Tuesday, April 25, 2017

4/25 TRS-PNC Park Era: Starg & Kip Go Long, ASV Cap-er, Pedro 2-Fer, HBD Trevor, Big Three Fall, 26th Man

  • 1970 - Willie Stargell homered over the RF roof at Forbes Field off Hoyt Wilhelm‚ the second time he'd done it in a week‚ as the Pirates edged the Braves‚ 8-7. Eighteen balls carried over the Oakland yard’s roof, with seven launched by Stargell. No one else hit more than a pair. Roberto Clemente had three hits (two were doubles) and four RBI as he shared some of the offensive thunder with Cap’n Willie.
Willie Stargell 1970 Topps
  • 1992 - In the Pirates 1-0 win over the host Cubs‚ the Bucs were helped by a wayward hat. With Kirk Gibson on first‚ Jay Bell hit a potential DP grounder that struck Gibson's helmet which had flown off as he headed to second, and the Cubs had to settle for a force. Andy Van Slyke noted‚ “the play goes 7-1/2 to 4 to 5 to 6" on your scorecard. Bell then scored when Van Slyke followed with a double for the game’s only run. Randy Tomlin was the winner over Greg Maddux.
  • 1992 - RHP Trevor Williams was born in San Diego. His brief initial cruise in 2016 wasn’t all that smooth; after mowing down hitters in AAA, he went 1-1/7.83 for the Pirates in a handful of outings. In 2017, he broke camp with the team as a multi-role bullpen arm after a strong spring. He was a second round draft pick of the Marlins in 2013 and came to Pittsburgh for a career minor-league player, Richard Mitchell. Many thought the seemingly one-sided deal was actually compensation for the Fish signing the Pirates pitching assistant Jim Benedict earlier.
  • 2003 - Kip Wells became the second player and first pitcher to homer into the batter’s eye at PNC Park with a third inning, 457’ blast off the Dodgers Odalis Perez. LA had the last laugh when they rallied for five ninth inning runs off Wells and Mike Williams to take a 5-2 victory.
Kip hit better than he tossed - 2003 Fleer Hardball
  • 2011 - Pedro Alvarez homered in both games of Pittsburgh’s doubleheader split against Colorado at PNC Park, becoming the second Pittsburgh player in the last 22 seasons to hit home runs for the Pirates in two games played on the same day. El Toro joined Rob Mackowiak, who also went long twice in a DH on 5/28/04 against the Cubs on the memorable day his wife gave birth to their first child.
  • 2012 - The Pirates and the Rockies became the first teams in MLB history to add an extra player to the roster for their twin bill at PNC Park. The new CBA permitted teams to carry 26 on the active roster for doubleheaders to save the paper shuffling that calling up an extra pitcher entailed. The Bucs brought up Jared Hughes, who had started the season with Pittsburgh but was sent down when AJ Burnett came of the DL.
  • 2013 - The Bucs beat the Phillies for the third straight time at Citizen’s Bank Park by a 6-4 score. It was the first time in the eighteen outings that Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee threw back-to-back-to-back games that the Phils lost all three matches. The Pirates lost the first outing of the four game set, beaten 3-2 by an unheralded Jonathan Pettibone who was making his first MLB start.

4/25 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: HBD Tom, Dutch, Fred, Jimmy, Ed & Bob; Wally, Roberto, Hans Come Up Big

  • 1864 - C Tom Quinn was born in Annapolis, Maryland. He played three years in the show, getting a cup of coffee with the Alleghenys in 1886 (0-for-11) and finishing with the outlaw Pittsburgh Burghers (.213) in 1890. Tom got a job with the state after he was done with baseball and lived in Swissvale the remainder of his days.
  • 1868 - 3B Fred “Dutch” Hartman was born in Allegheny City (Northside). He began his career as a Pirate in 1894 and hit a strong .319. After a couple of years of seasoning, he returned to the big leagues in 1897 after a trade to the Browns, where he was considered a highly touted addition to the club. He never took off and Dutch ended up pretty much a league-average player, hitting .278 during a six-year career. After baseball, he remained in the area, living in McKeesport.
Fred Haney w/owner John Galbreath & GM Branch Rickey
(photo April 13, 1954 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • 1896 - Fred Haney was born in Albuquerque. He managed the Bucs as a favor to Branch Rickey from from 1953-1955. His record reflects the fact that he was brought in during the early stages of a youth movement, losing 104, 101 and 94 games for a 163-299 (.353) slate, although he was used to the drill after managing the sad-sack St. Louis Browns from 1939-41. But he delivered when finally given some players. He moved on to Milwaukee and won back-to-back NL titles and the 1956 World Series. Later, he was the LA Angels first GM.
  • 1899 - In a sign of things to come, Pittsburgh lost to Louisville 2-1 at Eclipse Park as future Bucco SS Honus Wagner went 4-for-4 with 2 HRs‚ the second being a ninth-inning game winner. The Colonels were managed by future Pirate skipper (and player) Fred Clarke. The following season, most of Louisville’s top players followed owner Barney Dreyfuss to Pittsburgh.
  • 1910 - IF Jimmy Brown was born in Jamesville, North Carolina. A seven-year major league vet with an All-Star game under his belt, he was signed by the Bucs in 1946 after a two-year hiatus in the Army Air Force. He played three infield spots and hit .241 off the bench in his last hurrah. In 1947 he became a manager in the Pirates farm system at Indianapolis and New Orleans before returning to the NL as a coach for the Boston Braves in 1949. After leaving Beantown in 1952, he managed minor league teams for the Cardinals, Braves and Reds.
A dapper Ed Vargo (photo via Ancestry.com)
  • 1930 - Umpire Ed Vargo was born in Butler. He was a NL ump from 1960-1983 and the umpire supervisor from 1984-1997. Vargo worked the first night World Series game in 1971, two of Sandy Koufax's no-hitters, the last games at Forbes Field/the Polo Grounds, four All-Star Games, four NLCS, four World Series, the first game at Candlestick Park and the game in which Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth's career home run record. Ed was inducted into the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame in 1966 and the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame 1994. (bio via Baseball Reference)
  • 1943 - RHP Bob Johnson was born in Aurora, Illinois. He pitched for the Bucs from 1971-73, beginning as a starter and ending in the bullpen. He went 17-16-7/3.34 as a Pirate and appeared in a pair of NLCS and in the 1971 World Series.
  • 1948 - Wally Westlake homered, doubled, and drove in six runs while Ed Stevens added five more RBI to lead the Bucs to a 13-10 win over the Reds in the second game of a twinbill at Crosley Field. Pittsburgh lost the opener 7-6 in the ninth.
Roberto Clemente 1958 Topps Classic
  • 1958 - Roberto Clemente was in fine form as he led the Bucs to a 4-3 win against Cincinnati at Crosley Field. He scored in the sixth after a leadoff double and then smacked his first long ball of the year, a two-out, three-run shot in the seventh that stood as the game-winner. Vern Law claimed the win after an ElRoy Face save while future Bucco Harvey Haddix took the loss.

Monday, April 24, 2017

At Least It Was Over Quick...Bucs KO'ed Early In 14-3 Thumping

Ah, Buccos. Chad got two outs, then issued a walk. That was followed in order by a stolen base (Anthony Rizzo broke while Kuhl was set and would have been an easy pickoff, but no one on the field - ahem, Fran & J-Bell - alerted Chad), another walk, a single, and a dropped tag by Amore at home (Jose Osuna's throw had the runner) to make it 1-0. Next came a Jason Heyward homer and a double and it was quickly 4-0.  Cutch drew a two-out walk from Brett Anderson and so did Gregory. Freeser singled home a run but the party ended on Fran's liner to second.

