Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Pre-Game Notes & News

A little pre-playoff news and notes...

  • Pedro and Paul Goldschmidt ended up the 2013 co-leaders in the NL with 36 homers. Alvarez: is the first Pirate player lead the league in HR since Willie Stargell in 1973, while Goldschmidt is the first D-Backs player to lead the NL in HR ever.
  • Matt Snyder of CBS Sports "Eye on Baseball" looks for the edge, position by position, for the Pirate-Reds game.
  • The Pirates don't have to submit their wild card roster until 10AM tomorrow, and won't make it public until then. AJ and Charlie Morton will be off it, and Clint said, per that he'd carry nine pitchers - The Cisco Kid, Gerrit Cole and seven relievers. Clint said the guys that have been with the club all year, and per @BrinkPG that means Jason Grilli, Mark Melancin, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson, Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morros and Jeanmar Gomez. That leaves eight players to start and eight more for the bench. 
  • Cincy hasn't dropped any clues about their lineup yet, except that Mat Latos and Tony Cingrani are probably not going to be on it; nor do we expect Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo. No decision has been released yet on Billy Hamilton's status yet, nor word of how Brandon Phillips' shin is looking after yesterday's foul ball.
  • All fans entering the park will receive a Pirates postseason rally towel. The gates open at six, the pregame ceremonies will start at 7:30, and Doug Drabek will throw out the first pitch. The National Anthem will be performed by Petrina McCutchen, mom of Andrew McCutchen.
  • Joe West will be behind the plate tomorrow night.
  • The wild card winner will face the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished with the best record in the NL.
  • Only two teams in the NL finished with more wins than the Buccos 94 - St. Louis with 97 and Atlanta with 96. The other 90 game winners were LA with 92 and Cincinnati with 90, and all five are in the playoffs. In the AL, only Boston with 97 wins and Oakland with 96 have more victories than the Bucs.
  • The price of that success? The Pirates will draft 27th next year.
  • The players are pushing a twitter campaign for a "PNC Blackout" while the fans are clamoring for a big-screen TV on the North Shore for those w/o tickets. The Pens would have both set up; we'll see how the Pirate marketing guys measure up.
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a piece on the Rust Belt teams in the playoffs.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America thinks the Pirates are one of five teams that should be in on Cuban 1b Jose Abreu.
  • One-time Bucco Dale Sveum, manager of the Cubs, was fired today.

9/30: Clemente's 3,000th, Kiner's 54th, Stargell's 1,475th, Dutch Not Clutch, Bucs Clinch in '90, Wakefield Whitewash, Collapse 2.0...

Clemente's 3,000th, Kiner's 54th, Stargell's 1,475th, Dutch Not Clutch, Bucs Clinch in '90, Wakefield Whitewash, Collapse 2.0...

1946 - 2B Billy Herman, who the Bucs wanted as a manager, was traded to Pittsburgh by Boston with OF Stan Wentzel, RHP Elmer Singleton and IF Whitey Wietelmann for three-time All Star 3B Bob Elliott and C Hank Camelli. Herman was named playing manager, but even he realized a lopsided deal when he saw one, saying "Why, they've gone and traded the whole team on me.” Elliott won the 1947 NL MVP award and led Boston to the 1948 NL pennant.
1949 - Ralph Kiner hit his 54th homer and 16th in September over the LF scoreboard at Forbes Field as the Pirates beat Herm Wehmeier and the Reds‚ 3-2. The monthly total eclipsed Cy Williams' 1923 NL mark, and 54 homers is still the Pirate standard for long balls in a season.
1951 - Ralph Kiner hit a two out, 425’ walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning to give the Pirates an 8-4 win over the Reds at Forbes Field. The four RBI gave him 109 on the year, his fifth straight season with 100+ runs driven home, tying the franchise record set by Pie Traynor.
1964 - Nineteen Pirates struck out in 16 innings, but the Bucs still beat the Reds 1-0 on Jerry Mays’ suicide squeeze, knocking Cincy out of the top spot in the NL. Starter Bob Veale struck out 16 in 12-1/3 innings while the Reds’ Jim Maloney K’ed 11 in eleven frames at Crosley Field.
1972 - At Three Rivers Stadium, Roberto Clemente hit a fourth-inning double off a Jon Matlack 0-1 curve to become the 11th player in major league history to reach the 3,000 hit plateau. Take it with a grain of salt if someone told you they were there for the big occasion. Only 13,117 people showed up to watch the 5-0 win over the Mets on a raw Saturday afternoon.
1978 - The Phillies clinched their third consecutive NL East title by eliminating the Pirates, 10-8 at TRS. The victory, fueled by Phil pitcher Randy Lerch’s two home runs, snapped Pittsburgh’s 24-game home winning streak. The Bucs went down fighting. They scored four times in the ninth and got the tying run to the plate twice, but Willie Stargell whiffed and Phil Garner bounced out to end the rally.
1979 - Willie Stargell became the Pirates all-time RBI leader when he bombed a solo homer in the fifth to overtake Honus Wagner. The Bucs defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-3 at TRS behind Captain Willie’s pair of RBI, numbers 1,475 & 1,476; he would finish with 1,540.
1988 - President Ronald Reagan tossed out two ceremonial first pitches before the Cubs lost 10-9 to the Pirates at Wrigley. “Dutch,” a former play-by-play announcer, joined Harry Caray for an inning and a half in the WGN booth. Jose Lind and Andy Van Slyke combined for seven hits in the win. It was a wild finish; Pittsburgh and Chicago each scored five times in the eighth and ninth innings to end up with a 9-9 regulation stalemate. Andy Van Slyke drove in Rafael Belliard with the winner in the 10th. Scott Medvin claimed the W while Goose Gossage took the loss.
1990 - Pittsburgh beat St. Louis 2-0 at Busch Stadium behind Doug Drabek's three hitter to clinch its first NL East title since 1979. Gary Redus and Andy Van Slyke had the RBI as the Pirates finished a seven game winning streak to pull away from the Mets.
1993 - Tim Wakefield shut out the Phillies on four hits (although he did walk six) in a 5-0 whitewash at TRS. It was the first time Philadelphia had been shut out since September 19th, 1992 (also at TRS) by Doug Drabek, a NL record-setting stretch of 174 games between blankings. Pittsburgh’s home finale victory over Philadelphia was led by Dave Clark, who homered and tripled.
2012 - The Pirates were dropped by Cincinnati 4-3 for their 82nd loss, finishing below .500 for the 20th consecutive season to extend their sad little record. The Bucs were 16 games over .500 on August 6th, but for the second consecutive year, a dog days collapse was in the cards. This one at PNC Park hurt, as the Reds scored twice in the ninth off closer Joel Hanrahan to steal the win in front of 32,814 fans

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bucs Sweep Reds 4-2 For Win #94

It wasn't an ideal start for Greg Reynolds; an infield knock by JT, a walk to Pedro and a John Buck single put the Bucs up 1-0. Brandon Cumpton started strong, with a 1-2-3 frame.

The second didn't get a lot easier for Reynolds; Jordy Mercer dinked a ball to right, Jay Bruce made a dive to snare it and missed, and the ball rolled to the wall while Mercer steamed around the base paths with an inside-the-park homer without so much as a throw home. After a single by Josh Harrison, Reynolds put down the order while Cumpton tossed another clean frame.

Pedro got plunked in the hip with a hook with one away in the third - he's just playing in hopes of another HR in his long ball title quest, and we'll see with Dusty's starters in if this leads to anything - and Buck's short hop bounded past a fairly disinterested Zack Cozart to put Bucs on first and second. But Garrett Jones hit into a 4-6-3 DP, and Reynolds had his first scoreless frame. Cesar Izturis cued a single past a diving Pedro, the only mark against Cumpton after three.

Mercer led off the fourth with a triple, and a couple of singles by Harrison (for the RBI) and JT made it 3-0. After two down for the Reds, Jay Bruce walked, but Todd Frazier flew out; so far, so good for Brandon. A light drizzle is falling now; we hope for Cumpton, JT, Josh and Mercer's sake that another complete inning gets played (it ended up off-and-on showers all day). And there shouldn't be any beanball wars (no targets) as Dusty pulled Joey Votto, Bruce and Frazier.

Reynolds pitched a tidy fifth frame. Cozart opened the Reds' half with a double, but a pair of grounders to the left side and a pop up to short center kept him anchored. Ryan Ludwick and Cozart took a seat, and Curtis Partch worked the sixth. Except for a four pitch walk to Cumpton (who has a perfect day, with two sacs and a free pass, even if he doesn't have an official at bat) tossed a routine inning. Cumpton was at 65 pitches and replaced by Stolmy Pimentel (Andrew Lambo and Gaby - he took Pedro's place at 3b - also joined the fray), and Stolmy hurled a 1-2-3 frame.

Partch got three groundouts from the Bucs in the seventh, and it was three up, three down for Stolmy, too. Nick Christiani got the call in the eighth. With an out, Jones took him deep to right center to make it 4-0, and Mercer followed with his third knock, a liner to center. His only out was a ball that deflected off the pitcher's foot. Harrison hit one sharply, but on one hop to short to start a 6-4-3 DP. Jeanmar Gomez came on, and got roughed up. He gave up a single and back-to-back doubles,  followed by a walk an out later. Gomez escaped the frame with just two runs scored thanks to a Neftali Soto 6-4-3 DP to end the inning.

Zach Duke took the ball in the ninth, and was nicked only by Lambo's soft infield knock. Kyle Farnsworth came in looking for his second Bucco save. Chris Heisey opened with a jam shot just past Mercer, and after getting ahead of Jack Hannahan 0-2, Farnsworth ran the count full. But there was no comeback for the Reds today; Hannahan spanked a hard one hopper to Josh, and even with the runner going it was an easy 4-6-3 DP. Henry Rodriguez whiffed swinging, and the Bucs had the win.

94 wins is a pretty sweet season, and sweeping the Reds before the wild card will knock down their swagger a notch or two. Now it's a day off and a win or go home game Tuesday at PNC Park.

  • Bob Walk's Root Sport's three keys to the game: 1) don't get hurt; 2) don't break your favorite bat and 3) don't miss the bus. 
  • Brandon Cumpton now has a 15 inning scoreless streak. 
  • Garrett Jones' homer was his 100th as a Pirate.
  • The Bucs have swept the Reds twice this season, once at PNC Park and once at GABP. The Reds enter the wild card game on their longest losing streak of the year, five games.
  • Pittsburgh's 94 wins are the most since Jimmy Leyland's 1990-92 clubs, which won 95, 98 and 96 games.
  • Jeff Locke, who many assume was going to pitch today, has been shut down by the Bucs and will not be part of the post-season roster. AJ Burnett and Charlie Morton will not be on wild card roster; but rest assured they'll be on the playoff roster. The team hasn't announced Tuesday's game roster yet.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball released his end-of-the-season Top 75 Prospects. The Bucs had six: pitchers Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, outfielders Gregory Polanco and Austin Meadows, IF Alen Hanson and C Reese McGuire.

