Sunday, June 30, 2013

6/30 - Forbes Field Opens, Big Bats at Work, Fan Boycott & More

Forbes Field opens, Stuart Blast, Shake Rattle & Roll and Roberto, Giles & Martin, Fan Boycott, Hanny Deal and more...

  • 1909 - A SRO crowd of 30,338 was on hand as the Pirates fell to the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, in the debut of Forbes Field. Ed Ruelbach tossed a three hitter to top Vic Willis. Mayor William Magee threw out the first ball. He was in the second tier and lobbed the ball to John M. Morin, Director of Public Safety, on the field below. Morin then went to the mound and threw the first pitch to open the festivities. The ball yard was the nation's second made completely of concrete and steel. The yard’s firsts: the first radio broadcast in 1921, the first fan elevator installed in 1938, and the first pads to cushion the wall in the forties. And in the twenties, the space under the LF bleachers was used for car sales and repairs! It wasn’t exactly embraced at the beginning; it was often called "Dreyfuss' Folly" in its early years. Some folly; the yard was the Pirates’ home for 61 seasons. 
  • 1917 - Pirates skipper Jimmy Callahan was fired after the club staggered to a 20-40 start, and Honus Wagner took over as player-manager. The Wagner-led Bucs won 5-4 win over the Reds‚ with the Dutchman banging a two-run double. Wilbur Cooper went the distance for the win at Forbes Field. Wagner resigned after a five-game stint at the helm; he much preferred playing to filling out lineup cards, and business manager Hugo Bezdek took the reins. 
  • 1934 - A small stone monument dedicated to Barney Dreyfuss was unveiled outside Forbes Field’s RF gates, leading to Schenley Park on the 25th anniversary of the ballyard. The monument was later displayed in TRS and it’s now located at PNC Park, on the concourse behind home plate. The ceremony didn’t help the Bucs, 4-2 losers to the Cubs. 
  • 1960 - Dick Stuart bombed three consecutive HRs to key an 11-6 win as the Pirates split a DH with the second place Giants at Forbes Field. Stuart had seven RBI in the nitecap and joined Ralph Kiner as the second Pirate to hit three homers in a game at Forbes Field. 
  • 1962 - The Pirates clobbered the Cards 17-7 at Busch Stadium. Smoky "Shake Rattle and Roll" Burgess had two homers and a double, good for seven RBI. Roberto Clemente had a hot stick, too, going 4-for-5 with a homer, double and five runs driven in. Dick Groat, Bob Skinner and Dick Stuart added three knocks apiece as the Pirates drilled 22 hits against St. Louis. 
  • 1999 - The Bucs rode an eight run fourth frame to a 9-1 win over the Phillies at TRS. Brian Giles had a three run homer, Al Martin had a three run bases loaded double and Brant Brown doubled in another pair as the Bucs banged out six hits to go with three walks in their big frame. Jason Schmidt cruised to victory, with ninth inning help from Brad Clontz. 
  •  2007 - To protest the team’s small payroll and general ineptitude, a group called “Fans for Change” staged a walkout at PNC Park. Estimates ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand of the 26,959 on hand who stormed out of the park after the third inning. They picked a bad day for it, as the Bucs beat the Nats 7-2 behind Tom Gorzelanny, who was supported by a three run homer by Adam LaRoche. Though the sentiment was widespread, the boycott had little effect. 
  • 2008 - The Pirates penciled a pitcher in the eight hole for the first time in over 50 years when John Russell had Paul Maholm (.161) bat ahead of Jack Wilson (.312). Didn’t work as the Bucs went down 4-3 to the Reds at GABP after Matt Capps gave up a two run homer in the ninth to Junior. Maholm went 0-for-3; Wilson 1-for-3. 
  • 2009 - The Bucs traded LF Nyjer Morgan and LHP Sean Burnett to the Washington Nationals for RHP Joel Hanrahan and OF Lastings Milledge in a change-of-scenery swap. Hanrahan would become the major piece, eventually taking over as the Pirate closer.

Break Out The Brooms - Bucs Win 2-1

The first frame went quietly enough. Carlos Gomez singled and stole second with two outs against Charlie Morton, but was left stranded. Neil Walker drew a one out walk, but never advanced against Kyle Lohse.

Clint Barmes got the start to shore up the D behind Ground Chuck, but instead cost him a run in the second when he booted Yuniesky Betancourt's one out grounder. A roller by Martin Maldonado just got past Gaby, who was holding the runner, to put Brewers at the corners, and a safety squeeze past the mound by Logan Schafer brought the run home.

The rain started with the Bucs at bat, hopefully not as an omen, and after two outs, the tarps came out while boomers echoed and the fans scattered to the concourse. It took awhile, but at 4:25, the sun came out, the field was mopped up and the game went on, minus, of course, the two starters, hors d' combat after the 2:20 delay. Tyler Thornburg caught Mike McKenry looking to end the frame, and Vin Mazzaro took the hill for Pittsburgh.

Vin retired the Brew Crew in the third on three balls in the dirt. Too bad Charlie Morton was done; a soft infield would be his ideal milieu. Thornburg needed just seven pitches to put the Bucs away. Mazzaro retired the Brewers in order in the fourth; he's tossed just 13 pitches to get his six outs. Pittsburgh got a walk from Cutch, and that was it.

Milwaukee sat down quietly in the fifth as Mazzaro has retired nine in a row on 26 tosses. The Bucs squared up on Thornburg, but it didn't help. After a pair of line outs, Barmes doubled to left. Mazzaro worked to count full and slashed a soft liner to right; Barmes had to hold at third as Norichika Aoki was playing shallow and had the ball coming home after a hop. Starling Marte sliced a shot to right, but Aoki was there just in front of the track to haul it in.

The Brewers went down routinely again in the sixth. The Pirates went 1-2-3 also, with a Cutch rope to right the only loud out. Mazzaro ran his streak to 15 straight Brewers down in the seventh, the last one retired on a shoestring grab by Marte on a sinking liner.

Since his first time around the order, when the Bucs tried to pull everything, Thornburg has been getting hit, but very little has found grass. It continued when with an out, Gaby drilled a ball to left; Schafer climbed the fence and pulled it back in the yard. But after he hit The Fort, a call to the pen brought out John Axford. Thornburg threw 82 pitches, and the Brewers got all they could from him. Axford faced Barmes and struck him out.

Justin Wilson came in for the eighth, and gave up a leadoff  leg double to Maldonado, who just beat the tag at second after the ball took a wide carom off the RF railings. But a bad bunt and two grounders left him stranded, still 180' away.  Jim Henderson, the Brew Crew closer, came on in the Buc half. With an out, Marte reached on a bad-hop single smoked at Jean Segura. He went to second on a tapper by Walker, and came in when Cutch lined a singe to left. McCutch was nailed trying to get into second on the throw, but did his job.

Bryan Morris came on; Clint has been using his bullpen somewhat curiously today. Segura spanked one up the middle; The Kid made a diving stop and threw him out from his knees. The Brewers protested, but replayed showed it to be basically a tie, one that the Bucs won this time. The next pair of outs came routinely. Mike Gonzalez worked the ninth. After two soft outs, a walk to Gaby, a bloop single by The Fort and another walk to Jordy Mercer jammed the bases. Brandon Inge ran the count full, fouled one down the middle, and then swung through ball four to end the frame.

Jason Grilli came on for the 10th, with Mercer going to short and Josh Harrison, who had pinch hit, moving to right. He got two quick outs when Maldonado collected his third knock; all have been between Walker and the first base bag, so maybe they should quit working him away. Just a bump for Grilli, though, as he got Schafer swinging. Brandon Kintzler put away the Bucs easily.

Mark Melacon came on for the 11th and it was three Brewers, three grounders. The Bucs followed suit, and it was on to the 12th. Tony Watson tucked away the Brew Crew, and Kintzler put away the Bucs. The Fort tried to get things going, missing the RF foul line by five feet in a bid for a double, then flying out to the track in straight center; the next pair of outs were routine.

Francisco Rodriguez came on, and the Bucs let him off the hook. Marte started off with a leg double on a soft liner to left center and went to third on Walker's grounder to second. Cutch was walked intentionally and Harrison unintentionally to bring up Pedro with the bases jammed. The Brewers had a five man infield, with CF Gomez playing third; the left side in and the right side normal. And Pedro played right into their hands, rolling over on a 2-0 fastball and bounced into a 3-6-3 DP when all that was needed was a fly.

Milwaukee's first two hitters went down easily, the Segura reached when Pedro's throw took Gaby off the bag. Watson picked him up by catching Segura on a break toward second, picking him off 1-3-4 to end the inning. The Bucs finally figured a way to score. With an out, Gaby singled off Week's glove and surprised the entire park by stealing second. Mercer walked, and Hurdle called on his last bench player, Russell Martin. He rolled one up the middle and Gaby chugged home, sliding under a high and wide throw. It was a long time coming, but the Pirates won 2-1.

The Shark Tank was absolutely unbelievable in their duel against the Brewer pen, which unlike its rotation is pretty darn good. Pittsburgh relievers tossed 12 IP, giving up two hits and striking out seven; the Bucs went all 14 innings without issuing a walk. They deserve a day off, which they'll get tomorrow. Philadelphia comes to town on Tuesday for a three-gamer.

  • The Cards and Reds lost; the Bucs are 51-30 and have a two game cushion in the NL Central.
  • The last time the Pirates pitching staff didn't issue a walk in a game of at least 14 frames was on 5/22/76 vs. the Cubs in a 4-3, 16-inning win at home
  • In just 18 IP, Charlie Morton already has the team lead in unearned runs at six; he's only given up five that were earned. 
  • Vin Mazzaro's five inning relief stint was the longest by a Pirate since Daniel McCutchen went 5-1/3 frames during the Jerry Meal game in July, 2011.
  • Today's attendance was 35,351, snapping the five-game sell-out string.
  • Update on Wandy - he didn't get a cortisone shot yet, as we jumped the gun and reported earlier, but may later in the week after the Buc docs evaluate his condition.
  • The Bucs have won a season-high nine straight games, 10 of their last 11 and 11 of their last 13. This was the third straight series they've swept.
  • Pittsburgh has won five straight games and eight of its last nine contests against Milwaukee. It's the first five game streak against the Brew Crew since August, 2002.
  • 10 of Starling Marte's last 12 hits have been for extra bases.

Morton v Lohse As Bucs Look To Sweep

Charlie Morton (1-1, 2.81) hooks up with Kyle Lohse (3-6, 3.69) this afternoon.  Ground Chuck had his sinker going last outing, but his control was off and his infield wasn't particularly kind to him. One recurring problem is with lefties; the Bucs love to shift, and Charlies likes to use the outside of the dish, leading to a lot of opposite way knocks, especially by the non-slugging part of the order. A little better game scheming by the battery is called for to get that cow back in the barn. He is 0-4 against Milwaukee in his career, including an 0-3 mark and 5.79 ERA at PNC Park, so there's also that.

