Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cumpton, Bucs Pummeled 12-2

Hyun-Jin Ryu opened by giving up a knock to the red hot Josh; no perfecto tonight. He got The Kid to roll over into a force out; the Bucs challenged and lost (he dropped the ball, but it was during the transfer from glove to hand). Cutch and Gaby got good pitches to hit, but both were banged into dead center where Andre Ethier corralled them, Cutch's at the track and Gaby's on a rope.

Brandon Cumpton lost Ethier with one gone on a 3-2 sinker that was just tight. A grounder moved him to second, and it cost. Hanley Ramirez looked at one sinker down the middle, then banged the next, maybe a bit more center cut, into center to give LA a 1-0 lead. He stole second, followed by Adrian Gonzalez drawing a walk on a 3-2 slider that missed badly. Matt Kemp smacked a thigh high, inside half sinker into left, and it was 2-0. Cumpton tried to mix his pitches, but didn't have much command of his off speed stuff and was leaving his sinker up in the zone, and he paid this inning.

Jordy Mercer singled with two gone in the second and Stewart followed with a swinging bunt knock. Cumpton bounced out, but at least the order turned over. Brandon's location was better against the 8-9-1 part of the order, and he got a couple of grounders and a whiff. Ryu tossed a 1-2-3 third; Cutch again hit the ball hard, but it was another loud out, this time to the RF track.

Ethier opened drilled a 3-2 sinker to left; Starling Marte muffed the catch when he he couldn't hang on to the ball after he bumped into the wall for an error - maybe if the Pirates had their challenge left, they could have used it there -and Andre ended up on second. Puig singled softly off Mercer's glove, and it was beginning to look like NY all over again. Ramirez singled in a run, Gonzalez doubled home another, and the dam was ready to burst. And it did; a sac fly and Justin Turner knock made it 6-0.

Ryu gave up a single to JT with two down, and Mercer doubled him home to make it 6-1. Gordon started the LA half with a triple. After a pop out, Gordon was cut down at home on a Puig grounder. Well, so much for that Houdini; Ramirez homered to make it 8-1. That was followed by back-to-back-to-back singles for another run. Jeanmar Gomez mercifully came on at that point, hoping to prevent the mercy rule from coming into play. He couldn't; Butera tripled off him to make it 11-1. Gomez did get Ryu to finally end the onslaught.

Gomez singled and Josh doubled to start the fifth. The Bucs couldn't get either one home; Ramirez's leaping grab of a Walker liner was followed by Gomez being thrown out at home on a Cutch grounder to third, pretty much killing the inning. Sheesh. Jeanmar settled in, picking up a couple of K.

JT and Stewart singled in the sixth, and with two down Clint sent up Travis Snider. We'd have kept Gomez in to save the pen, but hey - it's more fun to watch Travis against a lefty, and he even singled to chase a run home. The player shuffle began as Cutch got a blow, as did The Kid, who has started every game. Bryon Morris came in and gave the run right back when LA's first hitter, Ramirez, went yard again.

Jamey Wright came on; Ryu was at 109 pitches and 10 hits. The game wound down quietly from that point, with Wright shutting out the Bucs while Morris and Jared Hughes tossed goose eggs for a final 12-2 tally.

Cumpton couldn't get an offspeed pitch over the dish and his sinkers all came in at the belt. That's a recipe for batting practice, and that's what the Dodgers had tonight; pity it was on national TV.

The series finale will feature Edinson Volquez and Zack Greinke on ESPN 2.
  • The 6-through-1 hitters for Pittsburgh had 11 hits and accounted for both runs. They were more than offset by Hanley Ramirez, who has hit safely in his last six at-bats, jumping his BA from .242 to .265 after going 4-for-4 tonight with two HR, five RBI and four runs.
  • Neil Walker's hit streak ended at 11 games.
  • Bryon Morris in May: 12 appearances, 12-2/3IP, 8 ER, 15H (3 HR), 10 BB, 2 HBP, 5.53 ERA.
  • Before the game, Clint Hurdle said Jason Grilli wouldn't be available tonight and Mark Melancon was up in the air. He picked a good day to put them on R&R.
  • 3B Matt "The Hitman" Hague has reached base in 20 straight games for Indy.

Cumpton v Ryu, Lineup, Fables, Lefties, Call-Ups

Brandon Cumpton (0-1, 3.38) goes against lefty Hyun-jin Ryu (5-2, 3.10) tonight.

Cumpton features a sinking fastball and hopes to get his secondary stuff working well enough to work a few innings deep today. He's faced the Dodgers once last season, going five solid innings before running into sixth inning trouble.

Ryu took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds the day after Josh Beckett threw his no-hitter at Dodger Stadium, so he's a fitting bookend to pair with Beckett. However, prior to that game, he had his problems pitching at Chavez Ravine, so we'll see if he turned a corner or just had a hot hand last time on the hill. He features good control and a four pitch arsenal of fastball, curve, slider, and changeup.

The lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Starling Marte LF, Jose Tabata RF, Jordy Mercer S, Chris Stewart C and Cumpton P. Jordy gets the call against a lefty and Pedro takes a seat.

The game starts at 7:15 and will be aired by Fox Sports "Saturday Night Baseball" and 93.7 The Fan.
  • Joel Sherman of the NY Post calls slow-and-steady rebuilding programs "a fable," using the Pirates as his poster child.
  • Since start of last season, the Pirates have faced only 36 southpaw starters, the fewest in majors by a wide margin, with the Braves next at 50, per Elias Sports Bureau.
  • Brandon Cumpton took his MLB bow against the Dodgers on June 15th, 2013. He got a  no-decision in a game the Bucs eventually lost 5-3 in 11 innings. This trip to Pittsburgh is the seventh time since the start of last season he's been recalled from the minors. He's yet to remain on the big league roster for more than two consecutive starts, but for the first time is getting a chance to slide into a full-time gig as Wandy's replacement.
  • The Pirates are 7-3 in their last ten games, 8-4 in their last dozen.
  • The Cards called the hot prospect Oscar Taveras, and he homered in his second at-bat. It may not be long before Gregory Polanco punches his ticket to Pittsburgh; he's batting leadoff now for Indianapolis to groom him. The Pirates are already prepping Indy's post-Polanco roster by promoting OF Mel Rojas to the Tribe. We're thinking June 6th, when the Pirates return home from the West Coast to face the Brewers, seems like a pretty opportune time, though he may be held up, for safety's sake, for ten more days.
  • Pirates 2013 first-round draft pick Reese McGuire has a 19-game hitting streak at Single-A West Virginia, which is the second-longest in the South Atlantic League this year. McGuire’s streak is also the longest by a West Virginia player since Starling Marte hit safely in 22 straight games in 2009.

5/31: Whitewashes, Double Your Pleasure, Nellie & Cap'n Willie, Giles & the Gang, Castillo Streak, Rivas & Paulino, More...

Whitewashes, Double Your Pleasure, Nellie & Cap'n Willie, Giles & the Gang, Castillo Streak, Rivas & Paulino, More...
  • 1915 - The Pirates swept the first place Cubs by identical 1-0 scores at Forbes Field as Wilbur Cooper and Al Mamaux hurled complete game shutouts. The Pirates won the first game on a bases-loaded beaned batter and the second on a wild pitch. 
  • 1927 - The Pirates overcame a 6-1, sixth inning deficit by scoring nine times in the final four frames to nip the Cubs 10-9 at Forbes Field. 1B Joe Harris was on fire, going 5-for-5 with two triples, a double, four RBI and two runs scored. 

 Joe Harris from Out Of The Park

  • 1937 - The Reds beat the Pirate 8-3 in the opener of a DH at Crosley Field. It was the only game Cincinnati won against the Pirates in 1937. Starting with a 7-5 loss in the nightcap - Pep Young’s three run homer was the big blow - Cincy lost the next 17 straight to the Buccos, and dropped 21 of 22 games‚ tying the MLB record set by the Cubs over the Braves in 1909 and the Yankees over the Browns in 1927. In fact, the Reds would drop the first three to open 1938 for a 20 game losing streak against Pittsburgh, another MLB record. 
  • 1948 - At Wrigley Field‚ the Cubs set a paid attendance record when 46‚965 fans passed through the turnstiles during a doubleheader split with the Pirates on Memorial Day. The Bucs lost the opener 4-3 after Chicago scored in the ninth off Kirby Higbe. Pittsburgh rallied in the nightcap behind Elmer Riddle to win 4-2. Danny Murtaugh chased home a pair of runs and scored once to provide Riddle with some working space. 
  • 1953 - Vic Janowicz became the first Heisman Trophy winner to play MLB when he appeared as a pinch runner for the Pirates in the first game of a doubleheader loss to the Dodgers. 
  • 1961 - Pittsburgh bashed out nine doubles (two by Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, with one each from Joe Gibbon, Dick Groat, Hal Smith, Gino Cimoli and Dick Stuart) in a 9-1 laugher at Forbes Field against the Milwaukee Braves. Joe Gibbon tossed a six hitter with 10 strikeouts to earn the win over Warren Spahn. 
  • 1962 - Joe Orsulak was born in Glen Ridge, NJ. A sixth round pick of the Pirates in the 2008 draft, he was seen as the Bucs future lead-off man and CF’er. In his four years in Pittsburgh (1983-86) he never managed to secure the job, though he did hit .272. He lasted 14 years in the show, hitting .273 lifetime as primarily a platoon outfielder. 
  • 1964 - Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers beat the Pirates 6-4 at Forbes Field, but had to survive a towering blast by Roberto Clemente to do it. The Great One hit a ball halfway up the light tower 450’ away in center field. It was estimated to be potentially a 500’ drive had the pole not gotten in the way.
  • 1973 - The Bucs topped the Atlanta Braves 3-1, backing up Nellie Briles three hitter with Willie Stargell’s three-run blast in the eighth at TRS. Stargell’s ball went 468’ and landed in the upper deck. Of the 12 shots that carried into the cheap seats in TRS history, Pops launched the most; this was his fourth and final second-tier homer. 

Pops on the Cover of SI (1971)

  • 1994 - It wasn’t a good day to be a Pirate pitcher. San Diego scored 13 runs in the second inning on the way to a 15-5 whipping of the Bucs at Jack Murphy Stadium. Steve Cooke and John Hope were the hapless hurlers in that unlucky frame. 
  • 2003 - The Pirates rode a three-run blast by Brian Giles and the combined six-hit effort of six pitchers to hold off the Cards at Busch Stadium by a 4-3 tally. Kip Wells got the win and Mike Williams earned his 15th save. 
  • 2006 - Jose Castillo homered in his fifth straight game as the Pirates defeated Milwaukee 6-1 at PNC Park. Castillo hit a two run shot off Chris Capuano in the second inning to continue a streak that began on the 26th against Houston’s Taylor Bucholtz, the third longest in franchise history behind Dale Long’s eight game streak and Jason Bay’s six-gamer. Ian Snell and three relievers combined on a three hitter against the Brew Crew. 
  • 2008 - SS Luis Rivas had four RBI, two runs scored, a homer and double as the Bucs pounded St. Louis 14-4 at Busch Stadium. Ronny Paulino added three RBI with three hits and a homer of his own while Jose Bautista chipped in with four knocks. Xavier Nady and Freddie Sanchez had three hits each as the Pirates pounded out 19 knocks.

