Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bucs Finish With 72 Wins

Hey, the tale of two seasons has come to an end. The Bucs did improve a fairly impressive 15 games over last season's 57-102 debacle, so that's a plus. They did it mainly by pitching, as the staff improved its ERA from  5.00 to 4.05, and that's a heck of an improvement.

The hitting, though, stagnated. This year's lumber company scored 610 runs while hitting .244; last year's crew did just a tad worse at 587 runs and .242 BA. That's a surprise, considering the rep of Clint Hurdle as a hitting guru, and begs the question of "is it the talent or the coaching?" All we know is that coaches don't bat, if that gives you a clue as to what side of the fence we're on.

Too bad the Pirates floundered during the second half, when the innings caught up to the arms and the injuries/grind caught up to the position players. We anticipated a young team would steadily improve throughout the year, not start off like gangbusters and then fade like Milli Vanilli.

They did answer a couple of questions. McCutch and The Pittsburgh Kid were solid and look as if they'll be consistent, real-deal performers. Jose Tabata and Alex Presley solidified the outfield. Charlie Morton and James McDonald appear to be competent mid-level starters, and both should get better. Hanny was lights-out.

After that, well...lotsa things to sort out, and that's what we'll be discussing now that the year's done. The coaching, the drafting, free agents coming and going, the 40 man roster, position-by-position critiques, help down on the farm and all the other topics so dear to the hot stove league.

Oh, the game? Pittsburgh got its usual bums rush outta Milwaukee, losing 7-3. The Brew Crew chased Jeff Locke after four innings, scoring five runs thanks to three homers and clinching home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

And it was a big night for baseball fans in general. Not only did the Brewers finish a nose ahead of the D-Backs, but the Cards slipped into the wild-card over the Braves; so much for the "Central is so weak" cliche. Tampa Bay took the last spot over the Red Sox. There's no surer sign of a competitive season than to have people watching the scoreboard for the results of the final game.

We'd like to see Pittsburgh get in on that scoreboard watching stuff, too, and for a little longer than mid-July.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prince Pounds Pirates

Hey, last night's storyline was pretty simple. Walk the guy in front of Prince Fielder and watch him hit a home run. Fielder went deep three times, twice with Ryan Braun on base via a free pass, to lead the Brew Crew to a 6-4 victory over the Bucs. Ricky Weeks added the other run when he crushed a solo shot after Fielder in the second.

Ohlie went five innings and gave up four runs on five hits, three of which went yard, along with three walks, a bopped batter and three Ks. Jared Hughes took the loss when he walked Braun and gave up Fielder's 38th dinger on an 0-2 pitch in the seventh. Up until that point, the Bucs kept battling back.

Pittsburgh took an early 1-0 lead in the second when The Pittsburgh Kid doubled and scored on a Matt Pagnozzi blooper. They added on in the fifth when Ronny Cedeno doubled and came in on Ohlie's slug bunt; he showed bunt, pulled back and chopped a single up the middle. He would later come in on Josh Harrison's one-out knock.

Walker scored the Bucs final tally when he came across on Alex Presley's bases-loaded walk in the sixth. LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford kept the Pirate bats quiet at the end, giving up one hit over the last three frames.

Zack Greinke goes against Jeff Locke in the regular season finale. The game starts at 8:10 and will shown on Root Sports. Greinke will go as long as he can, as the Brewers are only one game up on the D-Backs for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

  • The last player to smack three homers against the Bucs in a single game was Albert Pujols in 2006. It was the first 3-homer game of Fielder's career. Even more notable is that Prince will play in all 162 Brew Crew games when he jogs out to first tonight. He played in every 2009 contest, and would have last season except for a September bug.
  • The Bucs picked off two Brewers - Jason Jaramillo's snap throw got Corey Hart at first, and Tony Watson caught Carlos Gomez napping at second.
  • Clint Hurdle told the beat gang that he plans to winter in Pittsburgh, and that he'll be involved in the instructional league after the season, though mostly as an observer, to get a feel for the young guys.
  • Ronny Cedeno said he was going to play winter ball in Venezuela.
  • Alex Presley and Josh Harrison will spend a few days in the Instructional League after the season; Mike McKenry may join them.
  • The Pirates will finish fourth in the NL Central this season, their highest position since 2003.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bucs Outlast Brewers 9-8

Alex Presley was responsible for the first and the last run of the game, and in between it was a wild west shootout as the Bucs outscored the Brewers by a final score of 9-8.

Presley opened the game with a homer on the second pitch, his first MLB lead off blast. It would be the first of twenty-five hits and seventeen runs tallied between the two clubs.

The Brew Crew shrugged that run off and positioned themselves for a big opening frame. Charlie Morton was greeted by pair of singles and a double to quickly tie the game, and a walk to Prince Fielder jammed the sacks with no outs. He reached back, K'ing Ricky Weeks and getting Jerry Hairston to bang into an around the horn DP to escape without any further damage.

Pittsburgh got rolling in the second. Garrett Jones walked and Jason Jaramillo rolled a seeing eye single into right. A broken bat bloop by Pedro drove home a run, and a Chase d'Arnaud slow roller to second brought in another. A Morton bunt and Presley knock made it 4-1.

The game rolled along quietly until the bottom of the fourth when the Brew Crew smacked three doubles to make it a 4-3 game. The Bucs answered in their next at-bat.

Xavier Paul led off the fifth with a triple, and a pair of one-out walks loaded the bases. Pedro doubled home two runners and a wild pitch brought in another as the Bucs went up 7-3 on Shaun Marcum.

Morton couldn't stand success; his own wildness let Milwaukee back in the game when a hit batter and walk plated on a two out double by Yuniesky Betancourt. That was Morton's last call. He went five, giving up five runs on eight hits with three walks and K's, not a particularly memorable finish to the season.

The Bucs scored once again in the sixth. Pedro Ciriaco drew a lead off walk as pinch hitter, stole second, and touched the dish after Neil Walker's two out single. Two walks juiced the sacks, but JJ was called out on strikes to end the threat with the Pirates up 8-5.

The Brewers weren't fazed; they worked their way through the Bucco bullpen in the sixth to knot the score. The bases were empty with two outs before the wheels dropped off the Buc's buggy. Jared Hughes gave up a walk and a single, Tony Watson a knock, and Chris Leroux surrendered a double and two walks, the last with the bases loaded to force in a run. D-Mac got the final out, a screamer hit at d'Arnaud, who made a leaping grab of the bullet to keep the score tied.

The Bucs retook the lead off of Takashi Saito in their next dibs. Mike McKenry drew a two out walk and crossed the plate on Presley's double. That would be the game winner, but not without a couple of tense moments.

D-Mac threw a clean seventh, and Jason Grilli took the ball. A walk and two beaned batters - hey, it is Milwaukee, right? -  juiced the sacks with one away. He coaxed a couple of pop outs to escape the jam and set up Hanny time.

He gave up a lead off single, and two wild pitches later the Brewers had a runner on third with no outs. Hanrahan came up with a big K followed by an even bigger bounce out to The Pittsburgh Kid. With the infield in, he went home and cut down the tying run to preserve the Bucs 9-8 win and finally put an end to the four hour plus marathon.

Presley and Pedro led the way with three RBI apiece. The Bucs struck out ten more times. Not only are they adding to a franchise record for K's in a season, but should surpass 1,300 K's by Wednesday.

RHP Ross Ohlendorf (1-3, 8.29) faces LHP Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.61) at 8:10 PM tonight. The game will be aired on Root Sports.

  • Andrew McCutchen was off yesterday after being hit by a BP liner before the game. He should be good to go tonight.
  • Dewey has been off, too. He took a foul off the mask last game out, and the Bucs have been cautious about putting him back behind the dish with his concussion history, especially at this late point in the season.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bucs Drop Home Finale 5-4

The Bucs tried to claim a win for Fan Appreciation day, the traditional curtain-closer for the home season, and almost pulled it off in the ninth. But they couldn't find one more hit and fell to the Reds 5-4 yesterday afternoon.

James McDonald struggled at the outset. In the first, a lead-off, four pitch walk to Brandon Phillips turned into a run after a pair of back-to-back, one out singles. In the second, J-Mac was almost on the way to the showers.

A lead-off double in the second, followed by a Josh Harrison, boot put runners on the corners. A sac fly brought in one tally, and another scored on a two-out single. That was followed by a walk, and that brought Clint Hurdle to the top step, but McDonald K'ed Joey Votto to end the frame.

The Bucs came back to tie it in their half. Derrek Lee led off with a knock, and an out later, Ryan Ludwick walked. Chase d'Arnaud sent them both home on a triple to left, and Scooby Doo hit a sac fly to knot the score.

J-Mac and Dontrelle Willis had things under control by then. McDonald was replaced in the sixth by Danny Moskos. After getting the first out, he gave up a single and double to the 7-8 hitters. Then Willis, no slouch at the dish, caught a hanging slider and drilled it into right to put the Reds up 5-3.

The game moved along into the ninth, when the Bucs tried to figure it out against Francisco Cordero. McCutch opened with a walk, went to second on a wild pitch, and came home after The Pittsburgh Kid's one-out double. But with the tying run in scoring position, a pair of pinch hitters went down - Garrett Jones K'ed and Pedro flew out to left - and that wrapped up the last home stand of the year.

The Bucs only had four hits to go along with eleven strikeouts. Those kind of numbers have been a season-long drag; a team batting average of .244 with eight whiffs per game don't project to many runs. Whether the answer lies within the organization, through team churning or has to come from the outside in a trade or free agency, the Bucs need to put the ball in play a lot more often next year.

RHP Charlie Morton (10-10, 3.67) takes on RHP Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.31) at Miller Park tonight.The game starts at 8:10 PM and will broadcast by Root Sports. Not that you need reminded, but the Pirates have lost 36 of their last 39 games at Miller Park dating back to 2007, including all six in Milwaukee this season.

  • The Pirates drew 28,758 for a season total of 1,940,429, the fourth largest attendance year in franchise history.
  • Dontrelle Willis had an 0-6 record entering the game and hadn't beaten the Bucs since 2005. Guess the hidden vigorish was finally on his side, hey? 
  • Baseball America picked its New York-Penn League All-Stars. State College had a pair: RHP Nick Kingham (9), and 1B Alex Dickerson (11).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bucs Look For Sweep After 4-2 Win

Hey, the only thing sweeter than taking the opener is to take the next game, too. And the Bucs did that against the Reds in front of a rollicking sellout crowd of 37,388, equally pumped for the Pirates and Pittsburgh fav Steve Miller.

