY Giants-St. Louis match at the Polo Grounds, and ended up with the best seat in the house. Still steaming over some verbal blasts unleashed during yesterday’s game, ump John Gaffney demanded a pre-game apology from the Giants. With none forthcoming, he stormed of the grounds, and Pud was pulled from the stands to ump. He must have done OK; the Giants edged the Maroons 2-1 and he escaped in one piece. 
Pud Galvin Old Judge Cigarettes 1887
  • 1890 - OF Casey Stengel was born in Kansas City, Missouri. The old Perfesser spent 1918-19 as a Pirate, witha .280 BA, and performed his famous “bird in the hat” stunt as a Bucco. 
  • 1891 - The Pirates got off to a 31–47 start on the heels of a 23–113 season, demoted captain/manager Ned Hanlon (who had left the team in 1890 for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the upstart Players' League before rejoining Allegheny after that league folded) and hired Bill McGunnigle as skipper. McGunnigle managed the club to a modest 24–33 record over the remainder of the year. He was replaced by Tom Burns, who didn’t make it through the 1892 season before losing his job to Al Buckenberger. 
  • 1905 - C Hal Finney was born in Lafayette, Alabama. He was a reserve that played for the Bucs from 1931-34 & 1936, spending his whole MLB career in Pittsburgh and finishing with a .203 BA. 
  • 1909 - The Bucs ended NY Giant’s Christy Mathewson’s 13 game winning streak by a 3-1 score at Forbes Field. Tommy Leach doubled in Fred Clarke and Alan Storke, and was chased home by Dots Miller in the first. That’s all the support Vic Willis would need, scattering nine hits for the complete game win. 
  • 1912 - OF Johnny Rizzo was born in Houston. He burst on the scene in 1938, hitting .301 with 23 HR and 111 RBI as a rookie; his HR mark for a first year Pirate stood until Jason Bay bettered it in 2006. He cooled off after that red hot start, and early in 1940 was traded for Vince DiMaggio after putting up a line of .283 with 29 HR and 168 RBI in Pittsburgh.  
Johnny Rizzo 1939 Play Ball series
  • 1922 - Max Carey went deep twice as the Pirates beat the Giants 7-0 at the Polo Grounds. Carey hit a two-run shot in the seventh inning and then connected for another two-run blast as part of Pittsburgh’s 13-hit attack. Johnny Morrison went the distance for the Pirates, allowing seven hits in the shutout.
  • 1948 - Pittsburgh unleashed a four homer barrage against Brooklyn to take a 10-5 win at Ebbet’s Field. Wally Westlake hit for the cycle, while Max West, Monty Basqall and Clyde Kluttz homered to chase Dodger workhorse Ralph Branca. Bob Chesnes went all the way for the win.
  • 1956 - Sports Illustrated wrote that “Bing Crosby, one of the 11-man syndicate that made the winning $5,500,000 bid for the Detroit Tigers, is also 16% owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Crosby could own an interest in only one club at a time, the Groaner said he would keep the Pirates.”
  • 1957 - Clint Hurdle was born in Big Rapids, Michigan. After a 10 year stint as a player and then managing the Colorado Rockies from 2002–2009 with a World Series appearance, Hurdle took over the Pirate reins in 2011, replacing John Russell. He broke the Pirate 20-year losing season streak in 2013 when he guided the club to 94 wins and the playoffs.
  • 1962 - In the second All-Star game of the year, this one played at Wrigley Field, the AL bashed the NL 9-4. Dick Groat went 2-for-3 and was HBP while driving home two runs. Roberto Clemente went 0-for-2 and Bill Mazeroski 0-for-1.
Dick Groat 1952 Topps series
  • 1987 - The Pirates traded RHP Don Robinson to the Giants for minor league catcher Mackey Sasser and cash. Robinson had some nice years remaining, jumping from the pen to the Giants rotation, while Sasser stayed in Pittsburgh for a season before moving along to the Mets, where he had a long run as the backup catcher. 
  • 2000 - The Bucs got SS Jack Wilson from the Cards in exchange for LHP Jason Christiansen. Wilson was the starter at short when healthy from 2001 until he was traded in 2009, and won a Gold Glove and All-Star berth in 2004. 
  • 2001 - The Bucs sent RHP Jason Schmidt and OF John Vander Wal to the Giants for OF Armando Rios and RHP Ryan Vogelsong. Schmidt went 7-1 the rest of the year for SF and then signed a big four-year contract. Vogelsong underwent Tommy John surgery two months later.
  • 2002 - Pittsburgh snapped a six game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park. The Bucs broke open a pitching duel between Kris Benson and the Rox’s Denny Neagle in the eighth, scoring three times with two outs. The rally was keyed by Adam Hyzdu’s two-run double. Mike Williams earned the save of Benson’s win. 
  • 2004: The Pirates traded RHP Kris Benson and IF Jeff Keppinger to the Mets for 3B Jose Bautista (who they had lost in the 2003 Rule 5 draft), IF Ty Wiggington and RHP Matt Peterson. Bautista became the tenth major leaguer to play for four teams in a season, having been on the rosters of Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Kansas City. In fact, he was actually on five teams, as he was acquired by the Mets from the Royals but sent to Pittsburgh the same day. 
Jose Bautista 2005 Bowman Draft series
  • 2006 - Pittsburgh concluded a five game winning streak by taking a 2-1, 10 inning victory from the SF Giants at PNC Park. Jose Castillo’s leadoff homer in the ninth forced the game into extras, and Jose Hernandez’s single in the 10th scored Jack Wilson with the tie breaker. Both starters, Zach Duke and Matt Morris, put up zeroes but were gone before the seventh was done, and it took 11 more pitchers to finish up what they had begun. 
  • 2009 - The Pirates shipped lefties Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs in exchange for IF Josh Harrison and RHPs Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio. 
  • 2011 - The Pirates traded minor league 1B Aaron Baker to the Orioles for 1B Derrek Lee, the first time they had been buyers at the trade deadline since dealing for SS Shawon Dunston in 1997. 
  • 2012 - In a trade of 2006 first rounders, Pittsburgh sent RHP Brad Lincoln to Toronto for OF Travis Snider. 
  • 2013 - The Pirates swept a doubleheader from the Cards by 2-1 and 6-0 scores at PNC Park to vault over them into first place in the NL Central. The opener went 11 innings, with the winning run scoring after Alex Presley’s apparent DP ball deflected off pitcher Kevin Siegrist’s glove and into left to plate Russ Martin. Vin Mazzaro got the win. The key blow in the nitecap was Andrew McCutchen’s two-run homer that bounced off Matt Holliday’s glove and into the second row of seats in left. Rookie Brandon Cumpton went seven frames for the win, tossing three hit ball. C Tony Sanchez took his MLB bow behind the dish and became one of seven Pirates to call a shutout in his first game; the last was Jason Kendall in 1996.

Frankie's 11 K & Two Bucco Long Balls Add Up To 3-1 Win

Geez, that was quick. Josh spanked a 3-2 fastball to the opposite field and over the wall to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead over Tim Hudson and the Giants. The Kid singled two outs later, but that was it. Francisco Liriano gave up a one-out double to Gregor Blanco, but shut the door the rest of the frame.

In the second, Ike dribbled a single up the left side and trotted home after Travis Snider stayed back on an inside slider and pounded it over the RF fence to make it 3-0. Like last inning, the Bucs got a guy aboard with two outs when Josh walked, but he was left aboard. Michael Morse cut into lead in a hurry when he drilled a slider into the stands; it withstood a review, bouncing back into the field off a fan. Frankie regained his focus quickly and whiffed the next three Giants. Both pitchers worked a clean third frame.

Pittsburgh threatened to add in the fourth when Jordy tripled with two down. Francisco gave it a shot, hitting a ball on the nose, but the liner was snared by second baseman Dan Uggla to strand Mercer. Buster Posey opened with a soft shot to right for a single. Frankie came back with a K and two bouncers; his slider is nasty tonight, and he has rung up six whiffs already.