Frankie Does Hollywood; Bucs Win 2-1

Josh Beckett kept his no-hit mojo intact in the first with a 1-2-3 frame. Frank Liriano, who had big-time control problems last outing, walked Dee Gordon to start off LA, and he stole second. He fell behind Chone Figgins 3-1, and then caught a couple of breaks: Figgins bunted ball four, and then ran into the ball. The umps said Figgins made contact in fair territory and was out, although Don Mattingly disagreed rather noisily to no avail. That seemed to calm Frankie down, as he whiffed Yusiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez to end the first quietly.

Russ Martin broke up the hitless streak with a one out single in the second; an out later, he was caught stealing after hesitating on his jump. Liriano tossed a clean inning.

The Bucs got a run in the third, but it could have been a big frame that got away from them for want of a bunt. Starling Marte was plunked in the hip, then Clint Barmes walked. Liriano came up to bunt, missed the ball, and Marte, who had taken a hop toward third, was picked cleanly off second by catcher Drew Butera. The Pirates followed with back-to-back knocks by Josh Harrison and The Kid to score one. Cutch took an inside pitch for ball four, but was rung up on an inadvertent foul tip; it was hard to tell if there was any contacton replay. Andrew, who never argues, argued and spent some time yapping at ump Paul Nauert behind the human wall Hurdle and Rick Sofield set up, but the K stood in a frustrating frame. Butera led off with a single, but no further damage was done.

Ike Davis had the only Pirate hit in the fourth, but it was a beaut, as he sent a fastball 453' over the fence in center to make it 2-0. Puig opened with a dribbler up the left side; Francisco gunned it past Davis for a hit and an error. But instead of rattling Frankie, it seemed to focus him. He followed with a pair of whiffs - his fifth and sixth - and a tapper in front of the plate.

With two down in the fifth, Josh singled, and a couple of pitches later became the third Pirate thrown out on the base paths as was caught easily trying to steal second. For the third time in five innings, LA had their leadoff guy on second when Andre Ethier doubled to right center. Liriano got the next two outs, then Gordon legged out an infield single on a roller that Walker had to tuck in his pocket. After a long at-bat, Figgins drew a walk to bring up Puig. Frankie fell behind 2-0, got him to swing through a pair of changes and then popped him out to escape unscathed.

Paul Maholm came on in the sixth; Beckett was on a short leash after his 128 pitch performance last time out. With two down, Ike cued a soft chopper to the left side for an infield single against the shift and Martin walked. Pedro ran the count to 3-2 before flying out short of the track in center. The Dodgers again got the first hitter to second when Hanley Ramirez doubled. he went to third on a grounder, and then Frankie K'ed Scott Van Slyke with 3-2 change. But the big guy was laboring and has been since the fifth, so Clint waved in Justin Wilson. He fanned Ethier on three pitches.

Chris Perez worked a quiet seventh, and Tony Watson took the hill for Pittsburgh. He celebrated his 29th birthday with a 1-2-3 frame, with two whiffs and a soft roller to second. Brian Wilson took over in the eighth. An error put JT on, but Gordon made a diving stop of Walker's bid to go up the middle and started a DP with a glove flip of the ball to second. Cutch walked before Ike bounced out.

Mark the Shark again got to face LA's 2-3-4 hitters. He hung a 1-2 curve to Figgins, who dumped it into left for an opening knock. A dribbler moved him to second and Ramirez brought him home by taking a cutter the other way for a single. Annother weak grounder moved him up 90', but Melancon got pinch hitter Adrain Gonzalez on a routine grounder to short. But at 2-1, there's not much net to work with.

JP Howell kept it a one run game, giving up just a two-out walk to Marte. Jason Grilli climbed the hill and had a rocking chair frame; a broken bat grounder, a short fly to right and a K. Grilli collected his seventh save and more importantly, Frankie snared that elusive first win.

LA is the perfect team for Liriano; his change was terrific and he had a decent slider, and the free-swinging Dodgers struck out eight times chasing his offerings. The Bucs made it hard on themselves with their base running peccadilloes, but fielded cleanly again and eked out enough offense for the win. After the NY series, Pittsburgh needed a couple of good games to get back on the bike.

Brandon Cumpton and Hyun-jin Ryu hook up tomorrow night for the national Fox Sports Saturday Night Baseball game.
  • Tonight marks the first time the Pirates have won back-to-back games in LA in the same year since 2006.
  • Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
  • Tony Watson is carrying a 15-2/3 innings scoreless streak.
  • Wandy Rodriguez went unclaimed while DFA and was unconditionally released today.
  • Ryan Palencer of Pirates Prospects reports that Indy OF Chris Dickerson, originally reported to have a hamstring issue, came out today in a walking boot and was placed on the DL, where he joins OF/1B Andrew Lambo, who had surgery on his thumb earlier this week.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Liriano v Beckett, Lineup, The Kid, Closers...

Francisco Liriano (0-5, 5.06 ERA) faces Josh Beckett (3-1, 2.43 ERA) tonight. Frankie is still looking for that first win, and with the way he's been going, this will be a tough opponent to claim victory #1 from tonight. He does have the element of surprise on his side; Frankie's only met LA once, and that was in 2006 while with the Twins.

On Sunday in Philadelphia, Beckett held the Phillies hitless on the way to a 6-0 victory, and after missing much of last year because of shoulder surgery, he looks like he's back with a vengeance this season. He doesn't have much of a track record against Pittsburgh, either. Beckett hasn't faced the Pirates since July 5th, 2004, as a Marlin, and is 1-1/1.54 in just two career starts against the Bucs.

The lineup: Josh Harrison RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Ike Davis 1B, Russ Martin C, Pedro 3B, Starling Marte LF, Clint Barmes SS and Liriano P. Clint goes with the hot hand of Barmes at short again.

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

  • Even with yesterday's win, which snapped a nine game losing streak, the Bucs have dropped 17 of the last 20 games played in Dodgerland.
  • Neil Walker's 10 game hitting streak is the second-longest active streak among NL players. He's just behind St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter, who has an 11-game hitting streak.
  • Clint Hurdle said Jason Grilli was back in the closers' role as of this series. We suspect he'll be carefully monitored since he's had health issues in the past two seasons, giving Mark the Shark a shot at closing a few more times during the year. Grilli earned last night's save.
  • Blue OF Yasiel Puig has reached base in 30 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors.
  • Dodger C Drew Butera is in an interesting position. Butera caught a no-hitter by Liriano when the two were with the Minnesota Twins in 2011 and then caught Beckett's no-hitter Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies. Guess the guy knows both pitchers, and how to call a game.

5/30: Fido, Al Mamaux, Trip-Trip-Triples, Rizzo RBIs, Roberto & Pop Bombs, Tony Watson, Lofton's Streak, Shutout City, More...

Fido, Al Mamaux, Trip-Trip-Triples, Rizzo RBIs, Roberto & Pop Bombs, Tony Watson, Lofton's Streak, Shutout City, More...
  • 1892 - Mark “Fido” Baldwin, a native Pittsburgher alleged to have the best fastball in the league, tossed both ends of a Pirate DH sweep of the Baltimore Orioles at Exposition Park, winning 11-1 and 4-3. Baldwin went 26-27 with 45 complete games that season. 
  • 1894 - RHP Al Mamaux was born in Pittsburgh. He went to Duquesne, and pitched for the Pirates from 1913-17. Mamaux was 49-36/2.61 during that time, and had strong seasons in 1915-16, going 42-23 with back-to-back 21 win campaigns. He spent the off-season as a crowd pleaser of another sort, touring as a vaudeville singer warbling as "The Golden Voice Tenor.” 

 1916 Sporting News & Blank series
  • 1912 - The Pirates sent veteran 3B/OF Tommy Leach and P Lefty Leifield to Chicago for UT Solly Hofman and P King Cole. Leach, 34, started the next two years for the Cubs and came back to retire as a Pirate in 1918. Lefty pitched five more seasons, going 57-25. Cole lasted one year in Pittsburgh, going 2-2/6.43; Hoffman played two years for the Pirates, getting into 45 games and hitting .246. 
  • 1921 - There were four NL doubleheaders on this date, and all four resulted in a sweep. The Pirates did their part by taking two from the Chicago Cubs at Forbes Field, 13-0 and 6-3. Jimmy Zinn tossed a five hitter in the opener, backed by four RBI from George Cutshaw and Possum Whitted, with Max Carey scoring four times. The nitecap was led by Whitted and Walter Schmidt who both went 3-for-4, with Possum scoring three times and Schmidt driving in a pair. Chief Yellow Horse, the third Pirate pitcher, went 7-⅔ shutout innings for the win and recorded the only strikeout of the day by Pittsburgh’s moundsmen. 
  • 1925 - The Pirates set a MLB record by hitting eight triples against the St. Louis Cardinals at cavernous Forbes Field in the nitecap of a DH. Max Carey and Clyde Barnhart each banged out a pair of three baggers while Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor, Glenn Wright and Eddie Moore each had one. Barnhart had four hits, four runs and five RBI in the game as the Bucs ran their win streak to seven with a 15-5 romp. The Bucs took the opener 4-1 behind Emil Yde. Max Carey had a pair of RBI and George Grantham had three hits, including two doubles. 
  • 1927 - The Bucs lost the opener of a Forbes Field Memorial Day doubleheader to the Cubs 7-6 in 10 innings, ending the Pirates 11 game win streak. The big play was made by Cubs’ SS Jimmy Cooney, who snared Paul Waner's liner, stepped on second to double up Little Poison, and then tagged Clyde Barnhart coming from first for an unassisted triple play. Pittsburgh came back to win the nitecap‚ 6-5‚ also in 10 innings. Lloyd Waner collected seven hits during the day. 
  • 1939 - Johnny Rizzo set a club record by driving in nine runs against the St. Louis Browns in a 14-8 win at Sportsman's Park, gaining a doubleheader split for the Bucs. He banged a pair of homers and two doubles. 