Chad was bad tonight (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

The next frame flamed up with one out with a single, double, walk (intentional after falling behind Rizzo 2-0) ahead of Ben Zobrist knocking a changeup to the wall in right. Osuna had the ball hop out of his glove; the ruling was a base-clearing double. A couple of more walks, a couple of more knocks and Trevor Williams came in on the short end of a 9-1 count to get the last out. It was double, walk, force-out bunt, 6-4-3 DP for the Bucs. The contest mercifully settled into playing it out; the Bucs emptied their bench in top of the fifth. Trevor carried it two outs into the sixth when Antonio Bastardo took over. ESPN's telecast had given up on the game by then and derailed into a steroid debate. Between that and the score, this was not a good night for the Pirates PR people.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh got a pair back, with Osuna's triple behind an error and ahead of J-Bell's single being the linchpin. With two outs and the bases empty in the seventh, AB filled the sacks and a wild pitch added another brick to the wall. Dovydas Neverauskas worked the eighth. After an early double and single chased his butterflies, he traded a DP ball for a run and closed with a whiff, then tossed a clean ninth. The Cub bullpen held the Buc bats at bay over the last three frames, and 14-3 was entered in the books. Well, it looked a lot like yesterday with shoddy fielding and a couple of DP balls, but without the great mound work. They were 3-for-8 with RISP, tho, but Chicago bested them there too, going 9-for-18. Gerrit Cole will try to right the ship tomorrow against Kyle Hendricks, a Wrigley Field rematch from earlier in the month.

Dovydas had a memorable - and frantic - debut (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • The Pirates placed Adam Frazier on the 10-day DL and called up reliever Dovydas Neverauskas from Indy. Fraze has a left hammy sprain with the DL stint retroactive to yesterday, and Dovydas was called up to augment a bullpen that's carrying an ineffective Antonio Bastardo. Dovy hopped a plane, reported to the Pirate bullpen during the game and was warming up by the seventh frame. With his appearance in the eighth inning, he became the first born-and-raised Lithuanian (Joe Zapustas was Lithuanian and played in 1933, but he was born in Latvia and raised in Boston) to play MLB.
  • Jose Osuna finished a homer short of the cycle and had three of the Pirates seven hits. J-Hay had a knock and two (!) walks; J-Bell singled and walked. 
Jose's stick was smokin' but his glove was icy (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Adam Berry of MLB.com noted "Chad Kuhl has made 18 starts in the Majors. He's allowed three or fewer runs in 15 of them. The other three have all been against the Cubs."
  • 13,445 bought tickets for the game and not that many showed up. Smart people.
  • Curious who plays the deepest CF after all the ado about postioning last year in Buccoland? Here's Statcast's average depth played by MLB center fielders, with Starling and Andrew just about at the same jump-off point in the middle of the pack. Carlos Gomez plays the deepest if you were curious; Billy Hamilton plays furthest in.

Monday: Cubs Come to Town, Kuhl v Brett Anderson, Lineup, Notes

Tonight: The Cubs come to town after being swept in the first meeting at Wrigley. The game starts at 7:05 and will be carried by Root Sports, ESPN, and 93.7 The Fan. Interesting race in the Central - the Cubs are first at 10-8, the Bucs last at 8-10. The five teams are separated by two games as mediocrity seems to be the April MO.

Lefty on the hill, Jordy at leadoff (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, J-Hay 2B, Cutch CF, Gregory Polanco LF, David Freese 3B, Fran Cervelli C, Jose Osuna RF, J-Bell, 1B and Chad Kuhl P. Lefty up, Fraze down. Seems like the Bucs want to give Osuna a good look; he's only hitting .100 with 10 at-bats but has been making fairly solid contact, so he's not overmatched...we'll see after the league has a book on him.

Pitchers: Chad Kuhl (1-1, 2.60) opens against Brett Anderson (1-0, 4.40). The 24-year-old Kuhl is coming off a 2-1 loss to the Cards, but has been eye-opening effective during April. He'll be making his fourth start of the season and the 18th of his nascent MLB career. Caveat emptor: the Cubs treated him rudely last year when Cool Chad slashed 0-2/10.45 in two starts. Anderson, a 29-year-old FA signed by the Cubs, had a couple of good starts to open the season and then suffered a beatdown by the Brew Crew. Same trend against the Pirates: he shut them down in two 2014 starts, then was clocked in his outing against them as a Dodger last year (albeit after a long layoff due to disc surgery). Still, he's a lefty and the Bucs have had problems squaring them up so far this season.

Chad's been up to the task so far (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

  • Ken Davidoff of the NY Post has a piece on how Ivan Nova has found a comfort zone in Pittsburgh that was missing in the Big Apple.
  • Odd weekend - Saturday was the first game that the Pirates lost when scoring four or more runs; Sunday was the first they won when scoring fewer than four.
  • More odd stuff - Ivan Nova's 154-batter string of not issuing a walk ended when he ran the count full before losing an AL rookie pitcher in his first MLB at-bat. In fact, Yankee puppy Jordan Montgomery never even drew a minor-league free pass because he never had a plate appearance (in the upper minors, only NL-affiliated clubs playing one another bat their pitchers; lower levels use a DH). Not too surprisingly, Jordan never offered at a pitch. He K'ed on four pitches the next time he was up.
  • Allegheny Andrew: Cutch is the all-time leader in homers (84) and RBI (321) at PNC Park.
  • Road trip: Beginning Friday against Miami, the Bucs are scheduled to play 14-of-17 games on the road.
JaCoby dodged a bullet over the weekend (photo MLB.com)
  • Detroit OF'er JaCoby Jones, an ex-Bucco traded to the Tigers for Joachim Soria, was placed on the 10-day DL with a left lip laceration after being hit in the face by a fastball Saturday. He had concussion/fracture worries, but escaped with nine stitches, his teeth, and a king-size headache.

4/24: Allen No-No; Chris Cranked; Firsts For Fred & Paul, Chase Field Shootout, HBD Dixie, Hans, Gashouse Gang Falls

  • 1891 - Fred Carroll hit the first home run by a Pirate in Exposition Park (they played the year prior in nearby Recreation Park as the Alleghenys) as the Bucs defeated the Chicago Colts 11-8 for their first victory ever in Pittsburgh. They had become the Pirates in the off season, when they “pirated” Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia A’s.
Fred Carroll 1887-90 Old Judge
  • 1903 - Honus Wagner was having a bad day in the field, booting three balls that helped the Cardinals head into the ninth with a 7-6 lead at Exposition Park, but his bat helped erase the deficit. He tripled in the ninth and scored the tying run on a Kitty Bransfield single. Then with two away in the eleventh, the Flying Dutchman walked, stole second and came around with the game winner on another Bransfield knock. Wagner collected four hits including two triples along with two runs scored, four RBI‚ and three stolen bases.
  • 1915 - Pittsburgh Rebel southpaw Frank Allen tossed a 2-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Terriers at Handlan Park in the last year of the Federal League, the short-lived (1913-15) major league “outlaw” option to the National and American Leagues. Allen went on to pitch a couple more seasons for the NL Boston Braves. The Federal League was absorbed by the NL & AL, and a suit the FL filed eventually led to the still existent ruling that exempted baseball from antitrust laws.
  • 1920 - C Dixie Howell was born in Louisville. The journeyman backstop began his MLB career as a Pirate in 1947 after being part of the Kirby Higbe deal and hit .276, but was lost to the Cincinnati Reds as a Rule 5 pick after the camapign. He spent 1949-56 as a back-up catcher for the Reds and later the Dodgers.
Fred Lindstrom 1934 (photo Conlon Collection/TSN)
  • 1934 - The Bucs rallied to defeat the Gashouse Gang from St. Louis 5-4 at Forbes Field in their home opener. Behind 4-2 going into the ninth, Freddie Lindstrom homered over the LF wall with two aboard and his walk-off gave the Pirates the win over the future NL champs.
  • 2007 - Paul Maholm tossed his first major league complete game after allowing three hits and throwing 99 pitches in the 3-0 shutout victory over the Astros at PNC Park. The game took just 1 hour and 57 minutes to complete. Jason Bay had three hits and drove in a pair while Ronny Paulino added a solo shot.
  • 2010 - In the first inning of his first appearance of the year, Chris Jakubauskas was struck in the head by a liner off the bat of Houston's Lance Berkman. The 31-year old right-hander left the field on a stretcher, but was later diagnosed with just a concussion and not a fracture as first feared. Jaku wouldn’t pitch for the Bucs any more that year, but tossed for Baltimore the following season. The Pirates lost the game 5-2.
Jaku had one of the Bucs scarier moments in 2010 (photo Bob Levey/Getty)
  • 2016 - The Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks took advantage of hitter-friendly Chase Field and after the smoke cleared, the Bucs hung on for dear life to take a 12-10, 13 inning victory. Pittsburgh got ahead early, leading 8-4 after four frames (every Pirate starter had scored or chased home a run by that time) but blew two run leads in both the ninth and 12th frames to a unrelenting D-Back attack. Both benches were shot by the end; pitchers Zack Grienke and Patrick Corbin of the Snakes along with Jon Niese for the Buccos had to pinch hit (Greinke and Niese singled; Niese had an RBI) while Arizona hurler Shelby Miller manned left field and batted. Neftali Feliz was credited with the blown save/win combo after Arquimedes Caminero ended the game, striking out a pair of pitchers. Starling Marte had four hits; David Freese and Gregory Polanco had three each while eight different Pirates scored; 10 had RBI.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Can't RISP? Can't Catch? Good Thing You Can Pitch - Bucs Take Series 2-1 Behind Nova & Clutch Bullpen