It didn't start off the Buccos' way; a pair of first inning doubles made it 1-0 against Bad Brad Lincoln in a heartbeat. But the Pirates nibbled back.

In the second, Ryan Ludwick walked, went to third on a Jason Jaramillo two-bagger and touched home on a Ronny Cedeno sac fly. In the third, they took control.

Josh Harrison started it off with a triple (he would end the night a homer short of the cycle) and a McCutch sac fly plated him. Derrek Lee singled and Neil Walker doubled, setting up the Bucs third straight sac fly, this one from Ludwick. Walker scored when JJ came through with a two-out knock to make it 4-1.

It stayed that way until the fifth, when Lincoln's control deserted him. He gave up walks to two of the first three hitters, and one scored on Joey Votto's double. Lincoln worked out of harm's way by getting Punxsutawney's Dave Mesoraco (who had a noisy cheering section of hometowners) to fly to center with the bases juiced.

Lincoln lasted one more batter, when a leadoff double chased him to the showers in the sixth. He gave up two runs in five innings on six hits and four walks (one intentional) with four K's. After that, it turned into a battle of the bullpens, neither one allowing another run. Jason Grilli got the save, as Hanny had the night off after a 31-pitch outing yesterday, his third in the MLB and first since 2009.

Tonight was a game that could have provided plenty more fireworks. The two teams combined to strand 20 runners and go 5-for-28 with RISP. The Pirates had eleven hits, and nine were collected among three players: Harrison (4), Walker (3), and Jaramillo (2).

And the go-go Bucs were back in stride with four steals, highlighted by Neil Walker stealing second and third in the fifth frame.

Dontrelle Willis faces James McDonald in the Bucs final home game this afternoon. The finale's lineup will be: Alex Presley LF, Josh Harrison 3B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Ryan  Ludwick RF, Chase d'Arnaud SS, Mike McKenry C, James McDonald P.

  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review has a piece on what a McCutch contract might cost the Bucs. We lean toward the 6 year, $50M or so range with an option as a fair deal. But just in case, he also looks at center field options. 
  • Jose Veras made his 80th appearance, second in MLB to Atlanta's Johnny Venters. He only worked 48 outings last year, so potential pitching burnout isn't just limited to the rotation. It's the first time Clint Hurdle has ever called on a reliever that often.
  • Neil Walker may not have great range, but when he gets to a ball, he catches it. He ran his errorless streak to 52 games last night, and his .992 fielding percentage is the NL's best.
  • The Pirates are 9-9 at home when they play in front of a sellout crowd.
  • Pittsburgh is 38-38 against Central Division opponents, with today's game against the Reds and three more at Milwaukee to go. They haven't had a winning record in the division since 1992.
  • Friday Game Recap: Bucs Take Opener From Reds

    GW was out of action this weekend, but the Bucs weren't. They recaptured their June mojo by taking the first two games of their final home set against the Cincy Reds by 4-3 and 4-2 tallies, doing just enough to come up on the winning side both nights.

    Friday's game was started by Jeff Locke. The young lefty fell an out short of going five, but kept the Bucs in the game. He allowed one run, six hits, and two walks but surpassed his 75-80 pitch count limit after a Joey Votto double. Danny Moskos came in to K Jay Bruce and leave runners at second and third, preserving a 3-1 lead. Locke was in trouble almost all night, but managed to wriggle off the hook through most of the contest.

    The early lead was built on a Garrett Jones two-run blast that traveled over 450' in the second and some third inning two-out thunder started by McCutch, who doubled. After a Derrek Lee walk, McCutchen was chased home by a Dewey knock.

    The Reds drew within a run against Chris Leroux in the sixth, turning a leadoff single, ground out and infield knock into a run. But the score held up until Hanny time. But this time it wasn't automatic.

    Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey led off with a broken bat infield single followed by Brandon Phillips roller through the left side. Drew Stubbs bunted; the Bucs nailed the lead runner. Hanrahan struck out Joey Votto, and it looked like the crisis was averted.

    After a double steal on a 3-0 count, Hanny intentionally walked Jay Bruce to load the bases. On a 3-2 count, he hit Todd Frazier on the back of left hand with a fastball to force home the tying run.

    But the Bucs had enough left in the tank to take it in their half. Pinch hitter Jason Jaramillo dropped a double the opposite way with an out and was replaced at second by Chase d'Arnaud. Ryan Ludwick fell behind 0-2, fouled off a pitch and then drilled a low heater off the bottom of the center field wall for the walk-off win.

    The Reds were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 men on base. The Bucs were an efficient 2-for-4 with RISP and left only five runners aboard.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Ohlie KO'ed, Bucs Dropped 8-5

    Ohlie took a step forward in his last outing, but boy, did he ever backtrack yesterday afternoon. He got six D-Backs out, giving up seven runs on seven hits with a pair of walks and a hit batter.

    It started in the first, when Arizona scored three times. Not only did the D-Backs rattle four opening frame hits, but caught Ohlendorf napping on the mound and ran a pair of successful double steals.

    The Bucs cut into the lead thanks to a solo homer by Ryan Ludwick in the second. But in the third, the wheels came off for good.

    Jared Hughes didn't help the cause a whole lot in the third after Ohlendorf gave up three knocks and a free pass. He inherited a bases-jammed, no out pickle, and two hits and a walk later, it was 8-1 Snakes.

    Danny Moskos, D-Mac, Evan Meek and Chris Resop threw two-hit ball over the final five innings to give the attack a chance to chip away.

    Derrek Lee drove in a pair with a single and 450' homer as he continues to build his free-agent value. Jason Jaramillo doubled in a run, and a wild pitch plated another. The Pirates actually had a chance to make a game of it with two away in the eighth, but Dewey bounced out with runners on second and third. Pittsburgh made the final score respectable but in the end fell short for the tenth time in the last 13 games, 8-5.

    As for Ohlie, he looks like a lock to be a non-tender candidate during the offseason. The FO can't be faulted for bypassing arbitration as he's guaranteed a minimum of $1.6M through the process in 2012, and so we're guessing he'll join Lee looking for a 2012 deal on the market.

    The Bucs are off today and take on the Reds Friday. Jeff Locke matches up against Edison Volquez in Pittsburgh as the season winds down to its last week.

    • The 2011 attendance will finish as fourth highest in franchise history. Pittsburgh has drawn 1,850,651 fans so far, and the current fourth-place mark for season attendance is 1,866,713 with a three-game set coming up Friday against Cincy. 
    • The Pirates have six games left and 69 wins. We took a trip on the web way-back machine to check out the pre-season picks, and most pundits pegged this season's club as a 70-75 win group.   Of course, most thought they'd improve as the season progressed, not back track. Ah, hindsight...

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011


    RHP Ross Ohlendorf (1-2, 6.82) goes against LHP Wade Miley (3-2, 4.24) in this afternoon's rubber match at Arizona. The first pitch is at 3:40 PM and will be shown on Fox Sports.

    Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Pedro Ciriaco SS, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Ryan Ludwick RF, Brandon Wood 3B, Matt Pagnozzi C, Ross Ohlendorf P.

    You can tell it's get away day - Pedro Ciriaco, Brandon Wood and Matt Pagnazzi are all  in today's lineup.

    • The Pirates confirmed that they are moving Fanfest to Saturday, December 17th and Sunday, December 18th, with Friday, December 16th, open to Season Ticket Holders only. It'll include the usual goodies - Q&A session, autograph booths, handouts, kids' games...

    Bucs Win 5-3

    Hey, the Bucs actually scored last night. Didn't take long either, as Alex Presley and Neil Walker banged doubles to start the game and put the Pirates up 1-0. An inning later, Pedro went yard for the fourth time and it was 2-0. Dewey doubled home McCutch in the fifth, and it was 3-0 Pittsburgh. That would be Daniel Hudson's last frame for Arizona..

    Charlie Morton sometimes struggled with his control, but was tough enough. He went six shutout frames, taking 106 pitches to get there, giving up three hits, three walks (one intentional) and bopping a batter along the way to go with five K's.

    Chris Leroux yielded a run in the seventh when he gave up back-to-back singles, causing Clint Hurdle to quickly bring on Jason Grilli. Grilli gave up another knock, and then punched out the D-Backs.

    Derrek Lee countered with a two-run blow in the eighth, plating Presley ahead of him. And Pittsburgh needed it. Jose Veras gave up three consecutive one-out knocks before Tony Watson took the ball. He gave up a bunt single RBI, but finished off the frame with the Bucs still up 5-3.

    And that's all Hanny needed, striking out a pair to earn his 39th save while closing out Morton's tenth win.

    The game had a lot of ebb and flow. The Pirates stranded a dozen and the D-Backs eleven, so the score could have easily turned into slugfest proportions. It was especially so for Pittsburgh, which banged out 14 hits, half of which were for extra bases, but allowed several scoring opportunities to slip by.

    They did help themselves in the field last night, with Presley and Garrett Jones making back-to-back nice grabs to open the game, Pedro laying out for a couple of plays and Lee making a couple of sweet picks. It was a good way to rally against a championship caliber team that's playing for something, and one of the few building blocks to be taken away this September.

    • As expected, RHP Gerritt Cole will fill the final spot on the Pirates Arizona League roster.
    • Pedro Alvarez will not play winter ball, but start anew in 2012. He held out the possibility that he may join a winter league club for the second half of the season, although that would seem rather pointless.
    • Chris Snyder said told the beat gang that he's willing to come back to Pittsburgh, but would prefer the FO to pick up his $6.75M option rather than negotiate a new deal.
    • Pittsburgh got RHP Eliecier Cardenas from the Braves for Matt Diaz. The 23 year old Cardenas is a closer  in Hi A ball with a good hook but no control. He was a minor league Rule 5 pick of Atlanta from Minnesota in 2010.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011


    RHP Charlie Morton (9-10, 3.81) take the hill against RHP Daniel Hudson (16-10, 3.39). the game starts at 9:40 PM and will be shown on Root Sports.

    The Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Ryan Doumit C, Garrett Jones RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Charlie Morton P.

