Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bucs v Brewers: J-Mac Takes on Marco

James McDonald (2-2, 4.38) takes on Marco Estrada (2-1, 3.86) tonight. McDonald is 1-3 with a 6.98 ERA against Milwaukee with a 8.17 ERA at Miller Park. Estrada is 3-0 with a 1.43 ERA against Pittsburgh. The game starts at 8:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Russell Martin C, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones RF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Brandon Inge 2B,Clint Barmes SS and James McDonald P.
No Travis Snider, no Neil Walker.

Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Ryan Braun LF, Jonathan Lucroy C, Rickie Weeks 2B,
Carlos Gomez CF, Yuniesky Betancourt 3B, Martin Maldonado 1B and Marco Estrada P.
We like Jean Segura; the 23 year old is developing into one of the better NL SS's after coming to the Brew Crew as part of the Zack Grienke deal last year.

  • Why Jeanmar Gomez tomorrow? By default, it seems. Andy Oliver and Gerrit Cole are doing their thing at Indy (Kyle McPherson is still nursing a sore wing, which is not a good sign as May rolls around) but having control issues, so the Pirate management doesn't want to rush them into a spot start until that issue is in the rear view mirror. We're a little surprised Justin Wilson wasn't considered more seriously. They may have him slotted for the pen permanently,or maybe just don't want to disrupt the pen too much by starting him. It's more likely don't think he's properly stretched out.
  • It's not just Pittsburgh: The Brewers have won their last seven straight home games.
  • Brandon Moss is still a thing at Oakland. He has a .298/.398/.476 line with four homers and 19 RBI this month. His two-run bomb last night with two outs in the nineteenth capped a 10-8 win over the Angels.
  • Here's a vid you won't see every day: Bryan Bullington, now in Japan, drilled a batter who was asking for a timeout.

Buc History 4/30

Miller's monkey is laid to rest, birthdays, bombs, statues, a wild child, snow-outs and shutouts...

  • 1877 - Jim “Pud” Galvin of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys tossed the International Association’s first shutout‚ defeating Columbus 2-0 at Union (Recreation) Park. The IA disbanded after the season.
  • 1887 - The Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first NL game, defeating the defending champion Chicago White Stockings, 6-2 in front of nearly 10,000 fans at Recreation Park. In pre-game ceremonies, catcher Fred Miller’s beloved pet monkey, which had passed on to simian heaven, was buried beneath home plate. The team wouldn't become the Pirates until 1890, when they "pirated" the services of second baseman Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics.
  • 1908 - The Pirate-Red game at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh was cancelled because of snow.
  • 1924 - At Cubs Park, Rabbit Maranville lined a triple in the 14th inning and then stole home to beat Chicago‚ 2-1. Johnny Morrison was the winner over Elmer Jacobs; both pitchers went the distance. The Pirates had 12 hits, led by Max Carey’s three, but hit into four DP during the day.
  • 1938 - 3B Bill Brubaker set a modern MLB record by committing four errors in a 2-0 loss to Cincinnati at Crosley Field. Bill’s boots didn’t contribute to the loss; both Red runs were earned.
  • 1945 - Ray Miller was born in Takoma Park, Maryland. He spent ten years as the Pirates pitching coach (1987–96) under Jim Leyland, replacing Ron Schueler, and worked with Cy Young winner Doug Drabek. Miller also managed for Minnesota and Baltimore, and as pitching coach tutored Mike Flanagan and Steve Stone for the Os.
  • 1949 - Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner was born in Tennessee. He spent five years (1977-81) with the Pirates, playing second base for the 1979 World Series club. Scrap Iron hit .267 and stole 112 bases while a Bucco. After his playing career, Garner managed the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros.
  • 1955 - A statue of Honus Wagner, created by Frank Vittor, was unveiled outside the left field gates at Forbes Field. It’s been moved twice: first to TRS, then to PNC Park where his likeness greets fans at the main gate.
  • 1960 - Pittsburgh scored ten times in the second inning against the Reds at Crosley Field on the way to a 12-7 win, their eighth in a row. Roberto Clemente, Billy Maz and Dick Stuart each drove home 3 RBI.
  • 1996 - For the second time in his career, Jeff King hit a pair of bombs in the same inning - one a grand slam - to lead the Bucs to a 10-7 win over the Reds. The first baseman joined Andre Dawson and Willie McCovey as the only MLB’ers to have accomplished the feat twice. The Bucs tallied nine times in the fourth frame to spark the victory at Cinergy Field. It was the eighth straight loss for Cincinnati.
  • 2002 - Buc starter David Williams hit two batters and committed two balks in the fourth inning of a 10-0 thumping by the Rox.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Curse Continues; Brew Crew Bomb Five Homers in 10-4 Win

Well, so much for sending a message. Wandy's wonderful ride came crashing to earth in the Spanish Inquisition dungeon known as Miller Park.

The Bucs scored first. Starling Marte drew an opening walk off Yovani Gallardo, went to third on a Russell Martin knock and scored on a Cutch groundout. Then Milwaukee batted, and it went downhill quickly. Three hits (including a Jean Segura homer) and four walks later, it was 5-1 Brew Crew. The cause wasn't helped by a Clint Barmes bobble of a DP ball. The Bucs added another run in the third on an error and Gaby double.

Back-to-back homers by Gallardo and Norichika Aoki in the fourth made it 7-2, and Clint Hurdle called on Jonathan Sanchez, who closed the inning out. What the heck; Rodriguez went 3-2/3 giving up seven runs on six hits and four walks with two K, so how much worse could he be?

Actually, he wasn't, although he wasn't exactly sharp. Sanchez gave up two runs in 2-1/3 frames on four hits and four whiffs. Carlos Gomez and Yuniesky Betancourt went back-to-back off him in the fifth, though he did rear back the next inning to strand an opening triple.

Jared Hughes worked an inning; he gave up a leadoff triple, but without Sanchez's fortune - it came in a batter later. Vin Mazzaro worked a quiet inning. Garrett Jones saved a little face by mashing a two-run shot following a Cutch knock in the eighth to make the final 10-4.

Well, Wandy showed what happens when you hang a lot of curves to MLB hitters, and we're assuming that Jose Contreras' imminent arrival will spell the end of Sanchez's star-crossed Bucco career. It could be worse; the Reds beat the Cards, so the Bucs are still 1/2 game in the Central lead going into tomorrow's games. J-Mac takes the bump tomorrow against Marco Estrada.

  • The last pitcher to homer against Pittsburgh was *tada* Yovani Gallardo in September of last year, off Chris Leroux at Miller Park. Deja vu all over again. The Buc staff has surrendered 10 homers in the past two games at Milwaukee.
  • Starling Marte's eight game hitting streak ended tonight.
  • Odd stat: the Pirates are 2-7 in series openers, and 13-4 in all the other games. They've lost five straight series debuts, yet come back to win three of the series and split the other; with this one TBD.
  • The Bucs have homered in five straight games and in 10-of-12.
  • Milwaukee is 70-24 against Pittsburgh since 2007, and 45-7 at Miller Park.
  • Russell Martin was named the NL Player of the Week after hitting .375 with two doubles, four home runs, six RBI and posting a .958 slugging %.
  • Jeanmar Gomez will start Wednesday against the Brewers. Jonathan Sanchez remains in the pen, and his suspension appeal will be heard on Friday. Whether he'll still be a member of the team by then is problematic.
  • The Bucs were bumped off TV on Friday, May 3rd and Tuesday, May 7th by the Pens. Both are home games, against Washington and Seattle, and aren't expected to be picked up elsewhere. 
  • At Indy, Andy Oliver went six frames, allowing one run on four hits and two walks with seven punchouts in a 3-2 victory. Stolmy Pimentel tossed for Altoona. going seven scoreless frames while giving up six hits and a walk with five K in the Curve's 2-0 win. West Virginia's Stetson Allie hit homers 7 & 8 and drove in five runs as the Power won 10-2.

Bucs v Brewers: Wandy v Yovani

Wandy Rodriguez (2-0, 1.66) and Yovani Gallardo (2-1, 4.97) face off on the hill. Wandy was just so-so in his last outing, and is 8-9/3.80 against the Brewers lifetime. Gallardo has won his last two games and proven to be a Buc killer (9-2, 2.59) during his career. The game starts at 8:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7.

This series is a big one for mental health issues. The Brew Crew has owned Pittsburgh at Miller Park.Since 2007, they're 44-7 against the Bucs at home, were 11-4 versus them overall in 2012 and are currently riding an eight-game win streak against the Pirates. We'll see if this season's team has what it takes to shove back against the schoolyard bully.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Russell Martin C, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones RF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Brandon Inge 2B, Clint Barmes  SS and Wandy Rodriguez P.

Still kinda shuffling with The Kid and Travis Snider out of action.

Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Ryan Braun LF, Jonathan Lucroy C, Rickie Weeks 2B,
Carlos Gomez CF, Yuniesky Betancourt  3B, Martin Maldonado 1B and Yovani Gallardo P.
We'd work around Ryan Braun. He's hit .359 with five doubles and four home runs in 39 career at-bats against Wandy.

  • The Pirates hope Neil Walker can return sometime during this series, if only as a pinch hitter. His stitches, though, will remain in place at least until the Bucs get back home. 
  • Mike Sanserino of the Post Gazette reported that RHP Kyle McPherson, who had injury issues last season and this one, still has discomfort in his elbow.
  • RHP Nick Kingham, 21, worked six innings of shutout ball for Bradenton, giving up three hits and whiffing 13, a new Marauder team record. He tossed 81 pitches, and 60 were strikes. He was a high school pick in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.
  • Nate McLouth, 31, leads the American League with a .455 OBP. He's hitting .351 with a homer, seven RBI and 21! runs scored to go with a 15.7% walk rate. The Great has also sroled eight bases in nine tries.

Bucco History 4/29

Greenlee Field Opens, Blue Laws and some long balls...

  • 1932 - Greenlee Field in the Hill, home of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, opened in front of 4,000 fans. The Crawfords played the New York Black Yankees, with Satchel Paige facing Jesse Hubbard. Paige struck out ten and allowed six hits; Hubbard topped that with a three hitter as the Yankees won 1-0. It was the first ballyard built specifically for a black team, erected by team owner Gus Greenlee. When finished, the grounds would seat 7,500, with lights added in 1933. It was demolished in 1939 to clear space for the Bedford Dwellings.
  • 1934 - Red Lucas won Pittsburgh’s first Sunday home game as the Pirates beat Cincinnati 9-5 at Forbes Field, backed by Gus Suhr’s three hits and four RBI. Both Suhr and Paul Waner, who also had three knocks, homered. Because of Pennsylvania’s Blue Laws, Pittsburgh was the last major league city to play a home game on a Sunday.
  • 1990 - The Bucs swept San Diego 10-1 behind a four homer barrage at Jack Murphy Stadium. Barry Bonds and Jay Bell hit three-run bombs, Bobby Bo banged a two-run blast and Don Slaught added a solo shot to grease an easy outing for Doug Drabek.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Locke, Long Balls Rout Redbirds 9-0

The first frame went quietly for Shelby Miller. After giving up the obligatory opening knock to Starling Marte, he put the Bucs down in order. Jeff Locke had a backward inning; two soft ground balls got runners aboard, one when he dropped Gaby's toss to first and another through the right side, but three smoked liners went for outs.