Johnny Rizzo (r) with Honus Wagner image from SABR

  • 1958 - The Milwaukee Braves beat the Bucs and ElRoy Face 7-4 at Forbes Field. The Baron of the Bullpen gave up four runs, two unearned, but came back strong; he wouldn’t lose again until September 1959, claiming 22 straight wins. 
  • 1964 - Roberto Clemente homered high off the center field light tower at Dodger Stadium, a bomb that Post Gazette writer Jack Herndon estimated traveled 500’. The Bucs went down to LA, though, 6-4. 
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell launched a Ken Holtzman pitch into the upper deck in right field, the third of four that he’d ship to the top tier at TRS in his career, to cap a 10-0 win over the Cubs. Roberto Clemente and Bob Robertson also went long. Bob Moose didn’t need much help; he fired a three hitter and fanned seven. 
  • 1985 - LHP Tony Watson was born in Sioux City, Iowa. The ninth round pick of the 2007 draft was a converted starter that moved to the pen, and made his debut with the Bucs in 2010, evolving into a near-spotless bridge/late man for the Pirates. 
  • 2003 - Kenny Lofton homered against the Cards in a 7-3 win by Jeff Suppan to keep his 26 game hitting streak alive. He would go 0-fer the next day against the Cards Woody Williams and Jeff Fasaro, falling a game short of tying the club record during a 5-4 Pirate victory tossed by Kip Wells. 
  • 2013 - For the second time in three days, the Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers, 1-0 in 11 innings. The Bucs used four pitchers - Mark Melancon got the W - and a Neil Walker homer to win at Comerica Park on the 28th, then came home to PNC Park and won with Bryon Morris and five other pitchers, cinched by a Russell Martin walk-off single off the wall in left center field. It was the club’s fourth 1-0 win in an 11 game span.

Raise It: Bucs Get Into The Bullpen To Take A 6-3 Win

The Bucs went down 1-2-3 to Dan Haren in the first, even though The Kid singled; he was caught stealing, but what the heck: he was 1-for-1 before tonight. Gerrit Cole didn't have quite the same start. Andre Ethier tripled with an out, and then scored when Yasiel Puig hit a pop up that fell into short right.

With two down in the second, Pedro fell behind 0-2, took a ball, fouled off a couple more and then found one he liked and lost it the right field seats to knot the score. LA came right back; a single and sac bunt that became another hit was followed with a grounder up the middle to plate a run. A double steal put Dodgers at second and third, but Cole whiffed Ethier on a change up to stop the bleeding.

Both sides went down in order in the third. Ike opened the fourth with a single, but was doubled up after a Russ Martin liner to second to clear the bases. Cole worked another 1-2-3 frame. The Bucs tied it in the fifth on a Clint Barmes single, a Cole sac bunt and a two-out knock by Josh Harrison. Pittsburgh went ahead in the sixth on a Russ homer that traveled 435'; the Blue came back with a Puig double and Hanley Ramirez single to make it 3-3.

Brandon League took the hill in the seventh. Starling Marte reached on an error, but was erased stealing on a review play; the ball had clearly beat him to the bag. Too bad; Barmes followed with a single. He was bunted to second. That was big; Josh singled off 2B Dee Gordon's mitt and Barmes scored with Josh taking second on the throw home; Barmes was in easily, but Ethier missed the cutoff man.

The Kid singled him home, and the Bucs had some breathing room. Cutch drew a four pitch walk to bring up Ike, and LA went to the lefty Paul Maholm, another Bucco starter turned reliever, and that brought Gaby up to pinch hit. His second pitch was a change up that Sanchez belted into left, scoring Walker. Russ was intentionally walked to load the bases for Pedro. He rolled over on a backdoor curve and ended the inning with a grounder to second, but the Pirates were up 6-3. Five straight batters reached with two outs; it would have been nice to reach six.

With one gone, Cole did what he didn't want to do; he lost pinch hitter Chone Figgins on a 3-2 pitch with the top of order waiting. Clint didn't like it and brought in Tony Watson, even though Gerrit was at just 88 pitches. Watson's first pitch to Gordon was a sinker rolled to second, and the 4-6-3 DP calmed the waters.

Chris Perez came on in the eighth, and retired the first two batters before plunking pinch hitter Travis Snider. He got Josh on a grounder to end the frame. Mark the Shark took the ball to face LA's 2-3-4 hitters. A weak tapper and two whiffs later, it was onto the final frame.

Jamey Wright climbed the hill in the ninth. Walker flew out to the track in left, Cutch to the wall at the 395' mark in center, and Gaby went down on a meek grounder. Jason Grilli got back on the closer bike. After retiring Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp, Justin Turner banged a ground rule double to keep LA on life support. The plug was pulled as Scott Van Slyke went down on a fly to right, and the Buccos had a win in a place where Pittsburgh wins are hard to come by. Cole notched his fifth win and Grilli earned his sixth save.

The Pirates played pretty sound ball tonight unlike the little league performance in New York. Five players scored; five had RBI. Every starter, except oddly enough Cutch, had a hit. And the fielding was clean. But give big props to Clint Barmes, who plated twice, Josh Harrison who chipped in with a pair of two-out runs chased home and an almost flawless performance from the pen. Now to see if they can carry on against some big arms the next three games...

Francisco Liriano takes on Josh Beckett tomorrow night.
  • Clint Barmes had four straight hits and went 3-for-4 tonight, flying out foul to the RF corner in his final at-bat on a nice running grab by Puig. His average is now up to .255.
  • Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to ten games.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cole v Haren, Lineup, The Kid, Jared, Road Woes...

Gerrit Cole  (4-3, 3.76) faces Dan Haren (5-3, 3.16) in the opener at LA tonight. Cole generally provides some solid innings for a Buc team that doesn't feature many long outings, but is still searching for an effective heater-off speed combo. Haren is cooling off after a scorching start. He's given up 17 earned runs in his last 31 innings pitched and his ERA has risen from 2.03 to 3.16 over his last five starts.

The lineup: Josh Harrison RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Ike Davis 1B, Russ Martin C, Pedro 3B, Starling Marte LF, Clint Barmes SS and Cole P.

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

  • Neil Walker has a nine game hitting streak goin' on. 
  • Jared Hughes has stranded all 12 of his inherited runners this season. Since the beginning of last year, just 3-of-29 inherited runners have scored against him.
  • Speaking of streaks, the Pirates have lost nine games in a row at Chavez Ravine, their longest current road losing stretch. They go into tonight's game with the worst road record (7-16) in baseball.
  • RHP Vance Worley, another veteran rehab project, K'ed 10 for Indy last night in eight innings to pick up a 5-2 win. 
  • OF Chris Dickerson, who has been on fire at Indy, left the game with a sore hammy; the extent of the injury is unknown.
  • The Pirates lost RHP Phil Irwin to the Rangers, who claimed him after he was DFA'ed.
  • Ex-Bucs: After 1,000+ games in the minors, Jamie Romak got his first MLB at-bat last night as a member of the Dodgers. He grounded out, but still a big moment.

The Off-Season: The Bucs Fought The Odds & The Odds Won

The Pirates took a calculated risk over the winter that their hitters would mature and the starting pitchers wouldn't regress down a steep slope. So far, that looks like a bad bet.

They began with holes in right field and first base, and the brass did address those issues. Right field became an audition for the fourth outfielder after Gregory Polanco turned down a long-term deal, delaying his entry to the show until mid-June. Jose Tabata and Travis Snider weren't exactly an ideally matched platoon pair, but JT has proven competent if not durable in his career, and the hopes were that after his surgery, Snider would flash his first round skill set.

JT has been as advertised, hitting .261 with a .715 OPS, pretty close to his career slash of .273/.715 while Snider appears to taking the Brandon Moss road. But in two weeks, it won't make much difference; Polanco will be here, and that was the plan all along. There was never any reason to bring in someone from the outside for 10 weeks, and Polanco in right with JT on the bench looks solid.

First base was Andrew Lambo's to lose, and he did in spring training. The FO fortunately saw Travis Ishikawa wasn't an answer and pulled the trigger with the Mets to get Ike Davis. Ike hasn't shown himself to be much of a masher (.398 slugging %) , but he is an OBP machine (.377) in Pittsburgh and is capable with the glove. That makes him and Gaby Sanchez a nice first base pairing, especially if Davis recovers enough of his stroke to hit 15-20 HR, which should be within reason.

So far, so good. But the news gets decidedly more gloomy.

The Bucs had hopes that the left side of the infield would stabilize behind Pedro and Jordy Mercer.

But Pedro flunked a second shot at the clean-up spot, and is hitting just .220 with a .382 slugging %. His fielding at third fluctuates between the fabulous and the frustrating; he makes plenty of reaction plays, but then airmails the routine grounder. His UZR is -8.9 and his WAR is 0.0.  Jordy is stuck in a Brian Bixler-like funk, hitting .190 after a .285 season in 2013. No wonder; his line drive rate has dropped 11% and his ground ball rate jumped by the same. His WAR is -0.5.

Plan B? There is no Plan B. Josh Harrison has earned a chance to give Pedro a day off against the rare lefty the Bucs see, and his slugging % of .457 would even be an upgrade. Jordy's only fall back is 35 year old Clint Barmes, who is banging away at a .213 clip.

There is no cavalry to ride to the rescue behind the pair. The Pirates have signed patchwork AAAA third basemen over the years, the latest being Brent Morel, and the best looking SS reserve, Alen Hanson, is at Altoona. Mike Martinez and Blake Davis are the top pair at short for Indy, and neither is hitting over .250 in AAA.

The catching has been fine, as expected, and the bench has been stronger than hoped, thanks largely to JT and Gaby. The FO did its job in filling the identified holes in RF and 1B; but greatly underestimated the left side, crossing their fingers and knocking on wood. Not bringing on someone to push Mercer proved a mistake, as has been the lack of development among their infield prospects, at least at the top level, during the Huntington era.

But the pitching is where the boat sailed without them. Even if you consider Edinson Volquez a fair swap for AJ, the Bucs failed to strengthen their rotation, one that was loaded with questions beyond regression coming into the season.

Wandy wasn't even part of the equation; management never thought he'd be anything but a back-ender when he returned. Jeff Locke had a J-Mac season in 2013. To pile on, Jameson Taillon had TJ surgery and is out until sometime next year, with Kyle McPherson on the shelf until at least then, too.

That pretty much left Brandon Cumpton as the sixth man, and now he's in Pittsburgh, likely to stay.  Locke is behind him, although he's pitching to 3.53 ERA at Indy. He's averaging eight strikeouts a game, showing that his stuff plays, but averages 3.7 walks per nine, showing he still likes to stay off the plate - and batter's eyes are better in the show, as he found out last year. Stolmy Pimentel will be in the mix to start, but probably not until 2015; he doesn't look like he's going to get a chance to stretch his arm out enough to start this year. Casey Sadler is trying to break out from the pack this season at Indy, with Vance Worley hoping to rediscover his glory days.

