Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Stros Broom Bucs 2-0

Ah, just when it couldn't get any worse...

J-Mac dodged some heavy fire early on. In the second, a bloop and swinging bunt single sandwiched around a line knock loaded the bases for the Astros with no one away. But a pop out, whiff and grounder later, the runners were stranded.

Going into the bottom of the fourth, the score was zeroes. JA Happ had given up three singles in that span, but four K's and a DP ball cleaned that up pretty well. J-Mac didn't quite have that fortune in his upcoming inning.

A lead off walk was chased to third by a single. A squib that didn't travel 10' scored the game's first run. Dewey fielded it, looked the guy at third back, and went to first. The runner broke home with the peg, and Garrett Jones' throw was well off the mark, allowing the trail runner to get to third. Then McDonald walked Happ. An RBI bunt single followed, played pretty poorly by the Bucs, and that brought home another run.

And guess what? That's how it stayed. Happ entered the game with a 6+ ERA and the most losses of any NL pitcher, but went seevn scoreless frames against the Bucs, giving up three hits, whiffing six and walking one. Fernando Rodriguez and Mark Melanchon tucked the Bucs in over the last two frames.

J-Mac did OK. he went six, giving up two runs on seven hits with a pair of walks and six K's. Tony Watson, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan kept the game close. Hanny was a bit of a surprise; Hurdle put him in with two outs in the eighth for no reason other than to let him face a batter, as far as we can figure.

Ya know, the Pirates used to have a swagger and energy to them not so long ago along with the belief that they could win on any given night. Now they look like the rag-tag zombies of 2009, after the team was blown up at the trade deadline. So we'll see now if the Clint Hurdle mystique can get them back on their game in September, or if the lackluster play continues through the last four weeks.

Not one Pirate reached second base tonight. They scored six runs on thirteen hits in the series and struck out 34 times, against Wandy Rodriguez, Henry Sosa and JA Happ. The Astros have the first draft pick for 2012 virtually cinched with a 47-90 record (and that's after the sweep) and lost Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence from the lineup. Geez.

The Pirates come home tomorrow for an afternoon make-up game against the Dodgers. Pirates castoff Dana Eveland will go against Brad Lincoln.

  • The Bucco bench was a man short today; no one was called up to replace Matt Diaz. It was likely a logistics issue, with Indy playing a day game and the Pirates returning to Pittsburgh on Thursday.
  • Jack Wilson was traded to the Atlanta Braves, the home of old Buccos with Nate McLouth, Eric Pinske, Matt Diaz and now Jack Splat. Diaz, BTW, started in RF tonight for Atlanta and went 2-for-3 (singles, of course).


RHP James McDonald (8-6, 4.22) goes against LHP J.A. Happ (4-15, 6.03). The game begins at 8:05 and will be aired on Root Sports.

Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Alex Presley LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Doumit C, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones 1B, Josh Harrison 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, James McDonald P.

Good to see JT back in the lineup.

  • Don't expect a huge rush of players from Indy for September call-ups tomorrow. First, they're still in the hunt for a playoff spot and secondly, the Bucs will have Ryan Ludwick returning in a week and possibly Derrek Lee and Evan Meek by mid-month. Clint Hurdle expects to add about tens guys, split between pitchers and position players. The Bucs need a starting pitcher Friday to replace Jeff Karstens, so you can at least count on that call-up coming quickly. The FO didn't call up anyone from Indy to replace the traded Matt Diaz; the Tribe played a day game and won to stay alive for a playoff berth.
  • The Rangers, who just acquired Indy closer RHP Tim Wood, DFA'ed him. We're guessing they hope he sneaks through so they can move him off their 40-man roster.
  • OF Josh Bell was sent to State College. No, he's not going to debut the last week of the season. Bell is there to absorb the minor league life-style so he has some idea of what he'll be dealing with when he starts his pro journey in 2012.
  • Old Bucco LHP Mike "Gonzo" Gonzalez was traded by Baltimore to the Rangers for a PTBNL.

Diaz, Bowker Move On

Well, the Bucs were stockpiling OF'ers. They lightened the load a little today, dealing a couple to playoff teams before the September deadline.

First, they sent John Bowker to the Phils and in return, the Bucs get a PTBNL or cash. Bowker was part of the return for Javier Lopez. In his four big league seasons, he hit for a line of .237/17/73. The Phils have been having trouble with LH bench strength, first releasing Jack Cust and suffering through a terrible Russell Gload slump. They're hoping that Bowker, a career .301 pinch hitter in the show, fills that gap.

Next to go was Matt Diaz. He was shipped to the Braves, also for a PTBNL. He signed a two year deal with the Pirates when Atlanta non-tendered him last season, and will be owed $2M in 2012. The Pirates were reported to have included an undisclosed amount of cash. Diaz was a class act that unfortunately lost all ability to power a ball and was hitting just .259. Maybe returning to Atlanta will return his mojo, too.

Did either of these moves help the franchise? Nah. They just kept the line moving in a position that was pretty crowded and provided a couple of players the opportunity to win some playing time after they had fallen out of the Bucs' future plans. It also opens up Diaz's spot on the 40-man for a September call-up.

So the Bucs did a little housecleaning. And it does throw a spotlight on the problems they've had either attracting or properly evaluating off-season help. Kevin Correia is the only guy the FO has inked during free agency since they took over in 2008 who is left on the roster.

And you can add John Bowker to a long list of prospects collected for veteran players that haven't panned out, starting with Andy LaRoche and Brandon Moss.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bucs Adrift, Lose 8-2

Boy, the Pirate run for the roses sure seems like a long time ago. Pittsburgh continued its descent in the NL Central by being convincingly whipped by the rebuilding Houston Astros 8-2 tonight.

It started out as a well pitched game. The Bucs broke out first when Alex Presley's two out single in the third brought in Ronny Cedeno, who had walked to begin the frame. It stayed 1-0 until the fifth when Jose Altuve homered, becoming the first Astro to pass second against Charlie Morton, to tie the game.

In the sixth, the wheels fell completely off. A lead off single turned into a runner at third with one away thanks to a balk and stolen base. Clint Hurdle decided to intentionally walk Carlos Corporan for the second time; he's hitting .188. Pinch hitter Matt Downs banged a grounder through the left side to bring in a run, and after 96 pitches, Morton was sent to the showers. He went 5-1/3 innings, and would eventually be charged with four runs on six hits, with four walks (two intention) and eight K's.

Chris Leroux, who has had the hot hand lately, came on and didn't get an Astro out. He gave up four straight singles before D-Mac came on. McCutchen gave up a two-out double, and the Fat Lady put on her Houston cap as the score reached 7-1.

D-Mac gave up another run in the seventh when a two out, two on grounder deflected off Jones' glove. McCutch homered in the ninth with two outs, and the Bucs went down 8-2.

It's getting to be like Groundhog Day. The Pirate starters hand over a manageable game early on, but the exhausted and erratic bullpen can't cover the final four innings. The Pittsburgh hitters struck out eleven more times tonight, and collected just four hits, two by Ronny Cedeno.

After the bright days of mid-July, it's gonna take a miracle to avoid the Bucs' 19th straight losing season. The preseason predictions of 70-75 wins by most crystal ball gazers is looking about right on.

James McDonald takes on JA Happ tomorrow night.

  • McCutch became the eighth Pirate in history to join the 20-20 club when he homered in the ninth, and the first since Nate McLouth in 2008.
  • Jose Tabata has a sore wrist and sat out the game tonight.
  • The Bradenton Maruaders won tonight, clinching the second-half championship of the High Class A Florida State league and a playoff spot.
  • The Pirates announced today that prospects 2B Brock Holt and OF Robbie Grossman will play for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. Pittsburgh still has five more roster spots to fill for Mesa, and Gerritt Cole is expected to get one of them.
  • Steve Blass and Lanny Frattare are the Bucco nominees for the Ford Frick broadcasting honor. This year, the fans can vote, too, on Facebook

2012 Ticket Prices: Up & Down

If you like to be close to the action, you'll have to dig a little deeper next year to claim your seat. But if the upper deck suits you, you'll actually save a couple of Buc bucks.

The Pirates announced their 2012 ticket prices today, concurrent with sending out the season ticket renewals. The average price per ducat goes from $15.30 to $16.11, still way down there compared to the rest of the league.

It's the first increase since 2002, and it certainly wasn't unexpected. For that matter, it was virtually a necessity. The Pirates are 20th in attendance, but only 28th in revenue. It's tough to play catch-up that way.

The seats behind the dish took the biggest leap, jumping $30 per pop and topping out at $225. The rows behind the dugout will be $45, up a ten spot, and the lower level OF boxes took a modest jump of $4. But the outfield grand stands will drop to $10 from this season's $16. Season ticket plans are discounted from 14-50% off single game prices.

So not too bad a hit on the wallet, as some feared; the rich get poorer and the poor get richer. Can't ask for much more.


RHP Charlie Morton (9-7, 3.62) faces RHP Henry Sosa (1-2, 5.09) at 8:05 PM. The game will be shown on Root Sports.

Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Josh Harrison 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Xavier Paul RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Charlie Morton P.

JT gets the night off against the righty, and Scoobie Doo is behind the plate for Morton. We are surprised a bit that Harrison is batting second and the X-Man sixth. That's a ole reversal for the pair.
  • Jeff Karstens will skip a start as his shoulder remains stiff. Clint Hurdle told the beat gang that he believed fatigue was the cause. Karstens has crossed the 150 inning threshold for the first time in the show; his previous MLB high was last year's 122-2/3 frames.
  • Joe Beimel cleared waivers and was released by the Bucs today.
  • Alex Presley and Matt Hague have been named to the International League's post-season All-Star team.

Bucs Bopped 7-4

OK, the Astros don't have Hunter Pence or Lance Berkman, two Bucco killers from way back, to torture the staff anymore. You'd think that would work to Pittsburgh's advantage, but...

After three innings of pretty well pitched ball by Wandy Rodriguez and Ohlie, the Bucs broke on top in the fourth. Josh Harrison started off with a double to center and came in when McCutch homered, number 19 on the season, to right. Neil Walker doubled to deep right center, and  Dewey doubled him in. Matt Diaz walked, and with no outs, the Bucs looked to be on the way to a mega-inning.

But Brandon Wood, Chase d'Arnaud and Ohlie all whiffed, so the Bucs were up 3-0. And that would be their last noise at the dish until the ninth.

The Astros used two-out lightning to chip away. After two routine outs, JD Martinez singled, Carlos Lee walked, and Brian Bogusevic dropped a flare into left to make it 3-1. The 'Stros added another in the fifth when a two-out knock by Jordan Schafer snuck into center off d'Arnaud's mitt to score Cliff Barmes, who had led off with a double.