Pittsburgh drew first blood in the second when Russell Martin knocked a 1-2 heater into the CF stands. Locke did his thing; after an opening walk, he got a 4-6-3 DP ball (the first Inge-McDonald-Sanchez twin killing in Bucco history) and a soft liner to end the frame cleanly.

Locke drew a four pitch walk to open the third, but Marte banged into a 4-6-3 DP; he hit the ball sharply up middle, but the Card infield was tight around second with a runner on. It hurt; JT walked and Garrett Jones doubled to left. Nick Leyva, maybe questionably with two gone, held Tabata up, and Gaby bounced out to third to end the frame. Locke tossed a 1-2-3 inning, helped by a couple of above average stops by Old McDonald.

With an out in the fourth, Martin took a fastball away and drilled it halfway up the fence in right for two bags, but Inge and McDonald couldn't move him. Locke walked Holliday to open the frame, then cooly left him at first to run his shutout string, carrying over from his last start, to ten frames.

In the fifth, JT was up with two down. He fell behind 0-2, worked Miller for another half dozen pitches, and then took a 94 MPH heater the opposite way for a long ball and 2-0 Bucco lead. The Cards got their second hit on a Pete Kozma dink to right, but Locke stranded him without breaking a sweat.

Pedro opened the sixth with a walk and was erased on a 6-4-3 DP rolled into by Martin. Inge followed with a knock to center, and he chugged around on a double to left by McDonald that clanged off Holliday's mitt. The knock also got Pittsburgh into the Card pen. Miller got the hook after 113 pitches and Fernando Salas came on to retire Locke on a fly to left. The Cards collected a two-out knock by Allen Craig, but Locke got Yadier Molina, who had squared up twice on the ball in earlier at-bats, on a routine hopper to short.

Salas got the first two outs of the seventh quietly when Jones banged a first pitch fastball off the top of the RF wall, bouncing back in play. He pulled in with a triple, and after a review, was waved home. The ball hit a back fence behind the padding, and the umps ruled correctly that was plenty long enough to break out the trot.

Locke kept dealing and had some help. After a pair of routine outs, Kozma was ahead 3-0 and swung, hitting a soft fly to right and keeping the young lefty's pitch count at 95 through seven. But that was enough; Justin Wilson got the call for the eighth. Locke went seven scoreless frames, the longest outing of his career, giving up three hits, walking a pair and whiffing four with a 13 inning scoreless streak going on right now. The last run he surrendered was on a Justin Upton homer on April 18th.

The Bucs failed to score in the eighth. After a pair of easy outs, Jon Jay battled Wilson and earned a 13 pitch walk. He came back to break Holliday's bat (two, in fact) and get an easy roller to Pedro to end the frame.

Mitchell Boggs had a rough ninth, but more thanks to the baseball gods than bad pitching. He gave up a leadoff knock to Clint Barmes on a flare to right and a single through the left side by Marte. He K'ed JT, then walked Jones, whom he was working around after Marte had stolen second to leave first base empty. With the infield in, Gaby hit a dribbler so weak that there was no play at home, and Barmes scored.

Mike Matheny, who must have a copy of Tony LaRussa's book in his back pocket, then called on LHP Marc Rzepczynski to face Pedro. More bad luck for Boggs' ERA; Pedro went the opposite way to single home a pair. And bad news for Rzepczynski's ERA; Martin followed by taking him deep to left center. Wilson, apparently in a hurry to get to the mound, went down on a 3-2 pitch without taking a swing during his at-bat. Can't blame him; he retired the Redbirds in order, and the Bucs are in first place.

Gonna be some tough decisions in a couple of weeks when Franciso Liriano and Charlie Morton are due back now that Jeff Locke is locked in; the lefty is 3-1with a 2.83 ERA.

The journey continues as the Bucs head to Milwaukee tomorrow. They send Wandy Rodriguez to the hill to face Yovani Gallardo.

  • Starling Marte had his eleventh multi-hit game of the season, second in MLB.
  • The Pirates joined the Giants and Cardinals as NL leaders with their fifth shutout.
  • Today was Clint Hurdle's 700th win as a skipper.
  • The Pirates got their 15th April win, a victory total they haven't reached since 1992.
  • The Bucs aren't completely sold on keeping Neil Walker off the DL. They're going to roll the dice and give it a few days before they determine just how long the gash will keep him out of action.
  • The Pirates were thought to have Jose Contreras on schedule to arrive during next weekend; now it appears that they expect him back Tuesday, likely in response to Jonathan Sanchez's suspension and an overworked bullpen. The Bucs have the option to fill Sanchez's Wednesday start with either Jeanmar Gomez or by calling up Andy Oliver from Indy (too early for Cole), as neither Justin Wilson nor Francisco Liriano are stretched out enough to start.
  • Charlie Morton's day at Altoona lasted six innings. He allowed a run on three hits with a walk and four K while tossing 70 pitches. Morton worked out of an early jam in the second thanks to a DP ball and cruised from that point. The staff had him throw 20 more pitches afterward in a side session to work his arm a little longer.

Bucs v Cards: The Rubber Match

Jeff Locke (2-1, 3.74)  goes in today's series decider against Shelby Miller (3-1, 1.44). Locke is coming off a six inning shutout stint against the Phils as he makes his case to remain in the rotation come mid-May. Miller lost to the Bucs and AJ Burnett 2-1 on the 17th. Funny game; yesterday's contest featured a pair of old school war horses in their mid-thirties, while today's starters need notes from their mommies to take road trips. The match starts at 2:15 and will be aired by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte CF, Jose Tabata LF, Garrett Jones RF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russell Martin C, Brandon Inge 2B and Jeff Locke P.

Clint Hurdle is really being creative today. Not sure why Cutch is out; he showed some signs of snapping out of his slump yesterday. We assume Snider's side is still sore; no word on whether he's available to pinch hit or not.

Card lineup: Matt Carpenter 2B, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Holliday LF, Allen Craig 1B, Yadier Molina C, David Freese 3B, Shane Robinson CF, Pete Kozma SS and Shelby Miller P.

The Cards usual lineup against a LHP; David Descalso and Jon Jay take a seat.

  • Jason Grilli became the second Pirate to record 10 saves in the month of April, joining Mike Williams, who also had 10 in 2002. AJ Burnett set the franchise mark for K this month with 48. Finally, the Bucs are 14-10 and are guaranteed a winning April with just three games to go. 
  • Jose Tabata has hit safely in 20 of his 22 career games at Busch Stadium. 
  • Jose Contreras is slated to work the first of back-to-back outings for Indy today. If he's OK, he could join the big team this weekend. And at Altoona, Charlie Morton gets the call.
  • Gerrit Cole went seven innings for Indy yesterday, giving up a run on three hits with four walks - still a matter of concern - and five K in a 4-1 Tribe victory. Jameson Taillon took the loss at Altoona, 3-1. He went 5-2/3 frames, giving up three runs on five hits with two free passes and seven punchouts.

Buc History 4/28

Good day to play the Cubs...

  • 1924 - Bucco rookie SS Glenn Wright hit his first homer off Vic Keen in a 7-4 victory over the Cubs. Wright was also known for his mitt; he set a MLB record during the season with 601 assists, a mark that stood until 1980, when Ozzie Smith had 621 Astroturf assists. “Buckshot” (he got the nickname because of his sometimes scattershot tosses to first) was the Pirate SS until 1928 when he was traded to Brooklyn Robins, and hit .298 over that span. He held  the MLB record for home runs by a shortstop with 22 until Alvin Dark topped him in 1953.
  • 1966 - The Pirates scored one run in each of the final five innings of regulation and added four more in tenth to outlast the Cubs at Wrigley Field 9-6. The tying run scored with two out in the ninth. Roberto Clemente fell behind Ted Abernathy 0-2, worked the count full and drew a walk after fouling off eight straight pitches. He scored on Willie Stargell’s double. The Bucco tenth was highlighted by a delayed double steal, with Clemente swiping second and Manny Mota home.
  • 1970 - The Bucs 6-1 victory at Forbes Field ended Chicago’s 11 game winning streak. Luke Walker, Bruce Dal Canton and Dave Guisti combined for a three hitter while Manny Sanguillen hit a pair of homers and had 3 RBI.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bucs Rally For 5-3 Win

Jake Westbrook had an easy first; a couple of soft choppers and, in a good sign for the Pirates, an at 'em ball lined to right by Cutch; it's good to see him go the opposite way. AJ wasn't as lucky. Matt Carpenter opened with a knock and went to third when Carlos Beltran's routine grounder got through when Brandon Inge, who was in a shift against the lefty, couldn't get to the ball. Burnett worked out of it pretty well, trading a run for two outs when he got Matt Holliday on a 6-4-3 DP.

The Bucs got their first knock with two outs in the second, when Pedro lined a 3-2 splitter off a diving David Descalso's mitt, with no further damage. Yadier Molina opened by lasering a double to left center when a 1-2 curve flattened out, and tagged to third when Jon Jay's fly to right caused JT to backpedal a couple of steps. But a K, intentional walk and another K ended the threat.

Pittsburgh tried again with two gone in the third when Starling Marte and Jose Tabata bounced consecutive bleeders through the left side. Cutch skied out to right to end the rally. He's the only guy to get Westbrook in the air; he's done a good job of keeping the ball down so far. AJ tossed a clean frame.

The Pirates got a one-out knock by Inge for their efforts in the fourth. AJ ran into control problems with two down, catching Jay on the back heel with an 0-2 curve and losing Pete Kozma after being up 1-2. Then he walked Descalso on a 3-2 pitch, trying to get him to chase with Westbrook coming up. AJ tossed two quick strikes, then missed with three down and away before getting him looking at a fastball. Whew! But the frame has run his pitch count up to 77; looks like no rest for the pen today.

Not much luck for the Bucs in the fifth. Barmes led off with a knock up the middle that just slid under Kozma;s glove. AJ struck himself out; he mouthed off after a strike call on an outside pitch (which had been a strike all day), bunted foul and was rung up on another pitch away and maybe down as ump Mike Winters showed him who was boss. Marte smoked a ball to short; it ended up a DP as Barmes was caught in no mans land. AJ put away the Cards 1-2-3.

JT and Cutch both ran up full counts; both grounded out softly on ball four. Jones rolled a knock into right, but Inge popped out to end the frame. The Bucs have six hits; four have been two-out singles and only one runner has made it to second. AJ got the first two hitters on three pitches when the back end of the order bit him again. He fell behind Jay, who banged a 3-1 heater to right for a double.

Then Kozma ran the count full and sent another heater up the middle to give the Cards a 2-0 lead. Though laboring, he stayed in (the pitcher is due up fourth next inning) and got Descalso to fly out on another 3-2 pitch, his 110th of the game. AJ went six, giving up two runs on five hits with three walks (one intentional) and six K. Westbrook left too, giving up six hits and collecting six K after 91 tosses.

Joe Kelly came on for St. Louis, and the Card bullpen is what you like to see. Pedro drilled a single up the middle and Martin took the next pitch deep the opposite way to tie the game. Barmes followed with another knock. J-Mac bunted three foul for the first out. Kelly made up for it by walking Marte on five pitches, bringing out Mike Matheny, who waved in Trevor Rosenthal.