Ivan Nova had a smooth first inning; the Bucs had a chance to run away early. A Jordy walk followed by J-Hay and Cutch knocks bode well, but the plate was dented only a sac fly by Freeser; Gregory's K hurt bigly. It was a quiet second for NY; the Pirates were treated to a rarity with a Stew triple with one out; he too was left aboard. Spot a trend yet? No NY damage in the third. The Pittsburgh side cashed in. Cutch drew a one-out walk and Gregory went up the line for a two-bagger. Andrew ran through Joey Cora's stop sign to score, and his aggressive but accurate read on the play would prove eventually to be a game-winner. Nova got into his first jam in the fourth following back-to-back one-out knocks, but he got Aaron Judge to roll one to Jordy for a 6-4-3 inning-ending DP. The Bucs went with barely a peep themselves, chipping in their own DP ball.

Ivan Nova was the man again (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Both sides collected singles in the fifth; NY stranded their runner while the Bucs hit into another DP. The Pinstripers went down quietly in the sixth; the Pirates - hey, how about a third DP in three innings? This one was triggered by Jose Osuna's liner that trapped El Coffee off first. Jacoby Ellsbury homered off Nova in the seventh to halve the lead. Bryan Mitchell got the ball and a single sandwiched between two walks with no outs got him into instant hot water. But a Jordy pop to left, a J-Hay liner and a Cutch K left three more runners. Huddy took over for the Bucs in the eighth (Ivan gave up a run on four hits, *gasp* a walk and seven K in seven IP, using 87 pitches). With one gone, a walk and single put him in the red zone. A short two-out wild pitch put the tying run 90' away, but Daniel coolly K'ed Starlin Castro with high heat. Three up, three down for Pittsburgh.

Of course the drama wasn't over. Tony Watson looked to close and started with an out that was followed by a knock and a walk. But he looked like he got out of it with a tailor-made DP ball to J-Hay, who muffed the play and loaded the sacks. Tony is used to the Fat Lady waiting out his inevitable pickle and struck out Aaron Hicks, then served up a harmless game-ending grounder to coax her on stage to sing while the Jolly Roger was hoisted.

Tony's usual drama wasn't all self-inflicted today (image Positively Pgh.)

Another 1-for-10 RISP day, three DPs and blowing the game-ending DP, so what else is new? Ivan was dominant as usual and the pen had the right stuff again, so strong pitching overcame missing fundamentals elsewhere. The Cubs roll into town for a three-game set tomorrow with Chad Kuhl and Brett Anderson to open the series.

  • Stew's triple was the first in his career, covering 1,184 PAs. He had two hits today as did J-Hay and Gregory. Cutch had a single and walk.
  • This was Tony Watson's eighth appearance. None have been clean and in 6-of-8, he's faced five or six batters.
  • 27,840 spun the turnstiles for the game.
  • The Pirates have, surprise, been looking for an OF'er. The consensus seems to be, with a weak roster of available FAs and only Danny Ortiz & Austin Meadows available at Indy, that the FO is scouring the DFA list or perhaps in minor-deal mood for a fourth outfielder type.
  • Jamie Romak, 31, who came to Pittsburgh back in 2007 as part of the Adam LaRouche deal, is still around. He's hitting .345 with nine HR (the most in pro baseball) for San Diego's AAA El Paso club in the PCL. Jamie did get some showtime in 2014-15 with the Angels and D-Backs.

Sunday: Rubber Match Finale, Nova v Jordan Montgomery, Lineup, Notes

Today: The game starts at 1:35 and will be on Root Sports, the MLB Network for out-of-market viewers and 93.7 The Fan. Kids 14-and-under get a Bucco water bottle.

Lineup: Jordy SS, Josh Harrison 3B, Cutch CF, Gregory Polanco LF, David Freese 1B, Jose Osuna RF, Phil Gosselin 2B, Stew C & Ivan Nova P. A lefty on the hill has scrubbed Fraze and J-Bell from the lineup, and we are a little surprised that Goose continues to get the spot starts instead of Alen Hanson. Fran is off thx to day-following-night game. He did jog out a grounder in yesterday's game, but no word on whether it was his pride or bod that was hurt (EDIT: Clint said it was just "game fatigue" so a day off seems right on time). And yah, lineups like this seem to beg for defensive implosions, but Clint doesn't have a lot of good options when a southpaw takes the hill.

Freeser shifts to first today (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Pitchers: Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.25) goes against Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 4.22). Ivan has put together three nice starts but hasn't had much support by the bats yet; hopefully that will even out as the season goes on. His calling card as a Bucco remains the same - throw strikes and make them hit your pitch. In three games he's only K'ed eight but has yet to issue a walk. Today marks a family reunion for Nova. He spent seven seasons in pinstripes and this will be his first appearance against his former teammates. 24-year-old rookie Montgomery, a 2014 fourth round pick out of South Carolina, has being a 6'6" lefty with a good downhill delivery going for him. Also in his favor is a four-pitch mix - fastball, curveball, cutter, and changeup. A lot depends on his command - he's walked four in his 10-2/3 IP and also fanned 11.

Nova goes against his home boys (photo Joe Guzy/Pirates)
  • Josh Bell has hit safely in six straight games, going 7-for-21 with two homers.
  • Freeser has hit safely in four straight games and reached base safely in 15-of-16 contests. He ranks sixth in the NL with a .443 OBP. Cutch is also feelin' it with hits in 11-of-12 games.
  • Speaking of OBP, leadoff has not been an Achilles heel so far for the Bucs - the #1 hitters have reached at a .367 OBP clip. That's mostly due to Fraze, who is getting aboard at a .412 rate in his seven games at leadoff. The Bucco issues against lefties can partially be explained by topping the order with Jordy, who in six games has a .296 OBP. J-Hay has been the man twice and has a .375 OBP, so that's why you see him there; it's not a case of Clintsanity.
  • Gregory is 0-for-13 since returning full-time from his groin/shoulder injuries.
  • BTW, yesterday's misjudged ball by Cutch and Gregory was called by both, so they obviously need some more time together to mesh. The near collision and ensuing error resulted when Polanco lost the ball in the sun a step or two away from the catch after Andrew had peeled off the ball.