    Whatever happened to Xavier Paul and Brandon Wood?

    • For the fans of the Piratefest and Pirate caravan, get ready for an earlier start. They'll go off in mid-December this year, both to give the participating players more of an off-season break and to try to tap into some pre-Xmas sales. Makes sense on both fronts.
    • Ben Badler of Baseball America listed the top rookie prospects in the Gulf Coast League. The Pirates had two of the top five picks and three of the top fifteen, with RHP Luis Heredia ranked #3, 1B/OF Jose Osuna #5, and IF Alen Hansen #14. It's good to see Rene Gayo's amigos doing well.
    • Congrats to Mariano Rivera who set the all-time saves record yesterday with close-out #602. He also has 42 post-season saves, with 11 during the World Series and four in All-Star games. Since taking over the fireman job in 1997, he's had an 89% save rate. And there are only two teams he doesn't have a save against - the Yankees, of course, and the Pirates.

    Karstens Effort Wasted, Bucs Fall 1-0

    Ya know, the Pirate pitching has been so terrible lately that we tend to overlook how bad the Pirate hitting has been. Well, it came to the forefront tonight.

    Jeff Karstens, Jared Hughes and Jose Veras held the D-Backs to one run and five hits - and the single tally came on a broken bat homer, with half the stick ending up by third base - by Justin Upton that had to withstand review. Upton's homer, his 31st, dropped into the first row of the left center field stands. A fan caught it and the review was to see if it cleared the wall. It did, and that was enough to propel Arizona to a 1-0 win.

    The Pirates mustered two hits; the only knock before the ninth was a Karstens' single. Alex Presley tripled with one out in the final frame, and had The Pittsburgh Kid and McCutch behind him. But Walker bounced out to first, freezing Presley, and McCutchen K'ed for the third time on the night. He wasn't alone alone. It was the thirteenth whiff of a Bucco. They've scored four runs on 22 hits in the past four games with 44 K's.

    Charlie Morton takes on Daniel Hudson tomorrow.

    • This was Jeff Karstens last start of the season. The Bucs are skipping his last appearance, as he's worked 162-1/3 innings in 2011, 40 more frames than his previous high set last year.  JK finished the year at 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA, a tremendous showing especially considering he started 2011 as a long man in the pen before Ohlie went down in early April.
    • The Pirates set a team record for K's in a season Sunday against LA. They're now up to 1,243 strikeouts with eight games to go, an average of 8 whiffs per game. They're among the bottom feeders in that stat in the NL with Washington and San Diego. More than pitching, this should be addressed as shortcoming #1 going into 2012. The compound problem is that the Pirates have used the second highest number of players in the NL during the season, have the youngest senior circuit squad, and consequently don't seem to have much of a plan during their at-bats, all of which were brutally exposed in the second half of the season.
    • The Pirates have three guys with 100+ K's - McCutch, Walker and Garrett Jones - and three more that will finish the year with 75+. The Pirates have just five more hits (1,248) than whiffs, and six current position players have more K's than knocks: Jones, McKenry, Alvarez, Wood, d'Arnaud, and Ludwick. Steve Pearce, Josh Rodriguez, Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas, when they were playing, also had more strikeouts than hits.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Notes, AFL Roster

    RHP Jeff Karstens (9-8, 3.45) faces RHP Ian Kennedy (19-4, 2.99) as the Bucs continue their left coast road trip against the first place D-Backs.The game will start at 9:40 PM and be televised on Root Sports.

    Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Ryan Ludwick RF, Jason Jaramillo C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Jeff Karstens P.

    • The Pirates sent Altoona RHP Mike Colla (5-11, 3.70), IF Brock Holt (.288/1/40) and RHP Phil Irwin (13-4, 3.14 between the Curve & Bradenton) along with Bradenton LHP Nathan Baker (10-8, 3.34), 2B Jarek Cunningham (.258/15/51) and OF Robbie Grossman (.294/13/56) to Mesa of the Arizona Fall League. They still have one pitching slot open; the grapevine says that it's reserved for RHP Gerritt Cole, although that decision is still being debated.
    • Arizona's magic number in the NL West to put away the Giants is five. They have nine games remaining, all at home, against Pittsburgh, then San Fran and closing out with LA. So they'll be motivated to play hardball this series; it won't be a run-of-the-mill September set.
    • 1B Lyle Overbay has a line of .265/1/8 in 38 at-bats for the Snakes. His OPS is .754, over a hundred points higher than his Bucco number.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Bucs Run Out Of LA 15-1

    Did ya catch the whuppin' the Steelers laid on the Seahawks this afternoon? Well, the Bucs had the same kind of day - as Seattle. It was 3-0 after an inning, 9-0 after two frames and 11-0 when the third concluded as the Dodgers steamrolled the Pirates 15-1 this afternoon.

    Bad Brad Lincoln gave up a three spot in the first, and the second got worse. He had two outs and a runner on first, but a pair of singles loaded the sacks and Clint Hurdle went to the pen. Aaron Thompson came on, and after a homer, double, and pair of walks, it was 9-0.

    The usually dependable Chris Leroux followed in the third, and he gave up three hits and walk, yielding another pair of runs before Chris Resop poked his finger in the dam. He threw a clean fourth, and the Pittsburgh nine got on the board when Xavier Paul doubled home Chase d'Arnaud with two away in the fifth.

    Evan Meek faced six hitters, striking out two, walking three and giving up a knock and a run on a bases juiced free pass before D-Mac closed out the frame. But McCutchen's luck ran out in the sixth. His post-Atlanta meltdown continued as he surrendered three runs on six hits. Tony Watson and Jason Grilli put up zeroes to finish up the game.

    The Pirate attack was AWOL again. They left nine aboard as seven of their ten runners reached base after two outs and they struck out nine more times. Then again, they could have scored everybody and still would have been blown out. Geez, July seems like such a long time ago.

    Charlie Morton faces Ian Kennedy at Arizona tomorrow night. Kennedy is taking his second crack at 20 wins; he's 19-4 on the season.

    • The eight hurlers Pittsburgh trotted out today ties the franchise record for most pitchers used in a nine inning game.
    • Pirate pitchers haven't thrown a clean inning since the eighth frame Friday night. That's seventeen straight innings that the Dodgers have had at least a runner aboard.
    • Matt Kemp was a triple away from hitting for the cycle - after the third inning. No, he didn't get it. LA pulled him after five innings.

    LA Blues: Bucs Fall 6-1

    They say you can never go home again. In J-Mac's case, that held absolutely true last night as his old Dodger teammates rattled his cage early and often as LA won 6-1.

    McDonald lasted just three innings, giving up five runs on seven hits while throwing 76 pitches, his second straight short outing. He had some command issues, often falling behind hitters, but the long ball eventually did him in. James Loney smacked a three run shot off him and Juan Rivera added a two run homer. It looks like the dead-arm period has gotten to all the Bucs original rotation members, with the possible exception of Charlie Morton, and he's been up-and-down.

    The Pirates had a couple of scoring chances, but left the bases juiced with one out in the eighth and second and third with one away in the second to come up empty. The Bucco run came in the second when Josh Harrison doubled home Derrek Lee.

    Big Blue's Ted Lilly joined Mark Buerhle and CC Sabbathia as the only active pitchers to notch 10 wins for nine straight seasons. Brad Lincoln faces off against Chad Billingsley in today's match, looking to salvage a series split this afternoon.

    • Newly claimed C Matt Pagnozzi singled as a pinch-hitter in the fifth. He also became the 52nd Pirate to play this season, breaking 2010's team record. At least Clint Hurdle and the FO got a chance to look at everyone this year.
    • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that the Pirates will probably keep prospect Bryan Morris in the bullpen, but are still evaluating Justin Wilson's future role.
    • Indy SS Jordy Mercer was named to the 2011 USA World Cup/Pan Am roster. He'll play in both the World Cup in Panama City and the Pan American Games in Guadalajara.
    • Johnstown's Pete Vuckovich, who worked for the Pirates as a coach and FO executive since 1992, was hired by the Seattle Mariners as a special assistant to GM Jack Zduriencik, the same position he held in Pittsburgh.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Bucs Lose 7-2; Send J-Mac Out Tonight

    The Bucs lost to LA last night 7-2; Jeff Locke failed to impress in his second start, leaving too many pitches up and lasting but three innings, giving up three runs on five hits with two walks. He got the hook after a 33-pitch third inning.

    The bullpen was even less impressive. D-Mac gave up three straight singles, one an iffy infield hit. Chris Resop came on and gave up a three run blast to James Loney. The Pirates scored on a misplayed DP ball and Alex Presley's third homer of the year. Pittsburgh K'ed 12 times and was 0-for-8 with RISP. 'Nuff said about that.

    J-Mac takes the hill against Ted Lilly and his former teammates tonight. The Buc lineup will be Alex Presley LF, Chase d'Arnaud SS, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Ryan Ludwick RF, Brandon Wood 3B, Josh Harrison 2B, Mike McKenry C, James McDonald P.

    McCutch got the day off yesterday, and Neil Walker will get one today.

    • The Bucs are shutting down Jose Tabata for the rest of the season. He'll stay with the team while rehabbing.
    • Ex-Buccos C Eric Kratz and OF Brandon Moss were called up from AAA Lehigh Valley to the Phils yesterday.
    • Congrats to Jimmy Leyland. His Tigers clinched the AL Central division title last night.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Bucs Win, Bucs Lose

    OK, we're gonna wrap up two days in one post: Bucs win, Bucs lose, Bucs claim yet another catcher.

    Ross Ohlendorf tried to throw his hat back in the ring for 2012's pitching parade by leading Pittsburgh to a 6-2 win over LA. Ohlie went seven innings, giving up two runs on four hits and striking out six for his first win since July of last season. He drove in half the runs, too, by belting a three-run homer over the right center wall. Before getting too carried away, though, remember that it's September - the Dodgers had five rookies in the lineup.

    The other Buc RBI were from Brandon Wood, Dewey and Ryan Ludwick. So not only did the Bucs win, but they avoided a second straight loss to castoff Dana Eveland.

    The day before, the Bucs and Charlie Morton lost to the Redbirds 3-2. It was a game that could have gone either way; both sides had beaucoup opportunity to score but squandered chances galore. Morton's downfall was a walk and hit batter to set up Yadier Molina's two-run double in the fourth.