A bigger predicament is that most of the touted Pirate pitching prospects won't reach Pittsburgh next year, especially with the injuries delaying Taillon and McPherson. The for-sure returning arms for 2015 are Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Cumpton, with Pimentel, Locke, Sadler and Worley looking for spots. That's not much depth, and certainly not much top-of-rotation talent.

They saved $10-12M when AJ shuffled off to Philly; they will almost certainly have to invest in some extra pitching next year, and should have this season.

The FO also over-rated the middle guys in the pen. Jeanmar Gomez and Bryan Morris have looked quite vulnerable, and the entire group, no matter how they're mixed-and-matched are getting mercilessly overexposed because of the short outings put together by the starting staff. Though they have made some inexplicable moves - letting Vin Mazzaro go twice and losing Phil Irwin - we do have confidence that they can cobble together some long help for the bullpen. Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson are a pretty solid core to build around.

The winter grade: Not very good; it is harder to sustain success than it is to reach it once. The FO covered 1B and RF adequately, had blinders on to possibility of the left side failing to produce, and made virtually no moves to reinforce the staff, starters and relievers alike. This winter they should take to heart the adage that if you're not getting better, you're getting worse.

5/29: Jake, Big Bill, Stuffy, Roberto, Zane, Rock n' Walk, More...

Jake, Big Bill, Stuffy, Roberto, Zane, Rock n' Walk...
  • 1884 - The Alleghenys were no hit by Columbus’ Ed Morris at Exposition Park during a 5-0 whitewash. Morris walked just one in a near perfect performance. 1895 - Jake Beckley blasted a three run homer in the ninth to give the Pirates an 8-6 win over the Washington Senators at Boundary Park. The 1B ended the year with five homers, second on the team to Jake Stenzel’s seven, with a club-leading 111 RBI. 
  • 1909 - President William “Big Bill” Taft visited Exposition Park to catch a Bucs-Cubs match, and made himself at home in the cheap seats, delighting the 14,091 fans. The Pirates weren’t so delightful, tho, as they went down to Three Finger Brown in 11 innings, 8-3, with Lefty Leifield taking the loss. The Prez must have made the Buccos nervous as the loss was the only time the team was defeated in a 19 game stretch. 
  • 1925: 1B Jack “Stuffy” McInnis was signed as a free agent. The veteran was a reserve, getting into 106 games over two seasons, starting 64 of them. But his bat still held up; in 1925-26, he hit .337 for Pittsburgh, and .286 in the 1925 World Series against the Washington Senators. He played one more game after leaving Pittsburgh for his original club, Philadelphia, in 1927 before retiring. 
 Stuffy McInnis from the Conlon Collection

  • 1931 - C Earl Grace was traded by the Cubs with cash to the Pirates for C Rollie Hemsley. Grace caught five years for the Bucs and hit .275 over that span, retiring after 1937. Hemsley ended up playing 15 more years for five more teams, hitting .262 and playing on five All-Star teams. 
  • 1955 - At the age of 20 years and 284 days, Roberto Clemente became the second youngest player to hit three doubles in a game in MLB history, behind the Braves’ Eddie Mathews (ironically against the Pirates in 1952). The Bucs beat the Phillies 11-5 at Forbes Field; the young Clemente was the leadoff hitter, and banged his two-baggers off three different pitchers. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0 at Busch Stadium as Zane Smith threw the second one-hitter of his career, striking out five to earn his seventh win on the season. Orlando Merced led the attack with two hits and two RBI for the Bucs. 
  • 1992 - Pittsburgh rocked the San Francisco Giants 13-3 at TRS. Barry Bonds went 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBI, Jose Lind chipped in with three runs driven in and Andy Van Slyke had three hits to give Vincente Palacios the win and Bob Patterson a save for tossing the final three frames. The Pirates used a balanced 13 hit, 10 walk attack and an eight run seventh inning to pull away.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bucs Dazed and Confused In 5-0 Loss

Bartolo Colon tossed as effortlessly as your average beer league softball pitcher, and got a K and three weakly hit balls, one an infield knock by Cutch, to tuck the Bucs away in the first. Charlie Morton had a shaky start; with an out, he gave up a bloop hit to Daniel Murphy and walked David Wright. Chuck fell behind Curtis Granderson 3-0, got a gift strike call, and finished him off with a liner to center that Cutch ran down nicely. He whiffed Chris Young, but has gone to the well 28 times in the opening frame.

With an out in the second, Pedro one-hopped a ball into the Buc bullpen for a ground rule double. Jordy Mercer continued to do his Brian Bixler imitation, whiffing on three pitches without taking the bat off his shoulder. Chris Stewart was put aboard intentionally, and Chuck at least put the ball in play, bouncing out 4-3. Lucas Duda walked to open the frame and went to second on a wild pitch, advancing to third with two gone on a roller to second. With Colon at bat, Charlie uncorked another wild one - Stewart should have been able to block it; it looked like it hit the side of his mitt and kicked sideways, but why bury one with the pitcher up - to plate the run and make it 1-0 Mets.

Pittsburgh went down 1-2-3 in the third, with Cutch catching one on the end of the bat and flying out to the track in right. The NY half was more typically a Charlie Morton inning. With an out, Murphy's grounder to third was airmailed past first by Pedro; it came right off the wall to Neil Walker, whose throw to second had Murphy cleanly beaten. Jordy closed his glove before the ball was there, and it bounced off his leather into short left for a two-error play, with Murphy ending up at third. The Bucs appealed, saying that Murphy never touched second, but though close, it looks like he hit the side of the bag and then popped up, landing on Mercer's mitt. Wright singled him home and NY was up 2-0.

Marte reached second with one out in the fourth when Wright's throw skipped past Duda, but Colon picked up his fielders, following with a K and grounder to short. Morton worked a clean and quick frame. Josh singled with two outs in the fifth, the second hard-hit ball of the afternoon, and went to second on a passed ball that was ruled a wild pitch. Either way, it didn't help as Walker popped out. Lagares singled with an out and went to second on a grounder that was nicely played by Ike for the second out. With Wright up, Lagares had a mental cramp and headed to third; Charlie saw him break and threw him out easily.

Wright robbed Cutch to open the sixth but with two outs he bounced another throw to Duda (who isn't helping his 3Bman very much) to allow Marte to reach base, but he was left aboard. Frustration for Morton continued; after a one-out homer by Wright, he walked back-to-back Mets, and that brought out Clint Hurdle and Jared Hughes. Hughes walked Tejada, but threw a short passed ball during the at-bat, and Chris Young was tossed out at third by Stewart with a snap throw that was right on the money. A fly to center ended the inning.

The Pirates went down in order in the seventh. Bryan Morris came on. After two were down, Murphy got extra life when the Met fans outwrestled Marte for a foul ball at the railing, and the at-bat turned into an 11 pitch walk. It didn't cost; Wright bounced out to third.

Colon started the eighth. Josh's bid for a hit was run down by Lagares, then The Kid and Cutch singled. Bartolo was past the 120 pitch mark, and Collins called on Jeurys Familia to work to Ike. Davis bounced his first pitch to second, and the 4-6-3 probably drove the final nail into the coffin. Granderson walked to open against Morris, and was balked to second with an out. It made his jog home shorter when Duda crushed a ball over the wall in center to make it 5-0. An out later, he walked the eight hitter and surrendered Familia's first MLB hit before getting a call to whiff Lagares.

The Bucs managed an infield single off Familia in the ninth, and that was generously given as Duda dropped a low throw that had beaten Pedro by a step. The Bucs fell 5-0, and it was another in a string of ugly games this series.

Bartolo Colon is a joy to watch; he is quick, completely unflustered and a viral vid at bat. He also throws a fastball at 88 MPH that he keeps up in the zone with some arm run. The Pirates had no apparent game plan for him; instead of just waiting on the pitch and taking it where it was thrown, they took a number of heaters for strikes and rarely squared up when they swung; it was a dreadful exhibition at the plate. Ump Jeff Nelson was generous with the corners, where Colon lives, and the Pirates never adjusted; they preferred to glare at the man in blue than spoil a close pitch.

As for the pitchers, the Mets had no one after the top three in the order hitting .240 or better. But instead of aggressively attacking the lineup, the Bucs walked seven after issuing a half dozen free passes the night before. The fielding is still sporadic, and it seems a physical or mental error plates every game. This was a terribly played series by Pittsburgh, and it doesn't get any easier with LA next on the dance card.

Gerrit Cole opens against Dan Haren at LA tomorrow.
  • The Pirates are just 7-16 on the road this season.
  • Ground Chuck, who's had troubles against LH in his career, caught a break today as the Mets only had four in the lineup; they're not particularly deep in left-handed bats.
  • Bartolo Colon needed seven strikeouts today to reach 2,000 for his career to join CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett as active members of the club. He got it in the sixth, catching Ike Davis looking. Davis wasn't alone; the Bucs struck out nine times in 7-1/3 innings against Bartolo, his season high mark.
  • Hot prospect Tyler Glasnow whiffed 12 in 5-2/3 one-hit, shutout frames. He finished one K shy of the Marauder record, set last year by Nick Kingham.
  • In Sports on Earth, Matthew Kory posts that the most productive hitter against the Bucs all-time is...Jermaine Dye. "Dye's 1.232 OPS barely nips Barry Bonds by 0.105 points of OPS. More Bonds craziness: In 411 plate appearances, the Pirates walked Bonds 99 times."

Morton v Colon, Lineup, The Kid, Jordy

Charlie Morton (1-6, 3.29) takes on Bartolo Colon (3-5, 5.34) in the rubber match this afternoon. Charlie finally got off the schneid with his last outing; let's see if he can roll up a string of wins now that he's got the first one under his belt. The 41 year old Colon, a sinker ball guy, has allowed nine home runs in 57-1/3 innings, although just two long balls have come at Citi Field. The Bucs could use some quick-strike scoring.

The lineup: Josh harrison RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Ike Davis 1B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 3B, Jordy mercer SS, Chris Stewart C and Morton P.

The game will be aired on the MLB NetworkRoot Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

  • Charlie Morton has produced the top ground ball percentage (61.0) in the majors since the beginning of last season.
  • Neil Walker appeared in his 600th game of his big league career when he took the field today. The Kid has started all 51 games this season.
  • Jordy Mercer, who has struggled mightily this year, still has the stroke against lefties, hitting .294. Oddly, he's only started three of the MLB low five games when LHP starts v the Bucs in 2014. Clint Barmes, who got the other two starts, is batting .143 against southpaws.
  • Ex-Bucs: LHP Sean Burnett is headed to the DL for the Angels with elbow issues. OF/1B Xavier Nady has signed a minor league deal with Seattle.

