Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Best Team In Baseball Wins Again 5-4

With an out in the first, Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig rolled singles through the left side. Matt Holliday lined a shot past Clint Barmes mitt, and it was 1-0 in a hurry. Make that 2-0, as Daniel Descalso ripped a two-out single up the middle. The Cards ran a successful double steal, but were left stranded. Well, sooner or later those grounders had to find holes, and they did this inning. worse, it took Jeff Locke 30 pitches to navigate the inning. St. Louis won't chase, even though he's just off the edges. Starling Marte took a page from the Cardinal playbook and drew an opening walk off Adam Wainwright. A Neil Walker tapper moved him to second, and with two down, Pedro singled him home to make it 2-1.

With one down in the second, Wainwright dropped a single into right after being in an 0-2 hole. Jon Jay crossed up the Bucs and dropped a bunt single up the third base side to set up the Cards, but Locke worked out of it with no damage. Garrett Jones opened the Buc half with an opposite field knock, but a Presley bouncer back to the box cleaned the bases 1-6-3. Clint Barmes followed with a single up the middle. Locke K'ed, but at least the order turned over. It's been a long pair of frames; Locke is at 48 pitches and Wainwright at 45.

Holliday opened the third by banging one high off the Clemente Wall; it was reviewed, ruled in play, and he had a long single. As David Freese K'ed on a ball in the dirt, Holliday stole second and went to third when Descalso's dribbler in front of the plate became an infield single. The squibbler cost the Bucs a run when Tony Cruz rolled one softly to the left side; Barmes' only play was to first and it was 3-1. An intentional walk set up a Wainwright K. Locke has given up a couple of hard shots, but the balls rolled in the dirt have been his problem tonight. With one down in the Bucco half, The Kid caught a curve and sent it over the Clemente Wall, no review needed, to make it 3-2, his first yard ball in a month.

Beltran turned on a changeup with one away in the fourth and doubled to left. With two down, Holliday collected his third hit to score Beltran, a single through the right side, and moved to second on the play at the plate. Freese bounced out, but Locke has given up a career high 10 hits (five grounders that got through and two infield knocks); regression on all those balls in play is catching up to him. Jones singled to right with one down. A force out later, Barmes dropped a soft flare into right. It kissed the chalk for a double, and Presley touched home with the Bucs' third run. Josh Harrison came up to hit for Locke, who has tossed 87 pitches in four frames, and bounced out.

Vin Mazzaro took over in the fifth and worked a clean frame. Marte started it off for Pittsburgh with a bunt hit, winning a bang-bang call at first, stole second, and moved to third on a Walker ground out. He came in on a sac fly by Cutch to tie the score. Wainwright started the sixth with his second hit, a grounder up the middle. Jay got a call in his favor on a 2-2 delivery, but went to the well once too often and K'ed looking. Two routine outs later, it was the Bucs' turn again. Martin led off with an infield knock. Jones liner to right center was run down by Beltran. Presley fished at a full count backfoot curve as Martin was off on the pitch, and the strike 'em out, throw 'em out ended the frame.

Tony Watson climbed the bump in the seventh, and JT went to right in a double switch. With an out, Freese singled up the middle. Descalso banged one to third; Pedro booted it trying to make the throw to second, and a pair of Redbirds were aboard. Cruz hit one that Watson had to play, moving up the runners as he was barely tossed out at first. There they stayed, as Watson K'ed Pete Kozma. Wainwright worked a routine frame. He didn't have his best stuff, but gave Mike Matheny a break by lasting seven and giving a respite to a busy and battered bullpen.

With an out in the eighth, Jay singled through the left side; the Card balls are finding grass instead of gloves. Not so with Beltran, who ripped one to the center field track, but Cutch was there; guess it evens out. Tony fed Craig four straight changeups, and he tapped the last one back to Watson to end the frame. Trevor Rosenthal replaced Wainwright, and Walker greeted him with a single. Cutch flew out, and Pedro took one to the track in left that fell just short and into Holliday's glove, with Walker tagging. It was a key 90'; Martin punched a slider into left center, and the Bucs had the lead for the first time tonight. He was caught stealing a couple of pitches later, but did his job just fine. Russ got an ovation after he was thrown out, and the team got one when they came out for the ninth; the joint is hoppin'.

Mark the Shark claimed the hill for the close. Grounder to Walker, soft liner to Walker and...nah, the last out was a K, freezing Daniel Descalso with a hook. Maybe they are the best team in baseball, even without any deadline help. The crowd sure thinks so; every game of this series, they've amped it up a little more. And hey, pretty good drama for ESPN tonight, too. Maybe they'll be back.

Locke is the poster child for regression. But he could help himself by regaining some of that early aggressiveness; instead of keeping everything just off the edges, he'd be better served by nicking the corners to keep out of deep and hitters' counts. But the Bucs picked him up against the Card ace, and the bullpen put up five zeroes. That's a tough combo to beat. And who'd of thunk Charlie Morton was looking to broom the Redbirds against Joe Kelly tomorrow night?

  • Pirates are now 23 or more games over .500 entering August for the first time since 1972.
  • Tonight's attendance: 31,679. The house has been pretty full for every game of the series, but the count is a little low because ticket exchanges count for the original game, not the one attended.
  • The Bucs picked up good glove, light-hitting utility infielder Robert Andino from Seattle for a PTBNL. He cleared waivers in May and was in AAA, and the Pirates assigned him to Indy.
  • The Fort did more than get his knee "stuck." Mike McKenry had meniscus surgery today and will be out for the rest of the season. He's expected to be back at 100% for spring training.
  • Travis Snider's injury is turf toe; he's suffered from it since late last season, and is now in a boot.
  • Jameson Taillon went his scheduled five innings tonight and allowed one run on four hits with six strikeouts for Altoona.

The Beat Goes On: Locke v Wainwright In Game Four

Tonight, Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.15) climbs the bump against Adam Wainwright (13-6, 2.51) as the new kid on the block stares down the old guard. Locke's main battle has been with control, while Wainwright leads the league in wins and innings. He's their stopper, and the Cards could use one right about now. Both have been pretty consistent during the season, although their last outings were labored by their standards. It'll be a bounce back match of sorts for both, and should be a dandy.

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

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

Guess Clint is gonna has made RF and SS open competitions.

Cardinal lineup: Jon Jay CF, Carlos Beltran RF, Allen Craig 1B, Matt Holliday LF, David Freese 3B, Daniel Descalso 2B, Tony Cruz C, Pete Kozma SS and Adam Wainwright P.

  • Lefty Jeff Locke has been charged with three earned runs or less in each of his last 17 starts and in 18 of his 20 overall. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the longest such streak by a Pirates pitcher since Jeff Karstens in 2011 (18). The last Bucco pitcher with a longer streak was Don Cardwell from 1963 to 1965 (21). 
  • This is the first time since the heady days of Jimmy Leyland and gang in 1992 that the Pirates led their division on July 30th. 
  • Fifteen of the last 20 games played by the Pirates have been decided by one or two runs.
  • In their past 17 dates at PNC Park, the Pirates have averaged 33,764 fans and have sold out nine times this year. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN is noticing the Bucs this year, and for more than attendance.
  • Speaking of attendance, the Pirates are creeping up on last year's numbers after a slow start at the gate. The club is averaging 25,700 this year compared to 26,400 at this point in 2012.
  • The Cards have had three catchers on the roster since before the All-Star break because of Yadier Molina's achy knee. He had to leave yesterday's game because of it and was sent back to St. Louis for a further evaluation, and was placed on the 15 day DL.
  • Steve Blass joined Dale Murphy as the new inductees of the "Hall of the Very Good."

July 31 - Trades & Stuff...

Trades and random Bucco bits...

  • 1870 - C/1B Joe Sugden was born in Philadelphia. Sugden spent the first five seasons (1893-97) of his 13 year career with Pittsburgh as a catcher and utilityman, hitting .277. 
  • 1896 - After a disputed call‚ Pirate P Frank “Lefty” Killen punched umpire Daniel Lally in the face. When Lally responded in kind‚ hundreds of fans charged onto the field and eventually Killen was arrested for disorderly conduct, according to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology. Pittsburgh won in spite of the rhubarb 9-7 over the Cincinnati Reds at League Park. 
  • 1912 - The Pirates scored three runs in the 19th inning and then barely held off Boston to take a 7-6 decision at the South End Grounds. Honus Wagner was the man of the hour, stealing home and later driving in the final, game-winning run for Pittsburgh against the Braves. 
  • 1939 - The Pirates obtained 6' 9" LHP Johnny Gee from Syracuse of the International League for $75,000 and four players. Nicknamed “Gee Whiz,” he lasted parts of four seasons (1939, 1941, 1943-44) with the Bucs, winning five games. Also known as “Long John” (and as the “$75,000 Lemon”), he never fully recovered from a 1940 arm injury. Gee was the tallest person to play MLB until 6’10” Randy Johnson debuted for the Montreal Expos in September, 1988. Long John also went on to play pro hoops for the NBA Syracuse Nationals. 
  • 1957 - Manager Bobby Bragan was ejected for arguing a call (actually, he held his nose) during a 4-2 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. After being tossed, he got an orange drink from the stands; the umps told him to take it into the clubhouse, and he threatened to toss the juice into their faces. He quickly relented and offered them all a sip, but they weren’t amused. After their report to the league, Bragan was fined $100 and threatened with suspension if he didn’t clean up his act. After the game, Bragan was quoted by the Pittsburgh Press’ Les Biederman as saying “My only regret is that the hot dog didn’t arrive in time.” Bragan was fired three days later and replaced by Danny Murtaugh on a “temporary basis.” The temporary hire managed until 1964 and was brought back as skipper three more times after that. 
  • 1964 - It happens to the best of them. The San Francisco Giants took advantage of three errors by Bill Mazeroski and three more by the team to edge the Bucs 8-6 at Forbes Field. Maz's last error, a dropped catch on a potential around-the-horn DP ball in the ninth, would have ended the game with the Pirates on top 6-5 if he had completed the turn. 
  • 1983 - Rookie Jose DeLeon held the Mets hitless for 8-1/3 innings before Hubie Brooks singled, but Mike Torrez countered with 11 shutout innings as New York won 1-0 in 12 frames. In his previous start‚ DeLeon had held the Padres hitless for 6-1/3 innings. 
  • 1993 RHP Jon Lieber was traded by the Kansas City Royals along with reliever Dan Miceli to the Bucs for closer Stan Belinda. 
  • 2001 - The Pirates traded the well-traveled LHP Terry Mulholland to the Dodgers for pitchers Mike Fetters and Adrian Burnside. Mulholland, from Uniontown, pitched for 11 teams in a 20 year career, and had a pair of stints with the Cubs, Phils and Giants. The FO also swapped Mike Williams to the Astros for RHP Tony McKnight. It was actually more like a lend-lease, as Williams signed with the Bucs again as a free agent after the season. 
  • 2002 - The Pirates gave up on first round OF Chad Hermansen, sending him to the Cubs for OF Darren Lewis, who refused to report to the Pirates, choosing to retire instead. 
  • 2003 - Pitchers Brandon Lyon, Anastacio Martinez and Jeff Suppan were traded by the Bucs to the Red Sox for LHP Mike Gonzalez, 2B Freddy Sanchez and cash. Originally, Gonzalez had gone to Boston for Lyons and Martinez a few days earlier, but Lyons flunked the physical causing a reworking of the deal. The mulligan panned out pretty well for the Bucs.
  • 2004 - GM Dave Littlefield reportedly rejected an offer to deal pitcher Kris Benson to the Phillies for a power-hitting prospect named Ryan Howard, who would eventually become a NL MVP. 
  • 2005 - The Cubs sent young OF Jody Gerut to Pittsburgh for vet OF Matt Lawton. The Cubs shipped Lawton to the Yankees for a minor leaguer in August. Gerut, hampered by a bum knee, barely played and was released after 2006, appearing in just four games as a Pirate. 
  • 2006 - The Pirates traded pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to the Mets for Xavier Nady. Pittsburgh also sent P Kip Wells to the Rangers for P Jesse Chavez, traded OF/1B Craig Wilson to the Yankees for P Shawn Chacon and acquired RHP Brian Rogers from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for 1B Sean Casey. 
  • 2007- The Bucs traded OF Rajai Davis and IF Stephen McFarland to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Matt Morris. Morris, who was under contract to make $9.5M in 2008, was released on April 27th of that year after going 3-8 with a 7.04 ERA in 16 starts. Many believed this deal was the last straw of GM Dave Littlefield’s era in Pittsburgh. 
  • 2008 - Jason Bay and Josh Wilson were traded to the Boston Red Sox in a three team deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andy LaRoche with Bryan Morris to the Pirates from LA, with Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen coming to the Bucs from Beantown. 
  • 2010 - RHP James McDonald was traded to Pittsburgh with OF Andrew Lambo by the LA Dodgers for RHP Octavio Dotel and cash. The Bucs also flipped LHP Javier Lopez to the Giants for RHP Joe Martinez and OF Joe Bowker. In a housecleaning/change of scenery deal, SS Bobby Crosby, RHP D.J. Carrasco and RF Ryan Church were sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash, C Chris Snyder and SS Pedro Ciriaco. 
  • 2011 - OF Ryan Ludwick was sent to the Pirates by San Diego for cash. He hit .232 with two homers during the stretch run and then signed with the Reds in the off season. 
  • 2012 - AJ Burnett held the Cubs hitless through 7-2/3 innings before giving up his only knock, a single to right by Adrian Cardenas. The Bucs won 5-0 at Wrigley. Burnett pitched a complete game while Neil Walker had all five RBI. 
  •  2012 - 1B Gaby Sanchez and RHP Kyle Kaminska went from the Marlins to the Pirates for OF Gorkys Hernandez and 2013’s sandwich compensation draft pick five minutes before the deadline expired. Before that trade, the Bucs dealt 3B Casey McGehee to the Yankees for RHP Chad Qualls.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Let's Play Two: Bucs Sweep 6-0

