Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ryan Ludwick Joins The Bucs

Just beating the timetable, the Bucs announced at 3:55 PM that they had a deal with San Diego: OF Ryan Ludwick for a PTBNL. Jan Langosch of tweets that the Padres have a list of three minor league players to select from to complete the deal. None are expected to be top prospects. The Bucs haven't announced who's leaving the 25 man roster yet; that has to be done tonight or tomorrow.

Ludwick, 33, was hitting .238 with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 64 RBI for the Padres. He's considered a reliable glove (4.1 UZR/150 and plays LF in spacious PETCO Park) and has some gap-to-gap pop in his bat. Ludwick does sport a reverse split through out his career, though - .274 v righties and .236 v. lefties.

He played for Texas in 2002, Cleveland (2003-05) and St. Louis (2007- 2010) before being traded to San Diego last year on July 31st. In 752 career games, Ludwick has compiled a line of .262/115/439. He was an All-Star in 2008.

The Pirates will pick up the remainder of the $6.775 million salary due Ludwick this season, about $2.2M. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year. That may have been the key to the deal being completed. Earlier in the day, it was reported by several sources that the Indians had him all but wrapped up.

The big question isn't where he fits in now, but what the Buc plans are for him when Alex Presley and Jose Tabata return from the DL later in August. If they like what they see, the Pirates may try to sign him for 2012 given the dearth of MLB-ready RH outfielders in the organization.

Bucs Can't Hang On; Ibanez Leads Phils To 6-5 Win In Ten

Today was the Bucs chance to take a game from the Phils and try to head back to the 'Burgh with their heads held high.

Vance Worley got the first two outs routinely, followed by McCutch's double to right. But The Pittsburgh Kid couldn't capitalize, going down swinging to end the inning. Jeff Karstens gave up a lead off bunt single to Jimmy Rollins, then put away the Phils quietly.

The Bucs struck out in order in the second. The Phillies got on the board when Raul Ibanez drilled a one out homer to center, his fifteenth, and after two frames it was 1-0 Philadelphia.

Eric Fryer K'ed to run Worley's string to five straight whiffs before Karstens bounced out. Paul lined a two out single to center, but the Bucs sat down as Garrett Jones flew out to right. Worley grounded a single through the left side to start the third, but Karstens retired the other hitters on a fly and two grounders.

McCutch lined out to left to open the fourth, and Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez went down on a grounder and pop. After a Ryan Howard ground out, Karstens K'ed Hunter Pence and Ibanzez. After four, it was still 1-0 Phils.

Lyle Overbay started the fifth with a whiff. Brandon Wood and Fryer hit back-to-back singles. JK moved them up a station with a two-strike bunt. The small ball move paid off when Paul lined a two run single into left to bring them both home and give the Bucs a 2-1 lead.

As happened yesterday, the Phils came right back. Brian Schneider doubled to left and Michael Martinez rolled a single through the left side. Worley's bunt moved MM to second. Rollins lined a single to right, scoring both runners as Philly regained the lead. While Shane Victorino was drawing a walk, Rollins was tossed trying to steal second. Utley singled to right, but the inning ended on a Howard fly to Jones and a 3-2 Philly edge.

McCutch started the sixth by popping out. Neil Walker legged out a hit on a ball hit to short, followed by Pedro going down swinging. Overbay lined a shot to right; it carried the fence for his eighth homer of the year, and the Bucs were back on top 4-3. Pence drew a lead off walk, but Karstens set the other Phils down in their tracks.

Brad Lidge took over for Worley in the seventh. Fryer started the Bucs off with a walk and JK bunted him to second. An out later, Jones drilled a double and the Bucs had an insurance run to lead 5-3. The Phils went down in order as Karstens picked up a couple of Ks.

Juan Perez took the hill in the eighth. He got Pedro and Overbay after a lead off single to Walker. Righty David Herndon came on to face Wood; he got him looking.

That was it for JK. He went seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and five Ks. He threw 98 pitches. Joe Beimel toed the rubber. After an out, Ryan Howard doubled, and that brought Jose Veras out of the pen.

Howard was caught at third by Wood trying to advance on a grounder to short; other teams beside the Bucs get brain cramps on the bases. But his mistake was quickly forgiven when Ibanez clobbered his second homer of the day to tie the game 5-5 after eight.

Ryan Madson took over for Philly. He gave up a one out single to Matt Diaz, and pinch runner Pedro Ciriaco stole second. But the other Bucs couldn't push a ball out of the infield and he was stranded. Chris Resop came on for Pittsburgh.

Martinez popped a foul to third; Pedro muffed it. No matter; he and Russ Gload flew out. Then Resop and the plate had a disconnect as Rollins walked, stole second, and then Shane Victorino drew a free pass. Tony Watson came on, and the Phils each moved up a base on defensive indifference before Utley flew out to McCutch. It was extras again.

Antonio Bastardo took the mound in the tenth, and put the Bucs down easily. After an out, Pence hooked a double into left off Watson, and Ibanez capped his day by lining a one hopper off the wall in right to give Philly the sweep 6-5.

Not much to say; the bullpen let the team down today. Three extra inning losses to the NL's elite in five days shows how scrappy the Bucs are and how far they have to go yet. And since Joel Hanrahan got in none of the three OT losses, maybe it's time for a little reevaluation of his use solely as a closer. At least the offense has shown signs of life the last couple of days, scoring nine runs, but the pitching couldn't slow down Philadelphia.

The Bucs limp home to face the Cubs. Carlos Zambrano faces Paul Maholm, and at 4-1/2 games back, it's crucial for the Pirates to right the ship against Chicago. They can pick up some ground with the Cards and Brewers playing each other six times in the next eleven days.

  • Ryan Ludwig became a Pirate; more on the following post.
  • The Bucs DFA'ed RHP Mike Crotta to clear 40-man space for Ludwick, but still need to make two moves on the MLB roster for tomorrow.
  • The Bucs scored all five of their runs with two outs.
  • Ronny Cedeno's knee is still stiff. If it doesn't come around soon, he may go back on the DL according to local reports.


RHP Jeff Karstens (8-5, 2.41 ERA) takes on RHP Vance Worley (7-1, 2.02) this afternoon at 1:35 PM. The game will be shown on Root Sports. Worley started the year in AAA Lehigh Valley, but was twice called up to replace Joe Blanton, and has ended up with the best numbers of the star studded Phil rotation after eleven starts.

The lineup: Xavier Paul LF, Garrett Jones RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Brandon Wood SS, Eric Fryer C, Jeff Karstens P.

No Derrek Lee; he'll report tomorrow in Pittsburgh. Wood is at short; we still can't figure out why Clint Hurdle hates on Pedro Ciriaco. You'd think he and Paul would form a better leadoff pair than Paul and Garrett Jones, and he plays the field much better than Wood, too.

  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that there's a closed door team meeting being held pre-game. He suggests that it might be a precursor to more deals, although it could just be a status report.
  • Pittsburgh has never won a series at Citizens Bank Park. 
  • Since Derrek Lee doesn't count on the roster until tomorrow, the Bucs have two likely paths to clearing a spot for him - either DFA Lyle Overbay or option Pedro Ciriaco back to Indy.
  • Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk has the general consensus regarding the Derrek Lee deal: "...the odds are good that Lee will be an upgrade over Lyle Overbay in Pittsburgh. Since the price was right, it's a nice pickup for the Pirates."
  • Evan Meek is still rehabbing in Pirate City; he hasn't been given the OK to begin his minor league rehab yet. He and Jose Tabata are both targeted to return in mid-to-late August. 
  • The Pirates are still reported to be looking for bullpen arms. Not sure why unless they're planning on moving some bodies today as the pen has been strong, and Ohlie is on schedule to return in probably 7-to-10 days. We'd hate to decide who to ship out.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bucs Close To Landing Land Lee

The O's just traded for 1B Chris Davis this afternoon, and the blowback is Derrek Lee should be a Bucco soon according to Dan Connelly of the Baltimore Sun. The Pirates will send 23 year old 1B Aaron Baker (.282/15/73 at Class A Bradenton) to the O's for Lee and some cash after checking out his medical report, Connelly says.

Other reports say the trade could be finalized before tomorrow. EDIT - it became official at 11:47 PM. Lee's in New York with the O's; maybe Amtrak can get him in Philly for the 1:35 get-away game. The Bucs could use the help.

With a line of .245/11/35, he's on the downhill side of his career. But he is hitting well this month, has a good mitt, is traditionally a strong second half performer (he has 6 homers & 19 RBI in the last month), has playoff experience and is reputed to be a good locker room head. The Bucs have been getting nothing out of first base, so  the 35 year old can't help but to upgrade the position. Lee will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Lee has also played with the San Diego Padres (1997), the Florida Marlins (1998–2003), Chicago Cubs (2004-2010) and Atlanta Braves (2010). His lifetime line is .281/324/1060. Lee is a two-time All Star and three-time Gold Glover.

And in a bit of trivia, Lee becomes the first guy the Bucs have bought for a pennant run since Shawon Dunston in September of 1997.

Baker was drafted in the eleventh round of the 2009 draft as a catcher and was converted to first. The recent signing of third round pick Alex Dickerson and the play of Matt Curry/Matt Hague in the upper levels made him expendable.

And if we were betting, our guess is that Lyle Overbay will get his walking papers when Lee reports, although there are other possible scenarios to clear roster room. EDIT - Ryan Doumit was moved to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, but no corresponding move has been made on the 25-man yet. The FO may be waiting to see when he reports so they're not a man short on the bench Sunday.

That could make it a big cash hit on the Bucs, both eating the remainder of Overbay's $5M contract and picking up the majority of the last two months of Lee's $7.25M deal with some very hefty bonus payments based on at-bats that could add another $2M. The FO did say money wouldn't be a determining factor in any deadline deals, and that looks like the stone truth in this case.

This may not be the last deal. The Bucs have a couple of other irons in the fire, as Jen Langosch of points out, and though it's not been on the radar, we wouldn't be knocked over if they dealt a pitcher, given the market.

Phils Overwhelm Pirates 7-4

OK, so Hunter Pence ended up with the Phils instead of the Bucs; it just shows how different franchises with different revenues place different value on their prospects. Time to get over it and play some ball.