Cumpton v Reynolds In Funday Season Finale

Brandon Cumpton (1-1, 2.45) will try to sweep the Reds against Greg Reynolds (1-2, 5.55) this afternoon. The starters are a bit of a changeup, with Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto originally penciled in should the game have playoff implications; the Bucs took care of that matter yesterday. Now the Pirates have Cole rested and the Reds have Cueto set to take the hill for Tuesday's one-and-out clash.

Cumpton hasn't tossed for a while, but he's faced the Reds twice before, the last time on September 22nd, going eight innings and giving up eight hits and two runs overall. A good outing will help his jockeying position for a back-end job in 2014. The Bucs haven't seen Reynolds, who will make his fifth start of the season. He's been off since September 18th, so both guys will have some rust to shake loose.

Another point: according to - It's cloudy today in Cincy, and there is talk of a possible delay in the game. The umps might not wait too long to bang it, if it rains. So there's that.

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

Pirate lineup: Felix Pie CF, Jose Tabata LF, Travis Snider RF, Pedro Alvarez 3b, John Buck C, Garrett Jones 1b, Jordy Mercer SS, Josh Harrison 2b and Brandon Cumpton P.

As expected, the irregulars are getting their day in the sun.

Reds lineup: Shin-Soo Choo CF, Ryan Ludwick LF, Joey Votto 1b, Jay Bruce RF, Todd Frazier 3b, Zack Cozart SS, Derin Mesoraco C, Cesar Izturis 2b and Greg Reynolds P.

Obviously Dusty doesn't consider this an off-day; he's got his big boy lineup going.

  • The wild card game at PNC Park will be played Tuesday at 8:07 PM and aired on TBS
  • Neil Walker has a career high 16 HRs this season, the most by a Pirate second baseman since Bill Mazeroski hit 16 in 1966. 
  • Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke are the first quartet of Pirates pitchers to reach double digits in wins since 1997, when Francisco Cordova led the way with 11 wins followed with 10 each by Jon Lieber, Esteban Loaiza and Jason Schmidt.
  • Dunno that we'd write home about it, but the Pirates have posted a 14-12 record this month. Even being so-so sure beats the past few Septembers!

9/29: Cannonball, Ken Macha, Teke Sweep, Cutch Walk-Off and More...

Cannonball, Camnitz Bros, Ken Macha, Go West, Teke Sweep, Cutch Walk-Off and More...

  • 1862 - Ed “Cannonball” Morris was born in Brooklyn. In 1884, Cannonball tossed a no-hitter against Pittsburgh for Columbus, and was purchased by the impressed Alleghenys five months later. The lefty pitched for the Alleghenys from 1885-89 with a 171-122/2.84 line, winning 80 games from 1885-86. He struck out over 300 batters twice and had 298 another year, and threw over 550 innings in two different seasons. He also worked a year with the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players League, his last season in the majors. 
  • 1908 - Pittsburgh blanked the Cardinals 7-0 at Forbes Field behind Howie Camnitz in the first game of a doubleheader sweep. Camnitz had a no hitter until the ninth when Claude Osteen singled. The last-place Redbirds were blanked for a record 33rd time. The Cards broke out the lumber in the nitecap, but still lost 6-5 when Roy Thomas’ grounder brought home George Gibson in the ninth to give Vic Willis the win. 
  • 1909 - RHP Harry Camnitz mopped up in the Pirates 6-1 loss to the NY Giants at Forbes Field. It was his only outing of the year (he had been purchased from the minor league McKeesport Tubers in July), but it made him part of the first brother act for the Pittsburgh Pirates to appear during the same season; he was the little bro of the team’s ace, Howie Camnitz. The Bucs added him to the roster after he picked up 27 wins with the Tubers. 
  • 1935 - In his only major league game, C Aubrey Epps went 3-for-4 with a triple and three RBI in the Bucs' 9-6 loss at Cincinnati. In an oddity, the 23-year old catcher ended up with identical career batting and fielding averages (.750) as he committed two errors in eight chances; guess that’s why it was his only game. 
  • 1950 - Ken Macha was born in Monroeville. The Gateway grad, a sixth round draft pick in 1972, played briefly for the Bucs (1974, 1977-78), hitting .263 as a corner utilityman. He made his name as a MLB coach and manager of the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers. 
  • 1957 - The New York Giants played their final game at the Polo Grounds before pulling up their stakes and heading west, losing to the Pirates 9-1. Bob Friend got the win; Johnny Antonelli took the loss. Roberto Clemente, Johnny Powers and Friend each had three hits; rookie Powers hit the last homer and tallied the final RBI ever at the yard. After the game, 11‚606 fans swarmed for keepsakes as both teams retreated to the center field clubhouses for safety. 
  • 1978 - Kent Tekulve won both ends of a DH over the Phils at TRS in relief‚ 5-4 and 2-1. He pitched 2 innings in the opener and 1-1/3 frames in the nitecap‚ winning in the 10th. Both wins were gift wrapped; the Bucs won the opener when the relay to third on Ed Ott’s two out ninth inning triple got away, and the Phils balked in the winning run in the ninth inning of the nitecap. 
  • 1992 - The Pirates won their sixth straight game by a 3-0 score over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field as Zane Smith, Paul Wagner (the winner), Steve Cooke and Stan Belinda combined on a two-hitter to put the Bucs nine games up in the standings. Andy Van Slyke homered and drove in a pair of runs to spark the Pirate attack. 
  • 2012 - Andrew McCutchen hit a walk-off home run to right center off Jonathan Broxton of the Cincinnati Reds with one down in the ninth inning for his 31st homer of the season and a 2-1 Pirate win at PNC Park in front of a Saturday night crowd of 38,623. Kyle McPherson started the game, and Joel Hanrahan got the win.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bucs Bomb Their Way To Home Field 8-3

Bronson Arroyo got through the first easily enough; a couple of grounders and a hung change up sent not quite far enough into the LF corner by Cutch for a 1-2-3 frame.

Shin-Soo Choo opened with a knock off Charlie Morton on a two seamer that he left over the dish. Ryan Ludwick rolled over on the next pitch, sending it to short where a diving Clint Barmes made the stop and got a force at second. Joey Votto walked, and was erased on a Brandon Phillips force that left Reds on the corners. After getting ahead of Jay Bruce 0-2, Morton lost him; Charlie has been kinda all over the place so far this inning. Todd Frazier flew out, and hopefully Chuck will find his rhythm soon. He was lucky to get out of the first, leaving several pitches in the wheelhouse that were fouled away.

Justin Morneau walked and Marlon Byrd singled him to second to begin the second inning. Pedro flew out to center, Russ Martin took one to the track in right for another out with Morneau going to third, and Barmes K'ed on a foul tip. Morton put the bottom of the order away quietly.

Arroyo retired the first two Bucs easily in the third, but not The Kid, who pounded a 3-2 sinker that stayed up and on the outside half over the wall in center to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead. Cutch followed with another bomb, taking a slider into the LC bullpen. Morneau kept it going by rolling an 0-2 pitch into right, but the party ended on a Byrd grounder to short.

Morton faced the top of the Redleg's order and started by plunking Choo on the shoulder with his first pitch. Ludwick bounced out to third, moving Choo to second and then he went to third when Martin lost one of Morton's pitches in the dirt between his knees. Votto walked again to put Reds on the corners, and Choo scored when Phillips slapped a single into right. Bruce gave the Reds the edge when he ripped a two seamer pretty much down the middle high off the wall in left center for a double. he fell behind Todd Farzier 3-0, came back to run the count full and then retired him on a grounder to Pedro. Cozart was thrown out after a nice play by Morton. Charlie is off his game today; we're not sure that Clint will let him face the top of the order again as he doesn't have an answer for the lefties.

The Bucs have turned into the 1927 Yankees, at least briefly, as Pedro opened the fourth with a blast that traveled 431' to tie the game.  Morton made the last out and is back on the hill to face the 8-9-1 hitters. Ryan Hanigan got ahead 3-1, but bounced out to third two pitches later. Arroyo also tested Pedro on a tapper to become the second out. Charlie lost a borderline 2-2 call on Choo on the corner and then walked him, the third time he's reached base. Ludwick popped out to end the frame; we'll see if Chuck is sent back out to face Votto, Phillips and Bruce in the fifth.

Marte opened the fifth with his third straight groundout. But when you're hot, you're hot, and Neil Walker went yard again to deep right center on a first pitch meatball  to give the Bucs the lead. Cutch followed with a single, and was forced at second on a Morneau grounder played nicely by Phillips. Arroyo lost a close two-strike pitch on the corner to Byrd, and he too paid as The Byrd ripped the Bucs fifth homer into center on the next delivery, a sinker over the heart of the plate. That brought in Sean Marshall, who closed out the frame with the Bucs up 6-3.

The heart of the Red order was up in a challenge inning for Morton, and it started of as expected, with Votto singling sharply off Charlie. There was a delay as Phillips fouled a ball off his foot, but after some TLC, he stayed in and singled to right. Phillips came out after the knock, and was limping with a growing bump on his shin, so it must have been a solid smack. Morton got a big out, whiffing Bruce on hooks. But he lost the edge again, walking Frazier on five pitches to load the bases.

That finally brought in Vin Mazzaro to face the 7-8 batters. Hurdle nursed Charlie along, hoping to get five innings and a win for him, but again may have stuck with a guy an inning too long, just as Dusty Baker did. Vin got Cozart swinging but fell behind Hanigan 2-0. He finished him on the next pitch, a liner to center that Cutch ran down and gloved to keep the lead at three; the Bucs have some serious leather in the outfield.

Logan Ondrusek climbed the hill in the sixth to face the bottom of the order. Martin and Barmes K'ed swinging at balls in the dirt. Andrew Lambo grabbed a bat for Mazzaro, and joined the club - the HR club, as he crushed his first MLB homer over the wall in right center, turning on a 95 MPH heater above the knees. Marte joined the club, too - the K club, going down on a slider in the dirt. Justin Wilson came on and lost Derrick Robinson on a 3-2 pitch as Buc pitchers continue to stick their hand into the fire today. After Choo flew out to left, he lost Ludwick on a 3-2 pitch, as he's having trouble navigating ump Tim Timmon's tight strike zone. Wilson came back to K Votto on a fastball on the hands and retire Chris Heisey on a grounder.

Ol' buddy Zach Duke took the ball in the seventh and got three soft outs from The Kid, Cutch and Morneau. Tony Watson came on to work a 1-2-3 frame. The Bucs opened the eight with three straight singles to load the sacks; Barmes cashed in The Byrd with a sac fly, moving Pedro to third. Garrett Jones came up in the pitcher's spot and Dusty waved in Manny Parra. Gaby took Garrett's spot and banged a ball to third for an around the horn DP. Mark the Shark claimed the bump with an 8-3 to get in some work. He tossed a 1-2-3 inning, getting Choo to fly out after a long at bat to close the frame.

Sam LeCure took his turn on the hill in the ninth. The Bucs put a couple of runners aboard, but were short-circuited by Morneau's inning ending 5-4-3 DP. Bryan Morris closed it out, pitching cleanly except for the obligatory walk to Votto.

