Tuesday, September 30, 2014

9/30: Clemente's 3000th, Kiner Hits 54, Bucs Clinch In '90, Stargell's History Making RBI, Temple Cup, 20 Years Down & More...

Clemente's 3000th, Kiner Hits 54, Bucs Clinch In '90, Stargell's History Making RBI, Temple Cup, 20 Years Down & More...
  • 1893 - The Pirates ended their season with an eight game winning streak by topping the NY Giants by an 8-6 score to finish the year 81-48, five games behind the Boston Beaneaters. Pittsburgh’s partial owner William Chase Temple thought there should be a series between the top two teams (as his club was second) for the title, so he donated the Temple Cup to the league for a best of seven post-season championship series, to start in 1894. It lasted for four years, never being terribly popular among the players or fans, and didn’t help Temple’s Bucs at all - they never finished higher than sixth during the Cup’s existence. The winner was supposed to take ⅔ of the gate, but the first teams to play agreed beforehand on a 50-50 split, which the winning club then reneged on, causing Temple to sell his Pirate share in disgust. 
  • 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 the Beaneaters 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. 
 Ralph Kiner from Getty Images
  • 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, who had earlier swatted a grand slam, 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 1475 & 1476; he would finish with 1,540.
 Willie Stargell - Dick Perez Art
  • 1987 - The Pirates split a doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs at TRS. They won the opener 5-3 behind Brian Fisher as Jose Lind chased two runs home and Spanky LaValliere scored twice. They dropped the nitecap 10-8 despite Darnell Coles tying a team record by blasting three homers and driving in six runs. Pirate pitching gave up just nine hits, but six were for extra bases and they added 11 walks. 
  • 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. It took Drabek just 80 pitches to go the distance. 
  • 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. 
Tim Wakefield 1992 Score series
  • 2009 - Ryan Doumit went 4-for-4 with a home run, three runs scored and four RBIs in the second game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs, an 8-3 Pittsburgh win. Dewey became the second Pirate catcher in the last 40 years to have at least four hits and four RBIs in the same game. Jason Kendall collected four koncks and five RBIs in a 13–1 Pirates victory over the Cardinals on May 19th, 2000. It was a good day at Wrigley Field for the Bucs as they took the opener, too, 4-0. Charlie Morton tossed a four hitter and Jason Jaramillo doubled in two runs.
  • 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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Post Season Stuff...Schedules, Ex-Bucs, Final Regular Season Stats

 Some facts, figures & trivia per the season and the playoffs:
  • The playoff picture: For the NL, the Bucs and Giants kick it off Wednesday night at Pittsburgh. The winner goes to Washington for a Friday opener. The Cards visit LA Friday, too. In the AL, Oakland goes to KC on Tuesday for the wild card game, with that winner visiting the Angels on Thursday. Detroit opens at Baltimore on the same day.
  • The Pirate game is scheduled to have Edinson Volquez (13-7, 3.04) face lefty Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98) at PNC Park beginning at 8:07, televised by ESPN. Kent Tekulve will throw out the first pitch. Volquez didn't face the Giants this season, while the Bucs had their way with Bumgarner in his one outing against them in May. Pittsburgh is 4-2 against the Giants this season.
  • In was in the cards for San Francisco & Pittsburgh to meet. The two teams finished with identical 88-74 records and even had the same run differential, +51. They finished 28th and 29th in pitching, with SF's ERA at 3.50 and Pittsburgh's at 3.49. The biggest split is in OPS, with Pittsburgh at .734 and the G-Men at .699.
 (2013 blackout v Reds, photo by Jared Wickersham of Getty Images)
  • The Giants bring a boatload of old Bucs with them, especially pitching: Ryan Vogelsong, Javier Lopez, Hunter Strickland, Jean Machi and Erik Cordier are all on their September roster, along with 1B/OF Travis Ishikawa.
  • Other ex-Bucs on playoff teams' September rosters: Adam LaRoche (Washington), Kevin Correia (LA Dodgers), Steve Pearce & Evan Meek (Baltimore), Rajai Davis & Don Kelly (Detroit), Erik Kratz & Jayson Nix (Kansas City), Jason Grilli, Yoslan Herrera, John Buck & John McDonald (LA Angels) and Brian Moss & Jesse Chavez (Oakland).
  • Tuesday at noon at Market Square, the City, County, PNC and the Bucs will sponsor a Pirates Playoff Rally to get the troops revved.
  • Colorado manager Walt Weiss said it was his decision to sit Justin Morneau for the last two games to set him up for the NL batting title, and Morneau took it with a .319 average. Josh Harrison finished with a .315 BA to come in second and Cutch finished third with a .314 average.
  • Cutch has produced a slash line of .300/.400/.500 or better in three straight seasons.
(photo from USA Today)
  • Four Pirates (Cutch/6.9, Josh/4.8, Starling/4.0 and The Kid/3.7) ranked in the NL's top 25 in WAR per Fangraphs. Russ, by the way, had a 5.2 WAR and would have made it five, but he didn't have enough plate appearances to be a qualifier.
  • NH explained to MLB.com's Tom Singer about as succinctly as possible why the Bucs didn't deal at the deadline: "we couldn't find the right impact coming in the door to match the impact that would've been going out the door."
  • For those looking into the future, the Pirates draft 23rd this year after going 22nd in 2013.

9/29: Cannonball, Howie & Harry, Ken Macha, Closing the Polo Grounds, Teke Takes Two & More...

Cannonball, Howie & Harry, Ken Macha, Closing the Polo Grounds, Teke Takes Two & 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 with 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. 
Howie (top) and Harry (bottom) Camnitz T205 series year u/k
  • 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. 
 Teke 1983 O-Pee-Chee series
  • 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.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cole Train Rolls But Bullpen Rocked In 4-1 Loss As Cueto Does It All

After getting a pair of routine grounders to open the game, Johnny Cueto gave up back-to-back knocks to Cutch and The Kid before getting Starling on a fly. The unstoppable Kris Negron singled hard to left against Gerrit Cole to start up the Reds. Brandon Phillips dropped a flare into center to put Redlegs at first and third, and a chopper, speared by a leaping Josh, brought Negron home. Two K's later, it was 1-0 Reds.

With two gone in the second, Stew ripped a double to left center that turned Chris Heisey around, but Cueto put Cole away on four pitches. The Cole Train picked up a couple more whiffs while tossing a clean frame. Cueto matched him in the third, with two K's sandwiched around a Travis line out. Negron kept it up against the Bucs, singling to right with an out and getting to second on a wild pitch. A roller, again nicely converted by Josh, moved him up 90', but Todd Frazier's grounder to short ended the inning without a score.

The Kid led off the fourth by going long; it's good to have his bat back after a two-week slump. Cueto polished off the remaining Buccos, one being Gaby, who came in to hit for Ike; maybe Davis' flu is acting up (it was). Two more Reds K'ed, then Heisey had the unusual occurrence of running into his own batted ball for the third out.