Brandon Cumpton picked up where the first game pitching left off, with an easy first. He gave up just a ground ball single to Matt Holliday, a little roller through second; though he goes opposite way all day against Pittsburgh, the infield plays him like a pull hitter. It was Tyler Lyons' turn. Starling Marte missed bunting his way on by a fraction, then Jordy Mercer doubled off the wall in center. A Cutch tapper moved him to third. Pedro made the young lefty look good, watching a hanging off speed down the middle go by, then swinging at two pitches in different zip codes.

With one down in the second, Matt Adams drew a walk. David Freese hit a one-hopper to Gaby, who fired to second; Mercer dropped the ball, lowering his mitt a second too soon for the turn. No prob; it only cost Cumpton four pitches; a pop and a strikeout against the 8-9 batters. The Bucs drew first blood on a gift. JT reached when his chopper to third went off Freese's mitt as he was caught between hops. He went to third on a Josh Harrison single, and Josh stole second on a delay. JT came in when Yadier Molina turned his glove the wrong way on a hook for a passed ball, and the Bucs were up 1-0.

The Cards knocked on the door again in the third. With an out, Jon Jay lined a single to center. An out later, Allen Craig hit a hard one hopper to Pedro; the ball came up a bit and clanked off the end of his mitt. Again, no prob; Cumpton got Yadier Molina on a fly to Cutch. The Pirates went down quietly.

The Redbirds went three up, three down in the fourth. The Bucs did barely better, getting a one out single through the left side by JT. Rob Johnson was in to catch for the Cards; no idea what happened to Molina, (he strained his knee). Lyons opened the fifth with an infield knock, a chopper that got past the mound. But the top of the order went down routinely; Cumpton has shown more consistent velocity and movement today than in his previous starts.

The Bucs put up a big number in their half, with a huge St. Looey assist. Marte tripled off the center field wall to open and scored on Mercer's flare to center. Then Cutch lined a shot to left; Holliday leapt at the wall, the ball hit the pocket of his glove, and bounced off into the second row for a homer, putting the Bucs up 4-0. We'll see how Cumpton handles the lead; the sixth inning has been his kryptonite during his brief MLB career. It wasn't tonight; he tucked away the Cards and picked up a couple of whiffs along the way.

Harrison opened with a triple. But Lyons dodged that bullet by not dodging a couple of Buc bullets. Cumpton hit a knee high screamer back to the box, and Lyons snowconed it, then Marte drilled another right up the middle that the pitcher knocked down and had fall in front of him, catching Harrison in a rundown. Mercer cut him a break and bounced out to third. Cumpton cruised through another uneventful frame in the seventh, the longest outing of his short career.

Keith Butler took the ball for St. Louis, and the Bucs added on. Cutch lined a single to left and scored on Gaby's double off the bullpen gate. Pedro drilled a shot off the first baseman, which deflected right to the second baseman for the unusual 3-4-1 out, moving Sanchez up. And then Sanchez the younger came through with a sac fly, and it was 6-0 with six outs to go.

Cumpton wouldn't be around to get them. He went seven shutout frames, giving up three hits, a walk and K'ing five on 87 pitches, easily his most impressive outing. Jeanmar Gomez came in for the eighth, and was a walk away from a clean frame. Presley, in for JT, led off with a triple, the third inning-opening three bagger for the Bucs. For the second time, the Pirates couldn't bring the run in; one sac fly per game must be the limit.

Gomez tossed a 1-2-3 frame to ice Brandon Cumpton's first MLB win, and it's now the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hard to believe, but this is kinda the same old Bucs. They scored six times, but were 1-for-14 with RISP. But hey, the runs are what count, and they got enough of them tonight to take two. Jeff Locke and Adam Wainwitght go in the fourth contest tomorrow night.

  • The Pirates have the best record in baseball at at 64-42, and are 22 games over .500 for the first time this year.
  • This is the first time the Pirates have taken five straight from St. Louis since 1997.
  • With nine triples, Starling Marte is tied for the NL lead in three-baggers.
  • Tonight's attendance: 33,681.
  • The Pirates got their first doubleheader sweep since 9/30/2009 at Chicago. Their last sweep at PNC Park was 8/28/07 vs Reds. It's also the first doubleheader sweep of the Cardinals since 6/26/78 at TRS.

Bucs Open Twinbill With 2-1 Win In 11

It appeared to be another one of those starts for AJ. After an out, a walk to Jon Jay and a single by Matt Holliday looked ominous when Carlos Beltran cracked a ball to right center. Both runners were off, but they forgot the Cutch factor; he ran the ball down beautifully and made a strong toss to first to double off Holliday.  With two gone, Cutch and Pedro banged back-to-back doubles of Lance Lynn, and the Bucs were up 1-0.

The second went by quietly. Things looked dicey again in the third. Pete Kozma doubled and Lynn bunted, legging it out. A walk jammed the bases. AJ got Jay swinging, but Holliday's tapper brought home a run. Beltran squared up again, but his liner ended up snuggled in Garrett Jone's mitt to keep it tied. The Bucs went down in order. In the fourth, Burnett worked a calm nine-pitch frame, while Lynn alternated K's and walks, stranding a pair. St. Louis went down routinely. Starling Marte singled with two down in the Buc half of the fifth and got to second on a bobble, but Walker couldn't bring him, flying out to left center.

Jay K'ed to open the sixth at a ball in the dirt; it got away from Martin, who didn't make a particularly inspired effort to retrieve it, arguing with the ump and allowing Jay to reach second. AJ reared back and threw, make that a ball, to Holliday. He shrugged at the ump over the call, and man in blue Eric Cooper headed briskly to the mound; the third base ump came over, too. Burnett, oddly enough, was the big boy and walked away from the situation. But he was feeling it; as thwe crowd got into it, he K'ed Holliday, got Beltran to fly out to left, and retired Matt Adams on a tapper to the hill. The Pirates went down without a peep.

AJ got the first two outs routinely in the seventh, but started to labor. He walked Kozma on five pitches, and Allen Craig came up to hit. Burnett fell behind 2-0, then got him swinging, to the crwod's delight and a little fist pump by AJ. He went seven , giving up a run on three hits with three walks and nine whiffs after 113 pitches. Seth Maness took the bump for the Cards and tucked Pittsburgh away.

Justin Wilson took the ball and got a couple of routine outs. Holliday spoiled a pretty good 0-2 pitch, on the inside corner at the knees, and dropped it into right. Beltran slammed one into left center, but Marte ran it down and made it look easy.

Josh Harrison opened with a single past third and was bunted to second by Marte, who was a hair away from beating the throw. Walker lined a shot toward The Notch; Jay took a bad route to the ball that was carrying, but managed to make a leaping catch to recover. Cutch was walked intentionally, and lefty Randy Choate got the call to face Pedro. Choate did his job, getting him to roll over and bounce out to first.

Mark the Shark took the hill. Adams hit a hard one hopper over the bag, but Jones was on the line in a no doubles D and made the play. Cruz slapped a single to right. Daniel Descalso hit a roller to first; Jones took the out and made an ill advised throw to second that rolled through the SS hole, moving Cruz to third. But Melancon had the answer; Kozma popped up the first pitch to carry it tied into the bottom of the ninth. Trevor Rosenthal came on. with two down, Presley hit one hopper over the third base bag; Descalso made the grab but had no play. He tried anyhow, and threw it to the railing, allowing Presley to reach second. Barmes hit one on the nose, but right at Jay; the Cards play him shallow and it had no chance of falling.

Byran Morris came on for the 10th, and walked Shane Robinson on five pitches. He got a break when Carpenter's liner hung up long enough for Cutch to slide under, but Jay followed with a sharp single to right to put Redbirds on the corners. Holliday came up and hit one hard, but on the ground and right at Barmes, who turned it into an easy 6-4-3 inning ender.

Michael Blazek toed the rubber, and was helped with some pretty poor at bats. Jose Tabata pinch hit and K'ed without seeing a strike. Marte followed suit; he saw one strike, which he took. Walker didn't take the bat off his shoulders and walked on five pitches. That brought up Cutch, who ran the count full before waving at a ball four hook, looking heater all the way.

Vin Mazzaro took his turn in the 11th. he didn't throw many strikes, but got through the frame. After an out, he walked Adams. He fell behind Cruz 2-0 and got a break; the catcher swung at ball three and hit a sweak chopper to third; between a slow runner and a strong arm, Pedro got the force at second. Vin fell behind Descalso, worked the count full, and got him to lift a fly to Marte. Lefty Kevin Siegrist got the call for the Redbirds.