Hudson spun a 1-2-3 fifth and so did Liriano, with another two K. The Kid opened the sixth with a single, and a roller moved him up a base. Hudson finished strong, though, whiffing Ike and Travis. With two gone, Posey was rewarded for a long at-bat with a single up the middle, and he remained at first.Hudson had an easy seventh; he's shown all his pitches, and the splitter is giving the Buc hitters fits. With one gone, Andrew Susak drew a walk, but another K and a bouncer ended the frame. Both guys are well over 100 pitches, so it's time for the pens to finish up.

Jean Machi came in to pitch the eighth for the G-Men. Cutch cranked a one-out double to left center, and stole third with two gone. Russ couldn't bring him home, grounding out for the fourth time on the night. Tony Watson got the call for the Pirates and Michael Martinez moved into left for Travis. Joaquin Arias started the G-Men up with a single to center. No sweat; a fly to left and a 4-6-3 DP cleaned everything up nicely.

Lefty Jeremy Affelt took the ball in the ninth. The Bucs batted Brent Morel and Gaby for Ike and Tony with no luck. Jordy drew a walk, but Martinez bounced out. Mark the Shark is due to face the heart of the Giant order. Posey greeted him with his third hit - the Giants only have five - a grounder up the middle on an 0-2 cutter. Pablo Sandoval went the other way with a cutter, but El Coffee had it measured for the first out. Morse went down swinging at a curve in the dirt. Travis Ishikawi grabbed a bat as Posey went to second without a throw on defensive indifference. He stayed there as Ishikawi went down on another curve in the dirt. For Liriano it was just win #3; for Melancon, it was save #20.

Well, Pirate pitching has been all that in this series so far against the offensively challenged Giants; Vanimal and Frankie served up gems. The Bucs are just a game back in the NL Central now and looking for a get-away day sweep tomorrow (OK, today). Trade talk is great, but piling up some wins is better. And if Liriano is back, those wins will be a lot easier to come by.

Charlie Morton closes the series against Tim Lincecum tomorrow afternoon.
  • John Peralto of the Beaver County Times believes the Pirates and Red Sox could be working on a "blockbuster" deal involving several players. Jon Lester, btw, was scratched from his Wednesday start, so it will all go down soon to whichever club (and there still are a handful) wins the bidding war.
  • Tonight was Francisco Liriano's tenth career 10+ strikeout game. He had 11 against the Giants.
  • Cutch's double broke an 0-for-14 hitless streak, which was his longest of the year. McCutchen also joined Barry Bonds as the only players in Pirate history with four seasons of 30+ 2B, 5+ 3B, 15+ HR, & 15+ SB.
  • The Bucs are 17-for-17 when scoring in the first frame, tying a team record that goes back to 1928.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review said Starling Marte is definitely not coming off the DL tomorrow, and may play some rehab games before returning. Jose Tabata was removed from the Indy lineup tonight, so the two items may be related. There's also the possibility that he may be involved in a trade, so we'll see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Liriano v Hudson, Lineup (no Pedro), Rumors Flyin', Starling, Josh...

Francisco Liriano (2-7, 4.18) takes the bump opposite Tim Hudson (8-7, 2.65) tonight.

Frankie has made three starts since being returning from the DL and has gone 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA while looking pretty sharp in his last couple of outings. The Bucs generally don't score a lot for him; he's gotten more than two runs of support when he has been on the mound in just three of his first 17 starts

First the good news: Liriano has posted a 3.28 ERA with a .191 opponent BA in his seven starts on the road this season. The bad news: He's 1-1 but with a 7.20 ERA in two career starts against the G-Men, with both games last season.

Hudson has been on a roller coaster ride. He was arguably the ace of the Giant staff for April and May, leveled off in June and then went 0-4 with a 6.07 ERA in his final five starts before the All-Star break. Since the break, he's been on fire again, giving up one earned run in his two post-ASG outings.

The 16 year vet - he just turned 39 - has seen the Bucs plenty of times. He's 6-7 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.136 WHIP against Pittsburgh in 14 career starts.

It should be interesting, as both guys have been strong since the All-Star break and both are keys to their club's playoff chances.

The lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Ike Davis 1B, Travis Snider LF, Jordy mercer SS and Liriano P. No Pedro again, but the guys that are penciled in have all had hot hands recently, so...

The game begins at 10:15 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

  • Jon Heyman of Baseball Insider claims that the Pirates are among the top contenders in the Jon Lester sweepstakes; OF Josh Bell seems to be the key Pirate prospect involved. As you can imagine, lots of chatter on the web, with the real story to be told in the next 48 hours...
  • Chris Cotilla of Major League Dish writes that "Pittsburgh has been especially aggressive in the bullpen market, and is definitely a destination to watch on (Joaquin) Benoit."
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN posted "Sources say talks between the Pirates and Phillies about an A.J. Burnett reunion in Pittsburgh are all but dead, largely because the Pirates have been unable to get assurances that Burnett won't pick up his player option for next season."
  • Dan Zangrilli of The Fan 93.7 also reports that Tampa Bay has scouts in Altoona for a second night to look at prospects for both the Curve and Detroit's farm club, Erie. Shi Davidi of the Blue Jays adds that nine scouts are watching the Indy-Buffalo (Toronto) game. So we know that the scouts are scouting and the GM's are playing chess, and that's about all.
  • Starling Marte can come off the DL tomorrow; whether he's healthy enough to isn't certain yet.
  • Josh Harrison has gone 6-for-9 with a double, two home runs, three RBI, four runs scored and two stolen bases in the last two games.
  • Pirate bench coach Jeff Banister, Clint Hurdle's right hand man, will manage the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League after the season.
  • Ex-Bucs: 1B Travis Ishikawa was called up by the Giants.

7/29: Cutty, Hans, Frank Gustine, Gene Clines, Brian Giles, Steady Freddy & More...

Cutty, Hans, Frank Gustine, Gene Clines, Brian Giles, Steady Freddy & More...
  • 1886 - 2B George Cutshaw was born in Wilmington, Illinois. He came to the Bucs in exchange for Burleigh Grimes, and manned second base for four seasons (1918-21). Cutty hit .275 as a Pirate. His best year was his last, when he hit .340. But he was injured in August, and the 35 year old was sold to Detroit, where he spent the last two years of his career. 
George Cutshaw - Image from Out Of The Park
  • 1915 - Honus Wagner hit a grand slam in the eighth inning off Brooklyn Dodger Ed Pfeffer (It was “a dandy drive” per the Pittsburg Press) during Pittsburgh’s 8-2 victory at Forbes Field. The inside-the-park round tripper made the 41-year old infielder the second oldest player ever to hit a homer with the bases full, a record set by 42-year old Cap Anson in 1894. (The mark that stood until 1985 when 44-year old Tony Perez of the Reds claimed it.) Erving Kantlehner scattered nine hits while going the distance for the win, helped by an unassisted DP when RF Bill Hinchman snared a line drive and continued on to to first base to double off Pfeffer. 
  • 1940 - The Bucs scored six times in their final at-bat, with the lead run thrown out at the plate as Frank Gustine tried to score from first on Vince DiMaggio’s hit. It wasn’t enough; the Dodgers pushed across a two-out run in the bottom half as the Pirates went down 7-6 at Ebbets Field. The game was marked by a ninth inning brawl started when Brooklyn C Babe Phelps spiked P Mace Brown at a play at first. Manager Frankie Frisch was fined $100 and ejected, and three of his players were hit with $25 fines. 
  • 1947 - Frank Gustine went 4-for-5 against the Boston Braves to lead Pittsburgh to a 6-5 win at Forbes Field. It ran his hitting streak to 21 games before it was snapped the next day. 
  • 1968 - RHP Mike Williams was born in Radford, Virginia. In six seasons (1998-2003), he went 15-23 and saved 140 games for Pittsburgh with a 3.78 ERA. His mark of 46 saves in 2002 is still a team standard, but fame is fleeting - he was out of baseball after 2003. 
  • 1971 - Gene Clines was the hero of the Bucs 8-5 win over Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. His three run homer was the big blow in a six-run sixth inning, and the CF went 4-for-4 with four RBI and a pair of runs. Bob Robertson and Willie Stargell also went yard in the win that was cemented by 5-2/3 scoreless frames tossed by the bullpen. 
Gene Clines 1974 Topps series
  • 2000 - Brian Giles went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles while Warren Morris and Emil Brown homered as the Bucs ran up a 10-2 count against the San Diego Padres at TRS. Francisco Cordova got the win as three Buc pitchers scattered six hits in front of a Saturday night crowd of 30,118. 
  • 2009 - 2B Freddy Sanchez was traded to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Tim Alderson. The Bucs also traded RHP Ian Snell and SS Jack Wilson to the Mariners for RHP Aaron Pribanic, RHP Brett Lorin, 1B Nathan Adcock, SS Ronny Cedeno and 1B Jeff Clement.