Stew is on a roll; he dropped a hustle double, his second, into left to open the fifth; he only had three two-baggers coming into today. So much for hustle; he was thrown out at third on a pretty poor bunt effort by Cole; all he had to do was bunt it toward third. Two flies ended the frame. The Cole Train kept on a rollin'; he tossed a 1-2-3 frame and has nine K.

Ditto Cueto, who tossed another easy inning in the sixth. Cole finally got Negron, thanks to a dandy spin-o-rama play by Josh at third. No more dramatics as Gerrit K'ed two more. Gaby drilled a fastball to left to start the seventh, but the liner was gloved by Jason Bourgeois. Two routine grounders ended the frame. And Cueto's not going anywhere at 90+ pitches; the Reds will keep him in until he's in line for a win, as he's looking for #20. After a punch out, Jay Bruce broke Cole's string of 12 in-a-row with a single to right. No prob; Stew tossed him out trying to steal followed by a pop out.

Andrew Lambo came in for Cole in the eighth; the Bucs do have another day to live for. Lambo whiffed and Josh lined out to third; even when the Bucs do square up, they can't find grass against Johnny. Travis hit one to center that the Reds couldn't flag and chugged into second, with Gregory Polanco coming in to run. Cutch got hit in the back by the next pitch, but Walker couldn't make Cueto pay, grounding out to first.

Tony Watson came on, and Bourgeois greeted him with a triple. A liner to Josh kept him there for an out; it was the fourth really sweet play he's made today at the hot corner. The Reds let Cueto (.119) bat, and it paid off; he ran the count full after being in a 1-2 hole and singled into center to plate Bourgeois.

To add insult to injury, his back swing caught Stew on the wrist, and that brought Tony Sanchez into the game to catch. Cueto was replaced by pinch runner Yorman Rodriguez; it will be Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. Justin Wilson came on and promptly gave up a homer to Negron. After an out, he walked Frazier and plunked Mesoraco, whether to avenge Cutch or out of frustration is tough to tell. He got Bruce to end an inning the pen would like to forget.

Marte opened with a knock, followed by a Gaby K. Starling stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Jordy went down looking at 100 MPH heater, and Tony Sanchez swung through a 102 MPH fastball. Guess the Redbirds get to save Adam Wainwright for another day now.

Well, see you all Wednesday at PNC Park as Madison Bumgarner and the Giants try to beat the black out against, we assume, Eddie Volquez. The game will be on ESPN and starts at 8:07 PM.
  • This was Cole Train's third double-digit strikeout game of his career. He equaled his career high of 12, set against San Diego last year.
  • Neil Walker has gone deep five times this year at GABP. He has 14 career homers against the Reds, his most versus any opponent.
  • Kris Negron devoured the Bucs this series, going 9-for12.
  • For those following the grand tour's finale, Derek Jeter legged out an RBI infield single and was removed so he could end his career with a hit.

Here We Go: Scenarios, Cole v Cueto, Lineup (No Russ)

Well, the Pirates and Gerrit Cole need to stop Johnny Cueto from winning his 20th game and the D-Backs have to somehow defeat Adam Wainwright for an NL Central tie and 163rd game. Stranger things have happened, but not often.

Still, it's a remarkable last day considering where the Bucs started from this season, and you can't blame Hurdle for using all his bullets, even if logic dictates otherwise. His message is pretty clear: we're not taking our foot off the pedal. And it's not just Clint; he talked about the game with his Player's Leadership Council, per Travis Sawchik of the Trib, and they were all for Cole taking the hill today.

The Pirates are guaranteed to host the Wednesday wild card game at worst, and could win the division at best to avoid a one-game crap shoot. We'll see how things shake out. If there's a playoff tomorrow, Jeff Locke is due. Eddie Volquez, who has been performing as well as top guns Liriano & Cole, is in Clint's hip pocket for Wednesday (and that's the game that really counts), or Frankie could go on three days rest.

No sense belaboring you with the Cole-Cueto blurbs; you know them both well. Welcome to the September asylum; a wild season just got a little more crazy.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Travis Snider RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Ike Davis 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Chris Stewart C and Cole P. Sorry for being late; we assume Clint was holding out until Russ' status was determined.

  • The other big sidebar to today's game is Josh's run for the batting title. He's sitting second to Justin Morneau, at .318 to .319.

9/28: Bucs Belt Six To Clinch Home WC, Homer In the Gloaming, Kiner Wins 7th HR Crown, Clarke Day As Bucs Clinch, Buck, Freak Show & More...

Bucs Belt Six To Clinch Home Wild Card, Homer In the Gloaming, Kiner Wins 7th HR Crown, Clarke Day As Bucs Clinch, Buck, 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 then went on to beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. 
 Fred Clarke 1911 T205 Gold Border Master series
  • 1938 - The Bucs lost the “Homer in the Gloaming” game to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, considered 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. 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), the Pirates faded, and Chicago 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.
 Grant Jackson 1981 Fleer series
  • 1947 - Tiny Bonham tossed a two hit whitewash as the Bucs defeated the Reds 7-0 at Forbes Field to provide a bright spot at the end a dismal season; Pittsburgh finished 62-92, 32 games out of first. Dixie Howell and Frank Gustine homered in front of 33,794. 
  • 1952 - Ralph Kiner slugged his 37th homer to win the NL crown easily over Gil Hodges (32) and take a record seventh straight home run title. The Bucs whipped Cincinnati 9-6 at Crosley Field as Gus Bell and Joe Garagiola also went long to help Bob Friend to the win. 
  • 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.
 Jose Guillen 1997 Donruss Coming Attractions series
  • 2009 - The Pirates 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. 
  • 2013 - Behind a six home run barrage (Neil Walker-2, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Marlon Byrd and Andrew Lambo), the Pirates won home field advantage for their wild card game against the Reds by defeating Cincinnati 8-3 at GABP. It was the first time since August, 2007, versus the Rockies at Coors Field, that Pittsburgh banged out that many long balls in a game. It was his first career multi-homer game for Walker and the first career MLB homer for Lambo. Alvarez became the first Pirate third baseman to drive in 100 runs since Aramis Ramirez drove in 110 in 2001 and his 36 homers were a club record for a third baseman. Vin Mazzaro came on in the fifth inning and was credited with the win. 
 Neil Walker 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter series

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Frankie, Bullpen Can't Find the Target In 10-6 Loss

Alfredo Simon plunked Josh with the first pitch to open the game and he stole second, but there he remained.

Francisco Liriano, who has been virtually unhittable but walking guys left and right, finally had his control catch up to him. A walk, hit and walk loaded the bases with no outs, and then Devin Mesoraco rolled one that just got by Josh at third and went under Marte's glove to plate a pair; a grounder plated another. A fourth run was saved when Jordy's throw home on another hopper just barely beat Mesoraco at home and just as barely survived a blocking the plate review; they ruled Stew had the ball before planting his leg at home. A whiff ended the frame, but it was 3-0 Reds.