After getting Pedro to pop out, he lost Martin and pinch hitter Gaby back-to-back. With the count full, Presley banged a ball right at the shortstop for what appeared to be an easy DP, but Siegrist stuck out his mitt and deflected the ball through the SS hole. Thank you, sir. The King had his first walk off hit on a deflection, finishing the day with a TV interview and an AJ pie to the puss.

Lotta drama; the game had everything but clutch hitting. TAnd they'll do it again in a half hour - except this game will feature the first place Pirates, with Brandon Cumpton facing Tyler Lyons.

  • St. Louis' five game losing streak is its longest of the season. 
  • Card CF Jon Jay's bobble on Starling Marte's single in the fifth ended Jay's 245-game errorless streak, dating back to to August 24th, 2011.
  • Tony Sanchez will make his MLB catching debut in the nitecap.

AJ v Lynn In Lidlifter; Cumpton v Lyons in Nite Cap

In the opener...AJ Burnett  (4-7, 2.96) will work the opener of today's double dip, squaring off against Lance Lynn (12-5, 3.98). AJ has had a couple of rough starts, as the team refuses to catch the ball behind him in the early going; hopefully that will turn around today. Even with the fielding woes, Burnett has kept the club hanging around and eaten up some innings.Lynn had a tough stretch of games going into the break, but he was sharp in his last outing against the Phils. He's already won twice against the Bucs this season and has a career 4-1 record, 4.23 ERA v Pittsburgh.

The game starts at 4:05 and will be aired by the MLB Network, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

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

Maybe Clint Barmes has won back the SS job. 

Cardinal lineup: Matt Carpenter 2B, John Jay CF, Matt Holliday LF, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Adams 1B, Tony Cruz C, Daniel Descalso 3B, Pete Kozma SS and Lance Lynn P.

In game two... the Bucs will send out Brandon Cumpton (0-1, 4.01) against Tyler Lyons (2-3, 5.51). Cumpton has three starts under his belt, and is a strike-thrower that does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground. Lyons was sent to the minors a month ago, and been lights out at Memphis, so we'll see. The lefty is a control guy, and plate discipline seems to be the key; he's at his best when guys fish against him. Lynn had been up-and-down, but the Cards score early and often when he's on the hill, which has as much to do with his record as his stuff. Both are their team's 26th player permitted for doubleheaders under the current CBA.

The game will start 1/2 hour after the opener, and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Lineup: TBA.

  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review wrote "According to sources, the White Sox asked for Jameson Taillon or Gregory Polanco from the Pirates in exchange for outfielder Alex Rios. The Pirates rejected the offer. The Pirates have also expressed some interest in White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez." 
  • Jason Grilli says that he plans to be back in September. We'll see; his injury is estimated to keep him out 4-8 weeks.
  • Elias Sports Bureau posted that Francisco Liriano is first pitcher to win at least 11 of his first 15 outings (as opposed to decisions) for the Pirates since Earl Hamilton in 1918-19.

July 30 - Schmidt Trade, Streaks, Deals & More...

Happy Birthday Clint, Pud Behind the Dish, The Groaner, Cave Man, Jack Wilson & Jason Schmidt Trades, Streaks & More Trades....

  • 1886 - Enjoying an off day between games against the Metropolitans in New York, Allegheny pitcher Gentleman Jim Galvin decided to take in the NY Giants-St. Louis match at the Polo Grounds, and ended up with the best seat in the house. Still steaming over some verbal blasts unleashed during yesterday’s game, ump John Gaffney demanded a pre-game apology from the Giants. With none forthcoming, he stormed of the grounds, and Pud was pulled from the stands to ump. He must have done OK; the Giants edged the Maroons 2-1 and he escaped in one piece. 
  • 1891 - The Pirates got off to a 31–47 start on the heels of a 23–113 season, demoted captain/manager Ned Hanlon (who had left the team in 1890 for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the upstart Players' League before rejoining Allegheny after that league folded) and hired Bill McGunnigle as skipper. McGunnigle managed the club to a modest 24–33 record over the remainder of the year. He was replaced by Tom Burns, who didn’t make it through the 1892 season before losing his job to Al Buckenberger. 
  • 1956 - Sports Illustrated wrote that “Bing Crosby, one of the 11-man syndicate that made the winning $5,500,000 bid for the Detroit Tigers, is also 16% owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Crosby could own an interest in only one club at a time, the Groaner said he would keep the Pirates.” 
  • 1957 - Clint Hurdle was born in Big Rapids, Michigan. After a 10 year stint as a player and then managing the Colorado Rockies from 2002–2009 with a World Series appearance, Hurdle took over the Pirate reins in 2011, replacing John Russell. 
  • 1987 - The Pirates trade RHP Don Robinson to the Giants for minor league catcher Mackey Sasser and cash. Robinson had some nice years remaining, jumping from the pen to the Giants rotation, while Sasser stayed in Pittsburgh for a season before moving along to the Mets, where he had a long run as the back up catcher. 
  • 2000 - The Bucs got SS Jack Wilson from the Cards in exchange for LHP Jason Christiansen. Wilson was the starter at short when healthy from 2001 until he was traded in 2009, and won a Gold Glove and All-Star berth in 2004. 
  • 2001 - The Bucs sent RHP Jason Schmidt and OF John Vander Wal to the Giants for OF Armando Rios and RHP Ryan Vogelsong. Schmidt went 7-1 the rest of the year for SF and then signed a big four-year contract. Vogelsong underwent Tommy John surgery two months later. 
  •  2002 - Pittsburgh snapped a six game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park. The Bucs broke open a pitching duel between Kris Benson and the Rox’s Denny Neagle in the eighth, scoring three times with two outs. The rally was keyed by Adam Hyzdu’s two-run double. Mike Williams earned the save of Benson’s win. 
  • 2004: The Pirates traded RHP Kris Benson and IF Jeff Keppinger to the Mets for 3B Jose Bautista (who they had lost in the 2003 Rule 5 draft), IF Ty Wiggington and RHP Matt Peterson.
  • 2006 - Pittsburgh concluded a five game winning streak by taking a 2-1, 10 inning victory from the SF Giants at PNC Park. Jose Castillo’s leadoff homer in the ninth forced the game into extras, and Jose Hernandez’s single in the 10th scored Jack Wilson with the tie breaker. Both starters, Zach Duke and Matt Morris, put up zeroes but were gone before the seventh was done, and it took 11 more pitchers to finish up what they had begun. 
  • 2011 - The Pirates traded 1B Aaron Baker to the Orioles for 1B Derrek Lee, the first time the Pirates had been buyers at the trade deadline since dealing for SS Shawon Dunston in 1997. 
  • 2012 - In a trade of 2006 first rounders, Pittsburgh sent RHP Brad Lincoln to Toronto for OF Travis Snider.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bucs Off To A Running Start With 9-2 Win Over Cards

The park was packed and the tableau absolutely Pittsburgh proud. The Cisco Kid matched the ambiance with a routine 1-2-3 frame against the Redbirds. The Bucs like Jake Westbrook, and showed their affection in the first. JT worked a five pitch walk, and The Kid followed by taking a slider off the shin. Cutch lined a single to center to plate Tabata. The next pitch to Pedro was supposed to be away, but rode inside, knee high, and El Toro deposited it in the seats above the Clemente Wall to make it 4-0. Garrett Jones doubled with an out, and with two away, Westbrook worked on Clint Barmes rather than give up the intentional walk and won the bet, getting him on a bouncer.

The Cards went quietly again in the second. Liriano led off, and Shane Robinson made a shoe top grab of his sinking liner, and the catch would prove big. The Bucs left the bases loaded - JT and Pedro walked around a Walker single and Cutch force - when Westbrook K'ed Martin on a 3-2 sinker down and away. But at 54 pitches, he needs a couple of quick innings to hang around. Frankie kept dealing in the third. Westbrook got some help in the Buc half. Robinson made another nice catch with an over the shoulder grab of Jones' shot to center a step or so in front of the wall at the Batter's Eye. Then Presley was rung up at first on a play that he beat, though barely. No juju needed for Barmes; his soft pop into center was a can of corn.

With an out in the fourth, Carlos Beltran's ball to third took a hop over a diving Pedro's glove. Cheating toward second for the DP, a skidding Walker came up just short of gloving Matt Carpenter's roller through the right side. With Allen Craig, hitting .485 with RISP, and the NL's top batter with a .333 BA, Yadier Molina, up, Frankie was in a jam. Well, not really; he got them both swinging at sliders in the dirt. Westbook caught Walker in the hip with a pitch with two down, but retired Cutch on a tapper. He's been laboring, but give him credit; he's kept the game in hand after that disastrous first.

The Cards managed three weak grounders against The Cisco Kid in the fifth. Westbrook plunked Martin in the elbow with an out, but a couple of grounders kept him at bay. Jone's was an interesting out. Martin broke on a delayed steal, but Matt Carpenter, the second baseman, never went to back up the bag, and was rewarded with a grounder right at him when Garrett hit behind the runner.

A blast and a bloop resulted in the Cards first run in the sixth. Pinch hitter Tony Cruz sliced one deep to right center, and it ran away barely enough to elude Cutch for a triple. Carpenter dropped a flare into left center, and it was 4-1. Liriano bore down, and a Beltran K followed by a Holliday 5-4-3 DP  cleaned up the frame.
Marc Rzepczynski climbed the hill for the Cards. Barmes doubled to The Notch (it was a towering fly; Starling Marte and Cutch would have fought over it) to greet him. Liriano couldn't get him over on a bunt, and JT scorched a shot to second; Carpenter was at the perfect spot to glove the knee-high liner and doubled up Barmes, who had no shot at getting back. So the Bucs have had opportunities, but haven't been able to add on. That would shortly change.

With two down in the seventh, Liriano hit the wall. He lost Freese on a 3-2 count, just missing the corner and then getting a not quite enough of a check swing for ball four. Francisco walked Shane Robinson on four pitches, misfiring badly. His last batter - Tony Watson was ready - was Pete Kozma, and he went full on him before getting a fly to center to escape the frame. The Cisco Kid went seven, giving up a run on four hirs with two walks and eight punchouts ER, 2 BB, 8 K with 102 tosses.

Walker opened the Buc hald with a walk, and Cutch singled him to second. Pedro did about as well as he good against a lefty, bouncing out to first and moving the runners up.  Martin was up, and the Cards brought in Fernando Salas to face him, and he walked to juice the sacks. Gaby, a defensive switch last inning, stepped in the box and hit a sky high fly to medium right to plate Walker, the Bucs' first sac fly since Moses crossed the Red Sea. That opened the gates. Presley rolled a single into right for another run, Barmes drilled a shot into The Notch for the second time tonight to add another pair, and Starling Marte, pinch hitting on his R&R day, rolled a knock up the middle to score Barmes. It's 9-1, and The Fat Lady is awaiting her entrance.

Tony Watson tossed a neat eighth, and the Bucs went down in order. Vic Black came on for the ninth and labored. Holliday shot a single to right, and after and out, Rob Johnson broke his bat but dropped a soft lob over Pedro. With two strikes on Freese, the rookie drilled him in the back, and that got the pen active. Robinson bounced a single up the middle to plate a run, but young Mr. Black got a K and a fly to Cutch to end the evening. he didn't show any command at all tonight, but he did save a pitcher for tomorrow's DH.

