Friday, May 31, 2013

Reds Walk Away With 6-0 Win As Cueto One-Hits Bucs

Wandy went through the first with minimal damage, losing Joey Votto with two outs. After a Starling Marte whiff, the Bucs tried to take advantage of a little wildness by Johnny Cueto after The Kid walked and Cutch got bopped with a pitch high on the shoulder (funny that the Reds pitches always seem find McCutchen), but a Garrett Jones bouncer - Cutch's hard slide broke up a DP chance - and a Travis Snider liner ended the frame at zero.

After an out in the second, Todd Frazier got the game's first hit when he softly dropped a change up almost in the dirt into right, ending up with a double. Wandy retired the 7-8 hitters routinely to strand him there. The Bucs went down without a peep.

Zack Cozart drew a two out walk, but it didn't hurt as Votto hot a fly the opposite way to the left field corner that Marte corralled on the track. the Bucs hit three grounders, and it was on to the fourth. After Marte ran down a long shot by Brandon Phillips in left center, Jay Bruce followed by knocking one over the Xfinity sign in right center, and the Reds took an early 1-0 lead in the fourth. Pittsburgh hit a couple of liners, but Cutch's was an at 'em ball to Bruce in right center and Snider's slicer was again snagged by Phillips, around a Jones' pop out.

Ryan Hanigan, hitting .171, fell behind 0-2, but coaxed a walk from Rodriguez to open the fifth. Cueto couldn't move him up, but Wandy got him off the hook by hitting Shin-Soo Choo (who leads the league with 15 HBP) on a 1-2 pitch. A Cozart fly to center moved Hanigan to third, but Wandy got Votto to sky out to left center to escape the mild jam. Inge got the Bucs first hit on a lob to left when he got a reprieve on a pitch that should have struck him out. Clint Barmes chopped the next pitch into an around the horn DP to quickly cap the frame. 

Lead off hitter Phillips turned on a curve, tight and at the knees, and roped it just far enough to drop a few feet inside the left field foul pole into the first row of seats to give the Reds a 2-0 bulge after 5-1/2 innings. The Bucs again went down in order, with Votto spearing a Walker liner behind first base with two down to take away a double.

Hanigan led off the seventh with a knock. Cueto again failed to move him up, and with two outs Cozart battled Rodriguez. Wandy got him to roll over, but he got enough of the ball to bang it through the shortstop hole. Facing his last batter, Wandy was smoked by Votto, but his liner was right at Walker, and another zero went on the board. Rodriguez went seven, giving up a pair on five hits and three walks, with five K after 103 pitches. Good start, but the Buc bats continue their slumber. The heart of the order went down quietly, and Mike Zagurski took the bump.

The Z Man hit Phillips, who stole second. He went to third when Jay, who was facing a shift to the right, poked a pitch away through the left side to put runners on the corners. A wild pitch scored Phillips and moved Jay to second. An out later, Derrick Robinson hit a seeing eye single through the left side to bring home Jay. Hanigan walked and Cueto bunted the runners up, but Zagurski finally ended the frame with a grounder to Walker from Choo. Four runs looks pretty much beyond the Bucs' pay grade about now, and they went down meekly again 1-2-3.

Ya had to feel it for Zagurski in the ninth when he was left to sink or swim. He had the bases loaded with two outs, and Robinson fouled off pitch after pitch, finally drawing a 11 pitch walk to force in a run on Z Man's 57th pitch; his season high had been 34 at Indy. No defending the fact that he walked four guys and hit a batter, but he didn't have much help. He tossed three wild pitches; two hit the dirt behind the plate and Mike McKenry should have blocked them; the other was a high fastball that ticked off The Fort's glove. All three hits were bouncers through the SS hole. We figure the baseball gods used him to regress the bullpen stats, and the ERA, opposing BA, BABIP and strand rates sure made a move toward the norm tonight. Bryan Morris came on and walked in another run before getting a K.

Sam LeCure came on to pitch the ninth; sitting in the dugout the last two innings was like a rain delay for Cueto, and he was at 103 pitches. He put the Bucs away easily.

Well, one hit ain't gonna win too many games, and the Bucs generally sleepwalk the first game of a series anyway. Hopefully, the FO will order a truckload of bats for the rest of the set.

Fransisco Liriano and Mike Leake take the hill tomorrow night.
  • Pedro was scratched an hour or so before the game with lingering pain from his wisdom teeth being pulled. Brandon Inge took his spot. 
  • The Bucs are 6-12 in the opening game of a series. To boot, they've been shut out through nine innings in three of the last four games, and that's not all because of the pitching.
  • Tonight's attendance at PNC Park was 35,730 as they continue to draw well on weekends.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that Scott Boras is open to talking a multi-year deal for Pedro in Pittsburgh.
  • To clear a space for Chase d'Arnaud to return to Indy and the 40-man roster from the DL, the Bucs moved Charlie Morton from the 15 to the 60-day DL. It's a temporary fix (Morton is scheduled to return after two more starts at Indy) and has no effect on the righty's rehab time, since he's been out longer than 60 days. But it buys the FO a little more time to decide.
  • Say a prayer for the Card faithful. A powerful storm collapsed a tent outside a bar filled with post-game St. Louis fans, killing one with five critically injured and 17 sent to the hospital.

Wandy v Cueto; Presley In, Harrison Out

Johnny Cueto (2-0, 2.76) and Wandy Rodriguez (6-2, 3.58) get it on tonight at PNC Park in the opening game of a three-game set. Rodriguez has won his last four starts, with a 3.00 ERA during that span. Wandy's tough at home, posting a 4-1/1.93 line in his five 2013 starts at PNC Park. Lifetime, the lefty is 8-11 with a 4.33 ERA against the Reds.

Cueto has made a living fattening up against the Bucs, with a career line of 12-4/2.52 ERA. Pittsburgh did beat him this year in his only outing against them so far by a 3-1 score in mid-April, but Cueto hurt his tricep during that outing and missed five weeks. Since he's been back, Cueto has together a couple of solid starts. The contest begins at 7:08 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Travis Snider RF, Mike McKenry C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Clint Barmes SS and Wandy Rodriguez P.

Pedro's back after having two wisdom teeth yanked yesterday (JT, currently on the DL, had a root canal on Thursday too. Wonder if the Bucs have a team dentists?). The Fort is giving Russell Martin a blow; he's caught a lot of innings lately. It's Clint's turn to start at SS; in his last 11 games, he's hit .151 (5-for-33).

Reds lineup: Shin-Soo Choo CF, Zack Cozart SS, Joey Votto 1B, Brandon Phillips 2B, Jay Bruce RF, Todd Frazier 3B, Derrick Robinson LF, Ryan Hanigan C and Johnny Cueto P.

  • The Pirates optioned IF Josh Harrison to Indy and recalled OF Alex Presley, which makes sense as they're an OF short with Jose Tabata on the DL.
  • Chase d’Arnaud has been reinstated from the DL and optioned to Indy; which requires a 40-man roster move that's unannounced as of yet. The Pirates also picked up a pair of AAA relievers for the Indy Tribe, RHP Graham Godfrey from Boston and LHP Atahualpa Severino, bought from KC. Both have limited MLB experience. With Vic Black hurt and Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris and Mike Zagurski in Pittsburgh, the Indy pen was running low on warm bodies. And it just may be that there's something on the backburner involving pitching and the FO is building some depth. We'll see.
  • The 2013 Pirates are the first team to win 1-0 in 11 innings (or longer) twice in three days since the 1958 Pirates. The last team to win four 1-0 games over an 11 game span as the Bucs have just done was the 1918 Washington Senators (who, btw, did it seven games!).
  • Pittsburgh (34-20) has won 16 of its last 20; who'd ever thunk it?
  • Tonight’s contest against the Reds will be the 1000th game played at PNC Park, which opened on April 9th, 2001, also against Cincinnati. The Pirates have gone 488-511 all-time at PNC, and have a 101-90 home record with Clint Hurdle as skipper.
  • This is the first time that three teams in same division (Bucs, Cards, Reds) have gone into June with .600 winning % since baseball went to three divisions in 1994, per ESPN Stats.
  • Gerrit Cole is on the bump for Indy tonight.
  • Stolmy Pimentel's woes continue at Altoona. He went six, giving up four runs on 10 hits, two walks and four K in a 7-4 loss. At West Virginia, Stetson Allie only had one hit, but it went an estimated 450' for his 14th home run.

Bucs In History 5/31

Great pitching, great rally, great streak, great crowd, great hitting, and one very bad frame...

  • 1915 - The Pirates swept the first place Cubs by identical 1-0 scores at Forbes Field as Wilbur Cooper and Al Mamaux hurled complete game shutouts. The Pirates won the first game on a bases-loaded beaned batter and the second on a wild pitch.
  • 1927 - The Pirates overcame a 6-1, sixth inning deficit by scoring nine times in the final four frames to nip the Cubs 10-9 at Forbes Field. 1B Joe Harris was on fire, going 5-for-5 with two triples, a double, four RBI and two runs scored.
  • 1937 - The Reds beat the Pirate 8-3 in the opener of a DH at Crosley Field. It was the only game Cincinnati won against the Pirates in 1937. They lost the next 17 straight to the Buccos and dropped 21 of 22 games‚ tying the MLB record set by the Cubs over the Braves in 1909 and the Yankees over the Browns in 1927. In fact, the Reds would drop the first three to open 1938 for a 20 game losing streak against Pittsburgh, another MLB record.
  • 1948 - At Wrigley Field‚ the Cubs set a paid attendance record when 46‚965 fans passed through the turnstiles during a doubleheader split with the Pirates.
  • 1994 - It wasn’t a good day to be a Pirate pitcher. San Diego scored 13 runs in the second inning on the way to a 15-5 whipping of the Bucs at Jack Murphy Stadium. Steve Cooke and John Hope were the hapless hurlers in that unlucky frame.
  • 2003 - The Pirates rode a three-run blast by Brian Giles and the combined six-hit effort of six pitchers to hold off the Cards at Busch Stadium by a 4-3 tally. 
  • 2008 - SS Luis Rivas had four RBI, two runs scored, a homer and double as the Bucs pounded St. Louis 14-4 at Busch Stadium. Ronny Paulino added three RBI with three hits and a homer of his own while Jose Bautista chipped in with four knocks. Xavier Nady and Freddie Sanchez had three hits each as the Pirates pounded out 19 hits.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Six Buc Pitchers Combine To Stop Tigers 1-0 In Eleven on Martin Walk-Off.

Jeff Locke retired the first pair of Tigers routinely, and even got two strikes on Miguel Cabrera before he sliced a double to right on a hook that took a quick turn into the seats, over the short railing. No prob; Locke got Fielder swinging at a 3-2 heater at the knees. With an out, Doug Fister decided not to screw with the hot swinging Neil Walker; he plunked him in the back of the calf. Then he got down to business, getting Cutch and Garrett Jones swinging.

The Tigers went down quietly in the second. Fister struck out the first two Bucs on his way to a 1-2-3 frame; hopefully Pirate batters will do a little better job after they've seen that big breaking slider the second time around. Locke got three groundouts in the third; Fister got three punch outs. Sheesh.