He threw a wild pitch to move up the runners and bring the infield in before drilling JT in the side on a 3-2 heater to jam the sacks for Cutch. He worked the count to 3-2, fouled off a couple, and drew the RBI walk. Jones got ahead 3-0, and in a pretty classic delaying move, Matheny called on the ump to spread some sawdust on the hill. It killed a few minutes as his Rosenthal regrouped, the bullpen warmed and the soft drizzle continued. Jones also ran the count full, and his little tapper to second, bobbled by Descalso to kill any DP hopes, brought home another run. Inge popped out to end the frame, but the Bucs had the lead at 4-2.

Tony Watson came in to face Shane Robinson, and after getting ahead 1-2 threw three straight inside to lose him. No problem; using heat inside and a change, he got a pop from Matt Carpenter and caught Beltran and Holliday looking. Marc Rzepczynski took the soggy hill to start the eighth. With one away, Martin doubled to left and Barmes walked on five pitches. With Gaby pinch hitting, the call went for righty Fernando Salas. A short wild pitch moved Martin to third - Barmes froze at first - and Sanchez's sac fly made it 5-2.

Mark Melancon trotted in, with Gaby at first and Old McDonald at second. He gave up a leadoff double to Craig, but kept him from coming around to maintain the pad. Mitchell Boggs took the ball for the Cards. After getting two outs - one a liner by Cutch that hung up - he walked John McDonald, batting .067, and gave up a pinch single to *tada* Wandy Rodriguez, but managed to close out the frame, snagging Pedro's bullet back to the box.

Jason Grilli gave up a one-out single to Robinson, who strolled to second on defensive indifference. After striking out Jermaine Curtis, he gave up an RBI double to Beltran on a 3-2 fastball, the first run allowed by Grilli this year. That was it; he nailed Holliday on a grounder to short to bring home the win.

AJ is now 2-2 and Grilli has 10 saves as the Bucs move back within 1/2 game of the Central Division lead.

Jeff Locke and Shelby Miller get it on tomorrow.
  • In case you're wondering who Root Sports 800 pound gorilla is, it's the Pens. The Bucco game was cut off with two on and two out in the ninth to switch to Consol. Ratings talk... 
  • The 6-7-8 guys pulled off the win today. Pedro, Russell Martin and Clint Barmes each had two knocks, scored four times and drove in a pair.
  • Travis Snider was a late scratch with "discomfort" in his left side, leaving the Bucs with a short bench (Neil Walker is also out) to go with a short pen.
  • Mark Melancon threw 21 pitches in the eighth, his season high. Prior to today, he hadn't thrown over 18 tosses in an appearance.
  • Starling Marte now owns a seven game hitting streak.
  • Jonathan Sanchez was fined and suspended six games for beaning Allen Craig. He's appealing the suspension so will be in the bullpen today.
  • AJ fell short in his last start of the month of joining the exclusive club of guys who struck out 50 batters in April, as he finished with 48.

Bucs v Cards

A.J. Burnett (1-2, 2.79) goes against the Cardinals Jake Westbrook (1-1, 1.25) in an afternoon match that promises lots of pitching...but:

Burnett spun a one-hitter against the Redbirds earlier in the year and leads the NL in K with 42. The Pirates could really stand for him to go deep this afternoon to spare a bullpen that picked up eight innings last night and four frames the night before. Lurking is AJ's only prior appearance at Busch Stadium, when he allowed 12 earned runs on 12 hits in 2-2/3 innings last year.

Westbrook's peripherals don't match his ERA (his FIP is 4.33), and he's is 1-7/5.28 lifetime versus Pittsburgh. His only 2013 outing against them was rained out, but he had surrendered four runs on six hits during the two frames prior to the cloudburst at PNC Park.

The game starts at 4:15 and will be aired on Root Sports (It's a Bucs & pucks DH) and The Fan 93.7. That is, if the game is played - it's raining in the Gateway City, and the weathermen are predicting a delay or possible washout, although tomorrow should be cloudy but OK for baseball. They are rolling up the tarp now, so there may be hope...

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Brandon Inge 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russell Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and AJ Burnett P.

Inge at second and hitting fifth. Is it time to start a #FreeJordy hashmark yet?

Card lineup: Matt Carpenter 3B, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Holliday LF, Allen Craig 1B, Yadier Molina C, Jon Jay CF, Pete Kozma SS, Daniel Descalso 2B and Jake Westbrook P.

Couple of ironman catchers today; both Martin and Molina are catching after a night game.

  • Neil Walker ended up with six stitches after his knuckle was gashed when he went hard into second last night. He'll have them in for 6-7 days and then will need some time to get ready to swing and throw. That probably means a week or ten days of Brandon Inge starting at second with John McDonald as the late inning leather replacement.
  • Jonathan Sanchez's beaning will be evaluated by the league office; he may be suspended for clocking Allen Craig last night.
  • Wild children: The Bucs give up the most walks in MLB at 4.03/nine and 90 overall. The starters are last in the NL at 4.14; the relievers 12th at 3.98.  They also lead the league in HBP with 14 and are third in the NL at tossing wild pitches with 12.
  • Good day for prospect watchers: both Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon take the bump.

Bucco History - 4/27

Historic pitching, bombs galore, a 6-for-6 day, Matty Mo and the VP watches and a streak ends...

  • 1902 - Pittsburgh whipped Chicago 2-0 at Exposition Park‚ as Deacon Phillippe outpitched rookie Jim St. Vrain. St. Vrain only gave up a single to Ginger Beaumont, but it came after the Pirates had loaded the bases on an error sandwiched between a pair of plunked batters in the eighth inning. Phillippe fanned seven and all the other outs were recorded by the infield, with 1B Kitty Bransfield recording 16 putouts.
  • 1912 - The Pirates walloped Cincinnati 23-4 at Forbes Field‚ and without a home run (although they had five doubles & three triples among their 27 hits). Bobby Byrnes and Dots Miller had five knocks apiece. Reds reliever Hansey Horsey surrendered 14 hits and 12 runs in four innings in what would be his only MLB appearance. Vice President James “Sunny Jim” Sherman, a big baseball fan, attended the game along with PA Congressman Jim Burke, Lieutenant Governor JM Reynolds and an assortment of politicos and generals.
  • 1954 - Toby Atwell and Jerry Lynch hit back-to-back homers in both the sixth and eighth innings, the only Pirates to accomplish the feat in the 20th century. It wasn’t enough as Pittsburgh lost to the Reds 8-7 at Crosley Field.
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell set a MLB record with his 11th HR in the month of April, a shot over the TRS center field wall against LA’s Pete Mikkelson, in a 7-5 loss.
  • 1990 - Wally Backman became the first NL’er to get six hits in one game in 15 years. The 3B’man went 6-for-6 against the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in a 9-4 Pirate win.
  • 1993 - Tim Wakefield threw 172 pitches in defeating Atlanta‚ 6-2‚ in 11 innings. It was the most pitches tossed by one pitcher in a single game during the nineties. Fernando Valenzuela was the last to throw that many pitches in a game in 1987.
  • 2005 - Jose Mesa set Houston down 1-2-3 in the ninth to save Kip Wells’ 2-0 victory. It was his 300th career save, making Mesa the 19th pitcher in MLB history to reach that mark.
  • 2008 - RHP Matt Morris was released by the Pirates after going 1-2/3 innings against the Phillies in his previous start the day before, giving up six runs on six hits. The 33-year-old compiled an 0-4 record with a 9.67 ERA in his five outings with Pittsburgh in 2008. He retired soon after, but the Bucs ate $11,037,283 in salary, including a $1M buyout for 2009. Pittsburgh replaced him by calling up RHP John Van Benschoten.
  • 2010 - A five-run ninth inning sparked by Ryan Doumit's grand slam and Ronny Cedeno's solo shot off Trevor Hoffman ended the Pirates 22-game losing streak in Milwaukee as the Bucs took a 7-3 victory at Miller Park. The Brew Crew's hometown hex over the Bucs was the longest held by one team over another since the Browns/Orioles lost 27 consecutive contests to the Indians in Cleveland from 1952-54.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sanchez Lasts Four Batters As Bucs Fall 9-1

The Bucs started off by stranding a pair against Lance Lynn. The Cards opened with a bomb by Matt Carpenter on a 3-2 fastball down the middle off Jonathan Sanchez. Carlos Beltran crushed another long ball two pitches later. Matt Holliday had to be awfully disappointed to just get a line drive single.

Allen Craig got beaned, right off the helmet, and Sanchez was ejected by ump Tim Timmons before the ball ricocheted to the ground, and probably rightfully so. Clint Hurdle also got bounced, although he should have been after his pitcher instead of the man in blue. You can't blame him, though, for leaving this mess to Jeff Banister.

Jeanmar Gomez got a surprise wake-up call, coming in as cold as the Grinch's heart. Then again, he probably should have started tonight anyway. Dang if Yadier Molina didn't bang the first pitch to Pedro for an around the horn DP and David Freese lined out to Clint Barmes. So the ejection worked to the Bucs advantage for the time being, even if it is 2-0 St. Louis.

The Bucs went down tamely in the second; Jon Jay opened by reaching on a Barme's boot. A strikeout and bunt got him to second, and there he stayed. With an out in the third, Starling Marte got plunked in the wrist with a pitch; the docs looked him over and he stayed in. He didn't go anywhere; Lynn has five K so far. A walk and wild pitch put Holliday at second with an out in the Card half. Craig sent a seeing-eye bouncer through the left side to make it 3-0.

The fourth went quietly. With two outs in the fifth, Marte got plunked again; Timmons tossed Jay Bell for barking about it, as both benches had been warned. Starling stole second and Travis Snider walked, but Cutch's stick stayed in the deep freeze as he bounced out to end the frame.

Gomez's good outing went south when he walked Carpenter on five pitches and then served Beltran his second homer of the game on a middle-in sinker; he has one from both sides of the dish tonight. Holliday walked on four pitches. At 62 tosses, Gomez may be gassed, but Banister is low on arms and left him in.

After a K, Gomez was double-switched out. JT entered in left, Marte moved to center and Cutch took a seat as Jared Hughes took the hill and whiffed Molina and Freese. Banister was likely giving Cutch a blow in a game that's quickly getting out of hand with a day match tomorrow, but we wonder how that move will play out down the line.

It fired up Garrett Jones, who led off with a double in the sixth. A ground out and sac fly by Pedro to the track in left center brought home a run. Hughes gave up a one-out walk and then buzzed Lynn as he squared up to bunt. He didn't get a piece of him, but did K him. Carpenter singled on a ball off Hughe's glove, then he lost Beltran on four pitches. Holliday hit a comebacker to end the frame. We wonder what old-school AJ would have done with both Lynn and Beltran up?

The Pirates went down 1-2-3 in the seventh; Marte finally got a pitch over the plate and took it to the base of the wall in straightaway center at the 400' mark where Jay caught up to it. Hughes came up with a quick frame; he worked a 2-2/3 inning, 40-pitch outing.