Good start; let's see if they can keep it rolling tomorrow in the twin bill. AJ Burnett and Lance Lynn go in the opener. Oh, and are there any questions about who the Pirate ace is?
  • Francisco Liriano is the first Buc since Dock Ellis in 1971 to win 11 of his first 15 decisions.
  • The Pirates' four-spot in the first was the first time they opened with that many runs since September, 2012. They did have four earlier in the year, but the game was rained out - and it was against Westbrook and the Cards. 
  • Pedro leads the NL in homers with 27.
  • It wasn't SRO, but a nice crowd - 32,084 fans were at the game.
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted that "Former Giants closer Brian Wilson has five offers - four from NL teams and one from an AL team - with  the Pirates and D-Backs considered strong front runners.

Liriano v Westbrook To Open Card Series

Pretty big series beginning tonight, with a couple of top guns going at it - Francisco Liriano (10-4, 2.23) takes on Jake Westbrook (7-4, 2.95). On paper, it's a good matchup. The Cisco Kid has been Mr. Consistency for the Bucs while Westbrook is just 1-7 in his career against Pittsburgh with a 4.81 ERA. Hopefully that trend will hold.

Lots of excitement for other reasons, too. It's a five game set between the NL Central pacesetters with a twin bill tomorrow, but also right in the middle of all the festivities is the trade deadline, which ends Wednesday. It's a fan (and bloggers) perfect storm.

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

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata RF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Garrett Jones 1B, Russ Martin C, Alex Presley LF, Clint Barmes SS and Francisco Liriano P.

Starling Marte is off after his 3-K misadventure yesterday, replaced by Alex Presley. Barmes is at SS as Clint Hurdle looks like he's gonna shuffle he and Jordy Mercer.

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

The Cards come into town having dropped a three game set to the Bravos, going 20 innings without a run during one stretch against Atlanta. The Redbirds still are up 1-1/2 games on the Bucs. It's a big stretch for them. St. Louis goes to Cincy after the Pittsburgh series, then entertain the Dodgers when they return home.

  • Sorta figured this was happening after yesterday: The Pirates have placed Mike McKenry on the 15-day DL with a left knee sprain. The team will recall Alex Presley from AAA (we're kinda taken aback that it wasn't Andrew Lambo, other than he's not on the 40-man roster), so Tony Sanchez will catch tomorrow at some point and Presley will take Travis Snider's spot.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes "With Jason Grilli injured, the Pirates are searching for a bullpen arm. They’ve also been looking for a right fielder. Rios and Pence remain of interest. It will be interesting to see whether David DeJesus, playing regularly for the Cubs after being out for more than a month, gets some play from the Pirates and other teams." 
  • Francisco Liriano is trying to become first Pirate to win 11 of his first 15 starts in a season since Dock Ellis in 1971. 
  • McKenry and Russ Martin have been the only two catchers the Pirates have used this year and are one of just three, along with Rod Barajas, to see action since last year. The only other team in MLB to use just three different catchers since the beginning of last year is Houston. Remember when they ran through eight guys in 2011?
  • Gaby Sanchez talked about the college rivalry he and ex-teammate Randy Choate, now a Card reliever, shared in the Marlin locker room. Gaby played ball at Miami and Choate at Florida State. 
  • Ronny Cedeno was released by the Astros and is a FA. 
  • Alex Dickerson went 12-for-30 with four doubles, two homers and 13 RBI this week at Altoona, and for the second time in three weeks was named the Eastern League Player of the Week.
  • SS Alen Hansen was promoted to AA Altoona. 
  • Another blah start from Luis Heredia. He went 4-2/3 frmaes for WV, giving up three runs on four hits with three walks and four K.

July 29: Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson Deals, Big Games & More...

Cutty, The Flying Dutchman, Rowdy Finishes, Frank Gustine, Mike Williams, Gene Clines, Brian Giles, Sanchez/Wilson Deals...

  • 1886 - 2B George Cutshaw was born in Wilmington, Illinois. He came to the Bucs in exchange for Burleigh Grimes, and manned second base for four seasons (1918-21). Cutty hit .275 as a Pirate. His best year was his last, when he hit .340. But he was injured in August, and at 35-years old, Pittsburgh sold him to Detroit, where he spent the last two years of his career.
  • 1915 - Honus Wagner hit a grand slam in the eighth inning off Brooklyn Dodger Ed Pfeffer (It was “a dandy drive” per the Pittsburg Press) during Pittsburgh’s 8-2 victory at Forbes Field. The inside-the-park round tripper made the 41-year old infielder the second oldest player ever to hit a homer with the bases full, after 42-year old Cap Anson set the mark in 1894. (Cap's record that stood until 1985 when 44-year old Tony Perez of the Reds claimed it.) Erving Kantlehner scattered nine hits while going the distance for the win, helped by an unassisted DP when RF Bill Hinchman snared a line drive on the gallop and continued on to first base to double up Pfeffer. 
  • 1940 - The Bucs scored six times in their final at-bat, with the lead run thrown out at the plate as Frank Gustine tried to score from first on Vince DiMaggio’s single. It wasn’t enough; the Dodgers pushed across a two-out run in the bottom half as the Pirates went down 7-6 at Ebbets Field. The game was marked by a ninth inning brawl started when Brooklyn C Babe Phelps spiked P Mace Brown at a play at first. Manager Frankie Frisch was fined $100 and ejected, and three of his players were hit with $25 fines. 
  • 1947 - Frank Gustine went 4-for-5 against the Boston Braves to lead Pittsburgh to a 6-5 win at Forbes Field. It ran his hitting streak to 21 games before it was snapped the next day. 
  • 1968 - RHP Mike Williams was born in Radford, Virginia. In six seasons (1998-2003), he went 15-23 and saved 140 games for Pittsburgh with a 3.78 ERA. His mark of 46 saves in 2002 is still a team standard, but fame is fleeting - he was out of baseball after 2003. 
  • 1971 - Gene Clines was the hero of the Bucs 8-5 win over Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. His three run homer was the big blow in a six-run sixth inning, and the CF went 4-for-4 with four RBI and a pair of runs. Bob Robertson and Willie Stargell also went yard in the win that was cemented by 5-2/3 scoreless frames tossed by the bullpen. 
  • 2000 - Brain Giles went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles while Warren Morris and Emil Brown homered as the Bucs ran up a 10-2 count against the San Diego Padres at TRS. Francisco Cordova got the win as three Buc pitchers scattered six hits in front of a Saturday night crowd of 30,118. 
  • 2009 - 2B Freddy Sanchez was traded to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Tim Alderson. The Bucs also traded RHP Ian Snell and SS Jack Wilson to the Mariners for RHP Aaron Pribanic, RHP Brett Lorin, 1B Nathan Adcock, SS Ronny Cedeno and 1B Jeff Clement.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stanton Homer Carries Marlins To 3-2 Win

The Fish have a nice crowd on hand, filling the lower bowl, to watch two pups with 95 MPH+ heat, Gerrit Cole and Jose Fernandez, get it on. Too bad it's all little leaguers, but hey, gotta get that younger generation hooked, right?

Fernandez opened with nothing but gas, touching 99, and blew three past Starling Marte followed by a pair of soft grounders. Cole got a pair of routine outs, then Giancarlo Stanton roped a double to left that kissed the chalkline, pulling a heater inside that ran back over the plate a bit. No prob; Cole spun a backfoot slider to punch out Logan Morrison.

It didn't take the Bucs long to figure out what Fernadez was tossing. Pedro hit a first pitch single to open the second and scored when Russ Martin banged a first pitch double to the wall in left center. He stole third as Garrett Jones K'ed; the third baseman was almost in left field, and though the throw was in time, Ed Lucas wasn't. Gaby rolled out with the infield in, but Clint Barmes softly stroked a first pitch knock to center to make it 2-0. We're a little surprised he saw a strike; Mercer was intentionally walked twice last night when there was a two out chance. Cole worked a quiet frame; his fastball/slider combo is sharp at the outset.

The Marlin pitcher adjusted in the third frame, mixing in plenty of off speed in the second go-around of the Buc order. It cost him a few more pitches, as he went 3-2 twice, but worked, as he struck out the side. Cole kept cruising; he's thrown just 31 pitches, and 25 have been strikes. The Bucs picked up a two out single from Jones in the fourth, but it was sandwiched between a pair of whiffs.

Cole lost the strike zone in the Fish half. After a K, he lost Stanton on borderline, full count call. Lo Mo rolled a single through the right side, followed by a Baltimore chop inside first by Ed Lucas; Gaby was playing well off the line. Both hitters bounced sliders the opposite way after getting ahead in the count. A sac fly, the thing Pirates don't use, by Donovan Solano knotted the score. It was medium depth, but Marte's throw was well off line and cut, making it a new ball game.

Fernandez has been untouchable since he started mixing it up; he struck out the side in the fifth and has tied his career high of 10 whiffs. Cole got back on the bike and put away Miami on six pitches; he's tied his career high with five punchouts, a more modest mark than Jose's but still a step in the right direction.

The Bucs went down in order in the sixth and Fernandez had his strikeout record at 12 and counting. Cole made a mistake to Stanton; Cole's first pitch heater was up and over the inside half and was lined into the fish tank thingie in center to make it 3-2. Gerrit also set his K record with a pair of strikeouts; he's at seven. Martin opened the seventh with a liner to left; a K and 4-6-3 DP cleaned that up; Fernandez is only at 90 pitches, and flummoxed the Bucs this inning by going soft on them. Cole had an easy time of the bottom of the Fish order.

The Bucs went down quietly in the eighth; Marte caught a pitch on the hand during a check swing. He stayed on, and hopefully it won't blow up on him tomorrow. Cole was done after seven. He gave up three runs on four hits with two walks and eight K as he continues to grow into a MLB pitcher. Vin Mazzaro took the ball and tossed a clean frame. As is the norm nowadays, closer Steve Cishek was called on to finish up against the Bucs 2-3-4 hitters. Like Friday night, he made it exciting. Walker singled with an out, and Martin drew a walk with two down. But Jones rolled out to second, and Miami had the win in the books.

The pitching was pretty good both ways, and the Bucs caught the Fish in a hot spell; they've won 5-of-7 and recently took 2-of-3 from the Cards. A five and five road trip is OK, but not the jump out of the gate the club hoped for.

Still, what better way to end the month than with a showdown series against the Cards? It's a throwback set like in the sixties, with five games including a doubleheader. It may not be a weekender, but we'd expect PNC Park to rock on. Francisco Liriano and Jake Westbrook will kick it off tomorrow. And maybe sometime during the set, a bat or two will join the club. Or not; we'll know in 72 hours.

  • Gerrit Cole hasn't surrendered more than three runs in any start yet this year, and has gone seven innings three consecutive outings.
  • The Pirates have added Tony Sanchez to active roster. But he didn't replace The Fort; Travis Snider went to the 15 day DL with discomfort in left big toe. Guess that's better than forearm discomfort.
  • There's no better example of teams with differing development theories than Pittsburgh and Miami; half the Fish lineup would be in High A or maybe AA now rather than the show if they were prospects the Pirate organization.
  • On his radio show, GM Neal Huntington sounded as if the Bucs would call up a minor league starter for the second game of Tuesday's twin bill rather than use Jeanmar Gomez or Vin Mazzaro. That makes perfect baseball sense, as it should keep the pen intact for the longer haul. Candidates he mentioned for the nitecap start were Brandon Cumpton and Stolmy Pimentel.
  • Matt Sullivan of the Daily Dish believes the current wild card setup will switch the emphasis from deals being made at the July 31st non-waiver deadline to August trades, when the players have to clear waivers before being dealt. So stay tuned...