What a long, strange trip it's been. The Bucs clinched home field on national TV, and by role reversal - bend but don't break pitching and Murderer's Row offense. So it'll be the scrubs tomorrow - Jeff Locke may yet have another start - and Francisco Liriano v Mat Latos Johnny Cueto Tuesday in the knock-out game at PNC Park. Since the Pirates' last playoff appearance, the Steelers and Penguins have earned post season berths 29 times; it's good to join the gang again.

  • Today was Pittsburgh's first six home run game since 2007 against the Rockies at Coors Field in an 11-2 win, and only their eighth in team history. The Bucs are the first visiting team to hit six HR in a game at GABP.  Pittsburgh hit all their blasts in a four inning  (3rd-6th) span.
  • Pedro Alvarez now has hit the most homers (36) by a Pirate since Brian Giles hit 38 in 2002, and is back into a tie with Paul Goldschmidt for the NL lead. He's also the first Pirate player with 100 RBI in a season since Jason Bay, who cashed in 109 runners in 2006.
  • Today was the first career multi-HR game for Neil Walker.
  • The Buc dugout followed tradition and gave Andrew Lambo the cold shoulder after his first dinger, until Marlon Byrd broke the ice after a long - to Lambo - few seconds with a hug and then the team congrats flowed.
  • The Pirates and Reds have beaned 27 batters in their matchups, tops in any MLB series this year.
  •  Clint Hurdle told the media he was leaning toward a four man rotation for the playoffs, should the Bucs take Tuesday's game.
  • The Cards clinched the division title last night. They've taken the NL Central crown in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2013. The Cubs set kind of a reverse record this season - three (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St, Louis) of the five NL playoff teams clinched against them.

Charlie v Bronson Arroyo, Lineup, Notes

Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.14) takes on Bronson Arroyo (14-11, 3.60). In his last two starts, Ground Chuck has given up one run on five hits over 15 innings, but didn't get a decision in either contest when the pen couldn't hold the leads he had left them.

Arroyo has been steady all this year, and he's well rested for this game. His last start was September 22nd against the Pirates. He won at PNC Park, though not in shutdown style, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks in five innings.

Tomorrow's contest starts at 1:05 and is the Fox game; 93.7 The Fan will air it on radio.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2b, Andrew McCutchen CF, Justin Morneau 1b, Marlon Byrd RF, Pedro Alvarez 3b, Russ Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and Charlie Morton P.

Clint Barmes is getting the lion's share of work; he and Russ Martin are the defensive heart of the infield, but are kinda brutal at the back end of the order.

Reds lineup: Shin-Soo Choo CF, Ryan Ludwick LF, Joey Votto 1b, Brandon Phillips 2b, Jay Bruce RF, Todd Frazier 3b, Zack Cozart SS, Ryan Hanigan C and Bronson Arroyo P.

Ludwick remains misplaced in the two hole, though the Reds don't have many candidates for the spot.
  • More on Pedro: His 35 HR are the club's most since Jason Bay hit 35 in 2006, and his 99 RBI are most since Bay got 109 in 1996, per . He's one RBI away from 100; Jay Bay was the last Buc to reach that standard in 2006.
  • Pittsburgh caught the Reds at a good time. Cincinnati has scored a total of six runs in their last four games.
  • Last night the Pirates held an opponent to one run or fewer for the 40th time this season. It’s the first time the Pirates accomplished that since 1977.
  • Clint Hurdle has won 243 games in his three years as Pirate manager, the most in that span by a Bucs skipper since Jimmy Leyland's 289 wins between 1990-92. That’s also the most victories by a Pirates manager in his first three full seasons since Chuck Tanner won 282 games from 1977-79.
  • If the Pirates get one more win, they'll host a playoff game for the first time since October 11th, 1992, when they beat the Atlanta Braves 7-1 at TRS.
  • It's like old days with Pittsburgh and Cincy as the wild card teams. The Bucs and Reds have faced each other five previous times (1970 NLCS, 1972 NLCS, 1975 NLCS, 1979 NLCS and 1990 NLCS) in postseason play. The 20 games vs. the Reds in the playoffs are the most against any opponent for the Pirates.
  • The winner of the Pirate-Reds wild card game will meet the NL division winner with the best record, either St. Louis or Atlanta (they're tied going into today), on Thursday.

9/28: Cap Clarke, Homer In the Gloaming, Grant Jackson, Tiny, Freak Show, More...

Cap Clarke, Homer In the Gloaming, Grant Jackson, Tiny, Freak Show, More...

  • 1909 - Player/manager Fred Clarke was honored at Forbes Field before the game, when, according to Ralph Davis of the Pittsburg Press, “...Mayor WA (William) Magee presented him with a bag of gold coin ($600). Just as the money was being handed to Clarke, James Geary placed a wreath of evergreen on his brow and showered dozens of rosebuds all over him while the fans shouted themselves hoarse at the scene.” After all that, the Pirates went out and lost to the NY Giants 13-9, but even that was good. The Pirates clinched the pennant when the Chicago Cubs lost to the Phils 3-2 and went on to beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. 
  • 1938 - The Bucs lost the “Homer in the Gloaming” game to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, during one of the greatest pennant race finishes in baseball. The teams were tied for first and tied in the bottom of the ninth. The umpires ruled that the ninth inning would be the last to be played because of darkness; if it was still tied, it would become a no-contest and would be replayed the next day in its entirety. Chicago player manager Gabby Hartnett came to bat with two out, fell behind 0-2, and then connected off Mace Brown, launching the ball into the left-center field bleachers for the walk off win and sending 34‚465 fans home in ecstasy, many of whom circled the bases with him. The Cubs won the next day (their 10th straight) and became the NL champs. The loss was so painful to manager Pie Traynor that it’s said to have contributed to his retirement after the 1939 season. 
  • 1942 - LHP Grant Jackson was born in Fostoria, Ohio. Buck tossed for the Pirates from 1977-81 and made his last MLB outing as a Buc in 1982. His line here was 29-19-36/3.23, and he tossed scoreless ball in his six appearances during the 1971 NLCS/World Series campaign. 
  • 1947 - Tiny Bonham tossed a two hit whitewash as the Bucs defeated the Reds 7-0 at Forbes Field to end a dismal season; Pittsburgh finished 62-92, 32 games out of first. Dixie Howell and Frank Gustine homered in front of 33,794. 
  • 1966 - Pittsburgh swept a doubleheader from the Philadelphia Phillies by 2-1 and 4-2 scores at Connie Mack Stadium. The strong mound work of Steve Blass and Bob Veale pulled the club within 1-½ games of first place LA. It was their last hurrah; the SF Giants swept the final three game set at Forbes Field, and the Bucs finished third, three games off the pace. 
  • 1997 - The Freak Show ended its run with the club’s 79th victory, 5-4 over Houston in 11 innings at the Astrodome. Jose Guillen swung the hot bat with a homer, two runs scored and three RBI to give Jason Christiansen the win, saved by Rich Loiselle. The club wouldn’t match that victory total again until 2012.
  • 2009 - The Bucs won their home finale 11-1 against the Dodgers, with Andy LaRoche hitting two homers and driving in six runs. John Russell drew the ire of the 16,696 fans in attendance when he inexplicably pulled starter Zach Duke (103 pitches) with two outs in the ninth after a sac fly ruined his shutout bid. 
  • 2012 - The Bucs drew 34,796 fans to PNC Park, but the star of the show was Reds pitcher Homer Bailey, who tossed a no-hitter to outduel AJ Burnett and earn a hard fought 1-0, complete game win. Bailey walked one and fanned 10 as the Pirates were no-hit for the first time since 1971.

Friday, September 27, 2013

AJ & The Byrd Too Much For The Reds In 4-1 Victory; One Step To Go For Home Field

Fairly quiet opening frame. Homer Bailey got it over with quickly, beaning Neil Walker with an out. he went to second and stayed there as Cutch grounded out and Justin Morneau lined one to right into the glove of Jay Bruce. AJ gave up a two out knock, and it was zeroes after a frame. With two down in the second, Russ Martin walked and Clint Barmes singled, but AJ whiffed to end the party. Burnett went out, walk, out, single out and it remained goose eggs.

The plate began to move on Bailey in the third. Marte was HBP in the back on an 0-2 count and stole second; Walker lined out to center. Cutch and Morneau drew walks, and Marlon Byrd cashed in a pair with a single just past a diving Cozart through the left side. Pedro proved a party pooper, banging into a 4-6-3 DP, but the Bucs had an early 2-0 lead. AJ tossed a 1-2-3 frame thanks to a beaut of a diving grab by Marte on Joey Votto to close out the inning.

The bottom of the order was pretty meek in the fourth. Martin sat down looking on three pitches, Barmes had the green light on a 3-0 pitch and hit a dribbler in front of the plate, and AJ rolled out to second. After a pair of soft ground outs - one a nice tag play by Morneau on an off-line toss by Pedro - AJ left a heater on the inside half above the belt to Todd Frazier, and he rang it off the LF foul pole to make it 2-1. Zack Cozart chopped a 3-2 pitch up the middle, but Burnett got Ryan Hanigan on a hopper to short.

Marte became the second straight Pirate leadoff hitter to sit down on three pitches by looking at a third strike fastball in the fifth. The Bucs got a two out walk from Cutch, but a Morneau grounder ended the frame. With one down, Shin-Soo Choo did what he does; he slapped a tailing fastball the opposite way into left. No sweat; Ryan Ludwick rolled over on a pitch away and bounced into a 6-4-3 DP.

The Byrd almost opened the sixth with a dinger; his ball hit the edge of a raised cutout beside the bullpen and stayed in play for a reviewed and upheld double, it kissed the corner by the length of the ball. No review for Pedro; Bailey tried to sneak a two strike fastball past him, and El Toro crushed it into straight center halfway up the batter's eye  to make it 4-1. Dusty gave Alfredo Simon the ball after that blast. He walked Martin on four pitches, K'ed Barmes and Burnett, and got an at 'em ball off Marte's bat, a liner to short. AJ shutdown the 4-5-6 hitters on a pair of lazy flies and a Bruce grounder into the shift.

Simon tempted fate in the seventh, but balls hit by Walker and Morneau were both corralled deep on the track in right and left center. AJ cruised, getting a pair of grounders and a whiff, and at 89 pitches may have another inning left. With lefties due up for the Reds, Clint has a lot of options.

Logan Ondrusek took the hill, and was greeted by back-to-back knocks by Byrd and Pedro. But the bottom of the order lived up to their name. Martin fouled out, Barmes whiffed, and with Travis Snider swinging a bat and Tony Watsom heating up, Clint instead sent up AJ, who went down looking. But no worries about an inning too long this time; Burnett mowed the Reds down and has retired 10 in a row.

JJ Hoover got the call for the ninth. The top of the lineup did a fine imitation of the bottom, striking out twice around a one hopper to second. AJ was done after eight, giving up a run on five hits, a walk and K'ing six, using 99 pitches. Jason Grilli came out looking for this 33rd save against the heart of the Red order.