    Today, Pittsburgh continues its left coast trip, sending Jeff Locke against Hiroki Kuroda.

    • The Pirates claimed Matt Pagnozzi, 28, off waivers yesterday from the Rockies. He's considered a strong defensive C, but is seen as a back-up rather than potential starter. Pags is a poor hitter - .220 lifetime in the minors - but does have an option remaining, which none of the other reserve catchers do, making him a potential insurance policy.
    • We're also thinking that Pittsburgh might approach Dewey to work out a deal outside the current option agreement for the next season or two. The blush is off Mike McKenry's bloom, and the Bucs just added Pagnozzi to challenge Jason Jaramillo and Scooby Doo for a role next year, though none are thought of as everyday players. Eric Fryer and Tony Sanchez are both considered at least a year away. So it might make more sense to keep an in-house starter like Doumit than to go fishing in a not very strong FA market.
    • Ohlie's dinger was the first home run hit by a Pittsburgh pitcher since Paul Maholm homered in New York on May 9th, 2009.
    • Bradenton RHP Brett Lorin has been named a Jewish minor league all-star by the Jewish Baseball News. He was named as the runner-up for best starting pitcher. Lorin finished the year 7-6 with a 2.84 ERA, 99 strikeouts, and 19 walks.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011


    RHP Edwin Jackson (4-2, 3.44) takes on RHP Charlie Morton (9-9, 3.81). This afternoon's contest is the get-away game and rubber match to boot. Game time is 12:35, and it will be shown on Root Sports.

    Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Ryan Ludwick RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Ronnie Cedeno SS, Mike McKenry C, Charlie Morton P.

    • Jeff Karstens is the Pirate nominee for the MLB Clemente Award for the player that gives back the most to the community.
    • The Bucs announced their 2012 schedule today. They open against the Phils and play KC, Minnesota and Detroit at home as interleague matchups.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Bucs Stumble To 6-4 Loss

    Hey, the park has a nice red moon shining down on it. And as any Pirate knows, "red sky at night, sailors delight..." But as the evening's events played out, you can forget that old wife's tale.

    The Cards drew first blood in the second inning. Lance Berkman singled with one out and Jeff Karstens walked Skip Schumaker on four pitches. Yadier Molina one-hopped a ball over the wall in left-center field for a ground rule double to plate a run.

    JK intentionally walked Daniel Descalso, loading the bases to face opposing pitcher Chris Carpenter. Good idea, bad execution. CC singled into center to bring home a pair of runs and put the Redbirds up 3-0.

    The Bucs came right back. Derrek Lee, Garrett Jones and Ryan Ludwick hit station-to-station singles to juice the sacks. Josh Harrison hit a grounder to first base that Pujols bobbled, scoring a run and keeping the bases jammed. But Karstens and Pedro Ciriaco struck out, and the Cardinals dodged a bullet to hold on to a 3-1 edge.

    In the third, the Bucs got a two-out dinger from Derrek Lee, his 17th and fifth as a Pirate, into right center. Dewey followed with a triple, but was stranded when Jones lined out to right.

    Rafael Furcal singled to lead off the fifth and Jon Jay doubled to right to score him as the lead grew to 4-2. Pujols reached on an infield single to the SS hole. Karstens K'ed Matt Holliday, then handed the ball to Danny Moskos. Good move; Lance Berkman bounced the first pitch to short to start an inning killing 6-4-3 DP.

    Karstens threw tonight after missing two starts and didn't look like the rest did him much good. JK went 4-1/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with a pair of walks and whiffs. He needs sharp command to get through a lineup, and didn't have it tonight. It'd be nice if a starter could go seven and give the bullpen a break, although it is well stocked now with September arms.

    The Pirates looked like they were ready to answer. Ciriaco and Neil Walker led off with singles and moved up a base on a McCutch roller. Lee lifted a fly to right, and El Nino came in. But Carpenter appealed, and ump Sam Holbrook rang up PC for leaving early.

    Clint Hurdle came out to argue, and was told by the man in blue that Ciriaco was off to the races a step too quickly. Replay showed differently; it looked like a clean bang-bang tag. Maybe Hurdle saw it on a monitor when he went to the bench. He came storming back out to gripe a little more and got the heave-ho.

    Our guess is Holbrook was looking across the field, saw the catch and turned to see the runner a couple of steps down the line (his back was turned during the actual tag), and thought he was Pedro Alvarez instead of Ciriaco and too slow to get that good a jump. Whatever, there is no appeal for the appeal, and out he remained. Ciriaco made the perfect tag just to prove that no good deed goes unpunished.

    The Pirates continued their Lastings Milledge tribute in the sixth. Dewey walked and Jones got on thanks to another error by Pujols, putting Pirates at first and third with no outs. Ludwick struck out (do you notice a pattern?) and Harrison hit a fly to shallow right.

    Doumit never so much as faked a run down the line, allowing Pujols to cut off Berkman's throw. At the same time, Jones was on his way to second and became easy pickings for Sir Albert, ending the inning.

    McCutch wasn't deterred by the base running antics. He made it elementary when he crushed a two-run, two out homer, his 23rd, to center field to tie the game at fours in the seventh.

    The eighth went quietly, and it was Hanny time in the ninth inning as he faced the bottom of the Cardinals' lineup. He was coming off a rocky 25-pitch outing yesterday, and it got rockier tonight.

    Descalso singled with one out and Tyler Greene ran for him. Nick Punto doubled to left-center field and brought him home on a perfectly executed a hit-and-run to regain the lead. Rafael Furcal reached on a Ciriaco error and Jay singled off his glove; the SS needed another inch or two of hops to haul the ball in.,

    With the bases loaded, Pujols flied out to right field, and Punto scored without drawing a throw from Jones, who looked like he had a chance on the play, even if it was slim. Chris Leroux took the ball from Hanrahan and finished the frame.

    Pittsburgh had one last hurrah left. Harrison led off with a bloop single and El Toro rolled a single up the middle. But Ciriaco blew a two-strike bunt, forcing the lead runner on a closely contested call, and The Pittsburgh Kid bounced into a 6-4-3 DP to end the sad affair.

    The good news is the bullpen appears to have regained its mojo with the reinforcements giving them a blow. Jose Veras, Jared Hughes, Daniel Moskos and Chris Leroux tossed goose eggs, even if Hanny couldn't.

    But the Bucs at the dish need some help. Going 2-for-12 with RISP and hitting into two fly ball DPs while generally looking dazed on the base paths usually isn't a recipe for success, and it sure wasn't tonight. Bad at-bats and bad base running cost them tonight's tilt.

    Edwin Jackson takes on Charlie Morton tomorrow in the get-away rubber match game.

    • The Bucs lost their 81st game tonight. The next one will mark the 19th season of losing ball in the Steel City.
    • The attendance was 16,544 for this evening's match.


    RHP Chris Carpenter (9-9, 3.75) goes against RHP Jeff Karstens (9-8, 3.32) at 7:05 PM tonight. The game will be shown on Root Sports. JK returns after skipping two starts with shoulder fatigue; his last outing was in late August when the Cards chased him early.

    Lineup: Pedro Ciriaco SS, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Ryan Doumit C, Garrett Jones RF, Ryan Ludwick LF, Josh Harrison 3B, Jeff Karstens P.

    Hey, Ciricaco is getting a reward for his heroics last night. And Dewey's in the lineup; after all these years, could they possibly still be evaluating him?

    • Dave Schoenfield of the ESPN "Sweet Spot" blog thinks that maybe Tony LaRussa overmanages a bit.
    • Mike White of the Post Gazette reported that Joe Colella, long time Hopewell High and American Legion coach, passed away Sunday at the age of 80. Joe was a member of the WPIAL and beaver County Halls of Fame, and his presence will be missed on our local diamonds. Kevin Gorman of the Tribune Review also has a story on the ol' skipper.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Ciriaco Clutch; Bucs Win 6-5

    Bad Brad and Kyle Lohse get it on tonight as Lincoln tries to earn a spot on the 2012 rotation. And Dewey is back behind the plate. His chest bruise, suffered last night, apparently responded well to a good night's sleep.

    It was a rough start. Back-to-back singles put runners on the corners, but Dewey relived some of the pressure by throwing out Jon Jay trying to steal second. Sir Albert followed with a sac fly, and it was 1-0.

    But not for long. Alex Presley singled to open the frame and Neil Walker followed with a double off of Pujol's mitt. With runners on second and third, McCutch lifted a fly to right to score the King and move The Pittsburgh Kid up a sack to third. Derrek Lee followed with another fly, and the Bucs were up 2-1.

    The second went quietly, but the Redbirds were back at it in the third. Three straight singles brought in a run, and a groundout and intentional walk loaded them for Matt Holliday, who obliged by banging into a DP. The game moved along until the bottom of the fifth, when a Presley single and Walker double off the Clemente Wall on a hit-and-run put the Bucs back on top 3-2.

    In the sixth, the edge returned to St. Louis when Pujols ripped his 35th homer into right center with Jay aboard to give the Cards a 4-3 lead. Brad Lincoln went 5-1/3 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits with two walks and a K, and Chris Leroux took over to close the frame.

    Leroux ran into a jam in the seventh, putting runners on second and third with two away. Tony Watson came on and got the third out. Jason Grilli pitched a clean eighth, shutting down the heart of the Redbird order and giving the Pirates a chance to pull it out.

    And pull it out they did. With an out, Lee walked and was replaced at first by Chase d'Arnaud. Octavio Dotel left and Mark Rezpczyniski took the ball. Dewey turned around and caught a sinker that dropped right down the middle, drilling it into right for a double to tie the game. Xavier Paul came in to run for him; don't you love September and its endless roster?

    After an intentional walk to pinch hitter Ryan Ludwick, Josh Harrison came to the plate for Pedro. He went down swinging without seeing a strike. Jason Jaramillo pinch hit for Grilli and walked to load the sacks. That brought Fernando Salas to the hill to face Pedro Ciriaco. El Nino fell behind 0-2, took a waste pitch, and then slapped a hung slider inside the right field chalk to double home a pair. After eight, it was 6-4 Bucs and Hanny time.