5/28: Long Goes Long Eight Straight Games, Clemente, That's Why They Play Nine, Mack's Baby Shower, Win Big, Win Tight & More...

Long Goes Long Eight Straight Games, Clemente, That's Why They Play Nine, Mack's Baby Shower, Win Big, Win Tight & More...
  • 1903 - OF Romer “Reddy” Grey‚ brother of author Zane Grey, made his MLB bow as a Buc. He went 1-for-3 in his only big league game as the Pirates beat Boston 7-6. Gray scored a run, knocked in another, drew a walk, and caught the only ball hit his way in the OF. He played on loan from the nearby Worchester minor league club as the Pirates, due to some injuries and personal issues, found themselves short handed for the game against the Beaneaters at the South End Grounds. Grey was an early AAAA ballplayer; he never found a home in MLB but had a career .311 minor league BA. 
  • 1921 - Pittsburgh protested their 4-3‚ 10-inning loss to the Reds and won. After Reds P Dolf Luque tossed the ball into the Cincinnati dugout‚ Clyde Barnhart was called out going to third when the ball was tossed back into the field. The Pirates said no way; it was a dead ball, and NL president Heydler agreed. The game was later replayed from that point (it was 3-3), and the Bucs took full advantage of their second chance and turned the tables to win 4-3 on June 30th. 
  • 1956 - First baseman Dale Long set a major league record by hitting a home run in his eighth consecutive game, a 3-2 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers at Forbes Field. The liner was hit off of Carl Erskine in front of 32,221 Forbes Field fans who didn’t settle down until the big first baseman made a curtain call, said to be the first in MLB history. The record was later tied by Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (1993).

 Dale Long from Baseball Digest 1956

  • 1960 - More Destiny’s Darlings lore: Roberto Clemente was on third and Hal Smith on first with two outs in the eighth with Maz up at Forbes Field. He fanned on a ball that hit in the front of the plate, ricocheted off ump Al Barlick and to Phillies pitcher Jim Owens. Maz froze, Smith jogged to second and Clemente went halfway down the baseline. Owens chased Clemente as his bench called for him to throw to first. In the run-down‚ Clemente knocked the ball out of C Jim Coker's glove to score the tying run. The Pirates won 4-2 in the 13th on Don Hoak's 2-run HR. 
  • 1963 - Called out at first on a close play for the second time in the game‚ Roberto Clemente twice jostled ump Bill Jackowski while arguing the decision. Clemente was ejected‚ and skipper Danny Murtaugh got his Irish up, challenging the man in blue to duke it out until he was pulled away. The Great One was fined $250 and suspended for five days by the league. To top the day off, the Pirates lost 5-1 to the Phils at Forbes Field. 
  • 1990 - Memorial Day seemed like it was going to be more memorable for Dodger pitcher Tim Belcher, who was working on a one hitter through eight innings at TRS, than anything the Bucs would do. But in the end, the Pirates provided the holiday fireworks, scoring five times in the ninth off two Dodger relievers to take an improbable 6-5 win from LA. The Bucs trimmed the lead to 5-3 and loaded the bases with two down in the final frame. Jose Lind spanked a 3-2 linerr through the right side and RF’er Hubie Brooks tried to cut down the tying run, Gary Redus, at the plate. The throw was up the line and C Mike Scioscia tried to pick the ball and swipe the runner. It didn’t pan out; he missed the throw entirely and it rolled to the back wall, allowing Don Slaught to lumber in from first to plate the game winner for Bill Landrum, who worked the ninth for Pittsburgh. 
  • 2004 - Utilityman Rob Mackowiak smacked a two-out, walk-off grand slam for a 9-5 Pirates victory barely nine hours after his wife, Jennifer, gave birth to their first child, Garrett Matthew. In the second game, he drilled a two-run shot, the 500th homer at PNC Park, into the same right center field seats and like the one three hours earlier, it sent the nitecap into extra innings, later won by Craig Wilson’s 10th inning homer for a 5-4 sweep of the Cubs. It was the first time since 1967 that a doubleheader was won by walkoff homers. Chicago’s Matt Clement also tied a MLB record when he plunked Bobby Hill, Jason Kendall and Craig Wilson in the fifth inning of the opener.

 Topps Total Silver Series 2004

  • 2006 - The Pirates lost to the Astros 5-4 at PNC Park. Houston scored four times in the ninth off three different Pirate pitchers to tie the game, then won it in the tenth on a Preston Wilson knock off Salomon Torres. The game did have a bright side. Jason Bay homered off Fernando Nieve in the fourth inning to run his consecutive game HR streak to six contests, the second longest in Pirate history after Dale Long’s 1956 skein. It started on the 22nd against Arizona’s Orlando Hernandez. Bay had a pair of bombs on the 20th, too, giving him nine home runs in eight games.
  • 2011 - Four Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Lyle Overbay, Chris Snyder and Ronnie Cedeno) went long as Pittsburgh whipped the Cubs 10-1 at Wrigley Field. Paul Maholm tossed a three hitter for the complete game victory. 
  • 2013 - The Bucs rode strong pitching and an eleventh inning home run by Neil Walker off Jose Ortega to edge the Tigers at Comerica Park 1-0, despite striking out 14 times. Jeanmar Gomez and Rick Porcello started the game while Jason Grilli finished it in style with swinging strikeouts of Motown’s Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in order to earn his 21st save and Mark Melancon’s first win as a Pirate.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bucs Can't Find Clutch Hit, Fall 4-2

The Bucs squared up on a couple of balls in the first off Jon Niese, but Juan Lagares in center had both measured. He was perfectly positioned for Josh Harrison's liner, and then leapt to snare a ball off the top of the wall at the 390' mark to take extra bases off Cutch.

Edinson Volquez got a grounder to open, followed by a gapper by Daniel Murphy. Cutch called for it as he and Starling Marte had it measured; Andrew gloved it briefly before running into Marte, and the ball dropped. But the error didn't faze Edinson, who got another grounder and a K to strand Murphy. Talk about your frustrating frame for Cutch, robbed at the wall and then charged with a boot thanks to his running mate's bump in left.

Gaby opened the second with a walk, but the Pirate luck on liners held up. On a 3-2 count, with Sanchez off on the pitch, Russ Martin rocketed one to left; Curtis Granderson took a step or two to glove it, then his strong one-hopper to first doubled up Gaby. No robbery for Marte, as he tapped back to the hill. Volquez walked Bobby Abreu, then Lucas Duda hit a slow roller to third; Josh got it to Clint Barmes, who got the force and then dropped the ball. Again, no sweat for Edinson, who sandwiched another walk between two K he's bringing it tonight, sitting at 94-95 and touching 98.

Neise had an easy time with the bottom of the order in the third, whiffing a pair. To open the Met half, Cutch made one of the best catches you'll see, fully extended in right center to pay back Lagares. Murphy hit a routine grounder to third, but Josh was way off the line in a shift. The bouncer caught the stands and kicked away from Marte for a double. With two outs, he walked weak hitting Granderson after being up 0-2, and it cost him when Abreu spanked one through the shift. After three, it was 1-0 New York.

With one gone in the fourth, JT reached when Ruben Tejada bobbled his soft chopper over the hill. Cutch hit into a one-hop shot to third force; David Wright double clutched to allow Andrew to beat the ball on the back end. Gaby cued one past first to put runners at the corners, but Russ popped out foul on the first base side to end the inning.

Murphy doubled off the left field wall with an out and came around two batters later when Lagares did the same. A walk and a wild pitch - Martin called for a ball in the dirt and got it, but couldn't pick it cleanly - put Volquez in a two-out hole. Wright bounced one to short, and Barmes throw was down the line, but Gaby managed to make the tag to end the music.

In the fifth, the Bucs started with a pair of hard hit outs before Barmes rolled a bleeder through the shortstop hole to turn the order over. Volquez worked his final frame giving up a walk; he's at 105 pitches with six K, a season high, and five free passes. His velocity was great, but his control...well, not so great.

Niese was having his problems, too - he went walk, out, walk, out, walk in the sixth before Marte laced a two-run single up the middle. Terry Collins probably kept him in a batter or two longer than he should, but with the Met bullpen as is...anyway, old Bucco Vic Black got the ball. And what else - he walked The Kid. Ike grabbed a bat for Barmes, and after taking a 98 MPH heater for a strike - and everything Black throws is 98 - he went down swinging at a pair of 82 MPH hooks in the dirt.

It must be contagious. Jeanmar Gomez walked Tejada (.202) to open the NY half and sandwiched two wild pitches around an out. Lagares went full, and then slapped a broken bat single to left on a pretty decent pitch to give the Mets the lead again. Justin Wilson was throwing in the pen, but Clint left Gomez in against the lefty Murphy, and he doubled another run home. Wilson got the ball a batter late; no explaining what Hurdle was thinking, unless Wilson wasn't heated up yet. He got the next two outs, but the Mets were on top 4-2.

Black got the first two Bucs in the seventh, then JT walked and Cutch singled to right center; Abreu cut the ball off to keep Pirates on the corners. Gaby went down without a swing, taking a heater and two curves, both belt high. Wilson tossed a clean frame with a pair of whiffs.

Jenrry Mejia took the hill in the eighth. with one gone, a Marte walk and Walker single put Bucs on the corners, and Pedro at the plate, hitting for Wilson. He fell behind 0-2, worked the count full, then hit a weak bouncer to second for an easy 6-3 DP. Jason Grilli took the ball for Pittsburgh, and after a leadoff single  and stolen base by Tejada, struck out the side, all on chases. He looked up to snuff, with good movement and 93-94 MPH velocity, so he's coming along.

The Bucs did everything but score in the ninth. Josh hit another bullet at the left fielder for the first out after Travis Snider reached on an error. Granderson may have may the game-saver when he ran down JT's drive into the right field corner, making a snow cone grab. Mejia wasn't going to let Cutch beat him; he walked him on five pitches. Gaby banged one deep in the SS hole; Tejada would have had a tough play at first, but instead went to third and forced out the lumbering Snider to end the game.

Lots of hard outs for Pittsburgh tonight, but also lots of squandered opportunities, stranding 11 and going 1-for-7 with RISP. And while people debate the Vinsanity move, Gomez and Bryan Morris are both still in the pen; they should certainly be part of the conversation when Stolmy returns. The quick-hook starting pitching is exposing a weak middle corp of relievers, and it showed tonight. Give Terry Collins and his staff some credit, too - they played their outfielders fairly shallow except for a couple of guys, and it paid off by taking away hits sorely needed. And they made some plays when it counted.