He struck out Joey Votto on a check swing - Joey was walking back to the dugout - but Laz Diaz at third blew the call, and three pitches later Votto singled. Jason made it moot, though, as Phillips slowly grounded the next pitch to Pedro, who still turned it into a 5-4-3 to erase Diaz's mistake. Jay Bruce bounced out to Morneau, and the Bucs were one step away from a home playoff game Tuesday.

Nice win; enough hitting to go with an excellently pitched and defended game. While Russ Martin continues in his funk, The Kid continues to square up and in the last couple of games, Justin Morneau has begun to stay on the ball instead of pulling off, and his bat would be a welcome addition if the Bucs are to make a playoff run.

Charlie Morton faces Bronson Arroyo tomorrow afternoon.

  • Pedro's 35th homer set a new club record for long balls by a third baseman, topping Aramis Ramirez's mark of 34 in 2001.
  • AJ's tenth win gives him double-digit victories for the ninth consecutive season.
  • Homer Bailey hasn't beat the Pirates since he no-hit them last September.
  • The Braves recently asked Sid Bream if he would throw out the ceremonial first pitch if they faced the Pirates in the playoff — and he turned them down. “Whatever their motive was, I don't want to be involved,” Bream said.
  • Local politicos have declared Monday "Black and Gold" day to honor the Bucs, and the festivities will kick off with a rally at Market Square starting at 11:30.

AJ v Homer, Lineup, Notes

AJ Burnett (9-11, 3.39) opens the final regular season series of the year against Homer Bailey (11-11, 3.40) as the Bucs and Reds jockey for home field in the wild card game. AJ is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA against Cincinnati this Campaign. Bailey has started three times versus the Pirates this season, and gone 0-2 with a 3.50 ERA. Oh - AJ's last start was a 4-2 victory in seven innings of work against Bailey.

Hey, nice way to end the season, but sorta anti-climatic. Home field is a big advantage, but to us, this series is pretty much a filler until Tuesday night and the play-in contest; that's the big game. And if you recall, both road teams (St. Louis @ Atlanta & Baltimore @ Texas) won last year's one-and-done games, so being in front of the faithful in a one-game, winner take all isn't a necessarily a ticket to ride.

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

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2b, Andrew McCutchen CF, Justin Morneau 1b, Marlon Byrd RF, Pedro Alvarez 3b, Russ Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and AJ Burnett P.

Reds lineup: Shin-Soo Choo CF, Ryan Ludwick LF, Joey Votto 1b, Brandon Phillips 2b, Jay Bruce RF, Todd Frazier 3b, Zack Cozart SS, Ryan Hanigan C and Homer Bailey P.

Not too surprisingly, it's the big boy lineups for both teams.
  • This is AJ's last shot at 10 wins; he's gone eight straight seasons with double-digit victories. 
  • Cutch’s 59 multi-hit games this season are the most by a Pirate since Freddy Sanchez had 60 while winning the batting title in 2006.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has an idea for the playoff game: start Francisco Liriano, give him three or four innings, and let the bullpen finish.
  • The NL Central has three teams with at least 90 wins for the first time since the division was created in 1994. It's the first time a NL division has had three 90+ winners since 2002 in the NL West.
  • This vid is ESPN's Baseball Today breakdown of the Buc-Reds series.
  • What are the Buccos worth to the town? The Pittsburgh Business Times' guess: "Ticket sales and related spending for the team's 81 home games meant more than $199 million to the region's economy." President Frank Coonelly says the team makes every effort to spend locally.
  • Mike Petriello of Fangraphs wonders if all Vic Black needs is an opportunity.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors thinks that FA Nate McLouth is in line for a 2 year, $10M deal during the off season.

9/27: Bucs Clinch in 1901, '70, '92, Longest Win Streak, Waner, Gibson, Kiner, Drabek, Giles...

Bucs Clinch in 1901, '70, '92, Longest Win Streak, Waner, Gibson, Kiner, Drabek, Giles...

  • 1884 - UT player Alan Storke was born in Auburn, New York. He was a Bucco from 1906-09 and played every infield position with a .255 BA while a Pirate. The Amherst grad died young in 1910 from a lung infection while studying law at Harvard during the off season. 
  • 1901 - Deacon Phillippe tossed the Pirates past the Brooklyn Superbas 5-4 at Exposition Park to clinch the NL pennant, the first of three straight NL titles for the Bucs. Pittsburgh scored three times in their half of the eighth. Kitty Bransfield’s single to left chased home Honus Wagner, who had doubled home a pair, with the pennant-clinching run. From August 31st to this date, the Pirates had won 26-of-30 games. It was Pittsburgh’s first title since the Alleghenys began playing major league ball in the American Association in 1882. 
  • 1907 - In a game that ended a 5-5 draw, the Bucs lost Honus Wagner for the last dozen games of the season when he was hit in the hand in the first inning by the Boston Dove’s Rube Dessau and broke a bone. The contest went 11 innings at Exposition Park before darkness ended it. 
  • 1909 - The Bucs won their 16th straight game, the longest winning streak a Pirate club has ever put together. They beat the Giants 6-1 in the first game of a twinbill at Exposition Park, finally losing when they dropped the nitecap, 8-7. 
  • 1930 - Paul Waner smacked a homer and single in an 11-8 win over St. Louis at Sportsman’s Park. That gave him 1,057 hits over his first five seasons, making him one of four players - Kirby Puckett, Earle Combs and Ducky Medwick are the others - to have 1,000+ hits in their first five campaigns. Adam Comorowsky drove in four runs during the victory over the Cards, giving him 119 RBI for the year. 
  • 1930 - 18 year old rookie Josh Gibson was credited with drilling what at the time was the longest home run ever hit in Yankee Stadium, a blast that went 460-505’ off the back wall of the LF bullpen (he was said to have landed another ball there in 1946). The Lincoln Giant’s “Broadway Connie” Rector gave up the three run smash in the first inning of a Homestead Grays 7-3 playoff victory. A week earlier, Gibson was credited with being the first hitter to clear the 457’ mark at Forbes Field during the same playoff series. 
  • 1952 - In the next-to-last game of the season, a 9-6 win over the Reds at Crosley Field, Ralph Kiner homered to finish the year with 37 long balls to tie Hank Sauer for the crown. It was Kiner’s record-setting seventh consecutive NL home run title. 
  • 1970 - The Pirates clinched the NL East title with a 2-1 victory over the Mets at TRS in front of 50,469 fans. Dave Cash had two hits, scored once and drove in a run to lead the offense. Dock Ellis got the win and Dave Giusti earned the save as the Pirates swept the three-game series from New York. 
  • 1989 - Doug Drabek spun a four hit shutout as the Bucs edged the Cubs and Joe Magrane 1-0. The Pirate run came in the fourth when Pittsburgh strung together three straight singles, with C Dan Bilardello bringing home Jeff King. 
  • 1992 - The Pirates won their third consecutive division crown by defeating the Mets at TRS, 4-2. Danny Jackson got the win and Stan Belinda picked up the save. 
  • 2002 - The Pirates beat the Cubs‚ 13-3 as Brian Giles scored five runs and drove home six with a double and a pair of home runs. He added another bomb the next game to give him four consecutive years with 35+ homers‚ joining Alex Rodriguez‚ Sammy Sosa‚ and Rafael Palmiero in that select club. Salomon Torres got the win at Wrigley Field. Every Pirate starter, included Torres, had a hit as the Bucs banged out 19 knocks.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

9/26: PNC Record Attendance, Leifield No Hitter, Larry Shepherd Axed, More...

PNC Record Attendance, Leifield No Hitter, Larry Shepherd Axed, More...

  • 1906 - Lefty Leifield hurled a six-inning no-hitter against Philadelphia, winning, 8-0 in a game called because of darkness. Pittsburgh won the opener by a shutout, too, taking a 5-0 win at the Baker Bowl behind Vic Willis. 
  • 1937 - The Bucs rallied to take the first game against Cincinnati 5-4, then scored twice in the first frame of the nitecap to claim a 2-1 sweep at Crosley Field. The Reds led the opener 4-0 in the eighth, but the Pirates scored three times that frame and twice more in the ninth for the victory. Jim Tobin not only went the distance, but had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run. Gus Suhr doubled home Woody Jensen and Lloyd Waner to provide Bill Swift, who tossed a complete game eight hitter, all the support he needed in the closer. 
  • 1962 - Earl Francis surrendered two hits in ten frames to beat the Reds and Jim Maloney 1-0. Bob Friend pitched the eleventh to earn his only save of the year, coming in after Bill Mazeroski and Willie Stargell doubles produced the game’s only run. 
  • 1969 - Larry Shepard was fired as manager though Pittsburgh had an 84-73 record. Coach Alex Grammas took over the club for the remaining week of the season. Then the Bucs returned to old faithful, Danny Murtaugh, for his third go-around as Pirate field boss. 
  • 1972 - Steve Blass scattered eight hits to defeat the Phils and win his 19th game by a 5-1 score at Veterans Stadium. Al Oliver and Manny Sanguillen had a pair of RBI, and Blass added a hit and drove in the other run. He missed his only chance for 20 victories in his final start against the Mets, when he couldn’t get through the first inning after taking a line drive off the elbow. 
  • 1974 - Al Oliver smacked five hits, including two homers and a double, in the Pirates’ 11-5 win at New York’s Shea Stadium. Scoops scored four times and had five RBI. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates took their 10th win in 12 games when they defeated the Mets in the opener of a twin bill at Shea Stadium by a 4-3 count in 15 innings. Bill Landrum, the fifth Buc pitcher, gave up a tying run in the 14th but worked a scoreless frame in the 15th for a blown save/win daily double. Lloyd McClendon singled in the 14th for the lead; pinch hitter Todd Hundley homered in the Met half to knot the score again. Don Slaught doubled home Barry Bonds in the next set of at-bats, and the Mets ran out of answers. The Bucs had lots of opportunities, but went 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position. They dropped the nitecap 2-1; they went 1-for-12 with RISP. 
  • 1992 - The Bucs laid a 19-2 hurtin’ on the NY Mets at TRS. Andy Van Slyke went 3-for-5 with a homer, triple, four runs and two RBI. Barry Bonds doubled and went long, scoring three times and chasing home three more tallies. Lloyd McClendon added a grand slam in the first to trigger the 20-hit onslaught, featuring five 2B, two 3B and three HR. Bob Walk got the win, with Steve Cooke and Paul Wagner mopping up after him. 
  • 2001 - During an 8-4 loss to the Cubs in their final home game of the season, the Pirates drew 25,564 to PNC Park, its first-year ballyard, and set a franchise attendance record of 2,464,870, an average of 30,430 per contest. It took until 2012 to draw 2M+ again. 
  • 2011 - It took seven Bucco hurlers, but the Pirates held off the Brewers 9-8 at Miller Park, with Daniel McCutchen getting the win and Joel Hanrahan the save, his 40th. The big men with the bats were Alex Presley with a HR, 2B and 1B along with three RBI, and Pedro Alvarez, who also drove in three runs.