Miggy doubled with an out in the fourth, stretching a single by catching Cutch by surprise; his throw was just late at second. A Prince Fielder grounder moved him to third, but Locke froze Jhonny Peralta with an inside corner heater to close the frame. The Bucs opened with three straight singles off Fister, but Walker was caught stealing. Two batters later, Cutch and GI were on the corners. Martin needed to put a ball in play, but he whiffed waving at a spinner in the dirt and way off the plate. Travis Snider shot a liner to left, but Matt Tuiasosopo.was there to haul it in and leave the Bucs at zero.

Detroit upped the ante; they got four straight knocks without scoring in the fifth. Tuiasosopo rolled one into right with two strikes followed by Brayan Pena bouncing one past Jordy Mercer. Avisail Garcia hit another grounder, this one through the second base hole, and Snider came up throwing, catching Tuiasosopo at home. On a 3-2 pitch, Fister swung away after two bunt tries and grounded another past Brandon Inge, who was even with the bag, looking for the sac try, to load the bases. Omar Infante hit a chopper to third; Inge went up for it and got the force at home, and Dirks bounced out to Walker to end the frame. Lotta action, but still no scoring. The Pirates went down without a peep.

With one away in the sixth, Fielder fisted a pop into short left center just over Mercer's glove for a knock and Ramon Santiago walked on five pitches. Hurdle figured that Locke was gassed - and probably rightly so - and called for Vin Mazzaro. Locke went 5-1/3, giving up seven hits and a walk with three K; he was at 96 pitches. Good move; Vin K'ed Tuiasosopo and got Pena on a weak grounder to third. Fister and Fielder combined on a nice play to retire Marte, who tried to bunt for a hit. An out later, Cutch walked, but Fister got his tenth K, getting Jones to swing at a back foot hook.

Detroit kept coming. A leadoff walk, sac bunt, and single to left put Tigers on the corners. Mazzaro got Dirks to pop out into short left to Mercer, and Miggy banged the next pitch to second to strand their ninth runner of the night. Fister struck out two more, but is at 116 pitches after seven.

Tony Watson celebrated his b-day with a routine eighth frame, giving up just a two out, 3-2 walk. Joaquin Benoit took over, and Josh Harrison greeted him with an 0-2 dinker into right. He was bunted to second. The Kid flew out to shallow right, and Cutch ripped a 3-2 pitch toward the hole, but Miggy made a run-saving diving stop and his throw closed the frame. Justin Wilson took the bump; it looks like Grilli will have tonight off after pitching 3-of-4 games, including the last two, so Mark Melancon will be the high leverage guy.

After two ground outs in the ninth, Infante lined a 1-2 hook over Inge's head for a double. Dirks followed with a drive to right center, but Cutch ran it down on the track by the Xfinity sign. Phil Coke tossed for the Tigers, and gave up a bad hop single to Martin but had an otherwise uneventful frame. With Miggy and Prince up in the tenth, Hurdle waved in Melancon. It took him eight pitches to set the Tigers down. Luke Putkonen also tucked the Bucs away without any ado, and Bryan Morris came on for the eleventh.

Like MM, he was efficient; it took him seven tosses to retire the side. Putkonen was in trouble quickly; Walker singled hard to right, Cutch walked on four pitches and Gaby hit a seeing eye bouncer into left to load the bases. Russell Martin played up the drama, going 2-2 before drilling a fly that hit the track in front of the Notch for the walk off single, and the Bucs had their second 1-0, 11 inning win over the best offense in baseball.

The Bucco pitchers may be sabermetric pariahs, but the sure do put up some nice counting numbers. The Reds lost, so Pittsburgh is in second now. And the beat goes on - Wandy Rodriguez and Johnny Cueto open the three game Cincinnati series tomorrow night.

  • Jeff Locke now has gone 19-1/3 straight innings over three starts without giving up a run. That's the longest scoring streak since Charlie Morton tossed 24 zeroes in 2011.
  • This is the fourth 1-0 win for the Pirates in 11 games - they did it twice against Detroit, once against the Cubs, and once against the Astros. The Pirates held the Tigers scoreless for 31 of the final 32 innings of the series.
  • Bryan Morris picked up two wins in 24 hours, working two innings and throwing 19 pitches.
  • Buc batters have struck out 11+ times in five straight games for the first time in club history. (Milwaukee K'ed a dozen Pirates before the home-and-home set with Detroit.) Pittsburgh was punched out 65 times in the five games.
  • Even though it was a split home-and-home set, this was the fifth time this year (in five series) that the Pirates have lost the first game of a four game series and then won the next three games.
  • Doug Fister was the only Tigers starter without a ten strikeout game this season until tonight. He whiffed 12 Buccos; his season high had been eight.

Fister, Locke In Finale

Doug Fister (5-2, 3.65) takes the bump against Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45) to close out the two game set against Detroit. Locke has won his last five decisions and has been stingy with hits and runs, even if the sabermetrics say he's due for a regression makeover. This will be his first outing against the Tigers.

Fister tosses a four and two seamer, change and hook. He's been getting some swings and misses (7+ K per nine), and has developed into an extreme (56%) ground ball guy. Fister had a solid April but has been hit around some this month (5.20 ERA in five May starts). He's tossed one nondescript game against the Bucs last year, the only time he's faced them, losing 4-1.

The game starts at 7:05 and will aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones 1B, Russell Martin C, Travis Snider RF, Brandon Inge 3B, Jordy Mercer SS and Jeff Locke P.

We swear that every time Pedro gets a big hit that Clint Hurdle sits him the next game. (Our bad; Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that "Alvarez had two wisdom teeth extracted today, which is why he's not in lineup." Sorry, Clint.)

Tiger lineup: Omar Infante 2B, Andy Dirks RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Jhonny Peralta SS,
Matt Tuiasosopo LF, Brayan Pena C, Avisail Garcia CF and Doug Fister P.
The Motown outfield is a little jumbled with Torii Hunter out with a bruised elbow.

  • Neil Walker is batting .440 with three homers and five RBIs in his last six games.
  • Jason Grilli (22-of-22) is one of two pitchers without a blown save (min. 15 opportunities); the other is the Cards' Edward Mujica with 17. 
  • Torii Hunter is day-to-day for Detroit after catching a Byran Morris fastball on the elbow last night
  • The Buc victory last night was Pittsburgh's eighth of the year when it trailed after six innings and the team's 15th come from behind win. Pittsburgh is also 24-1 when leading after seven innings. So far, the last three innings have been berry, berry good to the Pirates. 
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes "we can regress the Pirates early season performance heavily, note that they’re playing well over their heads, and that their pitching can’t keep up their current levels while still also acknowledging that they’ve put themselves in pretty good playoff position" in his "It's Time To Take the Pirates Seriously" post.
  • Grant Brisbee of the McCovey Chronicles posts about "The Pirates, Mark Appel, Scott Boras and the Obvious" for Sports Nation.  He speculates what one more MLB-ready arm could have meant to the team, especially this season...
  • Marc Hulet for MLB Trade Rumors has a post on pitchers becoming hitters and hitters converting to pitcher. Stetson Allie leads the list of makeovers-in-progress.
  • Congrats to the WPIAL Baseball Champions: NA beat two-time defending champ Seneca Valley 4-2 in AAAA;  South Park capped an undefeated year with a 4-3, extra inning win over Hopewell in AAA; Beaver handed Quaker Valley its first loss 7-1 in AA; and Western Beaver nosed Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 3-2 in A.

5/30 - Day In Bucs History

Fido barks, trip-trip-triples, triple play, nine ribbies, baron of the bullpen, loooong bombs, hitting streak...

  • 1892 - Mark “Fido” Baldwin, a native Pittsburgh boy alleged to have the best fastball in the league, tossed both ends of a Pirate DH sweep of the Baltimore Orioles at Exposition Park, winning 11-1 and 4-3. Baldwin went 26-27 with 45 complete games during the season. 
  • 1925 - The Pirates set a MLB record by hitting eight triples against the St. Louis Cardinals at cavernous Forbes Field in the lidlifter of a DH. Max Carey and Clyde Barnhart each banged out a pair of three baggers while Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor, Glenn Wright and Eddie Moore each had one. Barnhart had four hits, four runs and five RBI in the game. The Cubs broke the Bucs seven game winning streak convincingly in the nitecap by an 11-2 count. 
  • 1927 - The Bucs lost the opener of a Forbes Field Memorial Day doubleheader to the Cubs 7-6 in 10 innings, ending the Pirates 11 game win streak. The big play was made by Cubs’ SS Jimmy Cooney, who snared Paul Waner's liner, stepped on second to double up Little Poison, and then tagged Clyde Barnhart coming from first for an unassisted triple play. Pittsburgh came back to win the nitecap‚ 6-5‚ also in 10 innings. Lloyd Waner collected seven hits during the day. 
  • 1939 - Johnny Rizzo set a club record by driving in nine runs against the St. Louis Browns in a 14-8 win at Sportsman's Park, gaining a doubleheader split for the Bucs. He banged a pair of homers and two doubles. 
  • 1958 - The Milwaukee Braves beat the Bucs and ElRoy Face 7-4 at Forbes Field. The Baron of the Bullpen gave up four runs, two unearned, but came back strong; he wouldn’t lose again until September 1959, claiming 22 straight wins. 
  • 1964 - Roberto Clemente homered high off the center field light tower at Dodger Stadium, a bomb that Post Gazette writer Jack Herndon estimated traveled 500’. The Bucs went down to LA, though, 6-4. 
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell launched a Ken Holtzman pitch into the upper deck in right field, the third of four that he’d ship to the top tier at TRS in his career, to cap a 10-0 win over the Cubs. 
  •  2003 - Kenny Lofton homered against the Cards in a 7-3 win to keep his 26 game hitting streak alive. He would go 0-fer the next day against the Cards Woody Williams and Jeff Fasaro, falling a game short of tying the club record during a 5-4 Pirate victory.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pedro Ignites Bucs In 5-3 win

OK, odd lookin' first. Torri Hunter singled with an out, followed by a Miguel Cabrera K. Prince Fielder hit one to Garrett Jones; he muffed it, and middle infielder Pedro - he's up the middle when a a shift is on, as it was with Fielder - made a poor throw trying to save the play to put runners at the corners. But AJ's seen it before; he whiffed red hot Jhonny Peralta to end the frame. Anibal Sanchez gave up a couple of liners between routine outs - Neil Walker's fell for single, Cutch's was ripped to Miggy at third - and so it was scoreless after one.

Alex Avila opened the second with a five pitch walk. He went to second when AJ knocked down Omar Infante's hard shot up the middle, taking the out at first. Don Kelly drew another five pitch free pass to bring up Sanchez, who bunted them up a base. Andy Dirks bounced out to short, and AJ has dodged a couple of bullets so far while tossing 40 pitches. Russell Martin went down swinging on three pitches, and Pedro did the same. At least Travis Snider hit the ball, bouncing out softly to first.