Mitchell Boggs took over for Lynn, who had a two hit, three walk, nine K night. Snider greeted Boggs with an infield knock. Gaby followed, and guess what - he got beaned. After an out, The Kid walked to jam the sacks. With Pedro up, Mike Matheny waved in southpaw Randy Choate. Pedro worked the count full, then bounced a ball to second for a rally-killing 4-6-3 DP. To add injury to insult, Walker was shook up going into second and left the game.

Brandon Inge replaced him, and Vin Mazzaro took the bump. Jay greeted him with a double to the opposite field in right center. Pete Kozma singled to right on a ball Inge watched go by; he's pretty obviously a third baseman by profession. In 13 big league seasons, this is his eighth appearance at second and it shows.

Ty Wiggington blooped a fly single to right. Carpenter stopped the bleeding with a line out to JT. After a K of Beltran,  Holliday singled to right for a run, and Craig dropped a soft liner that popped out of a diving Snider's glove to plate two more, although Snider recovered quickly enough to toss out Craig at second. You can add Mazzaro to the arms used up; he threw 36 pitches in his inning of work.

Joe Kelly gave up a leadoff knock to Russell Martin and an out later JT singled. But he got Marte and Snider easily, and the Cards won in a romp 9-1.

A couple of problems glared tonight. Sanchez is one; he's not only been bad but killed the pen in every start,  We'd be surprised if he isn't released as you read this; the Pirates have to call up another arm. They'll probably go with Gomez for a start or two, unless they call Liriano up ahead of schedule. He's been shadowing Sanchez's starts during rehab.

The other is looking at third strikes. The Bucs went down 10 times tonight, and it's true that Timmons had a wide strike zone. But it was consistent, and after the first time up you have to adapt; the Pirates haven't gotten that memo yet this season.

AJ Burnett goes against Jake Westbrook tomorrow afternoon.

  • Starling Marte started the game with an infield single, making him an amazing 12-for-19 leading off (.632). 
  • The last starting Pirate pitcher to get the hook without getting an out for non-injury reasons was Ryan Vogelsong in 2004. Sanchez is 0-11/8.87 over 17 starts during the past two seasons, so he was a likely suspect to be next.
  • Today was Clint Hurdle's first ejection of the season. He was last tossed on September 22nd of last year, and by the same ump, Tim Timmons. It was his eleventh early exit as Bucco skipper.
  • Mike Sanserino of the Post Gazette tweets "Jeff Karstens threw a simulated game today. (His) next step could be a rehab start for Class A Bradenton. The Pirates are still looking to him as a starter."
  • Josh Harrison is a throwback kinda player, and to prove it, he went retro and stole home ala Honus Wagner for Indy tonight. RHP Brandon Cumpton gave up two hits over seven frames in the 5-1 win.

Bucs v Cards

Well, it's like Groundhog Day - Jonathan Sanchez climbs the hill for the Bucs again tonight. He'll square off against Lance Lynn.

The Pirate retread lefty is 0-2 with an 11.12 ERA, which testifies to how his season has gone so far. Justin Wilson and Tony Watson each spun a pair of innings yesterday, and the Buc bullpen could use a breather that's unlikely to happen tonight. But Sanchez has never lost to the Cardinals and is 3-0 with a 4.13 ERA in six games versus them, five of them starts. Lynn is 3-0/3.68, but in Pittsburgh, the Steel City squad scored four times off him in five frames earlier this month, so add those up and there is some hope.

The game begins at 8:15 and will be aired by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russell Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and Jonathan Sanchez P.

Cardinal lineup: Matt Carpenter 2B, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Holliday LF, Allen Craig 1B, Yadier Molina  C, David Freese 3B, Jon Jay CF, Pete Kozma SS and Lance Lynn P.

Matt Adams missed the last series with an oblique issue and is day-to-day has just been placed on the 15 day DL.

The Central Division is a logjam of hot teams right now (last 10 games: Brewers 9-1, Bucs and Cards 7-3, Reds 6-4). These early intra-divisional series are a little more important as far as staying in the hunt instead of trying to chase teams down later in the year. Going into today, the top four teams are separated by 1-1/2 games..

  • The Pirates are on their third three-game winning streak of the young season. They've won five of the last seven games played at Busch Stadium. On the other side of the pillow, the Cards have just won 5-of-7 and are coming off a sweep of Washington.
  • Francisco Liriano went five frames for Indy yesterday, giving up a run on four hits with 8 K - and no walks. He tossed 79 pitches in the 5-1 Tribe victory. 
  • Newly promoted Jose Contreras will pitch back-back days for Indy, take two days off and then could be ready to join Pirates on May 1st May 3rd. He added that he's going to pitch Sunday and Monday.
  • The borderline position players are off to a good starts - Alex Presley is hitting .361, Jordy Mercer .329 and Josh Harrison .308. Harrison has temporarily bumped Ivan DeJesus (.259) to the bench by getting some time at 2B. Tony Sanchez is picking it up, with a .260 BA and 2 HR. Off to icy openings are Jerry Sands (.154 - 0 HR) and Felix Pie (.145 - 0 HR).
  • OF Josh Bell made Ben Badler's Baseball America Prospects Notebook.

Bucco History 4/26

No luck at Expo Park, the Gunner makes his debut, Pirate fans get surly and Kiner finds out you can go home again...
  • 1900 - The Bucs drew 11,000 to the newly expanded Exposition Park, its biggest baseball turnout to date, and there were a couple of thousand more trying to get in. The Pirates were fortified by the recent influx of Louisville players like Honus Wagner, but dropped a 12-11 slugfest to Cincinnati as the Reds lit up Rube Waddell and Jack Chesbro. The Bucs made a game of it by rallying for seven ninth-inning runs.
  • 1905 - The Cubs beat Pittsburgh at Exposition Park, 2-1 as Chicago’s Jack McCarthy became the only major league OF’er to throw out three runners trying to score in one game. All three assists were on tag plays and resulted in double plays.
  • 1948 - Legendary announcer Bob Prince broadcast his first Pirates game, joining another Pittsburgh favorite, Rosey Rosewell (“Open the window, Aunt Minnie”), on the air. "The Gunner" went on to describe Pirate action for 28 years.
  • 1995 - 34,841 fans at TRS disrupted a delayed Opening Day by throwing whatever was handy (mainly giveaway day Bucco pennants) on the field to show their displeasure with the freshly resolved player’s strike and some shoddy play by the Bucs. The game was delayed for 17 minutes until the announcer told the unruly crowd that the contest was about to be forfeited. Might as well have been; Montreal won the game 6-2.
  • 2008 - Alhambra, California, dedicated a bronze statue to honor of its native son Ralph Kiner for his "accomplishments and contributions to the game of professional baseball and sports broadcasting". The former Pirates slugger, a member of the Hall of Fame, grew up in Alhambra and graduated from its high school in 1940.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...

The Buc bats were more than enough today against Cliff Lee, just a few hours after they took a W from Roy Halladay, which was the day after they faced down Cole Hamels. The Pirates did it the old fashioned way, by chasing the aces and getting to the Phillie bullpen, and the result was a 6-4 win.

J-Mac pitched OK; if he could avoid walking leadoff hitters, it would have have been a very nice performance. But he couldn't. The enigmatic righty went five innings, allowing three runs on five hits, but two inning-opening walks and a wild pickoff led to a pair of Phillie runs.

The first run scored when he walked Chase Utley in the fourth, and then tossed a throw to first away (he would pick off Lee an inning later).  With two down, Domonic Brown dinked one into center that died just short of a diving Cutch to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. The edge lasted until the sixth, when Gaby Sanchez launched a fastball over the fence in left center to tie it. But the bottom of the frame would be J-Mac's undoing.

After he walked Kevin Frandsen on a 3-2 fastball that missed, back-to-back knocks by Utley and Ryan Howard plated a run and brought out Clint Hurdle. He called on Justin Wilson, who got Laynce Nix to roll one to third. Utley was off on contact and was dead at home.

But Wilson wild-pitched the runners up 90' (on an 0-2 pitch!) and gave up a knuckling liner to Brown. Cutch had to take a knee to bring it in, giving Howard a chance to tag and thud home. The Phils were up 3-1, but the Bucs of late have been rolling to a Cardiac Kid beat.

Lee had Starling Marte at first via the walk with two out in the seventh. Cutch singled through the left side to move Marte to second, and Gaby dropped a soft serve into left center to make it 3-2. Lee was at 114 pitches, but convinced Charlie Manuel to let him finish the frame. He did, but not before Mike McKenry lobbed a dying quail into center to tie the game. Wilson tossed a clean seventh.

Clint Barmes was plunked in the back by a Phillippe Aumont sinker with one out in the eighth. With Barmes on the move, Travis Snider rolled a ball through the vacated shortstop hole, putting runners at first and second. Marte punched another knock through the left side to load the bases.

Up strode Garrett Jones, hitting for Brandon Inge. GI got ahead 3-1 and bombed a sinker over John Mayberry and off the RF wall for for a two-run double. Chad Durbin took the ball and Gaby hit a liner to medium right that Mayberry corralled, but it brought Marte home, sliding in backdoor just under the tag, thanks to plus speed and a throw that was a bit off the mark to make it 6-3.

Tony Watson climbed the hill and gave up a leadoff double to Frandsen, who scored two groundouts later. The Bucs left a runner at third in the ninth against Raul Valdes. Watson stayed on, even after giving up another opening double, this one to Brown.  But he cleaned up after himself, and the Bucs took home a 6-4 win.

For Wilson, it was win #2 and Watson earned his first MLB save. They did it without the backend boys, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, who took the day off and are now ready to rumble with the Cards, which are next in the Bucco sights. Jonathan Sanchez faces undefeated Lance Lynn in the lidlifter.

  • The Bucs banged out 14 hits and left 13 runners aboard, but for the second game had four hits with RISP. Four Pirates had two knocks - Marte, Sanchez, Pedro and J-Mac, who is mashing away at a .375 clip.
  • Cutch snapped out of his career-worse 0-for-17 slide today.
  • The Pirates have won three straight, seven of their last nine and 12 of their last 16. They're 13-9 overall, and 1/2 game out of first going into tonight. Even more amazingly, they're now 5-5 on the road.
  • As Tom Singer of MLB.com notes "This was the 18th time Hamels-Halladay-Lee succeeded each other in the Phils rotation - and first time the Phillies have lost all three."
  • Little early to be thinking of contracts, but by MLB Trade Rumor's Tim Dierkes' calculations, The Fort will be super two arb eligible next season.
  • Francisco Liriano will get the start tonight for Indy; his pitch limit is up to 80.

Bucs Eye Another Series Win v Phils

J-Mac (2-2, 4.12 ) and Cliff Lee (2-1, 2.83) close out the series this afternoon. With McDonald, it's just a question of which pitcher shows up. Lee has been bringing it for a long time, but his last outing against the Cards saw him give up five runs in five innings.

J-Mac hasn't had much luck against the Phillies, going 1-2/5.73 in six outings (four starts). This will be Lee's fourth start versus Pittsburgh; the lefty's got a 1-0/3.05 line against them. The game starts  at 1:05 and will aired by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Brandon Inge 2B,Andrew McCutchen CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Mike McKenry C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Jose Tabata RF, Clint Barmes SS and James McDonald P.

Clint just can't get himself enough Brandon Inge; he gives The Kid a blow today. Travis Snider and Garrett Jones are on the pine today, too, while Pedro gets his hacks against a top flight southpaw.