Lohse's lifetime record is 9-2 with a 3.41 ERA against the Pirates, and he's been a steady if unspectacular workhorse for the Brewers' staff so far this season. The game starts at 1:35 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 RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Mike McKenry C, Clint Barmes SS and Charlie Morton P.

Pretty usual day-following-night lineup, with Barmes getting a start. It makes sense with Ground Chuck on the mound. The Bucs lack of depth in RF shows. Jones is out there with Gaby at first. Sanchez was brought in to platoon, but he's had twice as many at-bats against righties as lefties, and is hitting just .202 against them.

Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Carlos Gomez CF, Juan Francisco 1B, Rickie Weeks 2B, Yuniesky Betancourt 3B, Martin Maldonado C, Logan Schafer LF and Kyle Lohse P.

Sure looks different without Ryan Braun, who's on the 15 day DL and Corey hart, who is fdone for the season.

  • The media gang reports that Wandy Rodriguez got a cortisone shot for his achy wing.
  • Christine Kahrl of ESPN's The Sweet Spot likes the team, and is watching for moves down the road. She writes "The Pirates will be defined not by their ambitions, but by their actions. As brilliant as those have been on the field, here’s hoping that they’re matched by off-field machinations in the month to come."
  • John Sickel of Minor League Ball follows Jeff Locke's career from the minors to today, and comes away with the conclusion that the young lefty is a classic #4 starter.
  • From Elias Sports Bureau: Francisco Liriano is only the second Pirates pitcher since 1950 to win seven of his first 10 games with the Bucs. The other was Kip Wells in 2002.
  • From earlier in the week, Sweet Spot's DJ Gallo of has the Pirates from A-to-Z.
  • Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post opines on the best bargain signings of the year, and has Francisco Liriano high on his list.
  • Andrew Ball of Fake Teams has a boatload of Bucco prospects in the upper half of his updated Top 100 prospects post.
  • At Indy, Jose Contreras tossed two scoreless while Andy Oliver keeps walking people. The Bucs would like both to be in the mix for a late season call to the pen; JC's got a lot better chance.
  • The Royals have released outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady, 34, from AAA, where he was hitting .310 with 11 HR. He had an opt-out clause if not on the MLB roster and exercised it, with Colorado as his likely landing spot.
  • IF Luis Cruz was DFA'ed by the Dodgers; so was Eric Hinske of Arizona..

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bucs Take Eighth In A Row 2-1

Francisco Liriano lost Ricky Weeks on a 3-2 pitch to start the game, and Jean Segura followed by protecting the plate against a 1-2 spinner and blooping the pitch away into center. But this wasn't a repeat of last night. The Cisco Kid got Carlos Gomez to chase for a swinging K and Aramis Ramirez to bang into a 6-4-3 DP to put up an opening zero. With an out, Russell Martin dropped a single into right; Sean Halton, a first baseman by trade, couldn't get to it. But no harm for Donovan Hand. Cutch bounced a chopper up the middle, and with the shift on, it became a tailor-made DP.

The Brewers got a two out single in an otherwise quiet second. Pedro made big noise with one out; he drilled a 1-2 sinker that was up 445' into the drink for his 20th and a 1-0 lead. Frankie tossed a clean third with a couple of swinging K.

It's a good thing Liriano can pitch, because he clogged up the bases pretty well. After Jordy Mercer beat out a chopper up the middle, Liraino's bunt was a skipped throw away from being a DP. Starling Marte doubled; Liriano hit third after Marte was already on second. With the infield in, Martin hit a ball sharply to the 2B hole that Weeks made a great diving stop of; Frankie stood at third and watched, trotted toward home, and then stopped about ten feet short to get tagged. Cutch popped out, and the Bucs missed a run.

The Cisco Kid may have still been carrying that base running weight around; he served Gomez a meatball then he ripped for a leadoff triple. But he focused and K'ed A-Ram. With the infield in to Jonathan Lucroy, a one hopper to Walker cut down Gomez at home, and a tapper to the mound ended the frame. Garrett Jones led off by banging a sinker down into the shrubbery of the batter's eye 410' away to make it 2-0. Hand went to his curve after that to sit the Bucs down.

Liriano had two outs and two strikes on Hand in the fifth, but curiously gave him a change that he poked softly into right. No problem except for a handful of extra pitches, as Weeks bounced out. The Bucs went down quietly.

The Brewers got on the board in the sixth. Gomez singled off Liriano, and A-Ram sigled sharply just past Mercer. They were still on first and second two outs later when Yuniesky Betancourt broke an 0-for-16 streak. With two strikes, the Brew Crew had the runners going, and Betancourt banged a low slider on the outside half behind the runners into short right to make it 2-1.

Brandon Kintzler came on. With one gone, Cutch beat the shift with a right side bouncer and stole second with a sick here it is, here it isn't sleight of hand move with his arm. Jones tried to beat the shift, too, but his one hopper went to the only man on the left side, 3B Ramirez, for the second out and Pedro K'ed. Tony Watson took the bump for Pittsburgh in the seventh, with Travis Snider going into right. Liriano went six, giving up a run on seven hits with a walk and six whiffs.

The lefty put away the 8-9-1 guys routinely, and John Axford took his turn on the hill. He tossed a clean frame, and Mark Melancon took the ball for Pittsburgh in the eighth. MM did his part. With an out, Gomez reached on a wild pitch strikeout - seems that's been happening a lot lately - but was left on second. Closer Jim Henderson came in for the Brew Crew and tucked the Bucs in; it was Jason Grilli's game to close, after a layoff of five days.

Pinch hitter Norichika Aoki sliced his first pitch into left center, and Marte covered the acreage to make the grab. Two grounders later, Grilli had his 27th save and Liriano his seventh win as the Bucs continued to win, baby, win.

Unlike most Buc-Brewer games, this one was pretty well played all the way around (except for Liriano's comedy routine on the bases; his AL pedigree sure shows). The diff was the Pirates left the yard twice, and the Brewers didn't.

Charlie Morton takes on Kyle Lohse tomorrow afternoon.

  • This is the first Pirate team to win 50 games before the July. The last club to do that was the 1960 Bucs.  Scary, isn't it?
  • Pedro is the first Buc to have 20 HR before the All-Star break since Jay Bay in 2006, and the first  with 10+ HR in June since Richie Hebner in 1975. He also extended his now career high hitting streak to a dozen games.
  • The club has never sold out five straight games at PNC Park - until tonight, when 38,438 showed up for on-the-field and post-game fireworks.
  • In pitching news, AJ is coming along and will throw a simulated game next. Jared Hughes is tossing bullpen sessions. J-Mac will go to Texas to see a doc next week, and both Phil Irwin and Kyle McPherson have been shut down, as has Wandy Rodriguez. Jeff Karstens isn't expected back until September. And we wondered what they were gonna do with all those pitchers in March!

Liriano v Hand

Francisco Liriano  (6-3, 2.30) will face Donovan Hand (0-0, 2.37) tonight.The Cisco Kid is averaging 10 K per game, and more importantly, his walks are at a manageable 3.6 per nine, his best mark since 2010. The veteran lefty has allowed fewer than two runs six times in nine starts.

Hand, the Brewers long man out of the pen, made his first MLB start a week ago against the Braves and did well. The righty pitched 4-2/3 scoreless innings, surrendering only two hits and a walk while striking out three. The Bucs saw him in late May when when he allowed one run, three hits, a walk and struck out three in two innings of a 5-4 Pirate win. We're sure they're hoping to get five or more out of him tonight, especially after the Brew Crew pen bit the bullet for six innings plus last night.

The game starts at 7:15 and will be aired on Fox as the regional Saturday “Game of the Week” and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Russell Martin C, Andrew McCutchen CF, Garrett Jones RF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Jordy Mercer SS and Francisco Liriano P.

Minor bit of shuffling with Snider day-to-day, we assume, with the bruised foot he suffered yesterday.

Brewer lineup: Rickie Weeks 2B, Jean Segura SS, Carlos Gomez CF, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Jonathan Lucroy C, Yuniesky Betancourt 1B, Sean Halton RF, Logan Schafer LF and Donovan Hand P.

Shook up the order from last night, with leadoff man Aoki out. But Weeks has been hot, so maybe it's just a maintenance day.

  • Pittsburgh owns the MLB-best record of 49-30. Yep, the Pirates. 49 wins through 79 games are most for the Bucs since 1972. A victory tonight or tomorrow would give the Pirates 50 wins prior to July 1 for the first time in franchise history.
  • The worm has turned: the Bucs have defeated the Brewers three straight times and six of the last seven games.
  • During the Pirates seven game winning streak, they've averaged two homers and seven runs per game.
  • Even with that rough opening frame yesterday, Gerrit Cole extended Pittsburgh starters' streak of allowing three earned runs or fewer to 14 straight games.
  • Wandy's last two bullpen sessions haven't gone off so well, and he's been shut down. It may be awhile before we see him back.
  • Leadership comes often in small doses. Dejan Kovacevic asked Starling Marte what Gaby Sanchez told him after he jogged to first and lost a hit last night: "He told me, 'We can't have that.' He's right." Quick lesson learned on being a pro.
  • Andrew Lambo hit his seventh homer of the year for Indianapolis, and his 21st overall, in Indy's 4-2 win over Rochester.
  • Luis Heredia had a so-so start at WV, going 4 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, and with 4 K.

6/29 - Bye-Bye Expo Park, Rock's B-Day, Pops Hits #400, Jason Kendall and More...

Bye-Bye Expo Park, Ralph Kiner, Rock's B-Day, Pops Hits #400, Jason Kendall and More...

  • 1907 - The Pirates edged the Cubs 2-1 at West Side Park when CF Tommy Leach gunned down Chicago’s Harry Steinfeldt at the plate in the ninth inning. Deacon Phillippe was the winner over Ed Reulbach‚ who had a 17 game winning streak snapped. 
  • 1909 - The Pirates won the final game they played at Exposition Park by an 8–1 count from the Chicago Cubs in front of 5,545 people, moving on to Oakland and Forbes Field the next day. George Gibson banged the final big league hit in the ballpark and Lefty Leifield earned the win over Three Finger Mordecai Brown.
  • 1949 - Ralph Kiner was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post‚ and celebrated by driving in five runs with a grand slam and a double to lead the Bucs to a 7-3 win over the Reds at Forbes Field. 
  • 1952 - The Bucs stopped the Cards 2-1 at Forbes Field behind Howie Pollet. The game went just five frames as a thunderstorm rained out the remainder. The rain also pulled the plug on local son (he was from Donora) Stan Musial’s 24 game hitting streak; he walked and lined out in his only two at-bats before the weather turned soggy. 
  • 1967 - John Wehner was born in Pittsburgh (Carrick). The infielder spent nine seasons (1991-96, 1999-2001) with the Bucs as a utilityman, hitting .250. On October 1st, 2000, The Rock hit the final home run smacked at TRS. He’s currently an analyst on Root Sports’ TV team. 
  • 1977 - Willie Stargell became the first Pirate player to hit 400 career home runs when he connected at Busch Stadium in the fifth frame off Eric Rasmussen in a 9-1 win. Bill Robinson had a four bagger and double while Phil Garner added a long ball against the Cards. Bruce Kison and Goose Gossage were on the hill and combined for a seven-hitter. 
  • 2000 - Jason Kendall put on a show with two hits, including a homer, walk, two stolen bases, three RBI and two runs as the Bucs outlasted the Cubs 5-4 in ten innings at TRS. He capped the game with a walk off single to bring home Mike Benjamin for the extra inning win. 
  • 2006 - The Pirates edged the White Sox at PNC Park 7-6, ending a club-record 13-game losing streak. Freddy Sanchez was the hero with four hits, including a walk-off ninth inning homer. 
  •  2012 - The Pirates pounded four homers on the way to a 14-5 win at Busch Stadium. Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes and Alex Presley all went yard. Cutch had a 4-for-5 day with four runs and three RBI; Alvarez added four RBI.