Cole v Fernandez In Rubber Match

Some hot young arms will be on display this afternoon as Gerrit Cole (5-3, 3.51) takes on Jose Fernandez (6-5, 2.74). Cole, 22, and Fernandez, 20 and already an All Star, are the leading lights of the pitching heavy 2011 draft, with Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy also seeing some limited MLB time. They were strong in their last outings, and while both downplay facing off against one another, you can bet some alpha dog vibes will be emanating from Miami.

The game starts at 1:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte CF, Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Russell Martin C, Garrett Jones RF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Clint Barmes SS and Gerrit Cole P.

Martin and JT are back in the lineup; Cutch and Mercer get a blow before the Card series.

Marlin lineup: Adeiny Hechavarria SS, Christian Yelich LF, Giancarlo Stanton RF, Logan Morrison 1B, Ed Lucas 3B, Donovan Solano 2B, Jake Marisnick CF, Jeff Mathis C and Jose Fernandez P.

  • Gerrit Cole has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his eight career starts. The last Pirates pitcher to allow three runs or fewer in each of his first eight career starts was Whammy Douglas in 1957. 
  • The Fort collected a career high four hits last night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over the last four seasons the only other time a Pirates catcher with a four-hit game was when Ryan Doumit went 4-for-4 with a home run against the Cardinals at PNC Park on August 15th, 2011.
  • Tony Sanchez is with the team, but we're unsure if The Fort (or Russ Martin, who is in the lineup) is hurt or if Tony is just a taxi squad call-up for bench insurance purposes. The Bucs have a 24 hour window to activate or return Sanchez.
  • The Pirates have now gone 35 games without a sac fly. The longest streak since 1955 is 49 games.
  • Wandy Rodriguez went back-to-back days playing long toss, with today off. The Bucs will evaluate him Monday and come up with a rehab plan, though unsure if and when he'll start working off a mound.

7/28 - Giles Walk-Off Slam Against Billy Wagner & More...

Tony Piet, Luke Walker, A-Ram, Wil Cordero, Giles Slam, Jeff Suppan, Ollie Perez, Stayin' Alive...

  • 1932 - Pittsburgh swept a twin bill from the NY Giants‚ winning 10-7 and 9-1. Earl Grace had three hits and three RBI during the lidlifter to pace the Pirate attack. In the nitecap, Tony Piet smacked a grand slam and three-run homer to go along with two more hits for a seven RBI, three run day to plow the road for Heinie Meine. 
  • 1968 - Al McBean had one of those do-no-wrong Sundays. He gave up 13 hits to the Cards at Forbes Field, but still went the distance for a 7-1 win. The big blow? McBean’s grand slam in the fifth off Larry Jaster, coming with two down after Milt May was walked to get to Alvin. Donn Clendenon added a two run blast to the cause.
  • 1971 - Luke Walker spun a four hit, complete game whitewash at Los Angeles in a 4-0 win at Dodger Stadium. Bob Robertson homered and had a sac fly to bring home two runs. 
  • 2000 - Aramis Ramirez drove in six runs with a pair of homers, Emil Brown went long and plated four more runners while John Vander Wal also went yard in a 16-5 romp over the San Diego Padres at TRS. A-Ram, Jason Kendall, Kevin Young and Vander Wal scored three times apiece. 
  • 2000 - The Bucs sent OF Wil Cordero to the Indians for IF Enrique Wilson and OF prospect Alex Ramirez. Cordero played respectably through 2003, while Wilson was traded again in 2001 and Ramirez began a long career as a slugger in Japan after the 2000 season. 
  • 2001 - Pittsburgh became only the second team in NL history (the Cubs were the first in 1952) to win a game by scoring seven runs with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning. Brian Giles capped the scoring with a walk-off grand slam off Astros ace Billy Wagner to win the game 9-8. Pat Meares had hit a two-run shot earlier in the frame as seven straight Bucs reached base. The game was the opener of the first home day-night doubleheader in franchise history before a crowd of 32,977 at PNC Park. There was no drama in the nightcap as Houston rolled 12-3. 
  • 2003 - Jeff Suppan won his sixth consecutive start with a 3-0 decision over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, scattering seven hits. He was backed by Reggie Sanders’ homer and three hits from Randall Simon. Suppan was flipped to the Red Sox three days later as part of a deal for Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez. 
  • 2004 - In one of their more frustrating losses, the Bucs collected 11 hits but were shut out by the Braves 1-0 at PNC Park. Ollie Perez threw a five hitter with 10 K, but Chipper Jones’ fourth inning homer stood. John Smoltz came out of the bullpen to save the game for Russ Ortiz. 
  • 2012 - The Pirates won for the ninth time in 11 games, taking a 4-3 decision from the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Alex Presley and Neil Walker had solo shots, and Rod Barajas singled in Andrew McCutchen with the game winner with two out in the eighth. They remained two games back in the NL Central race.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bucs Jump Out Early On Way To 7-4 Win

Holy Moly! Starling Marte and Neil Walker opened against Tom Koehler by banging doubles up the left field line to give the Bucs a quick 1-0 lead. A Cutch bouncer moved The Kid to third, and a Pedro K left him there. But Garrett Jones picked up the load, stroking a curve the opposite way for a soft pop fly double. And they weren't done; with two strikes, Mike McKenry pulled a slider through the left side for another run. Travis Snider K'ed but the Bucs were 3-for-5 with RISP; where was that killer instinct yesterday?

With an out, Christian Yelich banged a ball up the middle. Morton came back to K Giancarlo Stanton on a hook before plunking Logan Morrison with a pitch. That hurt in a couple of ways as Donovan Solano singled to right to make it 3-1 before Ground Chuck got the last out.

After looking at two fastballs down the middle, Mercer offered at a pitch off the plate and rolled it to second to open the second. Charlie lined out to first and Marte bounced out as Koehler recovered quickly. Morton tossed a lot of pitches, especially for the bottom of the order, but worked a clean frame.

Walker opened the third by ripping a fastball up the middle, followed by a Cutch single to put Bucs at first and second. Pedro bounced into a force to put Pirates on the corners. Jones followed with a right side seeing eye knock to score Walker and move Pedro to second. El Toro came around when The Fort banged a single through the right side. Snider was out on a tapper in front of the plate, moving up the runners and setting up Mercer for an intentional walk. Morton tried; his fly to medium right center wasn't much of a threat, though. 5-1 is a pretty good start.

With an out, Morton fed an 0-2 hook down the middle to Yelich, who sent it into center. Cutch didn't come up with the knock cleanly, and the Marlin made it into second on the boot. Stanton doubled in a run, then Morrison blooped a single to left, scoring Giancarlo and moved to second when Marte threw the ball to the screen. The Bucs aren't exactly putting on an OF clinic this inning. After another out, Placido Polanco rolled one into right, and it's 5-4. Jake Marisnick hit an infield single to the left side before Rob Brantly whiffed. Lotta curves and four seamers from Charlie; maybe The Fort should waggle for a few more sinking two seamers.

Cutch drew a two out walk in the fourth, but Koehler punched out Pedro, who's seen two fastballs in three at-bats. Morton worked a clean frame, using 12 pitches to get a pair of K. After Jones whiffed on a high heater to start the fifth, Mike McKenry collected his third hit, doubling high off the wall in center. Snider bounced out, Mercer was walked intentionally again, and Morton K'ed to end that threat. Stanton started the Fish off with a single to center, and Lo Mo followed with another knock up the middle off Mercer's mitt. Solano eased the pressure by banging into a first pitch 6-3 DP, with Mercer perfectly stationed. Morton went up 0-2 on Polanco, and then tossed a pair of balls a mile off the plate; The Fort had to be nimble to snag them. But he did return to the strike zone and whiffed Polanco.

Ryan Webb took the bump in the sixth, and Marte greeted him with a single to center off SS Hechavarria's leather. On an 0-2 count to Walker, Webb hung a slider down the middle and The Kid roped it into right to plate Marte, who was going on the pitch, with a double. Cutch popped out foul into short right on a nice running grab by Morrison; Walker tagged to third. Pedro whiffed for the third time; maybe it's time to rethink this cleanup thing. Jones whiffed too, watching a pair of heaters down the middle and then swinging through a low and tight slider. After a 5-for-8 start in RISP, the Bucs are back to their more likely 0-for-7 effort.

Morton was done. He went five, giving up four runs (three earned) on nine hits with six K, tossing 82 pitches. Justin Wilson got the ball, and Gaby came on, too, in a two-fer switch. Wilson worked a quiet frame, with a whiff and pair of pop outs.

Lefty Dan Jennings came on for the Fish, and McKenry collected his fourth knock to open the seventh. JT pinch hit and flew out to right. Mercer hit into a force; The Fort, who went hard into second, came up limping and was taken to the locker room; he may have jammed his knee on the bag. Gaby came up and stroked a liner into the SS hole, but Hechavarria made a sweet diving catch to end the inning. The Fort returned to action, and after a pair of routine outs, Wilson walked Stanton on four pitches, then Morrison softly rolled a single the opposite way into left. That brought out Clint Hurdle, who tapped the right arm for Bryan Morris. He got Solano to bounce the first pitch to short for the 6-4 force and put the inning to bed.

Jennings got by lefty-mashers Mercer, Sanchez and Marte, but with two outs, couldn't sneak past Cutch, who tripled into the LF corner as the ball briefly rolled between Yelich's legs. The out he should have been able to get he couldn't; Pedro fought off an inside offering and dropped a bloop into center to score McCutchen and make it 7-4. Morris stayed on for the eighth, with Tony Watson getting loose in the pen. With an out, Wilson lost Marisnick on four pitches. JT made a nice sliding grab of Brantly's soft liner, and with LH Greg Dobbs announced, Hurdle called in Watson. Tony sat Dobbs down as he swung through some high heat.

AJ Ramos tossed a quiet ninth. JT spanked one up the middle, but a timely hop allowed a sliding Hechavarria to glove it and save the hit. McKenry was limping noticeably after his ground out - he didn't even run it out - but put the tools back on to save Russ Martin for tomorrow (although Martin was sitting in the dugout with his pads on, ready to go; catchers are a different breed.) Mark Melancon took the hill for the finish. It wasn't pretty, but he tucked Miami away. He fell behind every batter in the frame, losing Hechavarria to open. A nine pitch battle with Yelich ended with a 4-6-3 DP. Stanton kept them alive with a chop to third for an infield knock, and Morrison got ahead 2-0 in the count before bouncing out to Gaby. It took 21 pitches, but Mark the Shark did his bit, saving the game for Charlie Morton's third win.

Today was a bit of a setback for Morton, but like AJ, he could use a little more D behind him. We talk about pitchers regressing down and hitters regressing up, but if the fielding regresses to the norm, the Bucs will be losing their most dependable weapon.

Gerrit Cole goes against Marlin ace Jose Fernandez tomorrow afternoon before coming home for the biggest series in years, a five game set against the Cards. They lost today, so the gap currently sits at 1-1/2 games.