The Bucs got a run back in the second when Starling doubled and a pair of bouncers brought him home. Frankie gave up a two out single to Kris Negron, who's been killing Bucco pitching so far this series, before a pop ended it. The Bucs went down in order in the third; Liriano survived another pair of walks to put up a second zero. Cutch got to third in the fourth frame after a leadoff walk and pair of grounders, but Ike whiffed. Negron banged a two out double, and Frankie left him there.

The Bucs woke up in the fifth. Jordy homered to left on the line with an out, Frankie (!) singled and Josh doubled high off the wall in right, barely missing a long ball. Too bad the runner was Liriano; anyone else scores. Travis lined out to right and Cutch unhappily walked to load the sacks for The Kid. Andrew needn't have pouted; Walker dropped the first pitch into center to bring in a pair and chase Cutch to third. Starling bounced out, but the Bucs climbed out of a big early hole to take a 4-3 lead.

Todd Frazier drew his second walk of the day to start the Reds and a swinging bunt moved him up a station. A wild pitch got him to third. Frankie punched out Chris Heisey, but Ryan Ludwick went with a fastball down and away, rolling it into right for the game-tying single as the Bucs were in a shift the opposite way against the righty. Three of the four runs that have scored were aboard on walks. Ludwick was thrown out trying to steal on the next pitch, but the damage was done as it's 4-4.

JJ Hoover came in for Cincinnati in the sixth and struck out a pair, featuring high heat. Jared Hughes took the bump and plunked Yorman Rodrigeuz, who had K'ed in first two at-bats, with his second pitch. A medium fly and a 4-6-3 DP ended the music. Still, that's six free runners in six frames.

Sam LeCure took the ball in the seventh. He went soft for a pair of groundouts, then a fastball hit Travis in ther knee. Pinch runner Gregory Polanco stole second and came in on Cutch's smoked single through the left side that barely eluded Ramon Santiago at short. The Kid caught a 3-2 change and rattled it into right for a triple to score Cutch before Marte's fly out, making it 6-4 Pirates.

Big John Holdzkom got the call. After a K, Brandon Phillips rolled one up the middle. He fell behind Frazier 3-0, losing a couple of close corner calls, came down the pipe with a heater and watched it drop into the first row in right field to tie the game, a classic GABP dinger. A K and pop ended the frame with a brand new ball game at six-all.

Jumbo Diaz worked the eighth. Jordy banged a one-out double to left but was stranded as Stew looked at a called third strike that just nicked the zone (or maybe not, but you gotta protect on close pitches) and JT bounced out. Justin Wilson got the call for Pittsburgh and struck out a pair in a clean frame, the first one tossed against Cincy today.

Aroldis Chapman, who had some dead arm syndrome of late, came on. Looks like he's over it; seven pitches netted two K's and he hit 101 on five of the seven. Tony Watson came on for the Pirates, and he punched out two Reds in a 1-2-3 inning, registering at 96.

Dylan Axelrod spun an easy tenth. John Axford walked Todd Frazier to start the Reds, then went 3-2 on Mesoraco before getting him to line out to the center field track. Heisey fell behind 0-2 with fastballs, then got a curve that he rolled up the middle. Ludwick walked to load the bases.

Switch hitter Brayan Pena pinch hit and Bobby LaFromboise was waved in. Pena got ahead 3-0, ran the count full thanks to a gift strike call and then popped out to short right. It was a tease; two pitches later Santiago yanked a tight sinker barely over the left field fence for a grand slam, only his second homer of the year, to put the Pirate pitchers out of their misery.

Tough to win if you can't throw strikes. The Bucs did put up six runs - they went 2-for-12 with RISP, but offset that by driving in four two-out runs. But it has been a remarkable September run, and every so often a clunker will pop up. They've done what they had to in the regular season. Buctober is in the cards now, and that's when the strikes and clutch hits count.

Gerrit Cole is slated to face Johnny Cueto tomorrow afternoon as Cueto looks for his 20th win. The proviso is that if the Cards win today and clinch that we'd probably see a different starter since home field is locked up for the wild card game. Right now, Edinson Volquez looks like the guy to go against Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday.
  • Josh's hitting steak is at 15 games and Starling Marte has a 12 gamer.
  • Liriano's run scored was his first of the season - oh, and the first of his nine year career.
  • Frankie's in a strike-challenged stretch; he's walked 14 batters in his last three starts, covering 17 innings of work.
  • Cutch has 69 extra base hits this season, which is tied with Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton for the NL lead. Andrew is trying to become the first Pirate to lead the league in extra base hits since Barry Bonds did it in 1992 with 75 extra base knocks.
  • The legend of Big John Holdzkom may have taken a hit today, but teammates have christened him after a legendary character, Sasquatch - he is 6'7" and maybe more. The two-run homer he gave up tallied the first runs he's surrendered in nine appearances.
  • Since last season, the Reds had lost their last 45 games when allowing at least six runs, a club record that they snapped today.
  • Coming into this afternoon's game, the Pirates had won 10 of their last 12 games while allowing just 19 runs over that span. Pittsburgh was the only team to give up fewer than 20 runs over a span of a dozen games in the league this year.

Liriano v Simon, Lineup (No Russ), Bucs Home For the WC, Josh & Starling...

Francisco Liriano (7-10, 3.32) goes against Alfredo Simon (15-10, 3.34) this afternoon.

Frankie scattered three hits over six scoreless innings in his last start and won a 1-0 decision against the Braves, though he walked a bushel load. Since he's come off the DL, his numbers have been off the charts: Liriano has gone 6-4 with a 2.22 ERA in 14 starts since then, has allowed a total of three earned runs in his last six outings (39 IP) and is 4-0 with a 0.35 ERA in his first four starts this month. To boot, Francisco has posted a 2.17 ERA on the road this season.

With all that, he's not be very ace-like against Cincinnati. Frankie is 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA in four starts this season versus the Reds, with only one really solid game out of the bunch.

Simon has been a Bucco buddy in September, twice defeating St. Louis; his last outing was a 7-2 win against the Redbirds. The 33 year old was an inning eating middle reliever when the season opened; now he's looking like a part of the Cincy 2015 rotation.

He's 2-1/3.60 against the Bucs this year. Pittsburgh hasn't hit him very hard, but he has almost as many walks (10) as hits yielded (13) in his three Pirate starts, so a little patience sometimes goes a long way against Simon.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Travis Snider RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Ike Davis 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Chris Stewart C and Liriano P. Russ is out; we're thinking it may have been better in the long run for him to have sat out yesterday.

The game starts at 1:05 and will be aired by Fox Sports 1, Root Sports and 1020 KDKA-AM.