Austin Meadows

The Pirates signed top draftee Austin Meadows of Loganville, Georgia yesterday. The Bucs selected Meadows with the #9 pick they received as compensation after they whiffed on Stanford RHP Mark Appel and his DH Scott Boras last year. He was the first high school position player drafted #1 by the Pirates since some Florida kid named Andrew McCutchen back in 2005. That one worked out pretty well.

The 6'4"/210 lb. 18-year-old center fielder from Grayson High School was inked to a signing bonus of $3,029,600, which is exactly slot value.

He led Grayson High School to the Georgia Class 6A State semifinals as a junior, batting .390 with four home runs, 28 RBI and 19 stolen bases. As a senior, Meadows hit .535 with four home runs, 14 doubles, a triple and 28 RBI.

Meadows was named a preseason First-Team High School All American by Rawlings and Perfect Game. He hit lead-off and played center field for the 2011 gold medal U16 Team USA squad that went 7-1. The lefty hit .537 in 41 at-bats with a 1.446 OPS in eight games, set a tourney record with 28 RBI and was named the USA's co-MVP.

Meadows had committed to play college baseball at Clemson University, picking the Tigers over USC, Georgia and Vanderbilt.

He was ranked fifth among draft prospects by and was the second-ranked high school prospect on their list. They wrote "Meadows has five-tool potential, a tremendous athlete who can do it all on the baseball field. He can run, has an outstanding arm and plenty of bat as he progresses. A left-handed hitter, Meadows has an ideal frame that should add some strength as he matures, which could lead to more power."

Baseball America ranked him as the sixth best prospect in the draft class, saying he has "a smooth, easy swing that he repeats and he covers the plate well ... he has the leverage to hit for corner-profile power."

In BA's Best Tools, Meadows was picked #1 as a high school athlete, #1 in strike zone judgment and #2 in pure hitting and being closest to the majors.

But on draft day, they noted that "Some scouts do question his loft power thanks to a flat bat path and a relative lack of looseness, and some others consider him a bit low-energy for their taste. Still, he combines athleticism with one of the safest bats in the draft."

Meadows does have average to plus tools all the way around. He earns pluses for his speed, fielding ability and hitting for contact. His arm is considered average and may be a question if he gets shifted to right field, but he makes up for that with accuracy and a quick release. Some have projected him to have 30-homer power, but he hasn't shown a consistent ability to barrel up.

The Bleacher Report wrote "There’s legitimate concern that Meadows' contact-oriented swing...will prevent him tapping into his raw power, which in turn hurts his value if he’s forced to move from center field."

Ah, the swing. It's considered smooth with plenty of bat speed, and he not only knows and covers the strike zone, but uses all fields, a rarity for a prep player. But the swing itself is level; he'll have to learn to apply a little leverage to reach that long ball projection. And they noted that some scouts saw more pop-ups and weak grounders than they would expect from a kid of his talents.

But they were quick to add that "Regardless, Meadows is a first-rate athlete with the potential for at least five average tools at the next level. From a developmental standpoint, he’ll need significant time in the minors to hone his baseball skills, but the finished product could be a very special player."

They compared him to Jay Bruce and Colby Rasmus, and projected him to become an above-average regular on a first-division team and occasional All-Star, estimating he'll hit the show in 2017, a pretty aggressive timeline for a high school position player who hasn't even gotten his prom pictures back yet.

Meadows was assigned to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates to begin his first steps toward PNC Park. He's polished for a prep player, but still will have lots of coaching up ahead of him, plus getting accustomed to the grind of baseball as a business. That process will determine if he's the next Cutch, Travis Snider, or something in between.

But he's already got a goal in mind.

"I want to put one in the river," Meadows said at his press conference at PNC Park. "That would be pretty neat."

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's Not The Start, But The Finish That Counts...Bucs 10, Brewers 3

Ugh. Not exactly the second coming of Stephen Strasberg for Gerrit Cole in the first. A walk, a pair of singles and a hit batter made it 1-0; a very timely DP made it two, and a very untimely single made it three. The Pirates went down 1-2-3 to young Mr. Johnny Hellweg, making his MLB debut. Sheesh, welcome home.

Cole found his feet in the second, pitching a clean frame thanks to a caught stealing and a sliding grab by Cutch; great defense will help calm down any pitcher's nerves. Hellweg was about to be given a rude introduction to the show after a rosy opening frame.

Garrett Jones and Pedro singled. Neil Walker's double to center cut the lead to 3-2, and all three hits were roped, though Pedro's was pretty much at Jean Segura, who couldn't handle it. Travis Snider walked, and they both moved up a station on Jordy Mercer's grounder to the right side. It was that close to being an infield hit, Jordy losing a bang-bang call and Clint Hurdle the ensuing argument. A walk to Cole was followed a Starling Marte knock to knot the score. Then, thank you again, Mr. Segura - he botched Russell Martin's DP ball, and two runners scooted home to put the Bucs up 5-3.

Cutch hit a Baltimore chop that got past Segura to plate another. Jones hit one on the nose, but right at RF Norichika Aoki. No prob; Pedro went the other way, rolling a ball through the left side against the shift, for another RBI single. Tom Gorzelanny got the call to quench the fire, and he did, but the Pirates had thrown Milwaukee into the hole they had dug the inning before and were up 7-3.

The Brew Crew went down in order, and the Bucs had some two out lightning to call down. Cole dropped a bloop into right, and Marte doubled him home, one hopping the Xfinity sign. Milwaukee got a single in the fourth; the Bucs went down quietly. In the fifth, a walk and single with one away set up the Brewers; a 4-6-3 by A-Ram sat them back down. Mercer got a two-out knock for the Bucs, but their lightning bolts were exhausted, and it remained 8-3 after five frames.

Milwaukee threatened again in the sixth with a lead off double and a two out walk, but Cole got pinch hitter Caleb Gindl to tap out to second. Burke Badenhop took the ball, and was greeted by a triple off Marte's bat; the kid can fly. An out later, Cutch doubled over third to send him home and make it 9-3. 

The wheels spun; Ryan Reid took the bump, Gaby Sanchez came on to play first, Jones went to RF and Snider took a seat (it was later announced he had a bruised foot). Cole went 6 IP, giving up three runs on eight hits and three walks with three K after tossing 94 pitches. Not a great outing, but certainly acceptable considering the start. He kept his composure, and that's an intangible that's high on the checklist. It was 1-2-3 for Reid in the seventh, and ditto for Badenhop. 

Reid kept it simple; if he fell behind, he just pumped four seamers over the dish (except for free swinging Ricky Weeks). It worked; he gave up a single but the Brewers didn't light the board in the eighth. Mike Gonzalez toed the rubber for the Brewers. Marte hit one to the track, and an out later Cutch hammered a hung 3-2 slider over the wall in left center just to the left of the bullpen to make the score 10-3.

With two down in the ninth, Segura beat out an infield single, but Reid got Carlos Gomez to bounce into a force. Gerrit Cole got his fourth win and Ryan Reid notched his first big league save. Sometimes it's like a 2013 version of Angels In the Outfield.

Francisco Liriano takes on Donovan Hand tomorrow night.

  • If you're counting, that's seven in a row for the Buccos. That's their longest string of victories since winning ten straight in 2004.
  • The last Pirates pitcher to start his MLB career with wins in his first four starts as Gerrit Cole has done was Nick Maddox in 1907.
  • Pedro now has an 11 game hitting streak, tying his career high.
  • Starling Marte is tied for the league lead with eight triples. Just watching him and Cutch dizzify the basepaths is worth the price of admission. Marte was a homer short of the cycle tonight; Cutch a triple shy.
  • The seven runs scored in the second inning was the most in a frame by the Pirates since they put up a fourth inning nine-spot against San Diego in August of last year. 
  • Rain, rain...who cares? There were 36,875 at PNC Park tonight, the fifth sellout of the season and fourth in a row. 

Cole v Hellweg - Young Gun Shootout

If you like to see young guns at work, today's matchup is made for you. Pittsburgh sends their top prospect, Gerrit Cole (3-0, 3.44), out for his fourth start against the Brewers 6'9" Johnny Hellweg, who is making his MLB debut. The radar guns will be busy little toys; both guys can hit 100.

In Cole's three starts, he's put up a 1.04 WHIP, and lit up the radar gun with 100+ heat. Still, his big story line has been whether or not he'll get sent down when the Pirate staff returns to full strength. We say that's no story, at least not yet. There's plenty of time until that happens, and a lot of scenarios to be played out until then. Our question is when will he start tossing his killer off speed stuff that he tantalized us with a bit last outing?

Hellweg joined Milwaukee as a piece of the Zack Greinke deal, and got the call when Alfredo Figaro was placed on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain. He was 7-4/2.82 in 14 starts for AAA Nashville. But he's here because like Cole, he decided to start pitching to contact. Since he made the mental transition for whiff meister to pitcher, Hellweg has gone 5-0 over five starts with a 0.82 ERA. So it's a matchup of flamethrowers who have seen the light.

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

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

Brewer lineup: Norichika Aoki RF, Jean Segura SS, Carlos Gomez CF, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Jonathan Lucroy C, Juan Francisco 1B, Rickie Weeks 2B, Logan Schafer LF and Johnny Hellweg P.

  • In an obscure but promising stat, the Pirates are 8-0 this season after scheduled off-days.
  • An even more promising stat: Brew Crew starters rank 29th in ERA at 4.98.
  • Tony Sanchez was returned to Indy, and Josh Harrison got the call back to Pittsburgh.

Notebook: Trade Rumors, Meadows & Jones Sign, Prospects

A few odd and ends...