  • This was Mike McKenry's first MLB four-hit game. Neil Walker had three knocks, with a pair of deep flies to go with them. The Fort, The Kid and Garrett Jones each had two RBI. The Bucs finished * praise the Lord * 6-for-17 with RISP (1-for-9 in the last six frames after a sizzling start).
  •  Jordy Mercer's hitting streak ended at 11 games tonight; he was twice walked intentionally
  • The Fish FO gave Gaby a box suite last night for the ex-Marlin's friends and family on his return to Miami in a Pirate uniform.
  • Clint Hurdle announced that AJ will work the first game of Tuesday's DH against St. Louis; he was coy about the nitecap. We speculate that Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro are the possibilities for the second contest; that kinda shortens up the bullpen for a spell. The Cardinals will open with Tyler Lyons and follow with Lance Lynn.

Morton v Koehler

Charlie Morton (2-2, 3.35) takes on Tom Koehler (2-5, 4.38) today. Ground Chuck has gotten into the seventh his past pair of starts. He's shown flashes of the 2011 model and is getting a little stronger each outing, though the whole package hasn't arrived yet. Koehler made his debut on May 12th, and is in the rotation as the traded Ricky Nolasco's replacement. In the last month, he's put up a 2.74 ERA after a rough start to his career, and in his last outing at Coors Field gave up just a run, striking out seven without a walk.

The game starts at 7:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Garrett Jones 1B, Mike McKenry C, Travis Snider RF, Jordy Mercer SS and Charlie Morton P.

JT with a bruised arm and Russ Martin with a cranky knee are both out today.

Marlin lineup: Adeiny Hechavarria SS, Christian Yelich LF, Giancarlo Stanton RF, Logan Morrison 1B, Donovan Solano 2B, Placido Polanco 3B, Jake Marisnick CF, Rob Brantly C and Tom Koehler P.

  • Maimi's record may be poor, but games against the Marlins are a grind, especially for teams like Pittsburgh that are without a steady offense. Fish starting pitchers have allowed three runs or fewer in 30 of their last 34 outings, and the team ERA is 3.19, so they can keep games tight.
  • The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds have the best records in NL. The last time the the best records in the NL came from same division was the 1987 NL East (Cards - 95 wins, Mets -92 and Expos - 91).
  • Jonathan Mayo of  has the updated Top Twenty Prospects Watch, with Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire slotted.

7/27 - The Good Ol' Boys, Big Red, Larry McWilliams, Tony Womack, Star War Ball, Play of the Decade...

The Good Ol' Boys, Big Red, Larry McWilliams, Tony Womack, Star War Ball, Play of the Decade...

  • 1908 - Honus Wagner and Chief Wilson led the Bucs to a 4-3 win over the NY Giants and Christy Mathewson at the Polo Grounds. The Flying Dutchman had a pair of doubles good for two runs and an RBI while Wilson had two knocks including a triple, scored once and drove in a pair. Nick Maddox got the win while Irv Young came on the get the last out in the ninth. 
  • 1927 - Vic Aldridge tossed a five hitter and the Bucs scored twice in the eighth to beat Dazzy Vance and the Brooklyn Robins 2-1 at Forbes Field to take over undisputed possession of first place. Kiki Cuyler’s single scored Paul Waner, who had three hits on the day, and George Grantham for the win. 
  • 1932 - Bill Harris notched a pair of wins in a twin bill against the Giants at the Polo Grounds‚ tossing three innings in the opening 9-8 win followed by two perfect frames in a 4-2 nitecap victory. In the first game, Lloyd Waner had four knocks while Arky Vaughan and Tony Piet homered. The Pirates scored three in the ninth to take the second match with C Earl Grace knocking home two of his three RBI and Harris singling in another. The Pirates increased their NL lead over the Cubs to five games, but would finish the season four games behind Chicago in the pennant race. 
  • 1961 - Giants’ Manager Alvin Dark said before the game that "Juan Marichal will go all the way" and kept his bullpen in the dugout to emphasis the point. And he was right. Marichal threw a complete game, five hit shutout at Forbes Field, winning 2-0 over Vinegar Bend Mizell. 
  • 1979 - Bob Robertson homered and had four RBI while Phil Garner went 3-for-4 in the Bucs 9-1 win over the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium. Bert Blyleven went the distance, scattering five hits and striking out nine. 
  • 1982 - Larry McWilliams tossed a three hitter and struck out 11 in complete game shutout win over Philadelphia, 4-0, at TRS. Jason Thompson brought home a pair and Bill Madlock homered to provide the cushion against the Phils. 
  • 1998 - 2B Tony Womack set a record of 888 consecutive at bats without grounding into a double play in an 8-7, 13 inning loss to the Rox at Coors Field. The previous record had been held by Brooklyn's Pete Reiser, set in the mid-forties. Tony eventually went 219 straight games and 915 at-bats without hitting into a double-play. Jose Guillen had four hits and a homer and Kevin Young also went long with three RBI in the defeat. 
  • 1999 - In one of baseball’s weirder promotions, the Pirates defeated the Mets‚ 5-1‚ in the first of MLB's "Turn Ahead the Clock Nights," sponsored by Century 21 Real Estate. Each team wore futuristic uniforms (the Bucs had red jerseys with yellow sleeves and a giant Bucco head logo)‚ with the hometown squad becoming the "Mercury Mets" for the night. The pre-game intro was “Greetings, earthlings. Welcome to Shea Station 4C. Blastoff time is 7:40.” The theme was carried on throughout the evening‚ with the scoreboard flashing computerized graphics of the players of the future as each came to the plate. Rickey Henderson‚ for example‚ was given three eyes and pointy ears‚ and played "left quadrant." Al Martin hit the first of his two HRs in the first "sector‚" and rookie Kris Benson went the distance for the win. 
  • 2009 - In an otherwise unremarkable 4-2 loss to Tim Lincecum at AT&T Park, Delwyn Young added a little spice to the show. Randy Winn’s bloop into right went off right fielder Garrett Jones’ mitt, then off his knee, and he kicked it into the air with his foot for good measure. Young, playing second, dove after the cowhide hacky-sack and made a lunging barehanded grab. Alas, the ump blew the call and gave Winn a hit, which was pretty much how the Pirates’ luck ran back then. Nevertheless, Tribune Review writer Joe Starkey called the catch the “Best play of the decade.”

Friday, July 26, 2013

Buc Bats Quiet In 2-0 Loss

Hnederson Alvarez tossed a 1-2-3 frame to open the game. Jeff Locke wasn't quite as sharp, giving up a one out knock to Christian Yalich and walking Giancarlo Stanton, but got away OK. Pedro walked to start the second, but went no further. A two out walk to Jeff Mathis almost cost Locke when his mound opponent cracked a double that went to the wall in left, but Starling Marte-to-Neil Walker-to-Russ Martin erased Mathis at home to keep it scoreless.

Jordy Mercer singled to start the third; an out later, he was taken out on a 4-6-3 Marte DP. With two down for the Fish, Stanton singled off Mercer's glove, but was stranded. The Bucs zeroed in a little better in the fourth, but just ended up with some loud at 'em outs for their efforts. Logan Morrison opened with yet another walk, and with two down, Mathis rolled a single through the left side as the Marlins left another pair aboard. Despite four hits and three walks, Locke has put up four zeroes; maybe the seven K have something to do with that.

Martin started the fifth by looking at three strikes, never even twitching the bat. Jones continued the Bucco roll of lining out, smoking one to RF Stanton before Gaby K'ed looking. Sheesh! Alvarez had 11 K in 24+ IP before tonight; he has five in five frames now. Adeiny Hechavarria got the frame rolling by singling through the left side. Locke made quick work off him, catching him on the move and picking Hechavarria off 1-3-6. With two down, he lost Stanton on four pitches, maybe as a work around, before ending the frame. Still, nine baserunners is tempting fate mightily.

Alvarez coaxed another long out to start the sixth, a Mercer fly just short of the track in center. After a Locke tapper, Marte dropped a bunt for a base hit and stole second, but The Kid rolled over on a fastball down and away to bounce to second and end the frame. With one down, Donovan Solano walked and Jake Marisnick singled up the middle, his first MLB hit. Mathis walked on five pitches to load the bases for Alvarez, who was pinch hit for by Placido Polanco. His swinging bunt to third was wisely eaten by Pedro to plate the game's first run. The baseball gods evened up as Hechavarria's liner was drilled right at Gaby, and a force ended the inning. Locke was lucky; he needed to do a better job challenging the bottom of the order. 

AJ Ramos took the hill; guess the bright spot is that Alvarez took a seat. Maybe not; Ramos blew a heater past Cutch for an opening K in the seventh, and Pedro swung through three straight changes. Martin looked at a slider, and the Bucs were whiffed in order. Locke fell behind Stanton 3-1, came in with an 89 MPH heater, and Giancarlo rocketed the ball into the left center seats to make it 2-0. After a pair of strikeouts, Locke was pulled; Martin left, too, in a two-fer since he made the last out. Locke struggled through 6-2/3 IP, giving up two runs on eight hits with six walks and nine whiffs, tossing 108 pitches. Jeanmar Gomez came on to get the last out. Clint wanted to wring one more frame out of Locke and couldn't quite get it.

Lefty Mike Dunn was on the bump for the eighth. Josh Harrison, who had the hot stick yesterday, pinch hit for Garrett Jones and bounced out. Gaby fought Dunn in an 11 pitch at-bat, winning the battle as he dropped a broken bat double to left. That brought on Chad Qualls to face Jordy Mercer, who Hurdle flipped for Travis Snider. Snider went after the first pitch and rolled it to second, as Gaby went to third. The Fort whiffed. Harrison went to short and Snider to right. Gomez did his part, getting three grounders.

Steve Cishek took the ball, looking for the save against the top of the order. Fater a pair of swinging strikeouts, Cutch banged a two strike single up the middle to bring up Pedro, who also singled to put Bucs on the corners. JT grabbed a stick, and the rally ended with a grounder to second.

Well, the Bucs were due to get shutout; it's been six weeks since they've been goose-egged. Henderson Alvarez filled up the strike zone; the Bucs helped by being pacifists at the dish and falling into pitchers counts, taking 17 called strikes in his six innings. Locke labored with his command, but kept it together enough to only give up a pair. He wasn't hit hard, as most of the Marlin knocks were ground balls. Walking the six and eight hitters cost him a run, as did falling behind Stanton 3-1. But the issue isn't with the pitching; it's with the sticks. The FO has five days to make a move, and we'll see what that time has in store.

Charlie Morton takes on Tom Koehler tomorrow night.

  • Russ Martin "tweaked" his knee; that's why he was removed, not because of a two-fer deal, as we speculated in the game story. He's iffy for tomorrow.
  • Jordy Mercer has an 11 game hitting streak, the longest active streak in MLB. 
  • Jeff Locke had a career high nine K tonight.
  • Starling Marte became the second Pirate to steal 30 or more bases in a season since Cutch swiped 33 in 2010. Before that, it was Tony Womack with 58 way back in 1998.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN on Buc rumors: "The Pirates might not be as focused on Alex Rios as they've been portrayed. Rios' contract doesn't fit into their projected payroll. And Pirates scouts have grumbled that Rios doesn't always play hard. Here's a name to file away: Justin Morneau. The Pirates would prefer a right-handed bat who could play right field, (but) they could slide Garrett Jones back to right. And we've heard they've inquired with the Twins about Morneau."
  • JT can't grip or throw a ball yet after being plunked on Wednesday. The Pirates hope to have him back after the weekend.
  • Tom Veducci of Sports Illustrated likes the way Clint Hurdle protects his bullpen.
  • Alex Dickerson of Altoona had a homer, two doubles and a career-high eight RBIs, which ties the franchise record set by Alex Presley in 2010.