Phil lineup: Jimmy Rollins SS, Kevin Frandsen 3B, Chase Utley 2B, Ryan Howard 1B, Laynce Nix RF, Domonic Brown LF, Ezequiel Carrera CF, Erik Kratz C and Cliff Lee P.

You can tell it's getaway day.

  • Pittsburgh is hitting .235 with RISP. That's not very good, until you consider that the team BA is .230. The Pirates do need some more lumber against lefties. The club hits .246 against RHP, but a mere .187 v southpaws when they have to sit Snider, Jones and Pedro while Walker has struggles when he's turned around.
  • The Pirates continue their road trip with a weekend series at St. Louis and closing with three games at Milwaukee.
  • Francisco Liriano is set to go five innings/80 pitches today at Indy. His knock-on-wood date to pitch for Pittsburgh is May 10th.

Buc History 4/25

Big homers, hats breaking up DPs, a manager is born...

  • 1896 - Fred Haney was born in Albuquerque. He managed the Bucs as a favor to Branch Rickey from from 1953-1955. His record reflects the fact that he was in the early moments of a youth movement, losing 104, 101 and 94 games.
  • 1899 - Pittsburgh lost to Louisville 2-1 at Eclipse Park as future Bucco 3B Honus Wagner went 4-for-4 with 2 HRs‚ the second being a ninth-inning game winner. The Colonels were managed by future Pirate skipper (and player) Fred Clarke. The following season, most of Louisville’s top players went with owner Barney Dreyfuss to Pittsburgh.
  • 1948 - Wally Westlake homered, doubled and drove in six runs while Ed Stevens added five more RBI to lead the Bucs to a 13-10 win over the Reds in the second game of a twinbill at Crosley Field. Pittsburgh lost the opener 7-6 in the ninth.
  • 1970 - Willie Stargell homered over the RF roof at Forbes Field off Hoyt Wilhelm‚ the second time he'd done it in a week‚ as the Pirates edged the Braves‚ 8-7. Eighteen balls carried over the Oakland yard’s roof, with seven launched by Stargell.
  • 1992 - In the Pirates 1-0 win over the host Cubs‚ the Bucs were helped by a wayward hat. With Kirk Gibson on first‚ Jay Bell hit a potential DP grounder that struck Gibson's helmet‚ which had flown off as he headed to second, and the Cubs had to settle for a force. Andy Van Slyke noted‚ “the play goes 7-1/2 to 4 to 5 to 6" on your scorecard. Bell then scored when Van Slyke followed with a double for the game’s only run. Randy Tomlin was the winner over Greg Maddux.
  • 2003 - Kip Wells became the second player and first pitcher to homer into the batter’s eye at PNC Park with a third inning, 457’ blast off the Dodgers Odalis Perez. But LA had the last laugh when they rallied for five ninth inning runs off Wells and Mike Williams to take a 5-2 victory. 2012 - The Pirates and the Rockies became the first teams in MLB history to add an extra player to the roster for their twin bill at PNC Park. The new CBA allowed teams to carry 26 on the active roster for doubleheaders to save the paper shuffling that calling up an extra pitcher entailed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bucs Battle Back For 5-3 Win

Looked like the Pirates had something going in the first against Doc Halladay. Starling Marte walked and stole a couple of sacks. Unfortunately for him, Travis Snider, Cutch and Garrett Jones all went down looking. The strike zone is a little large today, and the boys better adapt.

Jimmy Rollin started the first with a knock, but challenged Cutch's arm trying to stretch and lost. Good thing, too, as Chase Utley crushed a fastball into the second level in right field to make it 1-0 Phils. The second and third innings went fairly quietly, and the Bucs had a little two out magic in them during the fourth.

With two away, Jones walked on four straight pitches and Neil Walker was plunked with a 2-2 curve. Pedro dropped a flare into center to end an 0-for-24 with RISP streak in Philly for the Bucs and knot the score. Russell Martin went down looking on a 3-2 pitch; it was probably a little up, but hey - with Dan Iassogna behind the dish, you best be a free swinger tonight.

It didn't last long; Wandy got ahead of Ryan Howard 0-2, and the fourth straight curve he tossed him hung. Howard blasted it deep into the night, and the Phils were back up 2-1. That was followed by a walk and an error to put runners at first and second with an out, and a passed ball moved them up a base.

Ben Revere worked the count full before Wandy got him to pop out, and then intentionally walked Humberto Quintero to get to Halladay. That did the job, as Doc went down swinging on four pitches. Rodriguez is at 77 pitches, and it looks like another long night for the pen.

John McDonald, who was robbed by Chase Utley his first time up, watched another hit taken away when his liner, hooking away from Domonic Brown, was speared on a lunging catch in the fifth. Philly set up shop in their half. Rollins hammered a heater up the third base line for a double, then Utley bunted for a base hit to put runners on the corners.

And he danced out of it via an unlikely DP - Pedro went to second for the force on a Michael Young grounder, and instead of going to first, The Kid fired a strike home to nail Rollins on a delayed break. Howard lined a bullet to Jones, and the score stayed 2-1.

The Bucs went down in order in the sixth, but a long at-bat by Cutch got Doc's pitch count up to 95. Wandy was rolling when a two out infield single by Revere and Quintero's hard grounder through the left side spoiled the frame; both balls were ankle high, two-strike waste pitches. Kevin Frandsen hit for Halladay and singled up the middle to make it 3-1. That brought on Vin Mazzaro. Rollins rolled the first pitch to second, and the frame was done.

Doc went six, giving up a run on a hit with two walks and eight K. Wandy, who spent a lot of time up in the zone tonight, went 5-2/3 giving up three runs on nine hits with two walks and five whiffs, tossing 105 pitches.

Lefty Antonio Bastardo climbed the hill in the seventh. With an out, Pedro turned a 1-2 slider away around and banged it over the right field fence to get the Bucs back within a run. With two outs, Clint Hurdle decided to burn Gaby as a pinch hitter for Old McDonald, probably liking the lefty-righty match, but the plan fizzled as he bounced out to end the frame. The good news is that it kept Mazzaro in the game, and he worked a 1-2-3 inning.

Mike Adams took the ball for Philadelphia in the eighth. JT, hitting for Mazzaro, watched a 3-2 slider dip down and away and drew a leadoff walk. Hurdle had Marte try to bunt him over; two fouls put him in a 1-2 hole, but he banged a low change hard to third that Young could only knock down to put runners on first and second. Snider ripped a slider that ran in on him to right to score Tabata (who had almost gotten picked off at second) and send Marte to third. Cutch walked on a 3-2 slider to juice the sacks with no outs.

That brought in lefty Jeremy Horst, and Hurdle countered with Brandon Inge to bat for Jones, after he had already used Sanchez. Inge came through, lining a RBI knock to left to give the Bucs the lead at 4-3. But the Pirates couldn't make them pay more dearly. The Kid bounced into a 3-2-3 DP and Pedro tapped out. Still, they did have the lead, though not much cushion, for Mark Melacon, with JT now in right and Inge at first.

With one out, MM left a cutter down the middle on a 1-2 pitch and Brown spanked it to right for a knock. Revere smacked the next pitch to Clint Barmes, and the 6-4-3 cleaned up the basepaths and took the game into the ninth.

With an out, Barmes lined a single to left off Horst. JT bounced out to the right side, moving him up a sack. Marte hit a parachute to right. It ticked off Utley's glove by the RF line and he ended up with a bloop triple, giving Pittsburgh an insurance score. McKenry batted for MM, the last position player that hadn't got in, and flew out. Jason Grilli took the bump.

Lance Nix took one deep to right, but not deep enough to elude JT. Pinch hitter Ezequiel Carrera got plunked by a fastball; not a great start for the Shark Tank's Great White. But he got Rollins to hit a foul pop behind the dish and blew a heater past Utley to garner his ninth save while Vin Mazzaro picked up his first Bucco win.

James McDonald and Cliff Lee take the bump tomorrow afternoon.

  • Mark Melancon has now pitched in 13 of 21 games. It was Jason Grilli's 11th outing, and Jared Hughes and Tony Watson have 10 appearances each. That's a lotta work early in the year.
  • This was Brandon Inge's first MLB game at first.
  • Pedro's on another one of his streaks - he hit his fourth homer tonight, and they've all come since April 18th. It was his first with two strikes and his first off a lefty in 2013.
  • OF Rob Grossman, who was traded to the 'Stros in the Wandy Rodriguez deal, made his MLB debut today. He went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a pair of K.

Bucs v Phils: Wandy and the Doc

Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Halladay mix it up tonight. Wandy has leapt out of the gates in his three starts, going 2-0/0.56, while Doc has a surprisingly poor line of 2-2/6.04. Rodriguez has been working quickly and throwing strikes, as his 11-1 whiff-to-walk ratio will attest. Hallady had a dismal first couple of outings, but he's been the same ol' Doc in his last couple of starts, pitching to a 1.80 ERA and opp BA of .143.

The Buc lefty is 2-2/5.11 against the Phils lifetime while Halladay is 4-1/0.98 versus the Bucs, aye carumba! The game starts at 7:05 at Citizens Bank Park and will be aired by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7. (And they will play; the forecast in Philly is for cloudy but dry weather, unlike here.)

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider LF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russell Martin C, John McDonald SS and Wandy Rodriguez P.

John McDonald gets a start for Clint Barmes; otherwise, it's the everyday lineup against a RHP.

Phil lineup: Jimmy Rollins SS, Chase Utley 2B, Michael Young 3B, Ryan Howard 1B, John Mayberry RF, Domonic Brown LF, Ben Revere CF, Humberto Quintero C and Roy Halladay P.

Quintero takes Erik Kratz's spot behind the dish. Carlos Ruiz, in case you forgot, was suspended for 25 games for testing positive for a banned substance. He's eligible to return Sunday and will join the minor league club this weekend to get back into game shape.

  • The Bucs have won 10 of 14, including four of their last five.
  • The beat goes on: The Pirates are 10-0 when leading after seven innings this season, as Melancon/Grilli look every bit as tight as 2012's Grilli/Hanny duet.
  • Altoona's Stolmy Pimentel shut out Richmond over six innings while striking out eight and giving up just three hits in a 6-2 win over Richmond today. OF Andrew Lambo continued to sizzle, going 2-for-4. He's now reached base in all 20 Curve games this year and has hit in 10 straight games.
  • JJ Cooper of Baseball America has a feature on Gerrit Cole and why he's better served pitching at Indy rather than in Pittsburgh right now.
  • Roman Colon, who the Bucs signed to a minor league deal in February but had yet to be assigned to a club, was traded to his first home, Atlanta. The big righty was signed by the Braves and got his first MLB shot with them in 2004-05.

Pittsburgh Baseball 4/24

The Dutchman, the Rebels, the Gashouse Gang and a scary liner...