4/23 From the 30s Forward: Happy Jack & Rube HoF, Babe Sold, HBD Blackie, Streaks Stop & Go, Rally Time

  • 1935 - RHP Ron “Blackie” Blackburn was born in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. His MLB career lasted two years, from 1958-59, both spent with the Bucs where Blackie slashed 3-2-4/3.50. Blackburn spent 11 campaigns in the minors, the last for Asheville from which he retired after the 1964 season to became a teacher and baseball coach at Western Carolina University before becoming the rec director at the Western Correction Center in North Carolina.
Happy Jack 2011 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions
  • 1946 - RHP “Happy Jack” (he was an upbeat guy) Chesbro was elected to the Hall of Fame. A spitballer who won 41 games in 1904 for the NY Highlanders, he tossed for the Pirates at the beginning of his career from 1899-1902 with a line of 70-38/2.89. Also selected was Rube Waddell, a colorful hurler who began his career with Pittsburgh in 1900-01. They were inducted on June 12th.
  • 1946 - The Bucs sold 1B Ellsworth “Babe” Dahlgren to the St. Louis Browns. Dahlgren hit .271 with 176 RBI in his two year stint with the Bucs, but faded badly with the Browns as a 34-year-old and ‘46 was his last season in the show. He’s famous as the man who replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939 while with the Yankees.
  • 1947 - The Pirates were out of the gate in a hurry, winning their sixth of the first seven games of the season by an 8-5 count over the Cards at Sportsman’s Park. Billy Cox and Eddie Basinski each homered and combined for seven RBI. Ed Bahr tossed 6-1/3 shutout innings, giving up just three hits, to win in relief.
Billy Cox (Associated Press photo)
  • 1962 - The Bucs record setting ten game, season-opening winning streak was derailed by the Mets and Jay Hook at Forbes Field. It was the first regular season victory ever for NY as they won 9-1 behind Hook’s five-hitter and it started the Pirates on a spiral of losing 13-of-17 games.
  • 1966 - The Pirates scored three times in the ninth inning to pull out a 5-4 win against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Pittsburgh trailed 4-2 heading into the ninth before Bob Bailey, Jim Pagliaroni, and Jose Pagan each hit solo homers off Dennis Aust and Hal Woodeshick to power the Bucs past the Cards.

4/23 Through the 20s: Sparse Crowd; Bad Bet; Cotton Hot; HBD Bob, Iron Man & Genie; Duel

  • 1875 - OF Bob Ganley was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Bob started his five-year MLB run with the Pirates in 1910-11, hitting .270 off the bench as a rookie and then as a starting outfielder in his second year. Bob’s last MLB campaign was in 1909 with the Philadelphia Athletics and he was out of baseball after spending the 1912 season with Atlanta of the Southern Association. Per BR Bullpen, he moved around so much as a player that he was called "the globetrotter of organized baseball." He played for Pittsburgh, Washington and Philadelphia as a big leaguer and for New Haven, Albany, Brockton, Columbus, Toledo, Marion, Schenectady, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Oakland, Johnstown, Des Moines, Newark and Atlanta as a farm hand. Bob also managed the Fredericton Pets in 1913 and the Perth Amboy Pacers in 1914.
  • 1890 - The Pittsburgh Alleghenys beat the Cleveland Spiders 20-12 at Recreation Park in front of a crowd of 17 (with six paid) in a yard that held 17,000. The Alleghenys set another franchise record that day; five batters were beaned by the Spiders. Don’t fault the fans for the low turnout - the team finished last in the NL with a record of 23–113, 66-1/2 games behind the first place Brooklyn Bridegrooms. According to Wikipedia, Recreation Park was also known as Union Park and later, the Allegheny Athletic Association Grounds. It was tucked between Allegheny Ave, Pennsylvania Ave, Galveston Ave and Behan St in Allegheny West. No pictures of it as a baseball field are known to exist, though there are a couple of newspaper shots of Pitt playing football there. The baseball team left for Exposition Park in 1891 and Pitt followed suit in 1904.
This was not a group to bet against (photo via Boston Library)
  • 1902 - St. Louis Cardinals owner Frank Robison put up a $10‚000 challenge that the Pirates wouldn’t repeat as NL champions. Pittsburgh players pooled their money to meet the bet and then collected easily as they won the pennant by 27-1/2 games. St Louis finished sixth, 44-1/2 games off the Pirates’ pace.
  • 1906 - RHP Ray “Iron Man” Starr was born in Nowatka, Oklahoma. Ray tossed for the Bucs during the second half of his career between 1944-45 in his age 38-39 seasons with a line of 6-7-3, 5.33. He was a product of wartime baseball; after tossing for three years in the show, he spent from 1934-40 in the minors (in all, he spent 15 years on various farm clubs) before he was called back up by the Reds in 1941. Ray picked up his nickname because he was said to have tossed both ends of more than 40 double-headers while in the minor leagues.
  • 1913 - The Pirates were held to three hits by St Louis hurler Bill Steel and lost 3-1 despite Claude Hendrix’s two-hitter (six walks hurt) at Robison Field. The runs were hard earned; the Cardinals scored on a bases loaded walk, steal of home and sac fly while the Bucco run came on an error. The bright spot of the Pirates’ day was a nifty triple play. With the bases loaded, Hendrix speared a comebacker and went home to catcher Billy Kelly for a force; his relay to Dots Miller at first beat the batter and Miller’s return throw home nailed the Card runner who started from second, trying to steal a score during the exchange.
Gene "Genie" Smith (photo via Kansas State University)
  • 1917 - RHP Gene “Genie” Smith was born in Ashley, Louisiana. He pitched for the the Homestead Grays between 1946–1947. During his career, he threw three no-hitters, played in the East-West All Star game and in the Negro World Series, although not with Homestead. He joined them after spending three years in the service and never had another big season afterward, retiring after the 1951 campaign.
  • 1922 - Second baseman Cotton Tierney collected a career-high five hits, doubled three times, and knocked in a game-high four runs in Pittsburgh’s 14-3 rout of the Cubs in Chicago. The Bucs broke the game open with an eight run second inning and then added two more runs an inning later to make it 10-0. It was Pittsburgh’s sixth straight win after beginning the season with losses in each of the first three games. Hal Carlson took the win at Wrigley.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pitchers, Fielders Take Their Lumps; Yankees Drop Pirates 11-5

JT started it off well with a 1-2-3, nine-pitch first frame. It looked like Michael Pineda was going to match, but a two-out slider to Cutch found its way over the center-field wall into the bullpen to make it 1-0. The second was rocking-chair easy, with a walk erased around-the-horn by the Bucs and Pineda cruising. It was a quiet third for the Bronx Boys; Buc fielding has been uncharacteristically sharp so far. The Pirates got a pair on after two were away on a Fraze walk and J-Bell knock, but Pineda kept his slider this at-bat to punch out Andrew swinging. A quick alarm bell sounded between innings when JT landed awkwardly on his ankle during warmups, but he carried on.

JT didn't have his usual command this afternoon (photo Ted Vuich/AP)

A walk and a steal set up NY with two gone in the fourth but set no fire. Freeser caught a fastball and sent it into the right-center seats; boy, dingers are a nice thing to have in your arsenal occasionally. The Yanks got their first hit with two out in the fifth when Austin Romine got a reprieve on a check-swing strike three and then lined a pitch just past Jordy. A ground ball knock followed, but Pineda K'ed to calm the waters. JT and Fraze singled with an out and Bell walked to juice the sacks. Cutch lifted a heater to right and the sac fly made it 3-0.

Good thing as the Yanks roared back in the sixth. A soft infield single deflected by JT and a walk were both chased home by Starlin Castro's first pitch bomb; that was followed by an Aaron Judge double. That brought Juan Nicasio in, and he caught the next hitter on the back foot with a 1-2 chase pitch, followed by a bloop. Jaso misplayed a ball hit in front of him into a double that brought home two more. An out later Wade LeBlanc entered to end the action. Jonathan Holder got the wave for NY. Amore doubled with two away and scampered home on Jordy's dink, bringing Tyler Clippard into the game. He bopped Jose Osuna and it cost him as Fraze followed with an RBI knock. Bell was caught looking but it's tied again. Felipe Rivero took his turn; the last two nights have been brutal on the bullpens.

Antonio Bastardo is a lost soul right now (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Felipe tossed a clean seventh. Andrew opened with a walk and stole second. A hard grounder moved him up a station; the Yanks had Gregory shifted perfectly. Dellin Betances took the ball as Freeser stepped into the box; Betances won the battle, getting a short fly to ice Cutch and a grounder to keep it knotted. With two gone in the eighth, a Fraze boot and single put Rivero in hot water. It was boiling when Chris Carter pinch hit and launched a no-doubt three-run shot. Then Cutch missed a fly (he called off Polanco, whose ball it appeared to be) to put a runner at third, bringing Antonio Bastardo in from the deep freeze. His wild pitch brought in another tally, tho the ground rule double following would have worked just as well. Another two-bagger made it 10-5 before the third out came.