    Two singles around a ground out brought in a run for St. Louis. A walk and another ground out put runners at second and third with two away. Hanrahan ran the count to 2-2 on pinch hitter Corey Patterson and put him away swinging at a slider in the dirt to preserve a 6-5 Bucco win.

    Hey, they can win when the pitching's not there. They played a little D - Dewey threw out two runners and d"Arnaud made a sweet stop in the ninth - while Walker had three hits and Dewey, Jones and Presley added a pair apiece. It's only September baseball in Pittsburgh, but still a nice victory against a team that's trying hard to stay in the hunt.

    Chris Carpenter goes against Jeff Karstens tomorrow.

    • The book on Pedro Ciriaco is that he can't hit, and he does have only a tiny sample of at-bats in the show. But we hope he gets a look this month; his glove is unquestioned and he's hitting .316 in a handful of at-bats. Chase d'Arnaud has a .200 average so far, and Pedro has 6 RBI to his 3 with 100 less chances at the dish.
    • Tonight's attendance was 13,278.
    • Jen Langosch of reports that the Bucs are bailing out of the Venezuelan league and transferring their players to the Dominican league. The Domincan is home to the newish Pirate academy and is reputed to play a higher caliber of ball, so it makes sense.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Fish Sweep Bucs 4-1

    Meh, pretty much a repeat of last night. The Bucs big opportunity knocked early, but it was set up for the pitcher with two outs. The Marlins had one frame where they could do no wrong, and that was enough to down Pittsburgh 4-1 to complete the sweep.

    After a quiet start, the Pirates loaded the sacks in the second. Dewey walked with an out and Ryan Ludwick singled him to second. After a Josh Harrison force and steal of second, Ronnie Cedeno walked on a 3-2 pitch. J-Mac struck out swinging after four pitches, and that ended that.

    The Fish threatened in the fourth on the strength of a walk, hit batter and passed ball, but McDonald worked out of it. But he didn't have an answer in the fifth.

    After a lead off walk, the next pair of Marlins were retired. But the third out would remain elusive. A double, single, walk and double, all with two outs, would make it 4-0, and that was the game. J-Mac went 4-2/3 innings, giving up four runs on five hits with four walks, a hit batter and three Ks.

    In the seventh, Harrison singled with an out, went to second on a grounder and came in on Jason Jaramillo's knock up the middle. That ended the day's excitement.

    The Bucs collected six hits; that gives them seven in the last two games as Javier Vazquez shut them down today. The starting pitching hasn't been great, but with the ways the bats are going, anything short of a goose egg is asking for trouble.

    The Cards come to town tomorrow. Kyle Lohse faces Brad Lincoln.

    • Dewey left the game in the fourth inning. He set up outside, the pitch came inside, and he whiffed on it, catching it off the chest protector and watching it bounce halfway to the hill. J-Mac said he missed the sign; Doumit was expecting a curve away and got a heater in. The result was a chest contusion.
    • Today was the seventh time this season that James McDonald has been unable to finish five innings. The third time around the lineup seems to be Achille's Heel. Whether that's a conditioning (mental and physical) or strategic problem, it's holding J-Mac back from becoming a pitcher a team can rely on. Maybe that's why LA had him in the pen.
    • The Pirates, in a widely expected move, extended the contract of GM Neal Huntington through 2014 with a club option for 2015. Love 'em or hate 'em, he'll be around for awhile. And at least this time they announced it; maybe the FO is growing up a little.


    RHP Javier Vazquez (9-11, 4.29) matches up against RHP James McDonald (9-7, 3.98). The game is scheduled for 1:35 PM and will be shown on Root Sports.

    Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Ryan Doumit C, Ryan Ludwick RF, Josh Harrison 3B, Ronnie Cedeno SS, James McDonald P.

    We'll see how much Clint Hurdle alternates Cedeno with Pedro Ciriaco and Chase d'Arnaud. And we know the skipper doesn't have a lot of options, but we hate seeing Walker bat second; we much prefer fifth.

    And hey, try to catch and appreciate the pre-game ceremony. God protect our military and public safety men and women who selflessly head toward the gunfire. Freedom is never free, and the folk being honored are often the ones who pay the dearest cost.

    • The Pirates look like they'll go with a six-man rotation the rest of the season, consisting of Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Locke, James McDonald, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton.
    • Chase d'Arnaud will play winter ball after the season; his destination is yet to be determined.
    • Richard Peterson recalls the "Angels In the Outfield" flick (and could the team use some heavenly intervention now!) in the Post Gazette and then moves on to an older era of the 1925 World Series champ Pirates and the Bucs greatest third baseman, Pie Traynor. He asks when his statue is going up; after all, Traynor became the first third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. In 1969, the year of baseball's centennial, he was selected as the greatest third baseman in baseball history.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Sanchez One Hits Bucs, Wins 3-0

    Sorry for missing the recap and notes today, fans. Sometimes even a blogger has to step back and take a breath. After a nine-run outburst by the Marlins last night that featured seeing eye balls, a homer that bounced off the heel of Alex Presley's glove and a barrage of ropes that eventually morphed into a 13-4 pasting, we needed a Pirate-free quiet time.

    After jogging through the park, mowing the lawn and playing with the kid's pit bull, GW was ready to face another game. It has a nice September feel to it; Jeff Locke is getting his first MLB start while Pedro and Chase are starting.

    Locke showed some nerves in the first, throwing twenty pitches while bopping a batter and walking another. But he kept them from touching the plate, so it's a great start. In the second, he gave up his first hit and collected his first K. Locke also got his first at-bat, unfortunately a two-out whiff with the bases juiced.

    The third, last night's Armegeddon, didn't start off very well for Locke, An infield single and a pair of walks surrounding a bunt put him quickly behind the eight ball. A two-run single by John Buck put him behind, period, 2-0. He got out of the inning when Don Murphy hit a sac fly/DP, something you don't see very often.

    The fly to center scored a run, but Murphy got caught between the bases and tagged out at second after Derrek Lee cut McCutch's throw. Still, 3-0 Fish. Despite loading the bases last inning, the Bucs aren't faring very well off Anibal Sanchez. He's given up a hit and K'ed six in three frames; the Pirates can't lay off his slider or change, and Sanchez is living up to his rep as a swing-and-miss hurler.

    The fourth didn't get off to a great beginning, either, with back-to-back soft singles. But the Fish bunted into the wheel play to force the lead runner, and a 6-4-3 got Locke out of the jam. The game went quietly through five, and Locke was pulled for a pinch hitter.

    He went five innings, giving up three runs on five hits along with four walks, a hit batter, and a whiff, throwing 82 pitches. Locke wasn't terribly impressive, but it's possible his control problems had more to do with butterflies than wildness; he walked 3 guys per nine in the minors this year. Locke is a pitch-to-contact hurler (after the first inning, seven of the nine outs he recorded were grounders with a K) and unafraid to work inside. Chris Leroux took the hill for the Pirates.

    He shut down the Marlins, the team that drafted and released him, as Sanchez continued dealing. After seven, it was still 3-0 Florida, and the Bucs still had one hit. And that's all they would get. Sanchez pitched a complete game shutout with 11 K's to lead the Marlins to a 3-0 win. He threw 119 pitches and 86 were strikes, even with three walks.

    Javier Vazquez goes against James McDonald tomorrow. The Pirates will honor the heroes of 9/11 and the region's first responders before the game.

    • Happy birthday, Neil Walker. The Pittsburgh Kid turned 26 today.
    • Chris Leroux had his streak of 21 consecutive batters put down ended by an Emilio Bonifacio single in the seventh.
    • The Bucs drew 34,063 fans for the last Fireworks night of the season.
    • Pittsburgh was eliminated from winning the NL Central last night and from the wildcard race tonight.
    • The Pirates asked for a league review of Friday's scoring call that gave Florida's Omar Infante a homer on a ball that bounced off OF'er Alex Presley's glove and over the wall in the third inning.

    Friday, September 9, 2011


    The Marlins come to town tonight. RHP Ricky Nolasco (9-10, 4.39) will tangle with Ross the Boss Ohlendorf (0-1, 6.35) at 7:05 PM. Root Sports will televise the game.

    Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Ryan Doumit C, Ryan Ludwick RF, Josh Harrison 3B, Pedro Ciriaco SS, Ross Ohlendorf P.

    Ciriaco gets the start at short and Harrison at third.

    • When the Pirates trot out Jeff Locke to pitch tomorrow, he'll become the 51st player Pittsburgh has used this season, tying the record for most players set last year.
    • Jeff Karstens will rejoin the rotation Tuesday.
    • OK, Evan Meek has been back since Tuesday, Clint. Use him already!
    • Matt Hague, Gorkys Hernandez, Bryan Morris,Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson are all in Pittsburgh. They're not being added to the roster, but here to be coached up a little and experience the Pirate routine. 
    • Bradenton lost the rubber match of their Class A playoff semifinal 4-3 in ten innings to St. Lucie last nite. Two walks and a two-out single did them in.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Off Day News

      A couple of tidbits to help pass a gray off day...
    • The beat gang reports that the Pirates may finish out the season with a six man rotation so that LHP Jeff Locke gets some work this month.
    • Bradenton clocked St. Lucie 10-0 last night to even their semi-final series for the High Class A Florida State League crown at a game apiece. RHP Brett Lorin gave up two hits over six innings, and three relievers threw perfect ball over the final three frames to finish out the win. Calvin Anderson drove in three runs while Adalberto Santos and Ramon Cabrera had three knocks to lead the attack.
    • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors looked at starting pitchers with options next year. He doesn't see the Pirates exercising their option on Paul Maholm, although he did site some "mutual interest" and thinks the D-Backs will pass on his old running mate, Zach Duke, who ended up in the pen.
    • Ex-Bucco and current Brewer OF'er Nyjer Morgan isn't winning many fans in St. Louis after emptying the benches yesterday according to's Adam McCalvy.
    • Dennis Bair, who pitched at Allderdice, Pitt and in the Cubs organization before three surgeries ended his career, now coaches and heads the BairFind Foundation. His foundation uses ballparks as staging grounds to locate missing children. And it works; Joe Koch of the Post-Gazette reports that his efforts have led to six children being returned to their families.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    McCutch, Bullpen Rally Bucs Past 'Stros 5-4

    The Bucs send Brian Burres out to try to take the rubber match in the series against Houston and JA Happ. It was not a grand start.