AJ got his pitch count to a better place, tossing seven pitches that resulted in three ground outs to the Tigers' 2-3-4 hitters in the third. Sanchez had another efficient frame. He's thrown first strikes to all 10 Pirates, five looking. Burnett retired the side quietly and quickly in the fourth. Sanchez started off with another strike, but to the wrong guy. The sizzlin' Kid punched a slightly elevated, down the middle heater over the right center wall. Cutch lined out while Jones K'ed and Martin popped, but the Bucs were up 1-0.

Kelly opened the fifth with a five pitch walk; this time, Burnett didn't miss as much as didn't get any calls on the black from plate ump Wally Bell. Sanchez showed his AL chops by failing to get a bunt down, but it worked anyway. The pitch he K'ed on was also a wild pitch not terribly well played by Russell, moving Kelly to second. Dirks followed with a double to right on a fastball down the middle, and just that quickly the game was tied.

Miggy untied it after a Torii Hunter groundout when he took a heater, up and over the outside half, yard to right. Prince Fielder, as he does so well against the Bucs, took a pitch away to the opposite field for a single, and Dirks followed with another to put Tigers on the corners. AJ sat down Avila swinging, but it's 3-1 Tigers. That third out was hard to come by; maybe the inning would have been saved if Burnett worked eight hitter Kelly a little harder...and he's back up to 80 pitches. Sanchez tucked the Bucs away with two more K.

Kelly, hitting .186, walked for the third time with one down in the sixth, was bunted to second and stayed there as Dirks flew out. AJ went six, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks with four K after 97 pitches. It was a decent outing, but with no support again, it's perfect or no win for him. Sanchez tossed another 1-2-3 frame; he's opened with a first strike to 20 consecutive batters. Bryan Morris took the ball for Pittsburgh in the seventh.

He started by plunking Hunter. Morris then battled Miggy, staying down and never showing him a fastball, and got him to bang a 3-2 slider to short for a 6-4-3 DP, made easier by Cabrera's half-hearted effort to get down the line. Fielder flew out for a clean frame.

With an out, Jones laced an 0-2 slider into center for the Pirates third hit. Martin saw a ball on the first pitch, breaking the Sanchez streak at 23 hitters, and walked on four pitches. Pedro caught a sinker up and over the outer half and smacked it to the bullpen for a game-tying double. Snider followed by jumping the first pitch and doubling off the Clemente Wall to score Pedro, tumbling in under the tag, and the Bucs had an improbable 4-3 lead.

A wild pitch moved Travis to third, and a nicely executed Mercer suicide squeeze brought him home, with the added bonus of ending up a base hit when no one covered first. Jordy stole second with Gaby up on what may have been a hit-and-run that he swung through. Sanchez eventually fanned, but Marte kept the inning alive with an infield knock to short to put Bucs on the corners. The Kid was up, and Sanchez was yanked for lefty Drew Smyly. Marte swiped second, but Walker left them stranded when he left the zone for a slider away and flew out to right. Now it's 5-3 Bucs and time to feed the Shark Tank.

Out came Tony Watson for the eighth; we're guessing with a two run lead and after 22 pitches last night, Clint Hurdle is hoping to save some wear and tear on Mark Melancon. Tony struck out Peralta, but Brayan Pena followed with a knock. Omar Infante flew out before Matt Tuiasosopo gave the fans an edge-of-the-seat moment by hitting one deep to right, but Snider had it measured easily as Hurdle's gamble paid off.

Cutch greeted Smyly with a hard knock up the middle. Brandon Inge pinch hit and took a slider for a called strike three; Cutch was the second half of a strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP. Cutch gave up on the play, perhaps thinking it was ball four, while Inge has to swing at anything close knowing Cutch was on the move, (and it was a strike on the inside corner), so it was a my bad all around. Martin K'ed, and it was on to the ninth with Jason Grilli on the bump to face a pinch hitter and the top of the order.

Victor Martinez started off by lining a pitch at his knees into right in a good piece of hitting. Dirks hit one on the ground, and the Bucs settled for a force out. Avisail Garcia looked at a heater for strike three, and Miggy flew out to right on the next pitch. Grilli had his 22nd save and Bryan Morris claimed his second win.

For six innings, the Buc batters were completely baffled by the fastball-change-occasional breaking ball of Sanchez. But the team MO is to play all nine innings hard and they seem to get better as the game goes on. That's how they rolled tonight for a sweet win over a good Tigers club. And give AJ props; he didn't have his best stuff, but kept a potent Detroit lineup from running away and hiding early, allowing the pen to come in and do their thing after the bats woke up.

Jeff Locke hooks up with Doug Fister in tomorrow night's finale.

  • Jason Grilli has has saved 22 of the Pirates' 33 wins. Guess he was ready for the closer role.
  • Neil Walker had a HR-1B-HR streak against Detroit before whiffing in the sixth; all the hits were on the first pitch. He was the only Buc to reach base twice tonight.
  • AJ Burnett had his string of seven inning starts snapped at five, but he's still gone six or more in nine of his past ten starts.
  • The Pirates are 18-8 this month.
  • The Bucs banged out two doubles and a homer to run their MLB leading streak to 48 straight games with extra base knocks.
  • Jameson Tallion had a rough opening frame for Altoona, then found his groove. He went five frames, gvving up four runs on four hits and four walks with five K. All the runs and hits came in the first inning.
  • Against Pittsburgh at Comerica Park, Tigers pitchers put up 14+ strikeouts in back-to-back games for first time since 1916. The Detroit hurlers slacked off a bit tonight, just picking up 11 punch outs.

Burnett v Sanchez

AJ Burnett (3-5, 2.57) welcomes the Tigers to PNC Park, squaring off against Anibal Sanchez (5-4, 2.38). AJ leads the NL with 85 K, but we're sure he'd forgo those numbers for a few more runs as the Bucs continue to struggle at the plate behind him. In ten starts, Burnett is 6-2 against Detroit, with a 5.27 ERA

Sanchez took a no-hitter into the ninth in his last outing. He's 2-3 against Pittsburgh with a 2.50 ERA, and averages better than a K per inning versus the Buccos. The game starts at 7:05 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

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

Clint Barmes, in a 3-for-25 slump, is down tonight for Jordy Mercer.

Tiger lineup: Andy Dirks LF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Jhonny Peralta SS, Alex Avila C, Omar Infante 2B, Don Kelly CF and Anibal Sanchez P.

Last night's group will try again.

  •  Last night was Pittsburgh’s eighth shutout of the season. They only had 10 in all of 2012.
  • Joined at the hip: Omar Infante and Travis Snider both hit leadoff Monday, eighth yesterday and seventh today.
  • Eight of Pittsburgh’s last 11 games have been decided by one run. The Pirates are 6-2 in those games.
  • A broken record, to be sure, but LHP Andy Oliver is getting wilder at Indy. Last night, he went 3-1/3 IP, giving up two runs on three hits with two K and six more walks. In his last five starts, he's gone 24-1/3 frames and issued free passes to 26 batters.
  • John McDonald (lower back strain) has gone 0-for-7 in his first two rehab games at Indy.
  • Jameson Taillon (3-5, 2.91) is on the hill for Altoona tonight.
  • JJ Cooper of Baseball America has a list of prospects in a nose dive. The good news is that his Pirate nominee is in Low Class A West Virginia.

5/29 in Bucco History

Pittsburgh no-hit, walk-off, the President visits Expo park, Clemente...

  • 1884 - The Alleghenys were no hit by Columbus’ Ed Morris at Exposition Park in a 5-0 defeat. Morris walked just one in a dominating performance. 
  • 1895 - Jake Beckley blasted a three run homer in the ninth to give the Pirates an 8-6 win over the Washington Senators at Boundary Park. The 1B ended the year with five homers, second on the team to Jake Stenzel’s seven, with a club-leading 111 RBI. 
  • 1909 - President William Howard Taft joined 14,000 fans at Exposition Park to watch the Pirates play the Cubs. The Prez must have made the Buccos nervous as they lost to Chicago, 8-3 in 11 innings, the only time the team was defeated in a 19 game stretch. If the Chief Exec had delayed his trip by a month, he would have gotten to enjoy the game in brand spanking new Forbes Field.
  • 1955 - At the age of 20 years and 284 days, Roberto Clemente became the second youngest player to hit three doubles in a game in MLB history, behind only the Braves' Eddie Mathews, who ironically collected his knocks against Pittsburgh in 1952. The young Clemente was the leadoff hitter, and banged his two-baggers off three different pitchers as the Bucs beat the Phillies 11-5 at Forbes Field.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Takes All Night, But Bucs Win Behind Pitching & The Kid 1-0

It was a dark and stormy night in Detroit, with a 50% chance of rain and strong boomers expected about nine. Could be a long night if the weather doesn't cooperate; this is the Bucs last date in the Motor City, so the umps will push to get the contest in the books. Still, the tarp going down at seven when the rain began to fall didn't make the evening look all that promising. The game started after about an hour and 15 minute delay, so we'll see if playing cards in the locker room keeps a pitcher's arm loose.

After an out in the first, Rick Porcello left a heater over the plate with two strikes on The Kid, and he roped it into center. After working Cutch down, he got him swinging at a 94 MPH heater up and away, followed by a Garrett Jones tapper back to the hill. After two routine outs, Jeanmar Gomez worked Miguel Cabrera tight, and Miggy lined a single to left. He came back to get Prince Fielder to top a sinker for a swinging bunt out.

Porcello struck out the side in the second; he's thrown five different pitches, tossing strikes, changing speeds and moving the ball around. After a pair of soft outs, Alex Avila drew a 3-2 walk on a 50-50 call, and left him there. Porcello kept dealing in the third, getting three groundouts. Gomez got three fly outs, along with another two out knock, a bleeder on the left side by Torii Hinter.

The Tiger hurler's command hasn't been as sharp the last two frames, but the Bucs aren't taking much advantage. In the fourth, Cutch got a bad hop single and a couple of flies landed just short of the track as Pittsburgh put up another zero. Gomez pitched a clean inning, and this is his best start as a Buc, keeping the ball down and moving it in and out. The Pirates went quietly in the fifth. Avila opened with a single to center, but a fly and 6-3 DP cleaned that up nicely. Jeanmar has been quite efficient too, at just 56 pitches.

Porcello picked up his seventh and eighth K's in the sixth. The Pirates are taking fastball strikes and chasing offspeed stuff in the dirt or rolling over; they've hit one ground ball the opposite way so far tonight. But Jeanmar's hanging tough, getting three more quick outs. Two more Bucs K'ed around a rope by Jones that went straight to Hunter in the seventh; tonight is the first time Porcello has hit double digit strikeouts in his career. Gomez matched him again, helped by a nice running grab of a Prince Fielder liner by Cutch.

The Tigers got a break in the eighth. Pedro singled and an out later Travis Snider walked. Harrison came in to run, and Porcello tried to pick him off, but his throw hit him. The break was it kicked straight to the right, to Fielder. And with runners at first and second instead of second and third, Clint Barmes' first pitch one hopper to third became an easy 5-3 DP.