Bryan Mitchell took the bump and tucked the Bucs away. Aaron Judge hit a ball halfway to the moon off AB and for some reason Aroldis Chapman came in, for the work we suppose. He didn't plunk Cutch as is his MO, tho he did walk him. No diff; 11-5 was how it ended. Not catching the ball usually bites ya; so does giving up four doubles and three homers, so it was a bad day all around at the ranch. At least the sweep thingie has run its course; now a series win would be sweet.


  • Fraze reached three times with two hits and a walk; Cutch also, with one dinger and two free passes. J-Bell had a knock and a walk. We'd suggest the Bucs make up their mind about Frazier; he has 37 starts at second and 63 in the outfield across all levels of pro ball; doesn't seem like they're doing him or the team any favors by plopping him all over the field.
Find the kid a spot already (photo via MLB Pipeline)
  • Good crowd for a fifty-ish afternoon - 36,140 filled the yard.
  • The Pirates got into Earth Day by partnering its "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green" program with the Western PA Conservancy to provide funding for a season-long tree-planting program. The Bucs will donate $250 for each home run hit at PNC Park by the team throughout the season to the cause, providing some long green for leafy green.

Saturday: Game #2 of NY Set, JT v Michael Pineda, Lineup, Notes

Today: This afternoon's game starts at 4:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. Be among the first 20,000 through the turnstiles and you'll get a free Cutch tee.

Cutch shirt day 2010 Topps Gypsy Queen

Lineup: Adam Frazier 2B, Josh Bell 1B, Cutch CF, Gregory Polanco LF, David Freese 3B, John Jaso RF, Fran Cervelli, Jordy Mercer SS & Jameson Taillon P. It's interesting when a righty starts; Fraze has the hot stick for the RF spot, but JJ looks like a natural OF'er, despite little experience, in the pasture, with the same dynamic in play for second base with J-Hay.

Pitchers: Jameson Taillon (1-0, 0.90) goes against Michael Pineda (2-1, 3.44). Can't ask for too much more of the 25-year-old Taillon. JT has gone at least seven innings in two of his first three starts and has been charged with zero earned runs twice. He's never faced the NYY, but has a 1-1/1.29 line in three career interleague starts. Pineda had a stormy start in his opener, but in the last pair of games has given up just three runs in 14-2/3 IP on eight hits and a walk with 17 K, so he's been on top of his game lately. This will be the first time the 28-year-old righty has tossed against the Pirates.

JT climbs the hill (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • J-Bell has homered in back-to-back games. His home run last night was his first career extra base hit off a LHP.
  • Last night began a stretch of four lefties slated against the Pirates during the current six-game homestand. The Bucs are 2-4 this season in outings against lefty starters and are hitting just .194 overall against southpaws so far this campaign.
  • The Bronx Bombers are 2-5 away from Gotham. The biggest diff? They score nearly six runs per game at Yankee Stadium, but less than four on the road.
  • With his 410th career appearance as a Pirate last night, Tony Watson tied Dave Giusti (1970-76) for seventh place on the club’s all-time outing list. Elroy Face tops the chart with 802 appearances. Tony has converted all five of his save chances this season and has gone 20-for-23 in save opportunities since taking over the closer role from Mark the Shark in August of last season.
  • Beginning today, José Osuna will wear uniform #36. He wore #64 in spring training and for the first three games of his call-up.

4/22 Through the 40s: Expo Openers; Crawford/Grays; HBD Jake, Terrible Ted & Mickey; Kiner Slam; Even Dozen; Deals,

  • 1951 - Led by Gus Bell‚ who went 5-for-5 with a homer‚ three doubles, and a single while scoring three times‚ the Pirates defeated the Reds 7-5 at Crosley Field. Ralph Kiner was 1-for-2 with a triple and was walked three times behind Bell. Bill Werle tossed 2-1/3 scoreless relief frames to claim the win.
Gus Bell 1952 Topps
  • 1957 - Hank Foiles hit a 425’ triple and a 258’ homer off the RF foul pole in a 3-1 loss to the Giants at the weirdly configured Polo Grounds. Willie Mays' two-out, three-run homer in the third off Luis Arroyo carried NY to victory.
  • 1962 - The Pirates won their tenth straight game since Opening Day, 4-3 over New York, equaling the major league record to start a season. Bob Veale beat the Mets at Forbes Field; the NY nine tied a NL record going in the opposite direction by opening the year 0-9. The Pirates won it in the bottom of the eighth when Bill Mazeroski’s double scored Roberto Clemente.
  • 1993 - Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield won his second consecutive start while walking nine batters when he ended a five game Bucco skid with a 5-4 decision over the Cincinnati Reds at Three Rivers Stadium. He only allowed four hits while going the distance. Wakefield made it a nail biter by walking the bases loaded on 14 pitches after two outs in the ninth, but Barry Larkin inexplicably offered at the first pitch following that third free pass and tapped into a game-ending comebacker. Lonnie Smith led a balanced Pirates attack with two RBI and a run scored, while Carrick’s John Wehner made his first pro start in center field, replacing Andy Van Slyke.
Tim Wakefield 1993 Leaf
  • 1997 - The Pirates signed OF Turner Ward to a $300K deal after he had was released by the Brewers. He had two solid years for the Bucs, including an all-time TV moment when he crashed through the TRS wall. But he hit under the Mendoza line in 1999 and was released in August.
  • 2001 - Jason Kendall gave the Bucs their first walkoff win at PNC Park with a two-run homer off Chicago’s Jeff Fassero in the 10th inning. The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th on a leadoff homer by Gary Matthews. In the home half, Kevin Young answered by delivering a pinch-hit single and Kendall followed with his blast to give the Bucs and Mike Williams the win.
  • 2010 - The Pirates were humiliated by the Brewers at PNC Park 20-0 for their worst loss ever. Six Bucco pitchers surrendered 25 hits. The victory completed a three-game sweep of the Bucs in which the Brew Crew outscored Pittsburgh, 36-1.
Jon Niese 2016 Topps
  • 2016 - The Bucs held off the Diamondbacks 8-7 in a game that featured some epic long taters. It was in the nineties in Arizona, and the Chase Field roof was open, setting up perfect conditions for a slugfest. Each team had three homers (Welington Castillo had two) but the Buc blasts were seismic. Sean Rodriguez and Gregory Polanco hit the longest pair of back-to-back homers since official measurements began in 2009 at 458 and 461 feet. They were topped by Jordy Mercer’s launch of 466’, the longest home run of the year to date. Those bombs were three of the six longest homers hit so far during the season. Jon Niese got the win (it was the first time the vet started a campaign with a 3-0 record) and Mark Melancon earned the save.