Ross Ohlendorf continued step-by-step on his comeback trail, going five frames and allowing two runs (both with two away) on five hits with six strikeouts. Laboring over the last two innings, he was replaced by Jason Grilli in the sixth.

Houston broke it open in the seventh after Grilli dodged some raindrops in the sixth. With an out, a curve broke too well and hit Schafer on the foot. Jose Altuve doubled to put runners on second and third, bringing out Jose Veras. 

A ground out tied the score. Two pitches later, the Astros had a 6-3 lead when Lee yanked his 13th of the year into the left field stands when he turned on a fastball that looked about 6" inside.

Houston added a run in the eighth with three straight singles off Tony Watson. With an out, there were runners on second and third after a double steal that didn't draw a throw (it was ruled defensive indifference).

The Bucs have really gone downhill in keeping guys still on the bases and we're wondering if the "indifference" calls are coming from the bench or if the pitchers are just ignoring runners. They got out of it thanks to an Astro baserunning blunder that led to a DP when Altuve wandered too far off second during a ground out.

With two away in the ninth, a Jones walk followed by a Ronny Cedeno triple cranked into center made the final 7-4. The Pirates are now 9-26 since they briefly held first place last month.

Wandy Rodriguez struck out a career high 13 batters in seven innings. Last month, he matched his career high by striking out 11 Pirates. His 13 strikeouts were also the most by an Astros pitcher since last year, when Bud Norris struck out 14 against, natch, the Pirates.

Brandon Wood K'ed four times and Chase d'Arnaud three times while the team as a whole went down 16 times. The Bucs only put 16 balls in play - 11 outs + 5 hits - and just give too many at-bats away, which is becoming a recurrent theme. Hey, after a while a big leaguer should be able to figure out Rodriguez is throwing the curve; at least make him throw it for a strike.

As for Pirate pitching, Evan Meek will be welcome when he comes back, and the sooner, the better. Pirate starters can't seem to crack the five inning barrier anymore, and the bullpen has been way overexposed, especially the back end.

Charlie Morton goes against former Giant Henry Sosa today.

  • Some discussion among Bucco cognoscenti: maybe it's time to stretch Chris Leroux out and see if he has what it takes to start. Like Charlie Morton, a change in arm slot has revived his career.
  • Starling Marte rapped out his 167th hit last night, setting a new Altoona Curve single-season record. Nate McLouth set the old benchmark of 166 in 2004.
  • Bradenton OF'er Robbie Grossman and 3B Elevyz Gonzalez have been named to the Florida State League Class A team for the 2011 season.
  • On the theory that it takes five years to rank a draft class, Jim Callis of Baseball America looked at the 2005 class. He ranked Pittsburgh's draft 8th best, based mostly on the play of McCutch, who he called the Bucs best pick since Barry Bonds.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cards Take Series 7-4

Could the Bucs come back and earn a split against the Cards? Uh, no...

It started off promisingly enough; the first three Bucs got aboard. JT singled on the game's opening pitch off Kyle Lohse. He then served up seven straight balls, walking Alex Presley on four pitches and falling behind McCutch 3-0 before he singled two pitches later to plate Tabata and move The King to third.

Makings of a big inning? Nah - Neil Walker whiffed looking after fouling off the first two pitches, and Garrett Jones banged into a 3-6-3 DP.

With an out, Allen Craig got St. Louis rolling against Jeff Karstens with a knock up the middle. Matt Holliday ripped a double to put runners at second and third. Lance Berkman was intentionally walked after getting ahead 2-0. A swinging bunt brought home a run in exchange for an out. Ronny Cedeno gloved a grounder, but had no play. Holliday scored but RC temporarily saved a second a run. It came in quickly enough on a bouncer through the left side, and the Redbirds were up 3-1.

But the Bucs were just warming up. Josh Harrison doubled and tallied on Cedeno's single. Michael McKenry's double sent RC to third. With the infield in, Karstens hit a grounder to second. Schumaker got the out at first, but McKenry had a brain cramp and wandered too far off second, getting caught in a rundown. Maybe he thought Cedeno was going on contact (he'd have been DOA).

The throw went to second, and Cedeno scampered toward home. The ball was short hopped to the plate, and RC scored while McKenry took third. A JT bouncer brought Scoobie Doo in, and the Bucs were up 4-3.

St. Louis went down routinely. But the second was it for Pittsburgh. Over the final seven innings, the Pirates had two hits, one walk and one hitter reach on an error. No one reached third base, and two of the runners were erased on DPs.

The Golden Archers tied it in the third. With two away and Berkman on first via a walk, Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot hit back-to-back singles. Berkman came home, although the Bucs nailed Schumaker at third, Presley to Cedeno to Harrison.

The Cards went ahead in the fourth. After an out, Lohse beat out an infield single and Jon Jay doubled him to third, where he scored on a Craig sac fly. That was all for JK, as Chris Leroux came on to get the final out. In 3-2/3 frames of work, Karstens gave up five runs, nine hits and two walks with a K, leaving after 65 tosses.

The Cardinals added insurance in the seventh. Holliday doubled off the wall in right-center with one out and Berkman was again walked intentionally. Freese followed with a blooper that was just out of the reach of Walker, capping a ten pitch at-bat against Chris Resop.

That brought on D-Mac. A Schumaker grounder drove in Berkman, and that would be the last run in a 7-4 Redbird win.

Today was a game for the Cards' ham-and-eggers with Albert Pujols getting a blow. Ryan Theriot, David Freese and Skip Schumaker each had two RBI. Again, the Bucco starters failed to get deep into a game, and five weeks of continuous use has frayed the bullpen. And again, the Buc offense started en fuego but went into a stall as the game wore on.

Ross Ohlendorf goes against Wandy Rodriguez tomorrow at Houston.

  • Neal Huntington said on his radio talk show that the FO erred when they put Ryan Ludwick on the DL. Ludwick's back recovered quickly enough that he could have played this weekend. He's due to come off the DL on September 7th. Huntington blamed himself, saying he thought the injury was more serious.
  • Jameson Taillon threw four scoreless frames for West Virginia today, giving up three hits and striking out nine. He was hitting 94-95 on the gun.


RHP Jeff Karstens (9-7, 3.09) faces RHP Kyle Lohse (11-8, 3.73). The game starts at 2:15 and will be aired by Root Sports.

Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Alex Presley LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones 1B, Josh Harrison 3b, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Jeff Karstens P.

  • Rob Beirtempfel of the Tribune Review leads his notes off with a status report on Andrew McCutchen's contract talks, which he describes as at a "standstill." The comparables are Jay Bruce and Justin Upton, who signed six year deals with $50M+ payoffs.
  • Brad Lincoln has two MLB wins; both were shutouts.
  • Kevin Gorman of the Tribune Review has a piece on the Steel City Wildcats, a travel team of elite high school prospects from the area. It was founded by Neil Walker's dad Tom as a vehicle to get kids with talent seen by a wider circle of coaches.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bucs Put It Together In 7-0 Win

One thing that we'll say about the Bucs is that the guys are resilient. No matter how brutal the loss - and yesterday's loss was brutal - they come back the next day and give nine innings worth of effort.

This afternoon, vet Chris Carpenter was on the hill against Pirate puppy Brad Lincoln. And at least today, youth was served as the Bucs chased Carpenter while Lincoln was strong in a 7-0 Pittsburgh win.

It was a pitching duel over three innings, with the Bucs clinging to a 1-0 lead. Josh Harrison brought home Garrett Jones, who had doubled, in the second while Lincoln faced just nine hitters, needing only 30 pitches to shut down the Redbirds.

The Pirates batted around in the fourth to take charge of the game. McCutch led off with a double, and an out later, Walker walked. Jones doubled in McCutch, and Harrison ripped an 0-2 single to bring in a pair. He came in on a two out double by Lincoln, and the Bucs had a 5-0 lead.

Pittsburgh added on in the fifth when The Pittsburgh Kid drilled his eleventh homer of the year. Lincoln had to dodge bullets in the fifth and sixth, but dodge them he did.

He left a pair on in the fifth, and his lead off walk as a batter in the sixth turned into the Pirates' seventh run when McCutch brought him home with a two out knock. In the bottom half, Bad Brad recorded the first two outs easily before the middle of the order came to life. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday singled, followed by a walk to Lance Berkman. Lincoln reached back and K'ed Skip Schumaker with a curve.

That would be the day for Lincoln. He went six frames, giving up six hits with four whiffs and a walk, throwing 88 pitches. He had to grind out the last two frames, but overall Bad Brad threw strikes instead of nibbling and worked the inside half of the plate to notch his first win of the 2011 season.

The final three frames played out quietly, with D-Mac and Chris Resop combining for three innings of one hit ball to bring the Bucs home a winner.

Harrison and Jones had three knocks each, and McCutch added a pair. The Bucs try to earn a split tomorrow when Jeff Karstens takes on Kyle Lohse.

  • Today's shutout was the Pirate staff's eleventh of the year, the most put together in a season since 2004.
  • Evan Meek is continuing his rehab at Indy now, and is on track to rejoin the club in September.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects has an end-of-the-year report on Luis Heredia, the Bucs' 16 year old Latino signee. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Long Balls Launch Cards To 5-4 Win

OK, Matt Holliday homered last night and hot-dogged it some; Lance Berkman paid by getting a haircut. will we have a ballgame tonight or will the match devolve into a Pirate-Brewer pose-fest?

Jake Westbrook started for the Cards, and it was not a frame he'll want to remember. JT walked and was doubled to third by Alex Presley. McCutch singled home a run and Dewey another. A force out moved McCutchen to third and Garrett Jones walked to load them. Josh Harrison lifted a sac fly, and Ronny Cedeno ended the frame with a grounder to second capped by a late headfirst slide into first. Still, it's 3-0 before the Cards got to sit down. They were back on defense in a hurry; J-Mac put them away 1-2-3.

The Bucs went down in order in the second, and it was St. Louis' turn to crow. A leadoff walk to Matt Holliday was followed an out later by a David Freese knock. The next hitter, Yadier Molina, cranked his twelfth dinger of the year over the left field wall, and that quickly it was three all. It wasn't a huge blast, dropping into the first row a few feet inside the pole, but whether Ruthian or not, it was gone.

Both sides drew a walk in the third, inflicting no further damage on the scoreboard.

In the fourth, Cedeno singled with one away and was moved to second by McDonald. Jose Tabata drilled a double, and the Bucs were back on top 4-3. The Cards tried for two-out lightning with back-to-back singles, but J-Mac retired his counterpart on a fly to center to keep the lead intact.