Gomez was lifted after seven shutout innings, giving up three hits, a walk and whiffing a pair after 73 pitches. Justin Wilson climbed the hill. Barmes was having a tough frame; with an out, he one hopped a throw into the stands to put Omar Infante on second. But the uh-oh moment passed as Wilson got a grounder and K to close the inning. Joaquin Benoit took the ball for Detroit.

He followed Porcello by striking out two of the first three Bucs. In between, Walker stroked a two strike slider to left. With Jones up, he stole second and went to third when the throw got through the SS, but GI popped out to end the threat. Wilson got the first two outs routinely. Fielder slapped a single to right center, staying back on a hook after seeing a 96 MPH heater. Then Victor Martinez ripped a fastball to left center, but Marte was there, just in front of the wall, to haul it in.

Jose Ortega was greeted by a Martin laser to center in the tenth; Harrison bunted him to second. Sanchez froze on a third strike hook, and Snider was walked intentionally. Jordy Mercer pinch hit, looked at two strikes and reached to hit a weak pop to center to end the frame. Mark Melancon took care of the tenth, stranding a pair of runners. Jhonny Peralta started off with a single, and went to second on a chop to third; Harrison, now at the hot corner, never looked at second for a possible force. A walk made things dicey, by MM came up with a whiff and broken bat roller to finish the frame. As an added factor, the rains were returning.

But not enough to stop the game, and good thing. The one guy who was squaring up, Walker, caught a hung breaking ball on the inside half from Ortega and dropped it over the right field wall for the game's first run. Jason Grilli had the lead, and the 2-3-4 hitters to face. And in a night of impressive pitching, he saved the best for last, striking out Hunter, Cabrera and Fielder swinging for his 21st save and Melancon's first Bucco win.

Well, they say you win by pitching, and the Bucs sure did tonight. And Jeanmar Gomez is making that final rotation spot a battle now; his ERA is 2.30 and the Bucs have won all six of his starts. We can't say much about the Bucs approach at the plate, except for Neil Walker and Travis Snider, but they do get into these funks every so often when they get pull and fastball happy. Hopefully, they'll get over it soon.

Anibal Sanchez and AJ Burnett open the Tiger set at PNC Park tomorrow; it never seems to get any easier for AJ.

  • Neil Walker had three of the Bucs six hits, while Travis Snider, who drew a pair of walks, was the only starter that didn't whiff.
  • The Bucs went down on strikes 14 times, making it 29 K over the two days. Tonight was Andrew McCutchen's first three strikeout game since September 8th against the Cubs. He's gone down five times in the two Detroit games. Gaby had three whiffs too, and five for the set.
  • The last time the Pirates were scoreless through 10 and won was on August 8th, 2008 at Philly, a game they won 2-0 in twelve. The last 1-0 extra inning game was September 13th, 2010, when they lost to the Mets in 10 frames.
  • Well, that explains it. Jose Contreras was placed on the 15 day DL with lower back inflammation, and Bryan Morris was recalled a day after he was sent down. Because it's an injury replacement, Morris didn't have to serve the usual ten-day roster period at Indy.
  • The Pirates haven't lost consecutive games since May 8th-9th to the Mariners and Mets. They've only had two other losing streaks, of two and four games, both in April.
  • Bradenton SS Alen Hanson was named the Florida State League Player of the Week after batting .429 (9-for-21) with two doubles and two triples, joining Matt Hague and Stetson Allie as Bucco farm hands winning player of the week awards this week.
  • Dr. Lewis Yocum passed away today. Along with Dr. Frank Jobe and Dr. James McAndrews, he was part of the holy trinity of sports surgeons whom pro pitchers entrusted their arms and careers to when injury struck, from second opinions to TJ surgery to rehab.

Gomez v Porcello

Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.75) takes on Rick Porcello (2-2, 6.28) tonight. Gomez has done a good job of keeping the score down during his outings, though he doesn't get very deep into games. He's only made it five full innings twice in five starts, so the bullpen better stay loose and by the phone. Jeanmar has started five games against Detroit as a Cleveland Indian with a (yikes!) 2-2/7.82 line

Porcello was off to a slow start, and has been erratic, shutting down Texas two starts ago and getting bombed by the Twins in his last trip to the hill. The righty is becoming more of a K pitcher, replacing his slider with a curve to go with his changeup as off speed pitches this season. He's faced the Bucs twice and is 2-0/0.60, giving up just seven hits in fifteen frames. The game starts at 7:08 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

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

Marte is back, which is good news, and Snider slid down to the eight spot with his return, making for a pretty strong lineup. Barmes gets the start at SS.

Tiger lineup: Andy Dirks LF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Jhonny Peralta SS, Alex Avila C, Omar Infante 2B and Don Kelly CF.

A couple of changes against RHP.

The lineup for Detroit was pretty impressive yesterday, with a lot of professional at-bats. The Tigers by and large didn't chase, worked counts, went the other way as the Buc pitchers stayed on the outside half and put the ball in play, striking out just six times. So it might behoove Gomez to throw strikes and use both sides of the plate today if he wants to hang around for awhile.

  • Pittsburgh has at least one extra-base hit in 46 consecutive games, the longest current streak in baseball. The Tigers have the second-longest streak, clocking in at 43 straight games.
  • Detroit has won six of seven; Pittsburgh ten of its last thirteen games. Yesterday's loss gave the Bucs a record of 6-11 in the first game of a series.
  • The Pirates and Tigers have been homers in their recent history. The host team has won each of the last five series between these two clubs. Pittsburgh’s last series win in Detroit came in 2002, and the Tigers haven’t won a series in Pittsburgh since 2006. 
  • West Virginia's Stetson Allie was named the South Atlantic League player of the week for the second time after hitting .542 (13-for-24) with three doubles, a triple, and three homers.

    Pirate Notebook

    Lots of stuff today...

    • George King III of the NY Post reported that "Before claiming lefty reliever David Huff on Saturday off waivers from the Indians, the Yankees asked the Pirates about Mike Zagurski."  The Bucs already had plans for the lefty, calling him up yesterday to nullify his June 1st opt-out date if still in the minors.
    • Jared Stonesifer of Yahoo Sports wonders where and if J-Mac fits in down the road with the Pirates.
    • Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs posted a podcast of a chat with Buc lefty Jeff Locke.
    • Topping Grantland's Jonah Keri's All-Bargain team for 2013 - C Russell Martin.
    • Remember when the top of the order was a huge question mark? Pittsburgh’s leadoff hitters currently rank first in the league in batting average (.305), second in hits (64), third in OBP (.366) and fourth in slugging percentage (.467) and runs scored (38)
    • Bradon Inge played just nine games for Detroit last year, but before yesterday's match Tiger GM Dave Dombroski visited the Buc locker room and presented him with a 2012 ACLS ring. Pretty classy.
    • Charlie Morton went five not-so-strong innings at Indy yesterday, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks with three K while tossing 88 pitches.
    • At Altoona, James McDonald surrendered three runs in a Curve loss. J-Mac lasted two-thirds of an inning, giving up two hits and four walks before being taken out of the game after 33 pitches. One of his two outs was on a pick-off. He ended up with a blood blister during the outing, which may have affected his performance.
    • Indy 1B Matt Hague was named the International League's Batter of the Week. Over a six-game stretch, Hague produced three multi-hit games, hit .360 (9-for-25) and led all IL batters with three home runs, eight extra-base hits and a .920 slugging percentage.  
    • Jim Callis of Baseball America has rundowns on Stetson Allie and Tyler Glasnow, Pirate prospects with a bullet, in his "Ask BA" column. 
    • Keith Law of ESPN has three Pirates - Gerritt Cole, Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco - among his Top 25 prospects. Tim Williams has a brief post regarding the picks at Pirates Prospects as Law's article is behind a subscriber wall.

    5/28 - Eight Games Straight for Dale Long, Rob Mackowiak Passes Out Cigars

    Dale Long's streak, Mac Daddy, a protest won, Zane Grey's bro, Clemente bounced, destiny's darlings...

    • 1903 - OF Romer “Reddy” Grey‚ brother of author Zane Grey, made his MLB bow as a Buc. He went 1-for-3 in his only big league game as the Pirates beat Boston 7-6. Gray scored a run, knocked in another and drew a walk. He played on loan from the nearby Worchester minor league club as the Pirates, due to some injuries and personal issues, found themselves short handed for the game against the Beaneaters at the South End Grounds. Grey was an early AAAA ballplayer; he had a career .311 minor league average. 
    • 1921 - Pittsburgh protested their 4-3‚ 10-inning loss to the Reds and won. After Reds P Dolf Luque tossed the ball into the Cincinnati dugout‚ Clyde Barnhart was called out going to third when the ball was tossed back into the field. The Pirates said no way; it was a dead ball, and NL president Heydler agreed. The game was later replayed from that point, and the Bucs took full advantage of their second chance to win 4-3 on June 30th. 
    • 1956 - First baseman Dale Long set a major league record by hitting a home run in his eighth consecutive game, a 3-2 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers at Forbes Field. The liner was hit off of Carl Erskine in front of 32,221 Forbes Field fans who didn’t settle down until the big first baseman made a curtain call. The record was later tied by Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (1993). 
    • 1960 - Destiny’s Darlings: Roberto Clemente was on third and Hal Smith on first with two outs in the eighth with Maz up at Forbes Field. He fanned on a ball that hit in the front of the plate, ricocheted off ump Al Barlick and to Phillies pitcher Jim Owens. Maz froze, Smith jogged to second and Clemente went halfway down the baseline. Owens went after Clemente as his bench called for him to throw to first. In the run-down‚ Clemente knocked the ball out of C Jim Coker's glove to score the tying run. The Pirates won 4-2 in the 13th on Don Hoak's 2-run HR. 
    • 1963 - Called out at first on a close play for the second time in the game‚ Roberto Clemente twice inadvertently bumped ump Bill Jackowski while arguing the decision. Clemente was ejected‚ and skipper Danny Murtaugh got his Irish up, challenging the man in blue to duke it out until he was pulled away. The Great One was fined $250 and suspended for five days by the league. To top the day off, the Pirates lost 5-1 to the Phils at Forbes Field.
    • 2004 - Utilityman Rob Mackowiak smacked a two-out, walk-off grand slam for a 9-5 Pirates victory barely nine hours after his wife, Jennifer, gave birth to their first child, Garrett Matthew. In the second game, he drilled a two-run shot, the 500th homer at PNC Park, into the same right center field seats as the one three hours earlier to send the nitecap into extra innings, later won by Craig Wilson’s 10th inning homer for a 5-4 sweep of the Cubs. It was the first time since 1967 that a doubleheader was won by walkoff homers. Chicago’s Matt Clement also tied a MLB record when he plunked Bobby Hill, Jason Kendall and Craig Wilson in the fifth inning of the opener.

    Monday, May 27, 2013

    5/27 - Come Back Kids, Vinegar Bend, Brett & Bay

    Roarin' back, Vinegar Bend, Ken Brett does it all & Jay Bay has a day...