Bucs Ride Big First Inning, Worley's Arm To 5-0 Win

Pretty good start for the Bucs. Josh drew a five pitch walk off Madison Bumgarner, and Jordy singled him up a station. Cutch took a ball four cuvre on a 3-2 count to load the sacks, and Gaby pounded a ball to deep center; the park held it, but the sac fly made it 1-0. Jordy tagged to third, and The Kid singled him home. Then the Bucs got a break. Bumgarner had Cutch picked off second, but skipped the ball into center to put Pirates on the corners.

Russ rolled a ball up the middle, scoring Cutch and chasing Jordy to third. El Coffee hit a sac fly to right; the throw came home and got through Buster Posey, moving Russ to second. Brent Morel couldn't bring him home, bouncing out to first, but it's 4-0 and Bumgarner is already at 42 pitches. Vanimal got three grounders for an easy start.

After an out in the second, Josh fell behind 0-2, worked the count to 2-2 and then launched a slider into the seats to make it 5-0. Jordy followed with his second line knock, but Cutch and Gaby were retired routinely. Two grounders and a K tucked the Giants away. The third was a clean frame for both hurlers, and all the action for the clubs in the fourth was a two out single by Polanco.

Yusmeiro Petit took the bump in the fifth and put the Bucs down in order. Pedro Sandoval collected the Giants first hit after Worley had cut down 12 G-Men in row, a ground ball into right. Vanimal came right back and got a 6-4-3 DP from Michael Morse and a fly to end the inning quietly.

The Pirates went down without a peep in the sixth. Gregory Blanco bled a single along the left side, but was mowed down trying to steal an out later, and after a third out fly Worley has still faced the minimum 18 batters through six and is sitting petty at 58 pitches. Juan Gutierrez took the bump in the seventh and worked a quiet frame; the Pirates have had 10 in a row retired. Vanimal struggled, if that's the word, a little in the Giant half. Hunter Pence lined out and Joe Spanik drew a walk after a long at-bat on a call that could have gone either way. But he stayed at the minimum by getting Posey to hit into a 4-6-3 DP, and it's all roses.

Pittsburgh went down in order in the eighth. Kung Fu Panda opened with a single up the middle. Two routine outs later, Worley fell behind Blanco 3-1 and tossed what would have been ball four, but the catcher helped by rolling over on the outside heater and bouncing it to Walker, so no Giant has reached second yet tonight.

Russ bounced out to open the ninth, and the Giants then waved in Javier Lopez to face Polanco. El Coffee foiled the plot by breaking the Pirates' 14-out string with an infield single to second. Morel bounced out, moving Polanco to second, not that it helped as Vanimal whiffed.

But he's paid to pitch, and he's earned that paycheck tonight. After an out in the ninth, Andrew Susak gave him a nine-pitch workout before lifting a routine fly to left. pence, a thorn in the Bucs side ever since his Astro days, lined a triple to right, but Vanimal retired Panik on a grounder to earn the complete game, shutout win.

Well, pitching wins games, and a big fat zero is about as good as it gets. Worley faced two batters over the minimum and allowed one runner beyond first, giving up four hits, a walk and whiffing a trio. With Cole due back, Worley has another start to show he can be consistent and perhaps bump Edinson Volquez, with his swing-and-miss stuff, to the pen. But the Bucs have 10 days or so to consider that next move.

While it's obvious that they could use a RH reliever to help in the late innings, it appears more and more that if they go after a starter, it should be a top-end guy; the back end of the rotation is pretty solid. We'll see if Neal Huntington and the brass agree.

Tim Hudson and Francisco Liriano mix it up tomorrow night.
  • Vance Worley picked up his first career shutout. He had one complete game before tonight, tossed in 2011 when he was with the Phillies, also against the Giants. It was a three-hitter, and he gave up a pair of runs. That one took him 114 pitches; tonight's gem used up just 100. It was Pittsburgh's first complete game shutout since AJ Burnett tossed a one-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley on July 31, 2012.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe thinks the Bucs are in the mix for Jon Lester.
  • Jon Morosi tweets that the Pirates are kicking the tires of the Phils' Antonio Bastardo and Marlon Byrd.
  • Pittsburgh is two games back in the NL Central and 1/2 game away from a second wild-card spot.
  • The Bucs are 16-for-16 this year when scoring in the first inning.
  • Gerrit Cole tossed five shutout frames for Indy in his rehab start tonight. He wasn't exactly sharp, though, giving up five hits and three walks, but he did K seven, throwing 81 pitches.
  • Clint Barmes took BP and some grounders today, so he's slowly getting back into the swing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Worley v Bumgarner, Lineup (Pedro Out), LaTroy, Travis, Stop Thief! & Top Guns...

Vance Worley (3-1, 3.10) gets the call against yet another lefty, Madison Bumgarner (12-7, 3.19).

Worley has come back to earth this month, posting a record of 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA after going 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in June. He has one more slated start after this before Gerrit Cole returns. Vanimal is 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA in three career starts against the G-Men, bute hasn't seen them since 2012.

Bumgarner and the Giants have had their problems at home. He's gone 4-5 with a 5.22 ERA in 10 home starts with at least four earned runs surrendered in seven of them. The team has dropped 19 of their last 25 at AT&T Park; they're 28-28 overall by the Bay. Bumgarner is 1-2 in three career starts against the Pirates but has a 1.71 ERA and .211 Bucco BA in those matchups with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings.

He will, btw, be the eighth lefty in the past 10 games to start against Pittsburgh. After tonight, the Pirates return to looking at righties with Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum next up for San Francisco.

The Giants are coming off a broom job by the Dodgers and have dropped four in a row. Of course, facing Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke and Hyun-Jin Ryu in a row will do that to a team; they hit .180 against that foursome. Still, San Francisco squandered what was once a runaway in the NL West, going 10-16 in June and 11-12 so far in July. They're now 1-1/2 games behind LA.

The Giants hold the last wild card spot; they're 1-1/2 games ahead of the Bucs, so this series has implications for October, too.

The lineup: Josh Harrison LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Russ martin C, Gregory Polanco RF, Brent Morel 3B and Worley P. El Coffee had some nice swings against a a couple of lefties yesterday, including a homer. Alvarez gets a seat again.