Playoff Primer

Yep, been a long time since we've been here, and the rules are a little different. Here's what the Bucs are looking at this weekend as far as playoff options:

NL Central title: The odds against first place are overwhelming, with yesterday's loss making them even more infinitesimal. The Pirates need the sad sack Cubs to sweep the Cards at Busch Stadium and in turn have to sweep the Reds at GABP. And all that earns them is a one-game tie breaker. True, the Bucs hold a 10-9 series edge, but that doesn't break a tie for first. It just determines the home team for the title deciding playoff game.

Home team for the play-in game: The Pirate loss makes this simple; whoever wins two games in the weekend series against the Reds at GABP hosts the game. Pittsburgh is a game ahead, but 2-of-3 by the Reds will result in a tie, and Cincy would hold a 10-9 series edge to earn home field advantage.

The series will probably line up with AJ v Homer Bailey, Charlie Morton v Bronson Arroyo, and Gerrit Cole v long-time Pirate killer Johnny Cueto, though the third game will be in pencil, depending on the results of the first two. This, of course, isn't a make-or-break set of games, although home field for the one contest that counts on Tuesday night is big.

Things to look for: With Liriano tossing 103 pitches yesterday, the odds of him working the Red series on short rest are pretty much zero, making him the odds-on favorite to start the play-in game, especially with a Red lineup that includes lefties Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. But if the third game is meaningless because one team or another has taken the first two, Clint Hurdle could sit Gerrit Cole and have him as a wild card option, especially if it's a road game. Frankie has a big home-away split of 1.47 ERA at PNC Park and 4.32 elsewhere. And at GABP, he's 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA, though Cole has no track record, having never faced Cincy.

Either way, the Reds moved Mat Latos so that he'll likely start the play-in match. He's 1-1/4.08 versus the Bucs, pitching a little better at PNC than at GABP, the small stat difference probably due to park factors. As with the Pirates and Cole, if the third game is meaningless, Dusty Baker will have Cueto up his sleeve.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Opportunity Knocks; Bucs Don't Answer In 4-2 Loss

Starling Marte singled and stole second to open the game against Jake Arrieta. Neil Walker, who has been hot as a firecracker, laid on down, we assume looking for a drag hit, and popped out. Cutch went the other way, flying out, and Justin Morneau hit one on the nose, but Starlin Castro made the play to end the frame.

The Cubs put up a run in the first off Francisco Liriano when Darwin Barney doubled (actually, a single and a Cutch bobble) with an out and came around on Anthony Rizzo's knock. The Bucs went down quietly in the second. Darnell McDonald opened with a double and went to third on a bouncer, but Frankie tightened up and K'ed the 8-9 hitters.

The Pirates had a little two out lightning strike in the third. Marte singled and stole second, and Bucs were on the corners after Walker's soft roller turned into an infield knock. Back-to-back walks of Cutch and Morneau tied the game. But Garrett Jones couldn't keep the good times going, rolling out to second.

Darwin yanked a grounder into left with an out, and the Pirates gave him second again when Tony Sanchez set up outside and couldn't glove a fastball inside for a passed ball, Rizzo grounded back to the box and off Liriano for an infield knock to put Cubs on the corners. Frankie rallied to whiff Murphy swinging on a 3-2 pitch, with Rizzo going to second, which was left uncovered by the Bucs, who opted to play straight up D. Junior lake popped out to keep the Cubs off the board, but The Cisco Kid isn't real sharp in the early going, and his pitch count is at 66 offerings.

The Cubs all but gave the Bucs a run in the fourth, but in Pirate fashion, they refused to take it. Pedro lined a ball off Castro's mitt for an E6, and the ball carried to the track. El Toro was in second, and when LF Lake bobbled the ball and then ho-hummed picking it back up and getting it in, allowing the hustling Pedro to easily storm into third. Tony Sanchez hit a soft flare to short for the first out, and after popping a suicide squeeze attempt foul, Clint Barmes lined to third; Murphy was a step from the bag and doubled up Pedro.

McDonald, who had two doubles coming into today's game, led off with his second two-base knock. He helped Frankie, though, when he was caught trying to go to third on a grounder to short and was easy pickings, 6-5. He whiffed JC Boscot and Arrieta again to keep it at 1-1.

With an out in the fifth, Marte was nicked by a pitch. After a fly out, he stole second, his thrid swipe of the game, but was left when Cutch hit a comebacker. Liriano was back on his game this frame, retiring the top of the Chicago order on nine pitches.

The Cubs keep trying to hand Pittsburgh the go ahead run, but just can't do it. Morneau led off with a single and got to second when the ball hit off a diving Lake (who is making the transition from SS to the outfield) and his throw missed the base, going all the way to first. Jones gave himself up with two strikes and moved him to third on a roller to first. With the infield in, Pedro hit a single hop to first, freezing Morneau, and Tony Sanchez went down looking. The Bucs are back to their old tricks, as they're 1-for-11 with RISP after just six innings.

Murphy singled through the left side to open the Cub half and stole second, then Lake drew a 3-2 walk. Frankie was at 100 pitches, but Clint Hurdle kept him in, even with the righty McDonald up, who already has two doubles. He smoked a 2-1 heater into the stands for his first HR of the season, and it was 4-1 Cubs. Vin Mazzaro came on a batter late to clean up the frame.

Justin Grimm put the Bucs away neatly in the seventh. Bryan Morris came on, and gave up a single, intentional walk and wild pitch, but kept the Cubbies off the board. Pedro Strop worked the eighth, giving up a two out single to Morneau but otherwise keeping the Bucco bats muted. Jeanmar Gomez worked a solid frame, allowing a runner when a ball got under Morneau's glove. Kevin Gregg took the ball for Chicago. With an out, Castro bobbled Tony Sanchez's roller, and it cost when JT followed with a triple to right center.  The Bucs had the tying run at the dish, but got no further. Marlon Byrd came up hacking and went down on strikes; Marte watched three balls at the knees on the outside black go by, and that was it.

The Bucs had every opportunity to make their road a little easier, but the things that frustrated fans during this playoff run popped back up: wasted runners (1-for13 with RISP, stranding a runner at third with less than two outs four times; four fly balls and the Bucs win) and a pitching change one batter late.

A day off, and then the last series against Cincinnati. Whoever takes two out of three is the home team for the one-and-done playoffs. AJ Burnett and Homer Bailey match up Friday in a key opening contest.

  • Marte is the first Pirate to steal three bases in a game since Cutch in 2010, and the first Buc to reach 40 swipes since Tony Womack in 1998 (he had 58).
  • In Pirate team history, the only players with 25+ 2B, 10+ 3B, 12+ HR, & 40+ SB in a season are Starling Marte, Kiki Cuyler (1925) and Jake Stenzel (1894).
  • The Pirates are 3-4 at GABP, splitting a four game set in June and losing 2-of-3 in July.
  • Francisco Liriano will almost certainly be the starter for the playoff game, unless Gerrit Cole doesn't go in the Red finale, which could happen if one team or the other takes the first two games.
  • St. Louis swept the Nats 4-1 and the Mets beat the Reds 1-0 at GABP. The Pirates had a golden opportunity to just need one win at Cincy to clinch a home playoff game; now they need to take 2-of-3. St. Louis is all but in; they finish with the Cubs, and the only way the Pirates can take the division is to have the Redbirds lose all three while they sweep Cincinnati, eliminated from the title chase today. And even that would result in a one-game tiebreaker game, not an outright crown, though it would be played in Pittsburgh.

Liriano v Arrieta

Fancisco Liriano  (16-7, 2.88) takes on Jake Arrieta (4-4, 5.06) as the Bucs go for the sweep at Wrigley. Frankie's had some problems on the road, but Chicago has been good to him, as he's 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA by the lake. It's been a tough year for Arrieta, though he was strong in his last outing, a three hit effort against the Brewers. All in all, it's a good match up on paper for the Pirates.

The game begins at 2:20 and will be aired by WGN, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2b, Andrew McCutchen CF, Justin Morneau 1b, Garrett Jones RF, Pedro Alvarez 3b, Tony Sanchez C, Clint Barmes SS and Francisco Liriano P.

Garrett Jones gives The Byrd a day off as Clint loads up with lefties as best he can against Arrieta.

Cubs lineup: Starlin Castro SS, Darwin Barney 2b, Anthony Rizzo 1b, Donnie Murphy 3b, Junior Lake LF, Darnell McDonald RF, Ryan Sweeney CF, JC Boscan C and Jake Arrieta P.

  • Today is Chicago's last home game. After an off day, the Cubbies visit St. Louis for a season-ending three game set.
  • The rotations for the weekend Buc-Red series aren't set yet, but it points to a Francisco Liriano - Mat Latos throwdown for the play-in game if St. Louis holds on the first place. The Bucs have AJ Burnett set in stone for Friday, probably followed by Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole; Jeff Locke is out of the equation unless the last game is meaningless. Cincy will counter with Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.
  • Gerrit Cole became the first Pirate rookie to win 10 games since 2002 when Josh Fogg won 12, and the first to come through the Pirate organization since Kris Benson won 10 in 1999.
  • Neil Walker was named the XVal Player of the week, which recognizes how much value a player brings to his club. (thx to )
  • Cutch has 59 multi-hit games this season, second in the NL behind St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter, who has 63. McCutchen’s 59 multi-hit games are the most by a Pirate since Freddy Sanchez had 60 while winning the batting title in 2006. 
  • Ron Cook of the Post Gazette has a nice piece on Clint Hurdle, focusing on the man rather than the manager.
  • Starling Marte's 137 knocks from the leadoff spot are the most hits for a Pirates leadoff hitter since Jason Kendall had 155 in 2004.
  • RHP Vic Black, who was traded to the Mets as part of the Marlon Byrd deal, gave his old teammates a boost yesterday when he notched his first MLB save against the Reds.
  • The Pittsburgh Post Gazette column The Digs mentions how the 1992 Pirates won the division but saw attendance drop by over 230,000 fans. The reason - the newspaper strike, which GM Ted Simmons said "killed us" because it made it hard for people to follow the team. That, of course, was before bloggers and social media provided a Plan B for the faithful.

9/25: Bucs Clinch In '60, Huntington Hired, Williams Sets Save Mark, Hans, Big Poison, Tony Womack, Craig Wilson...

Bucs Clinch In '60, Huntington Hired, Williams Sets Save Mark, Hans, Big Poison, Tony Womack, Craig Wilson...