McCutch singled to open the fifth. With two away, he swiped second, leading to an intentional walk of Jones. That was followed by an improbable four pitch walk to free swinging Harrison, loading the sacks. Cedeno hit a first pitch, a hung slider, to left for a routine out, and the Bucs stranded three. It was a good pitch to hit but RC got under it and skied the ball instead of driving it.

After a pair of fly outs, Albert Pujols walked and stole second. He coulda stole third too, for all it mattered, as J-Mac K'ed Holliday. The Bucs went down cleanly in the sixth, and McDonald was now stepping into his sixth inning red zone. After falling behind Berkman 3-0, McDonald fought back to run the count full and retired him on a fly to center. He nailed Freese and Molina, too, and avoided his personal wall.

McCutch started the seventh with a single. That brought on lefty Arthur Rhodes to turn Dewey and Walker around with Jones in the hole. All the action was defused when McCutch was nailed stealing on Rhode's first pitch, a high heater that was easy for Molina to handle. McCutchen got a late jump to boot, so he either had a terrible read off a lefty or there was confusion on a hit-and-run call between he and Dewey.

Doumit was out number two on a swinging bunt fielded by Ol' Man River and Walker flew out. It was 4-3 at the seventh inning stretch. J-Mac came out and was greeted by a Rafael Furcal single. That rang the phone for Jason Grilli. McDonald went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits, three walks and five K's while tossing 91 pitches.

Grilli struck out Jon Jay looking at a fastball. Skip Schumaker hit a little bleeder, soft enough to get Furcal to second. Allen Craig bounced out and the Bucs were still up a run. Kyle McClelland climbed the hill for the Redbirds and put the Bucs down in order.

 Pujols, Holliday and Berkman are due up for St. Louis against Jose Veras. Sir Albert K'd on a curve, but JV lost Holliday on a 3-2 hook. It would be costly; Berkman ripped a first pitch, knee-high heater over the right center wall, his 30th of the year, to put St. Louis up 5-4.

The Bucs last chance depends on Xavier Paul, JT and Presley. McClelland got Paul to pop out. Tabata drilled one to second, but Theriot made the play. Presley K'ed, and the Bucs snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

It's pretty much been the same old story. The Bucs couldn't add on after a quick lead, and the pitching couldn't seal the deal. Clint Hurdle had a lot of success by saving Hanny to close, but he might want to try to use him in the high leverage situations -  and Pujols, Holliday and Berkman up in the eighth qualifies as one in our book - when the situation calls for it.

It won't be easy to salvage tomorrow's game. Chris Carpenter is on the hill, facing Brad Lincoln.


RHP James McDonald (8-6, 4.21) faces RHP Jake Westbrook (10-7, 4.70) at 8:15 tonight. The game will be aired on Root Sports.

Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Alex Presley LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Doumit C, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones 1B, Josh Harrison 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, James McDonald P.

Dewey is the clean-up hitter; Walker and Jones are in the 5-6 hole, where they belong. If Pedro ever evolves into a middle-of-the-order guy, the lineup will at long last make some sense. Looks like Brandon Wood is the odd man out with Harrison and Chase d'Arnaud getting long looks over the next five weeks.

  • McCutch and The Pittsburgh Kid are the first pair of Buc teammates to drive in 75 runs in the same season since Nate McLouth (94) and Adam LaRoche (85) did it in 2008. The last Pirate with 100 RBI was Jay Bay (109) in 2006. Garrett Jones led the squad in RBI last season with 86.
  • The Clint Hurdle go-go Pirates have 3 players (McCutch 20, JT -16, X Man - 15) with at least 15 stolen bases for the first time since 1999 (Jason Kendall - 22, Kevin Young - 22, Al Martin - 20).
  • Michael Sanserino of the Post Gazette covers Pedro at Indy, where the mantra is keep it simple and relax. Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review adds that El Toro may be playing some winter ball, though that's yet to be finalized.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bucs Fall 8-4

OK, the Bucs look to reclaim their road warrior status at St. Louis tonight.

Edwin Jackson drilled JT to open the game. That miscue was quickly corrected when Alex Presley lined a shot to Albert Pujols, who was holding Tabata, and he stepped on the bag for a DP. McCutch K'ed, and it was the Cards turn.

Charlie Morton has been hot lately, but his sinker didn't have its usual bite early on. After an out, Allen Craig and Sir Albert hit back-to-back doubles to make it one nothing. With two away, Lance Berkman singled to right and JT's throw was up the third base line a step or two, allowing the run to score. After a frame, it was 2-0 Redbirds.

The Bucs got a two-out double from Josh Harrison, but he was left stranded. With one away, Rafael Furcal singled, was bunted to second, and came in when Skip Schumaker dropped a ball into center to make it 3-0. The three runs St. Louis put on the board in two innings equaled the number of runs Morton had given up during his last four starts this month.

The Pirates got back in the third. Mike McKenry got aboard on an error, moved to second on a Morton bunt and came in when Presley singled in front of a diving Craig. McCutch and Neil Walker drew free passes to load the bases. Garrett Jones got ahead 3-0, took a couple of heaters to run the count full, and then knocked a low and away fastball into center to knot the score. Harrison flew out short of the track in left center on a 3-2 pitch, and it was a new ball game.

Morton doesn't have enough problems tonight; Jones muffed a grounder by Matt Holliday after an out. Berkman rolled a single into right to put runners at first and second. CM's sinker has a little more movement this inning, and good thing. He got David Freese to bounce into a 6-4-3 DP to set St. Louis down.

Ronny Cedeno opened the fourth with a double. McKenry followed by banging one off the wall in left center for another two base knock, and the Bucs were up 4-3. Morton bunted MM up a station. JT tapped one up the left side to the pitcher, who ran down a napping McKenry off third. Not only was Scoobie Doo out, but he didn't get into a rundown, so Tabata only reached first. Presley popped out, and Pittsburgh left a duck on the pond though they did regain the lead.

Morton looked like he'd escape with a clean inning, but Jackson lined a single into center with two away. Schumaker struck out looking at a curve, but Morton is only throwing in the upper eighties now, a few ticks below normal.

With two outs in the fifth, Jones drew a four pitch walk. Harrison bounced out, and it was Morton against the meat of the Card order coming up. Craig started off with a single to left and stole second. Pujols walked on four pitches. Holliday flew out to right, and the lefty Berkman was the next challenge. He walked on four pitches. Freese inside-outed a sinker that was well in and dropped it into right to score a pair for St. Louis and put them up 5-4.

That was it; Chris Leroux came on with Chase d'Arnaud in a twofer switch. Morton went 4-1/3 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits with three walks and two K's. He just didn't have his usual stuff today. And it's bound to take a toll on the pen; Aaron Thompson was yanked after 4-1/3 frames yesterday. Leroux finished off the frame and kept the score manageable at 5-4.

McKenry singled with an out in the sixth. d'Arnaud hit into a force and stole second. JT had the green light on a 3-0 count, and grounded a slider to second to end the frame; only a fine play by Schumaker kept the ball from going into right to tie the game.

That was it for Jackson, too. Jon Jay came out to pinch hit for him, and led off with a knock. After an out, a changeup that got away from Leroux and past McKenry moved Jay to second. With two away, Pujols was walked intentionally. It paid off even though Holliday squared up on a slider; he shot a bullet right at d'Arnaud at third.

Matt Rzepcyznski climbed the hill for St. Louis in the seventh, and he retired the Bucs on seven pitches. Leroux struck out Berkman on a change; it got away from McKenry for another wild pitch and Berkman ended up on first. Freese took another inside pitch to right; this one was hauled in by JT. Yadier Molina K'ed and Furcal popped out as Leroux continued to toss goose eggs at the Cards.

Jones started the Bucs off in the eighth with a single up the middle. Matt Diaz grabbed a stick for Leroux, and Jason Motte took the ball for the Redbirds. All the wheels were spinning; Xavier Paul came in to run for Jones. He stole second and moved to third on a grounder to the right side. The X-Man stood there as Cedeno struck out swinging at a shoulder-high fastball. Dewey went to the box for Scoobie Doo and flew out to center; too bad he didn't hit for RC.

That's two times the Pirates have stranded a runner at third with one away in a one run game. Hey, you can't always bring them in (the pitcher gets paid, too), but in those two spots JT bounced out weakly on the first pitch which was a slider off the plate and Cedeno K'ed on a go-fish heater; at least the at-bats should be focused in that situation.

Tony Watson got in hot water immediately when Jay doubled the opposite way up the third base line and was bunted to third. Gerald Laird K'ed - guess the Bucs aren't the only ones to waste an opportunity - and Pujols was intentionally walked again.

Holliday made up for Laird's at-bat when he clobbered his 19th of the year over the left field wall to make it Fat Lady time. There was a little more excitement when Watson threw behind the next batter, Berkman, leading to a little growling. GW never did understand why the following batter gets the buzz job; heck, he didn't do anything.

Anyway, Fernando Salas made quick work of the Bucs in the ninth, and the Cards took the opening round.

This was another in a recent series of games where bad starting pitching was followed by a bullpen letdown. One feeds of the other; the Pirate bullpen has just been given too many innings to cover in the last month and middle inning guys are in the game late and in high leverage spots. Clint Hurdle doesn't have a whole lot of options when he has to dip into the pen to eat four innings every night.

James McDonald goes against Jake Westbrook tomorrow night.

  • Jose Tabata's hitting streak ended at ten games tonight.
  • As David Todd, host of the pre-and-post game shows on 104.7 tweeted, the Bucs have a dozen viable 2012 bullpen candidates - Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Jose Veras, Chris Resop, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Daniel McCutchen, Chris Leroux, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Daniel Moskos and Bryan Morris - in the organization now. Five are holdovers from last season - Hanny, Meek, Resop, D-Mac and Leroux. It'll be interesting with Jason Grilli and Jose Veras back and Watson, Moskos and Wilson vying for the two lefty spots. The Pirates will have some decisions to make for next season, even with Hughes and Morris stashed at AAA.


RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 3.42) takes on RHP Edwin Jackson (2-2, 4.45). The game begins at 8:15 and will be shown on Root Sports.

The Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Alez Presley LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones 1B, Josh Harrison 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Charlie Morton P.

It looks like the Bucs want to get a long look at Josh Harrison, while JT's move to right field may become permanent.

  • Alex Presley and Chase d'Arnaud were recalled officially, and Pedro Ciriaco and Aaron Thompson optioned back to Indy.
  • Aaron Thompson's start yesterday marked only the third time in MLB history that a first-time starter shut out a team that was 25+ games over .500. Of course, the other guys went long enough for the win (Thompson lasted 4-1/3 innings), but still pretty neat stuff from a guy that was an afterthought a month ago.
  • Altoona OF'er Starling Marte, 22, was named to Eastern League post season All-Star team.