  • A sure sign of a successful summer: trade rumors. Jim Bowden of ESPNxm tweets that Paul Konerko should be the Bucs' main target. Campbell Sproul at Rumbunters suggests Alex Rios. David Manel of Bucs Dugout likes Chris Denorfia (and mentions some others in his post). David Schoenfield of The Sweet Spot started it all off with a pitch for Giancola Stanton.
  • You can scrub Brewer P Yovani Gallardo from the Bucs wish list; Pittsburgh is one of ten teams on his no-trade list.
  • Elias Sports Bureau rates Mark Melacon and Jeff Locke among the top ten impact pitchers in MLB with Jason Grilli #17 and Justin Wilson #38. Starling Marte is #24 and Cutch #43 in the hitter impact ratings.
  • Jeff Sanders of Fangraphs thinks he's found the Pirate's kryptonite
  • Andrew Lambo is still swingin' - he went 3-for-3 at Indy with a double and 2 RBI. He's hitting .317 in AAA. Stolmy Pimentel wasn't that hot - 5 IP, 6 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K - as he keeps his Jekyl/Hyde persona goin'.
  • Jameson Taillon's outing at Altoona - 7 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 1 K. He struggled early, but finished strong.
  • Top pick Austin Meadows is in town to sign his deal, with the bonus expected to be at or near the $3,029,600 slot value. He could be officially announced this afternoon, after his physical.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted that the Bucs signed their third round pick JaCoby Jones for $612K, exactly slot value. He was an infielder at LSU though Pittsburgh listed him as a CF, fitting for a player described as toolsy but quite raw. 
  • IF John McDonald was traded for the third time in the past few weeks, this time from the Indians to the Phils. He was 2-for-38 for the Pirates and Tribe.

6/28 - Gotta Have Heart, Forbes Field Finale, Mad Dog, The King...

Gotta Have Heart, Forbes Field Finale, Mad Dog, The King....

  • 1916 - Cubs catcher Bill Fischer set an MLB record by catching all 27 innings of a doubleheader loss to the Bucs at brand new Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh won both games 3-2, with the second game going 18 innings. The winning pitchers were Mike Prendergast and Tom Seaton; Prendergast pulled double duty, coming on to get the save in the nitecap. Impressed with Fischer's stamina‚ the Pirates traded for him at the end of July, and he played his last two seasons in the show for Pittsburgh.
  • 1970 - The Pirates swept a twin bill from the Chicago Cubs, 3-2 and 4-1, in the final games at 61-year-old Forbes Field in front of 40,918. Al Oliver hit the last home run in FF history. Jim Nelson got the final W iced by a Dave Guisti save. It was a fitting finale; the Cubs were the first team the Pirates played at Forbes Field in 1909. Bill Mazeroski had the last Pirate hit in the Oakland yard, a seventh inning double, and recorded the last put-out on a force at second. 
  • 1979 - The Pirates traded pitchers Ed Whitson‚ Al Holland‚ and Fred Breining to the Giants for P Dave Roberts and infielders Bill Madlock and Lenny Randle. Mad Dog solidified the Bucco infield and spent six seasons with Pittsburgh, winning batting titles in 1981 (.341) and 1983 (.323). 
  • 2011 - Alex Presley was called up to replace an injured Jose Tabata and banged out a pair of hits, including his first MLB homer, while driving in three runs to lead the Bucs to a 7-6 win over Toronto at the Rogers Centre. An unlikely pair of batting heroes, Matt Diaz and Ronny Cedeno, combined for five hits, three runs and an RBI to help the cause against the Jays. Chris Resop, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan pitched three scoreless frames to preserve the win for Kevin Correia.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

6/27 - Big Hits, TV Triple Play, and Lady Liberty Rings...

Some big hitting, TV triple play, and Lady Liberty rings...
  • 1903 - The Pirates banged 15 hits off Iron Man Joe McGinnity‚ including four hits by Honus Wagner‚ and it still took the Bucs extra innings to topple the Giants 4-2 at the Polo Grounds. Tommy Leach hit a two run double in the 11th, drilling a McGinnity curve off the LF wall, to earn a W for Deacon Phillippe, who notched his seventh straight victory.
  • 1964 - Roberto Clemente's two-run, ground rule double to center in the eighth tied the game against the Reds at Forbes Field. He quickly scored the winning run ahead of pinch hitter Manny Mota, who homered to give the Pirates and Al McBean, in relief of Steve Blass, a 4-2 win.
  • 1967 - Bill Mazeroski hit into the only triple play of his career (although he participated in a pair as a fielder) at Shea Stadium. It didn’t hurt the Bucs, though - it was staged before the game and filmed in ten minutes as a scene for the TV show “The Odd Couple.”
  • 1971 - Roberto Clemente bombed a pinch hit homer in the eighth to give the Bucs a wild 10-9 win at Philadelphia. He became the first player to “ring the bell’ as his drive hit the facsimile Liberty Bell in the second level of center field at Veteran’s Stadium. But Jose Pagan earned the game’s gold star with a pair of home runs and five RBI. 
  • 1991 - The Bucs solved rookie Frank Castillo in the ninth (he was making his MLB debut), turning a 3-0 deficit to the Cubs into a 4-3 win at TRS. Castillo and two relievers gave up four singles, two walks, and a two-out wild pitch that allowed Barry Bonds to score from third with the game winner.  
  • 1995 - Pitcher Denny Neagle helped himself to his ninth W by belting a grand slam off Jim Bullinger, the key blow in a 6-5 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
  • 2004 - Jason Bay, Jack Wilson and Craig Wilson combined to go 9-for-16 with three walks, three doubles, a triple and homer to score seven runs and drive in seven more as the Bucs romped over the Reds 14-4 at GABP.

First Two Neal Huntington Drafts At Second Glance...

Going into this year, the first two Neal Huntington drafts were looked at a basically treading water, acting as a brake on the Pirates' promised five-year building program. Well, guess what - there are quite a few pieces of those drafts in Pittsburgh now, with other guys rising to the top.

The left side of the Pirate infield is manned by Pedro Alverez and Jordy Mercer, numbers one and three in the 2008 grab bag. Fifth pick Justin Wilson is firing bullets out of the bullpen. Tony Sanchez, the often maligned top gun of 2009, is having an injury-free breakout season at Indy, made his MLB debut this week, and is in line to join the big club on a full time basis sooner rather than later.

You could also consider Wandy Rodriguez and Mark Melancon results of that draft, too. Rodriguez joined the Bucs from Houston in exchange for Robby Grossman, a 2008 selection, Colton Cain from the Class of 2009 and Rudy Owens. Melancon is in a Pirate jersey partly because one of the trade pieces, 2009 draftee Brock Holt, was sent to Boston.

A couple of other guys, 2009 picks starter Phil Irwin and bullpen blazer Vic Black, are also considered a step away from the show. 2008's Chase d'Arnaud has been up and down, and Jeff Inman, a 2009 selection, has hit 98 but has burdened with injuries over his career.

And the international signings should be included as their separate draft. In 2008, OF Exicardo Cayones was signed; he went to the Yankees as part of the AJ Burnett deal. C Ramon Cabrera was also inked, and went to Detroit for Andy Oliver.

2009 was a mother lode year on the Latin market. OF Gregory Polanco, IF Alen Hansen and LHP Orlando Castro were brought into the fold by Rene Gayo, and all three are making big noise in the Pirate system at the mid levels.

Where the Pirates didn't have any success early on was in finding pitching and in projecting high school players, which went hand-in-hand. Pitchers Zack Von Rosenberg, Zack Dodson, Quinton Miller and IF Jarek Cunningham all quickly come to mind, but that hasn't deterred the process. The Bucs went on to draft prep guys like Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, Josh Bell, Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow, Max Moroff, Wyatt Mathieson, Reese McGuire, Blake Taylor and Austin Meadows since then, and don't seem to have any buyer's remorse over those choices.

The much lamented drafts of 2008-09 actually did what drafts are meant to do - they provided an impact player in Pedro, a starter (so far on audition) in Mercer, and a reliever in Wilson. It made the talent pool deep enough that they could use prospects gathered those years to at least partially flip into AJ Burnett, Mark Melancon and Wandy Rodriguez. With Sanchez, Black and Irwin they have future contributors in the pipeline. And the international component added three top-twenty prospects to the organization.

In hindsight, the 2008-09 drafts may not have been a team-maker, but did provide enough of a base to begin the Pirate transition to a deeper, home-grown system.

Jordy v Clint So Far...

Well, the great Jordy Mercer experiment is off and running. By eyeball, Mercer's offensive production dwarfs Barmes, while the glove edge still leans heavily to the vet. Do the cold numbers back up the visuals?

Mercer's line after 126 AB is .286/.328/.460 with a .789 OPS; Barmes' at 164 AB is .201/.234/.268 with a .502 OPS. Mercer's walk rate is 5.1%, K-rate 19.7% and ISO .175; Barmes numbers are 2.3%, 22.2% and .067. As far as counting numbers, Mercer has 4 HR, 11 RBI and 14 runs; Barmes 2 HR, 10 RBI and 5 runs.

Jordy also offers some lineup versatility; he's hit in the two-hole in a third of his games with a .304 BA and .328 OBA, so he's not limited to the bottom of the lineup card. And he is the first starting Pirate SS to have an OPS over .701 since Jack Wilson in 2007.

The clearest sabermetric comparison is in Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), which measures how a player’s run creation compares with the league average of 100 and is basically a tweaked OPS+. Mercer's is at 116, higher than that of Neil Walker (112) or Garrett Jones (102). Barmes is at 38, the same as Brandon Inge and just above Gerrit Cole and Bryan Morris at 36.

There's no contest at the dish, but we knew that without the data tsunami.

For fielding we've decided to take the most basic elements and compare them. As far as innings at short, Barmes has played about twice as many as Mercer (426-2/3 to 210-1/3) so the projections are pretty easy.

Barmes has handled 194 chances in the field, with 49 PO, 138 assists and 7 errors. Mercer has had 111 chances with 37 PO, 70 assists and 4 errors. If you double Mercer's numbers to roughly equalize the innings, the totals are:

Barmes - 194 chances, 49 put outs, 138 assists, 7 errors (.964 FA);
Mercer - 222 chances, 74 put outs, 140 assists, 8 errors (.964 FA).

Of course, all those counting numbers mean is that the overall production is roughly equal, not the quality of play. The more advanced numbers point to Barmes' superior range.

Barmes has made 30 out-of-zone plays to Mercer's 11, a measurement of range plus conversion. Barmes has started 16 DP to Mercer's 6 (although Mercer has a big edge in DP pivots). Barmes makes the routine play more often, 83% of the time to 79% for Mercer. The glovework gap shows in the defensive runs saved - Barmes has 3, which is above average, and Mercer 0, which is exactly average.

To us, this is a case where the eyes don't lie. The bat is all Jordy's, and the glove still belongs to Barmes. But the chasm in hitting is so huge that it overcomes the smaller, though measurable, fielding differences.

Jordy Mercer is a different kind of shortstop than Pittsburgh is used to seeing, a little more based on the American League model of an offense-first guy with average defensive skills per his small sample size. He’s not likely to keep up his level of production at the plate all year, but the updated projection services have him ending with an approximate line of .265/.310/.415, not bad numbers from a rookie SS. We're thinking that he's potentially in the mold of a Jhonny Peralta type player; time will tell.