    BB got the first pair of 'Stros to bounce out before JD Martinez smacked a single. That was followed by a Carlos Lee homer, which was ten feet fair up the left field line and dropped into the second row, just over the mitt of a leaping Alex Presley. Matt Downs then drilled a liner off the foul pole, and it was 3-0 Houston.

    Pittsburgh got a run back when McCutch clobbered his 21st long ball of the year, a bomb to right center. The next two innings went quietly, with the Astros blowing a golden opportunity in the second. The first two hitters singled, but a bad bunt wasted an out and Burres wriggled out of the jam.

    In the fourth, Clint Barmes banged his tenth long ball of the year, dropping it three rows deep in the left field corner, to make it 4-1. A missed third strike by McKenry, ruled a wild pitch, and a two-out single brought on Jared Hughes. He got a comebacker on the first MLB pitch he threw to finish the frame. BB went 3-2/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with two Ks.

    The Bucs tried to answer when Derrek Lee led off with a knock, but the next trio of Pirates went down on strikes. JA Happ has six Ks in four innings. After Hughes put up another goose egg, the Bucs came back. Brandon Wood drew a one out walk, and with two away, Presley singled. McCutch took a first pitch heater and played the Astro game, pulling a ball inside the left field pole that ended up in the seats a few rows deep to make it a tie game.

    Lee followed with a single and Neil Walker drew a base on balls after a hard fought nine pitch at-bat; Happ was up to 118 pitches, but stayed on the get Ryan Ludwick on a pop. It's home run or no count so far, and 4-4 after five frames.

    D-Mac came on for the Pirates and worked a quiet sixth. David Carpenter took the ball for Houston and returned the favor. Chris Leroux climbed the hill for the seventh and pitched a clean frame. Fernando Rodriguez emerged from the pen for Houston. Presley singled, was bunted to second, and McCutch walked after being in an 0-2 hole. F-Rod got Lee swinging and Walker on a 3-2 grounder, and it remained knotted.

    Leroux put away the first two hitters in the eighth - that's seventeen straight batters that he's retired - before he got the hook when Brian Bogusevic came on to pinch hit. Clint Hurdle responded by bringing on Tony Watson to get a lefty-on-lefty matchup. It took Watson one pitch to get a grounder to short and move on to the bottom of the inning.

    It was Wil Lopez's turn to toss 'em for the Astros. With one out, Hurdle sent up a pinch hit parade. First was Garrett Jones, who rolled a single up the middle and was replaced on the bases by Chase d'Arnaud. That was followed by a Dewey single to right to put runners at first and second. Jason Jaramillo grabbed a bat, and Sergio Escalona came in for Houston.

    JJ turned around to the right side and kept the PH mojo going with an RBI single that ended up an inning-ending DP. Jaramillo got caught in a rundown heading for second when the throw went home, and Dewey was thrown out handily at the plate after JJ was tagged out. Nothin' like have two catchers on the base paths at once, hey? At any rate, the Bucs were up 5-4 with Hanny on the hill.

    After two ground outs, Hanrahan caught a call on a 3-2 heater that was away to whiff Jordan Schafer looking, and the Bucs took the series. For Hanny, it was save #36, and Tony Watson got his second big league win.

    Play a clean game in the field, have your bullpen toss 5-1/3 scoreless frames and get a three run homer...that'll work most of the time.

    The Pirates are off tomorrow before Florida comes to town.

    • Baseball's a funny game - Tony Watson threw one pitch and got the win tonight. That was one heck of a fastball, even though it was only clocked at 90.
    • Clint Hurdle won his 600th MLB game with the Bucco victory over Houston. His overall record is 600-702.
    • The Bucs have homered in five consecutive games, the longest streak of power they've put together this season.
    • Jose Veras (73) and Chris Resop (69) are second and fifth in NL appearances, while D-Mac is third in relief innings with 76. That work load may have something to do with their recent problems on the hill.
    • Tonight's game drew 12,330. 
    • The Pirates are 22-1-1 in series when they win the first game of the set (they're 2-17-4 when they lose the opener). The problem isn't winning series, but sweeping them. Pittsburgh has swept just two series all year while being swept a dozen times.
    • The Pirates are also 58-1 when leading going into the ninth, a tribute to Hanny, who finished off 36 of those wins.
    • Attendance is picking up all over. In their second year, the Bradenton Marauders drew a total regular season attendance of 103,978 fans for 2011. The number doubles the inaugural season attendance of 51,856.

    Pitching For 2012

    Time has caught up to the Buc rotation.

    Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm are both on the 60-day DL, ending their seasons. Jeff Karstens missed two starts and is due back on the 19th; Brian Burres picked up a pair of starts in his stead. The latest to get a day off because of fatigue is Charlie Morton, who will skip Saturday and be replaced by Jeff Locke. James McDonald is the only pitcher from the original rotation left standing in September.

    Maholm and Correia were surprises as both had been workhorses throughout their career. But you could see it coming; Maholm was hit hard in July, though he managed games pretty well. But in August, his ERA jumped to 6.75. Correia's July ERA was 6.08 , and August's was worse at  8.41.

    Karstens had a 7.46 ERA in August.  After a horrible May, Morton looked as if he had found himself. But in his last three starts, he only lasted 14 innings with a 7.23 ERA. Both were over 150 IP, career highs, and both also had career highs in wins with nine. This year should serve as a springboard for them.

    J-Mac has emerged as the Buccos future go-to guy. After being pushed around in April, missing most of spring camp with an injury to his left side, he became the Pirates most consistent arm. In the following months, he never had an ERA higher than 3.93 and was clocked in at 2.86 in May. When he learns to manage his pitch count, McDonald should become a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm that can miss bats.

    In the long view, the rotation losing guys is something to be expected. To lose them all at once was brutal, and the August collapse as fatigue took its toll on the team saw the Pirates free-fall out of contention and even a chance to finish at .500.

    For the immediate future, the rotation is Brian Burres, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Locke, James McDonald, and Brad Lincoln.

    And that's not all bad. Paul Maholm is likely to not return. J-Mac, Morton, Karstens, Correia and Lincoln will form next year's nucleus for now, with Locke knocking on the door and Ohlie likely to get a look from the pen.

    Altoona's Aaron Thompson and Kyle McPherson should be starting at Indy next season while Justin Wilson and Rudy Owens will try to get back on track. And don't forget about Jose Ascanio, who was thrown into the fire after a long layoff. After a rough start at Indy, he's recovered to K 50 batters in 44 innings while walking just 15 and was stretched out as a starter if the Pirates do choose to bring him back.

    The prediction of the Pirate arms falling off in the dog days unfortunately came true. But the silver lining is that next year, there should be a deeper staff, albeit without an ace, and one with some experience. Some freshly scrubbed faces are finally reaching AAA. And in a couple of years, hopefully one of those young guns the FO has horded will fill in the top of the rotation.

    It may be a couple of seasons from fruition, but at least the Pirate pitching is beginning to build.


    JA Happ (5-15, 5.71) will face Brian Burres (1-0, 1.69) in a battle of lefties tonight. The rubber match of the series will start at 7:05 PM and be shown on Root Sports.

    Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Josh Harrison 3B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Ryan Ludwick RF, Ronny Cedeno SS, Mikie McKenry C, Brian Burres P.

    We were curious; Ludwick will move to right and Presley will stay in left.

    • The next Pirate loss or Brewer victory eliminates Pittsburgh from winning the Central Division championship. Boy, that race went by the boards quick!
    • The honors keep rollin' in for Starling Marte. He was named the Eastern League Player of the Month for August. He hit .393 with 9 doubles, 5 HR, 28 runs, 15 RBI and a .650 slugging %.
    • Mac Prine, the Pirates president in the mid eighties, died yesterday. Jim Leyland joined the team during his watch.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Myers, Quintero Stop Bucs Cold 4-1

    It's rainy night in Pittsburgh as the Bucs have at it with Houston again in front of a handful of die hard fans, announced at 9,840 but probably closer to 3-4,000. Forget two million in attendance, with the last long homestand coming during monsoon season.

    Brad Lincoln had one rough inning, the second. Carlos Lee led off with a soft single and stole second; the Pirates are giving up stolen bases like they're bobbleheads lately. Brian Bogusevic rolled one into right to put runners on the corners. Lee scored on a weak grounder to second. The Bucs couldn't turn the DP, and it would haunt them when Humberto Quintero doubled with two away (and the pitcher on deck).

    The Bucs scored in their half on a Dewey homer, his eighth. Unfortunately Neil Walker, who had singled ahead of him, was caught stealing before the blast.

    And it stayed that way through six with neither team getting a runner past second. Bad Brad departed after the sixth frame, giving up two runs on five hits with six K's on 97 pitches.

    Chris Resop was in a bit of hot water in the seventh, but helped save his own bacon. The first two guys singled, and the Pirates again couldn't turn a DP on a grounder to second. The pitcher, Brett Myers, laid down a bunt on a suicide squeeze, and Resop got to the ball, went home, and Dewey blocked the plate and dropped the tag in one smooth motion to save the run.

    The Bucs couldn't solve Myers, who came into the game on a seven game losing streak and 6+ ERA. He eventually put himself in the shower in the eighth when he threw away a two out grounder by Josh Harrison, who busted it up the line and ended up on second. After a walk, Garrett Jones flew out to short right to end the frame. Myers left with a four-hitter through 7-2/3 innings.

    The Astros iced it in the ninth. Jose Veras walked Bogusevic after a hard fought nine pitch at-bat, followed by a Jimmy Paredes shot to left center that McCutch overran by a half step. It was ruled a double, and would prove big when both runners scored an out later on a Quintero single, giving him 3 RBI on the night. Danny Moskos finished off the frame without any further damage.

    Mark Melanchon was dinged for a Lee single in the ninth, but otherwise had no problem collecting his 17th save.

    Not much to this game. The Pirates cranked out just five hits, and couldn't make enough plays in the field to support the pitching.

    JA Happ and Brian Burres get the nod tomorrow.

    • A couple of questions: Has Jose Veras worked his way out of Pittsburgh's 2012 plans? Has Dewey worked his way back into them? Has Paul Maholm pitched his last game as a Bucco? And whassup with McCutch, who is now hitting just .267?
    • Ends up that JT's sore wrist was caused by a small fracture. He'll get ten days of treatment and rest before being reevaluated. Guess it's a good thing Ryan Ludwick is coming back tomorrow.