Thursday Bucco News

Keepin' up on the Bucs:
  • Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror has a piece on Aaron Thompson's long strange journey from battered AA starter to a shot in the show. It's a pretty good primer on the vagaries of upper-level minor league life.
  • Jen Langosch and Laura Myers of say the FO is considering about a dozen players to bring up in September; Clint Hurdle says he would like to keep the roster manageable at about 35 players. They mention Matt Hague, who's not on the 40-man roster, along with Evan Meek, Danny Moskos and Eric Fryer/Jason Jaramillo as likely call-up candidates. Other players on the 40-man but not in the show are Pedro Ciriaco/Chase d'Arnaud (depending on today's moves), Pedro Alvarez, Gorkys Hernandez, Aaron Thompson, Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson. Factor in that Paul Maholm, Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick and Kevin Correia could return from the DL before the season's done, too.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects takes a look at guys in the running for Super Two arbitration status (they get four years of arb rather than three) this season and next. They include Steve Pearce, Garrett Jones, Neil Walker and possibly Mike McKenry and Brad Lincoln. McCutch looks like he'll miss the cut-off, so maybe that will jump start his contract talks after the season.
  • Pops Stargell will become the third player to get a stamp issued in his honor through the Post Office's MLB series later today, joining Jolting Joe DiMaggio and Larry Dobie, reports the Tribune Review.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors has a list of players who have cleared waivers so far. No current Bucs are on it, but a couple of old Pirates are: Jay Bay, DJ Carrasco, and Tom Gorzelanny.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

P-G Reports Presley, d'Arnaud To Rejoin Team

Michael Sanserino of the Post Gazette reports that OF Alex Presley and IF Chase d'Arnaud will be taken off the DL and rejoin the team tomorrow. Neither was in the lineup for the Tribe tonight, and Presley, tweets Indianapolis announcer Scott McCauley, was high-fiving his way through the dugout.

Presley had a line of .333/1/9 in 20 games for the Pirates before being DL'ed on July 25th with a thumb injury. d'Arnaud hit .225 with eleven runs scored in 25 games. He went on the DL a couple of days after Presley with a broken pinky.

Both add some energy and a lot of speed to the lineup; Presley will likely become an everyday corner OF'er; he patrolled left during his last stint. d'Arnaud will be a utility infielder, primarily on the left side.

Presley will probably replace LHP Aaron Thompson, who was called up for a spot start, while d'Arnaud will likely swap spots with Pedro Ciriaco. The team is expected to announce the moves tomorrow in St. Louis after the players arrive per Bucco SOP.

  • Jonathan Mayo of takes a look at Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, Gerritt Cole and Josh Bell.
  • Ryan Ludwick joined Derrek Lee on the DL. He has back spasms while Lee has a broken hand. They may not have contributed much to the stretch run, but at least they're not blocking any young 'uns.

Buc Arms Prevail 2-0

Hey, the sun came out for the Bucs. Gotta be a better sign than an earthquake, right?

Young Aaron Thompson came out to make his first ever big league start. Did pretty well, too. The first batter he faced was Corey Hart, who singled. The next three guys went down routinely.

The Bucs small-balled Shaun Marcum. JT began with a double, Xavier Paul bunted him to third, and McCutch hit a fly to score him. After an inning, it was 1-0, Pittsburgh.

The Brew Crew started with another lead-off knock, this one by Casey McGehee. Yuniesky Betancourt rolled one to short for a 6-4-3 DP and Jonathan Lucroy popped out. The Bucs went down in order.

Thompson put the Brewers away in order in the third, and with one away in the Pirate half, he drew his first big league walk. So what if JT bounced into a DP right after? Thompson was looking good and up 1-0.

He might have worn himself out on that mad jog to second; for the first time, Thompson felt a little heat. Ryan Braun singled with an out and stole second. An out later, McGehee walked. But AT got Betancourt to roll out to short again and preserved his goose egg.

Josh Harrison started off the Bucco half with a double, and went to third when Marcum uncorked a wild pitch. McCutch walked before Neil Walker lofted a sac fly to make it 2-0. Garrett Jones drew a free pass, too, but a K and a pop out killed the inning before it could really pick up steam.

Lucroy singled to open the fifth, stole second and kept going to third when Mike McKenry threw the ball into center. A walk and bunt put runners at second and third, and brought out Clint Hurdle, who tapped his right arm for Jason Grilli. (Actually, Thompson was pulled not only because of the situation, but because he was on a pretty strict pitch count).

Thompson went 4-1/3 innings of scoreless ball, giving up four hits with two walks and a K on 68 pitches. Grilli notched a K, followed by a soft groundout, and the Buc lead was still two. With two away, JT singled, but didn't last long before he was caught stealing.

Grilli stayed on for the sixth, too, and it was a cup o' duck soup. He whiffed the first two Brewers and got the next to pop out. The Bucs got just a two-out knock by Neil Walker. Grilli kept on dealing and was on a streak of eight straight outs after seven, while Takashi Kaito took over from Marcum and sat the Pirates down easily. The score was still 2-0 Pittsburgh.

Jose Veras climbed the hill in the eighth and 1-2-3'ed Milwaukee. Tim Dillard came on for the Brewers and did the same to the Bucs. And that meant it was Hanny time.

He gave the fans another "uh-oh" moment when Braun singled to open the frame and Prince Fielder walked. But three K's later, the Bucs had earned a split with their Wisconsin nemesis. Jason Grilli got his first win since 2009 and Joel Hanrahan notched his 32nd save to finish Aaron Thompson's debut..

There wasn't much action. It was pretty well pitched by both sides today. The Buc bullpen put it together finally, and the Brew Crew helped by finishing 0-for-10 with RISP.

And the old formula - good pitching from start to finish - is what it's going take if the Bucs are to make a run at .500 in September. They're 61-68 after today.

The Pirates head to St. Louis, where Edwin Jackson will take on Charlie Morton tomorrow night.
  • Jose Tabata now owns a ten game hitting streak.
  • 18,013 turned up for the get-away game this afternoon.
  • Man, Pedro Ciriaco must be dizzier than a yo-yo. He was called up for yesterday's game, sent back today for Aaron Thompson, and re-recalled while at waiting at the airport when Ryan Ludwick was DL'ed with a stiff back.


LHP Aaron Thompson (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Shaun Marcum (11-3, 3.40 ERA). The game starts at 12:35 and will be shown on Root Sports. Marcum is a tough customer; he hasn't lost a game since the end of June.

The lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Josh Harrison 3B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones 1B, Xavier Paul RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Aaron Thompson P.

  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that Brad Lincoln will get his audition for next year now. With Kevin Correia likely to be out for the remainder of the season, Lincoln is in line to get six more starts to impress Pirate management.
  • Poor Pedro Ciriaco. He was here for a day, and then sent back down to clear a roster spot for Aaron Thompson.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brew Crew Rides Big Frame To 11-4 Win

Hey, the Bucs have won one in a row against the Brew Crew; let's see if Ohlie can keep the roll going before the aftershock of both last night's win and this afternoon's earthquake hits.

Corey Hart chased the butterflies quickly by banging a ball through the left side for a knock. A pair of routine outs later, Ohlendorf walked Prince Fielder on a 3-2 pitch after just missing the K with a 1-2 slider. Casey McGehee took Xavier Paul to the wall, but it was a loud third out. Ohlie was a little wild, but was throwing in the low nineties, a good sign.

Marco Estrada milked a pair of softly hit outs to start the frame before McCutch roped a heater into center. Dewey bounced a curve to second, and it was zeroes after an inning.

That didn't last long. we'll spare you the details, but a couple of very soft singles, a couple of hard ones, a thrown away bunt by Dewey, a double, a homer and a struggling pitcher who was frustrated and out of gas by mid-inning, tossing heaters down the pipe, led to an ugly frame of baseball. And it was right about time the aftershock hit town, holy omen!

Apparently Clint Hurdle thought Ohlie needed the work. Boy, he got it. Seven runs - three were unearned - came home on seven hits and an error on 32 pitches, all in one inning. To rub salt in the wound, Ryan Braun stole second up 5-0 with two outs. We can't imagine why guys throw inside to him, though admittedly his job isn't to pity the pitcher. Oh well, D-Mac's warming up; looks like he'll get his start tonight, albeit a couple of innings late.

The Bucs went down cleanly, and Ohlie climbed back on the hill for another crack at the Brew Crew.  He did much better this time around; Ross the Boss even picked up a pair of K's. The Bucs began their chip away job. Ronny Cedeno led off with a single, was bunted to second, moved to third on a ground out and came home on Paul's two-out knock. Now it's 7-1 Milwaukee after three.

Ohlie seems to have trouble during the even-numbered innings. Nyjer Morgan singled and Braun doubled to open the fourth. Fielder was intentionally walked to load the sacks. But he worked outta that one, getting a short fly and a 4-6-3 DP. The Pirates weren't so dramatic and went down 1-2-3.

The Brewers mustered a single off Ohlendorf in the fifth; he's gone three scoreless innings while getting his work in and keeping the pen from eating too many innings tonight. The Bucs put another on the board when Harrison clubbed his first MLB dinger over the left field wall on a 3-2 fastball. JT singled and stole second with two away, but this time Paul couldn't deliver, and the score was 7-2 after five.

D-Mac took the hill finally. Ohlie went five, giving up seven runs (four earned) on eleven hits with two walks and four K's, tossing 86 pitches. McCutchen gave up a five pitch walk to Braun with an out, and Fielder doubled him in, moving to third on a wild pitch. D-Mac tightened up and kept him there. Garrett Jones popped a two-out triple in the Bucco half, but like Prince, that's all the further he went. After six, it was 8-2 Brew Crew.

The Brewers got a single off D-Mac in the seventh; the Bucs got a knock off Estrada. Chris Resop got the call for the eighth. A lead off single followed by a walk followed by a wild pitch led to another Prince Fielder intentional pass. He wriggled out with minimal damage, giving up just one run on a sac fly.

The Bucs put up a pair off LaTroy Hawkins. Paul led off with a double, and two outs later The Pittsburgh Kid singled him home. Jones followed with a triple, and it was 9-4 after eight.

The ninth wasn't any kinder to CR. With an out, Mark Kotsay and Hart singled. Nymo doubled in one run, and a sac fly brought home another to make it 11-4.

Kameron Loe came on to sweep up the crumbs. The Bucs went down meekly - a soft single followed by a DP and K. Say goodnight.

It's tough to judge Ohlie's performance; his one horrible frame was abetted by a couple of soft lobs and an error. They really didn't center the ball until his pitch count soared.  At any rate, he and Brad Lincoln should see another handful of starts to wet their toes again at the MLB level, and then we'll have a better idea.