The game starts at 10:15 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan for the night owl club.
  • Tom Harding, the beat man for the Rockies, posted that the Pirates have shown some interest in 41 year old LaTroy Hawkins.
  • Travis Snider leads all MLB players with 12 pinch hits this season and the Pirates lead all big league teams with 42 pinch hits while ranking second with five home runs and tied for first with 27 RBI. The Bucs had seven pinch-hit homers a year ago.
  • Pittsburgh pitchers have caught 11 runners attempting to steal this season, tied with San Francisco for the most among all major league teams. The Pirates' 33 caught stealings is tops among NL teams; the Tigers lead the majors with 34.
  • Gerrit Cole will make a rehab start tonight for Indy. His goal is 80-85 pitches, with one rehab start to follow to get him up to 100 pitches. That schedule would have him return for Thursday, August 7th against the Marlins, with the Padres due the next day.
  • The Bucs had seven of's Top 100 Prospects. The RHP Tyler Glasnow was #20, RHP Jameson Taillon #32, OF Josh Bell #33, OF Austin Meadows #50, RHP Nick Kingham #66th, SS Alen Hanson #80 and C Reese McGuire #81. The Top 20 in the Pirate system per are linked here.
  • Ex-Bucs: The Rays DFA'ed LHP Eric Bedard.

Deadline Dealing: 2011-13

The deadline is right around the corner, dropping at 4PM on Thursday, and this down-to-the-wire dealing stuff is getting to be old hat now; this will be the fourth year in a row that the Bucs have been active acquiring players instead of shedding them.

The Pirates joined the buyers mart in 2011, the first year the Pirates were contenders into the dog days. For the first time since 1997, when the "Freak Show" added Shawon Dunston to the roster, the Bucs were adding to the roster.

The Bucs had Lyle Overbay at first base (.227) and shored up that spot by bringing in Derrek Lee, 35, from Baltimore for minor league 1B Aaron Baker, 24. Lee hit .398 with seven homers and 18 RBI in 28 games, but was on the DL with a bum wrist while the Pirates slowly swirled around the NL drain. Lee was a strong pick-up for virtually free who retired after the season while Baker never got above AA for Baltimore and was released from the Bird's system this year.

The other addition was OF'er Ryan Ludwick, who was bought from the Padres to add a little muscle to the bench and get some platoon work with Garrett Jones, who was primarily a RF that season. He didn't do much here, hitting .232 with two HR and 11 RBI in 38 games. He left as a free agent to sign with the Reds. Ludwick had a strong 2012 season for Cincy and has been spotty since.

The Bucs did pretty well for themselves in 2011; they weren't really serious contenders yet, brought in a couple of vets and plugged a big hole with Lee without giving up any major league assets.

In 2012, it was a little more of the same; a strong early push with a huge fade at the end. The front office realized that it was still a mirage and went a slightly different route, bringing in future pieces. The big deal, off course, was for 33 year old Wandy Rodriguez. The Bucs sent the Astros Colton Cain, Rudy Owens and Robbie Grossman, with Grossman being the key piece.

Wandy pitched as advertised, going 5-6 with a 3.72 ERA. But injuries derailed him in Pittsburgh. A guy that was hoped to be an inning-eater in Pittsburgh ended up making just 31 starts with 11 wins for the Pirates until his release with a bum knee earlier this year.

Owens has the look of a Quad A guy, Cain is still young at 23 and toiling in AA, and Grossman has spent part of two season with the 'Stros, hitting .240.

They also swapped out Brad Lincoln for Travis Snider. Both were first rounders that never quite lived up to the hype. Neither guy has put up any worthwhile numbers, but at this point in time, Snider is trending up as a fourth outfielder (.256, 6 HR) while Bad Brad is taking his lumps in the Philly system, being demoted from the big club and sent to AAA, not a good sign for a 29 year old reliever.

Pittsburgh also brought in Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins for Gorkys Hernandez, a gifted fielder but weak hitter, and a compensation pick. Gaby has turned into a useful platoon player, hitting .289 against LHP while a Pirate and playing a steady first base. Gorkys is chasing baseballs in Venezuela now, so the comp pick will prove to be the key element of the deal.

In more minor deals, the Pirates deepened the pen by bringing in Chad Qualls for Casey McGehee, who had in effect lost his job when Gaby joined the club, and Hisonari Takahashi was claimed off waivers. Qualls and McGehee are having rebound years while Takahashi is pitching in Japan; none offered more than depth.

Again, the Bucs did OK. They didn't get over the hump, and though the verdict has yet to be rendered because of the youth of the guys they traded, they got a couple of solid bench pieces in Travis and Gaby, though they struck out on Wandy, without losing anything but a little potential bench depth.

Last year was different. It wasn't all smoke and mirrors; the Bucs had a solid club in 2013 with excellent pitching, but needed an offensive bump. They struck two big deals, both in August, to strengthen the lineup.

The biggest difference maker was OF Marlon Byrd, and they paid pretty dearly his rental, sending the Mets RHP Vic Black and 2B Dilson Herrera. The Bucs also landed John Buck, an offensive-minded catcher, to serve as Russ Martin's caddy rather than untested Tony Sanchez. Byrd did all that for the Pirates in right field (.318, 3 HR, 17 RBI in 30 games), and was strong through the playoffs (.364, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 6 games). He left for the Phils after the season; seems like the Bucs already had another right fielder just about ready in Gregory Polanco. Buck was adequate (.333 in 24 at-bats), and he was allowed to go the free agent route too, not having the glove that the Bucs like behind the dish.  

Black has been up-and-down and has the arm to fill a spot in a MLB bullpen but Herrera, 20, was the prize for NY. The youngster represented the Bucs, along with Gregory Polanco, in the 2013 Futures Game. He's already the Mets #8 minor league prospect. Herrera is batting .345 at AA Binghamton, and while he's still working on improving his defense, he could be a starter in the show maybe as soon as 2016.

That's the first deadline deal where the Pirates had to send away a prospect with potential everyday MLB talent in Herrera; it shows the urgency that the FO felt to end the streak, break through to the playoffs and capitalize on all the feel good vibes the club was generating.

The other trade was to bring in Justin Morneau from the Twins to provide a glove and more consistent stick at first while foreshadowing the non-tendering of Garrett Jones. The cost wasn't very high as the Pirates sent Alex Presley and Duke Welker to the Twinkies. Morneau did OK, hitting .260 with a .370 OBP. But three RBI in 25 games from a middle-of-the-order position didn't cut it, and he was released at the end of the year, with Ike Davis eventually filling the first base spot.

Morneau has revived his career at Colorado, hitting .312 with 13 HR and 60 RBI, and the numbers aren't Coors Field phenomena; his home/road splits are not that wide. Could be that the Pirates missed the call on keeping him around for the short-term (The Rox gave him two guaranteed years at $11.75 total, with an option for $9M/$750 K buyout), but at age 33 and with his power numbers non-existent, it was a gamble they were understandably reluctant to make.

Presley is a bench outfielder, and Welker returned to the Bucs in exchange for Kris Johnson. Duke was released after TJ surgery, so again it was another deal of spare parts. They also added Kyle Farnsworth, who they signed to a minor league deal in August and brought up in September.

2014 showed that the higher your target, the more you're willing to give up. The Pirates got exactly the push they needed from Byrd, and to them, that was worth the price they paid.

Now it's time to get that push going for the stretch run. While the rumor mill has been dead, especially as team's approach the deadline wire, we'd expect the Bucs (as does everyone else) to look for a top end or mid-rotation starter; they have the back end covered. Likeliest is some bullpen reinforcement, especially seventh inning or later guys. And it's possible that they'd like to add another infield bench guy, one with a stick if the price is right. But they've been patient, as last year showed, and may wait out the market again.