The first two Bucs to face Cliff Lee bounced out softly. McCutch drew a 3-2 walk, and neil Walker followed with a dink into right to put runners on the corners. Jimmy Rollins showed he still has it, though, ranging into the hole to grab Steve Pearce's grounder, doing a 180 and throwing him out by a step from midair. J-Mac retired the Phils in order.

The Bucs went down without a peep in the second, and Brandon Wood and Mike McKenry both K'ed. The Phils took the lead soon thereafter when Ryan Howard crushed a heater over the center field wall into the batter's eye, his 21st, to make it 1-0. Walker was having an adventure at second; his lob of a routine grounder almost gave Hunter Pence a hit. Replay showed Pence may have beat the throw by a toe and Charlie Manuel come out to raise a little ruckus.

Then a ball ricocheted off Wood's glove to Walker; he picked it up and threw it away, allowing Raul Ibanez to reach second. McDonald settled things down by getting Placido Polanco to bounce a curve to short and K'ing Carlos Ruiz swinging at a heater.

The Bucs got a one out single to right by Pedro Ciriaco, and he died at first. After striking out Lee, Rollins took J-Mac deep to right on a fastball, his thirteenth of the year, to make it 2-0. Victorino followed with a single to right off a curve, and stole second. Missing badly, J-Mac walked Chase Utley on five pitches.

He fell behind Howard 2-0, gave him a fastball just about the same spot where the HR pitch was at last inning, and it got hammered off the wall in left for an RBI double. Pence hit a soft fly to left, and Ibanez was intentionally walked with two down to get to Ruiz, who grounded to short. After three, it was 3-0 Phillies.

But the Bucs came back. After two outs, Wood sent a fastball up the middle, and Pedro followed with a shot into center, his third, to make it a 3-2 game.

It was answered. With an out, Lee singled off J-Mac, followed by a Rollins single. Victorino K'ed, but Utley singled to right; Pearce misplayed the ball, and Lee trotted home. Howard roped his third hit, a single to right, and Rollins beat a close tag at the plate to make it 5-2. The Bucs needed a shutdown inning and J-Mac couldn't deliver.

The Pirates went down in order in the fifth, with Ciriaco and Diaz going down swinging. The Phils tried a little more two out action with Carlos Ruiz rolling one up the middle and Lee blooping his second hit, but J-Mac got Rollins to pop up a fastball.

McCutch struck out on three straight changeups. Walker rolled a two strike curve through the left side for a knock. Pearce quickly squelched the inning with a 5-4-3 around the horn DP started by Polonco.

J-Mac's day was done. He went five innings, giving up five runs on ten hits with two walks and five Ks. D-Mac, appropriately enough, came on. McCutchen got the first two outs, then Howard ripped one to wall in center for a double and his fourth hit in six innings. Pence bounced out, and the score remained 5-2.

After an out, Pedro got plunked with a pitch; guess Lee has a good memory. After a McKenry K, Lyle Overbay pinch hit. He rolled the first pitch to Howard, and that took care of the Bucco seventh. Chris Resop took the hill.

After an out, Polanco lined a first pitch single into right. Ruiz roped a heater into left center, and that scored Polanco to make it 6-2. Lee bounced out to short, moving Ruiz to third. Rollins flew out short of the track to end the seventh.

Ciriaco led off the eighth the way lead off men should; he bunted his way on. Lee tried to work the inside corner on Diaz and lost him on a 3-2 changeup. McCutch rolled into a forceout, putting runners on the corners for Walker, who lined an RBI single into right, McCutch stopping at second. Pearce rolled a grounder to third; Polanco got the force at second. Lee hung a 2-2 curve to Wood that he bounced past Polanco to plate McCutch and make it 6-4.

Lee was at 121 pitches and finally got the hook for lefty Antonio Bastardo, who faced Pedro. He got him swinging at a slider down and away after Alvarez missed connecting on a slider and heater down the middle.

The Phils again had an answer. Jose Veras gave up a leadoff triple to Victorino, who lined a first pitch heater into right. He had to hold as Utley bounced out to first and Howard was walked intentionally before he could inflict any more damage on the Bucco staff. Pence lined a curve into center that dropped a couple of steps in front of McCutch, and it was 7-4 Phils. After an Ibanez fly to shallow center, Polanco lined a 2-0 heater into center to load the bases. Ruiz ended the inning by lining out to Ciriaco.

Ryan Madson came on in the ninth and struck out McKenry on three pitches, the fourth time he's K'ed tonight. Paul K'ed, twice swinging at changeups in the dirt. Garrett Jones came up to hit for Ciriaco and he went down looking. Philadelphia just had too much firepower for the Bucs to overcome.

The Phils are the class of the league with a payroll to match, and outplayed the Bucs in all facets of the game in the first two contests.

  • A couple of writers reported today that the Buc players were asking them if the FO had gotten any bats to boost the lineup, so the fans aren't the only ones wondering.
  • Derrek Lee is close to being a Bucco; post to follow.
  • Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweets that the Bucs and A's are talking still; most of Oakland's roster is available. The Pirates have shown interest in Josh Willingham (as have other teams, chiefly the Braves and Red Sox) and adding another reliever, so maybe they'll find a match. Coco Crisp, Grant Balfour and Andrew Bailey are also being shopped.


Today pits RHP James McDonald (7-4, 3.95 ERA) against LHP Cliff Lee (9-7, 3.05); nothing like facing back-to-back Cy Young winners, hey? The game starts at 7:05 PM and will be aired by Root Sports.

The lineup: Pedro Ciriaco SS, Matt Diaz LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Steve Pearce RF, Brandon Wood 1B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Mike McKenry C, James McDonald P.

Geez, is this a pulled-out-of-the-hat lineup. Pearce and Diaz finally get a lefty; too bad it's Lee. Ciriaco is starting at short, which we prefer as opposed to Wood. Ronny Cedeno is still feeling the effects of his collision with Xavier Paul in Atlanta; hopefully it didn't trigger any post-concussion problems (EDIT - it didn't; his left knee is sore). And good luck, Pedro Alvarez; Lee will be a lefty tester.

  • The Phils added Hunter Pence and Placido Polonco to the roster today, sending down Domonic Brown and Drew Carpenter. Just what they needed, a couple more sticks.
  • It has been eerily quiet from the trade front rumor mills for Pittsburgh so far today. Not so for the two leaders: Milwaukee snagged Jerry Hairston Jr. to replace the injured Ricky Weeks at second, and the Cards are close to landing Rafael Furcal to fill their need at short.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports believes the Ryan Ludwick trade market pretty much consists of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, with the Indians having the edge. Ludwick is sort of a RH version of Garrett Jones.
  • Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweeted that the Bucs had interest in Detroit LHP Charlie Furbush before he was shipped to the Mariners today.
  • It must be killing Neal Huntington to read all those stories about the Steelers and Pens struggling to get under the salary cap.  
  • Holy insult to injury! The Pirates minor league affiliate, the West Virginia Power, are giving out Ryan Braun jerseys tonight. Braun played for the Power when they were a Milwaukee farm club, but geez...

Make Or Break Dog Days

Why do the next 24 hours or so make a difference in the Buccos' run for the NL Central roses? Because the roster they have Sunday night will determine if they hang in the race or not; August is the make-or-break month for Pittsburgh.

When they're done with the Phils tomorrow, the dog days start off innocently enough. The Pirates come home to take on the Cubs for a four game set followed by the Padres for a trio of contests. Then showtime begins.

They visit the Giants for three, get a travel day and head to Milwaukee for three more. Then they're home for a crucial three series - St. Louis is at PNC for three, then the Reds, and the homestand is capped with a four gamer against the Brew Crew.

Then it's off to St. Louis for four more, and the month closes with a three game set at Houston.

That's seven games against both the Brewers and Cards this month; the Pirates will have three more games with each club in September, with St. Louis here from the 12th-14th and a season-ending series at Milwaukee.

They'll get some help, even if it's internal. Dewey, Ohlie and Alex Presley could all be back around the time of the Giants-Brewers road trip. Jose Tabata could return by mid-month. Presley and Doumit should be integrated into the lineup quickly. Ohlendorf will likely be worked in as a bullpen guy and spot starter, ala Jeff Karstens, and see lots of action as the team looks to give some of the starters an extra day off or even miss a turn to preserve their arms. Tabata's return will allow Hurdle the luxury of a stable lineup.

That shores up the roster some, but it doesn't address the black holes of right field and first base, prime production positions which have been contributed next to nothing to the Bucco attack. We have to assume that Lyle Overbay has a very tenuous hold on first, and for that matter on a roster spot as he's had one RBI in the past six weeks despite starting virtually every day.

If nothing else - and the market for first basemen is slim, although there are a couple of capable corner OF'ers available - Jones and Steve Pearce should begin platooning there, and John Bowker brought up to alternate in right just like last September. They could also use Paul or Dewey in a platoon role once Presley returns if they don't want to burn a 40 man spot for Bowker while waiting on JT.

Ideal? Of course not. But if the Buc FO can't pull the trigger on a deal - and it's been a sellers' market even more so than usual this year, so we'll see what tomorrow brings; hey, we'll even take a blocked AAA guy akin to Jones - it's the hand Clint Hurdle pretty much has to play during the dog days.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Phils Filet Bucs 10-3

Yah, it's hot in Philly; it's hot all over the world. Even hotter is the match up between Roy Halladay and his alleged  doppelganger Charlie Morton. Hope Charlie has a thick skin. When the Phillie fans invaded PNC Park last month, the hoots of "You're no Halladay" were merrily chanted; we can only imagine what tonight will bring.

Buc base running reared its ugly head right from the start. First pitch swinging, Xavier Paul bounced a tough chance to second; Chase Utley hurried and misfired on the throw. No biggy; Paul was tagged out after taking a turn to second by Halladay. Garrett Jones got ahead in the count 3-0; he K'ed three pitches later swinging at a changeup. McCutch popped out foul to Ryan Howard to end the frame. In the first inning alone, Halladay has shown the Pirate hitters five different pitches.