    RHP Brad Lincoln (1-1, 3.64) takes on RHP Brett Myers (3-13, 4.81) at 7:05 tonight, weather permitting. The game will be shown on Root Sports.

    Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Garrett Jones RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Ryan Doumit C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Chase d'Arnaud SS, Brad Lincoln P.

    Looks like a kinda random lineup to us; guess that's how September will go. We're still a little befuddled how Matt Hague and Gorkys Hernandez can tear it up and not get a call while Pedro gets his job handed back to him. We keep getting confused by that "accountability" thing.

    • Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia are done for 2011; both were transferred from the 15-day to 60-day DL. Evan Meek was removed from the DL and is back in Pittsburgh.
    • The September call-ups are RHP Jared Hughes, LHPs Aaron Thompson, Jeff Locke & Dan Moskos, and 3B Pedro Alvarez.
    • Yesterday was only the second time RHP James McDonald worked more than seven innings (he went 7-1/3 frames) in his short career. He went eight innings last September against the Mets..
    • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has a post about players with options at the end of the year. The Bucs have three - Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, and Ronny Cedeno - and he expects the Pirates to pass on all three.
    • West Virginia Power RHP Zack Von Rosenberg was named the Class A South Atlantic League pitcher of the week for throwing 6 perfect innings with 6 strikeouts in his last start.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    J-Mac Sharp, Bucs Win 3-1

    The Bucs were determined to get today's game in, as the Astros were here for their last visit to Pittsburgh and the wet weather was supposed to keep on comin'. They did, too, although the announced crowd of 13,336 may have been half that in reality.

    It required an hour delay to get the field back in shape and the game was played in a drizzle, but it was worth the effort as the Pirates played a much cleaner game today than yesterday and came home with a 3-1 win.

    As with most victories, it started with the pitching. J-Mac had one of his better outings of the year, going 7-1/3 innings and giving up a run on three hits with three walks and six K's. The only tally he surrendered was partially on him and partially on JT. McDonald's mistake was walking pitcher Henry Sosa on four pitches; JT's was misplaying a two-out fly ball into a triple to let him score in the third.

    The inning before, the Bucs missed their first opportunity against Sosa thanks to a slow field. Neil Walker drew a one-out walk and Dewey doubled him to third. Doumit's ball had a chance to get to the wall, but was cut off after taking a couple of soft bounces in the soggy OF.

    With the infield in, Josh Harrison hit a grounder that was slicing away from third; Walker hesitated and started home. He was easy pickings at the dish when the ball hit the turf and took a couple of small hops into the glove of third baseman Jimmy Paredes. Gotta watch that ball go through, Neil.

    The Pirates rallied in the fourth. The soft field helped when McCutch led off with an infield single that was double clutched by Paredes followed by Derrek Lee getting plunked on the back. Doumit drilled a one-out double to plate one run and a Harrison knock up the middle scored another. Ronny Cedeno walked to load the bases, but J-Mac rolled back to the hill to start an inning ending 1-2-3 DP.

    Lee gave the Bucs a big insurance run in the eighth when he popped his 16th homer the opposite way off Wil Lopez to make it 3-1.

    The Astros had a couple of chances, but couldn't deliver the clutch knock. Jordan Schaefer was thrown out at home in the sixth trying to score on a grounder to Walker. In the eighth, they chased J-Mac with a pair of walks, but Jason Grilli put out the fire. And Hanny gave up two hits and a walk in the ninth, but Paredes was thrown out by Walker trying to score on a bloop, and Hanrahan left runners on second and third to notch his 35th save.

    Pittsburgh didn't exactly blast the cover off the ball today, but they were sharp in the field except for Tabata's misadventure (and that's just part of the learning process; the balls sent to right generally have opposite reads of those hit to left). When you get good pitching, that's often enough.

    Brett Myers squares off against Brad Lincoln tomorrow.

    • Dewey had three hits, including two doubles, to up his BA to .291.
    • JT left the game in the fourth when his wrist acted up on him. We expect to see him with plenty of down time this month, especially with Ryan Ludwick due back Wednesday.
    • Brian Burres will take Jeff Karstens' start Wednesday.
    • Chris Snyder is officially done for the year.
    • Clint Hurdle told the beat gang that Matt Hague and Gorkys Hernandez won't get called to Pittsburgh after Indy's season. With Derrek Lee getting the nod at first and four OF'ers to rotate, he said there just aren't enough at-bats available to get them any meaningful playing time.
    • Starling Marte won the 2011 Eastern League batting title today. He hit .332 for Altoona, and his 178 hits set a Curve record.

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Bucs Go Down 6-3

    Could the Bucs actually sweep somebody? Well, hey, let's not get crazy.

    The score may have been 6-3 Cubs, but the Bucs played another game where they couldn't do any of the little, professional things right. A thrown away DP ball; fours steals against (two didn't even draw a throw, and the two that did weren't close enough to merit a tag), nine walks, no one covering first on a bunt, a runner scoring from second on an infield single, a starting pitcher that couldn't get through the fifth, loading the bases with no outs and not scoring, eight more strikeouts...*sigh* It's enough to drive a Sunday School teacher to drink.

    The Bucs scored in the first when Alex Presley singled, stole second, and scored on Derrek Lee's two-out knock. Then they were goosed egged until the eighth, when Neil Walker drilled his twelfth homer with Lee aboard. The Cubs scored by plating runs in five different innings against three pitchers. They didn't have any extra base hits; the walks and miscues were plenty enough to prime the pump. Chicago still stranded 13 runners, keeping the score respectable.

    The Pirates are home tomorrow for Labor Day against the Astros. Henry Sosa takes on James McDonald.

    • Altoona announced their 2011 team awards: MVP - Starling Marte, Pitcher of Year - Kyle McPherson, Fireman of Year - Bryan Morris, Unsung Hero - Mike Colla, Iron Man & Teammate of the Year - Brock Holt. Even nicer, Marte was also named the Eastern League Rookie of the Year, the first Curve player ever to win that honor.


    RHP Charlie Morton (9-8, 3.74) takes on RHP Randy Wells (6-4, 5.06) at 2:20 PM. The game will be shown on Root Sports.

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

    McKenry remains Morton's caddy, and Brandon Wood remains the forgotten man as Harrison gets a long look. The middle of the order looks a lot more potent with Lee in the middle, doesn't it? JT gets the day off, we're assuming to rest his wrist. It'll be a heck of a juggling act for Clint Hurdle to work McCutch, Tabata, Presley, Ludwick and possibly Jones into an outfield rotation this month.

    • Derrek Lee's grand slam yesterday shouldn't have been that big a surprise (except for the superb timing); he now has seven at Wrigley Field, one behind the all-time leader Ernie Banks.
    • Indy was officially eliminated from playoff consideration yesterday, and Pedro Ciriaco got the September call-up, his sixth promotion to the big club this season. The tribe season ends Monday afternoon, so that's when the remaining call-ups should come. Ciriaco got an early nod probably as both a reward for his travel miles and because the Bucs don't have a legitimate backup glove for the middle infield.

    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    Lee Stuns Cubs 7-5

    The Bucs are going for two in a row, yes baby.

    Started off OK, too. Alex Presley doubled with an out and McCutch walked. Derrek Lee, in his first at bat since coming off the DL, singled the King home on the first pitch he saw. A misadventure on the basepaths ended the frame when Walker lined out softly to left and McCutch, almost at third, was doubled up, thinking the ball would get down.

    Ohlie struggled in the first, as did his defense. He plunked a pair of batters - maybe A-Ram's brushback was payback for McCutch getting hit yesterday - and gave up a single while the infield failed to turn a couple of DP grounders. But all it cost were some extra pitches; the Cubs failed to score and it remained 1-0.

    Chicago tied it in the third. A-Ram singled and went to third on a Carlos Pena double. Alfonso Soriano lifted a sac fly to knot the game. A nice play by Josh Harrison at the hot corner ended the inning and saved the go-ahead run from touching home.

    The Bucs came right back. Lee singled, and then was erased on a Walker force out. The Pittsburgh Kid plated when Dewey dropped a double the opposite way that Soriano had trouble handling to put the Pirates on top 2-1.

    Ohlie put himself behind the eight ball in the Cub half. Darwin Barney led off with a swinging bunt single to third, and then Ohlendrof threw eight straight balls to walk Ramirez and Pena. He got ahead of Soriano 0-2, but threw 3 of the next four pitches, all sliders, in the dirt, giving Dewey quite the workout. Soriano got a 3-2 heater and ripped it into left to tie the game.

    That was it; Chris Leroux came on to inherit the mess. Ohlie went four innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and two K's. Marlin Byrd chopped one in the hole, and Ronny Cedeno got the out at third, his only play and a heads up one at that, as the go ahead run crossed the plate. Leroux did a nice job of limiting the damage, getting a pop and soft fly to stem the bleeding.

    Cedeno started the seventh with a triple off reliever Kerry Wood. Pinch hitter Garrett Jones pounded a curve deep into straight center. The park held it, but RC jogged home to tie the score. The Bucs threatened to take the lead, but with two on and two away, Lee flew out to left center.

    D-Mac took the hill, and A-Ram banged a 3-2 heater down the middle into left for a lead off knock. Pena walked on four pitches. A wild pitch moved them up a station, and Soriano smacked a change into left for a double and his third and fourth RBI of the day to put the Cubs up 5-3. D-Mac plunked Byrd on a 1-2 pitch, and Chris Resop took the ball.

    Not for long; three pitches into his outing it began to rain, and the tarps came out. Ninety minutes later, they were rolled back, and CR put down the Cubbie uprising. The eighth went quietly.

    Carlos Marmol came out looking for the save, and like Jose Veras, he can be very very good...or not. Today was an "or not" afternoon. Xavier Paul led off with a pinch-hit single to right field. Marmol struck out the next two Buccos, then did a 180 and walked Jose Tabata and McCutch.

    That brought up old Cubbie Derrek Lee, and he dropped a 1-1 slider barely over the ivy in left for a grand salami and his fifteenth dinger of the year. It was his first at-bat against him since Marmol hit Lee to put him on the DL; payback is a beach, hey? The Pirates were up 7-5, and Hanny put down the Cubs in order for his 34th save and Resop's fifth win.