7/28: Historic Rally, Gus For Max, Hot Streaks, ESPN Fireworks, Al McBean, A-Ram, Jeff Suppan & More

Historic Rally, Gus For Max, Hot Streaks, Al McBean, ESPN Fireworks, A-Ram, Jeff Suppan & More
  • 1932 - Pittsburgh swept a twin bill from the NY Giants‚ winning 10-7 and 9-1. Earl Grace had three hits and three RBI during the lidlifter to pace the Pirate attack. In the nitecap, Tony Piet smacked a grand slam and three-run homer to go along with two more hits for a seven RBI, three run day to plow the road for Heinie Meine. 
  • 1939 - The Pirates traded veteran 1B Gus Suhr to the Phillies for RHP Max Butcher. Suhr was nearing the end of his career (he was released after playing just 10 games in 1940, his last MLB season), but Butcher became a mainstay for the Bucs, pitching for seven seasons, making 154 starts and winning 67 games in Pittsburgh. 
  • 1940 - The Pirates won their eighth of nine games and fifth in a row after sweeping Boston at Braves Field by 5-2 and 7-3 scores. Maurice Van Robays was the hero of the opening match, homering and driving in three runs to give Dick Lanahan all the support he needed. The Bucs used a balanced attack to support Max Butcher’s four-hitter in the nitecap. 
Max Butcher 1940 Play Ball series
  • 1968 - Al McBean had one of those do-no-wrong Sundays. He gave up 13 hits to the Cards at Forbes Field, but still went the distance for a 7-1 win. The big blow? McBean’s grand slam in the fifth off Larry Jaster, coming with two down after Milt May was walked to get to Alvin. Donn Clendenon added a two run blast to the cause. 
  • 1971 - Luke Walker spun a four hit, complete game whitewash at Los Angeles in a 4-0 win at Dodger Stadium. Bob Robertson homered and had a sac fly to bring home two runs. 
  • 1996 - Orlando Merced hit two home runs and brought in four RBI while Al Martin and Mark Johnson had four hits each as the Bucs beat the Phillies 12-8 at TRS. Reliever John Ericks took home the win of the nationally televised ESPN Sunday Night Baseball match. It would be the last SNB appearance for the Bucs until 2014. 
  • 2000 - Aramis Ramirez drove in six runs with a pair of homers, Emil Brown went long and plated four more runners while John Vander Wal also went yard in a 16-5 romp over the San Diego Padres at TRS. A-Ram, Jason Kendall, Kevin Young and Vander Wal scored three times apiece. 
Aramis Ramirez 2000 Bowman series
  • 2000 - The Bucs sent OF Wil Cordero to the Indians for IF Enrique Wilson and OF prospect Alex Ramirez. Cordero played respectably through 2003, while Wilson was traded again in 2001 and Ramirez began a long career as a slugger in Japan after the 2000 season. 
  • 2001 - Pittsburgh became only the second team in NL history (the Cubs were the first in 1952) to win a game by scoring seven runs with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning. Brian Giles capped the scoring with a walk-off grand slam off Astros ace Billy Wagner to win the game 9-8. Pat Meares had hit a two-run shot earlier in the frame as seven straight Bucs reached base. The game was the opener of the first home day-night doubleheader in franchise history before a crowd of 32,977 at PNC Park. There was no drama in the nightcap as Houston rolled 12-3. 
  • 2003 - Jeff Suppan won his sixth consecutive start with a 3-0 decision over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, scattering seven hits. He was backed by Reggie Sanders’ homer and three hits from Randall Simon. Suppan was flipped to the Red Sox three days later as part of a deal for Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez. 
Jeff Suppan - uncredited Best Sports Photos
  • 2004 - In one of their more frustrating losses, the Bucs collected 11 hits but were shut out by the Braves 1-0 at PNC Park. Ollie Perez threw a five hitter with 10 K, but Chipper Jones’ fourth inning homer stood. John Smoltz came out of the bullpen to save the game for Russ Ortiz. 
  • 2012 - The Pirates won for the ninth time in 11 games, taking a 4-3 decision from the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Alex Presley and Neil Walker had solo shots, and Rod Barajas singled in Andrew McCutchen with the game winner with two out in the eighth. They remained two games back in the NL Central race.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

It Took Four Hours, But The Bucs Finally Overcame The Rox 7-5

Well, the Bucs didn't have to wait long for a hit today; Josh doubled to open the game against Franklin Morales. Gregory Polanco was called out on strikes, which had more to do with ump Tom Hallion's eye than Polanco, and Cutch walked. But Gaby and The Kid both lifted easy flies to allow Morales off the hook. Edinson Volquez walked Charlie Blackmon, but a quick 6-4-3 DP and another grounder closed the frame.

The Pirates woke up at the dish in the second. Jordy led off with a single, and an out later, Stew and Eddie walked; all Volquez really wanted to do was bunt. Josh singled in a run, and El Coffee took one the opposite way to the track for a sac fly. Cutch whiffed, but the Bucs finally put up a couple of points before the ninth while Morales is already at 60 pitches.

After two more Rox ground outs (one a bit of robbery by Pedro at third), Rosario drilled a fastball for a double and went to third on a wild pitch.  Brandon Barnes walked on a full count as Edinson's command this inning wasn't there. He hung a change to DJ LeMahieu, and the single halved the lead. Eddie tossed nothing but fastballs at Morales and got him on a come-backer. The first two innings have taken an hour to play.

Gaby opened the third with a single, and he went to second on Jordy's knock an out later. Morales stayed outside against Pedro and was rewarded when El Toro rolled over on a 3-2 slider and bounced into a 4-6-3 DP. After two outs, that third again proved elusive. Eddie K'ed Corey Dickerson, but the ball got past Stew and Dickerson reached first. Volquez closed it out on the second try with another grounder.

Stew began the fourth with a knock and was bunted to second. Josh flew out to the track, then Morales worked Polanco inside instead of out, and got him check swinging at a 3-2 fastball. The Pirates have had the leadoff hitter on and a runner at second with an out or less in every frame, but are an unsightly 1-for-8 with RISP in just four frames.

You knew it had to happen; with an out, Rosario rolled a ball to Pedro and he chucked it into the seats to put the catcher at second. They ruled it a single and error, but it was entirely on Alvarez, who again double pumped the throw. Brandon Barnes got a 3-2 fastball down the middle and drove it into the left field seats, and the Bucs were now in the hole 3-2. LeMahieu inside-outed a fastball and singled the opposite way. He was bunted to second. We're not exactly sure what the plan was with Blackmon; he got five change ups, the last two hung, and finally banged one for a double to make it 4-2 before Volquez got the last out. Eddie is already at 85 pitches and Morales at 88 - after four innings! And Colorado is 3-for-5 with RISP; that's the story line so far.

The Bucs got the leadoff man on again in the fifth when Cutch walked, and Gaby followed with another free pass to again put another man at second. After 99 pitches and just 12 outs recorded, Morales was sent to the showers and Chad Bettis came on. The Kid singled to load the bases. Jordy lined out to third, Cutch was doubled off - Arenado's catch carried him toward the sack - and Pedro grounded out. Two hard hit balls and three outs. With an out, Nolan Arenado walked on four pitches and Ben Paulsen doubled over third. Rosario was walked intentionally and that brought in Jared Hughes, who induced a 6-4-3 DP from Barnes.

Chris Stewart opened the sixth with a single, and here we go again...whoops, maybe not. Travis Snider grabbed a stick and launched a 3-2 slider into the stands, and we had a tie game. Josh followed with a ball that dropped in left, and Bettis was switched out for Tommy Kahnle. Josh stole second, overslid the bag, got in a rundown and Houdini-like, slithered into third. The play was reviewed on a Rox challenge, and the safe call was upheld. Polanco whiffed, chasing a fastball in the dirt. Cutch K'ed on a 3-2 count, looking for heat but swinging through a slider. Ike hit for Gaby and made it all better, turning on a 97 MPH fastball and drilling a double to right. Walker bounced out, but somehow the Bucs have the lead at 5-4.

Justin Wilson climbed the hill. He gave up a two-out single to Blackmon but escaped undamaged. The game has passed the three hour mark, with three frames left to go.