  • 1901 - The Flying Dutchman drove in six runs against Christy Mathewson at Exposition Park with a double and triple as the Pirates defeated the NY Giants for the 12th straight time during the season by a 10-5 score. The top three men in the lineup - Lefty Davis, Fred Clarke and Ginger Beaumont - banged six hits, walked four times and scored seven runs. Jesse Tannehill was touched for 13 hits but never really threatened; Pittsburgh scored three runs in the opening frame and was up 10-1 after six. 
  • 1907 - Honus Wagner swiped four bases at Forbes Field, including second, third, and home in the second inning against the New York Giants during a 14-1 victory. The Flying Dutchman duplicated that deed four times in his career. Fred Clarke also stole four bases for Pittsburgh. 
  • 1923 - The Pirates turned the Phillies every which way but loose in an 18-5 romp at Forbes Field. SS Eddie Moore made his MLB debut at the leadoff spot, and had three hits, drew two walks, and scored five times. Pie Traynor had chased home four runs and Johnny Rawlings went 4-for-5. Ray Steineder got the win, and chipped in with two hits, two runs, two RBI and a sac bunt. 
  • 1932 - Paul Waner stroked a pair of two-baggers at Sportman’s Park to set the NL mark for doubles with 62 and key Pittsburgh’s 7-1 win over the St. Louis Cards. 
  • 1941 - Max Butcher and Elbie Fletcher eliminated the St. Louis Cards from the NL race with a 3-1 win at Forbes Field. Butcher tossed a five hitter, and the only run he was allowed was when he surrendered a bases-loaded walk in the seventh; he came back to strike out the next two Redbirds to limit the damage. Fletcher drilled a two run, inside the park homer to straight center, with Billy Cox scoring the other tally after a triple followed by Arky Vaughan’s sac fly. 
  • 1960 - Although they lost 4-2 to the Braves, a St. Louis defeat clinched the pennant for Pittsburgh. The City celebrated by holding a giant midnight torchlight parade in the Golden Triangle. It was the first time since 1927 that the Pirates were headed for the World Series. 
  • 1969 - Tony Womack was born in Danville, Virginia. The second baseman played his first five seasons (1993-94; 1996-98) with the Bucs, hitting .278 and earning an All-Star berth. He played in the show for 13 seasons, finishing up with a .272 BA. 
  • 2001 - Craig Wilson collected hits in each of the final 3 innings of Pittsburgh's last game and got hits in each of the first 3 frames against Chicago‚ giving him knocks in six consecutive innings against six different pitchers‚ a MLB mark. The Bucs won 13-1. 
  • 2002 - Mike Williams set the Bucco single season save record when he earned his 46th against the Mets at PNC Park with a 1-2-3 ninth, closing out a 4-3 win for Ron Villone. 
  • 2007 - Neal Huntington was named as the Pirates new GM, replacing Dave Littlefield. He spent six years with the Expos and a decade with the Indians in various executive positions, primarily in the player development area, prior to coming to Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bucs Tame Bruins 8-2

Good starts for Chris Rusin and Gerrit Cole; 1-2-3 frames for them both, and each with a K. The second was considerably livelier. Marlon Byrd opened the second with a single and Gaby walked. A Russ Martin fly to center moved The Byrd to third, and he scored when Pedro lined a ground rule double to right (it got caught in the ivy), forcing Gaby to stop a the hot corner. Josh Harrison grounded out, freezing the runners. Cole took matters in his own hands, ripping a ball into left to make it 3-0.

Dioner Navarro and Nate Schierholtz singled to open the Cub half, but a screw up on the bases cost them; Navarro made a turn and returned to second, while Schierholtz took a turn a continued to second, where he was thrown out. Donnie Murphy followed with another single to put Cubs on the corners, but Cole bore down and got Brian Bogusevich to bounce one to second for a 4-6-3 DP.

Jordy Mercer led off the third by crushing a homer to left center; yum, yum lefties. After an out, Byrd singled off 3B Murphy's glove and Gaby doubled him to third. That was it for Rusin, as Brooks Raley came on. He kept the Bucs from adding on - runners on third and less than two outs is kryptonite to this club - as Martin and Pedro whiffed. The Cubs got a run when Logan Watkins opened with a bloop knock, was bunted to second, and was chased home when Starlin Castro's ball was knocked down by Mercer, but rolled far enough into the outfield for the run to come in. Cole again had an answer, getting Junior Lake on a comebacker and 1-6-3 DP.

After K'ing a pair of Bucs in the fourth, Marte banged a broken bat knock into center, but was left when Mercer's soft liner to right hung up. The Cubs went down quietly. Chang-Yong Lim took the hill for Chi-town. Cutch singled through the SS hole, then Byrd and Gaby walked. True to Pirate form, Martin whiffed, but Pedro cued a 3-2 curve away and hopped it over third; with the shift on, it rolled into left for a two-run double. Harrison was yanked for Neil Walker, who was intentionally walked. That was it for Lim as Blake Parker took the bump. He K'ed Marte on a check swing foul tip. The Bucs have six runs, but left a lot of ducks circling the Wrigley pond. Cole wasn't counting ducks, though, as he struck out the side.

Pittsburgh went down in order in the sixth. It looked like the wheels were coming off for Cole after a jam shot to left, a single to right and a walk loaded the sacks. Mercer lost the handle on a slow roller, threw late to second and everyone was safe. Dioner Navarro was up 3-0 when Cole decided it was time to go to the heat. He K'ed him, then Luis Valbuena, and escaped when Murphy's drive to right was hauled in at the wall by Byrd - thankfully, the wind was blowing in tonight - to keep the score 6-2. He tossed over 30 pitches that frame, so Cole is probably done, but it was a great Houdini act by the young righty.

Alberto Cabrera took the ball in the seventh and worked a routine inning. Justin Wilson struck out the first two Cubbies he faced, then Pedro threw away a slow roller. Wilson took the opportunity to get Castro on a slider in the dirt to strike out the side.

The Bucs tacked on another pair in the eighth. With an out, Garrett Jones doubled to the track in left center. A pick off attempt that Watkins short-armed moved pinch runner Felix Pie to third, and he came in when Starling Marte's grounder to short with the infield in went off Castro's backhand stab into short left, and Marte dashed into second. He scored on Cutch's two out, two strike liner to left to make it 8-2. Bryan Morris got the call. With an out, Anthony Rizzo rolled a ball to left against a shift, followed by a walk. Morris whiffed the next pair, and it was on to ninth.

Zac Rosscup got the Bucs 1-2-3 when Bogusevich ran down Pedro's gap shot; the wind giveth and taketh away. Kyle Farnsworth climbed the bump. He got two quick outs, then the game dragged on a bit; a grounder got under Gaby for a knock, followed by a walk. Junior Lake whiffed, and the Bucs had notch #91 added to their belt.

Despite the score, it wasn't a very pretty game, with shoddy fielding, 23 strikeouts, seven walks, 22 hits and 17 stranded runners between the two teams. But hey, a win is a win, and in September they're all gems.

Francisco Liriano takes on Jake Arrieta tomorrow afternoon to close out the series.
  • From - Gerrit Cole now has gone 5+IP and allowed less than four runs in every start (19) for the third longest streak to start a career in history.
  • With 41 road wins, the Bucs have their first winning season as road warriors since 1992.
  • The Pirates have posted 29 wins in one-run games this year. That’s the most wins in one-run contests since the 1993 club also won 29 games.
  • Pittsburgh won 12 games this year scoring two or fewer runs, the most wins by the team scoring two or fewer since the 1992 Buccos won 13 times.
  • The Cards won 2-0 over Washington and the Reds lost 4-2 to the Mets, so Pittsburgh is still two behind the Redbirds but now one ahead of Cincinnati.

Cole v Rusin

Gerrit Cole (9-7, 3.23 ERA) and Chris Rusin (2-5, 3.52) get it on tonight as the Bucs head toward the regular season finish line.Cole, who will face the Cubs for the second time in 11 days, tossed seven innings against them in a 2-1 victory September 14th at PNC Park, then dazzled San Diego five days later.

Young lefty Rusin has pitched well for the Cubbies, although he ran into problems in his last outing against the Brewers, when he surrendered an first inning grand slam. In his only start against the Bucs, on September 12th, he was sharp over seven innings, holding Pittsburgh to a pair of runs.

The game starts at 8:05 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS, Andrew McCutchen CF, Marlon Byrd RF, Gaby Sanchez 1b, Russ Martin C, Pedro Alvarez 3b, Josh Harrison 2b and Gerrit Cole P.

Pretty typical LHP lineup, especially now that Marte appears to healthy and Clint figured out that Justin Morneau doesn't hit lefties.

Cub lineup: Starlin Castro SS, Junior Lake LF, Anthony Rizzo 1b, Dioner Navarro C, Nate Schierholtz RF, Donnie Murphy 3b, Brian Bogusevic CF, Logan Watkins 2b and Chris Rusin P.

  • Jason Grilli's save last night gave the Pirates 53 in 2013, a club record since saves became an official statistic in 1969. The previous saves high was 52 by the 1979 Buccos, led by Teke.
  • David Schoenield of ESPN's The Sweet Spot sees trouble ahead for the Buccos because "the offense is struggling, and the ninth inning is suddenly a question mark." 
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the concepts that built the Bucs.
  • ESPN Stats & Info: 435 different players suited up in the black and gold for the Pirates since their last postseason berth in 1992.
  • The Cards, Reds and Pirates are all guaranteed NL playoff spots; the next five games will be spent jockeying for position.
  • OF Austin Meadows and C Reese McGuire were named Baseball America's top two prospects from this year's GCL class.

Abso - BUCN - lutely!

In case you missed the ninth inning last night...

9/24: Steverino's Shutout Streak, Willie Does It All, The Antelope Plays, Jeff Karstens B-Day, Craig Wilson Homers, Grilli's First Save...

Steverino's Shutout Streak, Willie Does It All, The Antelope Plays, Jeff Karstens B-Day, Craig Wilson Homers, Grilli's First Save...

  • 1957 - Bucco 1B Dee Fondy grounded out to end the game and thus became the last player to swing a bat in anger at Ebbets Field. Da’ Bums Danny McDevitt blanked the Bucs 2-0 in the final major league game played in Brooklyn before the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles. 
  • 1968 - Steve Blass tossed his third consecutive shutout‚ defeating the Reds 2-0 at Forbes Field. Steverino won his ninth straight victory and recorded a NL high seventh shutout on his way to an 18-6 season. The game against Gary Nolan was scoreless until the seventh when Willie Stargell led off with a homer. The Bucs added an insurance run in the eighth when Maury Wills singled, was bunted to second and came home on Matty Alou’s two-bagger. 
  • 1973 - LF Willie Stargell robbed Ken Singleton of a homer in the fifth, went long himself in the sixth and threw out Tony Scott at home in the seventh inning during a 3-0 defeat of the Expos at Jarry Park. Nellie Briles and Dave Guisti kept Montreal off the board, scattering eight hits for the shutout. 
  • 1977 - OF Omar Moreno swiped his 50th base of the season to surpass Sonny Jackson's rookie record set with the Astros in 1966. The Antelope swiped a pair of sacks and was caught once by Cubs C George Mitterwald in a 7-3 Pirate win at Wrigley. 
  • 1982 - RHP Jeff Karstens was born in San Diego. He was sent to Pittsburgh by the Yankees in 2008, and the oft-injured righty has worked as a multi-role pitcher for the Pirates since then, with most of his outings as a starter. 
  • 2001 - Rookie OF Craig Wilson tied the MLB record for pinch hit HRs in a season by hitting his seventh in the Pirates' 7-6 win over the Cubs. He stayed in the game and banged out two more knocks.
  •  2006 - Trevor Hoffman retired the Pirate side in order to close out a 2-1 San Diego victory at Petco Park. It was his 479th career save, surpassing Lee Smith and making the 38-year-old reliever the all-time leader in saves. 
  • 2011 - Josh Harrison went 4-for-5 with a 2B, 3B and stolen base while Neil Walker went 3-for-4 to help the Bucs to a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. Brad Lincoln got the win and Jason Grilli earned his first save as a Pirate.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bucs In Playoffs After Dramatic 2-1 Win

Neil Walker got the Bucs going; with one out, he lifted a Jeff Samardzija offering the other way, clearing the wall in left center. Cutch followed with a bloop single, but was left. Ground Chuck did his thing, getting a quiet inning with a couple of balls hit in the dirt.