So it's the rubber match tomorrow, followed by seven games in LA and San Diego. Charlie Morton goes against Bartolo Colon in the get-away game.
  • Neil Walker had an error ruled on a ball he hit up the line yesterday changed to a double after league review, so his single tonight ran his hitting streak to eight games.
  • Andrew McCutchen has drawn 40 walks in 50 games.
  • West Virginia C Reese McGuire extending his hitting streak to 17 games.

Volquez v Niese, Lineup, Gaby, In A Pinch, Notes...

Edinson Volquez (2-4, 4.37) matches up against LHP Jonathon Niese (3-3, 2.70) tonight.

Volquez hasn't fared well against NY; he's 1-5 with a 7.11 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets. On the plus side, he broke out of his May funk last outing, getting a 3-1 win against Washington in a strong performance. Niese has got a 2-1/4.70 slash and has averaged fewer than six innings per start in four outings vs. Pittsburgh, although that's inflated by an eight-run outing in the mix. And Niese did send Zack Greinke to defeat in his last appearance.

The venue may be the difference. Volquez is 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in three road starts, and at Citi Field has lost his last three starts with a 6.32 ERA. Niese, has put together a string of 14 straight home games where he's allowed three runs or fewer and has a 2.87 ERA at Citi Field this year.

The lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Jose Tabata RF, Cutch CF, Gaby 1B, Russ Martin C, Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Clint Barmes SS and Volquez P. Boy, have these guys been waiting for a lefty!

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

  • Gaby's big day yesterday wasn't out of the blue. In his career, his slash against the Mets is .324/.391/.580 with 9 HR and 34 RBI in 55 games and 203 PA.
  • Pittsburgh pinch hitters are batting .264 with three homers, 17 RBIs and a .356 on-base percentage in 101 plate appearances. Last year, Pirate pinch hitters batted .206 with seven homers, 36 RBIs and a .288 OBP in 253 PA.
  • In case you were wondering, Ike got a fairly warm reception in NY.
  • Yesterday's win, btw, was only the second time that the Pirates have been behind after seven innings and come back to win in 23 tries.
  • Stolmy Pimentel was sent to extended spring training to rehab his shoulder inflammation that landed him on the DL on May 2nd.
  • Geez, that was quick. Right after the Bucco win yesterday, the Mets released losing pitcher Jose Valverde and also fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens. Vic Black, who had been released Sunday night, is on the way back to rejoin the team - from El Paso, where he was waiting for a flight to Vegas. Lotta holiday frequent flier miles for him.
  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes that six of the nine hardest throwers of last season have had TJ surgery. Only Gerrit Cole, Garrett Richards (Angels) and Yordano Ventura (Tigers) remain unsliced, and Ventura is getting an MRI for "elbow discomfort" he felt yesterday.
  • OF Jaff Decker, who recently had a cup of coffee with the big team, threw out two runners at home last night during Indy's 6-2 loss to Buffalo.
  • C Reese McGuire’s current 16-game hitting streak is the longest by a West Virginia player since Alen Hanson also hit safely in 16 straight games in April of 2012.

5/27: Wilbur Cooper, Kiki Cuyler, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Ken Brett, Long Time Comin'...

Wilbur Cooper, Kiki Cuyler, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Ken Brett, Long Time Comin'...
  • 1921 - Wilbur Cooper won his eighth straight game, this one by a 5-4 count at Forbes Field against Cincinnati when the Pirates pushed across a ninth inning run. All eight of Cooper’s victories were complete games. Rabbit Maranville’s sac fly brought in Walter Schmidt with the winning tally in the home half of the ninth. Maranville also tripled and scored twice for the Pirates. Between June and July, Cooper would go on an 8-of-10 win streak, and his two hot spells would carry him to a 22 win season for the Pirates. 
  • 1927 - The Pirates overcame a 7-1 deficit by scoring six times in the sixth and seventh innings to defeat the St. Louis Cards in 10 innings at Forbes Field by an 8-7 count. They ran their victory streak to nine games; it reached 11 before being snapped. Kiki Cuyler had three hits to spark the Bucs. Guy Bush pitched three innings of one hit ball for the win. 
  • 1960 - Pittsburgh acquired 29-year-old LHP Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell from the Cardinals‚ along with LF Dick Gray‚ for minor leaguers IF Julian Javier and RHP Ed Bauta. Javier started at 2B for the Cards for a dozen years, but he was blocked in Pittsburgh by a guy named Bill Mazeroski. Mizell went 13-5 for the Bucs with a 3.15 ERA, solidifying their staff during their World Championship run. 
  • 1974 - It was a big day for Ken Brett in a DH sweep against the Braves at TRS. In the opener, he carried a no-hitter into the ninth, settling for a two-hit, 6-0 win. In the nitecap, his two-run pinch hit triple led the Bucs to an 8-7 victory.

Ken Brett Topps 1974 Series

  •  2006 - The Pirates won an 8-7, 18 inning match at PNC Park against the Astros when Jason Bay flattened Astros' catcher Eric Munson to score on Jose Bautista’s sac fly. The game time of five hours, 49 minutes tied it as the longest contest ever played in Pittsburgh. Bay also hit a homer in his fifth consecutive game, the first Pirate player to do so in 50 years.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bucs Rally To Batter the Bullpen In A 5-3 Win

With an out in the first, The Kid singled off rookie Jacob deGrom, and Cutch followed with a knock to left. Ike walked to juice the bases for Russ Martin. After a visit to the mound, deGrom was next visited by a pitcher's best friend, an around-the-horn DP on a 3-2 sinker to escape the frame. Juan Lagares bunted his way on to open against Brandon Cumpton and went to second when Pedro airmailed the throw to first. He made his way to third two outs later, but a Curtis Granderson K stranded him. 11 pitches, 11 sinkers for Cumpton; meanwhile deGrom showed five different pitches in his inning.

Pedro singled to center to open the second and Starling Marte followed with a walk. Jordy Mercer was late on a fastball and flew out to medium right, runners holding. Cumpton couldn't bunt them over; made no diff as Josh grounded out to short. Early on, the Bucs are touching all the bases except the one that counts. After a line out, Lucas Duda singled to left. Cumpton cleaned up quickly as Wilmer Flores bounced one to Pedro, who made a nice pick on a short hop to start a 5-4-3 inning ender.

Cutch walked with an out in the third, and that was all the damage Pittsburgh could muster. deGrom singled off of Walker's glove with one gone; he's 3-for-4 so far this year, befitting a converted college shortstop. Lagares banged one to short; Jordy booted it to put Mets at first and second. Try, try again; Cumpton got Daniel Murphy to roll another one to short, and this time Mercer started the 6-4-3 to finish the frame.

Pedro opened the fourth with a two-bagger. Marte bounced out to third, Mercer lobbed one softly to second and Cumpton flew out to right, so Pete never got to step off the sack. With two gone in the Met half, Bobby Abreu lined a single to center and stayed there. The Bucs are 0-for-7 with RISP over four frames, and NY is 0-for-4 with a combined nine runners stranded, even with three DPs.

deGrom almost had the first 1-2-3 half inning of the game in the fifth, spoiled when Cutch beat out an infield single with two down after rolling over on a 3-2 slider. Ike put a charge into a change up, but lined it right into the mitt of Duda at first. With the first two Mets tucked away, Cumpton delivered the first pitch down the middle for deGrom, who banged out his second single, followed by a walk to Lagares.

With an 0-2 count, he fed Murphy a center cut sinker and the results were predictable; he drilled in a run, although the back runner was cut down at home Harrison-Pedro-Martin, to put NY up 1-0. Hmmm - not so fast; the umps are reviewing it to see if Russ blocked the plate. After a long look, Lagares was ruled safe on the blocking violation, and it was 2-0. Don't ask us; we've never fully understood the rule ourselves; we're guessing his extended leg was the culprit. We do know that a decent throw by Josh from right (who ended up charged with an error on the play after the out call was reversed) would have made the whole thing moot.

deGrom may be a rookie, but he did what good pitchers do after taking the lead; he shut down the Bucs in the following frame. Abreu, who's hit the ball hard every at-bat, doubled with an out in the sixth, but was stranded. Pinch hitter Travis Snider walked with one away in the seventh after falling behind 0-2, and went to second an out later when The Kid drew another free pass. After 122 pitches from deGrom and Cutch up, the Mets called on Jeurys Familia, who froze Andrew on a 3-2 slider to end the inning. Jared Hughes came on and worked the first clean half inning for the Bucs, withstanding a Met challenge on the third out call.

Lefty Scott Rice took the ball in the eighth. Gaby hit for Ike, and did he ever, pounding his fifth HR of the year to left. Russ almost followed suit, with his drive hauled in at the 404' mark in dead center. After Rice got Pedro on a grounder to second, righty Jose Valverde took the bump. Marte banged a double on his first pitch, a heater, and JT grabbed a bat to hit for Jordy. Tabata came through; he punched an outside fastball into right, and it was 2-2. Clint Barmes hit for Hughes. JT swiped second, but Barmes fly to right left him on.

Tony Watson climbed the hill in the eighth. With two outs, he walked Granderson, bringing up the hot Abreu. Tony slipped past him with a popout, and on to the ninth.

Valverde was still on the hill, and retired Josh, who popped out trying to bunt his way aboard. The Kid followed with a flare single to center. Cutch walked, and Gaby followed with a single to left. Both runners scored and Gaby ended up on third when Granderson missed on his throw home and the ball skipped past the catcher. That was it for Jose; Carlos Torres answered the call. he had a nine-pitch battle with Russ; Martin won by doubling home Gaby. The Bucs eventually loaded the bases with two down, but Barmes' fly to center ended the fun.

The Bucs finished up by dancin' with Melancon. He did something that happens to him once a blue moon; looking to pump in a first pitch strike, Duda took him long to make it 5-3. But a fly ball and two whiffs later, it was all over. Mark the Shark had his 10th save and Tony Watson claimed his fifth victory.

Pittsburgh overcame some shaky fielding and decidedly unclutch hitting by getting into the Met bullpen, and give the Pirate bench all the props for this comeback - Gaby had a pair of big knocks, and JT drove in a two-out run as he seems to be settling into a fourth OF'er role pretty well.

For Cumpton, it was a strong opening bell response, giving up two runs (one earned) on seven hits through six innings in a very solid and efficient outing, using 86 pitches. Questions still remain after the order comes around for the third time; he really needs to use and command his secondary stuff to keep guys off balance as the game deepens. But he's certainly an upgrade over Wandy.