Matt Belisle came on in the seventh, and gave up a bloop hit to Pedro. He was off on a hit-and-run, but the Rox sniffed it out and called for a pitchout; El Toro saw it in time and manged to get back to first. Stew struck out looking on another missed call by Hallion, and Michael Martinez banged a liner, but right at LeMahieu. Martinez went to left, Josh to third and Pedro took a seat. Clint went out of the box to bring in Tony Watson, but it backfired as Arenado drove a ball out of the yard in straight center to tie it. Tony gave up a two out knock to Rosario, who hit a routine grounder but against the no-doubles D, and it bounced through, but Watson whiffed Culberson to stop the music.

Rex Brothers took the hill in the eighth. Bad choice for Walt Weiss; Josh and El Coffee hit back-to-back homers off him. And it could have been worse - Cutch grounded out softly, but Ike flew out to the track in left to the right of the 390' mark, and The Kid's slicing liner to right was pulled in on a diving web-gem catch by Carlos Gonzalez. Watson gave up an infield knock to LeMahieu. He went to second on a ground out, but forgot to buckle up his thinking cap and was cut down trying to steal third down by two. Another grounder ended the frame.

Brooks Brown worked the ninth. He got two quick outs, one an at 'em ball by Brent Morel, and then gave up back-to-back knocks to Stew and Martinez. But he got Josh to chase, and it was up to Mark the Shark to hold on to the lead. Nine pitches, nine strikes, a tapper to third and two K ended it.

The Bucs persevered through a four hour game that early on they looked like they were going to throw away. Even with seven runs, they stranded 12 and went 3-for-16 with RISP. But playing all nine innings (and getting into that Colorado pen) made the difference.

Sometimes attitude can carry you; there was a striking difference in how the Pirates hustled running out ground balls while the Rox mailed some in, and that attention to detail and professionalism can turn a inning around and maybe the game. You can debate Clint's on-field decisions, but there's not much question that he has his guys ready to play all day.

Vance Worley opens the Giant series against Madison Bumgarner tomorrow night.
  • Josh went 4-for-6 with two RBI, two runs scored, two stolen sacks and a strong day in field at both third and in left.
  • Travis Snider's homer was his fifth pinch hit bomb of his career and the second of the season.
  • Russ Martin and Chris Stewart have reached base safely 17 times in their last 21 plate appearances. Stew went 3-for-4 with a walk today, the first three-hit game of his career.
  • Clint Hurdle won his 300th game as Bucco skipper today.

Volquez v Morales, Lineup, Lefties, Bosox On the Radar, HoF

Edinson Volquez (8-7, 3.86) faces lefty Franklin Morales (5-5, 5.21) this afternoon.

Eddie wasn't very sharp in his last outing, a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers, but has won four of his last five starts and has been a pleasant if erratic surprise at the back end of the rotation.

He's had a rough time matching up against the Rox, going 3-8 with a 7.80 ERA in 13 career starts and has lost six straight outings dating back to 2012. He's gone 1-5 with an 8.45 ERA in eight career starts at Coors Field so Mile High baseball hasn't been to his liking. On the other hand, he's won his last three road starts, so something has to give.

Morales hasn't been anything special on the hill, losing a spot in the rotation and then reclaiming it by default when injuries decimated the Rox staff. But he's the third of four straight lefties the Bucs will face, and the Pirates have been having problems against southpaws of late.

The lineup: Josh Harrison LF, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Jordy Mercer SS, Pedro 3B, Chris Stewart C and Volquez P. Pedro's back, and the order is a little shaken up without Russ.

The game starts at 4:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • The Pirates are 9-9 against lefty starters. No wonder; they're hitting .238 with a .649 OPS against southpaw starters.
  • Gordon Edes of ESPN says the Pirates are checking out Boston relievers; the Bosox have a slew of them, and most are available. Rob Biertempfel of the Trib notes interest in Andrew Miller.
  • Congrats to this year's HoF Class, all no-brainers: Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas and Joe Torre.

7/27: Bill Takes Two, Buck, Full House Sweep, Larry Mac, Jay Bell, Turn The Clock Ahead, The Fort & More...

Bill Takes Two, Buck, Full House Sweep, Larry Mac, Jay Bell, Turn The Clock Ahead, The Fort & More...
  • 1908 - Honus Wagner and Chief Wilson led the Bucs to a 4-3 win over the NY Giants and Christy Mathewson at the Polo Grounds. The Flying Dutchman had a pair of doubles good for two runs and an RBI while Wilson had two knocks including a triple, scored once and drove in a pair. Nick Maddox got the win while Irv Young came on the get the last out in the ninth. 
  • 1927 - Vic Aldridge tossed a five hitter and the Bucs scored twice in the eighth to beat Dazzy Vance and the Brooklyn Robins‚ 2-1 at Forbes Field to take over undisputed possession of first place. Kiki Cuyler’s single scored Paul Waner, who had three hits on the day, and George Grantham for the win. 
  • 1932 - Bill Harris notched a pair of wins in a twinbill against the Giants at the Polo Grounds‚ tossing three innings in the opening 9-8 win followed by two perfect frames in a 4-2 nitecap victory. In the first game, Lloyd Waner had four knocks while Arky Vaughan and Tony Piet homered. The Pirates scored three in the ninth to take the second match with C Earl Grace knocking home two of his three RBI and Harris singling in another. The Pirates increased their NL lead over the Cubs to five games, but would finish the season four games behind Chicago in the pennant race. 
Bill Harris Retro Images archive
  • 1941 - Homestead Gray 1B Buck Leonard launched a three run homer at Comiskey Park to lead the East to an 8-3 win over the West in the Negro League All-Star Game. The contest drew a record crowd of 50,256. 
  • 1961 - Giants’ Manager Alvin Dark said before the game that "Juan Marichal will go all the way" and kept his bullpen in the dugout to emphasis the point. And he was right. Marichal threw a complete game, five hit shutout at Forbes Field, winning 2-0 over Vinegar Bend Mizell. 
  • 1979 - The Bucs swept Montreal in a DH at Olympic Stadium in front of a crowd of 59,260, the biggest baseball turnout in Canada. They took the opener 5-4, three times losing leads to the pesky Expos before Phil Garner’s eighth inning single scored Dave Parker with the game winner. Garner had a big game, with three hits and a homer. Kent Tekulve allowed an inherited runner to score in the seventh to tie the game, but got the win, with Enrique Romo picking up the save. Bob Robertson went long and had four RBI while Phil Garner went 3-for-4 again with four runs scored in the Bucs 9-1 win in the nitecap. Bert Blyleven went the distance, scattering five hits and striking out nine as the Bucs cut the Expos lead to ½ game. 
Phil Garner 1978 Hostess series
  • 1982 - Larry McWilliams tossed a three hitter and struck out 11 in complete game shutout win over Philadelphia, 4-0, at TRS. Jason Thompson brought home a pair and Bill Madlock homered to provide the cushion against the Phils. 1991 - Jay Bell had the first two-homer game of his career, going 4-for-5 with four RBI and four runs scored in Pittsburgh’s 11-5 win at Houston’s Astrodome. Bell hit a one-out homer in the first off the Jimmy Jones, then a three-run shot in the sixth inning off Jim Corsi to extend the Bucs’ lead to 11-0. Barry Bonds added three RBI and scored twice as Randy Tomlin picked up the win. 
  • 1998 - 2B Tony Womack set a record of 888 consecutive at bats without grounding into a double play in an 8-7, 13 inning loss to the Rox at Coors Field. The previous record had been held by Brooklyn's Pete Reiser, set in the mid-forties. Tony eventually went 219 straight games and 915 at-bats without hitting into a double-play. Jose Guillen had four hits and a homer and Kevin Young also went long with three RBI in the defeat. 
  • 1999 - In one of baseball’s weirder promotions, the Pirates defeated the Mets‚ 5-1‚ in the first of MLB's "Turn Ahead the Clock Nights," sponsored by Century 21 Real Estate. Each team wore futuristic uniforms (the Bucs had red jerseys with yellow sleeves and a giant Bucco head logo)‚ with the hometown squad becoming the "Mercury" Mets for the night. The pre game rap was “Greetings, earthlings. Welcome to Shea Station 4C. Blastoff time is 7:40.” The theme was carried on throughout the evening‚ with the scoreboard flashing computerized graphics of the players of the future as each came to the plate. Rickey Henderson‚ for example‚ was given three eyes and pointy ears‚ and played "left quadrant." Al Martin hit the first of his two HRs in the first "sector‚" and rookie Kris Benson went the distance for the win. 
Kris Benson (photo uncredited from Studious Metsimus blog)
  • 2009 - In an otherwise unremarkable 4-2 loss to Tim Lincecum at AT&T Park, Delwyn Young added a little spice to the show. Randy Winn’s bloop into right went off right fielder Garrett Jones’ mitt, then off his knee, and he kicked it into the air with his foot for good measure. Young, playing second, dove after the cowhide hacky-sack and made a lunging barehanded grab. Alas, the ump blew the call and gave Winn a hit, which was pretty much how the Pirates’ luck ran back then. Nevertheless, Tribune Review writer Joe Starkey called the catch the “Best play of the decade.” 
  • 2013 - Mike McKenry showed why MLB catchers are a different breed of cat. He caught the final three frames of a 7-4 win against Miami at Marlins Park after tearing the lateral meniscus in his left knee during a slide, an injury that required season-ending surgery three days later. It was hard to tell, as the reserve catcher, who soldiered through the game because starting catcher Russell Martin had tweaked his knee the previous night, went 4-for-5. The Fort was the battery mate of Charlie Morton, who took home the win after a save by Mark Melancon.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rox Rock Bucs Again 8-1