  • The Chase: The Giants lost last night, so the Pirates have home field for the wild card sewn up. If that's how it ends, the game will be at PNC on Wednesday. The Cards won in extra innings, so Pittsburgh is still one game behind them in the NL Central title chase.
  • Day of Rest: Russ is sitting today and is considered "day-to-day" with his hammy. Ike is over his flu and back in the lineup.
  • Hitting Steaks: Josh has a 14-gamer and Starling is at 11 games.
  • Help Wanted: Ken Rosenthal tweeted "Add Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister to list of managerial candidates that the Astros have contacted by phone."

9/27: Bucs Clinch In '92, '70 & '01, 16 In-A-Row, Waner Sets Mark, Gibson's Legendary Bomb, Giles Goes Wild & More...

Bucs Clinch In '92, '70 & '01, 16 In-A-Row, Waner Sets Mark, Gibson's Legendary Bomb, Giles Goes Wild & More...
  • 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 from the flu 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 NL flag and first title since the Alleghenys began playing major league ball in the American Association in 1882.
Kitty Bransfield 1907 Bain News Service photo via Library of Congress
  • 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 claimed 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 series. 
 Josh Gibson photo from National Baseball Hall of Fame library
  • 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 season 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. Gary Redus and Jay Bell each had a pair of hits; Redus scored twice and Bell had two RBI. 
  • 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. 
 Brian Giles 2000 Topps series

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bucs Rally Late To Take 3-1 Victory

Mike Leake opened the game with an easy inning and Vanimal gave up a two out single to Brandon Phillips in a scoreless first. With two gone in the second, Starling rolled one up the middle, but he was caught stealing two pitches later, and by a mile. Chris Heisey led off with a single, banging a hung curve to left. Two outs later, Tucker Barnhart's knock moved him to third. Leake, a fair hitting pitcher, lined back to the box to finish the frame.

All the Bucs could get going in the third was a two out walk by Vanimal. The Reds got a leadoff knock from Kris Negron, but a soft fly and a 6-4-3 DP took care of that. Travis singled to start the fourth. Two outs later, Russ K'ed on a wild pitch; he made it first and Snider to third. Marte whiffed on a heater to strand them. worley worked his first clean frame.

Gaby, playing because Ike has the flu, drilled a first pitch cutter over the wall in left center to draw first blood in the fifth. Jordy was retired on a hard hit grounder, followed by K's of Vanimal and Josh. Zach Cozart singled off Jordy's glove and got greedy; he was cut down heading to second. An out later, Leake doubled and Negron singled him home to tie the game, going to second on the throw home. The pitcher barely slid under Cutch's throw home which was a bit on the first base side of the plate. Brayan Pena flew out to end the frame with the score knotted.

It was a 1-2-3 sixth for Leake. After a pair of swinging punch outs, Heisey doubled on a soft fly that Cutch had tick off his glove and a wild pitch moved him to third. A grounder closed the frame.

Russ walked to open the seventh. He gimped to first, and Chase d'Arnaud came in to run. Starling went down chasing a curve in the dirt. Gaby barreled up on a hook, but Heisey had his liner measured in center, then d'Arnaud was caught stealing to end the frame. Chris Stewart put on the gear to catch.

Barnhart rolled a single through the right side with one gone. Todd Frazier hit for Leake, and Clint yanked Vanimal - he's only at 74 pitches, but has surrendered nine hits - for Jared Hughes. Frazier whiffed, then Negron got his third hit when he gently rolled a slider that was way inside and at his shins to the left side for an infield knock, but another grounder ended the inning without any damage.

Pedro Villarreal took over in the eighth. After a bounce out, Andrew Lambo hit for Hughes and lined out to left center. Josh picked a slider almost off the dirt and rolled it into center. Travis got a fat slider that stayed in the middle of the plate and drilled it to right center for a double to plate Josh. Though it was crushed, it should have been caught - Jay Bruce either lost it in the lights or completely misread the liner. Cutch followed by ripping a 2-0 slider to center for another two bagger, scoring pinch runner Gregory Polanco. The Kid was walked intentionally, and it worked as Stew flew out foul in right.

Tony Watson climbed the hill against the heart of the Reds order. Phillips led off with an infield single to the right side when he fought off a tight sinker. After Bruce K'ed, Heisey sent a sinker to the track in left, but Starling was there at the wall for the grab. A pop out left the Bucs three outs from victory.

JJ Hoover got the call for the ninth. Gaby walked with one away. After a fly out, JT hit for Tony, and ran poor Gaby ragged, fouling off five straight 3-2 pitches with Sanchez in motion before he flew out to short right. Mark the Shark claimed the bump. After two easy outs, Jason Bourgeois hit and tapped out 6-3 as the Bucs kept on rollin'. What a difference from the 2011-12 Septembers.

The Bucs were outhit 11-6, but that's misleading. Pittsburgh had several well hit balls that turned into outs while the Reds had a handful of soft knocks. Give Vanimal credit; he kept throwing strikes and stranding runners, and the pen shut the door.

St. Louis and San Francisco are playing on the coast. The Pirates magic number to host a wild card game is one, and of this moment, they're just 1/2 game behind the Cards. Liriano and Cole are due up to pitch next, and it looks like the Bucs are going to go all in for the NL Central rather than set up post season matchups, so there are still a lot of scenarios and sidebar stories to play out this weekend..

Francisco Liriano is scheduled to face Alfredo Simon tomorrow afternoon.
  • Josh Harrison has a personal best 14 game hitting streak; it's also the longest of the year by a Pirate. In fact, it's the longest since Neil Walker hit safely in 17 straight in 2012. Starling Marte's hitting streak continued too, and has reached 11 games.
  • Vance Worley had his streak of 13-2/3 scoreless innings ended tonight. 
  • Cutch has 200 career doubles.
  • The Pirates announced that Charlie Morton underwent surgery today to repair the labrum in his right hip. The surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Byrd in Nashville, and the estimated recovery time is 6-8 months.
  • In other injury news, the media gang reports that Pedro will see a doc on Tuesday to evaluate his foot and determine when he can start baseball activities. The FO seems guardedly optimistic that it will be soon.

Worley v Leake, Lineup, Hitting Streaks & Crowns, Records...

Vance Worley (8-4, 2.93) takes the bump versus Mike Leake (11-13, 3.78) to lead off the Reds' series.

Vanimal was one tough hombre last outing. He scattered four hits over eight shutout innings and won a 1-0 decision against Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta Sunday afternoon, starting 21 of his 27 batters with first-pitch strikes and retiring the final 13 hittersd he faced. Vance has won his last three decisions. He did have a break, missing a start when Charlie Morton bumped him briefly and claimed the short rest did him good.

He's been so-so against the Reds, going 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against Cincy. This year, Vance allowed two runs in two innings of relief and won a 3-2 decision at PNC on 8/30. Another thing to watch: Vanimal struggles on the road. He's 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his last four starts away from PNC Park.