    We'll give the Bucs credit for grinding this game out, and in dramatic fashion. They could have won it with a lot less stress if they would have done some damage against a rotation back-ender with a 7+ ERA and thrown a few strikes, but hey, whatever works. It's not like the Cubs didn't have ample chances themselves. They stranded 12 and were 2-for-15 with RISP. It's nice to steal one for a change.

    Charlie Morton takes on Randy Wells tomorrow.

    • Alex Presley had three straight hits before K'ing on a check swing in the seventh to give him six consecutive knocks, tied with McCutch for the longest hit string  this season.
    • In a not very big surprise, 1B Matt Hague was selected as Indy's MVP. The 26 year old has a line of .308/12/74 going into today. He's shown a pretty good eye - his MiL OBP is .370 and never been under .356 - doesn't K much, and is a strong gap hitter, with 30+ doubles for three seasons running. His bat is his tool; Hague isn't considered much of a glove man or runner, but you'd think that he'd be in the mix for a look at 1B next year. Dunno if he'll get a shot in September, although he deserves one, as Derrek Lee looks to eat up most of the at-bats this month.


    RHP Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 6.27) goes against RHP Casey Coleman (2-7, 7.14). The game begins at 1:05 and will be shown on Root Sports.

    Lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Alex Presley LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Derrek Lee 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Ryan Doumit C, Josh Harrison 3B, Ronny Cedeno SS, Ross Ohlendorf P

    Derrek Lee and McCutch are in the lineup, both guys that were shelved after taking pitches off the hand. Caveat emptor: with an hour and a half to go before gametime, the lineup is still considered "tentative."

    • Pedro suiting up for the Bucs in September is not a slam dunk. "I don't think there is entitlement right now for Pedro," Clint Hurdle told Jen Langosch of "I think Pedro has to earn his way. He needs to figure some things out in this environment. We are having some conversations on whether it'd be beneficial for him to come back." El Toro has continued his hitting funk at Indy, and it's not going to get any easier in the show.
    • The Bucs aren't sure if Paul Maholm or Kevin Correia will return this season. A decision on their status should be reached this week.
    • Ryan Ludwick homered in his first rehab game at Indy. Guess the back is feeling better, so he should be ready to return Wednesday. 
    • Nice way to end the year - RHP Zack Von Rosenberg hurled six perfect innings in his final regular-season start for Class A West Virginia. After a horrid start, his pitching has been sharp during the last few weeks.
    • Short season State College has named outfielder Wes Freeman the team's MVP for the 2011 season. Freeman hit .304 with 14 doubles, six homers and 25 RBIs in 50 games with the Spikes. He'll finish the season with Low A West Virginia.

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Burres, Bullpen Lead Bucs To 3-1 Victory

    Hey, for a day at least, the old magic was back. The Bucs got just enough offense and the pitching was strong as Pittsburgh came out on top 3-1.

    Brian Burres joined the rotation pretty much because he was rested and, well, there really wasn't really anyone else at Indy left to replace Jeff Karstens. He spun 5-1/3 innings, giving up only a solo shot by Carlos Pena among his five hits, walk and five K's.

    The Pirate bullpen showed its stuff today. Jason Grilli, Chris Leroux, Jose Veras and Hanny were tough. They didn't allow a runner in 3-2/3 frames while whiffing five.

    Pena's 25th long ball in the second gave the Cubbies an early 1-0 lead. The Bucs took command in the third. Alex Presley tripled and came home on a liner barely high enough to clear Darwin Barney's mitt  by Josh Harrison. Garrett Jones doubled him home, but the Bucs lost a likely run when the ivy ate the ball. Neil Walker, who had drawn a free pass behind Jay Hey, had to hold up at third on the ground rule two bagger.

    The Bucs added an insurance run in the seventh when Presley bopped his second triple with one away. Harrison popped out, but JT picked him up with a big single to make it 3-1, the eventual final score.

    But every silver lining has a cloud wrapped around it. McCutch got drilled in the hand batting in the first inning - everyone loves working him high and tight this year - and had to leave the game. But it doesn't appear to be a break; the early prognosis is that the injury is just a bruise that may cost him a game or two.

    It's never easy for the Pirates. They banged out eight hits, but also went down on strikes ten times, which contributed mightily to the eleven stranded runners. The bats left two aboard four times and lost a chance at setting the table when Xavier Paul was thrown out trying to get to third from first on an infield single, to the left side yet.

    But with the Bucco bullpen hitting on all gears today - Veras and Hanrahan K'ed four of the final six Cubs - it was enough. The game earned the first win of the season for Burres and Hanny's 33rd save.

    Ross Ohlendorf takes the hill against Casey Coleman tomorrow afternoon.

    • The King, Alex Presley, was on base four times against the Cubs with three hits and a walk, scoring twice. His two triples were the first time a Bucco has done that since June of 2009, when McCutch pulled off the same feat against the Braves, in 15 innings.
    • Bad Brad Lincoln is multi-talented; he was called on to pinch hit today. Did OK, too, spanking a ball to the shortstop hole that Starlin Castro stopped with a very nice sliding backhand grab. Lincoln was a DH back in his college days at Houston.
    • Jose Tabata was supposed to get the day off with a sore wrist, but was called into duty when McCutch went down in the first inning.
    • Ryan Ludwick is at Indy, where he'll play four rehab games before coming off the DL. The Tribe is in the hunt for a playoff spot, so the FO is killing two birds with one stone by letting Ludwick play for them.
    • Pittsburgh won its 63rd game today. They may not hit .500, but at least now they can't lose 100 games as they did in 2010 (105, to be exact).


     LHP Brian Burres (0-0, 0.00) takes on Chicago's RHP Ryan Dempster (10-10, 4.76). The game starts at 2:20 PM and will be aired by 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, Brian Burres P.

    • Jose Tabata is still out with a sore wrist.
    • Garrett Jones had yesterday off with a sore back. He may be back in the lineup today. 
    • Derrek Lee is getting close and may be ready to play by the weekend; Ryan Ludwick comes off the DL on Wednesday.
    • Joel Hanrahan passed on an interesting theory to Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review. He doesn't trace the Bucs' current woes to the  infamous Jerry Meals 19 inning loss at Atlanta, but rather to the All-Star break "We were in a great spot...When you're on a hot streak, you don't want to stop and take four days off."
    • Brady Smith from the Heinz History Center has quickie bio of the Smiling Irishman, Danny Murtaugh, from yesterday's Post Gazette.

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Same Ol' Bucs

    Dana Eveland pitched three games last year for the Pirates last season, with an 8.38 ERA in 9-2/3 innings. Well, he made his season debut today against his old mates and lasted eight innings, allowing one run on six hits while striking out three.

    If you figure that's the line for another Bucco loss, you figured right.

    Brad Lincoln pitched six innings, and would have done pretty well if he was allowed a mulligan for the first inning. He gave up back-to-singles to open the game, followed by an intentional walk. A single and sac fly made it 3-0 before the few fans in the house could say "hi" to the beer salesman.

    The Pirates chipped away a bit in the second. Ryan Doumit singled and went to third on Neil Walker's knock. He plated when Josh Harrison grounded into a double play, arrrrrgh!

    After that, it was a whole lot of pitching going on, Lincoln allowed two hits through the next four innings while Eveland gave up three hits in the opening five rounds. In the sixth, though, Bad Brad tried hard to shoot himself in the foot.

    After walking Andre Ethier to start the inning, Tony Gwynn Jr. singled off Lincoln with one away. He was caught stealing, but Lincoln walked the seven hitter and plunked the eight hole guy to load the bases. Eveland drilled one to center, but McCutch ran it down to end the inning and save Lincoln's bacon.

    Jason Grilli took over in the seventh, and the Buc D did him in. James Loney singled and went to third on Kemp's infield knock, generously ruled after a throwing error by Chase d'Arnaud. Dewey let a ball skip off the end of his mitt, and the passed ball made it 4-1.

    The Dodgers scored two more runs on three hits off Chris Resop in the eighth. The clutch blow was a bases-loaded, two-run double by Dee Gordon ripped down the right field line.

    The Buc offense finally woke up, albeit way too late. Alex Presley's second home run, a two-run shot to right off Blake Hawksworth, cut the score to 6-3 in the ninth. Neil Walker's sacrifice fly scored McCutch, who had walked. With Dewey aboard - he had three hits today - the Pirates had the tying run at the plate with one out. But Kenley Jansen struck out Harrison and Brandon Wood to close the Bucs out and earn his third save.

    Well, it was a quick pit stop before going back on the road. The Bucs are on their way to Wrigley tomorrow, where Brian Burres goes against Ryan Dempster tomorrow afternoon.

    • The Pirates drew 12,224 fans to the 4 o'clock make up.
    • Talk about worng place, wrong time: the Dodgers won their fourth straight and ninth of their last ten. The Bucs? They've lost five straight and seven of the past eight.


    RHP Brad Lincoln (1-0, 3.42) faces LHP Dana Eveland (0-0, 0.00). Yep, that Dana Eveland, the one the Bucs traded Ron Uviedo for not so long ago before releasing him. The game is a make-up and will start at 4:05 PM. It will be aired on Root Sports.

    Lineup: Jose  Tabata RF, Alex Presley LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Ryan Doumit C, Neil Walker 2B, Josh Harrison 3B, Brandon Wood 1B, Chase d'Arnaud SS, Brad Lincoln P.

    Wood returns to the land of the living while Ronny Cedeno takes a seat again. Looks like his inconsistency, physical and mental, are wearing out the ol' skipper's patience.

    • The beat gang expects C Jason Jaramillo and LHP Brian Burres to be the first pair of call-ups.
    • Among the names mentioned for September call-up is CF Gorkys Hernandez, who is on the 40-man roster. Pittsburgh may not have many power corners, but they sure have the market on fleet top-of-the-order outfielders.
    • The Pirates finished August with an 8-22 record, eerily similar to 2010
    • It was forty years ago today that the Pirates fielded the first all-black starting nine in MLB history, and Bob Cohn of the Tribune Review writes has a story of that day. Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times also has a piece on the day.
    • Jimmy Dunn of Tri-State Sports & News has an article covering OF'er Frank Thomas, Oakland-born Bucco slugger of the fifties who played his youth ball on the Schenley Oval fields.