4/22 Through the 40s: Expo Openers; Crawford/Grays; HBD Jake, Terrible Ted & Mickey; Kiner Slam; Even Dozen; Deals,

  • 1891 - The Pirates played their first game at Exposition Park, located on the North Shore of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh not far removed from where PNC Park sits now. Pittsburgh lost to the Chicago Cubs 7-6. The Pittsburg Press printed a special “Sporting Edition” that included a game story and illustrations. The 16,000 seat yard featured 400-foot foul lines and a 450-foot center field fence and was their home field until 1909 when Forbes Field opened in Oakland.
Expo Park 1903 World Series (photo via Boston Public Library)
  • 1892 - The Pirates set a franchise record when they scored twelve times in the first inning against St. Louis at Expo Park to beat the Browns 14-3. The game provided this footnote: Pittsburgh OF Elmer Smith worked a pair of free passes in that opening frame, the first time a player was walked twice in one inning.
  • 1894 - 2B Jake Pitler was born in New York City. Jake’s major league career was spent in Pittsburgh between 1917-18. He played regularly the first season but got into just two games in the second, hitting .232 in his time as a Pirate. Pitler was raised in Pittsburgh and was a newspaper boy working the Forbes Field area. That piqued his interest in baseball and he played semi-pro, advancing to the minor-leagues. The Pirates were looking for stability at second base so he got his shot when the Bucs picked him up from Chattanooga. He lost out in 1918 when Pittsburgh acquired vet George Grantham to play second and sent Pitler to minor-league Jersey City. He didn’t report and instead returned to his indie league roots. He eventually caught on with the Brooklyn Dodgers after his playing days and served as a long-time minor-league manager and big league coach.
  • 1898 - Cincinnati's Ted Breitenstein tossed a no-hitter against the Pirates, winning easily by an 11-0 count at League Field. He struck out two, walked one, and another runner reached via error. All in all, the Pittsburg Press declared it “...a wonderful feat.”
Sam Leever 1902 (photo via The National Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 1902 - The Pirates and their opponents, the Cincinnati Reds, marched in a raucous parade from the downtown Monongahela House hotel to Exposition Park that was cheered on by thousands for the Home Opener, the Pittsburg Press wrote on the front page. The Bucs raised their 1901 pennant flag over the ballyard in front of a record 15,000 fans and then overcome an early three run deficit to edge the Reds 4-3. Tommy Leach scored the winning run in the eighth, singling and then advancing from first-to-third on a bunt. He scored on starting (and winning) pitcher Sam Leever’s sac fly.
  • 1903 - Theodore Roosevelt “Terrible Ted” Page was born in Glasgow, Kentucky. The speedy and gritty OF’er played for the Homestead Grays (1931-32) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-34). He grew up in Youngstown and turned down a football scholarship offered by Ohio State to focus on baseball. The lefty Page batted .335 for his career, but injured his knee in 1934, leading eventually to his retirement in 1937. He stayed in Pittsburgh and his sports focus switched. After baseball, Page ran bowling alleys, including Meadow Lanes (he was hired to work there by former teammate Jack Marshall), and wrote a bowling column for the Pittsburgh Courier. He met a tragic end, beaten to death at home during a robbery, and is buried at Allegheny Cemetery.
Terrible Ted 1932 (photo Teenie Harris/Carnegie Art Museum collection)
  • 1913 - Manager Fred Clarke was suspended for five days after a “run in” with umpire Brick Owens, who called strike three on a Red at Forbes Field for the final out of a Bucco win on 4/19, only to change his mind and decide it was a ball, after all. The Pirates had started to trot off the field, allowing a runner to scoot to third while the club was in disarray. It became a moot point when the Bucs held on for a 6-5 win over Cincinnati. Afterward, Clarke admitted that he had used “forceful language” in arguing his case, but given the circumstances, was still upset by the time off. First-place Pittsburgh was already missing injured stars SS Hans Wagner and C George Gibson and would shortly start a slide that dropped them out of contention.
  • 1918 - Mickey Vernon was born in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Vernon spent 1960 as the Bucs' first-base coach and was actually added at age 42 to the active roster in September, going 1-for-8 in nine games. He went on to manage the Washington Senators, returning to Pittsburgh as a coach in 1964. The 1B’s MLB career spanned four decades (1939-60) and after Pittsburgh he coached for the St. Louis Cardinals, LA Dodgers, Montreal Expos and NY Yankees. He managed at the AAA and AA levels of the minor leagues and served as a batting instructor in the Kansas City Royals and Yankees' farm system before retiring from baseball.
  • 1931 - RHP Bob Osborn was sold to the Pirates by the Cubs. The early season move was triggered because pitchers Ervin Brame, Remy Kremer and Steve Swetonic were all out of action at the time with various ailments. The Pirates used Osborn mostly as a short reliever (he started twice) and he ended the season with a slash of 6-1/5.01 with his six wins in relief tops in the NL. In 1932, he was sent to the Cards as part of the Bill Swift deal.
Cool Papa was one of the defections that doomed the Crawfords (2004 Topps Tribute)
  • 1937 - Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Truijillo signed several players from the Crawfords including Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige to his Dragones of Ciudad Trujillo squad. It was the blow that eventually brought down the Pittsburgh team as a powerhouse Negro League club. The Crawfords were sold in 1939 and moved to Toledo.
  • 1941 - Pitcher Mace Brown was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mace had spent seven years as a Pirate, doing everything from starting to closing, but with Brooklyn was converted to one of the first full-time relievers. He was fairly effective over the next three years, then lost 1944-45 to the war while serving in the Navy, and 1946 was his last MLB campaign.
  • 1949 - The Pirates won their home opener‚ beating the Reds 5-4 behind Ralph Kiner's third-inning grand slam. The Bucs had fallen behind 4-0 in the first, but Bill Werle tossed 7-2/3 frames of scoreless relief to claim the win.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bucs Play Longball, Take Opener From the NYY 6-3

Tyler Glasnow got a pair of grounds outs before Stalin Castro's single that almost led to disaster as Cutch and Jose Osuna almost crashed head-on fielding the ball. Another single and a steal put the Yankees in business, but a ring-up of Aaron Judge (on a generous call; there would be more duringthe night) sent them to the dugout. Jordy led off with a homer into the shrubbery for the Bucs off CC Sabathia; J-Hay, Cutch and Freeser singled to score another point, although a whiff and DP kept it from being a yuge frame.

In the second, Ty gave up another two-out knock, but no drama this time around. The Pirates touched home some more with Jose Osuna tripling and J-Bell drilling long ball number two to make it 4-0. A couple of walks sandwiched around a double and error by Osuna plated a run for NY, but a Freeser 5-2 cutdown at home saved Glasnow from any further damage. Pittsburgh went down in order.

From a crawl to a walk (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

The Bronx Bombers opened the fourth with a knock off Jordy's mitt but no prob for Tyler who whiffed a pair. The Pirates stranded a walk. In the fifth, Bucco blundering struck again. After a pair of two-out singles, Glasnow appeared to have worked out of it with a bouncer to second (actually short right as the Bucs were shifted) but J-Hay let the ball go through him, allowing a pair of runs to score. Juan Nicasio came on to get the third out and at 102 pitches, this frame was the last act for Glasnow anyway. He was charged with three runs (one earned) on seven hits, two walks, and five whiffs. The Bucs got a walk and three fly balls to Judge in RF.

Juan worked a clean sixth and Adam Warren took the ball from CC, returning the favor. The seventh brought some changes - Felipe Rivero claimed the hill, John Jaso replaced Bell at first and Adam Frazier took over for Osuna in right. It all combined for a quiet frame. It was NY's turn to gift a two-out run; Jordy, aboard on a walk, scored when Castro dropped Cutch's pop in short right. Lefty Tommy Layne came on to face El Coffee and lost him. Righty Jonathan Holder was waved in to face Freeser. That didn't work either as he singled home Andrew to make it 6-3.

Huddy worked out of a hot spot not of his own making (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Huddy took the hill in the eighth; a Freeser boot with two-outs followed by a J-Hay non-play (ruled an infield single, but...) put Yankees on the corners. Remember Matt Holliday? Doc grabbed a bat to pinch-hit. A stolen base upped the ante, but all the shoddy glove work cost Huddy was 20 extra pitches (all three post-error batters went 3-2) as he fanned the ex-Card. Tyler Clippard put up a zippo. Tony Watson got two quick outs before an infield single followed by another knock; nothing comes easy to this team. Slugger Aaron Judge became the tying run, but he went down 6-4 to raise the Jolly Roger. Sweep, anyone?

The Buc scored more runs in the first two innings than they did in the entire St. Louis series from a lineup that didn't appear very ferocious; funny how the occasional longball helps the cause. Tyler isn't there by a long shot, but now he's working with runners on, tossing some strikes and making it five or so innings; we'd say he's on track for what will be a season-long Uncle Ray tutorial. And geez, after every game the fielding is a storyline...