Shaun Marcum faces a yet unnamed Bucco hurler in the get-away game; looks like Aaron Thompson will get the call.

Some Moves

As expected, Steve Pearce was put on the 15 day DL today, although he's likely done for the season. He broke the tip of his finger on a bad-hop grounder to third last night  Pedro Ciriaco, who can probably find his way between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh while sleep walking by now, was called up for middle infield depth. It's the fifth time he's been up with the big club this year.

The beat gang reported seeing Altoona/Indy LHP Aaron Thompson in the clubhouse today, that would point toward him being tomorrow's starter (although D-Mac still remains a possibility). Thompson, a first round selection of the Florida Marlins in 2005, would be making his first MLB start. There's a slot on the 40-man roster open, but someone will have to go from the 25-man to clear a spot.

Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review tweets that the Bucs have signed Nelson Figueroa to a minor league contract and sent him to Indy. Fresh off the DL, the Astros released the veteran righty and Pittsburgh is plugging him into a frazzled Tribe rotation.

Kevin Correia may be done for the year. He told Bill Brink of the Post Gazette that he'll know in a couple of weeks if he can get another start or two in before 2011 closes out.


RHP Marco Estrada (3-8, 4.28) goes against RHP Ross Ohlendorf (0-0, 7.27). For Ohlie, it will be his first start since April 8th. He went on the DL the next day with a strained shoulder. He's not on a reduced pitch count tonight, having made a handful of starts in rehab and getting near the 100 pitch mark.

Lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Xavier Paul RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Doumit C, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones 1B, Josh Harrison 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Ross Ohlendorf P.

Ryan Ludwick gets a night off, as does Brandon Wood.

  • LHP Joe Beimel was DFA'ed by the Bucs today to clear roster space for Ohlie. Buster Olney of ESPN tweets that both the Phillies and Yankees could have interest in him.
  • Pedro Ciriaco and Aaron Thompson were spotted in the Buc dugout by the beat gang. The guess would be that Steve Pearce is going on the DL and Thompson will get the start tomorrow.
  • The Bucs aren't off until September 8th. Indy's schedule ends September 5th, so the bullpen will have to suck it up a couple of more weeks. There are only two pitchers toiling for the Tribe on the 40-man roster, LHPs Danny Moskos and Jeff Locke. There's an even chance RHP Evan Meek will be back from the DL before any minor league reinforcements arrive.
  • Prince Fielder didn't have a hit in either end of yesterday's DH'er. That's the first time he's gone back-to-back games without a hit since July 21st, a month ago.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bucs, Brew Crew Trade KOs

No sense in dragging out the opening tilt. The Brewers scored twice in the fourth and four times in the eighth after the first two batters were retired. Then they scored twice more in the ninth before making an out. All in all, it ended up a lopsided 8-1 loss for the Bucs, their thirteenth in a row to the Brew Crew.

The Bucs had eight hits, but went 0-for-8 with RISP. They stranded a lead-off double and one-out triple, scoring only on Ryan Ludwick's first Pirate homer in the eighth.

Jeff Karstens went seven innings of pretty strong ball, giving up two runs on six hits, and with a little better play behind him may have thrown a goose egg. Tony Watson and Joe Beimel got clocked in relief, as has been the norm lately, and a taut game turned into a chuckle for Milwaukee in a hurry.

Hey, when Mike McKenry finished the game at third base after Steve Pearce injured his finger, the first time he's ever manned the hot corner as a professional player at any level, you know it's been a long day, even if it's only halfway over. But a double header always gives you a chance at redemption.

If the Bucs were to redeem themselves in the second game, it would be by digging themselves out of a hole. Corey Hart homered on the second pitch. With that long fly, Hart and Ricky Weeks became the first duo in MLB history to have 4 lead-off homers for the same team in one season. There was more: Nyjer Morgan singled, stole second, went to third on a fly, and scored on a bouncer to second.

The Bucs halved the lead on a JT single, a grounder to move him to second, and Neil Walker's RBI knock.

It went quietly until the fourth. A walk to Prince Fielder on a 3-2 pitch and a boot by Ronny Cedeno put runners at the corners with no outs.  Josh Harrison fielded a bouncer to third, went to second for the force, and Neil Walker made a heads up play throwing behind Fielder to catch him in a rundown and start your typical 5-4-2-5-1 DP. Thank you, Prince. Dewey took advantage to tie the game on a homer to straightaway center, his seventh.

The game stayed that way through the fifth and sixth; Bad Brad had settled in nicely. But he was on a pitch count of 75 and met it, giving up two runs on three hits with a walk and a K. Bad Brad was dealing - he gave up just one hit after the second batter. D-Mac trotted in for the seventh. He gave up a hit and walked Zack Greinke on four pitches, but escaped without any damage.

Clint Hurdle's love affair with the bunt and the Pirates inability to lay one down oddly enough paid off big time. Garrett Jones dumped a single to center to start the frame. Matt Diaz fouled his first bunt try, and then got brushed ever so gently by the next pitch. Josh Harrison looked like a T-baller trying to bunt twice; then he dumped  a two-strike lob shot barely over the infield dirt to score Jones; he scampered to second when Ryan Braun's throw went to third.

Ronny Cedeno struck out on three pitches, none a strike, in a terribly wasted at-bat. McCutch, getting a blow in the nightcap, pinch hit. Greinke bounced a 3-2 pitch to the dish; both he and Jonathan Lucroy, the catcher, initially chased the ball and Diaz skidded home.

JT drove a pitch off the Clemente Wall to bring home another run, and Frankie De La Cruz took the ball. He'd have it awhile, too. With the infield in, Xavier Paul dinked a ball that Braun couldn't run down to plate McCutch. Walker drew a walk to load the bases, and Dewey lined a single to bring in Tabata. Jones almost had his first grand salami, but the long fly to the track in right tallied another run. A wild pitch capped the Buc run; it was 9-2. The seven-run inning was the Bucs biggest outburst of the year.

Chris Leroux climbed the hill and put up a zippo. De La Cruz was out for the duration for Milwaukee; this time around he put the Pirates down cleanly. Leroux sealed the win in impressive fashion, K'ing the last two Brewers as the Bucs earned a split with a 9-2 nightcap victory.

Pittsburgh took their first win of the year against the Brewers, snapping a 13 game streak of futility. And thanks to strong efforts by Jeff Karstens and Brad Lincoln, the Pirate bullpen, down to the few and the proud going into tonight, is now set up for the rest of the series.

Marco Estrada and Ross Ohlendorf get it on tomorrow.

Correia Joins Maholm On DL

OK, GW stuck his foot in his mouth again. After posting about the Buc pitchers hitting the wall inning-wise, he said not to worry about PM and KC; they've been there, done that. And now both are on the DL

Maholm has a shoulder strain; it was checked out today by Dr. Andrews - does that man ever sleep? - and the prescription was rest. Now Kevin Correia joins him with a strained oblique, and those can be nasty.

It looks like Bad Brad Lincoln and Ohlie may get spots in the rotation by default. But who knows exactly what will happen; the Bucs are in a roster jam now. Chris Leroux was recalled to take Correia's place, so all is dandy today. But Ohlie, who hasn't been officially added to the roster, is scheduled to start tomorrow, which leaves Correia's turn on Wednesday up for grabs. That will force another move, as the Bucs will have to call up a spot starter.

The Pirates have six infielders, and Steve Pearce still has an option this year, so another of his nine lives may be spent for Ohlie. Hurting himself in the first game today almost guarantees it.

But Wednesday is a poser. The only starter on the 40-man roster that's not with Pittsburgh already is Jeff Locke, and he hardly seems a likely candidate to throw against the Brewers with just two AAA outings under his belt. Unfortunately, there are no jump at ya candidates at Indy. The starters have by and large been barely treading water.

Altoona's pitching hasn't been much better, although converted starter Bryan Morris is on the 40-man, as is Kyle McPherson. Indy has Sean Gallagher, Brian Burres (who pitches tonight, so is out of the equation), and Aaron Thompson available. But none of that trio is on the 40-man, nor have they pitched well enough this year to belong on it.

The betting line is that Joe Beimel, who has been pretty much a BP pitcher since coming off his stint on the DL, may be the sacrificial goat for whoever takes the hill Wednesday.

It'll be a hectic couple of days.


Game One: LHP Chris Narveson (8-6, 4.49) goes against RHP Jeff Karstens (9-6, 3.12). The game starts at 5:05 PM and will be aired on Root Sports.

Game Two: RHP Zack Greinke (12-4, 3.92) takes on RHP Brad Lincoln (0-0, 5.40 ERA). The start time is TBD, and the game will be shown by Root Sports.

Game One Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Josh Harrison 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Ludwick LF, Steve Pearce 1B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Brandon Wood 3B, Mike McKenry C, Jeff Karstens P.

It aint' pretty, but we figured there'd be some shake 'n' bake in the lineup, especially against a lefty in the opener.

  • Nothing like going into a doubleheader with a short bullpen. Hanny and Jose Veras both worked their third straight days, which takes them out of today's games. That leaves Chris Resop, D-Mac, Jason Grilli, Anthony Watson and Joe Beimel to carry the load.
  • Ohlie is in Pittsburgh. It's thought that he'll be moved off the DL after the games and start against the Brewers tomorrow night.
  • RHP Chris Leroux is with the team, although no move has been made to add him to the roster. He may just be an insurance policy to make sure the Pirate pitching gets through the twin bill.
  • Evan Meek is starting to face live action again at Bradenton. The pen could use some good news about now.
  • While JT's signing generated a lot of buzz, it appears that talks with McCutch have pretty much hit a wall. Don't fret yet. McCutchen is still under team control for quite awhile; he doesn't become a free agent until the 2016 season.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reds Rally To Take Series 5-4

Hey, it was game time...and the tarps covered the field. No rain, mind you, but there was another storm on the way. Sheeesh, dang global warming. After forty minutes or so of no precip, the game started.

J-Mac showed us the good and bad in the opening frame - he K'ed a pair and walked a pair. No runs came of it, but he's already thrown 28 pitches and there's a twin bill tomorrow with a bullpen that's already short (Chris Resop is off and Brad Lincoln is pitching tomorrow).

Mike Leake didn't need that many pitches (he still tossed 21), but the results weren't exactly the same. A leadoff knock by JT and a one-out bomb into left center by McCutch, his 18th, made it 2-0 in a hurry.

McDonald was still having problems with the strike zone; he plunked Drew Stubbs to open the second. So he fed Ryan Hanigan a heater down the middle, and he obliged by bouncing it to short for a quick 6-4-3 DP. Paul Janish K'ed, and J-Mac used just a dozen pitches that frame.