    • 1927 - The Pirates overcame a 7-1 deficit by scoring six times in the sixth and seventh innings to defeat the Cards in ten innings at Forbes Field by an 8-7 count. The win ran their victory streak to nine games; it would reach 11 before being snapped. Kiki Cuyler had three hits and reached base four times to spark the Bucs. 
    • 1960 - Pittsburgh acquired 29-year-old LHP Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell from the Cardinals‚ along with LF Dick Gray‚ for minor leaguers IF Julian Javier and RHP Ed Bauta. Javier started at 2B for the Cards for a dozen years, but he was blocked in Pittsburgh by a guy named Bill Mazeroski. Mizell went 13-5 for the Bucs with a 3.15 ERA, solidifying their staff during their World Championship run. 
    • 1974 - It was a big day for Ken Brett in a DH sweep against the Braves at TRS. In the opener, he carried a no-hitter into the ninth, settling for a two-hit, 6-0 win. In the nitecap, his two-run pinch hit triple led the Bucs to an 8-7 victory. 
    • 2006 - The Pirates won an 8-7, 18 inning match at PNC Park against the Astros when Jason Bay flattened Astros' catcher Eric Munson to score on Jose Bautista’s sac fly. The game time of five hours, 49 minutes tied it as the longest contest ever played in Pittsburgh. Bay also hit a homer in his fifth consecutive game, the first Pirate player to do so in 50 years.

    Bucs Run Out Of Rallies In 6-5 Loss

    Wow; pretty good start for the Bucs. Neil Walker drilled a one out triple to deep center - and it is deep at Coamerica - and came in on a Cutch sac fly, barely beating a sick spin-and-fire move by Torii Hunter, and the Pirates were up 1-0 on Justin Verlander. Francisco Liriano liked it; he put the Tigers away in order.

    Pittsburgh got a leadoff knock from Russell Martin, who stole second easily with two down, but Verlander whiffed the next trio, helped by a couple of generous calls on a ball away and a check swing for third strikes. With two down, Liriano ran into a bump. Jhonny Peralta slapped a 3-2 heater softly into right center for a knock, and Matt Tuiasosopo drew a full count free pass on a breaking ball that stayed up. Brayan Pena popped out to close the frame.

    Verlander sat the Pirates down quietly in the third. The Cisco Kid got the first two guys routinely, but gave up an infield knock to Hunter when Gaby, with the infield shifted left, roamed far to his right to field a ball that Walker could have handled, and Francisco got to first too late. He escaped when Miggy lined a ball right at Clint Barmes to finish the frame.

    Garrett Jones rattled a fastball into the right field corner with one away in the fourth and Martin drew a four pitch walk, but Verlander K'ed Pedro and Gaby again. The Tigers opened their half with three consecutive smoked hits by Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Peralta, all on well-located fastballs after Liriano fell behind. With a run in and runners on second and third after a swinging bunt, the Cisco Kid got a pair of weak grounders to ease out of the inning with the score knotted, some pretty nice clutch hurling.

    The Bucs got a two out single from Travis Snider, whose grounder was knocked down by Fielder but rolled away from him. The Kid went down looking; Tony Randazzo seems to like ringing up Pirates on very borderline calls, and that's nine K for Verlander. The Tigers hit one ball hard in their half, but came up with a big frame.

    After a one-out walk, Fielder popped an 0-2 slider away into left; the Pirates were in a shift or it would have been a routine grab for the SS. With two strikes on Martinez, Liriano tried to sneak a heater in on him; Martinez turned on it and lined it into left past a diving Inge. For the second day, the box seats jutting into the field bit the Bucs; it kicked off them and allowed Fielder to score to make it 3-1. Peralta hit a broken ball squibbler just past first for a double; it too was against a shift and plated another run. It's looking like a guy that likes to work the outside corner and a shift don't work well together, at least this inning.

    Cutch walked to open the sixth and stole second. Verlander had the answer; he K'ed Jones on a hook. Cutch stole third; Verlander K'ed Martin on another hook. Pedro rolled out as Verlander kept dealing. Mike Zagurski took over, and pitched a pretty routine frame, just surrendering a two-out walk.

    Liriano's line was five IP, eight hits, four runs, two walks and three K after 90 pitches. He threw better than his stats, but worked from behind more often than not and didn't move the ball around, living down and away.  Still, he only had a handful of balls hit hard by a strong lineup, and was eventually done in by a couple of bloops.

    Gaby opened the seventh with a double. Two outs later he was still there when Snider golfed a change deep to right center; it came within a few feet of leaving the yard, hitting the wall where it juts away from the field. He ended up with a triple, and came in when The Kid pounded a fastball up the RF line for a double to make it 4-3. Verlander stayed in and worked the count to 3-2 on Cutch. He tried a 96 MPH heater that Cutch turned on to bounce foul, and came back with a change in the dirt that got Cutch waving. But it's a ballgame again.

    Jose Contreras took the ball, ran full counts on Miguel Cabrera and Fielder, and lost them both. The Bucs caught a break when Martinez's liner was an at 'em ball to Cutch, then got a bad break when Peralta's roller up the middle went off a diving Walker's mitt and into short center to allow Miggy to score. Contreras walked Don Kelly to juice the sacks, and missed on four straight pitches to Pena to bring in another. Tony Watson stopped the bleeding, getting a liner to Barmes and K'ing Omar Infante. Contreras performance makes you wonder why Morris was sent down; must be that "asset allocation" the Bucs FO loves.

    Joaquin Benoit was greeted by a Jones double when he rolled a routine grounder into left; this time the Tigers were bit by the shift. Martin smacked a shot just under Fielder's mitt to plate Jones; Prince was given an error on a play that could have gone either way.

    Hunter made up for the misplay by making a nice running catch of a slicing Pedro liner to left. Gaby lined a two-strike double to left, just past a diving Kelly; the flop allowed Martin to score from first. Harrison came up to pinch run, and that's where the wheels fell off; he was picked off, and Inge took the next pitch, a heater down the middle, for strike three. But it's a game again as the clock winds down.Watson stranded a leadoff double, so it's the Bucs versus Jose Valverde.

    Snider kept the Bucs alive with a one-out single, but Valverde cruised out, getting a first pitch pop out from Walker and striking out Cutch on a 3-2 pitch without throwing him a strike. The Bucs ran out of rallies, but not from trying. They went 2-for-12 with RISP, and that's attributable to 15 strikeouts. The Tigers rode seven walks to victory - three scored and one brought home a run.

    Jeanmar Gomez takes on Rick Porcello tomorrow.

    • The Buc lineup was shook up close to game time when Starling Marte bowed out with a migraine. With JT on the DL now, Travis Snider slid to left, Garrett Jones to RF and Pedro became the DH, with long-time Tiger Brandon Inge manning the hot corner.
    • The Pirates had 10 hits today; five were doubles and two went for triples for a season high seven extra base knocks.
    • The Pirate streak of holding teams under five runs ended today at 12 games.
    • The Buc pitching wasn't all bad; Miguel Cabrera struck out three times for the first time this year.

    Liriano v Verlander; Roster Moves

    Francisco Liriano (3-0, 1.00) takes on Justin Verlander (5-4, 3.66) at Coamerica this afternoon. The Cisco Kid has seen Detroit 23 times, and not fared so well against them with a 5-7 record and 5.93 ERA. It'll be interesting to see how he deals against an AL club that's familiar with his stuff (the Tigers were a long-time divisional foe of Liriano's), unlike most of his current NL opponents.

    Verlander tossed two complete-game victories against the Pirates last year, including a one-hitter in Detroit. In three career starts against Pittsburgh, Verlander is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA. The good news is that he's been beat up in his last two starts, so it may be an opportune time to be facing him. The game starts at 1:08 and will be aired by The MLB Network, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

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

    Snider has been moved out of the two hole and dropped to eighth today.

    Tiger lineup: Omar Infante 2B, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Jhonny Peralta SS, Matt Tuiasosopo LF, Brayan Pena C and Avisail Garcia CF.

    A familiar face in Prince Fielder. The Tiger attack is a test for any pitcher; they average 5+ runs per game.

    • Tom Singer of reported a bunch of Bucco moves going into interleague play: IF Josh Harrison and LHP Mike Zagurski were called up, RHP Bryan Morris Morris was optioned to Indy, OF Jose Tabata was placed on the 15 day DL with an oblique issue and RHP Jeff Karstens was placed on the 60 day DL to open a 40-man roster spot for Zagurski.
    • Garrett Jones will DH in the two-game set at Detroit.
    • Detroit and Pittsburgh are officially designated interleague rivals. The Pirates preference, Cleveland, is paired with cross-state Cincinnati.
    • Jason Grilli's 20-for-20 save mark is quietly sneaking up on the Bucs' consecutive save record. It's 28, set by Joel Hanrahan from Sept. 12th, 2010 to July 8th, 2011. Hanny also holds the single season mark of 26 straight, set in 2011.
    • The Pirates are seventh in the latest ESPN Power Ratings. 
    • Charlie Morton goes for Indy and J-Mac for Altoona in rehab starts today.

    Sunday, May 26, 2013

    5/26: The Kitten That Roared and Lots More

    The Kittens purrs, seat-cushion wars, Gibson blast, Ward's cycle, the Hitman's walk-off & more...

    • 1894 - Weird reason for a forfeit...Pittsburgh was thumping Cleveland 12-3 in the eighth inning when the crowd of 8,000 at League Park began a seat cushion fight that spilled into the field. It got so out of hand that Pirates were awarded a forfeit victory over the Spiders. 
    • 1946 - Josh Gibson launched another blast, this one 440’ into the Yankee Stadium bleachers, as the Homestead Grays whipped the NY Black Yankees 11-8. It’s the Gray’s fourth straight win and propelled them into first place in the Negro National League. 
    • 1959 - In baseball's ultimate pitching performance, Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against the Braves in Milwaukee’s County Stadium, only to lose the game, 1-0, in the 13th on a Dick Hoak error, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk and double that was a homer. (NL prez Warren Giles ruled that the final score should be 1-0‚ as runners Henry Aaron and Joe Adcock were ruled out, Aaron for leaving the field‚ and Adcock for passing him on the basepath. Adcock was credited with a double and not a HR.) In 1993‚ Bob Buhl admitted that the Braves pitchers were stealing the signs from C Smoky Burgess‚ who could not crouch down all the way because of his achy knees. They used a towel on the bullpen fence as a signal, making Haddix's effort even more remarkable. 
    • 1980 - Lots of fireworks as the Phils rallied to beat the Bucs 7-6 at Veteran’s Stadium. Bert Blyleven brushed back a couple of Phillies early on; Philadelphia reliever Kevin Saucier later plunked Pops to even the score. The he went one better, bopping Blyleven, who charged the mound, bat in hand. A donnybrook ensued, and as it was breaking up, Phil’s coach Mike Ryan reignited things. Philly had the last laugh, scoring twice in the ninth off Kent Tekulve, who gave up four straight hits. 
    • 1997 - For the first time in twenty years, two inside-the-park homers were hit in the same inning when Sammy Sosa of the Cubs and Tony Womack both circled the bases five minutes apart in the sixth frame of Chicago’s 2-1 victory at Three Rivers Stadium. 
    • 2004 - Daryle Ward hit for the cycle with a career single-game high of 6 RBI against St. Louis at Busch Stadium as the Bucs won 11-8. Ward joined his dad Gary as the first father-son team to hit for the cycle.
    • 2012 - The Cubs lost their 11th straight game 3-2 to the Pirates, their longest losing streak since opening the 1997 season with 14 consecutive losses. The teams were tied in the bottom of the ninth at PNC Park when Jose Tabata led off with a single off Rafael Dolis. Two walks and two outs later, the aptly named “Hit Man” Matt Hague took a pitch in the ribs for a walk-off plunk.