Barmes is the kind of guy that a ground ball staff loves - in the field. But he hits like a pitcher, and that creates an inning-killing vacuum in the lineup, especially in the NL where you can't hide a guy behind a DH's skirts.

So through attrition, the Bucs have an everyday shortstop that doesn't clog the lineup and can handle the position, albeit without the grace of Clint Barmes or the last regular starter, Jack Wilson, who was a master of cleaning up the routine plays. And Barmes is where he should be, a glove-first, multi-positional guy on the bench that can be brought in to close out games in the field, and there's value in that. It may not have been planned that way in camp, but the Pirates have strengthened their lineup and bench by flipping the pair.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...Bucs Rally For 4-2 Win

OK, nothin' going on in the first. The Bucs didn't expect to do much against Felix Hernandez, and Seattle hasn't really solved Jeanmar Gomez, either. In the second, Pittsburgh made some noise when Pedro and Garrett Jones led off with back-to-back knocks, but the Bucs went down quietly after them. A leadoff walk of Kendrys Morales by Gomez was erased on a Raul Ibanez 5-6-3 DP. Good timing; Justin Smoak singled next, but was left at first.

The Pirates were retired routinely in the third. The Mariners picked up a couple more singles on a blooper and grounder, but a K of Kyle Seager ended that threat. Finally, a number on the scoreboard in the fourth. Jones drew a one out, 3-2 walk and an out later, The Kid launched a sinker that didn't over the fence to give the Bucs a 2-0 lead. Bucco mitts gave back one of those runs. Ibanez struck out swinging at a slider, but reached when Russell Martin couldn't corral the ball. Smoak banged a DP ball to first; Gaby went to second and Jordy Mercer whiffed on the catch, putting Ms on the corners, and a sac fly made it 2-1. It was the second time this year during a shift that Pedro and the SS hesitated covering second, the drawback to moving the 3B up the middle against lefties.

The Bucs wasted a one out ground rule double by Starling Marte in the fifth; Seattle went down in order. The Pirates left Walker on first in the sixth after his two-down knock, and Justin Wilson took the bump for Pittsburgh. Gomez went five, giving up an unearned run on three hits and two walks with five K after 81 pitches. Ibanez tied the game with one gone when he drilled a full count heater into the seats in right center. Michael Saunders beat out an infield knock with two down, but stayed at first.

Mercer singled with an out in the seventh. That rally ended quickly enough when Marte started a strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP when he missed an 0-2 curve, King Felix's 11th K. Vin Mazzaro took the mound for the Pirates and worked a clean frame.

After 108 pitches, Hernandez was finally done as Tom Wilhelmsen toed the rubber in the eighth. He got a pair of flies to the LF track, and with Jones up, lefty Charlie Furbush grabbed the ball for Seattle and tossed three sliders to sit Jones down. Morales ripped a fastball to center for a two bagger with one down in Seattle's half, and Ibanez was intentionally walked. Vin whiffed Smoak on a slider in the dirt and retired Saunders on a fly to left, so it remained knotted going into the ninth.

Pedro singled to open the frame and Walker bunted him to second. Seattle waved in Yoervis Medina. Gaby rolled a grounder to third, freezing El Toro at second. He intentionally walked LH Travis Snider to work on Mercer. It backfired as Mercer singled to center to plate Pedro, and Bucs ended up at second and third on the throw home. Medina got Marte to wave at a two-strike hook in the dirt, but the Bucs added a run as the wild pitch got away, allowing Marte to reach and Snider to score. The Pirates had the lead at 4-2.

Clint Hurdle said Jason Grilli was down today, though he hasn't worked since Sunday, so we're assuming it's for a mental health break. But Mark Melancon isn't a bad Plan B, and he took the hill. With an out, Mike Zunino poked a cutter away softly into right for a single. Endy Chavez went down swinging through a cutter. On an 0-2 pitch, MM put a cutter on Nick Franklin's hands, and he took it to right to put Mariners on the corners. No sweat; Kyle Seager bounced the next pitch to Gaby, and the Bucs had the icing on their 7-2 road trip. Mazzaro got his fourth win, and MM his second save.

Good pitching and just enough hitting (1-for-9 with RISP and 13 K). Hey, it's worked so far.

The Bucs are off tomorrow, then face Milwaukee for a three game weekend set at PNC Park.

  •  The Kid, Pedro and Jordy each had a pair of hits. The 3M at the top of the order - Marte, Martin and McCutch - went 1-for-14.
  • The Pirates are now 48-30, and their six game winning streak is the longest of the year. They went 5-0 on a combo West Coast/interleague swing. With a Card loss tonight, they'll be tied for first in the NL Central (don't hold your breath; StL is playing Houston). Cincy has fallen on hard times; the Bucs are 3-1/2 games up on them after today.
  • The Pirates are 6-1 against the AL West, with a big caveat - they still have to meet Oakland and Texas six times.
  • Pedro has a 10 game hitting streak.
  • Altoona OF Gregory Polanco and WV 2B Dilson Herrera were chosen to play in the MLB Futures Game.
  • Jameson Taillon (3-5, 2.93), Casey Sadler (7-4, 3.06) and Jarek Cunningham (.236/14/26) of the Altoona Curve were selected to the mid-season Eastern League All-Star Game.

Gomez v Hernandez This Afternoon

Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 3.07) will make his return against the Mariners' King Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.71). Both have something to prove today. Jeanmar has been out since June 2nd, and is in a battle for a rotation spot when everyone is healthy. Hernandez got blasted last time out, but that's an outlier for the Seattle ace.

Gomez is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in two career starts against Seattle. He tossed five scoreless innings while taking a 4-1 decision from Aaron Harang earlier this season and had lost a 3-0 decision to Felix Hernandez while pitching for the Indians in 2010. The Pirates are 7-0 when he starts. King Felix already has a win against the Bucs, whipping AJ 2-1 earlier in the year at PNC Park. The game begins at 3:35 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. It's also the free MLB.TV game.

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

Mariner lineup: Endy Chavez RF, Nick Franklin 2B, Kyle Seager 3B, Kendrys Morales DH, Raul Ibanez  LF, Justin Smoak 1B, Michael Saunders CF, Henry Blanco C and Brendan Ryan SS.

  • The Bucs activated Jeanmar Gomez (good thing, since he's starting today) and optioned Duke Welker to Indy. At least Duke got a couple of outings this time around.
  • The Bucs have won five straight games on one road trip for the first time since September 1st-6th, 2000.
  • Yesterday marked the Pirates first five home run game since July 22nd, 2009, against the Brewers. It was also Starling Marte's first multi-homer outing. Both were on first pitches, so at least we know he comes up ready to hit.
  • When Neil Walker batted eighth yesterday for the first time in his career, he completed the lineup card circuit, having hit out of every position from 1-9 as a Bucco.
  • Jeff Locke has gone 13 straight starts allowing three earned runs or less. Elias Sports Bureau added that Locke is the first Pirate pitcher since Dock Ellis in  1971 to go undefeated in 15 straight starts in the same season.
  • AJ is beginning baseball activities again; he threw a bullpen session yesterday. JT may be on the way back, too, maybe as soon as this weekend if all goes well.
  • Indy's Andrew Lambo hit his fifth homer of the year with the Tribe and his 19th of the season, counting time at Altoona.

June 26: McClendon Steals First and More

Birthdays, streaks, record blasts, goofin' off SS, stealin' first base, DPs & more...

  • 1897 - Pittsburgh CF Steve Brodie's string of consecutive games ended at 574. His arm was so sore the Pirates went on the road without him, though he did recover. The streak was a 19th-century NL record, three games shy of the then MLB mark. Brodie was a strong two-way player that the Bucs released the following year in a move to cut salary, a fairly recurrent theme throughout franchise history. 
  • 1935 - CF Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner set a MLB mark when he recorded 18 putouts during a 5-1, 4-2 doubleheader sweep of the Boston Braves. He had nine grabs in each game and rapped out five hits during the twinbill at Braves Field to support Buc pitchers Guy Bush and Bill Swift. 
  • 1943 - OF Bill Robinson was born in McKeesport. The Elizabeth-Forward grad played eight years for Pittsburgh, from 1975-82, batting .276 with 109 HR and 412 RBI. He was a fairly regular starter from 1976-79, and won a ring with the 1971 Bucs. 
  • 1968 - Bucco 3B Maury Wills ran his hitting streak to 24 games against Bob Gibson in a 3-0 loss to the Cards at Busch Stadium. It ended during the second game of the DH, a 3-1 Pirate win, when Larry Jaster and Wayne Granger laid an 0-for-5 on Wills. 
  • 1974 - Jason Kendall was born in San Diego. He spent nine years as a Pirate (1996-2004), putting up a .308 BA, hitting over .300 six times and earning three All-Star berths. 
  • 1984 - 1B Jason Thompson hit two homers in each game of a doubleheader split with the Cubs at Wrigley Field, winning 9-0 behind a Rick Rhoden four hitter and dropping the nitecap 9-8. 
  • 1999 - SS Pat Meares, on the DL recovering from surgery on his left hand but traveling with the team, ran in a mascot race at Milwaukee's County Stadium. Meares, dressed as a bratwurst, won the race by defeating a hot dog and a polish sausage. Two days prior, Meares was caught on videotape sunbathing in the upper deck of Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium for the first six innings of a game. He missed all but the first 21 games of the ‘99 season after signing a contract that carried him until 2003. He played 2000-01 for the team, then spent the next two years on the DL; the Pirates wanted further surgery on his hand and he didn’t.
  • 2001 - On his 27th B-Day, Jason Kendall was ruled out at first, prompting the most famous steal in Pirate history. Manager Lloyd McClendon stormed out, put on a show for the 24,120 fans at PNC Park, and finally pulled the sack off its stanchion and carried it into the dugout in protest. As for the game, the Bucs came back to beat the Brewers 7-6 in 12 frames. They dodged a late bullet when Aramis Ramirez smacked a two-run, two-out eleventh inning homer to keep the game alive after the Brew Crew had taken the lead on back-to-back homers in their half off Mike Williams. Rob Mackowiak singled through a drawn in infield to plate Kevin Young, who had opened the twelfth with a double and moved to third on a ground out, to seal the deal for Omar Olivares and Pittsburgh. 
  • 2004 - Randall Simon’s home run in the ninth was all the Pirate pitching needed as they edged the Reds 1-0 at GABP. Ollie Perez gave up three hits over seven frames. Mark Corey got the win and Jose Mesa earned his 17th save. 
  • 2005 - The Pirates turned six double plays and beat the Cardinals in St. Louis 5-4 in 10 innings. The six twin killings were a club record and each was scored differently (2-4; 5-4-3; 9-4; 4-6-3; 5-2-3; and 6-4-3). Jason Bay hit a three run HR in the third and a game-tying blast in the top of the ninth. Jose Castillo’s solo shot in the tenth iced the victory.