Tyler Matzek tossed a 1-2-3 opener; Jeff Locke gave up an opening bunt single to Charlie Backmon and then left him stranded. The Bucs got a two-out single from Russ in the second, and the Rox got a one-out infield knock from Michael McHenry. Neither ball was hit hard and neither runner moved.

Pittsburgh was retired in order in the third. Locke had a rough inning, and it was partially his fault. Matzek poked a single over third base, then Blackmon hit a shot to Gaby. He made a nice pick and went to second for the force, then Jordy's return sailed into the photographer's booth. It was accurate and right over first base; Locke didn't cover the bag. Blackmon went to second, stole third and scored on Jeff Rutledge's single. Nolan Arenado followed with another knock; both were soft dumps on changes away; maybe the Bucs are trying to pitch backwards in the early innings. He went back to his inside heater to Wil Rosario and got a 6-4-3 DP to end the frame.

Jordy led off the fourth with a double off a 3-2 fastball. Cutch bounced out softly, and Gaby hit a hot one hopper. Arenado knocked it down and made a strong throw across the diamond for the out. The Kid cued a soft grounder to first, and Mercer died at third. Drew Stubbs fell behind 0-2 and worked the count full. Locke went for his hands with a fastball; Stubbs turned on it and lost the ball in the stands. Locke rallied to get a pop to center and two K, but it was 2-0 Rox.

Russ led off the fifth with a walk. El Coffee followed with a liner toward the shortstop hole; Arenado leaped to knock it down and get the force. Brent Morel and Locke went down on strikes.

Locke struggled mightly. He walked his mound opponent, and an out later Rutledge lined a single to left. Arenado followed by dropping single into center; Cutch missed his throw to third by a mile, allowing Arenado to get to second. Rosario was walked intentionally, and Corey Dickerson hit for Stubbs, who turned his ankle. Locke was up 1-2 on the lefty, but allowed a chopper up the middle. Mercer looked at second then took the sure out at first. The Fort walked before the last out, and it was 4-0 Colorado.

With an out in the sixth, Jordy got plunked. Lefty killers Cutch and Gaby both flew out, and the Bucs seem powerless against southpaws. Jeff tossed his first clean frame of the game. In the seventh, Russ walked and Polanco lined a single the opposite way with one gone. The rally died quickly when Morel rolled into a tailor made 4-6-3 DP.

With an out in the Rox half, Arenado pulled a pair of balls foul deep into the seats; the third try was the charm as he banged one out in left. An out later, Dickerson turned on a high heater and Polanco settled at wall to grab it, but it dropped into the first row of the stands. That brought on Jeanmar Gomez, with Josh moving to third and Michael Martinez going to left. It took The Fort eight pitches, but he lined a single to left. Gomez finally ended the frame with a fly just short of the track in center.

Nick Masset came in for the eighth, and gave up three grounders. Martinez's was booted, Josh's was a perfectly placed 4-6-3 DP, and Jordy rolled out to third. LeMahieu started with a single and Ben Paulsen followed with a double. An out later, Rutledge singled them both in. Nice plays by Jordy and Josh brought the frame to a merciful end.

Brooks Brown came in to mop up and gave up a pinch hit homer to Ike, an opposite field shot that barely slipped over the left field railing. For the second game, it was all the Bucs could do to avoid a whitewashing. To make a bad day worse, the Cards, the Reds, the Brewers and the Braves all won.

The offense has been as bad as the pitching at Coors. We don't fault Clint - Cutch is in another left side grounder funk, and the offense revolves around him - and without either Indy's Jaff Decker or Jose Tabata as a replacement for Starling Marte in the outfield, his hands are pretty well tied in trying to come up with an effective order against lefties. It should be time to free Pedro; there is no platoon match for his position, especially with Josh in left.

Edinson Volquez goes against Franklin Morales tomorrow afternoon to try to salvage a game of the series.
  • The Bucs have faced the Rox five times; the Rox have scored first all five times. That's a bad recipe, considering their starters have put up a 1.87 ERA against the Pirates over that span.
  • Russ Martin singled in his first at-bat and walked in his next two to reach base safely in 10 of his last 11 plate appearances before popping out. He's drawn five walks in the last two games.
  • Neil Walker's streak of 22 straight games on base ended tonight.
  • Oooops. The Rockies gave out 15,000 Tulowitzki jerseys tonight - and misspelled his name!

Locke v Matzek, Lineup (Pedro Out Again), Trade Talk, On-Base, Cole To Rehab...

Jeff Locke (2-1, 3.05) takes the hill opposite Tyler Matzek (1-4, 4.91) as the Bucs get to see another lefty.

Locke has spun eight straight consecutive quality starts and is an entirely different pitcher this season after his nibble away philosophy led to a second half meltdown last year. He has no record in two career starts against the Rox with a 3.08 ERA.

Matzek, 23, is a fastball/slider guy with work-in-progress off speed pitches, and his problems have come with control issues and RH hitters. His walk rate is fine at 2.8/nine, but his command within the strike zone has been problematic. His OPS split is .842 to .513, so loading up with righties seems to be the thing when he's on the hill.

Neither pitcher was around for the decision when they hooked up last weekend in a game the Pirates won with a late rally by a 5-3 score.

The lineup: Josh Harrison LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Gregory Polanco RF, Brent Morel 3B and Locke P. Pedro's sitting again, and we still have two more lefties coming up. Marte being hurt put Clint in a lineup bind; we're still wondering why Jaff Decker isn't filling the outfield spot, freeing up Josh to play third. Then again, maybe Pedro's knee flared up after a small bit of action last night. Either way, it's pretty far from an ideal lineup.

The game starts at 8:10 and will be broadcast by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN reports that the Pirates and Phils are still working on an AJ deal, and are trying to thrash out both the player return and how much contract the Phillies will eat. The market is moving; Jake Peavy, who the Pirates were associated with to a slight degree, was traded today to SF.
  • Justin Broyles of Rant Sports likes the match between Bartolo Colon and the Pirates.
  • Russell Martin walked three times Friday night and has reached base safely seven times in his last eight plate appearances. Martin leads all MLB catchers with a .420 OBP and has reached base safely in 55 of his 62 games this season.
  • Neil Walker has reached base safely in 22 consecutive games, the longest active streak among all Major League players.
  • Pat Lackey of WHYGAVS looks at the evolving Pirate offense and the tie between OBP and wRC+.
  • The team announced that Gerrit Cole will make a rehab start on Monday at Indy.