    Bucs Take Series With 5-4 Win

    Typical inning for the Bucs against Yovani Gallardo to open; a couple of K's, a pop to center and a Cutch broken bat roller into right. Wandy got three fly outs to start the day. After a pop and roller to start the second, the bottom of the Buc order generated a run. The Fort walked on a 3-2 pitch, and Jordy Mercer rolled a hung curve into the left center gap for a triple and a 1-0 Pirate lead. The Brew Crew tried to answer with a leadoff double by A-Ram, but Rodriguez worked out of it.

    In the third, the Bucs finally got it together against Gallardo. Marte opened with a double, and The Kid was plunked in the foot. A roller to third by Cutch put runners on the corners, and a medium fly to left by Garrett Jones brought in a run, aided by a soft lob toward home by Ryan Braun that was cut. Gaby walked, and Pedro, who was 0-for-16 against Gallardo, lined a chalk-kicker up the right field line that brought home a pair and put Pittsburgh up 4-0.

    The Brewers again tried to respond. With one down, Gallardo singled. Norichika Aoki hit a soft grounder to Pedro, his toss for the force went to Garrett Jones in right to put Brewers at first and second. Wandy came back to get a routine grounder and whiffed Braun looking, and Milwaukee was finished in the third.

    The Bucs got a two-out single and stolen base from Starling in the fourth, but Walker went down looking on a 3-2 changeup that came back over the outside black. With one away for the Brew Crew, Jonathan Lucroy dropped a flare into right center for a knock. Carlos Gomez hit one to short, and a nice feed by Mercer, a better turn by Walker and a dig out of the dirt by Gaby added up to a sweet 6-4-3 DP.

    Donovan Hand made his MLB bow in the fifth; he gave up a knock to Cutch, but picked up a couple of K. The Brewers, thanks to a misplayed ball, finally put up some runs. With two outs and Rickie Weeks on first via a leadoff single, it unraveled. Aoki singled up the middle, then Jean Segura hit a 3-2 pitch to Walker. The Kid inexplicably broke away from the ball, dove back to grab it, but the throw was too late to get the runner. Wandy fell behind Braun 2-0, gave him an inside heater, and he drilled it up the line for a bases clearing double to make it 4-3. A-Ram K'ed on Rodriguez's 35th pitch of the inning.

    The Bucs built the pad back to a pair. The Fort led off with a double and Mercer followed with a bloop to center. Brandon Inge K'ed swinging at a 3-2 pitch, with Mercer going into second. Marte reached out and hit a medium fly to center; Gomez's throw was off line and cut, almost catching Mercer behind the play at third, which could have cost the Bucs as McKenry was still chugging home and may not have beat an out call to the plate. But it's all academic, and 5-3 Buccos in the sixth. Wandy went five, giving up three runs on seven hits with four K; Vin Mazzaro took the hill and put away the Brewers on six pitches.

    Mike Gonzalez was next for Milwaukee in the seventh, and he retired the Bucs in order. With one gone, Martin Maldonado fisted a pop single to right; and out later, Segura sent a soft liner into right to put runners on the corners. Braun banged Mazzaro's first pitch up the middle, but Segura had taken off for second, and Walker, on the move to cover, gobbled up the bouncer to end the frame.

    Brandon Kintzler took the bump and gave up back-to-back knocks to McKenry and Mercer to open the eighth; then the Bucs self destructed. Clint Barmes pinch hit; he tried to bunt into the teeth of a wheel play and popped out instead. Marte hit a slow roller to second; Mercer ran into the tag and turned a force play into a 4-3 DP. Now it's up to the Back End Boys as Mark Melancon toed the rubber.

    He gave up a run on a freak triple; Jeff Bianchi hooked one inside first and it caught the box seats that jut out and died, giving him at least an extra sack. That base made diff as MM hung a breaking ball to Gomez, who sent it to the track in center for a sac fly to make it 5-4.

    Francisco Rodriguez worked the ninth. He K'ed Walker, walked Travis Snider, and got away with a couple of mistakes, Cutch flying out to the track in left center and Gaby getting underneath a fastball, skying out to left. Jason Grilli climbed the mound. Two pops and a fly later, the alpha shark had his twentieth save and Wandy notched his sixth win.

    It was a typical Miller Park game with odd bounces, strange plays and lots of runners, except for one thing: Pittsburgh won. And it should be a holiday barnburner tomorrow afternoon when Francisco Liriano takes on Justin Verlander in the Motor City.
    • Jordy Mercer had three hits; Starling Marte, Cutch and The Fort had a pair of knocks. 
    • Pedro's double was only his second of the year, to go with ten homers, in 165 plate appearances.
    • Rodriguez has now won four straight starts for the first time since July 2-12, 2009, as an Astro.
    • Milwaukee has lost 12 straight games to lefties; the last one they beat was Wandy on April 29th.

    Wandy and Yovani One Mo' Time...

    Wandy Rodriguez (5-2, 3.40) and Yovani Gallardo (3-4, 4.50) hook up for the third time this season; they've split so far, with Wandy winning at PNC and Yovani at Miller. So it's a personal as well as the series rubber match today, too.

    Rodriguez has been a dependable member of the rotation, going at least six innings in his four May starts, with a 3-1/2.88 line. But at Miller Park, he's just 3-8/6.46 in his career. Gallardo loves seeing the Bucs; he's 10-3/2.52 lifetime against them. The game begins at 2:10 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

    Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones RF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Michael McKenry C, Jordy Mercer SS and Wandy Rodriguez P.

    Typical get-away day lineup.

    Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Ryan Braun  LF, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Jonathan Lucroy C, Carlos Gomez CF, Rickie Weeks 2B, Yuniesky Betancourt 1B and Yovani Gallardo P.

    Same ol' against Wandy, except for Betancourt at first.

    • The last time the Brew Crew won a series? It was unsurprisingly against Pittsburgh at the beginning of the month, six series ago.
    • Jeff Locke is beginning to gain some recognition, at least in the nickname department. He's been called the Locke Ness Monster and Locke Down lately.
    • Bob Brookover of the Philly Inquirer explains that the Phils passed on Jason Grilli because of the young arms they were developing; maybe now they see that there is something to be said about experience. One of them is in the Pirate system now, LHP Mike Zagurski.
    • Not much talk of moving Pedro to first this year. For the first time, he's got a positive UZR (2.5) and is in line to have career highs in fielding % and plays made, both in and out of his zone. And it's not like the two-headed monster of Gaby & GI at first needs much help. In fact, their play, especially in digging out low/skipped throws, has helped the left side of the infield look good quite a few times this season.
    • The degree of difficulty will pick up for the Bucs in their next ten games: four are against the Tigers, three against the Reds and three more against the Braves are on tap.
    • After starting the season afire, Stolmy Pimentel's last four starts for Altoona have been disasters. Yesterday, he went 4-2/3 IP, giving up eight runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks with three K.
    • Jim Henderson, Brewer closer, has been placed on the DL. He sprained his hammy in an awkward stab at a line drive in Friday's 2-1 Milwaukee win.
    • The draft is right around the corner, and the gurus seem to think Pittsburgh is looking at position guys this year. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects has a rundown on some likely suspects.
    • Pitt lost to Notre Dame 3-2 in 10 innings in the Big East semifinals. The Panthers are 42-17 and a long shot to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney.

    Saturday, May 25, 2013

    Buc Bombs, Locke Beat Up Brew Crew 5-2

    Well, that didn't take too long. With two down in the first, Cutch launched his seventh homer, a screamer down the LF line, off Mike Fiers and the Bucs had a quick 1-0 lead for Jeff Locke. He left a fastball in and a little up to Ryan Braun with two down, and he took it the opposite way for a double. Locke got A-Ram to bounce out to short to end the frame. The Brewers have been patient in the opening frame; all four went to two strikes, but each drew at least two balls as Locke tossed 22 pitches.

    With an out in the second, Neil Walker dug out a hook and roped it into right for a single. Pedro got ahead 3-0, fouled off a fastball down the middle and then ripped another, this one on the inside half, over the right field fence just inside the foul pole to make it 3-0.

    After Jonathan Lucroy lined out, Gomez fell behind 0-2, but watched the next four miss the mark, getting the call on the 2-2 pitch on the black, to earn a walk. Weeks followed with a single the opposite way. Locke caught Alex Gonzalez looking and Fiers swinging. But the Brew Crew is making him work. Except for Weeks, who singled on a first pitch heater, every batter has taken at least four pitches and two strikes, and Locke is at 44 pitches.

    Marte opened the third by banging a 3-2 change to third; Ramirez booted it. He stole second and went to third on a bad throw. Travis Snider couldn't bring him in, K'ing on a fastball pretty much down the middle. Fiers went soft on Cutch, throwing nothing but off speed stuff, and whiffed him on a foul tip of a changeup that was shin high. Garrett Jones took a ball to the wall in center, but it was hauled in and so the Bucs refused to take advantage of a Brewer gift. Locke went through the top of the order on ten pitches to calm his pitch count.

    Like Estrada yesterday, Fiers started with fastballs and then worked in a heavy dose of changeups; he got Russell Martin swinging at one. It's easy to see why; after falling behind 2-0 to The Kid, he came in with a heater and Walker went yard with it into the second deck in right center to make it 4-0. Fiers went back to the soft stuff with Pedro and got a comebacker. Clint Barmes turned the order over with an infield knock to the right side before Locke bounced out. After K'ing Ramirez, Locke lost Lucroy on five pitches. Gomez popped a short fly to right and Weeks went down looking to leave him stranded.

    Tom Gorzelanny took over in the fifth for the Brew Crew. Gorzo got Marte fishing for a change away, then lost Snider on a full count walk. he worked out of that by getting Cutch to bang a change to short for a 6-4-3 DP. With one down, pinch hitter Yuniesky Betancourt rolled a curve through the right side. Locke pounded Norichika Aoki inside with heat, then caught him looking at a fastball away. Jeran Segura hit a liner to right that Snider ran down, and Milwaukee was finished in the fifth. At 88 pitches, maybe Locke is, too.

    Burke Badenhop took the ball, and was greeted by a Jones' single; Martin followed with another. Walker bounced into a 3-6 force to put runners on the corners; a short wild pitch moved The Kid to second. Pedro was walked to juice the sacks. Good move; Barmes banged the first pitch to short for a 6-4-3 DP to end the frame, blowing another chance to run away and hide. Saved the pinch hitting choice, Locke was sent back out for the sixth to face the middle of the order. Braun grounded out, followed by a Ramirez walk. That was cleaned up by an around the horn DP, courtesy of Lucroy, to end the frame.