Leake has developed into a dependable workhorse type of pitcher, and passed the 200 IP mark for a season for the first time this year. There might be a price to pay for all those frames, though, as September hasn't been very kind to him. After going seven shutout innings against Pittsburgh to end August, Mike has given up 18 earned runs in his past four starts (21 IP) this month.

He's 1-0/3.71 against the Pirates this season in four starts.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Travis Snider 2B, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Starling Marte RF, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Jordy Mercer SS and Worley P.Gaby's in because Ike has the flu, but we're surprised to see Russ behind the dish. We'd hate to see him pull up lame; he's been tempting fate lately.

The game starts at 7:10 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • See Ball, Hit Ball: Josh Harrison had a 13 game hitting streak; Starling Marte's streak is at 10 games. Harrison leads the league with a .319 average with Justin Morneau next at .317 and then Cutch at .314.
  • See You In September: The Pirates are 16-7 this month, which is tied for the best record in the NL along with Washington. It’s also the first time Pittsburgh has won 16 games in September since 2000. The best month of the campaign to date was June when the club went 17-10.
  • Bumpy Road: The Pirates have won five of their last six and nine of their last 11 games on the road. Still, they're only 36-42 away from PNC Park. Pittsburgh has lost 4-of-6 games in Cincinnati this season.
  • No Penalty: Henry Schulman, Giants beat writer, tweeted that "If SF, STL, PIT all end with same record, and PIT loses playoff for Central, it still HOSTS Giants in wild card game. Per league exec, can't penalize Bucs for playing well enough to catch Cards for Central by making them go on road for wild card game they'd otherwise host."
  • Second Half Plunge: Since the All-Star break, the Reds are 23-41. The Cincy record for fewest wins following the All-Star Game during a full season is 25, set in 1933, so this year could mark the biggest second-half collapse in franchise history. They have shaken off a long losing streak to take three of their last four games, though.
  • NL Home Field: The Washington National's 4-0 win over Miami this afternoon guaranteed them the top spot and home field advantage during the NL playoffs. The Nats will play the wild card winner in the NLDS while the NL Central winner will face the Dodgers.

9/26: Bucs One Step Away in '01, Lefty's No-No, Larry Shepherd Fired, Five For Scoops, PNC Record & More...

Bucs One Step Away In '01, Lefty's No-No, Larry Shepherd Fired, Five For Scoops, PNC Record & More...
  • 1901 - The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 4-3 at Exposition Park, guaranteeing at least tie for the 1901 NL pennant with Philadelphia. Jack Chesbro got the win and added an RBI. The other scores were driven in by Honus Wagner, Kitty Bransfield and Lefty Davis as the Pirates put together a four-run sixth inning for the win. They would clinch the next day to take their first ever NL title.
  • 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. 
  • 1948 - The Homestead Grays won the opening game of the Negro World Series 3-2 over the Birmingham Black Barons at Blues Stadium in Kansas City. The Grays did all the scoring in the second inning, with Willie Pope banging a two-run triple and coming in on Luis Marquez’s two out single. Ted Alexander scattered eight hits for the victory. 
Willie Pope - photo from the Negro League Baseball Players Association
  • 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. 
Al Oliver - 1999 Fleer Greats of the Game series
  • 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 plenty of opportunities to run away and hide, but went 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position. They dropped the nitecap 2-1; they went 1-for-12 with RISP in that contest. 
  • 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 2,436,139, an average of 30,000+ fans per contest. It took until 2012 to reach the 2M mark again, and the attendance record stood until 2014. 
  •  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.
Daniel McCutchen 2010 Bowman series

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bucs Bop Bravos 10-1

The Bucs struck early and first, for a change, when Travis Snider got all of a low hook and dropped it into the CF seats. Edinson Volquez had a pretty sweet inning, with three swinging K's on three different pitches - sinker, change and curve. Ike doubled with two gone in the second, but Jordy was intentionally walked, then Eddie whiffed. Volquez tossed another clean frame.

Josh opened the third with a knock and was chased to third by Travis' single to right. Cutch brought him home on a dink sac fly that went foul over the RF line; for some reason, Jason Heyward never even made a throw home to challenge Josh, who went on his own. The Kid is still in his funk, tho, rolling into a 3-6-3 DP, and it would be nice to get him back on track for Buctober.

Anderelton Simmons fell behind 0-2, but watched the next four miss the mark for an opening walk. Ramiro Pena bounced one to first, but Ike's feed to second was kinda leisurely and he just got the force. Pena was bunted to second It didn't hurt as Eddie punched out Emilio Bonifacio.

Ike doubled again with two gone in the fourth. Same scenario: Jordy was walked and Volquez was retired, this time on a short fly to center. Russ looked a little gimpy running out his grounder, but came back out.  Phil Gosselin got the Braves first hit, an infield roller to short. Two punch outs - Eddie now has seven - and a routine grounder later, he was still on first.

Hale got a pair of routine outs to open the fifth before walking Cutch, who stole second. The Kid walked, too, and Hale was up to 92 pitches as the Bravos loosened his 75-pitch leash to try to get him through the frame. That was his last batter; Juan Jaime was waved in and got Russ on a fly to right.

Simmons got the second hit for Atlanta, another softly hit infield knock. Pena followed with a solid single to left; like last night, the bottom of the order is carrying Atlanta. Ryan Doumit came up to pinch hit. It took seven pitches, but Eddie whiffed him. Bonifacio barreled up, and Cutch was equal to the task, gloving his liner to end the frame.

Lefty Luis Avilan took the ball in the sixth, and Starling rolled a single to left to open. Gaby hit for Ike; Marte stole second and came home when Sanchez bounced a heater away into right for a seeing eye single. Jordy took the bloom off the rose with a 6-4-3 DP before Volquez K'ed, then came out and worked a 1-2-3 frame against the braves, notching his ninth K.

Josh opened the seventh with a knock through the left side, and Travis lined a meatball to left for a two bagger. Gregory Polanco came in to run for Snider, ending his three-hit night that's a triple shy of the cycle. Cutch was walked intentionally. Avilan tossed a heater past Walker for the first out, then with two righties due up, Gus Schlosser got the call.

He jammed Russ to get a pop out to the mound. Schlosser was almost out of it when he got Starling to fish for a couple of sliders, but then launched a wild pitch trying for a final chase, plating Josh. The next delivery was scorched to right, and it was par-tay time as two more runs crossed on a double. Gaby popped out, but the Bucs had plenty of breathing room at 6-0. Heyward singled to right to begin the Bravos at-bat, but Eddie got the next three, helped by nice plays from Jordy and Starling.

Though at 95 pitches, Eddie batted in the eighth with an out and continued his big game with a single, his second hit of the season. Josh followed with a double to right for his third hit of the game. El Coffee flew out to medium left center; no chance of Eddie tagging on that.