  • 1903 - Honus Wagner was having a bad day in the field, booting three balls that helped the Cardinals head into the ninth with a 7-6 lead at Exposition Park. But his bat helped erase the deficit. He tripled in the ninth and scored the tying run on a Kitty Bransfield single. Then with two away in the eleventh, the Flying Dutchman walked, stole second and came around with the game winner on another Bransfield knock. Wagner collected four hits including two triples‚ two runs, four RBI‚ and three stolen bases.
  • 1915 - Pittsburgh Rebel southpaw Frank Allen tossed a 2-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Terriers at Handlan Park in the last year of the Federal League, the short-lived (1913-15) major league “outlaw” option to the National and American leagues. Allen went on to toss a couple more seasons for the NL Boston Braves. The league was absorbed by the NL & AL , and a suit the FL filed eventually led to the key ruling that baseball was exempt from anti-trust laws.
  • 1934 - The Bucs defeated the Gashouse Gang from St. Louis 5-4 in dramatic fashion at Forbes Field. Behind 4-2 going into the ninth, Freddie Lindstrom dropped a ball over the LF wall with two aboard, and his walk-off homer gave the Pirates the win over the eventual NL champs.
  • 2010 - Chris Jakubauskas, in the first inning of his first appearance of the year, was struck in the head by a liner off the bat of Houston's Lance Berkman. The 31-year old right-hander left the field on a stretcher, but was later diagnosed with just a concussion and not a fracture as first feared. Jaku wouldn’t pitch for the Bucs any more that year, but tossed for Baltimore the following season. The Pirates lost the game 5-2.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bucs Stymie Phils 2-0

Two lefties in search of their mojo, Jeff Locke and Cole Hamels, took the hill tonight; it turned into quite the pitchers duel for awhile, thanks to decidedly unclutch hitting.

The Bucs left a pair aboard in the first; the Phils did the same, stranding guys at second and third. Pittsburgh left a runner at second in the second; the Phils again got runners to second and third, but no further. The Pirates left two aboard in the third, although Locke hurled a 1-2-3 frame.

The Pirates scored in the fourth when The Kid singled and scored on a Brandon Inge double to the wall in right center; he, of course, was stranded. The Phillies outdid themselves in their half. With runners on the corners to open the frame, John Mayberry got tossed out at home on a grounder to third and Eric Kratz followed with a DP ball.

In the fifth, the Bucs stranded Gaby Sanchez at second as the 17th Bucco LOB and making them 0-for-13 with RISP; the Phils again went down in order. Hamels struck out the side in the sixth; Locke answered by whiffing a pair of his own, for a 1-0 game after six frames.

Locke ended up pitching pretty darn well after a bumpy start; giving up two hits and two walks with six K, although he's at 96 tosses and done for the night. He did it with the Bucs making an error behind him when Starling Marte botched a ball, and one of his two hits was a fly misplayed by JT in right. It was easily the best outing of the year for the young lefty, who retired the last eight batters in a row. The only downside was that 41 of his pitches were balls, mostly in the early going.

It was the Bucs turn to go down 1-2-3 in the seventh, with Tony Watson toeing the rubber in the Phillie half with Jared Hughes and Vin Mazzaro both off for recovery days. Couldn't ask for a better bridge; he put down the 6-7-8 hitters in order with a couple of K, though he did have to sweat a couple of long, loud fouls by Erik Kratz.

On his 103rd pitch, Hamels finally slipped by leaving a 2-1 heater up to Gaby, who took it the opposite way for a homer a few feet inside the pole, adding a big insurance run in the eighth. Russell Martin followed by rolling a single to left. He was left there, but barely as Neil Walker's fly was hauled in by the 381' mark in left center. Hamels saved his bullpen; he went eight and used 118 pitches, but held Pittsburgh to a pair on seven hits, a walk and six K.

Mark Melancon climbed the bump. Lance Nix fouled off four balls before finding one he liked, and he lined it to right for an opening knock. After getting two quick outs, Michael Young bounced one through the left side to put Phils at first and second to bring up lefty longball threat Ryan Howard. MM worked him hard inside and got a grounder to Gaby to put up another Philadelphia zero.

Phillippe Aumont scaled the hill for Philly in the ninth. He nailed the Bucs in order, and it was time for Jason Grilli. He earned his 8th save, tops in the NL, with a clean inning, punching out a pair of lefties to close the game and ice Jeff Locke's second win. Locke's now 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA.

 Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Halliday get it on tomorrow night.

  • Gaby Sanchez (2B, HR) and Starling Marte (1B, 2B) had a pair of knocks for the Bucs.
  • Mark Melancon is the poster child for tossing strikes; he hasn't walked a batter in 12 IP this year.
  • Every Pirate starting position player left a runner on; six left two or more stranded, led by Russell Martin with five LOB.
  • Martin extended his hitting streak to eight games.
  • Jared Stonesifer of Yahoo Sports wonders if Mike McKenry doesn't deserve more PT.
  • Charlie Morton's rehab start at Altoona went well. He worked four innings, with no runs on one hit, two walks and three strikeouts, throwing 69 pitches.
  • Chris Leroux is taking his talents across the Pacific to play for the Tokyo-based Yakult Swallows of the Nippon (Japanese) League, where he'll join Lastings Milledge.

Bucs v Phils: Southpaw Shootout

Jeff Locke will take the bump tonight against Cole Hamels in a duel of lefties. Locke is 1-1 with a 5.17 ERA, and has yet to go longer than five frames. Hamels has likewise been off to an uncharacteristically rocky start, with a slate of 0-2/6.46. In fact, the Phils have lost all four of his starts.

The Bucco southpaw has never faced Philly, while Cole is 1-1/3.18 in five lifetime starts against the Pirates. The game is radio only and will be aired on The Fan 93.7.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Jose Tabata RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Russell Martin C, Neil Walker 2B, Brandon Inge 3B, Clint Barmes SS and Jeff Locke P.

Not, that's no misprint. 35 year old Brandon Inge is on the roster and Alex Presley was returned to Indy. Sheesh. We're back to last year's bottom of the order, and God save us all.

Phil lineup: Jimmy Rollins SS, Freddy Galvis 2B, Michael Young 3B, Ryan Howard 1B, John Mayberry RF, Domonic Brown LF, Ben Revere CF, Erik Kratz C and Cole Hamels P.

  • Russell Martin has a seven game hitting streak while Travis Snider's string was ended at eight games.
  • AJ may not have been as sharp as usual last night, but he now leads the MLB in K with 42, and his 13.03 whiffs per nine are behind only Detroit's Max Scherzer, who's at 14.21.
  • Philadelphia has won 3-of-4 after a slow break from the gates.
  • Don't look now, but the Bucs are in fourth place in the Central. The Brewers are now 1/2 game ahead of them and rolling merrily along with an eight game winning streak.The top four teams are within 1-1/2 games of each other going into tonight.
  • Reliever Ryan Reid won his third game for Indy last night. The righty is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 14 K in 12 IP. Four of his seven outings have been for 2 or more innings, so he's another long man candidate for the bullpen.
  • Charlie Morton is slated to toss pitch four innings/60 pitches at  Altoona tonight.

4/23 In History

Slow day historically: a small crowd, a big bet and a streak dies...

  • 1890 - The Pittsburgh Alleghenys beat the Cleveland Spiders 20-12 at the North Side's Recreation Park in front of a crowd of 17 - with six paid! The yard held 17,000 fans.
  • 1902 - St. Louis Cardinals owner Frank Robison put up a $10‚000 challenge that the Pirates wouldn’t repeat as NL champions. Pittsburgh players pooled their money to meet the bet, and then collected easily as they won the pennant by 27-1/2 games. St Louis finished sixth, 44-1/2 games off the Pirates’ pace.
  • 1962 - The Bucs record setting ten game, season-opening winning streak was derailed by the Mets and Jay Hook at Forbes Field. It was the first regular season victory ever for NY as they won 9-1, and it started the Pirates on a spiral of losing 13-of-17 games.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bucs Stumble 3-2

We'll make this short and sweet: After posting how fundamentally sound the Bucs were, our desert tonight is crow pie as the Bucs lost to the Phils 3-2. We could start with a botched rundown or a runner getting thrown out by a mile trying to stretch a hit, but they ended up having no impact on the game. But...

AJ didn't have his command tonight, though he did pick up seven more K in five IP; makes us wonder if he's maybe getting a little caught up in his strikeout streak (or just had a bad day, take your pick). The first run scored when he walked the pitcher, rookie Jonathan Pettibone, who made it to third and scored on a wild pitch. In the fourth, the Phils loaded the bases with no one away. AJ froze them for two outs, then plunked Jimmy Rollin to force home another run.

Still, after five frames, it was 2-2 as Pedro and Russell Martin mashed solo shots off Pettibone. The sixth was the deciding frame. Jared Hughes got the first two outs with the 8-9 hitters coming up. He walked Eric Kratz, who is hitting .203. An weak infield single and flare to right made it 3-2, and that's how it ended. So two walks scored and two runs came in on a wild pitch & HBP.

The Bucs stranded a leadoff double by Starling Marte in the first and a one out double in the ninth by Garrett Jones. Both times, with a runner in scoring position, Buccos (Cutch and Pedro) looked at a third strike fastball. Any wonder that the Bucs were 0-for-8 with RISP?

Jeff Locke takes on Cole Hamels tomorrow night. There no TV - it's another Bucs and Pucks night - so fire up the electronic device of your choice or go old school and tune in by radio.

  • Stuff you don't see much: Pedro turned a DP tonight. He played up the middle on a shift against Ryan Howard and was the pivot on a 6-5-3 DP.
  • This was the first time this season that the Pirates didn't draw a walk.
  • Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer has a nice piece on Jason Grilli, who the Pirates picked up from the Philly system.
  • Tony Sanchez smacked a two out, two run walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth to give Indy a 5-4 win.
  • Jameson Taillon had a roiugh day at the shop. His line was five innings, five runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts. The Curve lost 10-6

Bucs v Phils

The Pirates take their highly successful home show on the road for ten games, beginning tonight with Philly. AJ Burnett squares off against RHP Jonathan Pettibone, who was just called up from Lehigh Valley to make his MLB debut.

AJ has been more than solid, leading the NL in K and coming off a one-hit win against the Cards. The Phillies haven't been pushovers for him. Burnett is 6-9/5.06 versus the Brotherly Love nine, though he has had a little more success on the road than at home facing them.

Pettibone, 22, was Philadelphia's third round pick in 2008. He was off to a rough start for the IronPigs (0-1/9.64), but pitched to a 3.10 ERA between AA and AAA in 2012. The righty is a control guy, featuring a low nineties fastball and changeup. Pettibone got the call because it's his day to pitch, replacing John Lannan who was just placed on the 15-day DL with a strained knee.

We'll see how the well the Pirates play as road warriors. LA swept them, but they came back to take the series against Arizona for a 2-4 slate this year. Under Hurdle's hand, the Bucs are 72-98 (.423) away from the Allegheny. The Pirates were 4-3 against Philly last year, 2-2 at Citizens Bank Park.

The contest at Citizens Bank Park is scheduled for a 7:05 start, and will be aired by the MLB Network and The Fan 93.7.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russell Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and AJ Burnett P.

Phillie lineup: Jimmy Rollins SS, John Mayberry RF, Chase Utley 2B, Ryan Howard 1B, Michael Young 3B, Domonic Brown LF, Ben Revere CF, Erik Kratz C and Jonathan Pettibone P.

Kratz, a one-time Bucco backstop, hit a three run homer in the eighth last night during the Phil's win. The offense has sputtered on the road, but Philadelphia is averaging 5.5 runs per game in their home yard.