Ryan Ludwick started the Bucco half off with a double to left, but Leake retired the bottom of the order handily, striking out Brandon Wood and McDonald.

Leake opened up with a single in the third, but Brandon Phillips followed with a hopper to second and a 4-6-3 DP. Fred Lewis whiffed. J-Mac has allowed the first runner reach all three innings, but a pair of DPs have been his little helper. The Bucs went down 1-2-3, and it remained 2-0 after three.

Cincy went down cleanly in the fourth. J-Mac has done an efficient job since the first. He's now at 59 pitches, and 28 were in the opening round. The Bucs also sat down quietly; that's nine in a row for Leake.

J-Mac was on cruise control; three up, three down for the Redlegs. The Bucs aren't having much more luck solving Leake as he mowed down the bottom of the order.

McDonald's bubble burst as he hit his sixth inning wall. With an out, Phillips doubled and Lewis walked. That set the stage for Joey Votto, who cranked his 22nd dinger of the year out of the yard in straightaway center, making it 3-2 Reds.

JT answered in a hurry; in a long at-bat, he finally found a pitch he liked and drilled it into right for a lead off triple. Garrett Jones took a couple of borderline strikes, then golfed a slider over the fence in right for his 15th long tater, and the Bucs were back on top, 4-3. With an out, Dewey tried to ape Jones, but his blast was hauled down in front of the 399' mark, and the Bucs were a run ahead.

Jason Grilli came on as J-Mac called it a day. He went six innings, giving up three runs on three hits with three walks, a hit batter and five K's, while tossing 93 pitches.

Grilli K'ed Stubbs, but Hanigan knocked a hung curve up the middle for a knock. Just about then, the dark cloud began to spit and the ground crew scrambled to spread the tarp again. Noah could work with these guys. It was a brief delay. After a quick sprinkle, it brightened up and the crew rolled up the canvas and squeegeed the field to get set to play ball again.

After the delay, Grilli struck out Janish. Yonder Alonso walked after a long at-bat, bringing up a guy you didn't want to see, Phillips. But in another long at-bat, Grilli never gave BP a hitter's pitch and got him to pop out.

Jose Arredondo climbed the mound for Cincy, and K'ed two of three Bucs he faced. Jose Veras came on for Pittsburgh in the eighth and retired the Reds middle of the order in a row. It was a big inning for the Pirates to survive, even if it was Veras' third straight appearance.

It was Hammer time, and he's in his third straight game, too. Todd Frazier, hitting .194, hammered a heater into center to open the ninth. Hanigan walked with an out; ball four looked like it across the knees. Hanny got ahead of pinch hitter Ramon Hernandez 0-2, then hung a slider that he rolled into left to knot the score. Cairo blooped a ball into left to load the bases with one away.

Phillips grounded to short; the Bucs got the force but couldn't turn the DP as the Reds took the lead 5-4. Lewis fought Hanny, fouling off three pitches before walking on a heater that was just upstairs in the yes of the ump Bob Davidson. That loaded the bases for lefty Votto.

Clint Hurdle brought in D-Mac to face him; guess his confidence level in Joe Beimel is pretty low about now. It was a good choice. McCutchen got him swinging at a changeup.

Hey, the results were bad, but so was Hanny's luck. He didn't get the DP, gave up ground ball and bloop knocks, and wasn't getting much help from the man in blue. Still, he's got to get ahead of batters instead of putting them in hitter's counts. His slider has pretty much deserted him, and a one-pitch pony will have problems when the hitters are sitting back on the ol' number one.

Anyway, Dewey opened the ninth with a knock off Francisco Cordero. Josh Harrison ran for him, and was caught stealing on a strike thrown by Hernandez. The toss made it a close call, but TV replays showed Harrison was in. Hurdle griped and got bounced, not that it helped. Neil Walker made the missed call doubly painful when he followed with a hustle double. Xavier Paul flew out short of the track in right, moving The Pittsburgh Kid to third. There he stayed as Wood bounced out to third.

The bullpen couldn't hold on again, and Hurdle probably burned Hanny and Veras for tomorrow with Milwaukee coming to town for a pair. But don't blame the skipper. He managed hard for the win today, but the execution wasn't there. The Bucs were playing with magic in a bottle for awhile; it looks like the genie has escaped.

Chris Narveson goes against Jeff Karstens in the opener tomorrow night. Zack Greinke and Brad Lincoln will get it on during the nightcap.

  • There were 29,967 at the Pirates game today, which was plenty enough to push the year's total attendance over top of 2010's - and it's August 21st, with seventeen home dates left to go. Last year's gate was 1,613,399; this year's crowd to date is 1,624,048.
  • Paul Maholm will visit Dr. Andrews Monday to get a second opinion on his shoulder strain, which apparently has been bothering him for quite awhile.
  • A change to our last post; Jose Tabata can only exercise one $250,000 option buyout, not all three, tweets Jen Langosch of
  • The Pirates have signed veteran reliever RHP Aaron Heilman, who was released by the Phils, to a minor league deal and assigned him to Indy. He's got a career line of 35-46, 4.40 ERA in nine seasons.
  • As bad as the Bucs have been of late, the odds are they'd be eating Milwaukee's dust no matter how well they played.The Brew Crew has won 22 of their last 25 games, and with their next victory will equal 2010's win total of 77.

Tabata's Extension Numbers

The Pirates confirmed Jose Tabata's extension today, and here are the numbers, pretty much as previously reported:

  • $500,000 this year (it was $428,000) plus a $1M signing bonus
  • $750,000 in 2012
  • $1M in 2013
  • $3M in 2014
  • $4M in 2015
  • $4.5M in 2016 for a guaranteed $14.75 million
  • club option - $6.5M in 2017
  • club option - $7.5M in 2018
  • club option - $8.5M in 2019
  • options total $22.5 million, with a $250,000 buyout attached to each option year.

Pretty reasonable rates; no wonder JT's old agents doth protest. It guarantees a core piece of the team is tied up through 2016, and gives the Bucs a bargain or a cheap out during early free agency. This move signals a fairly keen strategy.

The Bucs pitching isn't supposed to arrive until 2014 or beyond, so keeping the position players together until they arrive is a trend we think they'll follow with Neil Walker and McCutch (Alvarez has options through the 2014 season), although he'll be a much tougher nut to sign.

It shouldn't impact the payroll very much, either. We'd expect next year's hit to be in the $50M range, Yankee lunch money but a step up for the FO. 


RHP Mike Leake (10-8, 4.00) gets it on against RHP James McDonald (8-6, 4.20) in the rubber match. The game will start at 1:35 PM and be shown on Root Sports.

Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Garrett Jones 1B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Doumit C, Neil Walker 2B, Ryan Ludwick LF, Brandon Wood 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, James McDonald P.

Pretty much the bread-and-butter lineup against righties now; Dewey, Ludwick and Wood play for some pop in the lineup while long ball-challenged Matt Diaz, Xavier Paul, Josh Harrison and Mike McKenry sit.

  • Chris Resop will get an off day. Hanny  and Jose Veras have worked the past couple of games; by Clint Hurdle's reckoning, if either makes a showing today, they'll be out for tomorrow's DP against the Brewers. Might have to consider bending a rule there...
  • JT's contract extension is being announced now. We'll post the numbers a little later.
  • Charlie Morton has a 0.93 ERA against the Reds this year, the lowest ERA by any pitcher with 4 starts against any team in the majors this season.
  • BTW, Clint Hurdle didn't call Neil Walker's bunt last night; The Pittsburgh Kid channeled Ronny Cedeno and did it on his own. Swing the bat, dude!
  • Yesterday marked the eighth consecutive Saturday sellout at PNC Park.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bucs Grind Out 5-3 Win

OK, let's see if Charlie Morton can continue to own the Reds, his favorite NL Central punching bag.

Hmmm...looks like Cincy wants to reverse roles here. Brandon Phillips led off with a line knock into center, and a soft roller moved him over a base. Joey Votto banged one through the right side,and Phillips beat the throw by a hair, sticking his hand on the dish just before the tag. Within the span of three batters, it was 1-0 Reds. Jose Tabata drew an opening walk of Dontrelle Willis, but the Bucs could advance him no further than second.

The leadoff guy got on again when Drew Stubbs beat out a hit to second, but Neil Walker got even by starting a 4-6-3 twin killing against the next hitter, Ramon Hernandez. Another bouncer to The Pittsburgh Kid finished the frame. Walker was hot, starting off the Bucco half with a knock, but an out later was erased when Ronny Cedeno grounded back to the box to begin a 1-6-3 DP. Turnabout is fair play, hey?

After Willis whiffed, Phillips banged his second single off Morton. Fred Lewis forced him out, and then was nailed trying to steal second by Mike McKenry. With Votto up, we'd have to question the timing, but thank you, Dusty. JT drew a two-out walk for the Buccos, and it was 1-0 after three.

CM was a little wild in the fourth, starting off with a walk to Votto - he picked him off - and then plunking Jay Bruce. But he settled down and cruised through the inning.

McCutch and Ryan Ludwick got the ball rolling with back-to-back singles off Willis. Then Clint Hurdle called on the team's go-to RBI guy to bunt; Walker popped up to the pitcher. Brandon Wood K'ed on a foul tip, leaving it up to RC. Cedeno came through, smacking the ball through the left side to chase home McCutch, who beat a throw home as the runners moved up a base. McKenry was intentionally walked, and Morton rolled out to second, leaving the game knotted at one.

Morton came back strong, pitching his first clean frame. JT opened the fifth with a walk, then Garrett Jones was plopped by a pitch. After a McCutch K, Ludwick and Walker banged back-to-back RBI knocks, and the Bucs were up 3-1 after five.

But the Reds are persistent, as they proved last night. Phillips collected his third hit when Walker made a great stop of his ball but was left without a play. He went to third on a hit-and-single by Fred Lewis, and Votto followed with an RBI knock.

Just as Morton was nearing the danger zone, Bruce banged a curve to second, and the 4-6-3 DP relieved the pressure. A 1-3 ended the frame with minimal damage and a 3-2 Bucco lead. But that would be it for Morton, who went six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with a walk and 2 K's while tossing 89 pitches.

Matt Diaz, who pinch hit for CM, singled with an out. With two away, he was caught leaning by Willis and picked off as he broke to second. That cued the music for Chris Resop's entrance.

Stubbs greeted him with a single to left, and quickly stole second. At the end of a nine pitch at-bat, Hernandez doubled the opposite way, and the game was tied again. Dave Sappelt, one of last night's heroes, came in to pinch run.

That brought on Tony Watson, who got Paul Janish to pop up a bunt attempt - quite the lost art, hey? - and a bouncer to short that froze Sappelt at second. Phillips was intentionally walked. Edgar Renteria came on to pinch hit for Lewis. He flew out, but the Bucs failed to hold the lead for Morton, foiled going after his tenth win.