Ump Jerry Layne called ball four a strike against Cutch; it hurt the Braves when Andrew dropped the next pitch gently into center to bring home two more Buccos. Cutch has been on base all four times he's been up. The Kid finally had something to feel good about when he crushed a 3-2, 87 MPH fastball down the middle over the center field wall. James Russell came in, as did Chris Stewart for Russ. Stew singled, but Russell retired Starling. Well, 10-0 with six outs to go is certainly breathing room.

Lotta subbing went on for the Bucs as Cutch, Josh and Russ took a seat, and Bobby LaFromboise took the hill for Eddie in another good move. Bravo pups yapped a bit as Tommy LaStella led off with a single, and two outs later Joey Terdoslavich doubled him to third, but the goose eggs remained.

Russell stayed on for the ninth. Jordy singled with an out, but the Buc bats were done for the night, despite some sharply hit balls. Casey Sadler took the ball and walked Heyward to open. He went to third when Bethancourt rolled a soft single to right. A strikeout later, Pena lifted a sac fly to left to get Atlanta on the board. A grounder ended it.

Eddie was money again. And hopefully, now that the pressures pretty much off, the Bucs will swing free and not choke the sawdust out of their sticks. Getting The Kid back in the groove would be a big boost, too, and *knock on wood* his homer may be the catalyst. Very good win; three more games at Cincy and then the post season, although those Red games have meaning as Pittsburgh chases the Cards and looks to bring the Giants to Pittsburgh if they can't catch St. Louis.

Vance Worley opens the final series of the year against the Reds' Mike Leake tomorrow night.
  • Pittsburgh is one game back of the Cards and have a magic number of two to clinch the home wild card spot. They're a game ahead of the Giants, playing at San Diego tonight.
  • Josh Harrison has a 13 game hitting streak, tied for the year's longest with Russ and himself. It's also tied for his personal best. Starling Marte's streak is at 10 games.
  • Josh took over the NL batting title lead for the time being; he's hitting .319.
  • Before tonight's 10 whiffs, Eddie Volquez's top strikeout number this season was seven, against the Mets and Marlins. He's had double-digit whiffs 10 times in his career now. His scoreless streak is currently at 18 innings. In yet another season milestone set tonight, his single snapped an 0-for-45 streak at the dish.
  • The 10 runs by the Pirates tonight is the most runs scored for the Bucs at Turner Field since Opening Day 2008.
  • It seems like yesterday that the Bucs were trailing the Braves for the wild card, but after tonight, the Pirates are a full 10 games ahead of them in the standings.
  • Ben Lindbergh of Grantland looks at what Sabermetrics seperate successful playoff teams from also rans, and finds there's not much in the numbers to identify the winners from losers.

Volquez v Hale, Lineup (Russ & The Kid Are Back), The Race, Josh, Starling, Cutch, Vanimal...

Edinson Volquez (12-7, 3.15) takes on David Hale (4-4, 3.27). Sorry we're running a little late; Clint was apparently checking out Russ before making the lineup. The wait was wroth it; the A Team is playing.

In his last start Saturday v Milwaukee, Eddie scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings but had a no decision in a 1-0 loss. He's won eight of his last 10 decisions, and is 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break. Steady Eddie is making his 31st start of the year and has been a constant in the rotation, navigating through a couple of rough spots to put together a remarkably workmanlike campaign.

Volquez is 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA in six career starts, but hasn’t faced the Braves this year, winning his last outing against them in 2013 as a Padre. He has traditionally been solid against the Bravos, being charged with three earned runs or fewer in five of his six career starting assignments against Atlanta.

This was supposed to be Mike Minor's start, but an inflamed shoulder has put him on the shelf. David Hale gets the call as his replacement. Hale has five 2014 starts (2-0 with a 2.22 ERA as a starter) under his belt, but none since late June. He did work three innings/59 pitches against the Mets on the 20th, so he should be stretched out a bit. He's auditioning for a possible fifth starter spot in the Bravos 2015 rotation.

In two outings against the Pirates this year, both in relief, Hale has tossed 1-1/3 innings of scoreless ball with one walk.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Travis Snider RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Russ Martin C, Starling Marte LF, Ike Davis 1B, Jordy Mercer SS and Volquez P. The Kid's back and so is Russ.

The game begins at 7:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • The Race: Everybody lost yesterday. The Bucs remain a game ahead of San Francisco for home field in the wild card and 1-1/2 games behind St. Louis (one in the loss column) in the NL Central standings. The Cards are off today, so that 1/2 game will swing dependent on tonight's Pirate game. Milwaukee was eliminated completely from the post season picture with a 5-3 loss to the Reds. 
  • Josh, Starling Go Streakin': Josh Harrison enters today with a 12-game hitting streak, which is the third-longest active streak in the majors. Josh has hit safely in at least 10 straight games on three occasions this year, including a career-high 13 straight games. Starling Marte also extended his hitting streak to nine games.
  • Muscle Man: Cutch hit the 128th homer of his career Wednesday night and is tied with Richie Hebner for 12th place on the club’s all-time home run list. Al Oliver is next on the list with 135 career homers.
  • Staff Grounded: Tony Biengino of Fangraphs looks more at Bucco ground balls generally and Vanimal specifically.

9/25: Huntington Hired, 1960 Clincher, Tony Womack, Craig Wilson's 6-for-6, Mike Williams #46 & More...

Huntington Hired, 1960 Clincher, Tony Womack, Craig Wilson's 6-for-6, Mike Williams #46 & More...
  • 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. 
  • 1920 - Jimmy Zinn went the distance in the Pirates 12 inning, 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Forbes Field. Zinn gave up six hits in just his second MLB start; before the game, he had 10 big-league innings under his belt. Zinn’s only full season came the following year, when he went 7-6 for the Pirates. He was the epitome of a AAAA player and spent 25 years hurling in the minors. Elmer Riddle wasn’t as sharp in the second game as the Cards came back to take a 3-1 win and a split. 
 Jimmy Zinn 1920 from tnfoto via Out of the Park
  • 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. 
 Forbes Field - 1960 (mlb.com)
  • 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. 
 Mike Williams 2003 Topps Heritage series
  • 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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Locke Rocked; Bucs Go Down 6-2

Julio Teheran had the first inning you'd expect - a couple of outs, a Cutch single, and another routine out. Jeff Locke also got two easy outs before walking Freddy Freeman in a long at-bat. Then he lost Justin Upton on five pitches, but came back to whiff Jason Heyward on three pitches, so no damage.

Russ banged a ball into right to open the second and moved up a base on Ike's sharply hit grounder to first. An out later, Clint Barmes was walked intentionally before Locke went down on strikes.

Chris Johnson turned on an inside heater and drilled it into left for a lead off double; it was misread by Marte, who may have lost the ball in the lights. A grounder moved Johnson to third, followed by a five pitch walk to BJ Upton, who stole second. Teheran rolled a soft grounder up the right side; it froze the runners and also Ike as Julio legged it out for an infield single. Emilio Bonifacio singled to right on a routine grounder with Barmes shaded toward the middle to bring in a pair. Another grounder put Braves at second and third before Freeman flew out. Chalk that frame up to some lackadaisical D.