  • It took awhile, but  Justin Wilson became Neal Huntington’s first draftee to get a MLB win for the Pirates when he earned the W yesterday.
  • The Buc bullpen has come up with a nickname - the "Shark Tank."
  • Pittsburgh has won nine of 12 since its 1-5 start. The club is gunning for its first four game winning streak of the season; they've won three in a row twice.Their last four-game string was in late July of last year.
  • The Bucs have to decide on Brandon Inge's future soon. His rehab is finished on Wednesday, and while he's picked it up some lately, he's still hitting just .158 with two homers for Indy. The FO hasn't given any solid indicator about which way they'll go with him. Reading between the lines, Clint Hurdle would like hm on the roster while the FO isn't sold.
  • Jameson Taillon is on the bump for Altoona tonight.

Are The Bucs Built For A 2013 Run?

The initial doom and gloom regarding the Bucs has been replaced by April optimism. No question the Bucs are playing good ball now, but hey, can they keep it up?

This is the most fundamentally sound club, at least in the early going, that Clint Hurdle has put on the field. Defensively, they're in the top half of MLB teams in making plays in the zone and top ten in plays made outside the zone, and that's with keystone Clint Barmes ranking 19th in UZR/150. Russell Martin has shored up the plate; he's tossed out 36% of the base stealers that have challenged him. Starling Marte and Cutch are highlight films.

Their baserunning has been more than solid, even though their base stealing remains abysmal. Aggressiveness and taking the extra sack have been Hurdle points of emphasis that began to take root last season, and the cries for Nick Leyva's head have calmed down considerably as the system sinks in.

The lineup is getting better, although the first week's woes have them struggling to reach mediocrity statistically.

The top of the order is in the best shape it's been in for awhile. Travis Snider seems to be converting well to a two-hole guy instead of a big bopper, and that fits the Pirates' needs. Marte will never draw walks, but he is showing more discipline. As we noted in the preseason, though, we still think his performance will be a roller coaster ride as the league adjusts to him and he to the league. Remember, it took Cutch a couple of years to work through everything the pitchers had up their sleeves.

The middle with Cutch, Garrett Jones and Neil Walker has been effective. The bottom of the order is more problematic. Pedro should be a platoon player, but the Pirates haven't found a RH complement for him. Martin, though on fire now, is probably going to be a low BA but decent OBP guy that takes pitches as advertised, and that's fine for a seven hitter. We have to believe the Bucs are ready to turn the page on Barmes, even if they don't trust Jordy Mercer as an everyday SS.

The bench is a small piece of the puzzle, but with a couple of platoon guys in the everyday lineup, it's key that the true subs be able to contribute. Gaby Sanchez, Mike McKenry and Jose Tabata are seeing limited at-bats but will come into their own when lefties start popping up; only five have stared against the Bucs in 19 games.

Alex Presley and John McDonald are there for a purpose - a lefty bat and a glove-first middle infielder - but we're not sure that serves the bench that well. A lefty bat is called for, but a fifth outfielder who doesn't play infield corners or wield a power bat is an extra wheel that limits late inning moves. And we think McDonald's spot might be better served to groom, or at least audition, a replacement for Barmes. So we'll see how that plays out.

It's a lineup that could use more power and whiff less, but it's workable, especially if the bench gets a little more versatility.

But pitching will be the key, and that's still a transitional project. AJ and Wandy have been all that, but the next three guys, James McDonald, Jeff Locke and Jonathan Sanchez, haven't carried their weight; J-Mac is the only one we think will stick around. The names will change soon enough when Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton and maybe Gerrit Cole are ready, but that's no guarantee the performance will.

The bullpen has borne the load for the back end of the rotation, and its fallen flat on its puss in the dog days of the last two seasons. That's not a case of suddenly forgetting how to pitch, but overuse. You can't blame Hurdle for that, but on starting pitching that can't get into the sixth and seventh innings; its 91-1/3 IP are the fewest in the NL this year. They already carry Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro as long guys while Justin Wilson is called on as a multi-inning, low leverage arm because of need to sop up innings. That's not the best way to build or use a relief staff.

The Buc pen already leads the NL in innings tossed, and their collective .211 BABIP and 88% strand rate just aren't sustainable. The sabermetrics note this - the bullpen ERA is 2.03 while the FIP is 3.80, and that spread will certainly close. The 4.32 walks/nine need trimmed, too. Their saving grace is their location; the pen's 54% ground ball rate has bailed them out of several jams already, as has its 22% punchout rate.

We think this year that the team should remain competitive; we'll stick with our pre-season guess of 80-85 wins. The squad can use some tweaking around the edges, but the big roadblock is the pitching. The starting staff is in transition (again), and how they finish games is how the team will finish in the standings.

4/22 In Pittsburgh Baseball History

Embarrassments, the Crawfords are raided, Expo Park opens, streaks and blasts...

  • 1891 - The Pirates played their first game at Exposition Park, located on the North Shore of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh, not far from the current site of PNC Park. Pittsburgh lost to the Chicago Cubs 7-6. The Pittsburg Press printed a special “Sporting Edition” that included a game story and illustrations. The 16,000 seat yard featured 400-foot foul lines and a 450-foot center field fence. It was their home field until 1909, when Forbes Field opened in Oakland.
  • 1892 - The Pirates scored twelve times in the first inning against St. Louis at Expo Park, beating the Browns 14-3. The game provided this footnote: Buc OF Elmer Smith worked a pair of free passes in that opening frame, the first time a player was walked twice in one inning.
  • 1898 - Cincinnati's Ted Breitenstein tossed a no-hitter against the Pirates, winning easily by an 11-0 count at League Field.
  • 1902 - The Pirates raised their 1901 pennant flag over Exposition Park in front of a record 15,000 fans and then edged the Reds 4-3, overcoming an early three run deficit.
  • 1937 - Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Truijillo signed several players from the Crawfords including Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige to his Dragones of Ciudad Trujillo squad. That blow would eventually bring down the Pittsburgh team as a powerhouse Negro League club. They were sold in 1939 and moved to Toledo.
  • 1949 - The Pirates won their home opener‚ beating the Reds‚ 5-4. Ralph Kiner's 3rd-inning grand slam was the key blow. The Bucs had fallen behind 4-0 in the first, but Bill Werle tossed 7-2/3 frames of scoreless relief to claim the win.
  • 1951 - Led by Gus Bell‚ who belted a homer‚ three doubles and a single while scoring three times‚ the Pirates defeated the Reds 7-5 at Crosley Field. Bill Werle tossed 2-1/3 scoreless relief frames to claim the win.
  • 1957 - C Hank Foiles hit a 425’ triple and a 258’ homer off the RF foul pole in a 3-1 loss to the Giants at the Polo Grounds. Willie Mays hit a two-out, three-run homer in the third off Luis Arroyo to carry NY to victory.
  • 1962 - The Pirates won their tenth straight game, 4-3, equaling the MLB record to start a season. Bob Veale beat the Mets at Forbes Field; the NY nine tied a NL record going in the opposite direction by opening the year 0-9.
  • 2010 - The Pirates were humiliated by the Brewers at PNC Park 20-0 for their worst loss ever. Six Bucco pitchers surrendered 25 hits. The victory completed a three-game sweep of the Bucs in which the Brew Crew outscored Pittsburgh, 36-1.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bucs Take Series With 4-2 Win

Nice first inning for the beleaguered Jonathan Sanchez. After an out, he lost Ramiro Pena after a 3-2 count, and then went full on Justin Upton. He and Russell Martin teamed up for the ol' strike 'em out, toss 'em out DP when Upton missed a heater and Pena was caught heading to second.

Starling Marte started the Bucs off by roping a shot the opposite way, but unfortunately right at Reed Johnson. Travis Snider drew a 3-2 walk and Cutch singled him to second, but Kris Medlin handled Garrett Jones and Neil Walker easily on a foul pop and whiff to keep the first frame scoreless.

The Bravos put Sanchez in a second inning jam when Chris Johnson rolled a ball through the right side and Reed Johnson bounced another through the left side with an out. Gerald Laird softly grounded another one through the dirt into left field, and it was 1-0 Atlanta. Andrelton Simmons got a 2-2 slider that hung and lined it into right to make it 2-0 with Johnson barely sneaking in ahead of Snider's throw home. Medlen bunted the runners over, but Sanchez got BJ Upton on strikes to limit the damage. He's already at 50 pitches.

The Bucs answered quickly. Pedro singled up the middle and came home when Martin drilled a 2-0 sinker to the Notch for a double. Clint Barmes lined a fastball to right, and it was 2-2 just that quickly. Sanchez wasn't having a good day; he fouled off two bunts and then dropped one right in front of the plate for a force at second. Didn't make a lot of diff as Marte was plunked following him. Snider went down looking, and Medlen escaped when Cutch's drive was hauled in on the track in front of the 389' marker.

With an out in the third, Justin Upton walked on a 3-2 pitch and went to second as a slider got through Martin. Evan Gattis drew another base on balls after five pitches. Chris Johnson flew out deep to right, moving Upton to third. Reed Johnson went down swinging at a 3-2 fastball, and Sanchez was done. He went three, giving up two runs on four hits with three walks and five K while tossing 73 pitches and not doing much to help his cause.

The Bucs went quietly, and Jeanmar Gomez took over in the fourth. He gave up a walk and single with two down and fell behind Pena 3-0 but got him to bounce out. Medlen was back in the groove, working on a streak of eight straight Buccos down. The fifth went quietly for the Braves, which stranded another runner at second after a leadoff walk and steal. Marte opened the Buc half by reaching on an error, but was quickly erased trying to steal second. Snider worked a long at-bat finished by a double to right. He was stranded.

The Bravos 7-8 hitters opened the sixth with back-to-back singles, but Medlen hurt himself by failing to get a bunt down. That was it for Gomez as Clint Hurdle waved for Justin Wilson, who served a 6-4-3 DP to BJ Upton to end the frame. Walker started the Bucs off with a knock. Pedro took the next pitch to the wall in left where Justin Upton made a leaping grab, with The Kid going to second. After a groundout moved Walker to third, the Braves decided to pitch to Barmes. He crossed their wires by hustling out an infield bleeder to bring home the go ahead run.

Given the lead, Wilson promptly walked Pena to open the seventh. Martin did it again; Justin Upton struck out on a 3-2 foul tip and Pena was tossed out stealing to clear the bases. Good thing, too, as Gattis doubled the opposite way two pitches later. Hurdle went to the well again and brought in Jared Hughes. The righty-on-righty match worked; Hughes whiffed Chris Johnson.

The Bucs added another run to their lead. Luis Ayala took the bump, gave up a single to Marte, and was yanked for LHP Luis Avilan. Snider singled off him. Cutch squared up on anther drive to left, but it didn't carry quite enough and was a loud first out, with both runners tagging. Garrett Jones banged one to third; either Marte had a brain cramp or was going on contact, and was run down for the second out. Walker drew a 3-2 free pass to juice the bases for Pedro. He managed a weak pop, but Avilan tossed one away two pitches before that to plate Snider and make it a 4-2 game.