The Bucs had another of their innings in the second. With an out, Russ Martin walked and Jordy Mercer's hot shot to third went off Luis Valbueno's mitt into left to put Bucs at first and third. Morton bunted, Martin took a peek and headed home, where he was DOD; looked like he went on his own on a bad read. The sad part is that if it was a straight squeeze, it probably would have worked. JT bounced out, and the Bucs left another couple of runners aboard.

The Cubs tried to conjure some two out juju. Ryan Sweeney walked on a 3-2 pitch that looked like strike three, and Brian Bogusevich, who owns Morton, dropped a soft chalk kisser in right, played well by Marlon Byrd to hold the lead runner at third. Darwin Barney worked the count to 3-1 and got a ball over the dish that he was all over, but his liner to left was hauled in by JT. Sam worked a quiet third, as did Charlie.

Pedro singled with an out in the fourth and moved to second on Martin's tapper. Mercer was intentionally walked with first open, and Morton went down on three pitches. In the Cub half, it was three up, three grounders, three down. With two away in the fifth, Cutch and Justin Morneau walked, but Byrd grounded the first pitch he saw to short; the Bucs have stranded seven over five frames. Charlie struck out the side, interrupted with two outs by bopping Barney with a 1-2 curve.

Martin singled with an out in the sixth; Morton blopped a broken bat single with two outs. By JT whiffed going after high heat, and the Buc pond is just filled with ducks looking to come home. Morton faced the top of the Chi-town order, and Morneau handled the action.He smothered Starlin Castro's one hopper, but it got under him for a knock. Valbuena got ahead 3-0, took a strike and hit a one bouncer up the line; Morneau stepped and first and threw to second for the tag DP. Rizzo bounced to first, and the big guy erased him unassisted.

Carlos Villanueva took the ball in the seventh and worked a routine frame. Dionner Navarro singled to left center to open. Charlie whiffed Nate Schierholtz, then  got Sweeney to hit a slow roller to second. Navarro stopped to avoid the tag midway down the line, then The Kid went to first for the force and Morneau's throw to second completed the second tag 'em out DP of the game for the Bucs.

Hector Rendon worked a 1-2-3 eighth, with a couple of sharply hit grounders finding leather instead of grass. Charlie was done after seven scoreless, giving up three hits, a walk and collecting five whiffs after 89 pitches. Clint Barmes came on to play short and Mark the Shark climbed the hill.

And it continued. Bogusevich got a call on a two strike check swing and used the reprieve to single to center. A barney chop off the middle went off Melancon's mitt; he could just get the out at first. A wild pitch moved the runner to third, and a routine grounder by Donnie Murphy, with Pedro playing well in front of the bag, maybe losing his positioning even with the infield in, went under the third baseman's mitt to tie the game. A fly out and K - with a foul that just wrapped outside the RF pole by Valbuena - ended the frame.

Kevin Gregg worked the ninth, and struck out the side. He did have a two-out burp, though - he hung a curve to Starling Marte and the new papa pounded it halfway up the bleachers in left to give the Bucs the lead again at 2-1. Now it's on Tony Watson, with lefty Rizzo due up and Jason Grilli getting a late start on loosening in the pen. Rizzo hit a one hopper over third; Pedro was in a no-double D, made the play, and short hopped the throw to first, which was nicely picked by Morneau. Now it's Grilli time.

And what a finish. Navarro walked on a 3-2 pitch, again looking a lot like strike three. Schierholtz hit a broken bat roller toward first. Morneau, playing the line, fully extended his 6'4" frame, gloved the ball and got the force at second. With two strikes, Sweeney blooped a single to right with the OF playing deep, and Byrd had the ball glance off his glove. Cutch was there for the backup, and as Schierholtz made a mad dash home, Cutch's relay hit Morneau, who got the ball to Martin a step ahead of the runner, and Russ made the tag, raised the ball for the ump, and the Bucs had win #90.

Not much offense, but Charlie Morton was spectacular again, and two homers were just enough. Justin Morneau's defense at first was unbelievable tonight; his bat might have been quiet, but his glove had as much to do with the win as the homers. And if the mark the Shark doesn't find his mojo soon, he may find himself flipped with Tony Watson.

Oh - the win clinches a playoff spot. The wait is over; now the question is when and where. So there's still work to be done, and it goes on tomorrow night when Gerrit Cole takes on Chris Rusin.

  • The Reds and Cards won by a run tonight, too, so the numbers are the same as yesterday - St. Louis up by two, with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh tied for second and the top wildcard spot.

Morton v Samardzija

Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.35) is opening the Cub set at Wrigley Field against Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.42). Charlie has won six of his eight decisions since the All Star break, and when he can keep it on lefties' hands, he's a guy to be reckoned with. He's faced the Cubs twice this year and not had much success, going 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA. Samardzija was a long time Pirate nemesis, but this year is 1-3 against Pittsburgh, but with a decent 3.33 ERA and 27 K in 27 IP.

This is a big series, leading up to the final showdown at Cincy over the weekend, and the Bucs shouldn't sit on their clippings. Chicago lost 3-of-4 at PNC Park last week, but three games were decided by a run and the other by two, so this set should be yet another grind. Then again, aren't they all?

The game starts at 8:05 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2b, Andrew McCutchen CF, Justin Morneau 1b, Marlon Byrd RF, Pedro Alvarez 3b, Russ Martin C, Jordy Mercer SS and Charlie Morton P.

Jordy is back in the saddle again.

Cub lineup: Starlin Castro SS, Luis Valbuena 3b, Anthony Rizzo 1b, Dioner Navarro C, Nate Schierholtz RF, Ryan Sweeney CF, Brian Bogusevic LF, Darwin Barney 2b and Jeff Samardzij P.

Throwing six lefties at Charlie.

  • Russell Martin is the first Pirate catcher to hit 15 home runs in a season since Ryan Doumit did it in 2008. He's got a shot at the club season record of 17, set by Jim Pagliaroni in 1965.
  • The Pirates have gone 10-6 against the Cubs this season. The team went 7-3 at PNC Park and 3-3 at Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh is 4-6 in its last 10 games, and the only other NL Central team with a losing record over that span is the Cubbies, going 3-7.
  • Pittsburgh magic # for the playoffs is two.
  • San Diego started Pittsburgh on a bad stretch, and it was probably the baseball gods payback for what the Bucs did to Texas. The Pirates launched them on a seven-game losing streak and 10 losses in the last 13 games. The Rangers went from two games behind Oakland to 8-1/2 in the division, and from two games up in the wildcard to 1-1/2 games out of the playoff mix as of today.

9/23: The Original Pirate, Kiner Hits #51, Great Pitching, Fred Clarke Day, Bucs Clinch, Jim Rooker...

The Original Pirate, Kiner Hits #51, Great Pitching, Fred Clarke Day, Bucs Clinch, Jim Rooker...

  • 1865 - 2B Lou Beirbauer was born in Erie (some sources have his b-day as 9/28, and at least one more says he was born in Philly, que sera, sera). The Pirates signed him in 1891, as he wasn’t on the reserved roster of his American Association club, the Philadelphia Athletics (he had skipped to the outlaw Players League in 1890). His rights were decided by an arbitrator, and even though the AA called the Alleghenys’ act “piratical,” they were awarded Bierbauer - and a new nickname, the Pirates. From 1891-96, his Pittsburgh years, Bierbauer was a defensive master and hit .260. 
  • 1886 - According to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, Pittsburgh Alleghenys’ pitcher Pud Galvin walked the first three Brooklyn Bridegrooms he faced - and picked them all off for a 1-2-3 inning! Pittsburgh went on to win the game 8-2. 
  • 1904 - The Pirates downed the runaway NL leaders, the NY Giants, by a 7-0 score at the Polo Grounds. Charlie Case tossed a two-hitter, and didn’t give up a knock after the second frame. His opponent wasn’t quite up to snuff; the Pittsburg Press said that “Leon Ames...was as wild as a March hare and issued six free passes. Besides, the Pirates stung his delivery at a lively rate and practically sewed up the game in the second inning, when three free passes turned into tallies.” The New York Herald was a little less kind - "Pittsburg Plays All By Itself" was its headline. 
  • 1907 - The Pirates dropped the NY Giants 2-1 at Exposition Park. Vic Willis tossed a six hitter with six K to outgun Hooks Wiltse. Bill Hallman had three hits and a run scored for the Bucs, Honus Wagner added two knocks and a stolen base, and Ed Abbattachio doubled and scored. The game had a little added spice when umpire Bill Klem and Giant manager John McGraw argued during the lineup exchange, setting the scene for McGraw’s ejection in the sixth inning. 
  • 1915 - It was “Fred Clarke Day” in Pittsburgh, and Cap suited up one last time in his only on-field appearance of his final season. He played four innings and went 1-for-2 against Dick Rudolph of the Boston Braves in an 8-4 win at Forbes Field with Wilbur Cooper on the hill. For farewell gifts, Clarke received an eight-day grandfather clock from his players and a leather binder containing the names of several thousand supporters as a keepsake. 
  • 1925 - The Pittsburg Press wrote “The Phillies gave the Pirates a merry tussle in the game that cinched the pennant for the Smoky City…” as the Bucs turned six DP and edged the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 at Forbes Field to claim the NL flag for the first time since 1909. It was the ninth straight victory for the Pirates. Emil Yde tossed a seven hitter for the victory with help from Tommy Sheehan in the ninth. Max Carey and Pie Traynor added a pair of knocks. 
  • 1935 - Behind the four hit pitching of Jim Weaver and Pep Young’s three knocks and seven RBI, the Bucs left the St. Louis Cardinal’s pennant hopes on life support, taking a 12-0 over the Redbirds at Sportsman’s Park. Woody Jensen had four hits, including a pair of doubles, while Lloyd Waner and Arky Vaughan added three hits and runs apiece. 
  • 1942 - LHP Jim Rooker was born in Lakeview, Oregon. Rook pitched eight years (1973-80) for the Bucs with a line of 82-65/3.29, which he equalled in playoff time with a 3.20 ERA, including a strong start in Game #5 of the 1979 Series, a crucial match that the Pirates, down 3 games to one, won. He was also a Pirate TV color analyst from 1981 through 1993, and worked for ESPN from 1994 to 1997. Rooker’s most memorable TV moment came when he said on air that he’d walk home from Philadelphia if the Pirates lost, which they did. True to his word, he staged a charity walk after the season. 
  • 1947 - Ralph Kiner hit his franchise record 51st homer (he would break that mark in 1949) against Jim Kearns of the Cards at Forbes Field in an 8-4 loss to the Redbirds. 
  • 1951 - Murry Dickson tossed a five hitter against the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field to win his 20th game 3-0. Gus Bell had a pair of hits and two RBI to back Dickson. Murry was the only Bucco pitcher to win more than eight games that season; the team only won 64 contests. 
  • 1952 - IF Jim Morrison was born in Pensacola, Florida. He spent half (1982-87) of his 12 year career as a Pirate, hitting .274 as a Bucco with a standout 1986 campaign. That year, Morrison together a line of .274/23/88 as Pittsburgh’s starting third baseman. 
  • 1956 - With the Dodgers leading the Pirates 8-3, 44,932 fans, the largest crowd in Forbes Field's history, lured by a “prize day” promotion, left early when a ninth inning rain delay postponed the game with two outs, triggering the Sunday curfew with the Dodgers up 8-2. Brooklyn officially won the game the next day. Don Newcombe got the win in a match that saw seven Bucco hurlers take the bump. 
  • 1959 - RHP Jim Winn was born in Stockton, California. A first round draft pick (14th overall) of Pittsburgh in 1981, the reliever never quite panned out, pitching from 1983-86 for the Bucs with a 7-11-4/4.47 line, then spending a couple of years in the AL to end his career. 
  • 1974 - Jim Rooker threw nine shutout frames as the Bucs beat the St. Louis Cards 1-0 in 10 innings at Busch Stadium, with Dave Guisti working the last frame for the save. The Bucs scored when pinch hitter Paul Popovich singled and was replaced by Miguel Dilone on the basepaths. He was bunted to second and came around on Richie Hebner’s single. The win moved the club to ½ game behind the Cards in a see-saw pennant race that Pittsburgh eventually eked out. 
  • 2011 - The Bucs allowed the Reds tie the game in the ninth when Joel Hanrahan plunked Todd Frazier with a bases-loaded, two out, 3-2 pitch. But the Bucs came back to claim a 4-3 walk off victory when Jason Jaramillo doubled and came in on Ryan Ludwick’s knock. Garrett Jones’ two-run homer had staked the Pirates to an early lead.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Locke Rocked; Pen Pummeled As Bucs Fall 11-3