Morton will face six lefty/switch hitters in a row. He walked the first one, Jimmy Rollins, on four pitches, none particularly close to the plate. Rollins broke on Morton's first move; he picked him off 1-3-6. Domonic Brown made it a timely play when he lined a single to short that Wood couldn't handle. Morton got ahead of Chase Utley 1-2, but gave him a sinker down the middle that he knocked into right center for a triple, a ball that Jones probably should have caught; he didn't, and then compuonded the problem by missing the cutoff..

Howard got ahead 2-0 and drilled a change into right for a double. It's ugly quickly here in Philly. Shane Victorino got ahead 3-0 against Morton, fouled three balls off, and blooped ball four into center just over Wood to put runners on the corners with one out. Raul Ibanez lined an 0-2 curve that was over the plate into right to bring home another run and chase Victorino to third.

The first righty of the inning, Carlos Ruiz, came through by bouncing a sinker to short for the 6-4-3 DP. But Halladay had a three run lead after an inning, and that ain't good. The Pirates haven't exactly put on a base running or fielding clinic in the inning, and Morton's signature sinker is cutting more than diving.

Walker rolled a changeup to Howard for the unassisted out. Pedro grounded out to second. Halladay stayed on the black against Overbay, and he struck out without taking a single swing.

Wilson Valdez went down swinging at a curve, but the ball got through Mike McKenry and Valdez reached first on the wild pitch. Halladay couldn't move Valdez up and K'ed.  And here come the lefties again. Rollins knocked the first pitch softly through the right side of the infield to put runners on the corners. Brown rolled a likely looking DP ball to Walker; it went through him. A run scored and Rollins went to third. Utley got ahead 2-0 and took a belt high sinker on the outer half of the plate over the left center wall for his eighth homer of the year. Where's some rain when you need it?

Howard flew out to left, the first LH that Morton has retired. Victorino picked up the pace; he tripled into right. Ibanez walked on four pitches, as Todd Tichenor, the plate ump, isn't giving up the low strikes tonight to either pitcher. Twelve lefties have faced Morton; eleven have reached base. Ruiz, a righty, came up; he got plunked to load the bases. Valdez fell behind 0-2 but he eventually walked to plate another.

And there is no action in the Bucco bullpen; Chris Leroux was put on the DL today and D-Mac is out for another day after his 5+ innings in Atlanta Wednesday. He got Halladay, but it's an 8-0 laugher already with seven innings to cover. The only good news is that it's starting to rain. The bad news is not only is Morton having problems, but the Pirates can't catch a cold behind him to help him out. Mama said there'd be days like this.

Heck, it's not even raining hard enough to slow down the game. The bottom of the Bucs lineup went out routinely. Morton is still on the hill; he has to take one for the team with the bullpen hors d' combat from the Brave series.

Rollins grounded out and Brown flew out to the wall in right. With two outs, Utley bounced  a curve up the middle for a knock. Howard struck out swing over a sinker. Morton finally got through the lefties, but he's up to 86 pitches, and the Bucs can't count on more than another frame from him. That's not the only bad news; the rain has passed, so some innings are going to have to be eaten by the pen tonight.

Paul dropped a changeup into right for the Bucs first hit, although his first at bat could have been just as easily ruled a knock rather than an error. Jones got ahead 3-0; Halladay worked the count to full and got him on a fly to right. McCutch bounced out to Utley, with the X-Man moving to second. Walker took a changeup to the fence in right center, ending the inning with a loud out. Paul was having a tough day on the bases; instead of running Walker's long fly out, he was tagging from second - with two outs.

Victorino flew out. Ibanez grounded one to short and Wood booted it. Ruiz popped out, and Valdez walked on a 3-2 sinker. Halladay rolled one back to the box, and the Phils machine was shut down for another inning.

Pedro lined out to deep left center to open the fifth. Overbay followed with a fly out and Wood popped up. Morton would go no further. He went four innings, giving up eight runs (six earned) on nine hits, four walks, and a hit batter, striking out four and throwing 103 pitches. Tony Watson bit the bullet in the fifth.

Rollins flew out to the wall in straightaway center on a 3-2 fastball, and Brown went down on three pitches when he couldn't catch up to a heater. Watson whiffed Utley on four pitches, getting a slider foul tipped into McKenry's glove.

Halladay struck out McKenry swinging at a change up; he threw five different pitches in a six pitch at bat with every pitch a strike. Watson went down looking at a curve. Paul bounced out to short to end the Bucco sixth. That started the subbing; Matt Diaz went to left, Paul to center, and McCutch gets a brief breather.

Watson stayed strong and K'ed Howard on a foul tip fast ball. Victorino was rung up on three pitches; Watson may have caught a call on strike three. Ibanez ruined the K streak by lining out to right.

Jones hit a rocket to first to start the seventh; Howard opened up his big mitt and tucked it away. Diaz bounced out to third and Walker bounced a curve to second to end the frame. Jason Grilli manned up this inning, and Pedro Ciriaco took over at short for an all-Pedro left side.

Ruiz walked on four pitches. Grilli got Valdez to smack a curve to third; Alvarez got the lead runner. Ross Gload came up to hit for Halladay. Grilli airmailed a waste pitch over McKenry's mitt to send Ruiz to second on a wild pitch, but came back to whiff Gload on a foul tip, the third one that Scooby Doo has pulled in tonight. Rollins golfed a curve off his knees and shipped it into the right field seats for his twelfth long fly of the year to make it 10-0. Brown put up a fight, going nine pitches before striking out swinging at a fast ball.

Drew Carpenter took the hill for Philly. he got Pedro to pull an outside change to Howard for the first out. Overbay walked on four pitches; that's his second at bat without a swing. Wood struck out on a foul tip. McKenry doubled into left field to move Overbay to third. Ciriaco fell behind 0-2, then tightened up and had a nine pitch at bat, finally doubling into left on a slider to bring home a pair. Paul stroked a two strike sinker into center, and the Bucs had their third run. Jones drove a 3-2 changeup to the 381' mark, where Victorino ran it down.

Grilli K'ed Utley swinging through high heat. John Mayberry K'ed going after a fast ball. Victorino broke up the whiff-fest by ripping a double into right off a curve. He pitched carefully to lefty Ibanez with righty Ruiz on deck, staying just off the black and walking him. It worked; Ruiz bounced out to Ciriaco.

David Herndon came on and got Diaz swinging. Steve Pearce went down swinging at a changeup after seeing three heaters. Pedro bounced one to first, and the Bucs went down quietly 10-3 to the Phils.

Morton's performances since May have left a lot be desired. Today he ran into the perfect storm; a lefty-loaded lineup, an ump that took away low strikes (which in justice didn't bother Halladay), a flat sinker and Bad News Bears defense behind him. But his reliance on the sinker has given the league a pretty good book on him, and he has to start mixing his change and four seamer in with the sinker and curve to give the lefties a different look.

Hopefully, they got it out of their system; the Bucs came up empty in starting pitching, hitting and fielding tonight. James McDonald takes on Cliff Lee tomorrow night.

  • Guess what? The Bucs get to see Hunter Pence this weekend. The Phils sent 1B Jonathan Singleton and RHP Jarred Cosart, Top 50 prospects, and another pair of minor leaguers to the Astros to land the OF'er. That changes the dynamics of the NL Central, too, taking away the Astros main man against the rest of the division during the race down the stretch.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review tweeted a little food for thought; since June 16th, Kevin Correia has 3 RBI, Pedro Ciriaco 2, and Lyle Overbay 1.
  • Chris Leroux has been placed on the 15-day DL with a left calf strain retroactive to yesterday and Pedro Ciriaco was recalled from Indy (actually the Tribe is in Charlotte tonight). It makes us wonder just a bit  whassup with Ronny Cedeno, who's out of tonight's lineup. He probably would have ate up a couple of the balls that eluded Brandon Wood.
  • Ohlie made his first Indy rehab start. He went five innings, giving up a run on five hits with three walks and a K. Ohlendorf threw 73 pitches and topped out at 91 MPH.
  • Jen Langosch of has a piece called "Parting With Prospects Bucs Great Temptation." She frames the trade wheeling and dealing thus "...the debate now is what cost is the right one both for the short and long term."


RHP Charlie Morton (8-5, 3.69 ERA) takes on RHP Roy Halladay (12-4, 2.55 ERA). The game will start at 7:05 PM and be carried on Root Sports.

The lineup: Xavier Paul LF, Garrett Jones RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Brandon Wood SS, Mike McKenry C, Charlie Morton P.

Wonder whassup with Wood at SS?

  • Leave it to good ol' Elias Sports Bureau to let no stat go unturned. They let us know that Kevin Correia became the first Pirate pitcher to record ten road wins before the end of July since Burleigh Grimes in 1929. He's also the first MLB pitcher to win 10 away from home during the first 103 games played since 2002 when Curt Shilling did it, according to Roger Schlueter of
  • Ross Ohlendorf is on the fast track to recovery; he's at Indy now, and will start tonight.
  • USA Today has a big sports lede written by Bob Nightengale on the feel-good Buccos. It quotes Ozzie Guillen as saying "You have to root for them...I hope they go all of the way and win the whole thing. It's the American dream, isn't it, seeing the underdog win?"
  • Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports! discovered that Pittsburgh actually has baseball fans in his piece.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bucs Split Series With 5-2 Win

OK, Derek Lowe and Kevin Correia go at it tonight in game four. Both have ERAs north of four; maybe there will be a couple of runs before we get into the bullpens tonight.

With two outs in the first, the Bucs tried. McCutch blooped a single just over Dan Uggla's mitt and Neil Walker followed with a rope into right. Pedro took Lowe to nine pitches before K'ing on a slider.

Correia was a little shakier. He walked Nate McLouth, and an out later, Freddie Freeman - that kid is gonna be a good ballplayer - rolled a single into right to put runners on the corners. Uggla popped out, but Eric Hinske sent one into right that hopped into the stands for a ground rule double when Jones turned the wrong way at the track. It was 1-0 Atlanta after a frame.

Lyle Overbay led off with a walk in the second. After a Cedeno fly out, McKenry lined a double to put runners on second and third. Correia was up and behind 0-2 when he dumped a soft liner into left to plate Overbay and move MM to third. Thoughts of a big inning? Fuhgetaboutit. Paul bounced one back to the box for a 1-6-3 DP. Still, the game was tied.