    The Bucs went down in order in the seventh, and Justin Wilson climbed the hill. Locke went six scoreless, giving up three hits, three walks and seven K while tossing 100 pitches. Gomez yanked Wilson's second delivery into the left field stands to make it 4-1, but the lefty recovered nicely, getting the next three Brewers routinely.

    John Axford toed the rubber, and gave up a lead off knock to Cutch up the middle; the Brewers weren't in their shift, and it cost them. But not for long; he was caught stealing in a bang-bang call that Cutch disagreed with. Jones then walked, but Axford finished the inning routinely. Mark Melancon got the ball for Pittsburgh and put away the top of the order quickly and quietly.

    Alfredo Figaro's first pitch was crushed 459' by Pedro, who drove it between the second and third tiers in right center, sitting down Jason Grilli in the bullpen and starting up Tony Watson. Figaro got through the rest of the frame, with two outs hauled in on the track. Watson had the same sort of frame, giving up a homer to Gomez and getting two long outs from Ramirez and Weeks. It was plenty good enough as the Bucs took a 5-2 win.

    Locke may have had his best outing; the first couple of innings that he labored through had as much to do with plate ump Jeff Kellogg's tight strike zone as command. The Bucs left a couple of chances go by the boards, but the pitching was strong enough to carry the day when six home runs were drilled.

    Wandy Rodriguez takes on Yovani Gallardo in tomorrow's rubber match.

  • In six of his last seven starts, Jeff Locke has given up three hits or less and has tossed 14 straight shut out innings. Today was the first time this year he hit the 100 pitch mark; his career high is 104.
  • Cutch homered in three straight at-bats of Fiers. He's the first Bucco to do that since Barry Bonds did the trick against Jamie Moyer.
  • It wasn't a very high bar to leap, but Neil Walker is now tied with George Grantham for the second most career HR by a Pirates second baseman with 40. He still has a ways to go to catch Maz at 138 bombs. 
  • Pedro's two-bomb day was his seventh career multi-HR game, with three against Milwaukee. For the Brewers, Carlos Gomez has eight homers this year; four are against Pittsburgh.
  • The Bucs are now 24-9 after losing the first game of a series; too bad they can't grind that opener out.
  • John McDonald will begin his rehab tomorrow at Indy, joining Chase d'Arnaud.
  • Gerrit Cole allowed two runs in the first inning at Indy but cleaned up nicely by tossing five no-hit frames afterward. His line was six innings with two runs on three hits, three walks and four K.
  • Locke v Fiers This Afternoon

    Jeff Locke (4-1, 2.73) takes the hill against fill-in Mike Fiers (1-2, 5.93), who is getting a spot start for Kyle Lohse, out with elbow irritation. Locke gave up three runs in six innings in his only start against the Brewers, and is coming off a shutout win versus the Astros. The lefty has won his past four decisions. Righty Fiers has worked mostly from the pen and hasn't started since the Rox hit him hard in early April.

    The game starts at 4:10 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

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

    Everyday lineup v a RHP.

    Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Ryan Braun LF, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Jonathan Lucroy  C, Carlos Gomez CF, Rickie Weeks 2B, Alex Gonzalez 1B and Mike Fiers P.

    A stronger lineup against lefties with Lucroy and Weeks on the card.

    • Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs takes a look at the "new" McCutchen.
    • Travis Sawchik of the Post Gazette has his take on the 25 most valuable Bucs.
    • Congrats, Charlie Morton. Charles Alfred Morton V was born Thursday morning, the Morton's first child. Charlie was back at PNC yesterday, throwing his side session. He's slated to replace Jeanmar Gomez in the rotation sometime in early June.
    • Gerrit Cole takes the bump for Indy today.
    • Jameson Taillon went five innings for Altoona yesterday, giving up one run (a leadoff homer) on five hits with three walks and six K, tossing an unwieldy 98 pitches. He leads the Eastern league with 63 strikeouts.
    • West Virginia has some of the Bucs more promising up-and-comers. 6'7" RHP Tyler Glasnow, 19, is 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA and 60 K in 39 IP. Stetson Allie, 22 year old 1B and converted pitcher, is hitting .345 with 13 HR and 45 RBI. 19 year old 2B Dilson Herrera is batting .319, and OF Josh Bell, 20, has recovered nicely from 2012's lost season by hitting .278 with six HR and 38 ribbies so far.

    5/25 - Busy Day In Pittsburgh Baseball

    A little bit of everything today...

    • 1906 - Martin Dihigo was born in Matanzas, Cuba. Best known for his play in the Mexican League, he also spent a couple of decades in the Negro Leagues and 1927-28 with the Homestead Grays. Dihigo was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977. The multi-talented Dihigo played all nine positions as a pro, though he’s best known as a pitcher and second baseman. He’s the only player ever to be inducted to the American, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican and Venezuelan Halls of Fame. 
    • 1919 - Casey Stengel had been traded to Pittsburgh by the Brooklyn Dodgers, and when he returned to Ebbet’s Field as a Bucco, his old fans gave him the razzberries. Bowing to the grandstand, he doffed his cap, and out flew a sparrow that he had somehow picked up in the outfield. That was the highlight of Stengel’s day. He went 0-for-4 in a 5-0 loss. 
    • 1935 - Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final home run off Guy Bush at Forbes Field in an 11-7 Boston Braves loss to the Pirates, a career record that would stand for almost 40 years before Hammerin' Hank claimed the crown. The Bambino went 4-for-4, hitting three home runs and driving in six runs. The final drive, launched in the seventh inning, cleared the right field roof, the first time that feat was ever done. According to local lore, the ball didn't quit rolling until it stopped near Boundary Street in Junction Hollow. 
    • 1953 - Ralph Kiner became the 12th MLB player to hit 300 HR with a blast off the NY Giants Al Corwin in a 6-3 loss at Forbes Field. 
    • 1958 - One of the largest bench clearing brawls in Bucco history erupted when manager Danny Murtaugh charged the mound after Ruben Gomez began headhunting. Orlando Cepeda, the Baby Bull, joined the melee with a bat before he was tackled by teammate Willie Mays. The bad blood was carried over from some beanballing in the prior visit to Candlestick Park. It fired up the G-Men more than Pirates as they swept the doubleheader at Forbes Field 5-2 and 6-1. 
    • 1969 - Jim Bunning won his 200th game, scattering five hits and striking out eight in a 2-1 victory over Gaylord Perry and the Giants at Candlestick Park. It was a good day for the Bucs as they also took the nightcap of the twinbill by a 6-2 score behind Bob Moose. 
    • 1979 - Due to fog, the Buc-Met match ended in a 3-3 tie after 11 innings and a 73-minute delay. The umps finally gave in when Bill Robinson lost Joel Youngblood's ball in the Shea Stadium mist. 
    • 1983 - In the third inning of an eventual 6-0 loss to the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Pirates' starter Jim Bibby (4) and reliever Jim Winn (3) combined to walk seven consecutive batters to tie a major league mark set back in 1909. 
    • 1985 - Rick Rhoden won his 100th game and SS Bill Almon hit his first grand slam while driving in five runs as the Pirates jumped on the Braves 8-2 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. 
    • 2009 - The Pirates beat the Cubs 10-8 at Wrigley Field. Freddy Sanchez went 6-for-6 with four runs, three RBI, a double and a homer to become first Pirate in 19 years to have six hits in a game. The Bucs, which had just finished an interleague set against the White Sox, became the first team in major league history to play consecutive series against the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago.

    Friday, May 24, 2013

    Bucs Non-Support Of AJ Continues In 2-1 Loss

    Marco Estrada had an easy first; three balls hit in the air, two skied and a changeup that Cutch took to the track. AJ matched him, with two grounders and a track shot to right by Jean Segura. The second was a repeat for Estrada; a couple of routine outs and a liner to center by Neil Walker pulled in just short of the track. It didn't go as well for Burnett.

    A-Ram led off with a five pitch walk. Carlos Gomez fell behind 0-2, took a pitch, then lined a sinker away the opposite way for a double; Gaby didn't have a play as he was holding the runner. AJ picked up a K, but Alex Gonzalez stroked a knee-high change over the middle of the plate to the gap in left center, and it was 2-0 Brew Crew after two frames.

    Estrada struck out the bottom third of the Buc order swinging in the third. Maybe next time around they'll get aggressive at the plate; the Bucs are taking 89 MPH fastballs over the outer half; six of nine Pirates so far have been behind 0-2. AJ had been struggling in the opening pair, but looked more like himself in the third, putting away the top of the order in order.

    The Pirates went down 1-2-3 again; that's 12 in a row for Estrada. His stuff isn't overwhelming, but the Bucs can't seem to square up on a fastball away tonight. The Brewers went down quietly in the fourth, too. After fourteen Bucs down, Walker dropped a two-out pop into left for the Bucs' first hit. Inge followed with a liner up the middle; Estrada stuck up his mitt while ducking and it stuck. AJ had his streak snapped at 11 Brewers when Estrada one-hopped a pitch into right with two down in the fifth; Norachika Aoki almost cashed him in, flying out to the wall in right center.

    Starlin Marte raced to a two out triple lined into the LF corner with two down in the sixth, but Snider K'ed for the second time, swinging through a fastball. AJ kept dealing, issuing a 3-2 walk with one out to A-Ram sandwiched around swinging strikeouts of Ryan Braun and Gomez.

    Pittsburgh came close to breaking out big against Estrada in the seventh, but settled for a run. Cutch roped an at 'em ball to Braun, who backpedaled to make the grab. Gaby lined a single to right, but was erased at second when Segura made a sweet play in the hole and got the force on Russell Martin's bid for a hit. Walker one-hopped a high heater to the wall in right center to plate Martin and make it 2-1. Inge finished the inning with a check swing comebacker. AJ pitched another clean inning.

    Brandon Kintzler came on for Milwaukee. After Gomez chased down Clint Barme's fly short of the track in right, Garrett Jones walked on a 3-2 pitch. The Brew Crew gloves came in handy again; Aramis Ramirez tossed out Mart on a little roller on a 50-50 call; Marte would have likely beat it if he hadn't watched the play while running down the line. Gonzo took the ball to face Snider; Hurdle countered with JT. he shot a 3-2 liner, but it was another at 'em ball, right into the glove of 1B Gonzalez.

    That was it for AJ, who went seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits with two walks and six K. Bryan Morris took the bump. With two down and 0-2 on Segura, the SS rolled a pitch off the end of his bat that was away and almost in the dirt. Braun followed with a liner at the box; Morris knocked it down to get the last out.

    Jim Henderson came in for the save. Cutch dropped a 3-2 single into center, falling a short hop in front of Gomez, who was playing a no doubles D. Sanchez took a big cut, but got under the ball and skied a fly to left. Martin banged one up the middle, off Henderson's glove, but it deflected right to Segura, who forced Cutch at second. Henderson had to leave the game; he hurt his leg trying to make the play.