  • Freeser and J-Hay had a pair of hits; Jordy, Jose Osuna and Gregory each reached base twice.
  • The Yankees were 2-of-2 swiping sacks; opponents are now 17-of-19 on the year against the Buccos.
  • 12 pitchers were used; it took 10 hurlers to get the final 21 outs.
Photo Adam Berry/MLB.com
  • The Pirates had a moment of silence before the game for Dan Rooney and placed his name around the batters box for tonight's game.
  • 30,565 came out to catch the game and the fireworks.

Friday: Yanks Visit PNC, Glasnow v CC Sabathia, Lineup, Notes

Tonight: The New York Yankees come to PNC Park and are en fuego, winning nine of their last 10 games. The game's first pitch is due at 7:05 and the contest will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan, which will sponsor a Zambelli Fireworks display after the contest so bring your oohs and aahs.

PNC Fireworks (photo by Sean Scarmack/You Tube)

Lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, Josh Harrison 2B, Cutch CF, Gregory Polanco LF, David Freese 3B, Fran Cervelli C, Jose Osuna RF, Josh Bell 1B and Tyler Glasnow P. Not a very mighty order tonight. It is a red-letter day for Jose Osuna, tho - he's making his first MLB start.

Pitchers: Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 12.15) takes on CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.47). The 23-year-old righty was twice named the top pitching prospect in the International League by MLB Pipeline but as John Lennon noted "...it ain't easy." The FO figured there was no more progress to be made by Ty in the IL and if he was to move ahead, it would have to be at the MLB level. Throwing strikes is his biggest issue, and he took a step toward improving that facet last outing with seven whiffs v two walks. If he can learn to trust his stuff and mentally accept the ups-and-downs of his break-in period and assimilate its lessons, the experiment should end well. Tyler has never faced the Yankees and this is also his first interleague start. The 36-year-old CC is the next in a string of lefties crossing the Buccos path. After a three year bump in the road, Sabathia put up solid numbers last year and is off to a sweet start to this campaign. CC hasn't faced the Pirates since 2008, but he was murder on them back in the day, going 4-0/1.23 in six starts with two complete games and a WHIP of 0.795 against the Bucs.

Tyler is trying to transition from prospect to MLB starter (image MLB Pipeline)
  • This is the fifth series between the Yankees and Pirates since interleague began; the Bronx Bombers are 9-3 against the Buccos.
  • The Pirates have been involved in five straight sweep-or-be-swept series. The last team to kick off a season on that kind of roll was the 2003 Minnesota Twins. The Twinkies started that campaign with seven straight sweep series per the Elias Sports Bureau. The Twin Cities were 3-4 in those matches and after a split set ended that run, they went on to sweep two of the next three series.
Freeser had more than baseball on his mind (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today has piece on David Freese's most brutal battle, the one against depression and anxiety.
  • Kyle Glaser of Baseball America follows the prospects in the show with his "Three Up, Three Down" column which highlights fast lane guys and those stilling waiting to hit the freeway. Tyler Glasnow is one of the players mentioned; not hard to guess which lane Glaser has him in. However, Luis Escobar and Stephen Alemais did make BA's Prospect Hot Sheet.
  • Probably not much of a surprise announcement here, but the Pirates have canceled their planned Starling Marte jersey giveaway scheduled for July 2nd. There will still be a free jersey promotion but the player is TBD.

4/21 TRS-PNC Park Era: Pops Goes Long, Score Early, Score Late, HBD Kip & Ronny, Cobra Suit, Prospects Dealt

  • 1971 - "Pops" Stargell hit three long balls for the second time in 11 days to lead Pittsburgh to a 10-2 win over the Braves. It was the fourth time he had three homers in a game, tying him with Ralph Kiner for the team record. Captain Willie collected five RBI and scored three times at TRS while Dock Ellis tossed a five hitter to keep the Bravo bats at bay.
Kip Wells 2004 Topps Heritage
  • 1977 - RHP Kip Wells was born in Houston. The righty came to Pittsburgh in the 2001 off season as part of the Todd Ritchie deal with the White Sox and tossed for five Bucco campaigns (2002-06), winning 36 times. The Texan started off well with ERAs of 3.58 and 3.28 in 2002-03 but faded and was sent to the Rangers for Jesse Chavez.
  • 1981 - Ronny Paulino was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He was thought be be the Bucco catcher of the future and started behind the dish in 2006-07. That was enough time to prove he wasn’t the answer and after the 2008 season he was dealt to the Phils for Jason Jaramillo. Paulino spent four years as a Pirate and hit .278. Ronny bumped around the league for four more seasons and finished his career in the Mexican League.
  • 1986 - The Pirates filed a lawsuit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court against Dave Parker. It sought to relieve the club of the deferred $5,312,475 still owed to the OF’er, with the Bucco claim based on his drug testimony which they alleged triggered a contractual clause that negated the back pay. He was the only player they sued after the fact, probably due to a combination of Parker playing for another team, not being very popular among the fans, and the Pirates sinking financial condition. A private settlement was reached between the club and The Cobra in 1988 before the case went before a judge.
Rey Quinones 1989 Upper Deck
  • 1989 - In a deal of hopefuls, the Pirates traded former first round pick OF/1B Mark Merchant along with pitchers Mike Dunne & Mike Walker to the Seattle Mariners for SS Rey Quinones and UT Bill Wilkinson. The change of scenery didn’t help and all five players quickly faded from the MLB landscape.
  • 1991 - The Pirates became the first MLB team to ever come back from a five run deficit in the bottom half of an extra inning to win a game. After the Cubs scored five runs‚ thanks mostly to a grand slam by Andre Dawson‚ the Pirates plated six times in the 11th inning at TRS to claim a 13-12 victory with Don Slaught's double the game winner. Nine Bucs batted in that frame, collecting two doubles, three singles, three walks and a sac fly as they small-balled their way to a big inning. Bob Patterson was charged with giving up three runs in an inning of work, but was credited with the win. The loss was pinned on former Pirate Mike Bielecki.
  • 1992 - The Bucs scored five times in the first inning and held on to beat the Expos 8-7 at Olympic Stadium. Andy Van Slyke put the Bucs ahead in the first with a two-run triple and finished the game with three RBI. Barry Bonds went deep in the third inning for his seventh homer of the year to make it 6-2 Pittsburgh. Vicente Palacios picked up the win in relief with two scoreless frames while Roger Mason earned the save.
Neil Walker 2014 Topps
  • 2014 - The Bucs blew an early lead, but an Andrew McCutchen homer in the eighth tied it and Neil Walker’s two-out RBI bloop to right was the game winner as the Pirates outlasted Cincinnati 6-5 at PNC Park. Jared Hughes stranded a pair of Reds in the ninth to earn the win. Ike Davis hit his second grand slam of the year and both were against the Reds, one as a Buc and one as a Met.

4/21 Expo Park-Forbes Field Era: Booming Bats, HBD Stan, Big Days For Rip & Ray, & Chief Wins His First