Edinson Volquez takes on lefty Jonathon Niese tomorrow night.
  • Duda's homer off Mark Melancon snapped the longest run without giving up a long ball among current MLB pitchers at 86 IP.
  • The Met bullpen has nine blown saves, second in the majors only to the Pirates' 11. So don't leave for the fridge in the late innings.
  • Neil Walker has a five game hitting streak, and eight multi-hit games in May.
  • Tony Watson, batting because the bench was used up in the ninth, grounded a ball through the shortstop hole for his first MLB hit.
  • Jordy Mercer has fallen under the Mario Mendoza line at .197, with his partner, Clint Barmes, is hitting .200 on the dot. We believe that if Josh keeps raking, he'll get some games at short, even as a sub-par defender, and third after Gregory Polanco arrives.
  • Ex-Bucs: Looks like Robbie Grossman is getting his shot at everyday play for the Astros.

Cumpton v deGrom, Lineup, Vinsanity DFA'ed, Ike

"The flag does not fly because of the wind that blows it. The flag flies because each soldier's last breath blows on it."
Brandon Cumpton (0-1, 4.26) faces Jacob deGrom this afternoon. Cumpton has been a yo-yo the past two years, but now has a chance to stick with Wandy's release. The key for him is continued development of his change and slider to get him deeper into games. His opponent, deGrom, will be making his third big-league start after his May 13th call up from Norfolk; his first two outings have been very solid. His bread-and-butter is a 94 MPH power sinker.

The lineup: Josh Harrison RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Ike Davis 1B, Russ Martin C, Pedro 3B, Starling Marte LF, Jordy Mercer SS and Cumpton P.

The Memorial Day game begins at 1:10 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

  • In a bit of a surprise, the Bucs DFA'ed Vin Mazzaro to clear space on the roster for Brandon Cumpton; many thought Jared Hughes, who still has an option, would be the guy to go. The decision was likely based on Vinsanity working three innings and throwing 53 pitches yesterday, making him unavailable to work the next couple of days. He passed through DFA status once this season; the Bucs may be hoping for the same luck this time around.
  • This will be Ike Davis' first homecoming at Citi Field since he was traded April 18th. Adam Rubin of ESPN tweeted that Ike "says best thing about Pitt over NY is he doesn't get hitting tips when he goes for 9 AM coffee."
  • OF Chris Dickerson at Indy has had a hit in the last 21 games he's started; the only time he came up empty in that span was as a pinch hitter. He's working on a five game streak after snapping a 16-gamer.
  • Manny Ramirez is in our division, kinda. The Cubs signed him, not as a MLB bat, but as a player/coach for their AAA Iowa club.
  • Ex-Bucs: RHP Vic Black was sent back to AAA by the Mets, so no family reunion this series.

5/26: The Kitten's 12 Perfect Frames, Pillow Fight, Max Carey, Josh Gibson, Daryle Ward, Hit Man (Literally), More...

Happy Memorial Day!

The Kitten's 12 Perfect Frames, Pillow Fight, Max Carey, Josh Gibson, Daryle Ward, Hit Man (Literally), More...
  • 1894 - Weird reason for a forfeit...Pittsburgh was thumping Cleveland 12-3 in the eighth inning when the crowd of 8,000 at League Park began a seat cushion fight that spilled into the field. It got so out of hand that Pirates were awarded a forfeit victory over the Spiders. 
  • 1925 - Max Carey walked and then swiped 2B‚ 3B‚ and home during the Bucs 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. Kiki Cuyler added a two run homer and Al Neihaus drove in two more scores as Ray Kremer coasted to the win at Forbes Field. 
  • 1946 - Josh Gibson launched another blast, this one 440’ into the Yankee Stadium bleachers, as the Homestead Grays whipped the NY Black Yankees 11-8. It was the Grays’ fourth straight win and propelled them into first place in the Negro National League. 
  • 1959 - In baseball's ultimate pitching performance, Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against the Braves in Milwaukee’s County Stadium, only to lose the game, 1-0, in the 13th on a Dick Hoak error, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk and double that was a homer. (NL prez Warren Giles ruled that the final score should be 1-0‚ as runners Henry Aaron and Joe Adcock were ruled out, Aaron for leaving the field‚ and Adcock for passing him on the basepath. Adcock was credited with a double and not a HR.) In 1993‚ Bob Buhl admitted that the Braves pitchers were stealing the signs from C Smoky Burgess‚ who could not crouch down all the way because of his achy knees. They used a towel on the bullpen fence as a signal, making Haddix's effort even more remarkable. The only player who wasn’t impressed was Haddix, who told the Post Gazette afterward "My main aim all night long was to win. The perfect game would have meant something to me then. It's just another loss” 
 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  • 1980 - Lots of fireworks as the Phils rallied to beat the Bucs 7-6 at Veteran’s Stadium. Bert Blyleven brushed back a couple of Phillies early on; Philadelphia reliever Kevin Saucier later plunked Pops to even the score. The he went one better, bopping Blyleven, who charged the mound, bat in hand. A donnybrook ensued, and as it was breaking up, Phil’s coach Mike Ryan reignited things. Philly had the last laugh, scoring twice in the ninth off Kent Tekulve, who gave up four straight hits, to claim the hard-fought victory. 
  • 1997 - For the first time in twenty years, two inside-the-park homers were hit in the same inning when Sammy Sosa of the Cubs and Tony Womack both circled the bases five minutes apart in the sixth frame of Chicago’s 2-1 victory at Three Rivers Stadium. Francisco Cordova took the loss. 
  • 2004 - Daryle Ward hit for the cycle with a career single-game high of six RBI against St. Louis at Busch Stadium as the Bucs won 11-8. Ward joined his dad Gary as the first father-son team to hit for the cycle. The Pirates used six pitchers to hang on, with the win going to starter Kris Benson. 
  • 2012 - The Cubs lost their 11th straight game 3-2 to the Pirates, their longest losing streak since opening the 1997 season with 14 consecutive losses. The teams were tied in the bottom of the ninth at PNC Park when Jose Tabata led off with a single off Rafael Dolis. Two walks and two outs later, the aptly named “Hit Man” Matt Hague took a pitch in the ribs for a walk-off plunk. Joel Hanrahan earned the win in a game started by Kevin Correia.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bucs Fall 5-2 In Series Finale

Not a great start; Denard Span banged Francisco Liriano's second pitch into right for a two-bagger, followed by Anthony Rendon walking on five pitches. With an out, a soft grounder moved the runners up a station, which proved big when Frankie uncorked a wild pitch and gave up a single to Ian Desmond to make it 2-0. Tyler Moore blooped a single to right to put Nats on the corners, but he escaped further damage when Kevin Frandsen's liner was nicely speared by Pedro. Doug Fister worked a clean frame, ending it with a three pitch K of Cutch, who never offered at a pitch; the third looked like a get-away day call.

Frankie worked a quiet second, again ended by a nice play by Pedro on a Span grounder. The Pirates went down without a peep.

Rendon walked on four pitches to start the third, and Liriano fell behind Jayson Werth 3-0 before coming back to get a pop out. He helped his own cause briefly by catching Rendon breaking for second and picked him off, except for that pesky interference rule, called on Ike Davis and putting Rendon on second. No prob; Frankie worked out of it by whiffing the next pair. Chris Stewart got the first Buc hit, rolling one through the right side with an out. Liriano couldn't lay down a bunt, but it was immaterial as Josh grounded out.

With one gone in the fourth, Frandsen bounced a knock into left, but Liriano made quick work of the 8-9 hitters. The Kid took a change the opposite way for a lead off single, but Fister had his way with the heart of the order.

Span opened the fifth with a single, culminating an 11 pitch at-bat. He then stole second. Frankie fell behind Rendon 3-1, gave him a fastball above the belt and watched it - and Harrison, who got no jump at all on the ball - bounce off the Trib sign in right center for a triple. Rendon came in on another wild pitch to make it 4-0; Chris Stewart isn't exactly Russ Martin behind the dish. LaRoche walked and with two gone, Tyler Moore drew another free pass, but a K ended the frame. Pedro opened the Buc half with a single and an out later, Stewart got aboard on Desmond's boot. JT hit for Frankie, and the 60% ground ball hitter rolled one to short for the inning-ending 6-4-3.

Vin Mazzaro came on in the sixth and worked a 1-2-3 inning. Josh got the Bucs on the board when he went yard to left center on a first pitch fastball, one of the few balls Fister left in middle of the plate today. The Kid followed with a knock into right. Cutch hit into a force, then Ike poked a 3-2 change into left to keep the party going. That was it for Fister; Craig Stammen took the ball and got Marte to bounce into an around-the-horn DP.

With one gone in the seventh, Werth beat out a broken bat infield knock and LaRoche singled up the middle. Harrison made a diving grab of Desmond's ball to right, but it went as a sac fly and made it 5-1. The Nats challenged it as a trap, and won; Josh sold it to the umps but not to the eye in the sky. A deep fly and stolen base put Nats at second and third. Frandsen was brushed on a 3-2 pitch to load the sacks. Vinsanity whiffed Jose Lobaton to end the music. The Pirates went down meekly in their half.

Vinnie was taking one for the team today as he came out for his third inning in the eighth. He worked a clean frame to finish his 53 pitch outing. Josh singled with one gone off Stammen and The Kid followed with a knock to right. That brought out Aaron Barrett. He nailed Cutch fishing for a slider in the dirt. Ike picked him up, lining a 2-0 fastball into center to plate Harrison and push Walker to third. That was it; Marte took a pair of strikes, then chased a slider in the dirt to end the frame.

Bryon Morris came in for the ninth, and after a leadoff knock got a DP and flyout to end the frame. Rafael Soriano closed with a clean ninth, and the Bucco streak came to an end.

Frankie had control issues, not helped in the least by the byzantine strike zone of Tim Timmons. But he's a guy that has to work ahead in counts and couldn't do it today. The Bucs didn't help behind either, leaving a couple of plays on the field and failing to deliver a clutch hit. Fister works off an 88 MPH heater, but rarely does it drift into the middle of the plate and the Pirates didn't square up very often against him.  So it's adieu to Pittsburgh, and off on a 10 game road trip to New York, LA and San Diego.

Brandon Cumpton will go tomorrow afternoon at NY vs the Mets' Jacob deGrom.

  • Today's attendance of 38,047 was the 3rd sellout of the season.
  • Josh Beckett of the Dodgers tossed a no-hitter against the Phils today. The Bucs will gace him Friday at LA.

Liriano v Fister, Lineup, Bucco Streak

Francisco Liriano (0-4, 4.86) goes against Doug Fister (1-1, 3.93) in this afternoon's finale as the Pirates go for a four game sweep of Washington. 

Frankie was banged around last outing, and his command has gotten him into pitching holes. But his peripheral stats aren't much different than last seasons except for a huge 16% HR rate on fly balls, and he hopes to join Charlie Morton in the win column today. Fister just came off the DL a couple of weeks ago, and was strong in his last game as he rounds into shape. The 6'8" hurler depends on a steep downward plane to coax ground balls.