    Francisco Rodriguez climbed the hill, and took two pitches to get The Kid on a roller to second. Miller Field continues to be a no fly zone for Pittsburgh.

    Lots of little things contributed to the loss. Hurdle's oddball lineup put the two guys you most want up in a one run game, Jones and Pedro (who never batted) on the pine. The Pirates' passive plate approach to Estrada complemented his game plan. Toss in some at 'em balls and some nice glovework by Milwaukee, both of which staved off a promising Buc rally in the seventh, and you have the recipe for a 2-1 loss.

    Jeff Locke takes on Mike Fiers tomorrow.
    • This was Burnett's fifth straight seven-inning outing that he's given up four or fewer hits. He's 1-3 in them, although giving up just 10 runs. 
    • The Bucs had the right man up at the end of the game. Neil Walker had two of Pittsburgh's five hits.
    • An underappreciated facet of the Buc defense - Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez have been exceptional this year at digging out low throws, and that it turn allows the infielders to cut it loose.
    • Jean Segura made several hit-saving plays in the field tonight and was Milwaukee's man of the hour; we'll take him over the Cubs' Starlin Castro any day.
    • Surprise: RHP Jeff Karstens felt pain in his right shoulder during his throwing program today and has been shut down. He'll be evaluated next week in Pittsburgh. We suspect that if he makes an appearance, it won't be until September.

    Here We Go To Miller Park Again...

    AJ Burnett (3-4, 2.57) takes the bump against the Brewers Marco Estrada (3-2, 5.44) tonight. AJ hasn't allowed more than three earned runs or six hits in any of his 10 starts this season, and gone seven innings in his last four outings. But the Bucco alpha dawg hasn't had much luck against the Brew Crew; he's 2-5 with a 4.87 ERA in 10 career starts.

    Estrada is 4-0 with a a 2.17 ERA in seven starts against Pittsburgh, and beat AJ in their last matchup on May 13th. The game starts at 8:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

    Pirates lineup: Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Russell Martin C, Neil Walker 2B, Brandon Inge 3B, Clint Barmes SS and AJ Burnett P.

    Did Marco Estrada suddenly become a southpaw? You couldn't tell by his splits, which apparently Clint Hurdle looked up before making his card - Estrada's line against righties is .350/.406/.607 and against LH is .174/.245/.337 this year (tho career-wise they're pretty even). If it quacks like a duck...

    Brewers lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Ryan Braun LF, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Carlos Gomez CF, Martin Maldonado C, Alex Gonzalez 1B, Jeff Bianchi 2B and Marco Estrada P.

    The Brewers are 4-16 in May, and haven't won a series dating since late April  - against the Pirates, natch. If the Bucs are going to snap out of their Miller Field funk, this would be a good time to laissez les bons temps rouler - let the good times roll.

    • Vin Mazzaro has worked eight consecutive scoreless appearances, covering 11-1/3 innings. He came to Pittsburgh in the Clint Robinson deal with KC in November, another of the little off season moves that have paid off for Neal Huntington so far in 2013.
    • Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout is now likin' the sandwich pick for Gaby Sanchez deal.
    • The Pirates are 32-70 at Miller park since it's opened in 2001, and 8-46 there in the past seven seasons.
    • Indy's Vic Black was placed on the minor league DL after injuring himself a couple of days ago. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reports that he has an oblique strain.
    • Jameson Taillon is on the hill for Altoona tonight.

    Bucco History 5/24

    A hot day at the hot corner, Connie Mack, Cy Young, breaking a streak in style and squeakin' 'em out...

    • 1889 - Willie Kuehne converted 13 chances at the hot corner, handling three putouts and 10 assists without an error‚ for a MLB record. His stellar work in the field helped Pittsburgh to a 9-7 win over Washington at Swampoodle Grounds. The Alleghenys’ Kuehne wasn’t exactly noted for his glovework, though. He had 34 errors that season and finished with a .908 fielding average. 
    • 1893 - C Connie Mack intentionally allowed a popup to drop in front of home plate that led to a triple play against the Browns. He followed by droving in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth to propel Pittsburgh to an 8-7 win over St. Louis at Exposition Park. Mack was a backup catcher who hit .286 for the Pirates that year, and later entered the Hall of Fame as a manager. 
    • 1894 - The Pirates rallied to beat the Cleveland Spiders and none other than Cy Young 6-5 at League Park. Down 5-2 late, the Bucs scored twice in the seventh and twice more in the eighth for the win. Red Ehret went eight innings for the W. Jake Stenzel had two hits and scored three runs while Jake Beckley added three knocks.
    • 1955 - The Bucs broke an 11 game losing streak in style by pounding the Brooklyn Dodgers 15-1 at Forbes Field. Preston Ward had a single‚ triple and HR to lead the attack. Ward, Gene Freese and Roberto Clemente each had three RBI. One of the Dodger relievers they tortured was future manager Tommy Lasorda, who gave up five runs in two innings of work.
    • 1959 - The Bucs swept a pair from the Reds at Forbes Field by 2-1 and 5-4 scores; both games were won by walk-off, pinch hit doubles. Danny Kravitz drove home Don Hoak to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat for Ron Kline, who had surrendered an unearned ninth inning run. The Pirates were down 4-2 in the nightcap and down to their last out when Rocky Nelson tied the game with a two run homer. Pittsburgh won it in the tenth when Smoky Burgess doubled home Roman Mejias to give Ron Blackburn the win. The Bucs swept the four game series from Cincy, winning every match by one run.

    Thursday, May 23, 2013

    Day In Bucco History: 5/23

    Deacon Phillippe, Crazy Schmit, ending a streak, Lee Meadows, The Hound for Klu, and Gonzo...

    • 1872 - Charles “Deacon” Phillippe was born in Rural Retreat, Virginia. The righty spent 12 years with Pittsburgh (1900-11) with a Pirate line of 189-109/2.59. He went 3-2 in the 1903 World Series with a 3.07 ERA and closed out two games in the 1909 World Series, pitching six scoreless innings. 
    • 1890 - During a 17-10 New York victory at the Polo Grounds‚ the Giants swiped a record 17 sacks against the battery of rookie Crazy Schmit and veteran C George "Doggie" Miller. The Alleghenys added three steals of their own to set a game record of 20. Crazy was thought to be the first pitcher to keep a book on hitters, and earned his nickname honestly, as related by Baseball History’s piece “Crazy Schmit Stories.”
    • 1892 - The Pirates ended the Chicago Colts 13 game winning streak with a 5-4 win at South Side Stadium. 
    • 1923 - Pittsburgh sent 2B Cotton Tierney and P Whitey Glazner to the Phils for 2B Johnny Rawlings and P Lee Meadows. Meadows went 87-51 over the next five years as Glazner's replacement in the Pirate rotation, winning 20 games once and 19 twice. Whitey was out of baseball after winning 14 games in two seasons for the Phils. 
    • 1963 - The Bucs sent "The Hound," Bob Skinner, to the Reds for Jerry Lynch, who started his career in Pittsburgh. Lynch spent his last four years as a Pirate and set the pinch hit home run record of 18 (since surpassed) in a Bucco uniform. Skinner spent nine seasons with Pittsburgh, compiling a .280 BA, and lasted five more years in the show.
    • 1978 - Reliever Mike Gonzalez was born in Corpus Christi. He was drafted by the Pirates and pitched his first four seasons (2003-06) in Pittsburgh. Gonzo became a rare LH closer in 2006, earning 24 saves before being sent to Atlanta in the off season as part of the Adam LaRoche deal.

    Bucs Score Early To Sweep Cubs 4-2

    Jeanmar Gomez pitched a 1-2-3 opening frame; Edwin Jackson didn't. Starling Marte opened with an infield knock, stole second and come around on a Cutch single to left. He stole second, and an out later, Neil Walker drew a four pitch walk. The Fort singled him home, and he and The Kid moved up a base on Soriano's wayward toss to the plate. There was no more two-out thunder; Pedro went down swinging. RHP Jackson struck out all three lefties - Travis Snider, Garrett Jones and El Toro - he saw, but the righties in between did him in.

    In the second Soriano led off with a single, but was erased on a 4-6-3 DP as Jeanmar faced just three Cubbies. With two outs, the Bucs did some damage. Marte legged out another infield knock and scored as Snider tripled into the Notch, sliding into third while flashing the Z to the Bucco dugout. Cutch lined one into center, and it was 4-0 in a hurry. Both sides went down in order in the third.

    Gomez had problems in the fourth. David DeJesus lined a 3-2 sinker to right for a double, and Starlin Castro blooped a knock to center to put Cubbies on the corners. Rizzo banged into a force, making it 4-1. An out later, Nate Schierholtz reached on a Jones' boot to again put Cubs at first and third, and then the rains came.

    An hour and 45 minutes later, play resumed and Vin Mazzaro got the last out on a diving stop by Pedro, who has been channeling Brooks Robinson these last two games. Rafael Dolis came on for the Cubs, and put up a zero, to be replaced by Carlos Villanueva in the next frame.

    The fifth and sixth went routinely enough with neither club getting a runner to third. Snider helped Mazzaro by throwing out Castro in the sixth, cutting off a drive to the gap and gunning a throw to second to send Starlin back to the bench.

    Jose Contreras toed the rubber in the seventh, and gave up a walk and single to put Cubbies at the corners. Dale Sveum brought in lefty Ryan Sweeney, and Clint Hurdle countered with southpaw Justin Wilson. Chicago won the matchup as Sweeney dropped a soft single to center to make it 4-2; Cutch spared the Bucs any further damage by making a sliding grab of DeJesus' flare. Carlos Marmol worked the seventh, and left Cutch, who had singled, stranded at first.

    The Cubs went down quietly in the eighth. Clint Barmes doubled off Marmol with two down, but he came back to get pinch hitter JT swinging. Hurdle called on Jason Grilli to shut the door, and he did, pitching a perfect ninth and striking out the last two hitters as the Bucs swept the Cubs 4-2 and took 8-of-10 during the home stand. Grilli got his 19th save and Mazzaro picked up his third win as a Bucco.

    Cutch had three hits, 2 RBI and a run scored; Marte had a pair of knocks and two runs to lead the attack. Now it's off to Milwaukee, where AJ Burnett takes on Marco Estrada.

    • Cutch has multi-hit efforts in five of his last six games and has gone 12-for-26 (.462) over that span.
    • The Pirates tied their season high of four straight wins and reached their 2013 high of 11 games over .500 (29-18), putting them in a tie with the Reds for second in the NL Central, 1-1/2 games behind the Cards. Sports Illustrated had the Bucs ranked fifth in their Power Ratings going into the game.
    • Pittsburgh is 20-9 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
    • Al Skorupa of Rotographs posts "Will Gerritt Cole Ever Be An Ace?" And more importantly, where does he fit in the world of fantasy baseball?
    • "Million Dollar Arm" is the next big baseball movie, and it began shooting this month in Mumbai, India. The Disney/ESPN film is the story of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who were signed by the Pirates  in 2008.