Jason Heyward opened by drilling a ball into center for a leadoff knock. Alex Gonzalez smoked another, but right at Cedeno for a loud out. A bunt moved Heyward to second, where he died when McLouth popped out. It was a close call, though - Cedeno caught the ball as Paul took out his legs. The left fielder was charging in calling for the catch, but RC, running with his back turned looking for the ball, never heard him.

Garrett Jones led off the third with a base on balls. McCutch went down looking on three pitches. Walker roped another knock into center; Jones could only move up a sack. Pedro rolled out to first to move the runners up, and Overbay did the same to end the inning.

Martin Prado lined a single into left. Freeman went down swinging at a 3-2 slider. Prado was on the go, and was gunned down at second by McKenry; love those strike 'em out, throw 'em outs. Uggla flew out, and it was 1-1 after three.

The Bucs went down in order in the fourth. Cedeno lined out while McKenry and Correia both K'ed swinging. And then the rain fell, just what the doctor ordered for the Buc bullpen - a delay that could leave them more innings to eat.

The game resumed at 9 PM or so after a 45 minute hold and Hinske greeted Correia with a leadoff single into center. If you're keeping count, the Braves are 4-for-4 in leadoff guys reaching so far this game. KC got David Ross on a foul tip fastball. He dropped a dandy changeup in on Heyward, who bounced it back to the box to start a 1-6-3 DP.

Lowe got ahead of Paul 0-2 and tried to sneak a second change past him; the X-Man ripped it into right for a knock. Jones got a cutter inside, and he roped one into right to put runners on the corners with no outs. McCutch kept the party going with a double to left center to tally Paul. Walker flew out to short center; Jones had to hold.

Pedro worked the count full and hit a hard shot to first to bring home Jones and make it 3-1. Overbay was worked down and away, walking on four pitches to load the sacks with two away. He fell behind Cedeno 3-0, came back to get the count full, and then helped his own cause immensely by stabbing a liner on the backhand with his back turned to the plate. It may have been a "look what I found," but it's still an out, and a big one. As the Brave announcer said "Are you kidding me?"

Gonzalez led off with a single through the left side - what is it with lead off hitters tonight? - and Lowe bunted him to second. KC caught a call as McLouth was rung up on a fastball well outside, causing another bit of drama as he yapped at the ump. Prado hit one softly to short, Cedeno made the tricky play look easy, and it remained 3-1 after five frames.

Anthony Varvaro  took the hill; he was just called up today to give the Brave bullpen some help. He got McKenry swinging at a high heater. Correia K'ed swinging at a fastball down the middle. Paul gave a four seamer a ride the opposite way, but it was hauled in at the track by Hinske.

Freeman caught a slider on the outer half of the plate, belt high, and ripped it into left center for a double. What, you thought KC would get a leadoff guy? Uggla hit a slow chopper to short; he was generously credited with a single when Cedeno threw the ball away, allowing Freeman to score. Hinske helped the cause by grounding it to Overbay, who started a 3-6-3 DP. David Ross hit one a long way to right center, but McCutch made the catch. At the end of six, it's 3-2 Pittsburgh.

Jones went down swing at high heat; the Bucs are helping Varvaro get over his nerves by hacking away. McCutch flew out to fairly deep right. Walker laid off the upstairs stuff and drew a pass. Pedro followed with another walk, letting a 3-2 curve go by. A wild pitch sent Walker to third (we're not sure what Alvarez was watching) and Overbay joined the parade, walking on four pitches. Cedeno went down swinging in a very undisciplined at bat; he took a strike then swung through two heaters well out of the strike zone, and right after three straight walks. Sometimes it isn't the pitching...

KC finally got a leadoff man. It took nine pitches, and the ball was caught at the center field fence by McCutch, but it was at long last an out. He went 3-2 on Gonzalez, who dropped a flare into left for a single. Chipper Jones grabbed a stick to pinch hit, and that brought Joe Beimel out of the pen. Correia went 6-1/3, giving up two runs on nine hits with a walk and three K's, throwing 89 pitches.

Beimel flipped Jones a changeup, and he beat it to third, where Pedro dove to his left for the stop and started a timely 5-4-3 around the horn DP on one knee. The Bucs were up 3-2 after seven innings. George Sherrill took the mound for Atlanta.

He struck out McKenry swinging at a 3-2 slider, the third whiff tonight for the catcher. Beimel batted; he went down after four pitches. Paul went down looking to end the Pirate eighth.

St Mary's Joe retired McLouth on a foul pop to Pedro. Prado poked a changeup to second for the 4-3. With two away, Freeman singled into right. with that, Hanny made his long awaited appearance, looking for a four-out save. He faced Uggla, and missed badly with his first three heaters. But Hanny kept pumpin' 'em in, and got him on a fly to right.

Sherrill stayed on the mound, and Steve Pearce pinch hit for Jones. He had a patient at bat, and was rewarded with a five pitch walk. The next pitch was an inside half slider to McCutch. He bombed it over the left center wall for his fifteenth homer of the year, and it was 5-2 Pittsburgh.

Walker pulled a slider to short for the first out. Pedro went down on three pitches, falling behind 0-2 after looking at a pair of fastballs pretty much down the middle, his first weak at bat of the night. Overbay went down swinging on three pitches, too, but the Bucs were up three with three outs to go.

Hinske poked a high and away heater up the left field line, but room enough in the park for Paul to make the grab. Ross did him one better by doubling a 97 MPH off the wall in left; Paul crashed into the fence trying to make the grab. Heyward lifted one the other way to left for the second out. Gonzalez flew out to McCutch in center, and the Bucs salvaged the split.

Hanny looked a little rusty - while his velocity was outstanding (he hit 99 on the last toss), the pitches were elevated - but he had plenty enough to notch his 30th save (the record, btw, is 46 by Mike Williams in 2002), finishing KC's 12th W and tenth on the road. Don't forget McCutch, who shook off the cobwebs on his stick and drove home three runs with a double and homer.

It was a nice victory after two brutal back-to-back losses in extra innings. Give Correia (and Maholm yesterday) credit for getting into the seventh and restoring some semblance of order to the bullpen for the Philly series. Joe Beimel did a sweet job to get the ball to Hanny.

It is too bad, though, that the Bucs lost those two close games, especially with Chipper Harris and Brian McCann both down; just one more bat, or one less injury, could have been the difference between a sweep and a split. But the staff and pen earned its props, going nose-to-nose with the vaunted Brave arms and more than holding their own.

Now it's on to Philly, and the Bucs have to show up ready to grind again. The Brew Crew is up by 1-1/2 games on Pittsburgh, and will be playing the Astros. Charlie Morton will face Roy Halladay in the City of Brotherly Love tomorrow night.

  • This is the first time Pittsburgh has beaten Derek Lowe. He was 10-0 against them going into tonight's game. It was a bit of reverse karma, too. When the Braves took their early 1-0 lead, it was the first time they led the Bucs all series until the last play.
  • Tonight was the second time this year that the Bucs turned four double plays.
  • The Atlanta bullpen had thrown 21 shutout innings against the Bucs until McCutch's ninth inning blast.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports wrote that there's a 50-50 chance of Hunter Pence being traded, but that the Astros  "downplayed the possibility" of him being dealt within the division to rivals Pittsburgh or Cincy.
  • John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus says that according to his sources, the Pirates trade priorities are Casey Kotchman, Derrek Lee, and Jason Kubel in that order.
  • Kendall Rogers of the Post Gazette tweeted that he heard there's a better than average chance that the Bucs sign second round pick Josh Bell, who was ticketed to attend Texas. If they sign Bell and Gerritt Coles, it's a great draft season for the FO.


RHP Kevin Correia (11-8, 4.38 ERA) tries to earn a series split for the Bucs tonight against RHP Derek Lowe (6-8, 4.49 ERA). It won't be easy; Lowe is 10-0 lifetime against the Pirates. The game starts at 7:10 PM and will be shown on Root Sports.

The lineup: Xavier Paul LF, Garrett Jones RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Kevin Correia P.

McCutch and Walker flipped positions in the lineup. 

  • According to Elias Sports Bureau, Bucs pitchers have 37 Ks in last 3 games, the most in 3 consecutive games in the team's 125 year history.  Those three games covered 36+ innings, so maybe that's a record that deserves an asterisk.
  • Dejan Kovacevic of the Tribune Review says that the Bucs asked about OF Carlos Quentin, but so far he's being way overpriced.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote that "...Pirates said their No. 1 focus is on finding a 'professional hitter.' They seem to have backed off on Carlos Pena. They are said to be lukewarm about Josh Willingham. And B.J. Upton doesn't fit that definition. So one name other clubs say Pittsburgh has its eyes on is the Twins' Jason Kubel."
  • Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweets that the Bucs are one of the teams interested in Jamey Carroll, LAD infielder.
  • Starling Marte's benching at Altoona last night was because he didn't slide to break up a DP, according to Jonathan Mayo of
  • Matt Eddy of Baseball America reported that the Bucs released their one-time second baseman of the future Shelby Ford.

A Thought Or Three

  • The Bucs are bat-deficient, there's no doubt. But remember that this week they're also facing two of baseball's best staffs at Atlanta and Philly; that may have something to do with the results, too. 
  • For all the great work of the Bucco bullpen, Daniel McCutchen deserves recognition as the glue man. Need a long man? A bridge man? A middle man? He's been everything but a closer for Pittsburgh, and performed well at every spot. D-Mac is no longer the afterthought of the Nady/Marte deal.
  • Don't jump off Pedro's band wagon quite yet. He's had a hit every game since he's been back, and while certainly not perfect at the plate, has shown much better discipline. To expect him to come up and be Babe Ruth from the gate is really a bit much. After all, this is still his training period; El Toro has all of 5-1/2 months split over two seasons in the show. And the show is, in our view, the best place for him to learn. Pedro already owns AAA pitching.
  • One gains much more appreciation of Ronny Cedeno after watching nearly three weeks of Chase d'Arnaud and Brandon Wood play shortstop.
  • One piece of the puzzle that went missing with the return of Ronny Cedeno, Steve Pearce and Pedro is that the team speed has taken a huge hit. It'll pick up some when Jose Tabata and Alex Presley return from the DL, but high motor guys like Chase d'Arnaud and Pedro Ciriaco are probably gone until September, if then. And that makes Clint Hurdle's aggressive small ball approach that much harder to execute. Right now McCutch, Xavier Paul and maybe Daniel McCutchen are the only plus speed guys on the roster.
  • Carlos Beltran went to the Giants for 21 year old RHP Zach Wheeler, ranked the #55 prospect by Baseball America in 2011. The NYM included $4M with the deal. With the Colby Rasmus deal yesterday, Kosuke Fukudome almost wrapped up for Cleveland and Carlos Quentin supposedly off the market, the Pittsburgh quest for OF thunder became a little more problematic. Big boys Philly, Atlanta and Boston are also said to be in the market for OF'ers, looking at guys like Hunter Pence and BJ Upton, and the Bucs may get shunted to the secondary market. Of course, you always have to wonder what the Dodgers have to offer, considering the messy McCourt situation and the FO's frequent dealings with their LA counterparts..