Marte Party, Locke-Down: Bucs Take 9-4 Win

We'll give ya the quick version this morning: Bam! Smash! Pow! The Bucs turned Joe Saunders every way but loose, Starling Marte had himself a night and Jeff Locke was, well, Jeff Locke. When the smoke cleared, the 9-4 Bucco win was a laugher from the get-go.

Marte tripled to right to open the game, and Jordy Mercer's grounder to the right side got him in. In the second, the Bucs flexed their generally dormant muscles and drove Saunders to the shower.

Russell Martin opened the festivities with a homer to right center. With an out, Tony Sanchez singled and The Kid drew a walk. In a sign that everything was working today, Brandon Inge launched a liner pretty deep into the LF stands, and the rout was on. Marte homered on the next pitch, and a two out double by Cutch ended Saunder's night; Blake Bevan took the bump with the score 6-0. A knock, walk, and two-out single cost Locke a run in the second.

Innings three through five went by quietly, with neither team advancing a runner past second. Inge doubled in the sixth and came around on Mercer's single-and-error dribbler up the left side. Kyle Seage got that back with a homer to right, and after six it was 7-2.

The Pirates added on with solo shots by Gaby and Starling off Carter Capps, while the Mariners got a two run, two out Justin Smoak dinger in the ninth off Bryan Morris to make the final 9-4. Locke went seven, giving up two runs on four hits with two walks and four K tossing 104 pitches. His record is now 7-1 with a 2.06 ERA. Pretty good stuff for a guy who was just keeping a seat warm in the rotation out of camp. 

Jeanmar Gomez takes on King Felix Hernandez in today's get-away game.

  • Starling Marte went 3-for-5 with two homers, a triple, three runs and two RBI. Brandon Inge went 2-for-3 with a homer and double, three RBI and two runs. Cutch and Gaby also had a pair of hits.
  • The Pirates homered five times, but Pedro didn't join in the fun, ending his HR streak at four games. He did double, and now owns a nine game hitting streak. The longest of his career is 11.
  • The Bucs extended their winning streak to five, the longest of the year.
  • Wandy Rodriguez will make a second rehab start for Indy, not totally unexpected as the Bucs have an off day Thursday. Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton will go against the Brewers over the weekend.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Locke v Saunders at Safeco

Jeff Locke (6-1, 2.01) and Joe Saunders (5-7, 4.48) get it on tonight in Seattle. Locke has been all that; hits and runs have been tough to put up against him, and he's a darkhorse to earn a spot in the All-Star game. Saunders is 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates, and has been pretty sharp in his last five or six starts, pitching to a sub-2.00 ERA. He's been strong at Safeco and features a fastball/changeup/breaking ball trifecta that seems to give Buc batters fits.

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

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Andrew McCutchen CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Russell Martin C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Tony Sanchez DH, Neil Walker 2B and Brandon Inge RF.

Gaby is 6-for-12 with a homer against Saunders, and Inge is the only RH that can play a pasture position against the lefty. JT is still out, but began his rehab stint with Indy this week.

Mariners lineup: Endy Chavez CF, Nick Franklin 2B, Kyle Seager 3B, Kendrys Morales DH, Raul Ibanez LF, Jason Bay RF, Justin Smoak 1B, Mike Zunino C and Carlos Triunfel SS.

Young gun Zunino is a new addition since the last time the Bucs faced Seattle, and it's always good to see Jay Bay in the lineup.

  • Today starts a quick two-game set against Seattle. The Pirates have won four straight and five of their last six. A fifth straight win tonight would be a season high. Seattle has lost 3-of-5, but won their last two. After the series, the Bucs are off, then on Friday open a six-day home stand against the Brewers and Phils.
  • The Bucs split a previous two-game set against Seattle at PNC Park in early May, with Jeanmar Gomez beating Aaron Harang 4-1 and AJ Burnett losing to Felix Hernandez 2-1.
  • The beat gang reports that the Pirates are keeping J-Mac on the DL with recurrent shoulder pain; he'll see Dr. Andrews at a future date TBD. That solves that sticky wicket for a minute, and it probably is a legit move. His velocity has dropped noticeably over the past two years.
  • Pedro is tied for third all-time among Bucco third basemen in total HR with Bobby Bonilla with 69; Richie Hebner leads the pack with 120.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects has a post on Baseball Prospectus' Top Fifty Prospects (behind a subscriber wall). FIt includes Bucco kiddies Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco and Tyler Glasnow, with Luis Heredia and Alen Hanson not too far behind.
  • WV outfielder Barrett Barnes was named the Sally League Player of the Week, hitting .350 with two HR and nine RBI in four games.
  • Jamestown Jammer first baseman Danny Collins, this year's 13th round draft pick, was named the NYPL Player of the Week after batting .370 with four HR in seven games.

Pirate Notebook

Baseball goes on even when the Pirates take a day off...

  • Pedro Alvarez was named the NL Player of the Week. He led the Senior Circuit with 10 RBI, hit four homers, and put up a .931 OPS. Here's a vid that might give you a chuckle. It's El Toro in college, responding to an "over-rated" chant in the stands by blasting a 430' homer.
  • J-Mac's 30-day rehab assignment is over tomorrow and the Pirates must decide whether to: a) activate him to use out of the bullpen, b) expose him to waivers by DFA'ing him to Indy or c) trade him. There isn't any place in the rotation for him now, injuries or not. 
  • Michael Sanserino of the Post Gazette has a feature on Jeff Locke, highlighting his family and hometown of Redstone, New Hampshire.
  • The Pirates appear to be handling Gerrit Cole's IP count a lot differently than the Nats did with Stephen Strasberg last year, per Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review. Rather than shut him down, they've been meticulous in limiting his pitch count to 80-90 per start, even at Indy, and letting that serve as a natural brake on the innings he accumulates.
  • Bob Smizik of the Post Gazette has a positive piece, as he looks at the bullpen's workload and sees a sustainable inning count instead of oncoming headlights.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland looks at the Central Division's possible trade targets. He wrote "... if the Pirates do little to nothing more after calling up a potential future (present?) ace in Gerrit Cole, they could probably be forgiven. The Pirates do have two glaring weaknesses, though...They lack right-handed power, and their right-field platoon is terrible." He also said the bullpen and possibly rotation could stand a depth tweak.
  • USA Today's Power Rankings have the Bucs at #2
  • Colin Campbell on says the best manager of any sports team in Pittsburgh is Clint Hurdle.
  • Josh Harrison came through with 6 RBI last night, the first Indy player to drive in that many in a game since Brandon Moss in 2010.  
  • SS Alen Hansen made Ben Badler's Baseball America Prospect Notebook column.
  • LHP Daniel Moskos was released by the White Sox. He had been pitching for their AAA club at Charlotte.
  • IF Yamiaco Navarro was placed on outright waivers by the Orioles.
  • The annual Dominican Republic Sports & Education Academy event, to be held Friday in NYC, will include a special tribute to the Pittsburgh Pirates for their commitment to the advancement of Dominicans and the Dominican Republic, particularly in the area of education. 

Big games, A-Ram and Maholm B-Days...

Big games, A-Ram and Maholm B-Days...

  • 1903 - Ed Doheny surrendered just four singles as the Pirates won at Philadelphia 4-3 in ten innings to run their winning streak to 15 games. It would end later in the day as the Phils took the nitecap of the twinbill by a 5-1 tally. 
  • 1912 - The Pirates swept a DH from the Cards by 10-4 and 19-3 scores, banging out 35 hits over the course of the day at Robinson Field. Max Carey and Chief Wilson hit grand slams, and rookie Stump Edington came close, being thrown out at home after clearing the bases with a triple. The Bucs put up a 10 spot in the seventh inning of the nitecap. 
  • 1924 - Pitcher Emil Yde's bases-loaded double tied the score in the ninth inning and in the 14th, the Pittsburgh southpaw's two-run triple beat the Cubs at Forbes Field, 8-7. Beside the two hits and five RBI, Yde hurled 10-1/3 innings of one-run ball to earn the win. 
  • 1944 - The Cards edged the Bucs 2-1 in the opener of a twinbill as Red Munger outpitched Rip Sewell. The second ended in a controversial 5-5 tie, called after nine innings because of the Pennsylvania Blue Law. Pittsburgh tied the game in the ninth on a pinch hit homer by Virgil Davis that went through the screen in front of the RF stands. Cards manager Billy Southworth protested, claiming that the ground rules were that a fair ball stuck in the screen was a double and the same reasoning should apply. Ump Beans Reardon didn’t buy the argument and ruled that since it didn’t stick but went through the fence, it was a homer. 
  • 1949 - The Bucs hit five home runs (Ralph Kiner twice, Wally Westlake, Ed Stevens & Dino Restelli) but the Dodgers banged out four of their own to leave Pittsburgh eating their dust at Forbes Field, winning a 17-10 slugfest. 
  • 1950 - Ralph Kiner led the Pirates to a 16-11 win at Brooklyn by hitting for the cycle. He had two homers, a double, triple, scored four times and drove in eight runs at Ebbets Field. 
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell hit the longest home run in Veterans Stadium history against Jim Bunning during a 14-4 win over the Phils. The spot where the ball landed was highlighted with a yellow star with a black "S" inside a white circle until Stargell's 2001 death, when the white circle was painted black. The star remained in place until the stadium's 2004 razing. 
  • 1978 - Aramis Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo. Signed as a 16 year old, he played five plus seasons (1998-03) in Pittsburgh with a .286/76/316 line before being sent to the Cubs in a salary dump that is still cited today as the epitome of the Dave Littlefield years. 
  • 1982 - Paul Maholm was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. The 2008 first rounder spent seven seasons (2005-11) with the Pirates, going 53-73/4.35 during the span and starting 227 games for Pittsburgh before being non-tendered in 2012. 
  • 2002 - The Pirates won their 9,000th game with a 4-1 victory against the Montreal Expos at PNC Park, joining the Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers in that accomplishment. Kris Benson got the W and Kevin Young went 4-for-4 on the day. 
  • 2003 - The Pirates broke a 3-3 tie by scoring three times in the ninth, then barely held on to claim a 6-5 win over Montreal at Olympic Stadium. The Bucs took the late lead on a Kenny Lofton sac fly and back-to-back two-out singles by Jason Kendall and Jeff Reboulet. It was just enough for Mike Williams, who gave up a two run homer to Ron Calloway and had Expos leading off first and second before getting the last two outs. 
  • 2008 - In the title game, LHP Justin Wilson held the Georgia Bulldogs scoreless for seven innings and got the win as Fresno State won its first College World Series by a 6-1 score. Wilson was named to the All-Tournament team and became the Bucs fifth round pick in the draft. 
  • 2009 - After falling behind the Indians 2-0 at PNC Park, the Bucs chipped away, winning 3-2 on a walk off single in the ninth by Andrew McCutchen, scoring Jack Wilson. Cutch was clutch; he scored the first run of the comeback in the sixth and drove in the tying run an inning later by drawing a bases loaded walk on a 3-2 count off Cliff Lee. 
  • 2011 - The Bucs downed the Red Sox and one-time Bucco hurler Tim Wakefield 6-4 behind a three run homer by Lyle Overbay and a solo shot by Garrett Jones. Joel Hanrahan earned the save by striking out Adrian Gonzalez, who represented the tying run, in the ninth at PNC Park.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pirate Pitching Post-All Star and Beyond

The Pirates started the year with enough pitchers to field a pair of rotations. Good thing, too, as attrition has claimed its toll in the first dozen weeks of the campaign.