And to add a little chaos to the precedings, a second wave of fans began arriving at the park. Guess they didn't know the game had been moved up three hours. Oooops. Anyway, onward. Aroldis Chapman took over for the Reds.

He K'ed Jones, but McCutch dropped a single into left, followed by a Ludwick walk. Walker came through again, singling home McCutch to give the Bucs a 4-3 edge. Ludwick went to third on the knock, and Wood brought him in when he hit a heater late and blooped it into right for a double. With Walker on third, Cedeno looked at strike three before McKenry walked to juice the sacks, getting a couple of generous calls from plate ump Jerry Layne. Steve Pearce grabbed a stick.

Sam LeCure was the response to that, and the Bucs answered with Xavier Paul batting for the pinch hitter. Didn't help; the X-Man was called out on strikes. The Bucs had a 5-3 lead with six outs to go.

Jose Veras climbed the hill for Pittsburgh. He lost Votto on a 3-2 curve, and Bruce roped a single to center. Miguel Cairo hit the first pitch to right, and there was one away. Stubbs went down looking at a hook and Sappelt swinging at a heater as JV stranded a pair and maintained the 5-3 lead.

LeCure put the Bucs down in order, picking up a pair of K's. And Hanny was on the hill; seems like forever since he's had a save opp. Janish flew out to the track in center, Ryan Hanigan bounced out to third, and Phillips grounded out to second. Hanrahan got his 31st save and Tony Watson picked up his first MLB win.

Mike Leake and James McDonald will hook up in the rubber match.
  • The Bucs played before a sellout crowd of 37,826 at PNC Park today. They're about 20,000 warm fannies away from bettering last year's attendance of 1,613,399.
  • In the post game interview, Clint Hurdle said Bad Brad Lincoln will start one of the doubleheader games on Monday against the Brew Crew.
  • Gerritt Cole, like Josh Bell, has all the right things to say at his press conference today.  He'll head to the Pirates Instructional League Monday, and may end up playing fall ball in Arizona.


LHP Dontrelle Willis (0-3, 4.08) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 3.48) this afternoon. The game will start at 4:11 PM and is the Fox Saturday afternoon game.

Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Garrett Jones 1B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Ludwick LF, Neil Walker 2B, Brandon Wood 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Charlie Morton P.

Scooby Doo is back behind the plate, otherwise SOP lineup.

  • As expected, Tony Watson was called up to replace Paul Maholm, who went on the 15 day DL. Though there are other options, this puts Brad Lincoln in line to take PM's rotation spot for a couple of starts.
  • Garrett Jones is hitting .333 with eight doubles, four homers and nine RBIs this month. He must be channeling Adam LaRoche.
  • Gerritt Cole is scheduled to meet the Pittsburgh press this afternoon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bucs Bungle Way To 11-8 Loss

The skies opened and closed in time to get the game going, be it a little late while the OF swamp drained. About 45 minutes after the announced start time, the clubs took the field to play ball.

Brandon Phillips started off against Kevin Correia by legging out a roller to third. An out later, a liner to Brandon Wood at third was turned into a 5-3 DP, thank you ma'am.

The Bucs made a little noise against Homer Bailey. Garrett Jones singled into center and stole second with an out. With two away, Dewey walked.Walker K'ed, the second whiff of the frame, and it was scoreless after one.

In the Redleg second, Drew Stubbs smacked a two out knock into left and was left at first. Bailey threw a clean inning. Both sides were retired in order in the third.

The Reds broke through first in the fourth. Fred Lewis rolled a lead-off single into right, and Joey Votto crushed his 21st homer of the year to give Cincy a 2-0 lead. McCutch led off the bottom half with a knock, and Walker banged a one out single into right. Ryan Ludwick walked on a 3-2 heater that was tight to load the sacks.

Wood lifted a fly to right deep enough to score McCutch. Ronny Cedeno fell behind 0-2, but lined a knock into left to plate Walker and send Ludwick to the hot corner. KC hit a short fly to center, but the score was knotted at two after four.

It was a stalemate that was quickly broken; Ryan Hanigan popped his sixth of the season over the left field wall. Paul Janish followed with a rope to left for two bases. Bailey laid down a bunt, and Dewey went for the lead runner. He didn't get him, and there were runners on the corners with no outs. It made a difference when Phillips knocked a curve into the left field stands for his twelfth long ball of the year. Just that quickly, it was 6-2.

JT opened the Bucco fifth with a bleeder that he beat to first. Jones was called out on a 3-2 pitch as Tabata stole second. The call was tough enough to draw the ire of Clint Hurdle, who was ejected after having a say and a half. Even shortstop Janish thought it was ball four; he never bothered tagging JT on the steal attempt.

Oh well, all that and five bucks will get you a latte, but it won't change the call. McCutch walked on another 3-2 pitch, and Dewey lined a shot into center to load the bases. Walker lifted a ball towards the line in left far enough to score JT. Ludwick K'ed and the score was 6-3 after five.

Todd Frazier pulled a slider into center for a lead-off knock. Drew Stubbs pounded one to Cedeno, who turned it into a 6-4-3 DP. Hanigan drew a two out walk, but Janish popped out to end the frame.

Sam LeCure came on for Cincy; Wood greeted him with a single. Cedeno doubled him to third, and Matt Diaz picked up the lumber for KC. LeCure tried hard to walk him, never throwing a strike, but Diaz wouldn't allow it. On a 3-2 pitch, Diaz rolled a grounder to second off a slider that was 6" outside, but it did bring in a run and moved RC to third.

JT tapped back to the box, freezing Cedeno. Lefty flamethrower Aroldis Chapman came on for the Reds to face Jones, and got him to bounce to second. It's 6-4 after six.

KC went six innings, giving up six runs on eight hits - three that left the yard - a walk and a K. He threw 90 pitches. Brad Lincoln took his spot on the hill. With an out, Phillips singled to left. Wood made a nice play to get the force, but Votto walked on a 3-2 pitch. Lincoln has fallen behind three of the four hitters this inning (the other hit the first pitch). That was enough; Joe Beimel came on.

Jay Bruce whacked his first offering into center, scoring Phillips and chasing Votto to third. Dave Sappelt (we don't know who he is, either) walked on four pitches. That brought on Jason Grilli, who probably should have got the call to start the inning. he struck Stubbs out, but the score was now 7-4.

Bill Bray came on for the Reds. With two outs, Walker was plunked and Ludwick doubled him to third. Jose Arredondo took over for Bray. Wood finally came up with the two out hit the Bucs were looking for all night; he singled them both home and went to second on the throw home. Cedeno went down looking, but it's 7-6 after seven.

It was Chris Resop's turn on the hill. With an out, Janish legged out an infield single and stole second on a close play. Miguel Cairo lined a knock into center to put runners on the corners. Phillips rolled a curve to short; the Bucs got the force but couldn't turn the DP on a custom made grounder, and a big insurance run scampered home for the Reds.

Nick Masset joined the parade of pitchers. Xavier Paul led off against him with a double, and an infield knock by JT put runners on the corners with no outs. Jones fell behind 0-2. He worked the count even and then popped a heater away the opposite way for a double, scoring Paul. McCutch singled to left; Tabata scored and Jones was tossed at home, with McCutch taking second on the play.

It was a terrible wave by Nick Leyva, especially with the scored already tied and no outs. Dewey spun a 3-2 pitch to second and Phillips had it kick away on a tough chance that was ruled an error, putting runners on the corners with one away. That brought Travis Wood in from the bullpen.

He worked Walker inside, falling behind 3-0 and walking him two pitches later. Ludwick fell behind 1-2 and lifted a fly to center. It looked deep enough to score McCutch, but a tremendous throw by Stubbs not only nailed him, but easily. It's 8-8, and the Bucs had two guys nailed at home, both on throws right on the money.

Joel Hanrahan took the hill for Pittsburgh with Votto and Bruce due up. Votto worked an eight pitch walk off Hanny. Bruce popped up for the first out. Sappelt got ahead 3-0. The count ran full, and Sappelt, late on a heater, knocked it into right to put runners on the corners. Stubbs knocked one to second; Walker came home with a somewhat offline throw and Dewey missed the ball to allow the lead run to score, with the other runners moving to second and third on the error.

Hanigan rolled a ball up the middle, and two more Reds scored. Janish popped up, followed by a Sappelt single that sent Hanigan to third. Jose Veras took the hill at that point and K'ed Cairo to end the frame at long last. After all that work, it was 11-8 Reds going into the ninth.

Francisco Cordero came on to close, and the Pirates were out of rallies. They went down in order, finishing a game they should have had but couldn't take.

The starting pitching wasn't very good - we'd work the rotation so that KC never steps on PNC's mound again this year if we could - and the bullpens were worse. The difference was in the field; the Reds had a couple of big plays to make, and they did. The Pirates had a couple, and didn't. Cincy won the catch-and-throw battle and because of that, the game.

Dontrelle Willis takes on Charlie Morton tomorrow.
  • The two teams combined to use 15 pitchers tonight.
  • LHP Paul Maholm was placed on the 15-day DL with left shoulder strain. A corresponding roster move will be made tomorrow. It's the first time we can remember him missing any time.
  • Bud Selig is honked at the Nats and Pirates for blowing up slot on draft day, writes Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.

Tabata Close, Walker Talking, McCutch Mum

Hey, the beat gang broke some interesting news today. First, Jose Tabata is said to have agreed to a contract extension that would lock him up for six years (including restructuring this year's contract) and includes all three of his arb years. The Bucs are adding three option years after that to cover free agency.

So JT will be under team control until 2019 if all that pans out. Tabata has had a good start. In 175 MLB games, he's hit .285 with a .385 OBP and 102 runs, all pretty good marks for a top of the order guy. His UZR in left field is an excellent 5.7, and we don't foresee him as being anything but a corner OF'er.

This move is a surprise to us; we didn't sense any urgency or really any need  to tie up JT this early in his career. He doesn't hit arbitration until 2013 at the earliest, and we thought the FO would use that for a target date.

But the price tag, as reported by Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes, won't be a bank buster. He says that the guaranteed five years plus bonus will break down to $14.25M and if all the options are exercised, the total value of the package would be $37.25M, quite a backloaded deal. The contract caused a split between JT and his agents, the ACE group; he canned them over "philosophical differences." Apparently they felt it was a little too team friendly - and it is.

Neil Walker has roughly the same service time as JT. While his discussions aren't as far along, to our knowledge, as Tabata's, we can assume the same basic template - five or six years and club options through early free agency, with more money, as befits a RBI guy. The Pittsburgh Kid's career line is .280/22/135 in 247 games.