Starling walked with an out in the third, and swiped second as Cutch K'ed. Travis drew a free pass, but Russ whiffed as the Bucs left a couple more ducks on the pond.

Justin Upton opened with a bloop knock to right and stole second with an out. But he got happy feet, and was thrown out at third on a come-backer. It hurt the Bravos when Christian Bethancourt followed with a ground rule double, snatched up by a knucklehead fan. BJ Upton was intentionally walked, but it didn't work this time, as Teheran roped a two-run knock into center. Bonifacio K'ed, but it was 4-0.

Ike yanked a hung curve to right to begin the fourth with a double; he never moved off the base. Russ landed awkwardly on his second inning single, and Chris Stewart came on to don the tools (later it was announced Russ had tightness in his hammy). With an out, Freeman walked and Justin Upton drove a change over the wall in left center over the 380' mark. An out later, Johnson doubled before the inning came to an end with the Bravos up 6-0.

Starling singled off of Teheran's glove with one gone in the fifth and trotted home when Cutch banged a tight heater over the left field wall. Travis followed with a single that dropped into right center. Ahead 3-1, Stew looked at two fastballs pretty much down the pipe and Ike lined out. Jeanmar Gomez grabbed the ball. He walked Bonifacio with two away and Andrelton Simmons singled, which brought on LOOGY Bobby LaFromboise to face Freeman. Freddy bounced out to end the frame quietly.

Anthony Varvaro took the hill for Atlanta, and Jordy opened the sixth with a walk. Two grounders for a force and DP squelched the frame. Justin Wilson came in and got two easy outs before Phil Gosselin's third base dribbler was ruled an infield knock. He was out by a step, and the Pirates asked for a review; it took about 30 seconds to overturn the call.

Juan Jaime took the bump in the seventh. After Josh hit a rocket short of the track in right center that was nicely run down by Heyward, Starling dropped a soft liner into right. A wild pitch moved him to second. Cutch flew out and lefty Chasen Shreve came on to face Travis. he got him chasing a slider; the Bucs have stranded eight and are 0-for-8 with RISP. John Axford got the call, and Bethancourt greeted him with his second ground rule double. With an out, Barmes dropped an at 'em liner; he got the out at first, but Bethacourt moved to third. It didn't cost as Bonifacio tapped back to the mound.

Jaames Russell worked the eighth, and Stew said "hi" with a single to right. Gaby hit for Ike with a lefty twirling and K'ed; nobody throws him a fastball anymore, and his average shows it. Two garden variety outs later, and the Bucs had their ninth runner left aboard. Stolmy Pimentel was sent in and gave up a lead off knock to Simmons, but retired the next three Bravos routinely.

Jordan Walden came on in the ninth, and Josh singled with one gone. Gosselin booted Marte's bouncer, and that brought Craig Kimbrel in to face Cutch. Andrew went down swinging; the pitch before should have been ball four, but ump Manny Gonzalez gave Kimbrel a pass, though in justice he probably missed a strike earlier in the count. travis went down swinging and the Bucs dropped a 6-2 decision.

Disappointing but not surprising that Jeff Locke can't seem to build on his good outings. And the Buc bats continue to be cold, scoring just twice ven with nine hits, four walks and an error. They missed quite a few balls down the middle as they caught Teheran on a day when he was struggling with command, but couldn't take advantage. Well, gotta lose sometime; time to shower off and get 'em tomorrow.

Edinson Volquez finishes up the series against David Hale tomorrow night.
  • Keeping our fingers crossed; Russ' left hammy is what landed him on the DL in late April. Hopefully, he caught tonight's tightness in time to prevent a recurrence.
  • Josh kept his hitting streak alive at 12 games with a ninth inning knock.
  • Martin Scherer of MLB Dish looks at Russ Martin's FA options when his contract expires at the end of the season, with LA, the Cubs and Blue Jays at the top of his list.
  • Wilbur Miller of Bucs Dugout notes that two GCL payers, SS Cole Tucker and RHP Mitch Keller, made the Top-20 All-Prospect team selected by Baseball America.
  • The Pirates claimed RHP Chaz Roe from the Yankees. He's had a couple of cups of coffee in the show, and the 6'-5", 27-year reliever is a guy with a good K rate and a shaky walk record. Charlie Morton was moved to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster space for Roe.

Locke v Teheran, Lineup (w/o Walker) Pitching, M-3-P, Starling, Russ, Vanimal, Tony & More...

Jeff Locke (7-5, 3.60) and Julio Teheran (13-13, 2.88) mix it up tonight.

Locke's coming off an impressive no-decision against Milwaukee that the Bucs later won; he was aggressive and throwing strikes. Hopefully, that will carry over tonight. He's won five of his last seven decisions, so even when he's nibbling, he's been good enough.

He hasn't faced Atlanta this year and overall, he's 1-0/4.41 against them. A little trivia: the lefty won his first MLB game against the Braves on 10/1/12 with a 2-1 victory over Paul Maholm at PNC Park.

The 23 year old Teheran broke out last year and is a tier removed from ace material. He lost his last four decisions, but only given up two earned runs in his past 15 innings, a victim of the Bravos inept offense. One thing to watch for is whether he's wearing down or not; he's worked 216 innings after setting a career high of 185 IP in 2013. This will be his first outing against Pittsburgh.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Starling Marte LF, Cutch CF, Travis Snider RF, Russ Martin C, Ike Davis 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Clint Barmes 2B and Locke P.  The Kid gets a day off; his bat has been AWOL

The game starts at 7:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • Elias Sez: Pirate pitching has given up eight runs in the last eight games, the lowest total for that stretch by a Bucco staff since 1968.
  • Out? Who, Me? Cutch has reached base safely in 12 of his last 15 plate appearances and enters today with a league-leading .408 OBP.
  • Banging 'Em Out: Josh Harrison brings an 11-game hitting streak into tonight's game. Starling Marte has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 game, and Russ Martin just had a 13-game hitting streak snapped.
  • ESPN Stats: The Pirates are only team in MLB to have three position players with at least 5 Wins Above Replacement in Cutch, Russ & Josh.
  • Lefty Ironmen: Tony Watson is now one of four Pirate lefthanders who has made at least 75 appearances in a season, joining Scott Sauerbeck (club record 78 in 2002; 75 in 2000), Rod Scurry (76 in 1982) and Damaso Marte (75 in 2006).
  • Vanimal: Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs has some props for the pitch deception of Vance Worley.
  • Marchin' In: Mark Simon of ESPN examines the Bucs march into the post-season.
  • Exorcism? KDKA Radio has Sid Bream's thoughts on the clincher in Atlanta.
  • Bucs & Birds: For the first time since 1979, the Pirates and Orioles will appear in the same postseason.

9/24: 3 In A Row For Blass, Cap'n Willie Does It All, Omar Sets Mark, Karstens, Wilson HR, Josh & Jason, More...