Performance has sent a couple of guys to the trash heap. Jonathan Sanchez flamed out about as spectacularly as humanly possible, and we'll find out any time now what the Bucs plan to do with J-Mac. It's possible he could end up in the pen, and just as possible he ends up in a different uniform. But he won't be starting. Andy Oliver was considered MLB-ready when the Bucs traded for him. But until he resolves some brutal control issues at Indy, he's out of the picture, having been bypassed for Brandon Cumpton when a spot start became available.

Injury has also reared its ugly head. Jeff Karstens had shoulder surgery this month, and we won't see him again until September. Kyle McPherson, who was in the mix with Jeff Locke for the last rotation spot, had shoulder issues in 2012 and has been out since early April with an elbow injury. Phil Irwin was put on the minor league DL in early May with "arm fatigue" and was placed on the 60-day DL.

Then there's been the garden variety injuries. Wandy Rodriguez has been down a couple of times, but is about due to return; he may or may not toss one more rehab start. Jean Gomez will be back this week to work against Seattle. AJ Burnett is out and hasn't begun baseball activities yet, so his return date is uncertain.

The rotation is regaining its shape. By the weekend, it will be Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, Jeanmar Gomez and Charlie Morton. When Wandy returns, he'll presumably slide into Jeanmar's spot, with Gomez returning to his long man/spot starter role in the bullpen. When AJ returns, Cole is likely to go back to Indy. That's not a performance or fiscal issue, but a one of depth. There's really no move remaining for the Pirates that doesn't cost them a pitcher; only Cole and Locke have options.

The question will be how long he'll be down; we'd expect that he'll return before September 1st if the Bucs remain in the hunt, to make him playoff eligible.

Of course, that's without any other injuries to the staff, and that's pretty unlikely.

The Pirates now feature seven starters - Burnett, Rodriguez, Locke, Liriano, Morton, Cole and Gomez. The trio of healthy minor league starters on the 40-man are Stolmy Pimentel, Cumpton and Oliver; that's the cavalry. And if the Pirates can get away with a summer of nicks and bumps, that's enough; most starting depth charts are built to run eight or nine deep over the course of a season.

Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham are at Altoona. By next summer or maybe 2015, they should join McPherson and Irwin as guys in the mix.

2014 could be a shake-up season. Cole will certainly start the season with Pittsburgh, as will Locke, both firmly inder team control. Liriano has a club option for 2014, which we assume will be used. Morton has another arbitration year and so is also under team control. The others are a little iffier.

Rodriguez has a player option worth $13M, and there's a good chance that he may not exercise it and take a stab at free agency. If so, the Pirates will probably offer him a tender, which would net the Bucs a draft pick if he goes. AJ is a free agent, and hasn't made up his mind whether or not to return. J-Mac will be arb eligible; if he's still here, the betting line is against his getting tendered.

Pimentel, McPherson, Irwin, Oliver, Kingham, Cumpton and Taillon will all be under team control, and it will be a year of decision for Oliver and Pimentel, as both will be out of options.

If the Bucs can avoid a rash of injuries post-All Star, they have enough depth to survive the usual missed starts of the summer, being seven deep but thin at Indy because of injuries. Next year could well begin the long awaited transition to a younger and more home grown staff.

6/24 - Honus, Arky, Pops, & the Evil Empire Returns...

A birthday, a brawl, The Dutchman, rally cap, Arky, Pops, the Evil Empire returns...

  • 1867 - OF Jake Stenzel was born in Cincinnati. He patrolled center field for five years (1892-96) for the Pirates. Stenzel was a strong guy with the stick, putting up a line of .360/.429/.528 in his Pirate years, adding 188 stolen bases. He was a monster in 1894, hitting .352 with 150 runs and 121 RBI, banging 13 HR, 20 triples, and 39 doubles while swiping 61 sacks. 
  • 1902 - The Bucs whipped the Orphans 7-2 at the West Side Grounds in a game that was highlighted by a brawl between Chicago’s Joe Tinker and the Pirates Wid Conroy. Steamed that Conroy had held him (literally) at second in the previous game, Tinker launched a punch at Conroy, who promptly retaliated before ump Hank O’Day could restore order. Conroy ended up with a 20 day suspension while instigator Tinkers was given a three day slap on the wrist. Pure baseball was at a minimum as the Pittsburgh Press described the game action as providing “an oversupply of bungling” and added that “neither team did sufficient good playing to deserve a victory.” Chicago, btw, picked up the nickname of Cubs during this season because of the youthfulness of their roster. 
  • 1908 - The Flying Dutchman smacked a home run and double‚ then broke a 3-3 tie with an eighth inning single. Honus Wagner then added the insurance run by stealing home as the Pirates won 5-3 over the Reds at Exposition Park. 
  • 1924 - Cincinnati’s Eppa Rixey retired the first 23 Bucco batters that he faced and had a 1-0 lead in a duel with Ray Kremer. But the Pirates scratched out a run in eighth and added three more in the ninth, with the big blow a two-run single by Kiki Cuyler, to take a 4-3 win at Redlands Field. The Reds almost came all the way back, scoring twice in their half of the ninth, with Edd Rousch, representing the tying run, cut down at the plate on a strong relay by SS Glenn Wright. Pittsburgh was outhit 13-6 in the contest. 
  • 1933 - Arky Vaughan hit for the cycle against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. He went 5-for-5 with five RBI and three runs in a 15-3 Bucco victory. He was (and still is) the youngest MLB player to hit for the cycle, at 21 years, 3 months of age. 
  • 1965 - Willie Stargell’s first career three homer game sparked the Bucs to a 13-3 romp over first-place Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. 
  • 2008 - For the first time since Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees visited Pittsburgh. Bill Mazeroski threw out the first pitch at PNC Park, and it was deju vu all over again as the Bucs broke out the bats to win 12-5. Freddy Sanchez had three hits and three runs scored while Ryan Doumit and Adam LaRoche also had three knocks with a pair of RBI each. Also true to form, they were clobbered 10-0 by the Bronx Bombers the following day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

All's Well That Ends Well; Battlin' Bucs Sweep Halos 10-9

Joe Blanton kept his strikeout rate up in the first, whiffing Starling Marte and garrett Jones. But in between, he left a couple of balls up. Jordy Mercer hit one to the track, and Pedro did him one better, just clearing the right center fence with a towering blast to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead. El Toro got a reprieve before his homer; he had hit a foul pop into short left that Mike Trout gloved, but it popped loose as he was tripped up by third baseman Alberto Callaspo.

After a knock by Neil Walker to open the second, Blanton picked up another pair of K. Tony Sanchez made his first at bat memorable. He drove a 2-1 fastball into the RF wall - it stuck in a ledge beneath the scoreboard for a ground rule double, probably costing the Bucs a run by freezing The Kid at third. McKenry flew out to left to leave the ducks floating. The Pirates were about to play their sloppiest frame in quite sometime.

After an out, a walk and slap single to left was followed by a Baltimore chop to Walker; he tried to make a glove toss to first and missed Sanchez, allowing a run to score and the trail runner to get to third. Pedro had a two hop DP ball hit to him; it bounced off his chest. A seeing eye single was rolled into left - Morton is working the lefties away, and they're going with the pitch rather than rolling over - and was followed by another walk. Walker fielded a slow roller, and his flip to second got the force barely, but Mercer was cut down and dropped the ball trying for the relay; two runs scored on that play. When the smoke cleared, it was 5-1 Angels and Charlie had a 32 pitch inning.

The Bucs got a couple back in the third; ends up the LA infield couldn't play grounders any better than the Pirates. Starling Marte opened with a speed double off a grounder to short that clanked off a glove and then went to third on a short passed ball. Mercer grounded out to third and Pedro whiffed. Garrett Jones' check swing roller to second went through Howie Kendrick; he was charged with an error though Jones probably had it beat out. Walker doubled to right; the ball was cut off short of the fence, stopping Jones at third. Gaby smacked a hard one hopper to third; it ricocheted off Callaspo and it was 5-3.

It calmed down after that. The Halos went down 1-2-3 in their half, and the Bucs did the same in the top of the fourth. In the LA at-bats, JB Shuck drew a two-out walk. He stole second and came in when Brad Hawpe softly stroked a curve into right. The Pirates again went down in order in the fifth; Pedro and Jones both hit balls hard, but right at 1B Mark Trumbo. Ground Chuck did his thing; he got four grounders - one was thrown away by Mercer; Sanchez for once couldn't pick the hop - and put up a zero.

Blanton retired the Bucs routinely in the sixth on nine pitches; that's 10 in a row. Morton K'ed the first two Halos, then walked the next pair. He was done, going 5-2/3, giving up six runs (three earned) on six hits and five walks with five whiffs, tossing 99 pitches. Ryan Reid came on and drilled Mike Trout with his first pitch to load the bases for Albert Pujols. He banged a one hopper to third, and Pedro made the toss across the diamond to end the frame.

Blanton mowed the Bucs down again in the seventh. Reid worked a routine frame after Jones circled under Trumbo's liner to the track in right.

After getting an out in the eighth, Mercer's hot shot to third, the Halos called on lefty Scott Downs. He got Pedro on a bouncer to second and struck out Brandon Inge, who hit for Jones (no, we don't know why either) on a ball that looked way tight. Duke Welker took the ball in the bottom of the eighth and worked a clean frame, hitting 98 a couple of times.

Closer Ernesto Frieri came on, and the Bucs took a liking to the flamethrower. Walker drew a walk and Gaby singled on a 3-2 pitch to put runners on the corners. Snider popped out behind the dish, and Cutch, called on to pinch hit, bounced to third for a force to make it 6-4. Russell Martin's day off was interrupted, too, as he grabbed a bat and drilled a 3-2 heater off the left field wall as Shuck pirouetted tracking it to make it 6-5. Marte fell behind 0-2, took a slider just off the plate and lined a second one into left center to tie the game, going to second on the throw home. Kevin Jepsen took over, and got Mercer to bang a curve to third to end the frame. Mark Melancon came in for the Bucs, who had their A team in the field now with Cutch and Martin. MM worked a 1-2-3 frame.

If you thought the ninth was amazing, well, the tenth was better. Pedro doubled and was bunted to third by Clint Barmes. Walker was given an intentional walk, and Gaby battled for another free pass. Behind Snider 3-1, Jepsen fed him a heater that was slapped into left; it took a hop past Shuck and three runs were in, all standing. Cutch singled him to third and Martin's knock drove him in to make it 10-6 and Jason Grilli time.