  • 1913 - The Pirates banged out eight straight hits plus a sacrifice fly to score seven times in the sixth inning to rally past the St. Louis Cards‚ 8-5. Babe Adams went the distance for the win at Robison Field. Honus Wagner & Solly Hofman led the attack with three knocks apiece. The victory moved Pittsburgh into a short-lived spot on top of the standings.
Solly Hofman 1912 (photo from the Boston Herald)
  • 1919 - SS Stan Rojek was born in North Tonawanda, New York. He played for the Pirates from 1948-51, starting the first two seasons and hitting .266 during his Pittsburgh years. The Bucs got him from Brooklyn, where he was a backup infielder behind Pee Wee Reese. He hit .290 his first Bucco season as the starter but after a beaning that sent him to the hospital, his bat was never quite the same and he was traded to the Cardinals in May of 1951. The Pirates gave him a couple of not-so-flattering nicknames, per Edward Veit of SABR. “Initially Rojek’s Pirates teammates called him ‘Reject’ because he had been dumped by the Dodgers. He also was called ‘The Happy Rabbit’ because of his projecting front teeth, his attitude, and his quickness in scurrying around shortstop.”
  • 1921 - Moses “Chief” Yellowhorse won his first MLB game and the first ever by a full-blooded Native American (he was Pawnee) by working 3-1/3 innings in Pittsburgh’s 8-7 win over the Reds at Forbes Field in the season’s home lidlifter. Rabbit Maranville led the attack with three hits, including a triple, two runs scored and three RBI.
  • 1927 - In their home opener at Forbes Field, Pirates ace Ray Kremer did it all. He tossed a complete game four-hitter while blasting a two-run home run off Reds starter Eppa Rixey to lead the Bucs to a 3-2 victory in front of 33,439 fans.
Ray Kremer 1985 Big League Collectibles
  • 1943 - Rip Sewell ruined the Cubs home opener at Wrigley Field as he tossed a three hit, 6-0 shutout. Sewell had their number and won five more contests from them during the campaign. He wasn't the only ace on this date - there were four games played around the league and they all ended in shutouts, a MLB record.
  • 1957 - In the first game of a doubleheader at Ebbets Field, Frank Thomas, Paul Smith, and Dick Groat hit consecutive home runs in the third inning off Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe to lead Pittsburgh to a 6-3 victory. Bob Skinner also went yard while Roberto Clemente collected three hits. Bob Purkey got the win for the Pirates. Don Drysdale evened things up by winning the nightcap 7-4 for the Dodgers, as Don Zimmer homered and drove in three runs.
  • 1964 - The Bucs beat the Cubs 8-5 at Wrigley Field. Every run scored was the result of a homer to set a MLB standard, and nine different players went long, tying another record. Roberto Clemente, Ducky Schofield, Jim Pagliaroni, and Gene Freese (who hit a three run bomb in the ninth to win it) went yard for Pittsburgh while the Cubs added five solo shots

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017 Bucs - Some Swerves In the Road

First it was Jung-Ho Kang and now it's Starling Marte, two guys who were counted on to generate an attack until their hands got caught in the cookie jar. Now they're both on the reserved list with Kang's return TBD and Marte gone until July 18th.

Kang's absence has been ameliorated by the play of David Freese who may lack JHK's power but holds his own in OBP and OPS+. Marte will be a horse of a different color.  The Pirates shed outfielders like a German Shepherd sheds fur - Matt Joyce & S-Rod were allowed to go in free agency and the minor league prospects like Keon Broxton, Willy Garcia, & Harold Ramirez were all jettisoned.

Still, the Pirates intend to replace Marte internally; there really is no market player available (Jeff Francoeur, Sam Fuld, Coco Crisp and Alejandro De Aza) to fill the bill. The FO saw fit to leave the fourth outfield spot vacant when constructing the 2017 roster. We assume their thought process was that Austin Meadows would be MLB-ready by All-Star break and that the reshuffled Three Amigos would play the vast majority of innings no matter who was on the bench.

Osuna joins an undistinguished bench (photo via MLB Pipeline)

Jose Osuna was called up in his stead, even though he is primarily a first baseman who is sometimes thrown into the pasture. Cutch was returned to center to his delight and Gregory will remain in left, although there have been worries that his list of nagging injuries may be in part due to covering the much more spacious PNC Park acreage this year. But right field, that's now a poser.

Adam Frazier would seem the natural choice, although yesterday John Jaso, another lefty, got the nod. If they're going to employ a platoon system, the likely RH suspects would be Josh Harrison and Alen Hanson along with Osuna. Josh Bell could also get a look as outfield was his original spot, although we don't think the club is ready to pull the plug on his first base experiment.

Marte will enrich the club by $2.5M by spending half the season on the reserved list and if Kang is also hors d' combat for the same amount of time, that's another $1.375M tossed in the kitty. If the Pirates are still viable in July, they should have the financial means to go after guys who are rumored as trade bait. That list now includes Lorenzo Cain of the Royals, Carlos Gomez of the Rangers, Jay Bruce of the Mets and probably all of Toronto's outfield along with whomever else will become available as teams drop out of the running. Remember, Starling is ineligible for the post-season, so if the Bucs are still alive at All-Star break, they'll need someone who can be a playoff OF'er.

Freeser & Cutch have been the glue guys in the early going (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

As for the team's performance so far, the kids are learning their jobs at an acceptable at a predictably inconsistent rate while the vets, with the exception of Freeser & Cutch, are off to the usual April start, which is to say meh. Andrew looks like he's in seventh heaven over his return to center; we'll see how that works out (we think he'll do well, not just because of his attitude adjustment but because we think the brass may have positioned him poorly last year; they had TMI on their hands). But as usual the Pirates just can't seem to kick it in gear until the sun beams.

The current Bucco batting philosophy is based on OBP with the theory being that if you pile up enough runners some will have to score eventually. It worked last year when the club's OBP of .332 led to 4.5 runs per game, sixth in the NL. This year the OBP has dropped to .302 and the runs/game to 3.2, one run from the cellar. The culprit is obvious - the Pirates don't have any muscle. They put up a slugging % of .402 last year and an ISO of .144; in the first 15 games of 2017 those numbers are .342 and .113. Small sample size, yes, but without Kang and Marte, there's not much proven power on the club and buying some biceps costs money that the Pirates have shown no interest in allocating for that purpose.

Fraze has been this year's super-sub (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

The loss of Kang and Marte filtered down to the bench. Freeser and Fraze were expected to be the dugout mainstays, but David is now the full-time hot corner guy and Frazier is getting semi-regular time. The rest of the bench consists of Stew, John Jaso, a vet off to a slow start, journeyman Phil Gosselin, and puppies Alen Hanson & Jose Osuna. The group is not only missing a fourth outfielder, but there is no glove man for the middle and isn't very well constructed this season. If Meadows makes it to the show this year, it won't help the pine if his arrival means Cutch 's departure.

The fielding and base running have been pretty bad; the team has never been very fundamentally sound during Clint's tenure, although that could be as much the fault of the club culture of versatility and aggressiveness throughout the system as any coaching shortcomings in Pittsburgh. Still, a jack-of-all-trades like S-Rod is a good thing to have but expecting four Rodriguez's on the bench may be asking a bit much. The running game has be taught at the earliest levels and apparently isn't part of the Pirates baseball curriculum. Que sera, sera...

The pitching has been good. Pirates starters are sixth in the league in ERA (3.241) and strong in walks allowed, a long-time burr, and though more fly-ball oriented than in past years, solid in preventing home runs.

JT, Cole Train, Ivan & Cool Chad have been rock steady (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Gerrit Cole has gotten better every game and Ivan Nova has shown no signs of an NL sophomore jinx. The development of Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl has been remarkably smooth. The only question that remains is whether the Pirate decision to continue Tyler Glasnow's education in the majors will pay off and that's TBD. It's most encouraging to see the rotation going six or seven innings now. They're working fairly efficiently and Clint is giving them that one more inning that often spells the difference between a rested relief corp or a bullpen that's run into the ground.

The pen hasn't been as solid as hoped with a 4.47 ERA (4.04 xFIP). The back end has held up as Felipe Rivero has been lights out but Tony and Huddy, while both counting-number effective, have red flags. Watson's ERA is 1.50, but his xFIP is 6.14 and he averages six walks/nine. Hudson's concern is the 48% fly-ball rate; he's always been a fly-guy from the mound, but it's the first time he's been over 40% since 2010. Trevor Williams and Wade LeBlanc have done generally well as the odd couple. Juan Nicasio is feelin' it again as a bridge man, but Antonio Bastardo, well, not so much.

The prognosis? The Pirates didn't do the greatest job of roster construction this year and the loss of Kang/Marte only exacerbated it. The shuffling of positions hurts the defense - heck, they never even got to test their new outfield alignment but twice in the spring - and the base running game, both by and against the Bucs, needs some serious revamping.

But pitching will carry you pretty far. The Pirates top four guys look pretty strong and hopefully Glasnow will carry his weight by All-Star break or so. The team will get Starling and maybe Jung-Ho back sometime during the season; if they can hang in until the ASG it could be interesting. But we're not feeling it - too little offense and too many questions in the pen make it hard to compete consistently. Still 80-85 wins is possible and a lot of young guys should come of age.