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Offensive Woes Continue; Bucs Fall In Ten 2-1

OK, umps miss calls. It's another day and time to move on. The big questions from last night's game are will the Pirates get off their seventeen inning schneid and can the starters give the bullpen a little recovery time in the next couple of days?

Xavier Paul didn't get it cranked; he bounced out to first unassisted. Jones flew out to center. Neil Walker became the first Bucco base runner against Jair Jurrjens when he lined a changeup into left for a single. McCutch walked to set up two ducks for Pedro. The ducks stayed on the pond as Alvarez was called out on strikes looking at a changeup on the outside black.

Paul Maholm got Nate McLouth to bounce to second to open the Braves' first. Martin Prado got rid of his collar quickly, doubling inside third. he tried to stretch it to three, and looked like he made it, too, but ol' bud Jerry Meals rung him up. Irony or payback? Anyway, Freddy Freeman grounded out to short, and it was a scoreless first, no surprise after watching the bats in action yesterday.

Steve Pearce had a long at bat against Jurrjens, and it piad off when his fly into right was misplayed by Wilkin Ramirez; Pearce reached second on the error. Brandon Wood struck out swinging at a shoulder high heater. Ramirez redeemed himself by gloving Eric Fryer's liner to right.  Maholm was called out on strikes, and the Pirate zeroes in Atlanta keep pilin' up.

Dan Uggla doubled inside third for a two bagger to open Atlanta's second. David Ross fell behind 0-2 and flew out to right center and Jones. Ramirez turned it around and got ahead 2-0; he flew out to fairly deep center, moving Uggla to third. Julio Lugo went down swinging at a slider. Atlanta didn't have any extra base hits last night; they have a pair in two innings tonight.

Paul led off with an infield single to second. He was caught stealing on a pitchout; he went on the third pitch twice yesterday, and the Braves took note. Jones flew out to left, and Walker bounced out to first. Alex Gonzalez got the Braves rolling with a ground single through the left side and Jurrjens bunted him along. McLouth bounced back to the box and Prado popped out. Still no score after three.

McCutch went after a 3-1 changeup and flew out to left in front of the track. Pedro couldn't barrel up on some balls down the middle, but showed enough patience to draw a ten pitch walk. Pearce caught a 1-2 mistake pitch over the middle and lined it into center to put Bucs on the corners with one away.

Wood knocked one into medium left; Prado made the grab and nailed Pedro at the plate; the Bucs are trying everything to touch the plate. It was a close play at home as Alvarez just missed sliding under the tag, and in fact may not have been tagged, but we won't go there. With the pitcher coming up, it was absolutely the right call by Nick Leyva.

Freeman poked one into left for another double and the third time the Braves had the lead off runner at second with no outs. Uggla hit an infield single to short; Freeman had to stay at second. Ross bunted the pair up a station. Ramirez helped Maholm, swinging at ball four on a 3-1 pitch and popping it up for the second out. Lugo gave him a bigger hand; ahead 2-0, he swung and missed three straight sliders that all ran inside. Four innings, no runs.

It was three up, three grounders, three down for the Bucs in the fifth. JJ is up to 88 pitches, but the Brave bullpen is in relatively better shape than Pittsburgh's, and one more inning from Jurrjens should set them up. Maholm K'ed Gonzalez swinging at a fastball across the knees. Jurrjens rolled back to the mound, and McLouth went down swinging at a heater. Funny inning; PM strikes out everyone but the pitcher.

Garrett Jones got a 3-1 heater at the belt, and praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, knocked his tenth long fly of the year over the right center fence, ending a 22 inning stretch of futility for Pittsburgh. Walker followed by drilling a single into right. With McCutch up, Walker was caught stealing on a missed hit-and-run; that's the third out made on the bases tonight. McCutch bounced out to third. Pedro smacked a two out double to left center. Pearce flew out to end the inning, but there was finally a run on the board, and it belonged to Pittsburgh.

Predo started off with a bloop single; he muscled a slider six inches inside into left. He struck out Freeman on a foul tip off a 3-2 slider. Uggla collected his third knock of the night when he grounded a ball through the left side to put runners at first and second. Ross tied the game when he rapped a ankle high slider through the infield into left. Paul had a play at home, but kicked the ball trying to pick it up. Ramirez struck out swinging at a slider, and Lugo K'ed looking at the same. It's 1-1 after six.

The Braves get their money's worth out of a pitcher; Jurrjens came back out with a pitch count of 104. He walked Wood on a 3-2 count to start the seventh. Fryer fouled off a pair of bunt attempts and struck out swinging. Maholm tried next; he popped it up, JJ let it drop, got Maholm at first and eventually Wood at second. Heck, it's getting hard to even strand runners anymore. It's also poor execution all around in a key period of the game.

PM got the first two Braves easily, then McLouth dropped a fly ball into right for a two out knock. Prado bounced out to third. Maholm has done a gutsy job of picking up both the team generally and the pen specifically tonight. He threw a strong seven innings, giving up a run on nine hits and striking out eight while throwing 109 pitches.

It's time for the Braves' back end to take over, and Eric O'Flaherty took the mound in the eighth. Matt Diaz pinch hit for Paul to face the lefty; he K'ed on a 3-2 slider down and in that would have been ball four if he laid off. That's easier said than done against O'Flaherty.  He got Jones swinging at a nicely placed sinker, knee high on the inside corner. Walker bounced to second.

Tony Watson took the hill for the Bucs to face the lefty Freeman. He got ahead 0-2, and laid a heater right down the middle that Freeman lined into center for a lead off single. Uggla flew out to right center. Ross has been a Pirate killer all his career (.236 vs the league; .320 against Pittsburgh) but Watson won this battle, getting him to bang one to Walker, who started a 4-6-3 DP. On to the ninth and Craig Kimbrel..

He breezed through the frame. McCutch flew out while Alvarez and Pearce struck out. Jose Veras was the Pirate answer in the Brave's half of the frame. Chipper Jones came out of the dugout to face him, and bounced out to short. Why is it their guys with quad tweaks stay on the roster and Pittsburgh's are out for two months?

Lugo K'ed on a curve, but Gonzalez doubled into the left center gap to put the winning run on second. The Braves sent up Eric Hinske. JV got him looking at a hook, and it's extras again in Atlanta. Hey, we still have Chris Leroux and Hanny on ice, maybe Joe Beimel and a guest starter if needed. We'll see.

Scott Linebrink came on for Atlanta in the tenth. He got Wood to fly out to right. Eric Fryer lined a single to left. Lyle Overbay grabbed a bat to take Veras' spot. Overbay smoked one to first; Freeman was holding the runner, snagged the rope and got Fryer for the DP.

That brought on Chris Leroux. McLouth rolled a fastball into right for a leadoff knock. Prado fouled off a pair of bunt tries and flew out to right. Leroux got ahead of Freeman 0-2, but three pitches later, he lined a slider to right to put runners on the corners. Uggla was intentionally walked to load the bases. Ross laced the first pitch into left, and the Braves had a second walk-off win in overtime, 2-1.

This begs two questions. Does the FO really believe in this team? Because if they do, waiting until August for Jose Tabata, Alex Presley and Ryan Doumit to return may be too late. Right field and first base are black holes now, and look to be in 2012. We know they can't force sellers' hands, but they need some thump badly. The Pirates don't have a position player on the active roster who's hitting .275+.

The attack? Just seven hits against admittedly outstanding Braves pitching. But c'mon - two guys caught stealing, a fly ball, line out, and bunt DP all in the same game? Consecutive bunts after a lead off single?

And how is it you can lose two back-to-back one run games in extra innings and use every pitcher in the pen, including one that just arrived from Indy today, except for your All-Star closer? Shouldn't he have been facing Dan Ross instead of Chris Leroux? We understand that no matter who's pitching, you have to score eventually to win. But you need to set down the opponent before you can get that fresh set of at-bats.

There's actually nothing wrong with the Bucs, who remain competitive virtually every night, that a hitter or three can't cure. With some run production, the little things fall into place and bloggers like GW will run out of things to rant over. Without out, every niggling detail gets magnified. Whether they'll get any help this week is the big question.

At least tonight's game ended the same day it started. Derek Lowe will go against Kevin Correia, who will try to salvage a split of the four game set tomorrow afternoon. And with all that's gone on, that'd be a very good thing.

  • Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that "Scouts from the Pittsburgh Pirates have been following Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena for more than a month, according to multiple major league sources." So they are looking for a bat, of sorts.
  • Interesting night of rumors concerning Buc uberprospect Starling Marte. He was pulled from the Altoona game in the fourth inning. Marte had been hit in the wrist in the first inning, but the Curve said he wasn't yanked because of that. Some sharp eyed folk noticed that Hunter Pence and BJ Upton weren't playing, and trade rumors started flying. The Bucs denied those hot stove embers. Ends up he did something on the field that drew the ire of manager PJ Forbes, who sat him down as a lesson. Gotta love deadline week.


LHP Paul Maholm (6-10, 3.26 ERA) goes against RHP Jair Jurrjens (12-3, 2.44 ERA) tonight. The game starts at 7:10 PM and will be aired on Root Sports. We hope it ends before last call.