Locke v Alvarez; Grilli w/Flexor Strain, Out 4-8 Weeks

Jeff Locke (9-2, 2.11) opens the set against Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 3.28) . Locke looked strong against the Reds last time out after missing a start due to back tightness. The lefty has been charged with three earned runs or less in each of his last 16 starts and his 2.11 ERA ranks second overall in the NL behind Clayton Kershaw (2.01). Jeff, btw, made his big league debut against the Fish and Anibal Sanchez at PNC Park on September 10th, 2011, losing 3-0.

Alvarez, a righty, has also been strong, though he didn't debut until July 4th, missing the first half of the season with shoulder inflammation. Last year with Toronto he was a pitch-to-contact sinkerball guy that gave up 29 HR. But he threw seven scoreless against the Brewers in his last outing, so when he keeps the ball down, he's effective.

The game starts at 7:10, and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

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

Maybe JT's arm is still black and blue, as Jones is back in the pasture.

Marlin lineup: Adeiny Hechavarria SS, Christian Yelich LF, Giancarlo Stanton RF, Ed Lucas 3B, Logan
Morrison 1B, Donovan Solano 2B, Jake Marisnick CF, Jeff Mathis C and Henderson Alvarez P.

  • RHP Jason Grilli was seen by team doctors and Dr. James Andrews, and was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his right arm. He's is not a surgical candidate but will need a period of rest before beginning a throwing program, with an estimated recovery time of 4-8 weeks. Grilli will be reevaluated in 1-14 days.
  • Last night, Vic Black joined Gerrit Cole, Brandon Cumpton, Ryan Reid, Duke Welker and Phil Irwin as Bucco pitchers who made their MLB debut this season.
  • This is the first meeting of the season between the Marlins and Bucs. 
  • Joel Sherman of the NY Post tweeted that the Pirates and Rangers keep checking in on the availability of Giancarlo Stanton, but Jeff Loria won't let him go. Tom Smith of Marlins Maniac posts that the Fish are listening, but have a sky-high price tag that probably only the Pirates, Mariners, and Rangers might be deep enough in prospects to meet.  
  • Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reports that the Bucs had people observing Brian Wilson's audition, along with reps from the Diamondbacks, A's, Giants, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies and Cardinals.
  • LHP Ted Lilly and OF Chis Dickerson have been DFA'ed; wonder if the Bucs have any interest in either?
  • RHP Stolmy Pimentel went six innings for Indy last night, giving up a run on six hits with three K, losing a 1-0 decision as the Tribe was no-hit.  
  • Speaking of no-nos, Altoona served up a zippo by committee: Ethan Hollingsworth (4 IP), Jason Townsend (3 IP), Jhonathan Ramos (1 IP), and Ryan Beckman (1 IP) combined for a Curve no hitter. They beat the New Hampshire Cats 5-0, with Hollingworth's HBP and Townsend's walk all that stood between the gang and perfection.
  • Pirates minor league RHP Delvin Hiciano (DSL) received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for the steroid Stanozolol, commonly sold under the brand name Winstrol.

July 26 - Waner Bros, Nady/Marte Trade, Jerry Meals, Marte Debuts

July 26 - Big & Little Poison, Nady/Marte Trade, Jerry Meals, Starling Marte Debuts and More...

  • 1889 - The Alleghenys defeated the Cleveland Spiders 8-4 at Recreation Park despite giving up a two-run infield homer to Jay Faatz, whose grounder to 3B Jim White bounced off his foot and went into the “free seats” - temporary stands - and couldn’t be dug out in time to stop Faatz from circling the bases. Fred Carroll, Ned Hanlon and Doggie Miller each had three knocks, spearheading a 16 hit Buc attack that gave Harry Staley the win. Miller homered over the left field wall, and the Pittsburg Press wrote “The crowd went wild as little George trotted over the circuit and lifted his cap at the plate. An enthusiast threw a silver dollar at him, which (Miller) accepted with a smile.” 
  • 1927 - The Pirates pushed across two runs in the bottom of the eighth to edge the Brooklyn Dodgers 6-5 at Forbes Field to remain tied with the Cubs for the NL lead. They were almost derailed by a former mate, Max Carey, who had three hits, three runs, and three stolen bases. But the Waner brothers came through in the clutch. Lloyd had three hits and scored twice, both times driven home by Paul. Little Poison took over the league lead in hits with 82 while Lee Meadows went the distance for the win. 
  • 1928 - NY Giant future Hall of Famer Carl “King” Hubbell made his MLB debut against the Pirates at the Polo Grounds. He pitched a scoreless first inning‚ but the Bucs scored five times in the second to knock him out of the game, winning 7-5 behind Burleigh Grimes. Paul Waner had three hits and two RBI to lead a balanced Bucco attack. 
  • 1950 - Ray Mueller went 2-for-2 with two walks, a homer, two runs and two RBI, Wally Westlake hit a home run and Bob Dillinger collected three hits as the Bucs beat Boston 8-4 at Braves Field. Mel Queen got the win and Murry Dickson tossed the final three frames for the save. 
  • 2008 - OF Xavier Nady and RHP Damaso Marte were traded to the New York Yankees for RHPs Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen & Ross Ohlendorf along with OF Jose Tabata. 
  • 2011 - The day of the Jerry Meals game in Atlanta, heralding the end of the Bucco's improbable pennant run. The ump blew a call at home in the 19th inning, giving the Braves a 4-3 win and starting a downward spiral of epic proportions for Pittsburgh. At 6 hours and 39 minutes, it was the longest game in club history. The Pirates filed a protest (at 2:30 in the morning) but the judgment call was upheld, even though the League Office admitted it was wrong. And to add some salt to the wound, Meals was born in Butler!
  • 2012 - Starling Marte homered to left center against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel on the first MLB pitch he saw. Pittsburgh won 5-3 at Minute Maid Park as AJ Burnett took home the victory.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bucs Fall Behind, Rally, Lose 9-7

OK, too much stuff for a play-by-play; a few bullets will suffice:

  • The Bucs fell behind 4-0 in the first by committing three errors and giving up three unearned runs as a result. Clint Barmes and Pedro couldn't play catch during a rundown, a Gaby toss behind the runner in second was airmailed into left center, and Jordy Mercer booted a grounder. Ouch.
  • The Pirates had two runners on in each of the first four innings; they scored once on an AJ RBI. But in the sixth, a Josh Harrison homer made it 4-3 after AJ worked out of a bases-loaded, no out jam with a pair of whiffs. He had another STFD moment when he quite visibly reacted on the hill after the bullpen got up that inning; Clint had a nice, one-sided chat with him between innings regarding that demonstration.
  • Remarkably, it stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth, with the Nat's Steve Lombardozzi playing like the reincarnation of Billy Maz by starting a pair of web gem DPs to bail the Nats out. Vin Mazzaro gave up an RBI double to Lombardozzi that frame, and with two out and two out, Adam LaRoche's triple that a charging Travis Snider couldn't corral, letting it roll to the wall brought in a pair to make it 7-3.
  • Washington struck out the Bucco side in the ninth. But in between, a Mercer double and Russ Martin single made it 7-5, and a two out, two strike knock by Harrison tied it.
  • Clint Hurdle, who said Mark the Shark was on ice tonight - giving him a shakedown cruise in the comfortable win Tuesday doesn't seem quite so bright an idea today - brought in Bryan Morris, who gave up a two run, two out long ball to Bryce Harper, his first MLB walk-off homer, and the rally went for naught as the Nationals outlasted the Bucs 9-7. In the end, Washington made the plays and hit the ball when it counted a lot better than Pittsburgh, which treated opportunity like a hobo on the corner.
  • The umpiring was comical, both behind the dish and on the field. Both managers were tossed.
  • You might say seven runs is a nice offensive output; we would respond that a 3-for-18 performance with RISP says otherwise. The middle of the order - Cutch, Martin, and Pedro -  left 12 runners on. Jordy Mercer, just ahead of them in the two hole, and Gaby, behind them in the six spot, each had three hits, with Mercer extending his hitting streak to 10 games and lifting his BA to .276.
  • Oh, and we're waiting for the Buc bullpen to step up with Jason Grilli gone. Back-to-back games surrendering ninth inning two-run homers isn't all that reassuring. It's early; we'll see how it comes out in the wash.
  • It's off to Miami for three games. Jeff Locke opens against Henderson Alvarez.

AJ v Gio; Break Out the Brooms?

AJ Burnett (4-7, 3.07) goes for the sweep this afternoon against Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 2.89). Burnett is still looking to regain a rhythm after missing time with a torn calf. Since his return, he's made three starts and hasn't gotten out of the sixth frame yet. Gonzalez has been sharp all year. He's allowed one run in his last two starts and hasn't lost since May 27th.  This should be another game with a lot of pitching goin' on.

The get-away day game begins at 12:35 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. It's also the free game.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer 2B, Andrew McCutchen CF, Russ Martin C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Josh Harrison RF, Clint Barmes SS and AJ Burnett P.

We assume JT's arm is why he's sitting today for Josh Harrison; he was HBP last night and was sporting quite a welt. Neil Walker is also taking a seat rather than flip to the right side (he's batting .193 v LHP), and we might see more of Barmes-Mercer against southpaws.

National lineup: Bryce Harper LF, Anthony Rendon SS, Ryan Zimmerman 3B, Adam LaRoche 1B, Jayson Werth RF, Denard Span CF, Steve Lombardozzi 2B, Kurt Suzuki C and Gio Gonzalez P.

  • Old news repeated: Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago wrote "According to scouting sources, the NL Central-contending Pittsburgh Pirates have been watching (Nate) Schierholtz for more than a month. The Pirates have had Schierholtz and Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios at the top of their wish list..." We'd think there's more interest in Schierholtz than Rios.
  • The Pirates are facing a left-handed starter today for just the 20th time this season, which is the fewest among NL teams. Pittsburgh is 10-9 in games started by southpaws this season.
  • AJ is making his first start at Nationals Park today, which will be the 40th different ballyard he has played at in his big league career.
  • Pirate starters have thrown nine games this season in which they have ended their work with at least seven IP and no more than two hits allowed.
  • At 60-39, the Pirates are again back to their season-best of 21 games over .500 for the fourth time.
  • The Bucs are 4-2 and the Nationals 0-6 since the All-Star break. 
  • It's looking like the Bucs are going to save Jeanmar Gomez for the Tuesday DH against the Cards rather than give Brandon Cumpton the start. The club will be able to carry 26 players that day, so they can bring up a bullpen replacement instead.

July 25 - What Didn't Happen?

It was all happenin' today...