With one gone in the first, Chris Heisey singled off Clint Barmes' mitt and Joey Votto followed with a four pitch walk. Then Jeff Locke lost Brandon Phillips on a 3-2 count. He's not been spraying the ball, but like last night, it's a tight strike zone and he's on the wrong side of the black.

Jay Bruce got a fastball, inside half at the knees, and cleared the bases with a soft double to the gap in front of The Notch. The Bucs and walks just don't mix. They don't sit well with fans, either, as the boos rained down. After a wild pitch, Todd Frazier went yard to left center off a heater, dropping the ball into the first row beside the bullpen, and Locke is digging the Pirates a Grand Canyon sized hole. He got a ground out, then Barmes booted one to keep the inning alive. The lefty got Bronson Arroyo looking, but it sure seems like this will be Locke's last 2013 appearance on the hill for the Bucs.

With an out in the first, Neil Walker drew a 3-2 free pass off Arroyo. Cutch popped out after a long at bat, and Justin Morneau followed with a four pitch walk. The Bucs couldn't make Arroyo pay for his walks, though they tried as Marlon Byrd flew out to the track in right center.

No surprise here; Jeanmar Gomez took the bump in the second. Billy Hamilton bunted for a single and stole second, with the Bucs getting a double whammy of the ump missing the strike call when Martin got up to throw. Not much diff; Heisey doubled to left to chase him home, followed by a Votto knock to put Reds on the corners. Phillips got a sinker down Broadway, and his sac fly to deep center made it 7-0. Bruce lined out the opposite way to JT and Frazier bounced out, but Pittsburgh is behind by a TD already.

Pedro and Barmes singled around a Martin K. Lambo came up to swing for Gomez, and went down chasing a diving slider. Ditto for JT, who went after a slider that was running away. The Bucs are swinging from their heels (Arroyo struck out the side), and that's not the way to nickle and dime their way back in the game. Let's see - down by seven, four runners stranded, and on their third pitcher (Brandon Cumpton) going into the top of the third...sheesh!

Cozart greeted him with a bloop to right. He was bunted to second an out later, and Hamilton put Redlegs on the corners with an infield knock to third; a ball on the ground is a hit for him. Byrd ran down Heisey's fly along the line, and the Reds had their first goose egg. Walker got Pittsburgh on the board when he yanked a change just above the knees over the Clemente Wall, but the next trio of Buccos grounded out.

Cumpton worked a quiet fourth, giving up a single to Phillips. The Bucs spent another frame trying witout success to hit the ball out of the infield. John Buck came in to catch, as Martin reported some discomfort in his left knee, the one that's been bothersome over the past several weeks. The bottom of the Red order went down quietly in the fifth.

Travis Snider grabbed a bat and planted an Arroyo delivery into the shrubs in center. JT was HBP, and The Kid doubled him to third. Cutch inexplicably looked at a pair of strikes, then popped a slider way off the plate to first; it was a rare thrown away at bat by McCutchen. Morneau lifted a sac fly to right before Byrd flew out. Arroyo has given the Bucs ample opportunity to make the game at least interesting, but the Pirates won't take advantage.

Stolmy Pimentel took the bump in the sixth. Barmes made his second error of the game by throwing away Hamilton's grounder to open the frame; his speed really rushes everyone's routine. He stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch with two down, a ball that was thrown behind Phillips, triggering a warning to the benches. A groundout ended the frame and the fans had a little something to buzz about, even giving Stolmy some love when he left the mound. Dusty nursed Arroyo through five, enough to qualify for the win, and brought on Alfredo Simon who tossed a clean frame. The Reds went quietly in the seventh. After two fly outs, Walker drew a walk, and Cutch, after another long at bat, smoked a one-hopper to third.

Vin Mazzaro took his turn in the eighth. After two routine outs, Hamilton dropped a liner into LC and ended up on second. He came in when Heisey poked a single into center. Votto brought Heisey home with a double; the last three balls have been hit pretty solidly by the Reds, and Jared Hughes was sent in. he almost hit Phillips in the knee with a pitch, but he turned enough to bang it into left to put Reds on the corners. Bruce singled in another run before the mayhem ended to make it 10-3. Manny Parra tossed a clean frame.

In a nice move for both Cutch and the home crowd, Clint Hurdle sent McCutchen to center in the ninth, then pulled him for Starling Marte so the fans could give him a last regular season ovation as he jogged to the dugout to the chant of "MVP."

It didn't impress the Reds much as Cozart opened with a double off Hughes, Cincy's 15th hit. An out later, Derrick Robinson singled him home to close out the Cincinnati scoring. Logan Ondrusek drew the mop up duty and struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 finish.

It's kinda scary how closely Jeff Locke's 2013 campaign is an image of James McDonald's 2012 season; from All-Star to afterthought. Let's hope Locke can find the key that J-Mac couldn't. The Buc bats could have hung around early; Arroyo was up in the hitting zone the entire game, maybe having an off day or maybe just pumping strikes with a big lead, but the Bucs couldn't come up with a big hit to make a run. Too bad they couldn't make fan appreciation day a little more competitive.

The Reds unveiled rookie Billy Hamilton, and he's the real deal from what we've seen in this set. We don't know how his body will hold up to an MLB schedule, but his wheels are difference makers. We'll be seeing a lot of him next season, we suspect.

OK, six to go, and it'll be a fight. The Buc rotation will be a four-man gig now, with Thursday off, and those guys haven't backed down from a challenge yet. It's off the the Windy City for three, with Charlie Morton opening against Jeff Samardzija.

  • Neil Walker went 2-for-2 with HR, 2B, and two walks.
  • Some thought that if the weather had cooperated, PNC park might have drawn its first 40,000 crowd yesterday. Not that close today, but a good showing, nevertheless. The attendance of 38,699 made the weekend total of 116,064 the second largest crowd for a three-game series ever at PNC Park. Pittsburgh sold out its 23rd game of the year to bring the season attendance total to 2,256,862, an average of 28,211 and the second highest turnout in Pirate history.
  • The Bucs magic # for a playoff spot is two as the Nats dropped the opener of a DH to Miami 4-2.
  • On his Sunday radio show, GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates will have Jeanmar Gomez stretched out and in the mix for a rotation spot in 2014.

Locke v Arroyo in Rubber Match

Jeff Locke (10-6, 3.27) goes in the rubber match against Bronson Arroyo (13-11, 3.56). It's a classic battle of an young up-and-down guy against a veteran Mr. Consistency. Locke is 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA in four career starts against the Reds. Arroyo is 6-7 with a 3.70 ERA against Pittsburgh, including 3-4 with a 3.38 at PNC.

So keep your defibrillator close at hand (we prefer a cold beer in its stead) and enjoy some meaningful September baseball. The series-deciding clash begins at 1:35, and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2b, Andrew McCutchen CF, Justin Morneau 1b, Marlon Byrd RF, Pedro Alvarez 3b, Russ Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and Jeff Locke P.

Looks like LF is JT's to lose during crunch time. Starling Marte doesn't look like he's going to be one of the walking wounded to return full-time.

Reds lineup: Billy Hamilton CF, Chris Heisey LF, Joey Votto 1b, Brandon Phillips 2b, Jay Bruce RF, Todd Frazier 3b, Zack Cozart SS, Ryan Hanigan C and Bronson Arroyo P.

Billy Hamilton gets the start with Choo banged up; the Human Bullet would be a good guy for Locke to throw strikes at. Her is 10-for10 in stolen bases and has scored seven times in nine games with only one start.

  • The big news is the return of the bullpen to its original shape. Jason Grilli is closing, Mark the Shark is back in his set up role, and Justin Wilson has joined Tony Watson to provide some more back end glue. The two storylines: Clint looks like he's going to give the guys extra recovery time, and yesterday he mixed and matched pitchers, a strategy he hasn't shown before.
  • The Pittsburgh writers voted Cutch as the team MVP and Francisco Liriano as the Most Outstanding Pitcher.
  • Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs notes the correlation between Starling Marte getting plunked and two strike counts. Even with the bad premise of him missing time due to HBP, since the injury was caused by a slide, it's still an interesting read.
  • Pittsburgh's magic number is three and Cincinnati's is four. Washington plays a DH today, so it's conceivable, though unlikely, that the Bucs could clinch a playoff spot at home.
  • Scott Miller of CBS Sports writes "...the past couple of seasons, the Pirates wilted. Now, they're resilient. They've grown up. They wear big boy pants now."
  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review features the Bucs' data analysis mystic, Dan Fox
  • If you're heading to the North Shore today, keep calm because it will be a zoo between the Pirates big home finale and the Steeler's Sunday night game.
  • Here's how the MLB playoff race shapes up, going into today.