The lineup: Xavier Paul LF, Garrett Jones RF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Steve Pearce 1B, Brandon Wood SS, Eric Fryer C, Paul Maholm P.

Pearce is taking Lyle Overbay's spot at first, Wood is giving Ronny Cedeno a blow at short, and Eric Fryer is behind the dish after Mike McKenry caught nineteen innings last night. Looks a lot like a get-away game lineup a day early.

  • Chase d'Arnaud was put on the DL with a chip fracture of his pinky and RHP Chris Leroux was called up from Indy. The team will go a man short in the dugout while the bullpen gets their collective arms rubbed down for a while. After a couple of days off for the relievers to regroup, the Bucs could then call up Josh Harrison or Steve Bowker, depending on whether or not there's any action on the trade front.
  • Dan McCutchen, Jason Grilli, Chris Resop and probably Joe Beimel will not be available tonight, with D-Mac and Grilli out for a couple of days at least.
  • The grapevine was right: Dejan Kovacevic reports that "Outfielder Carlos Beltran refused to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Pirates, according to a team source, when the Pirates were among several teams pursuing him from the New York Mets."
  • Rob Beirtempfel of the Tribune Review tweeted that the Bucs wasted no time filing a protest concerning last night's game; it was on its way to the league offices by 2:30 AM. There's no provision to overturn a safe/out call, so the protest will be rejected, but at least the Bucs' FO got to vent.
  • The Cards became the second NL Central team to add pitching to their roster. They sent Colby Rasmus (.246/11/40), Trever Miller (0-1-1, 4.12), Brian Tallet (0-1, 8.31), and PJ Walters (0-0, 9.00) to Toronto for Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.92), Octavio Dotel (2-1-1, 3.68), Marc Rzepczyrinski (2-3, 2.97) and Corey Patterson (.252/6/33). The Cards strengthened their bullpen (both by addition and subtraction) and rotation in the short term. Jackson is a rental player, but Rzepczynski is under team control through 2015. Rasmus is under team control through 2014. Milwaukee, you may recall, picked up back end reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets, a team that badly wanted to dump his contract, for a pair of PTBNL. 

Marathon Facts, Figures & Thoughts

The Pirates lost last night after playing a 19 inning marathon in Atlanta, and hey, they might still be playing if ump Jerry Meals had called the obvious. But there's nothing that can be done about it except to push the league office to reprimand the man in blue, although the call has renewed the hue and cry for replay in some form.

The game would be a tough one for either side to lose, and of course, there's no guarantee that even if Meals got the call right that Atlanta wouldn't have won in the twentieth inning.  But it is de rigueur to let the players decide the game; umps shouldn't.

A game that long has a life and story of its own.  Here's some numbers and random stuff:

  • Every player on both teams except for Joel Hanrahan and the starting pitchers got in the game (and Kevin Coreia was sent to the the pen for the Bucs during the wee hours); that's 41 players in all. Seven Pirates played the entire game (God bless C Mike McKenry!) as did five Braves.
  • The pitchers threw 608 pitches and the batters went 28-for-133 (.211). Atlanta had 15 hits, all singles. There were 39 stranded runners and the teams were 4-for-34 with RISP. There were 31 strikeouts and 18 walks (five intentional) issued.
  • Cristhian Martinez tossed six frames, as many innings as starter Tommy Hanson; Daniel McCutchen's 5-1/3 inning appearance was longer than Jeff Karstens' day (5IP).
  • The game lasted six hours and thirty-nine minutes officially, the longest game ever played time-wise by either franchise.
  • It was the Pirates first 19-inning game since 1980, v. the Cubs; the Braves haven't played that long since 1988, v. St. Louis.
  • Martin Prado's 0-for-9 outing left him one of just 30 players in the live-ball era to go nine at-bats or more without recording a base hit. (the record is 0-for-11, set in 1920 by Charlie Pick).
  • The Pirates went 17 straight innings without scoring; the Braves went 15 frames between runs.
  • Julio Lugo left nine runners on base; Prado eight, and Pedro Alvarez stranded seven for Pittsburgh.
The game itself, we think, should provide a boot to the butt of the FO to find a stick or three; the pitching looks solid enough if it doesn't get burnt out trying to save the bacon of an anemic attack. We're sure Frank Wren is looking for bats right now. It's easy enough to quibble with Clint Hurdle's unorthodox batting orders and bunt loving ways, but unless he has has a lineup with more lumber than slumber, it's pretty academic.
As far as what the call means, well, we'll just have to see. After all, who knows what's two months down the trail? If the race remains tight, an undeserved loss could be big in the final standings. Atlanta has Chipper Jones hurt and Brian McCann on the DL, so it could possibly have wildcard implications.

As far as the umpiring, GW still isn't in favor of replay, unless it's on a very limited basis, something like one or two manager challenges a game decided by an ump-in-the-sky. There are just too many calls made during a game to turn it over to an army of center field cameras. And there probably wouldn't be overkill with it; there really aren't that many controversial calls during the season. That's why the ones that occur stay in mind so long.

But ya know what? Maybe it wouldn't hurt to make sure the MLB umps are a little better trained - worse than Meals' call at the plate was his inconsistent strike zone, driving pitchers, hitters, and managers alike nuts - and a lot more accountable to the game they serve. Put some teeth in the rating system, and demote substandard umps down a level or two to the farm, just like they do with underachieving players. Maybe then the umps will buy into getting it right.

Ump Breaks Up Pitching Duel; Braves Win 4-3 In Nineteen

Back to local TV; let's see if the Bucs can continue to roll now that their cameo on ESPN is done.

Xavier Paul started the game off against Tommy Hanson with a rope into right after falling behind 0-2. Three pitches later, he was at second with a swiped sack. Garrett Jones, kinda miscast as a two hitter, did his job. He saw eight pitches before bouncing out to second, moving Paul up ninety feet.

Not that he needed to. Neil Walker caught a first pitch curve, inside half and knee high, and ripped it off the right field wall for a triple. McCutch tried the same, jumping on a first pitch fastball, but popped it into right, and Walker had to hold. Pedro picked him up by lining a curve into right to bring The Pittsburgh Kid home. Lyle Overbay ended the inning with a liner to Nate McLouth in center. It was 2-0 Pittsburgh before Atlanta got to their bench.

McLouth started the Brave half by drawing an eight pitch walk off Jeff Karstens. Nate the Great ended up on third quickly; he stole second and moved up when Mike McKenry's throw went into center. Martin Prado popped up for the first out. Brian McCann K'ed swinging through a curve. JK completed the trifecta when he got Freddy Freeman to fly out to the wall in left center to strand McLouth.

Ronny Cedeno opened the second by striking out swinging at a slider. Mike McKenry kept the beat going when he tattooed a slider well over the left field wall for his second homer of the campaign and the Bucs' first after a 77 inning dry spell. Paul drew a two out, 3-2 walk, and stole second again. Hanson worked Jones in-and-out, and in another eight pitch at bat got him swinging through a slider. Going into the Brave second, it was 3-0 Pittsburgh.

Dan Uggla began the frame with a single up the middle. Eric Hinske moved him to second on a swinging bunt. Jason Heyward walked on five pitches; JK's control is off in the early going, a rarity for him. Julio Lugo chopped into a 6-4 force out, barely beating the relay to first after a nice grab & feed by Cedeno. JK fell behind Hansen 3-0 before coming back to get him on a 3-2 grounder to short. Karstens has run between the raindrops, but is up to 41 pitches after two, a really high count for him.

Hanson struck out Walker swing at a curve. McCutch lined one to left, and Hinske was there for the catch. Pedro tapped back to the box, and it was a clean frame for the Braves.

After a pair of hard hit outs, Karstens gave up an 0-2 ground single to McCann, catching too much plate with a heater he wanted upstairs as a waste pitch. Freeman followed with a line knock into right off Walker's glove. On a 2-2 pitch, Uggla got a heater down the middle and drilled it into center to score McCann. Hinske drew an eight pitch walk to load the bases. JK fell behind Heyward 2-0, fed him a sinker down the middle, and he knocked it into center to tie the game. Julio Lugo bounced out, but it was 3-3 after three.

Karstens has been laboring tonight; he's already up to 72 pitches. Give the Braves credit. They've been quite disciplined at the plate, regularly getting into hitters counts, and taking advantage. And JK doesn't have his best stuff or command here at Turner Field.

Overbay flew out short of the track in right top open the fourth. Cedeno bled an infield single to the left side. McKenry flew out to center. With Karstens up, Cedeno stole second; JK struck out on the next pitch. Curious timing for RC's steal, but it worked.

Hanson had a feisty at bat, as it took Karstens eight pitches to sit him down. McLouth went down looking at a borderline heater. Prado bounced out to third, and Karstens had a 1-2-3 inning.

Paul tried to bunt his way on in the fifth, but didn't push it far enough and Hanson got him for the first out. Jones flew out. Walker dropped a 3-2 slider into left, and McCutch followed with a walk after an extended, eight pitch at bat. Pedro worked the count full before striking out chasing a curve.

McCann started off the Atlanta half with an infield single to second; he was forced out at second on a Freeman roller to Walker. Uggla shot one to Pedro, and he started an around the horn DP. It was 3-3 after five.

Overbay swung at the first pitch and rolled it back to Hanson for out number one. Cedeno fell behind, but roped a 1-2 heater at the knees into right. McKenry flew out, and Matt Diaz stepped up for Karstens, flying out on the first pitch.

JK went five innings, giving up three runs on six hits with three walks and three K's. Hey, the guy's human, and at least lasted through five throwing 96 pitches. Tony Watson took the hill for Pittsburgh.

After getting ahead of Hinske 0-2, the count worked its way full and Watson beaned him. He jammed Heyward and the soft roller down the left side ended up an infield hit, both runners advancing a base when Pedro threw the ball away. Lugo flew out to short left and the runners stayed anchored. Brooks Conrad came up to pinch hit; he was intentionally walked to jam the sacks.

McLouth tried a squeeze on the first pitch, and fouled the ball off; it was a sure run if he got it down. He finished the at bat by striking out swinging at a fastball. That left the dangerous Martin Prado as the last hill to climb; he rolled one gently to Overbay and the game was still tied after six.