7/26: Jerry Meals Game, Marte's Debut, Yankee Swap, HR Derby, No Hail the King, Waner Bros & More...

Jerry Meals Game, Marte's Debut, Yankee Swap, HR Derby, No Hail the King, Waner Bros & More...
  • 1889 - The Alleghenys defeated the Cleveland Spiders 8-4 at Recreation Park despite giving up a two-run infield homer to Jay Faatz, whose grounder to 3B Jim White bounced off his foot and went into the “free seats” - temporary stands - and couldn’t be dug out in time to stop Faatz from circling the bases. Fred Carroll, Ned Hanlon and Doggie Miller each had three knocks to spearhead a 16 hit Buc attack to give Harry Staley the win. Miller homered over the left field wall, and the Pittsburg Press wrote “The crowd went wild as little George trotted over the circuit and lifted his cap at the plate. An enthusiast threw a silver dollar at him, which (Miller) accepted with a smile.” 
  • 1921 - OF Tom Saffell was born in Etowah, Tennessee. He played for the Bucs from 1949-51, then after three seasons in the minors, returned in 1955. The speedy OF’er hit .239 for the Bucs. He was a minor celeb, though, as he was the pitcher for the 1960 TV show “Home Run Derby.” That show was said to inspire the ASG’s home run derby, and is also part of ESPN’s Classic series. 
Tom Saffell 1952 Topps series
  • 1927 - The Pirates pushed across two runs in the bottom of the eighth to edge the Brooklyn Dodgers 6-5 at Forbes Field to remain tied with the Cubs for the NL lead. They were almost derailed by a former mate, Max Carey, who had three hits, three runs, and three stolen bases. But the Waner brothers parried Carey. Lloyd had three hits and scored twice, both times driven home by Paul. Little Poison took over the league lead in hits while Lee Meadows went the distance for the win. 
  • 1928 - NY Giant future Hall of Famer Carl “King” Hubbell made his MLB debut against the Pirates at the Polo Grounds. He pitched a scoreless first inning‚ but the Bucs scored five times in the second to knock him out of the game, winning 7-5 behind Burleigh Grimes. Paul Waner had three hits and two RBI to lead a balanced Bucco attack. 
  • 1950 - Ray Mueller went 2-for-2 with two walks, a homer, two runs and two RBI, Wally Westlake hit a home run and Bob Dillinger collected three hits as the Bucs beat Boston 8-4 at Braves Field. Mel Queen got the win and Murry Dickson tossed the final three frames for the save. 
  • 2008 - OF Xavier Nady and RHP Damaso Marte were traded to the New York Yankees for RHPs Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen & Ross Ohlendorf along with OF Jose Tabata.
Jeff Karstens 2012 Topps series
  • 2011 - The date of the Jerry Meals game in Atlanta, heralding the end of the Bucco's improbable 2011 pennant run. The ump blew a call at home in the 19th inning, giving the Braves a 4-3 win and starting a downward spiral of epic proportions for Pittsburgh. At 6 hours and 39 minutes, it was the longest game in club history. The Pirates filed a protest (at 2:30 in the morning) but the judgment call was upheld, even though the League Office admitted it was wrong. To add a little salt to the wound, Meals is from Butler! 
  • 2012 - Starling Marte homered to left center against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel on the first MLB pitch he saw. Pittsburgh won 5-3 at Minute Maid Park as AJ Burnett took home the victory.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bats Icy & Frieri Bombed As Bucs Go Down 8-1

Brett Anderson and Charlie Morton picked up where they left off during the weekend: each spun clean first frames. They again had mirror images in the second, as each pitcher gave up a two-out walk and nothing else. The third ended up a little different. The Bucs went down 1-2-3, but DJ LaMahieu opened the Rox half with a triple to the opposite field. Charlie almost worked out of it, getting a soft grounder and K, but a 2-1 change up to Josh Rutledge was banged for a double, and it was 1-0 Colorado.

The Bucs went down in order again in the fourth, and haven't been looking real disciplined at the dish tonight. Ben Paulsen and Wil Rosario connected on back-to-back two out singles, one a ground ball through the right side and the other a sharply hit grounder that Gaby couldn't corral. Another right side hopper was finally gloved to end the frame.

Pittsburgh finally got something going in the fifth when The Kid opened with a single and Russ walked. Jordy ripped one to third; the Rox almost turned an around-the-horn triple play on the shot, but Russ was ruled safe at second, and the Rockies challenged. The call could have gone either way (the question was whether LeMahieu held the bag) and the TV replay was inconclusive, so it stood. Brent Morel was walked intentionally, and Charlie bounced out to end the frame. Colorado was retired in order.

The Pirates at least hit two balls hard in the sixth, with Josh lining out to center and Cutch drilling a two out single, but still no one has reached third base against Anderson. The Rockies went down quietly, with both pitchers at the 90 pitch mark (Anderson -90, Morton - 92).

Russ walked with an out in the seventh, and also chased Anderson, who had a blister open during the at-bat. That brought in Tommy Kahnle. Jordy got ahead of him 3-1, fouled off ball four and flew out. Pedro came up to pinch hit for Brent Morel; he went down swinging at a fastball in the dirt as the Pirate hitters remained their own worst enemies tonight.

Charlie went an inning too far, giving up consecutive doubles to Paulsen and Rosario to make it 2-0 with no outs. LeMahieu singled to put runners on the corners, and Ernesto Frieri was waved in. His fastball was flat tonight after showing some movement in his past few outings, and that's definitely not a good thing. Pinch hitter Drew Stubbs pulled a soft liner down the third base line for another double; it was a catchable ball, but Pedro mistimed his jump and it sailed over him. Blackmon was intentionally walked to load the bases.The next batter, Rutledge, cleared the bases by drilling a double. After an out, Carlos Gonzalez homered as Frieri continued to serve up BP. He picked up a couple of K, way too late, to end the frame at 8-0 Rox.

Rex Brothers took the hill for Colorado. he gave up a two out knock to Josh, and Nick Masset came in to face Cutch, whiffing him. Stolmy Pimentel took the ball, with Chris Stewart catching - we're not sure if Russ is getting a brief blow or if he's sore from a mix-up fastball he took on the wrist from Frieri last inning.

Matt Belisle came to close it out, and promptly loaded the bases with no outs on a Gaby deflected single, Walker free pass and Ike single. Jordy hit a sac fly to get the Bucs on the board. Pedro walked, and that was it for Belisle as Adam Ottavino answered the phone. He got two quick outs to close the rout.

 A couple of things are kinda obvious. The Pirates aren't in waiver wire mode any more, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to carry Ernesto Frieri, especially as Hurdle uses him exclusively in late innings. We'd expect the front office to get a seventh inning guy to replace him before the deadline.

Next, the Bucs are carrying a lot of one-side players. Amont the lefty hitters, only travis snider is hitting over .200 against southpaws, both this season and career wise. Marte being out exacerbates the problem, but they still have too many platoon, or at least should-be platoon, spots on the team as constructed.

The good and bad news is that everyone in the NL Central ahead of the Bucs lost, as did the Braves. So the good news is that they didn't lose ground; the bad news is that they could have picked up a game on the entire field tonight and blew the opportunity. Hopefully they'll shower well, as Clint is fond of saying, and come out ready to play tomorrow.

Jeff Locke tangles with Tyler Matzek tomorrow night.

  • Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Bucs have a high level scout taking notes at the Jon Lester - David Price matchup going on tonight. Lester has been noted as on the Pirate radar; Price, not so much.