  • 1863 - John Tener was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, and moved to the City as a babe. A pitcher for the Pittsburgh Burghers in 1890, he later served as Governor of Pennsylvania from 1911 to 1914, and President of the National Baseball League from 1915 to 1918. 
  • 1908 - Before an overflow crowd of 30,000 at the Polo Grounds, the Pirates' Lefty Leifield topped the NY Giants and Christy Mathewson, 7-2. Two errors by Larry Doyle in the seventh opened the gates for five Pirate runs. Pittsburgh was led by Honus Wagner, who went 5-for-5 to take over the batting lead from a hitless Mike Donlin of the Giants. After each hit, Wagner held up a finger to show the number of safeties to RF Donlin, according to the BR Bullpen entry. 
  • 1912 - The Pirates blew an early lead against Brooklyn, but rallied to tied the score in the eighth and then rode Howie Camnitz’s arm to a 14 inning, 8-7 win over the Superbas at Forbes Field. Camnitz gave up just two hits in six innings, and got the win when Dots Miller’s sac fly brought home Chief Wilson, who had singled and moved to third on a Honus Wagner double. 
  • 1913 - Max Carey scored five runs against the Phils without a hit‚ reaching first via an error and four walks‚ as the Bucs won 12-2 at Forbes Field. He also stole four bases and advanced twice on wild pitches to help Claude Hendrix to the win. The Pittsburg Press griped that “The battle was a long, drawn out affair that required two hours and 10 minutes.” 
  • 1917 - 1B George “Highpockets” Kelly was claimed by the Bucs in a waiver deal with the NY Giants. He got in eight games, and after the injured player he replaced (43 year old Honus Wagner) came back, he was returned to the Giants in another waiver deal. Kelly became a Hall-of-Fame player for NY as a sweet-fielding 1B who hit .297 over 16 seasons. 
  • 1921 - CF Max Carey corralled 11 flies during the Pirates' 6-3 win over New York at Forbes Field. He also scored three times, going 3-for-4 with two doubles. Rabbit Maranville, batting behind him, drove home three to support Babe Adams, who went the distance for the win. 
  • 1931 - Larry French went the distance at Forbes Field during a 14-inning, 3-2 win against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the longest NL contest of the season. It wasn’t exactly a gem, as he gave up 15 hits, but enough of an effort to outlast Fred Heimach, who also went gate-to-gate. Pie Traynor had three hits (two 3B & 2B), two runs and an RBI. It was the second game of a twin bill; the Bucs took the opener 5-2. Spades Wood not only tossed a three hitter, but drove in a pair of runs. Traynor had two hits in that match, including a double, and scored twice. 
  • 1944 - Max Butcher tossed a six-hit goose egg at the Polo Grounds as the Bucs blasted the NY Giants‚ 15-0. Pittsburgh banged out 20 hits and posted a nine run second inning. Bob Elliott had the hot bat with six RBI and a homer while Pete Coscarart and Jim Russell each had four knocks. 
  • 1951 - The Pirates overcame a 4-0 deficit by scoring four times in the seventh and once again in the eighth to storm past the NY Giants 5-4 at Forbes Field. Joe Garagiola’s homer in the seventh was the big blow. The game winner was a bases loaded sac fly by George Strickland delivered an inning later. Ted Wilks got the win after two innings of clean relief work with three K. 
  • 1956 - The Bucs blew a four run lead by giving up eight tallies to the Cubs in the last two innings. But Chicago wasn’t the only comeback club at Forbes Field. Roberto Clemente ripped an inside the park, ninth inning grand slam to bring the Bucs back for a 9-8 win. He banged the pitch off Jim Brosnan, and it ricocheted off the base of the left field light standard along the track into center. Clemente ran through 3B coach Bobby Bragan’s stop sign and scored, reaching back to touch home as he slid by. It was the first walk-off, inside-the-park grand slam in MLB history. The Post Gazette wrote that “...the crowd of 12,431 went goofy with excitement." In the same game, Dale Long hit his 20th homer, then a club record for lefties, breaking Arky Vaughan’s 1935 mark. 
  • 1960 - The Bucs regained first place when Bob Friend defeated the Cardinals 4-2 at Busch Stadium behind homers from Bill Virdon, Bob Skinner and Roberto Clemente. Pittsburgh wouldn’t relinquish the top spot for the remainder of the season. 
  • 1962 - RHP Doug Drabek was born in Victoria, Texas. He tossed six seasons (1987-92) in Pittsburgh with a line of 92-62/3.02. Drabek won the Cy Young in 1990 when he went 22-6, but oddly never made an All-Star team as a Pirate. 
  • 1963 - Tommie Sisk pitched five innings of near perfect relief (he walked two) and rode Roberto Clemente’s three run homer to a 6-2 win over league leading Los Angeles and ace Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium. Smoky Burgess chipped in with a pair of RBI. Koufax had entered the game with just three losses and a 1.75 ERA. 
  • 1982 - John Candelaria faced the minimum 27 batters in a four hit shutout win over the Atlanta Braves. Three DP and a caught stealing took the Brave runners off the basepaths in an 8-0 whipping at TRS. The middle of the Pirate lineup - Bill Madlock, Jason Thompson and Dave Parker - drove home a pair of runs each. 
  • 1985 - OF Alex Presley was born in Monroe, Louisiana. Picked in the eighth round of the 2006 draft, he’s been a yo-yo part of the Pirate roster since 2010. 
  • 1992 - Danny Jackson gave up one hit at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but it was unfortunately a home run to David Justice as the Braves behind Charlie Leibrandt beat the Bucs 1-0. The Pirates best chance to score was in the first, but both Andy Van Slyke and Lloyd McClendon were caught stealing to run themselves out of the frame - and the game. Pittsburgh didn’t make any noise again until the ninth, when Barry Bonds bounced out with two down and two aboard to end the game. 
  • 2003 - Pittsburgh won its fifth game in six tries 10-5 over the Cards at Busch Stadium. Reggie Sanders had a homer and triple, Brian Giles a homer and double and Jose Hernandez added a pair of two-baggers against Saint Louis. Brian Meadows got the win in relief of Kip Wells. 
  • 2004 - The Bucs won their eighth game in ten outings with a 6-5 decision against the Reds at PNC Park. Tike Redman had a homer and three RBI as Sean Burnett, who was yanked with an out in the sixth, got the win behind 3-2/3 scoreless innings from the pen. 
  • 2011 - In their first ESPN-televised game in seven years, the Pirates defeated the Atlanta Braves 3-1 behind James McDonald, who struck out nine in 5-2/3 frames, and four relievers at Turner Field, keeping the Bucs tied for first place in the NL Central for the last time in 2011.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Liriano Outguns Strasburg In 4-2 Win

Kinda the start you'd expect. Stephen Strasburg put the Bucs away in order; Francisco Liriano walked Scott Hairston for openers, and left him still on first three outs later. In the second, Pedro got ahead 2-0, swung through a heater and then crunched another, barely dropping the ball over the right center scoreboard for a 1-0 Bucco lead. Travis Snider rolled a single into right an out later, but got no further. The Nats went down in order.

Both sides went down without a peep in the third. The Bucs went quietly in the fourth; The Cisco Kid's out streak ended at 11 with a walk to Jayson Werth with two gone. The only red flag is that he's up to 70 pitches. Clint Barmes ended Strasburg's string at 10 with a two out, two base boot in the fifth from SS Anthony Rendon, but Liriano K'ed looking. The Cisco Kid put it on cruise control and worked a quick five-pitch frame.

Strasburg tucked the Bucs away neatly in the sixth. With two down, Rendon collected the first Nat knock, a bouncer to the 3B hole that Pedro knocked down but couldn't come up with cleanly, followed by a five pitch walk to Ryan Zimmerman, and suddenly that pitch count is nosing up (it was at 91 by the end of the frame), not to mention the hot Werth is up with a chance to cause some mischief. But the only damage was done by Frankie, who K'ed Werth looking twice; the ump missed the first call.

The Bucs again went down in order in the seventh; the good news is that SS is up to 104 pitches, though he's still hitting 97 on the heater. It was 1-2-3 for Franciso; he's a little better off at 98 tosses. Strasburg came out for the eighth and struck out the side; Liriano hit for himself; we wonder if that's because the Melancon-Grilli back end bridge isn't available.

Steve Lombardozzi opened with a single to center. Kurt Suzuki pinch hit for Strasburg, and bunted the runner up 90'. Scott Hairston made The Cisco Kid work, but went down looking at the eighth pitch. Clint Hurdle figured that had taken out enough from the tank, and called in Justin Wilson to face Rendon, a righty. No diff to Wilson; he fed fed him three heaters at 97, 98, 99 and got a foul pop to first to end the frame. Liriano went 7-2/3 shutout frames, giving up two hits, walking three and whiffing eight on 110 pitches, a great outing.

Drew Storen came on for the ninth. Starling Marte spoiled a handful of pitches and broke his 0-for-20 streak with a liner into center. After a couple of pickoff tries. Neil Walker ripped the next pitch to the wall into left center for a double, plating Marte. Cutch got good wood on the ball, but lined out to Zimmerman at third; must be that RISP factor.  Pedro was walked intentionally to get to Gaby, who entered as a defensive sub in seventh. He K'ed, swinging through a 3-2 slider.

Davey Johnson tapped the left arm for Fernando Abad to face Snider, and Clint Hurdle swapped him out for JT. Tabata got plunked on the arm to jam the sacks for The Fort. On an 0-2 count, Abad gave him a heater in and on the knees; McKenry turned on it and banged it through the shortstop hole past a diving Zimmerman to bring home a pair and make it 4-0.  It worked out well that Johnson has an old school mentality; Tyler Clippard stayed in the bullpen because the Nats were behind a run instead of up one.

Mark the Shark also stayed in the tank as Wilson remained on the bump for the bottom of the ninth. Zimmerman opened by poking a heater on the outside half into right for a knock. Wilson left a cutter down Broadway to the wrong man, and Werth banged it over the wall in right center to make it 4-2. The blast was Werth's fifth long ball in four games and third against the Bucs. That brought Melacon out, and in the situation he's used to, with the bases empty - MM hasn't come in with a runner on this season, always opening the inning.

After striking out Adam LaRoche, Wilson Ramos singled to right off Walker's glove. He made up; Denard Span rolled over on a pitch away and bounced into a game-ending 4-3 DP (Walker missed the tag on Ramos, but the catcher was rung up for being out of the baseline). The Shark notched his first victim, and may have driven the Nats into seller mode  as the deadline approaches the 11th hour.

Sweet pitching by Strasburg and Liriano; 20 whiffs and just one run on four hits between the two, a classic pitching duel. Strasburg had his hook going and Francisco's change up was a thing of beauty; both, needless to say, had their Grade A heaters tonight.

Well, the Bucs have the series in the bag and send AJ Burnett out against Gio Gonzalez tomorrow to try to sweep the set. It's looking like August and September may not be a vale of tears this season.

  • How good was The Cisco Kid? 20 of his 22 first pitches were strikes tonight.
  • Stephen Strasburg has struck out at least 12 batters four times in his career. Three of those outings  have been against the Pirates. 
  • Pedro Alvarez's 26 homers ties him for the NL lead with Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez. 
  • Dejan Kovacevich of the Tribune Review reported that Clint Hurdle isn't going to juggle the rotation during the upcoming Miami series in an effort to get all five regular guys to throw against the Cards next week (Tuesday is a doubleheader). Hurdle would rather keep everyone on schedule as the next off day isn't until August 5th. Now all he has to decide is whether to call up someone or use Jeanmar Gomez.
  • No news on Jason Grilli; the Pirates are still evaluating.
  • Chase d'Arnaud has been taken off the DL and returned to Indy; he had missed several weeks with a wrist injury.