This was the tenth time Grilli came on in a non-save situation, and a great argument for those who believe closers should close. After a K, Kendrick hit a bloop to right that a diving Snider missed, turning it into a triple. Callaspo hit one through the left side to bring him home. Erick Aybar singled the same way; Angel lefties go with pitches away, as the Pirates should know by now. Hank Conger flew out to left center. Then the drama began. Shuck rolled one up the middle to make it 10-8, and Brendan Harris softly lined one up the LF line; Aybar scored and when Marte lobbed a throw to third toward Shuck, Harris took second and it was 10-9. Two outs, runners at second and third with Mike Trout up. Four pitches later, he sat down as Jason reared back to finally and dramatically end the game with a swinging K.

Not much in the way of good, fundamental baseball today, but a lot of excitement and omg moments. The Bucs took the sweep - the first time the Angels had been swept in interleague play since 1999 and the first time the Bucs swept a road interleague series ever - and while the regression numbers swing back toward norm, a win is a win. No game tomorrow; the Pirates face Seattle Tuesday. They deserve a day of rest; it was all hands on board today.

  • Pedro has homered in four consecutive games. 
  • An old problem: lefties tortured Morton; they went 4-for-8 with three walks against him.
  • Two Bucco MLB debuts today - Tony Sanchez, who got his first hit, and Duke Welker, who got his first strikeout.
  • Peter Bourjos had to leave the game after his break-up slide into second base in the second inning. It not only prevented a possible DP, but allowed a pair of runs to score.
  • The Bucs announced their upcoming rotation: Jeff Locke on Tuesday and Jeanmar Gomez on Wednesday against Seattle, followed by Gerrit Cole on Friday to open the home stand against the Brewers.
  • The Pirates are 5-2 on this road trip, with two games left at Seattle.
  • Wandy Rodriguez went four innings for Indy today with a line of one run, four hits, one walk and five K, tossing 73 pitches.
  • Luis Heredia made his WV debut:and went five scoreless innings, giving up a hit, four walks, and punching out five.

Ground Chuck Looks For the Sweep v Joe Blanton

Charlie Morton (1-1, 1.74) faces Joe Blanton (1-10, 5.62) in the finale. The Pirates are going for a sweep, and given the pitching matchup, the smart money is in their favor. The Angels are kinda the anti-Bucs. They put their resources into sticks instead of pitching, and maybe that was the wrong investment.

Ground Chuck has had a pair of good starts since returning from TJ surgery, fueled by a heater that's been clocked at 95-96. He attributes the extra couple of ticks to having a rested arm. Veteran Blanton has struggled mightily, but has shown signs of coming out of it. He's struck out 11 twice in his last three starts, and went deep into the seventh in his latest outing.

The game begins at 3:35 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte CF, Jordy Mercer SS, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Garrett Jones RF, Neil Walker 2B,  Gaby Sanchez 1B, Travis Snider LF, Tony Sanchez DH and Mike McKenry C.

Cutch has the day off; with tomorrow a scheduled off day, it's a nice break for him. Tony Sanchez starts at DH; we though that he'd catch and The Fort DH, but this works. Pedro is in the three-hole for the first time in his career, a nod to his hot stick. Clint has all his lefties in the lineup.

Angels lineup: Peter Bourjos CF, Mike Trout LF, Albert Pujols DH, Mark Trumbo 1B, Howie Kendrick 2B, Alberto Callaspo, 3B, Erick Aybar SS, Chris Iannetta C and JB Shuck RF.

Same lineup, different catcher.

  • Pedro now has a seven game hitting streak and a three-game homer streak, the longest of his career, with a day game coming up. Alvarez joined Willie Stargell, Brian Giles and Jason Bay as the only Pirates in the last 50 years with at least 18 HR and 50 RBI in teams first 75 games. That's pretty fair company.
  • Gaby Sanchez broke an 0-for-17 streak last night with a single and homer.
  • The Pirates are 8-3 in interleague play and 20-17 on the road, perhaps the most remarkable turnabout this season. They were 34-47 away from PNC in 2012.
  • Charlie Morton made his MLB debut at Angel Stadium in 2008 with the Braves, winning 9-4. It's the only time he's faced the Halos.
  • The reports are that Clint Barmes is handling his demotion professionally, and in fact has been spending extra time teaching Jordy Mercer some of the finer points of the position.
  • David Manel of Bucs Dugout has an interesting piece on how clutch performances by the Cards and Bucs - one with the bat, the other with arms - has propelled them to the 1-2 spot in the NL.
  • Wandy Rodriguez makes his first rehab start at Indy today. 
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects notes that the Bucs have a dozen pitchers under contract that can hit 98+ on the radar gun. That's quite a turnaround from the pre-Huntington days.
  • Luis Heredia will make his first start of the year at Low Class A West Virginia. He's been held back in Pirate City both to improve his conditioning and to keep a cap on the innings he works.

6/23 - Pud Galvin, Captain Willie, Denny Neagle & More...

Pud, pitching, come-from-ahead loss, Pops, Denny Neagle, Jason Kendall, Humberto Cota...

  • 1877 - Jim “Pud” Galvin of the Alleghenys shut out Chicago on three hits‚ 6-0, in International League play. The IL was considered a minor league, and only lasted one more season. 
  • 1930 - Bucco RHP Heinie Meine gave up twelve consecutive hits during the sixth inning in a 19-6 loss to the Brooklyn Robins at Forbes Field. 
  • 1954 - The Bucs broke St. Louis’ Harvey Haddix’s string of 37 straight shutout innings when Preston Ward drove home Dick Cole in the sixth, but were still left in the dust at Forbes Field by the Cards 7-1. 
  • 1961 - The Phillies scored four times in the 8th and added six more runs in the 9th to stun the Pirates 12-11 at Forbes Field. Three errors led to four of the late runs as Clem Labine, ElRoy Face and Earl Francis couldn’t shut the gates on the Phils. 
  • 1965 - Willie Stargell mashed three homers to lead the Pirates to a 13-3 beatdown of LA at Dodger Stadium. After dingers in his first three at bats, Pops lined a shot off the outfield railing for a double; he was a foot away from his fourth long fly of the day. 
  • 1995 - Denny Neagle won a duel with Pedro Martinez as the Bucs beat the Expos 2-0 at Olympic Stadium. Neagle surrendered just a pair of hits, with Mark Johnson and Nelson Liriano bringing home the Bucco runs. 
  • 2004 - Pittsburgh beat the Astros 7-2 on the strength of a two out grand slam by Jason Kendall in the seventh frame off David Weathers at Minute Maid Park. 
  • 2005 - The Pirates jumped out to an 11-2 lead over the Cards and held on to take an 11-7 win. Humberto Cota led the way with three RBI, two on sac flies, but St. Louis was its own worst enemy, committing three errors and allowing Pittsburgh seven unearned runs at Busch Stadium.

Buc Bomb Halos 6-1

Well, Jerome Williams and Francisco Liriano lit it up in the first. Both had 1-2-3 innings with a pair of K. But the Bucs warmed up in the second.

With one gone, Pedro drilled another long ball, lining a fastball over the RF wall. Gaby and The Kid followed with singles. Travis Snider bounced into force to put runners at the corners, and a Jordy Mercer knock brought in another run. Starling Marte reached on a boot, and Russell Martin drew a five pitch walk with the bases juiced to make it 3-0. Liriano gave up a two out walk to Alberto Callaspo, and that was all .

The Bucs went down quietly in the third, and The Cisco Kid faced his first challenge. With one down, he gave up back-to-back knocks. A force out by Mike Trout left Angels on the corners, and he got Albert Pujols to bounce out the keep the pad at three against a couple of tough outs, Trout being robbed by a diving stop by Sanchez..

The Pirates added on in the fourth when Neil Walker led off with a double and Snider singled him home. A Mercer DP and Marte groundout finished the frame. Liriano did some more wriggling. Howie Kendrick doubled with an out and Alberto Callaspo got an infield knock to short, with Kendrick forced to hold second. Erick Aybar singled sharply to left, and Kendick decided to challenge Marte. Bad idea; he was gunned down at home by a mile. A walk loaded the sacks, but Liriano got JB Shuck swinging at a slider.

In the fifth with one down, Cutch drilled a first pitch cutter over the bullpen in left for a four bagger. Pedro doubled an out later, just missing a second homer, and went to third on a wild pitch, but Gaby popped out. Frankie had an easy frame, just giving up a two out walk. The sixth went quietly, too. Snider walked and was caught stealing and the Halos went down in order.

Dane De La Rosa put the Bucs away in the seventh. Shuck smacked a one out ground rule double on a 3-2 pitch, barely missing getting rung up on a fastball that nudged the corner the pitch before. An out later, Trout singled him in on a ball that went off Walker's glove to make it 5-1. That was it for Liriano, who went 6-2/3 giving up a run on seven hits and three walks to go with six K, tossing 104 pitches. Bryan Morris came on. Trout stole second while Sir Albert walked. It was getting risky, but Morris K'ed Trumbo to end the music.

It was Michael Kohn's turn on the hill. He fired a 94 MPH heater, a little up and on the inside half to Gaby, who smacked it high off the LF foul pole to make it 6-1. With an out in the eighth in the Angel half, Callaspo singled just past a diving Sanchez, and Clint Hurdle went to pen for Justin Wilson. It took him two pitches to end the frame on an around the horn DP.

Snider walked and Mercer singled to open the ninth. marte flew out to straightaway center just short of the track. martin banged one to third; a bobble took away the DP as the play went to first. Cutch drilled a fastball to center, but Bourjos bounced off the wall to make the grab. Wilson lost his first batter, got a force, and walked another, which got Mark Melancon stirring in the pen. Another force, on an automatic call at second (Mercer wasn't on the bag) brought up Pujols, who bounced out to Pedro and ended the evening.

It's nice to get a couple of games where the bats are working and the back end gets a break. The bottom of the order came through tonight; the top four Bucs were 1-for-18 with a walk while the bottom five went 9-for-18 with two walks. Gotta love that DH. It helps, too, when the opponent strands eleven runners. And now they go for the sweep. It's been a nice West Coast trip so far, something that's rarely been written about the Pirates.

Charlie Morton faces Joe Blanton tomorrow afternoon in the finale.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo!Sports thinks the Pirates and their fans may have a reason to believe this summer.
  • The Bucs brass will sit down today (Sunday) and decide what route to take with J-Mac, who is about at the end of his rehab time.
  • Stolmy Pimentel went seven innings for Indy Saturday, giving up a run on four hits and three walks with seven K after tossing 92 pitches. 
  • Jameson Taillon went five frames for the Curve, giving up two runs on four hits with four walks and three whiffs after throwing 89 pitches.
  • We missed this, but on Friday night OF Barrett Barnes homered twice and drove in a career-high six runs to lead Low Class A West Virginia to an 11-7 win.
  • 13th round draft pick 1B Danny Collins has hit four homers in six games for short season Jamestown.