Lineup: Josh Harrison RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Ike Davis 1B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 3B, Jordy Mercer SS, Chris Stewart C and Liriano P.

The game begins at 1:35 and will be aired on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • The Pirates are looking for their first five game winning streak since early August of 2013. It would also be their first four-game series sweep since 2006 v the Brewers. This will be the team's third effort at a final-day sweep; they're 0-2 so far.
  • Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review has the 411 on the new and amazing tracking devices which will soon provide a whole new world of data to digest.

5/25: Martin Dihugo, The Babe, Ralph Kiner, Brawlin', Jim Bunning, Rick Rhoden, X-Tra Outburst, Steady Freddy, Pedro,

Martin Dihugo, The Babe, Ralph Kiner, Brawlin', Jim Bunning, Rick Rhoden, X-Tra Outburst, Steady Freddy, Pedro, More...
  • 1906 - Martin Dihigo was born in Matanzas, Cuba. Best known for his play in the Mexican League, he spent a couple of decades in the Negro Leagues and 1927-28 with the Homestead Grays. Dihigo was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977. The multi-talented Dihigo played all nine positions as a pro, though he’s best known as a pitcher and second baseman. He’s the only player ever to be inducted to the American, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican and Venezuelan Halls of Fame. 

Fritsch Negro league Baseball Stars (year NA)

  • 1935 - Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final home run off Guy Bush at Forbes Field in an 11-7 Boston Braves loss to the Pirates, a career record that would stand for almost 40 years before Hammerin' Hank claimed the crown. The Bambino went 4-for-4, hitting three home runs and driving in six runs. The final drive, launched in the seventh inning, cleared the right field roof, the first time that feat was ever done. According to local lore, the Babe’s ball didn't quit rolling until it stopped in Junction Hollow. 
  • 1940 - The Bucs broke an 18-for-21 losing spell with a 12-7 win over the Cubs at Forbes Field. Arky Vaughan had a HR, 3B, four runs scored and three RBI to lead the Pirate charge. Although he was roughed up, Joe Bowman went the distance for the win. Despite the dismal streak, the Pirates did end up with a 79-74 record at season’s end. 
  • 1953 - Ralph Kiner became the 12th MLB player to hit 300 HR with a three-run, fifth-inning blast off the NY Giants Al Corwin in a 6-3 loss at Forbes Field. 
  • 1958 - One of the largest bench clearing brawls in Bucco history erupted when manager Danny Murtaugh charged the mound after Ruben Gomez began headhunting. Orlando Cepeda, the Baby Bull, joined the melee with a bat before he was tackled by teammate Willie Mays. The bad blood was carried over from some beanballing in the prior visit to Candlestick Park. It apparently fired up the G-Men more than Pirates as they swept the doubleheader at Forbes Field 5-2 and 6-1. 
  • 1969 - Jim Bunning won his 200th game, scattering five hits and striking out eight in a 2-1 victory over Gaylord Perry and the Giants at Candlestick Park. It was a good day for the Bucs as they also took the nightcap of the twinbill by a 6-2 score behind Bob Moose. 
  • 1979 - Due to fog, the Buc-Met match ended in a 3-3 tie after 11 innings and a 73-minute delay. The umps gave up when Bill Robinson lost Joel Youngblood's ball in the Shea Stadium mist. 
  • 1983 - In the third inning of an eventual 6-0 loss to the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Pirates' starter Jim Bibby (4) and reliever Jim Winn (3) combined to walk seven consecutive batters to tie a major league mark set back in 1909. 
  • 1985 - Rick Rhoden won his 100th game and SS Bill Almon hit his first grand slam while driving in five runs as the Pirates jumped on the Braves 8-2 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. 
    Rick Rhoden Topps 1981
  • 2007 - The Pirates erupted for eight runs in the tenth inning as they banged out six hits and took advantage of a hit batter, walk and error. They sent twelve players to the plate in a 10-4 victory over the Reds at Great American Ballpark. Ronny Paulino and Xavier Nady each had a pair of RBI in the extra frame, while Nady and Jay Bay added earlier homers. Jonah Bayless picked up the win after facing two batters in the ninth.
  • 2009 - The Pirates beat the Cubs, 10-8 at Wrigley Field. Freddy Sanchez went 6-for-6 with 4 runs, 3 RBI, a double and a homer to become first Pirate in 19 years, since Wally Backman in 1990, to have six hits in a game. The Bucs had just finished an interleague set against the White Sox, and became the first team in major league history to play consecutive series against the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago.
  • 2013 - The Bucs hit four homers, two by Pedro Alvarez, and Jeff Locke ran his scoreless streak to 14 frames in a 5-2 win at Milwaukee’s Miller Field. For Locke, it was his sixth start out of the last seven giving up three or fewer hits.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bucs Squeak By Strasburg Late To Claim 3-2 Win

Gerrit Cole opened the nationally broadcast Bucco game with a 1-2-3, ten pitch frame. Stephen Strasburg bettered him, getting three routine outs on nine offerings. With two down in the second, the Bucs went into their first shift, and Greg Dobbs beat it by dumping a soft single to left. Cole followed that with a three pitch K of Danny Espinosa. The Bucs got their first runner of the night when Russ Martin caught a spinner above the elbow with one down. Pedro then rolled a ball up the middle, and the Nats turned it for a 6-3 DP.

Nate McLouth opened the third by taking a pitch off the knee. Strasburg couldn't bunt him up, but Nate stole second when Martin's throw was on the wrong side of the bag. An out later, both Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth battled long against Cole, with Rendon walking and Werth whiffing, but his pitch count is at 50 now after being on cruise control in the first two frames. Strasburg spun another quiet frame.

With one gone in the fourth, Cole's bugaboo, the long ball, bit him again when Ian Desmond took a flat slider and drilled it into the third row in left field. Dobbs followed with another soft hit that popped out of a diving Cutch's glove upon landing. Gerrit recovered, getting a K and missing another twice when plate ump Gabe Morales missed a pair of back door breakers, but he got McLouth to softly ground out to limit the damage.

Strasburg was human, too. With an out, The Kid banged a belt-high heater into the bullpen to knot the score. Cutch tried to follow, but his drive was roped in a step short of the Clemente Wall. Ike walked and Russ singled, but Stephen schooled Pedro, getting to miss a couple of changeups for the K.Cole, meanwhile, showed some ankle discomfort in the dugout, and Clint warned the pen on the horn to be ready for the fifth.

His ankle didn't bother him as he got the first two outs, but the third out was elusive. Rendon hit a ground ball single to left, Werth walked, and Wilson Ramos blooped an RBI knock into right between Josh and Walker. Then Desmond was drilled with a 1-2 pitch to juice the bases. Cole got Dobbs to ground out to keep it 2-1.

Starling Marte singled to open the Buc half, but had a brain cramp trying to steal second; he apparently lost track of the count and thought ball four had been delivered. It hadn't, and he stopped running on what was a terrible throw to second and was tagged out standing. Strasburg picked it up after that, whiffing Clint Barmes and Cole.

With an out in the sixth, McLouth walked and was bunted to second. Denard Span got ahead 3-1 and lined one to right, but Josh was positioned perfectly to end the frame. Cole has set his personal pitch record at 112. Harrison opened by smoking one to left, but Nate still has some wheels and leather, and hauled it in a step short of the fence. Cutch singled an out later, but was left there as Davis whiffed on a change up; it's been a terrifically effective pitch for Strasburg tonight.

Jared Hughes worked a calm seventh. The Pirates started off with a single by Russ. After Strasburg sat down Pedro again, Marte hit a curve off the wall in right center; it was played well by Werth, and the Bucs had runners at second and third. JT hit for Barmes, and his liner to center off another curve was hauled in by Span, but was enough to get Martin home easily. Travis Snider hit for Hughes, and after getting ahead 2-0 was walked intentionally. Why someone would want to get to the red hot Josh is beyond us, and Harrison made them pay by singling up the middle to score Marte, although the Bucs lost Snider trying to get to third. Still, it made it 3-2 Pittsburgh.

Tabata stayed in to play right and Jordy Mercer went to short. Jeanmar Gomez worked a four pitch eighth, with Ike Davis' diving stop ending the frame. Drew Storen got the first two Bucs handily, then an Ike single and another HBP to Martin brought on the call for lefty Jerry Blevins to face Pedro. With the shift on, he rolled one to second to end the frame. Mark the Shark got the nod, facing the 8-9-1 hitters. A punchout and two weak grounders later, the Bucs had another win in the books. Jared Hughes had his third win and Melancon his ninth save.

Like last night, the Pirates ground out a tight victory by limiting mistakes (except on the basepaths, sheesh), getting lights out work from the pen and eventually banging the clutch hit. They looked like the 2013 Pirates again.

Francisco Liriano and Doug Fister close out the series tomorrow with the Bucs looking for a holiday sweep.
  • Pittsburgh has won four in a row and five of six games. At 22-26, they're slowly clawing their way back into respectability.
  • The bullpen remained pot-luck: Jason Grilli (he threw simulated games Tuesday & Wednesday, then worked yesterday), Tony Watson and Justin Wilson were booked for downtime tonight.
  • Adam LaRoche will return to the Nats from the DL for either tomorrow or Monday.

Cole v Strasburg, Lineup, Mark the Shark, Clint

It's the matchup made in heaven - SoCal natives Gerrit Cole (4-3, 3.84 ), the first pick in 2011, v Stephen Strasburg (3-3, 3.38), the first pick in 2009, oppose one another for the first time tonight. It's also the first time that two first overall picks started against each other in a Major League game since Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar (2006) faced Tampa Bay’s David Price (2007) on 8/21/12.

Cole is developing into a workhorse for the Pirates, but like much of the staff has had problems with the long ball. Strasburg has had his way with the Bucs, putting up a 2-1/2.57 slash and 47 K in 28 IP after four career starts, including his big league debut in 2010.

The lineup: Josh Harrison RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Ike Davis 1B, Russ martin C, Pedro 3B, Starling Marte LF, Clint Barmes SS and Cole P. Looks like Jordy's icy bat is getting a break.

The game starts at 7:15 (it was originally scheduled for 4:05 but was pushed back when Fox picked up the game) and will be aired by Fox Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

  • In a year when Bucco pitchers can't keep a ball in the yard, Mark Melancon has the longest current streak of innings pitched without allowing a home run (85 IP) among all Major League pitchers. And he only surrendered one round tripper in 2013.
  • Clint Hurdle won his 800th MLB game as a skipper last night.
  • C Reese McGuire extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a multi-hit game for West Virginia last night.
  • Ex-Bucs: Brandon Moss has 17 extra-base hits in May, and is slugging .773 in 84 plate appearances for the month.