Eric O'Flaherty and his 0.95 ERA replaced Hanson, and he struck out Paul on a foul tip. Steve Pearce came to the plate for Garrett Jones and was schooled, striking out swinging. Walker at least put the ball in play, grounding out to third. And it doesn't get easier; the Brave bullpen has been awesome this season. The Bucs countered with Joe Beimel. He rolled through the Braves, striking out a pair.

Next, the Braves rolled out Johnny Venters (1.32 ERA). McCutch fell behind 1-2, but eventually drew a walk to open the eighth. It took the lefty three pitches to dispatch Pedro; only one was over the dish. McCutch was caught stealing while Overbay was at the dish; he K'ed too. Hey, Venters can make anyone look bad, but especially the lefties, who hit just .138 against him and strike out 35% of their plate appearances..

Beimel got the first two Braves easily in the first, but Lugo caught the Bucs napping with a bunt single to third. and that brought Chipper Jones up to pinch hit. Beimel got him on a grounder to short, and he and Watson have put up three goose egg frames.

Craig Kimbrel (2.15) took the hill; he K'ed Cedeno looking. McKenry legged out an infield knock to short (do Pirate catchers led the league in infield hits, we wonder?) Brandon Wood pinch hit; he rolled an 0-2 fastball on the black into right to put runners on the corners with one away.

The Bucs tried the squeeze; the Braves pitched out (the infield had a mound conference just before the pitch) and McKenry was dead; Paul didn't even offer at the pitch, pulling the bat back, and eventually struck out to end the frame. Unless Paul thought the safety squeeze was on, his lack of effort to protect McKenry was inexplicable.

Jose Veras took over. He struck out McLouth swinging. McLouth, upset with the call before that pitch, beefed and was bounced by plate ump Jerry Meals; manager Fredi Gonzalez joined in and was ejected, too. Prado bounced out to short and McCann popped out. JV had a drama free frame, by his standards anyway, and it was on to extra innings.

Scott Linebrook took the hill for Atlanta. Paerce went down swinging. Walker lined an opposite field single and stole second; McCutch walked, ball four being intentional. McCann hurt his oblique during the at bat; David Ross came on to catch. He's the last position player on the bench, so there are no Atlanta pinch hitters available from here on out.

George Sherrill came on to face Pedro, lefty-to-lefty. He caught him looking; Alvarez only took one swing the entire at bat, letting a couple of nice looking balls sail by. Overbay bounced out to end the frame. It was Chris Resop's turn to take the ball.

He gave Freeman an 0-2 curve over the plate, he rapped it into the second base hole for an infield single when Walker couldn't glove it cleanly; it could have just as easily been ruled an error. Resop struck out Uggla on three pitches; he doesn't believe in wasting any. Alex Gonzalez, who came in when McLouth was booted, bounced one to Cedeno for an inning ending 6-4-3 DP.

Cristhian Martinez toed the rubber for Atlanta. Cedeno grounded out. Martinez fed McKenry a fastball down the middle; he flew out in front of the center field track. Eric Fryer pinch hit for Resop; he struck out on three pitches, swinging in front of a changeup.

Jason Grilli joined the line of Bucco relievers to pitch when he climbed the hill in the eleventh. After a pop out, Lugo lined a first pitch single into center. Jordan Schafer, who had subbed earlier in the game, tried to bunt his way on, fouling the first pitch, and eventually reached when he was beaned on an 0-2 pitch. Martinez bunted them over to put it on the shoulders of Prado. Grilli jammed him, and he bounced out to short.

Paul started the twelfth with a bounce out to first. Pearce continued to wear the collar, striking out for the third time in three at bats. Walker grounded out to first, and the Bucs had their tenth straight zero added to the board.

Grilli lost Ross on five pitches. Freeman poked a fastball off his ankles and rolled it the opposite way for a single, with Ross holding at second. Uggla roped one, but right at Pedro for the first out. Gonzalez hit one weakly; McKenry went to first for the out with the runners advancing.  Lefty heyward was intentionally walked to get to righty Lugo, who has two hits tonight. He was jammed and bounced one to Pedro, who stepped on third to end the frame. Lucky thirteenth coming up?

Martinez came on for his third inning, and why not? He's only thrown 16 pitches in the first two.  McCutch hit his first pitch to short; Gonzalez couldn't come up with it and the error put Andrew at first. Pedro bunted him to second; only with Pittsburgh would that happen. Overbay flew out; he's 0-for-6. Cedeno bounced out to second to end the inning. Hey, Pedro's had a bad night, but you have to let McCutch go on his own and let Alvarez have his hacks.

Schafer went down swinging at a Grilli curve. Martinez, who does it all apparently, lined a single into right. Prado popped out for the second out. Ross walked on a 3-2 pitch, and that brought up lefty banger Freeman. Grilli jumped ahead of him 0-2, and got him swinging at a nasty curve.

Give McKenry his props. It's the fourteenth inning, and he's caught every pitch, yet he fought Martinez for 14 pitches before flying out. Maybe it'll help the next guys in the order. Maybe not. Pinch hitter Chase d'Arnaud, the last Buc position player, went down swinging at a changeup. Paul saw the change, and rolled one into right for a two out knock. It didn't help Pearce; he got a change and bounced out to short.

Now D-Mac came out; only Hanny is left in the pen. The changeup must be the pitch du jour; Uggla popped one out to open the fourteenth. Gonzalez bounced a slider to Walker for the second out, and Heyward did the same for a clean inning for McCutchen.

Despite his 52 pitches, the Braves sent Martinez back out.  Walker went down swinging at a 3-2 changeup. He fed McCutch three straight two strike changeups that he fouled off; he K'ed him swinging at a high heater. Martinez hung a changeup to Pedro; he swung through it for strike three.

With one out, Schafer laid down a two strike bunt to third and beat it out; that's confidence. Martinez bunted him up a station. Prado at 0-for-7 is way overdue. But not this at bat. D-Mac caught him looking at a fastball. It's on to the sixteenth; the GW alarm clock is probably getting thrown out the window when it goes off at 6 AM.

Overbay caught hold of a Martinez change, but lined it at Freeman at first who made a nice play to snag the shot. Cedeno tapped back to the hill. McKenry lined a single to center, but with the bench empty, D-Mac had to bat, and he bounced out to second. Martinez has now pitched as long as Hanson, and considerably better, too. His ERA has dropped from 4.10 to 3.53 during the night.

After striking out Ross, D-Mac walked Freeman on four pitches. Uggla lined to third, and Pedro make a nice grab to turn a single into an out. Gonzalez bounced into a force, and geez, it's the seventeenth frame. Time flies...

Martinez finally headed for the showers and Scott Proctor with a 7.36 ERA, took the hill. He came out throwing smoke, but missed the dish and walked Paul on four pitches. Of course, Hurdle called for Pearce to lay one down; he fouled the first pitch trying. He did get one down, and Paul moved up a sack. That got Walker an intentional pass to bring up McCutch.

Proctor started him off on soft stuff, falling behind 2-1. McCutch got his fastball, belt high inside corner, but couldn't get around and bounced out to first, advancing the runners. Pedro went after a first pitch slider, and flew out to center.

D-Mac got Heyward on a grounder to short. Lugo went after the first pitch, a high heater, and lined it into left. Schafer tried to bunt the first pitch, with the pitcher behind him and no pinch hitter available. He took a cut at the second pitch, and flew out to McCutch. Proctor grounded out to third, and we're into the ninth inning of the doubleheader...ooops, the eighteenth.

Overbay shook his collar and bounced a single up the middle. Cedeno wasn't bunting but it worked out the same. he bounced out to the right side, moving Overbay to second. Lotta pressure on McKenry with D-Mac batting behind him. Well, not that much - he was intentionally walked. McCutchen bunted them up a base. With two outs, it was up to Paul. He smoked one, but into the glove of Freeman to end the inning.

D-Mac came out for his fifth inning, and has Prado, Ross and Freeman to contend with. Prado bounced out and Ross went down swinging on a 3-2 pitch. McCutchen served Freeman a steady diet of changeups, and lost him on a 3-2 pitch; he stole second. Uggla walked on five pitches, also seeing mostly changeups. D-Mac is gassed; he's now thrown 72 pitches. But he had enough in the tank to get Gonzalez to ground out.

Pearce lined a fastball into center and Schafer ran it down. Walker was jammed and popped out to third. McCutch got another belt high, inside half fastball; he got under this one and popped out.

The Hanny rule for save-only appearances must still be in effect; D-Mac came out for his sixth inning of work. He got ahead of Lugo 1-2, but lost him after eight pitches. He got ahead of Schafer 0-2, but two pitches later left a fastball up that he lined into center to put runners on the corners. That brought up Proctor. While he was up, Schafer took second on defensive indifference.

Proctor rolled one to Pedro, who came home. The ball beat Lugo and he was out by five feet in everyone's eyes (including his own; he originally thought he was gunned, too) but those of  Jerry Meals, who called him safe. Hurdle exploded out of the dugout, but the ruling of course stood and the ump got to call it a night. And that's a terrible way to end a ballgame that guys have been contesting for the past six hours; it deserved a legitimate conclusion, not a "it's been a long day and let's go home" call. (If you want to see the play, it's shown here.)

We'll have more on the game tomorrow after a nap, lol. There are sure to be a lot of numbers and odd factoids to come out of the contest.

Paul Maholm faces Jair Jurrjens tomorrow.

  • Expect some movement by the Pirates tomorrow. After the last two nights, their pen is in a shambles. There are several scenarios that are possible, and bet one will play out soon.
  • Tonight (and this mornings) game is the longest time-wise in Pirate franchise history at six hours and 41 minutes.
  • Ryan Doumit had his rehab assignment today transferred from High-A Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis, with the goal to have him catching nine innings by the weekend. If that's the case, he could be back in Pittsburgh by early August. His initial rehab plan is to alternate days between catching and DH'ing.
  • Chase d'Arnaud has a chip fracture of his right pinky finger, but will be available to pinch hit or run.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


RHP Jeff Karstens (8-5, 2.28) goes against RHP Tommy Hanson (11-5, 3.06) tonight. Sorry; we got ahead of ourselves last night and posted Wednesday's Maholm - Jurrjens matchup in the game recap instead. The contest is at 7:10 PM and will be shown on Root Sports.

