Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bad Day at the Ballyard: Pirates Lose Ballgame - And Jung-Ho Kang.

The Pirates lost a ballgame and one of their big guns today, 9-6. The ballgame is easy enough to explain - Charlie Morton and Joe Blanton were knocked around the yard, and the Bucs, despite homers from Travis Snider, Gregory Polanco and Pedro Alvarez, didn't have enough firepower to overcome the Windy City barrage.

Chicago put it away in the fifth, when they scored six times off Charlie and Joe before making an out, with a homer, two doubles, three singles, an error and passed ball before Bobby LaFramboise could quell the inferno - and the Pirates even won a challenge to get an out call at home, plus turned a DP. So now the wild card looks a lot more likely; Gerrit Cole and Jake Arrieta are set up for that eventuality, and hopefully the Bucs bounce back to keep the play-in game at PNC Park with a tough series coming up in LA against Kershaw and Greinke.

They do have a three game set left with the Cubs at Wrigley, but even if they sweep, they can't earn the tiebreaker of a series edge, as Pittsburgh is down 10 games to six.

As for JHK, he was victim of a purposeful take-out slide by Chris Coghlan, not allowing Jung-Ho time to get off his plant leg. Hardball legal, yes, and expected in a series as big as this. The results were brutal to Kang - he's undergoing surgery tonight for a torn MCL and fractured tibia, and done for the year - and maybe longer. (EDIT - the Pirates announced that JHK is expected to miss 6-8 months, so the start of 2016 is very iffy as a return date).

JHK's takeout (photo: via Baseball Photos)
And it's a big loss. Kang played a very solid third and passable short, and was a big stick: .287 BA, .461 slugging %, .816 OPS, 15 HR and a 4.1 WAR, placing him in the Bucco top four or better in those categories.

Both the Bucs (perhaps more for public consumption) and Cubs accepted the slide as business as usual; even JHK, who through his agent said “It is unfortunate that what would be considered heads up baseball would cause such a serious injury. That said, Coghlan was playing the game the way it should be played. I'm confident he meant me no harm." Cutch tweeted "Send our teammate Jung Ho Kang prayers. Heal up Chingu (friend). We got u. Best believe that."

So a blow on a pair of fronts today. The loss puts the Pirates 4-1/2 games behind the Cards (they play the Brewers tonight) and cut the lead against the Cubs for home field to two games. And it looks like Jordy will be the everyday shortstop over the final days of the season, with Josh and A-Ram jockeying for third base time. Maybe it'll give the FO something to work on in the offseason, too.

Jordy, you may recall, lost several weeks on a similar (although the circumstances were a bit different) slide by Carlos Gomez. The league has the rarely enforced Posey rule on the books, meant to protect catchers in full gear; maybe Neal will consider pushing a "to the base" slide rule during the winter meetings to protect far more vulnerable infielders making a turn. He sure has a couple of reasons to bring the topic to the table. It's not easy to puncture a hoary tradition, but the league has to protect it's assets, the players, too.

In the present, the Bucs have a plane ride to the Left Coast to get over the disappointing series. They face the LA aces, Colorado and then a return bout against the Cubbies next weekend for 10 games before closing out the year at PNC against the Cards and Reds. The marathon season is nearing its end; the September run is a full sprint now.


Anonymous said...

Feel bad for Jung Ho and for our team. He has turned into one of my favorite players.
Its a tough loss but now time for Jordy to step it up. He has been really good over stretches - we need it now.

I thought the play was clean too. Really is an outlier that we lost two guys for extended periods on this type of play. As the Cubs manager said - that play has been made for the past 100 years. not nearly as bad as home plate collisions.

Huge Bummer - Hopping for a speedy and full recovery for our Korean Superstar - I love watching him play!
-Cincy - Dave

Ron Ieraci said...

I give the Cubbies their due, Dave. The Arrieta game was won on great infield glovework by them on two or three plays, and that's an area where the Pirates seem to struggle, tho the OF has been doing the job by & large.

As far as the slides, I'm not so much pounding the pulpit as a Pittsburgh fan as a baseball fan; it's just stupid to see guys wiped out for no reason. The remedy is simple & tested - just slide to the bag, like amateur baseball has mandated for decades. There are plenty of ways & means to get hurt during 162 games; getting chopped ala Ty Cobb/Pete Rose on the bases or at the plate shouldn't be one of them. Of course an OF'er who will never experience being on the short end of the drill says it's all part of the game.

WilliamJPellas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WilliamJPellas said...

I have to agree with you here, Ron, much as I decry the creeping wussification of the game now that everyone playing it is a gazillionaire. It would be best to just eliminate this part of the game. Coghlan was, obviously, way out of the basepath and Kang was some distance away from the bag when he was hit. While Kang sounded a highly professional note in the wake of his injury and that's to his credit, I presume Coghlan won't have a problem---seeing as how it's all just part of the game and all---if the Pirates drill him right in the letters several times the next time the two teams play.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, Will, from what I've heard, the Pirates are publicly not making a big deal of it but privately are stewing. Depending on how the race sits when the Pirates hit Chicago, Coghlan is a prime candidate for wearing a baseball.

It is an pretty easily correctable issue if the Player's Association wants to strike a pose against it. We'll see if there's any action during the winter meetings or if it takes a bigger name guy to get wiped out first.