With Mark Melancon on ice today, Tony Watson took the setup call and worked a clean frame. Avilon gave up a leadoff single to Martin and Cory Gearrin took over. Barmes bunted Martin to second, but the Bucs couldn't cash him in. Jordan Schafer worked Jason Grilli for an eight pitch walk to bring up the top of Atlanta's order.

No prob - it took a few tosses, but Grilli got a pair of called K and retired Justin Upton on a long fly just short of the right center field track for save #7, with Justin Wilson getting the W. The Bucs are now 10-8 after taking 3-of-4 from Atlanta and going 7-2 during the homestand.

The Bucs leave the friendly confines to visit Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park for a four game set. AJ Burnett is due to toe the rubber for the Bucs while the Phillies' pitcher is TBA. It's the first leg of a ten game road trip.

  • Travis Snider has an eight game hitting streak and Russel Martin's is at six.
  • Clint Barmes collected his 800th MLB hit in the second; the knock also drove in his first RBI of the year.
  • Something you rarely see at PNC Park: the usually top flight grounds crew had to redo the batters boxes between the first and second innings, as they were off center.
  • Francisco Liriano at Indy and Jonathan Sanchez in Pittsburgh are on the same pitching schedule. The Pirates hope Liriano is ready after two more starts, so that may be the timetable of Sanchez's Pirate career.
  • Gerrit Cole had all kinds of command issues for Indy today. He went  four innings, giving up no runs and just a hit but walking five while whiffing a pair after throwing 85 pitches. The Tribe won 2-1
  • Neal Huntington told Dejan Kovacevich of the Tribune Review that Luis Heredia, now working out in Pirate City, will report to West Virginia "... in a month or so." The Mexican righty is just 18; the FO is keeping a tight limit on how many innings of work he gets each season. He tossed 66-1/3 frames at State College last year, so we'd assume the goal this year is 100 innings or less. 
  • The GM added that Bryan Morris is stuck in the minors because the Pirates need long men in the pen during this stretch.

Bucs Try To Take Series Behind Sanchez

Jonathan Sanchez faces off against Kris Medlen this afternoon. Sanchez's last outing was a washout after two frames. The Braves seem to like him just fine; the lefty is 1-3/5.45 in nine outings versus the Bravos.  With Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton getting their reps in, every start counts for him; a line of 0-2/12.96 won't cut it. 

Medlen's been strong. The righty has a 1.05 ERA in his past 15 starts and a 1-1/1.42 line in 2013. He hasn't gone against Pittsburgh much, with a 2-0/2.55 mark in 17-2/3 innings. The game starts at 1:35 and will be aired by Root Sports and The Fan 93.7.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and Jonathan Sanchez P.

Hurdle used Russell Martin at third last night to both have him fresh to catch today and keep his hot bat in the lineup. He has a .650 OBP in the past five games after a glacial start. Pedro has a two game homer streak

Brave lineup: B.J. Upton CF, Ramiro Pena 2B, Justin Upton LF, Evan Gattis 1B, Chris Johnson 3B, Reed Johnson RF,Gerald Laird C, Andrelton Simmons SS and Kris Medlen P.

2B Pena is taking over for Dan Uggla, who strained a calf last night, and Johnson gets in, replacing the slow starting Jason Heyward in RF.

  • If you haven't noticed, the Pirate attack picked up once Clint Hurdle quit pulling his lineup out of a hat and stuck to his regular order with the platoons. Three things that have helped have been a glut of RHP, Marte/Snider coming thru at the top of the order and Russell Martin starting to get on base.
  • Martin has a five game hitting streak; Travis Snider has a seven game string.
  • In Jeff Sullivan's Fangraphs feature "The Weeks Wildest Swings," he's selected one of Starling Marte's hacks, and a Jay Bruce cut chasing after a Mark Melancon offering. Sullivan also shows Donnie Veal making Colby Rasmus call for mama.
  • Charlie Wilmouth of Bucs Dugout has a post in MLB Trade Rumors reviewing Gerrit Cole's draft class of 2011. It includes a poll, so you can add your two cents.
  • Gerrit Cole is on the hill for Indy today.
  • Andrew Lambo went 2-for-4 yesterday for Altoona. He's batting .344, has a six game hitting streak, and has reached base safely in all 16 Curve games. RHP Tim Alderson is another once hot prospect off to a good start. In 12 IP, he's given up a run on five hits and K'ed a dozen as a multi-role bullpen guy.

This Day In Bucco History 4/21

Homers, birthdays, goose eggs and rallies...

  • 1913 - The Pirates banged out eight straight hits plus a sac fly to score seven times in the sixth inning and rallied past the St. Louis Cards‚ 8-5. Babe Adams went the distance for the win at Robison Field. Honus Wagner and Solly Hofman led the attack with three knocks apiece.
  • 1921 - Moses “Chief” Yellowhorse won his first MLB game, and the first ever by a full-blooded Native American (he was Pawnee) by working 3-1/3 innings in Pittsburgh’s 8-7 win over the Reds at Forbes Field in the season’s home lidlifter.
  • 1943 - Rip Sewell ruined the Cubs home opener at Wrigley Field as he tossed a three hit, 6-0 shutout. Sewell had their number; he took five more W from them during the campaign. There were four games played on this date around the league, all ending in shutouts, a MLB record.
  • 1964 - The Bucs beat the Cubs 8-5 at Wrigley. Every run scored was the result of a homer, setting a MLB record, and nine different players went long, tying a record. Roberto Clemente, Ducky Schofield, Jim Pagliaroni and Gene Freese (who hit a three run bomb in the ninth to win it) went yard for Pittsburgh; the Cubs hit five solo shots.
  • 1971 - Pops hit three long balls for the second time in eleven days to lead Pittsburgh to a 10-2 win over the Braves. Captain Willie collected five RBI and scored three times at TRS. Dock Ellis tossed a five hitter to keep the Bravo bats at bay.
  • 1977 - Happy birthday, Kip Wells. The righty came to Pittsburgh in 2001 as part of the Todd Ritchie deal with the White Sox and tossed for five Bucco seasons, winning 36 times. The Texan started off well, with ERA of 3.58 and 3.28 in 2002-03, but faded and was sent to the Rangers for Jesse Chavez during the 2006 off season.
  • 1981 - Ronny Paulino was born in Santo Domingo. He was thought be be the Bucco catcher of the future and started behind the dish in 2006-07. That was enough time to prove he wasn’t the answer, and after the 2008 season he was dealt to the Phils for Jason Jaramillo. Paulino spent four years as a Pirate and hit .278.
  • 1991 - The Pirates became the first MLB team to come back from a five run deficit in the bottom half of an extra inning to win. After the Cubs scored five runs‚ thanks mostly to a grand slam by Andre Dawson‚ the Pirates plated six times in the 11th inning at TRS to claim a 13-12 victory. Don Slaught's one-out double brought home the winner. Bob Patterson was charged with giving up three runs in an inning of work, but was credited with the win.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

J-Mac Outpitches Maholm In 3-1 Buc Win

It was good sign that the good J-Mac showed up in the first inning; he K'ed the side on 13 pitches. Paul Maholm had an uneventful start thanks to a JT DP after Starling Marte was HBP to open the Bucco half.

It got more interesting in the second frame. McDonald hit a batter, gave up a double, and then walked a Bravo. After a K, he walked in a run on four pitches. Then he struck out the next pair of Atlanta hitters on six pitches. He went from to good to bad to good in a New York minute. Maholm just kept on rolling.

The next pair of frames went by without a lot of noise. J-Mac issued another walk and got another K, while Cutch doubled with two down in the fourth for Pittsburgh's first knock. He stole third, but was left stranded when Gaby flew out fairly deep to straightaway center.

The fifth was a little rockier for J-Mac. After whiffing Maholm, Marte robbed BJ Upton, leaping to the top of the wall in left to pull in a drive that was close to landing in the seats. McDonald followed that with a five pitch walk, his fourth of the night. J-Mac escaped when Justin Upton banged his 80th pitch just short of the track in right where JT ran it down with another nice bit of D.

The Bucs went to work in their half with some small ball. Russell Martin walked on a 3-2 pitch and Neil Walker dropped a bunt for a base hit. The Fort went down on a fifty-fifty, two-strike check swing, Barmes swung and missed at a 1-2 changeup in the dirt, and Clint Hurdle let J-Mac bat. He sat down after looking at a called strike three.

The Braves got a runner to second via a one out infield knock and groundout that 3B Martin played off his chest but handled. J-Mac nailed Juan Francisco on a foul tip K, so Hurdle's decision to let him bat paid off, and at 94 pitches he may have another frame left in him.

Marte fell behind 0-2, but started the sixth working a disciplined walk, and JT bunted him to second. It paid off when Cutch ripped his second double, this one off the Clemente Wall, to knot the score and end Maholm's scoreless streak at 25-1/3 innings. 

When it rains, it pours. Gaby Sanchez hammered a cut fastball up in the zone into the center field shrubs, and the Bucs were up 3-1. Martin followed with an eight pitch walk. Freddi Gonzalez left Maholm in, probably to turn The Kid around, and it worked as Walker rolled over on a backdoor 0-2 curve and bounced into an inning ending 6-4-3 DP.

That frame ended J-Mac's night. He went six, giving up a run on two hits, four walks, a plunked batter and nine punchouts. Tony Watson took the bump in the seventh and held on to the lead without much ado.

Cory Gearrin replaced Maholm on the hill, and The Fort greeted him with a double to left, and Alex Presley came in to run for him. A wild pitch moved The King to third. Barmes didn't see a strike, but still struck out. Pedro grabbed a bat to pinch hit, and was intentionally walked by the righty. Good move; Marte turned on a slider away and banged into an around the horn DP as the Bucs burned a great opp to add to their margin.

Mark Melancon climbed the hill in the eighth and Pedro reclaimed the hot corner. MM added another zero to the Bravo line after giving up a leadoff single to Justin Upton. Jordan Walden took the walk from the pen in the bottom half and continued the Bravo relievers string of goose eggs, surviving a Cutch drive to the Notch that was corralled and a two-out knocks by Sanchez and Martin.

Jason Grilli got the bottom of the Bravo lineup in a role reversal from last season, and struck out the side for his sixth save in six chances. So the Bucs have taken 2-of-3 from the hottest team in baseball, and are over the .500 mark

Jonathan Sanchez takes on Kris Medlen tomorrow afternoon.

  • The Pirates K'ed 13 Braves tonight.
  • After a rocky spring on the basepaths, Cutch is now 6-of-7 at swiping sacks. 
  • 29,313 braved a fall-like night to catch the game - and score an Andrew McCutchen bobblehead.
  • The Braves continued an odd stat - they've won all 13 games they've homered in, and lost all four in which they haven't.
  • Bravo 2B Dan Uggla left the game in the fourth inning with a strained calf.
  • Per Elias Sports: Paul Maholm was trying to become the first pitcher during the Modern Era (since 1900) to open a season with four straight scoreless starts. Cutch spoiled that in the sixth, and Gaby piled on.
  • Francisco Liriano didn't have such a hot day for Altoona: He went 2-2/3 IP, and gave up four runs on four hits (one a three-run blast in the first) with three walks and four K. He was yanked after 67 pitches; 65 was his approximate limit. Jose Contreras worked a perfect frame with a whiff.