Hey, it's nice to know that Bucs are tying up their young talent; it sends a message to the players and the fans. The players now know that if they produce, they can have the security blanket of a long guaranteed deal. And it tells the rooters that the future is arriving, and that's why they'll be digging deeper into their pockets in future years.

Off course, the guy that they have to build the future on is Andrew McCutchen, and there's nothing going up between his agent and the management now. We wouldn't read a whole lot into that quite yet.

McCutch is a borderline Super Two arbitration player. If he achieves the time, he'll be trading in a minimum wage year for a top end season financially, and that makes all the difference in the world when the pencil pushers get down to the brass tacks of compensation. So it's the smart play by McCutch's reps, and once that's cleared up, we'd expect talks to take off. They know his signature is the one the Bucs need for credibility.

And while all this was going on, Josh Bell showed up in town after inking a deal with a $5M bonus. Bell said all the right things at his introductory press conference, and will report to Pirate City Monday.


The Red's RHP Homer Bailey (7-5, 4.43) will go against RHP Kevin Correia (12-11, 4.62). The game starts at 7:05 PM and will be aired on Root Sports.

Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Garrett Jones 1B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Doumit C, Neil Walker 2B, Ryan Ludwick LF, Brandon Wood 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Kevin Correia P.

Clint opted for Wood over Josh Harrison and Ludwick over Xavier Paul.

  • The hot rumor is that the Bucs and Jose Tabata are talking contract extension. We'll post later when we find out a little more; right now the guess is a six-year deal, which would carry him into his first year of free agency.
  • C Jason Jaramillo is having a tough year at Indy. He's on the DL for the second time, now with tightness in his lower body, tweets Tribe broadcaster Scott McCauley, and needs some rest. JJ's been out since Friday.
  • Last night, High A Bradenton OF Robbie Grossman became the first minor league player since Nick Swisher in 2004 to score 100 runs and walk 100 times in a season.
  • The Bucs are introducing Josh Bell to the media this afternoon.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America has the total bonus money paid out by MLB clubs for the past five years. Pittsburgh and Washington are 1-2.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


  • Happy birthday, Roberto Clemente. The Great One would have been 77 today. His legacy is still strong among Latino players. Check out Rob Biertempfel's story in the Tribune Review about Jose Tabata's admiration for Arriba.
  • RHP Tim Wood, the Indy closer who the Bucs DFA'ed recently, has been traded to the Texas Rangers for cash or the ever popular PTBNL.
  • Chris Snyder hasn't done any sort of baseball activity since his back surgery, and probably won't until September. This is his option year, and that awkward slide in early June may have been the last we'll see of him in a Bucco uni.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America reports that Gerritt Cole was offered an $8.5M major league deal by the Bucs, and turned it down for the $8M minor league deal. The major league money would have to be paid over five years while the minor league bonus will be anted up by the end of next year. He added that Josh Bell's $5M sugar wasn't a stunner; in fact, "industry insiders expressed surprise that his bonus wasn't higher."
  • BTW, did you know that the much maligned ump Jerry Meals was born in Butler?

Working Overtime

Ya know, with all the talk of regression and such, it seemed like the Sabermetric spooks had put the hex on Pirate pitching through science. But the eyeball guys prefer Occam's Razor to weighted averages; they look at simple fatigue. A half dozen Buc arms, split between the pen and rotation, have pitched more times for more innings than ever before in their careers.

For the starters, vets Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia had logged plenty of innings in their day; Maholm has never thrown fewer than 176 frames and KC has topped out at 198, so they should be able to handle the load. They've been there and done that. 

But for James McDonald, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Karstens, it's a new world. J-Mac has never tossed more than 71-2/3 big league innings and he's at 133 now. Morton threw a career high 97 innings last year; he's at 133-2/3 today. And Jeff Karstens' high mark was 122-2/3 frames; he's gone 141-1/3 so far. Each should have another 45 innings or so of work remaining to finish out 2011, so they're all looking at roughly 180 frames.

The number of starts made are also career highs for the trio: McDonald has made 24 starts; the most he made prior to this year was 19. Morton has started 22 times; his high was 18 in 2008. Karstens has begun 22 games; his previous best was 19  last season. And remember that each guy could have eight more starts before the off season begins. They're on track to approach 30 outings each before the year has run its course.

None has a minor league background to lean on. Morton's top workload was 124 innings on the farm, J-Mac's 140, and Karstens hasn't work 100 minor league innings since 2006.

It's a big jump in starts and innings for the threesome, with both mental and physical adjustments to be made. The good news is that the experience should bode well for the future; the bad news is that this isn't the future.

With Evan Meek's arm woes, the back end of the bullpen has been frazzled; that's why the FO was looking for a set up man at the the trade deadline. Hanny is OK; he's been in about 70 games each year since 2008, and his innings and appearances are well in line with his past history. 

But his three bridge amigos, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, and Daniel McCutchen, have their arms dragging. 

The most appearances Resop had made in the majors were 22 and the most innings he's logged were 21-1/3 for Florida in 2006; he's at 60 outings with 54-2/3 innings now. Veras has peaked at 60 outings (in 2008 for the Yankees) and 57-1/3 innings; he's racked up 63 appearances and 57-1/3 frames as of today. D-Mac, in his first full season from the pen, had career highs of 28 games and 67-2/3 innings; he's at 55 and 65-1/3 now. Add another 15 appearances and innings to the total to carry them through 2011.

It's especially a learning experience for Resop and McCutchen. Veras knows the drill and has been around the block as a fireman after six seasons, but the other two are converted starters. Resop became full time as a reliever just last August, and this is D-Mac's first season without being used as a spot starter. The pair's minor league time doesn't help in the transition as they spent it in the rotation.

With the relievers, the mental and physical challenge may be even greater than the starters. They're up and down a zillion times in the pen, and when they do get the ball, more often than not guys are already dancing on base. More than any position, the pen guys have to learn to grind it out through the dog days.

So hey, give the Sabermetric guys their due; their formulas predicted a drop-off, and they got it. But the KISS gang could see it coming, too, as the innings piled up. As we said, it's not necessarily a bad thing to make the guys earn their money and the experience should pay off down the road. None of the stats are approaching a burn-out situation, but there are a lot of guys stretching it out big time for the first time this year.

But for now, six guys are running on fumes and have to figure out to stoke the engines for the long haul, not only for this season but for their careers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cards Pull Away For 7-2 Win

Hey, the Bucs have been very good at taking series, but pretty bad at sweeping them. let's see if they can reverse that trend tonight.

It was not a promising start for Paul Maholm. Rafael Furcal bounced a ball into left to open the game. In a long, nine pitch at-bat by Allen Craig, PM tossed a 3-2 heater and watched it disappear into the night for Craig's fifth tater to give the Cards a quick 2-0 lead. It didn't get a whole lot prettier.

Albert Pujols lined a single and Matt Holliday walked on four pitches. David Freese stopped the bleeding temporarily when hit smacked into an around the horn DP, but Yadier Molina kept the pedal to the metal with a two-out knock to chase Pujols home. Ryan Theriot added a knock before Jon Jay lined out to bring the frame to a close. It was 3-0 before the Bucs jogged off the field.

The Pirates tried to answer against Kyle Lohse. With an out, Garrett Jones hit a ground rule double to right, followed by a infield knock by McCutch; Jones had to hold on the bleeder. Dewey drilled one to the wall, but it was just a 399' long fly out. Neil Walker fell behind 0-2, but hung in to draw a walk to load the sacks. With the bases juiced, Ryan Ludwick hit a liner to right that Craig corralled. The Cards score three, the Bucs strand three in the opening inning.

PM calmed down in the second, giving up a one-out double to Furcal. The Bucs got a one away knock from Ronny Cedeno, but he never reached second. It was more of the same in the third. St. Louis got a two out single from Molina while the Bucs went down in order. It was still 3-0 after three. The Redbirds went down in order in the fourth; the Pirates struck out three time against Lohse in their half.

Craig continued to torment Maholm, leading off the fifth with a double. But three grounders later, he was left standing on third. Cedeno led off with a double, and Clint Hurdle sent Steve Pearce up to hit for Maholm. He flew out, but JT didn't. He whacked a 3-1 sinker into the seats above the Clemente Wall to pull the Bucs within a run at 3-2.

Maholm went five innings, giving up three runs on eight hits with a walk and K while serving up 83 pitches. We were sorta surprised at that spot that Hurdle didn't try to get another inning out of him. As it ended up, it would have been the smart play with a short bullpen.

Brad Lincoln came out of the pen for the sixth, his first appearance in a week. With an out, Theriot and Jay singled; a passed by Dewey moved them up a station. A weak grounder by Lohse left Cedeno with only a play to first, and the Cards were up 4-2. The Pirates went down in order.

Craig, who's been Sir Albert Jr. tonight, led off the seventh with a homer to left to up the St. Louis lead to 5-2. The Pirates were again put down 1-2-3.

D-Mac came on in the eighth and couldn't get a break. Molina lined a single and then stole second, his third swipe of the year. After an out, Jones muffed a grounder to first and there were runners at the corners. Lance Berkman pinch hit and punched a single through the right side to plate Molina. After a K, Craig got his fourth knock when he dinked an infield single to third; Craig came in from second, and it was 7-2 Cardinals.

Octavio Dotel retired his old hoodies cleanly; that's eleven Buc in a row chopped down. Joe Beimel took the hill in the ninth, and put up a zero, allowing a one out single to Daniel Descalso. Mark Rzepczynski worked the ninth. With two away, Ludwick singled, and the mad scientist in Tony LaRussa took over; he brought in Kyle McClelland with two away and a five run lead. Whatever. It worked as Wood bounced out after a wild pitch, and the Bucs went down 7-2.

Not much to say. The pitching, fielding and hitting all went south on Pittsburgh tonight. The only thing that kept the score down was that the Cards were only 3-for-16 with RISP. And the bullpens guys that Hurdle used were the ones he had to work with; Hanny, Jose Veras and Chris Resop were due a day off  after a lot of recent work. With tomorrow off, everyone should be ready to go for Cincy, which rolls into town Friday for a three game set.

  • Tonight was the seventh time this season that the Pirates had taken a two games to none series lead at PNC Park and failed to win the third game for the sweep.
  • 22,296 fans came out for the rubber match tonight.
  • The Bucs are looking at bringing Ohlie back for the Monday doubleheader against the Brew Crew. He'll probably swap places with Bad Brad Lincoln, who has become the Pedro Ciriaco of the bullpen. We're not sure why you'd take a starter out of the Indy rotation just to have him gather dust as a reliever. It would have made more sense to keep Tony Watson around, we think.
  • Evan meek could start his rehab assignment as soon as this weekend at High A Bradenton.