The lineup: Xavier Paul LF, Garrett Jones RF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Jeff Karstens P.

Hey, the same lineup two days in a row!

  • Andrew McCutchen is one of just five players in the majors so far this season to knock in 60 runs and steal at least 15 bases.
  • James McDonald is 7-4 this year, and the Bucs have won seven of the last eight games he's started. Even with all that success, J-Mac has yet to get through the seventh inning of a game in 2011.
  • Jonathan Mayo of has this synopsis of what the Bucs are being asked to give up for a deadline deal: "...don't look for the Pirates to blow apart everything they've built just for this run, meaning a guy like Jameson Taillon is off the table. They have heard from teams about other arms like Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris and Justin Wilson. Any conversations about hitters likely start with Futures Gamer Starling Marte, but also include infielders Matt Hague and Jordy Mercer."
  • There's a whole bunch of media noise lately about the Bucs being in on BJ Upton. Dunno if his bat or personality are fits, but if he's in the OF with McCutch, Tabata or Presley, we pity the fool fly ball...
  • Jason Giambi injured his quad running out a ball last night; that should take him off the Bucco wish list. Pittsburgh hasn't had much luck with quad-challenged players so far this season. 
  • Troy Renck of the Denver Post said the Bucs have "cooled" on Chris Iannetti. We never thought he was a real good option to begin with, so it apparently was a case of sending up a trial balloon by the FO.
  • Matthew Leach of has an article on the NL Central, focusing on what difference a deadline deal could make to any of the four teams in the race.
  • Ever wonder about the slow progress some of the Bucco draftees seem to be making? Well, it's just part and parcel of leaning heavily on high school lottery selections. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects has a post on the expected minor league path of the puppies aptly titled "Young Prospects Require Patience."
  • Kristy Robinson of Ohio Valley Athletics reminded us that three years ago today "...the Pirates acquired Karstens, D. McCutchen, Ohlendorf & Tabata from NYY for Nady & Marte in a steal of a deal."

Bucs Show ESPN How It's Done 3-1

OK, everyone in the country except in Pittsburgh (and Atlanta, we guess) get to see the Buccos and Braves battle it out on national TV tonight. And hey, it's a lot like the Northshore - gray skies, thunder, lightning...oh, and rain.

In fact, the Atlanta weather forecast is "Showers and thunderstorms likely. Heavy downpours and frequent lightning with storms continuing through the overnight hours." Hmmm, some of the lights and the scoreboard just went out. Is that an ark floating down the Chattahoochee?

But hey, the Braves want to get the game in, since this is Pittsburgh's only trip to Atlanta this year. Though the radar showed the city to be on the edge of a huge moist green blob, they crossed their fingers and rescheduled the start for 9:10.

And start they did a couple minutes beyond that time. Tim Hudson wasted no time with Xavier Paul, catching him looking on four pitches. It took him six offerings to K Garrett Jones swinging. Five pitches later, Neil Walker went down looking. Quite an introduction to Pirate hitters for the national viewers, hey?

James McDonald got ahead of Martin Prado 0-2. A couple of pitches later, he rolled one to Pedro, who booted it. J-Mac fed Jason Heyward three heaters and got him swinging. To make matters a little better, Prado was caught stealing on the ol' strike 'em out, throw 'em out play. Chipper Jones struck out on a foul tip; he saw three fastballs. McDonald is throwing first-pitch strikes and hitting 95-96 on the gun.

McCutch started the second with a five pitch walk, and even the strike was iffy. Pedro Alvarez walked on a 3-2 pitch; it was a solid at-bat as he laid off the outside stuff. Lyle Overbay sent a curve short of the track in left center and moved both runners up a station. Ronny Cedeno bounced out to Chipper Jones, who had to go to his left, to bring McCutch home, and the Bucs drew first blood. Mike McKenry slapped a slider into left to plate Pedro on a wide throw home, and moved to second on the play. J-Mac went down swinging, but the Bucs had the early 2-0 lead.

J-Mac gave up a single to David Ross with two away, and Nate McLouth followed with another as his grounder to the right side ticked off Walker's glove and sent Ross to third. No trouble; he got Alex Gonzalez swinging for his fourth K in two frames.

Paul made Hudson work this time around. He popped out on the ninth pitch of his at-bat. Jones rolled a single through the left side. Walker got an 0-2 pitch in on the hands and bounced back to the box for a 1-6-3 DP.

Hudson led off the third by blooping a 3-2 pitch into right for a knock; J-Mac didn't get the call on a couple of previous pitches that looked good. Prado followed by lining a 2-0 fastball into left for a single. McDonald caught a break; Heyward lined one to Walker, who flipped to Cedeno for the DP, catching Hudson too far astray.

Jones followed with a single to center to put runners on the corners with two away. Chipper showed his knee surgery didn't slow him down; the Braves had him moving and he swiped second on a curve in the dirt; it may have been a hit-and-run. J-Mac got out of this jam just like last inning's predicament. He got Freddie Freeman swinging.

McCutch smashed one, but it was gloved at the wall in right center 390' away by Heyward. Pedro drilled a sinker up the middle for a single. Overbay pulled a sinker away to second, and it turned into a 4-6-3 DP. After a pair of whiffs, McLouth poked an outside 3-2 heater into left. J-Mac caught Gonzalez looking for his eighth K of the night. The other side of the pillow is that he's thrown 67 pitches through four frames and could use a quick, clean inning.

Hudson struck out a pair in the fifth on his way to a clean frame. He led off the Brave fifth, and took McCutch almost to the track in center for the first out. Prado took McCutch to the wall with his long fly to center. McDonald struck out Heyward on a foul tip for his ninth K, a career best. And it was a neat, ten pitch inning, even if a couple of the outs were loud.

After fishing for a couple to fall behind 0-2, Jones worked Hudson for a one out walk in the sixth. Hudson threw Walker a shoulder high change that was a mile outside (it indeed may have been a pitchout attempt); but there was a hit-and-run called. He couldn't lay off for Jones' sake and dribbled one to third for the second out.

Putting that ball in play led to a run when McCutch singled sharply up the middle on the next pitch to score Jones. McCutch went to second when McLouth let the ball roll through him a bit and then Andrew stole third. Pedro, who showed patience his first two at-bats, lost it on this one. He hacked at a couple of pitches off the plate and struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt. But it was 3-0 Bucs.

Freeman jump started the Brave half with a well struck ground ball single through the right side with one gone. Dan Uggla smacked a heater down the middle into left to put runners at first and second. J-Mac blew a  3-2 heater past Ross, but McKenry was called for catcher's interference when his hand caught the bat to nullify the K and load the bases.

Clint Hurdle came out and took the ball from McDonald. J-Mac went 5-1/3 innings, giving up eight hits and striking out nine. His swing-and-miss stuff was on display today, but more importantly, he managed the game well with runners on. Chris Resop got the call from the pen to face the lefty McLouth, and he nailed him on a foul pop hauled in on a lunging backward grab by McKenry. Gonzalez struck out swinging at high heat, and Resop had pulled off another Houdini act.

Overbay opened the seventh by ripping a ball through the right side for a lead off knock, and Cedeno bunted him to second. McKenry bounced one to short; Overbay was caught trying to go to third with the play in front of him. Lastings Milledge's legacy lives on. Steve Pearce came on to pinch hit for Resop and bounced out on a 3-2 pitch. D-Mac took the hill. He retired the Braves in order, striking out both lefties he faced.

George Sherrill took over for Atlanta. Walker drew a four pitch walk with two away, and McCutch drew a 3-2 base on balls. Pedro bounced out to first on a 3-2 slider to end the inning. McCutchen stayed on the mound. He came inside corner and belt high on Chipper Jones; he launched it a few rows over the right field wall for his ninth homer. Freeman drew a five pitch walk.

That was enough, and Jose Veras came in from the pen while Brandon Wood went to third. Uggla flew out to the wall in straightaway center. He got Brian McCann to swing through an outside heater. McLouth popped out. JV had a good fastball today, and threw strikes. There was just one more bridge left to cross.

Scott Linebrink came on in the ninth for Atlanta and put Pittsburgh's 6-7-8 hitters down in order. The ninth is Hanny time. Three up, three down, and the Pirates started their grand tour in fine style in front of bleary eyed fans coast-to-coast.

The Bucs didn't exactly pound Atlanta - they K'ed ten times - but scored three runners that had walked, twice with two outs. The old formula worked. Good pitching - all five Pirate hurlers had a strikeout, fourteen in all - some nice glovework, despite the two errors, and just enough offense.

Paul Maholm has his work cut out for him tomorrow when he takes on Jair Jurrjens.

  • McCutch's stolen sack was his first swipe in a month; his last prior steal was on June 25th.
  • In a real rarity for the Bucco pitch-to-contact staff, not only did they register 14 K's, but not one Brave was retired via the ground ball tonight. (Thanks DK) Pedro muffed the only routine grounder, and that was from the game's first batter. Power pitching, hey?
  • The last time the Bucs were on ESPN was September 22, 2004 at PNC against the Cubs. It was a memorable game; Ollie Perez lost 1-0 to Carlos Zambrano when he walked the pitcher with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth. (Thanks to Brian at Raise the Jolly Roger)
  • With both Ronny Cedeno and Pedro back on the 25 man roster, the odd man out would seem to be Chase d'Arnaud. He needs to play everyday. Tough decision, though. The Bucs do have five outfielders, so he could hang around until another position player returns or be swapped out for John Bowker or Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez is RH, a good glove contact hitter with speed who's on the 40-man roster; Bowker is a LH with pop, an average glove with average speed who isn't on the 40-man.
  • Ohlie is progressing well in his rehab. He may be back sooner rather than later, maybe even after a couple or three more minor league starts.
  • Trevor Bauer, the right-hander out of UCLA who was selected third overall in this year's draft by Arizona, signed a contract today. Jack Magruder of Fox Sports Arizona reported that the deal is worth $7M, including a $3.4M bonus (its unknown how much of the salary is guaranteed yet). Looks like we're starting to zero in on a price tag for Gerritt Cole, and it won't be cheap. Pedro got a $6M bonus, and his salary can range from $335K - $2.15M between 2009-12.