3 In A Row For Blass, Cap'n Willie Does It All, Omar Sets Mark, Karstens, Wilson HR, Josh & Jason, More...
  • 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. 
  • 1966: Roberto Clemente connected for a two-run go-ahead home run to cap off a five-run seventh inning in Pittsburgh’s 8-6 win over the Braves at Atlanta Stadium. Bob Bailey had a two-run homer and Gene Alley chased home two more with a double. Steve Blass worked two innings of relief to pick up the win; Pete Mikkelson got the save. The win moved them 1-½ games behind the LA Dodgers, but that’s as close as they would get, finishing three games off the pace. 
  • 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. 
Steve Blass 1974 Topps series
  • 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 Giusti 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. Gary Matthews Jr. also homered as reliever Mike Lincoln, the Pirates fifth pitcher, got the win and Rich Loiselle the save. 
Jeff Karstens 2012 Topps series
  • 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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cole Train & Cutch Propel Bucs To The Playoffs With 3-2 Win

The Bucs made a run at Alex Wood early. Jordy singled with an out, moved up a station on a wild pitch and Cutch joined him on base with a walk. But Wood came back strong, getting Russ looking and Starling swinging to shut the gate.

Gerrit Cole jumped ahead of Emilio Bonifacio 0-2, then missed badly with his next four offerings to issue a lead off walk. A bunt resulted in a force at second, but a 2-2 slider that hung over the plate was drilled into right by Freddy Freeman and the Braves had a quick 1-0 lead. Freeman had happy feet, and was thrown out at third trying to advance on the throw home. Good thing, too, as Justin Upton singled. He was tossed out trying to steal second; Atlanta ran itself out of a promising frame.

Gaby walked with an out in the second. The frame ended quickly when three pitches later Travis bounced a heater to second for a 4-6-3 DP.

Justin Heyward opened with a 3-2 walk, taking a fastball that could have gone either way. Christian Bethancourt singled on an 0-2 curve that caught too much plate; that's the second guy already that's reached after being in an 0-2 hole. Chris Johnson singled sharply up the middle on a ball Cole could only deflect to load the bases. Before it could get worse, Andrelton Simmons banged into a 4-6-3 DP as the Bucs traded the outs for a run. Wood whiffed with a 2-0 lead after two.

Pittsburgh went down in order in the third, thanks to a great diving snare of Josh's liner by SS Simmons. Gerrit worked a clean frame, too.

Cutch opened the fourth with a knock to right, and was chased to third an out later when Starling rolled a 3-2 change into center. Wood got a big out when he punched out Walker for the second time. The Bucs stole a run when their usually suicidal fake steal of second play worked; Cutch held up long enough to draw a throw to second, 2B Phil Gosselin couldn't come down with airmailed toss, and Andrew scored. Good time for it to click; Gaby K'ed looking. Cole worked a three-fly frame.

Travis made amends for his DP by hammering a first-pitch heater into the right field stands to tie the game in the fifth. Wood retired the next trio routinely. It was another rocking chair inning for Cole, who added a couple of strikeouts to his boodle bag.

Cutch began the sixth by rapping a full count change into left for a two-bagger. Russ banged a change, too, but his liner was right to Simmons. That's was OK; Starling picked a two-strike curve off his shins and dropped it into left for an RBI double. The Kid's slump continued as he popped out to first with Freeman making the grab over the railing. Gaby flew out, and that ended the inning with Pittsburgh up 3-2. Gerrit has retired 14 in a row with another clean frame. His velocity is down a tad, but he's dominating with 93-94 MPH fastballs.

With two gone in the seventh, Josh lined a single to left, banging on an 0-2 heater. That brought on David Carpenter; Wood was at 109 pitches. Good pick; he punched out Jordy with heat. Gregory Polanco went to right as Cole returned to the hill. And wow - three more down, two by strikes. That's five consecutive 1-2-3 innings by the Cole Train. A run or two of breathing room would be nice, though, as he's at 111 pitches.

Cutch walked to open the eighth, the third time he's reached as the lead-off hitter. Russ bounced into a force, and Marte almost gave the Bucs a pad, but his drive to straight center was grabbed on the track by Bonifacio in front of the 401' mark. Rven lefty, The Kid went down on three pitches. Jared Hughes came on. Jordy helped him out with a great play in the hole to retire Johnson, and it was big as Simmons drove a ball to right opposite the shift for a single. No sweat; Evan Gattis grounded the next pitch to Jordy for an inning-killing 6-4-3 DP.

Jason shreve took the ball in the ninth. He got Gaby on a tapper, K'ed El Coffee (with Hunter Wendestedt, who was pretty solid behind the plate, giving Shreve a couple of gift calls) and then surrendered a single to JT. Chase d'Arnaud came on to run, and got himself picked off.

Three outs to go and a one run lead for Tony Watson against the top of the Atlanta order. Tony K'ed Bonifacio, then gave Gosselin two heaters dwon the middle, with the second rocketed into center. Freeman banged one to Gaby, and the 3-6-3 guaranteed the Bucs a second trip into the post season as the Reds knocked off Milwaukee 3-1. Now it's just a matter of who and where.

The Braves had Cole on the ropes early, but some bad baserunning and a timely DP kept him alive, and he roared back to retire 17 straight Bravos. Big-game Cutch was on base four times and scored twice. It looked a lot like last year, with the D turning three DPs and Cole Train getting stronger as the game wore on.

Jeff Locke takes the bump versus Julio Teheran tomorrow night.
  • Deja Vu All Over Again - the Bucs clinched a playoff spot on this day ayear ago against the Cubs; Starling Marte had the game winning RBI in that one, too, with a homer.
  • Josh has a 11 game hitting streak; Russ' ended at 13 games.
  • Tony Watson got the night off last game, and Clint Hurdle planned the same break tonight for Mark the Shark, who has tossed in 5-of-7 contests, though he didn't absolutely rule him out.
  • One record is safe after tonight: The 1906 Cubs remain the only team to play four straight 1-0 games.

Cole v Wood, Lineup, The Race, Streaks, Zeroes, Pitching & D, Stat Man and More...

Gerrit Cole (10-5, 3.85) and southpaw Alex Wood (11-10, 2.78) bump heads tonight.

The Cole Train's last start was a 3-2 win over the Red Sox at PNC Park Thursday. The 24 year old has won his last three starts and traditionally finishes strong; he's gone 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine career starts during September. He's posted a 3-1 mark with a 3.99 ERA in six starts since being reinstated, so he still has a way to go before being a dominator beyond tantalizing flashes. However, the Bucs are 14-6 in his 20 starts this year, so even when Cole isn't dealing, he finds a way to keep the club in the game.

The righty has faced the Braves once. He received a no-decision in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 come-from-behind win in August at PNC Park. His foe was Wood, and they both went seven frames, leaving the game with the score knotted at two.

The 22 year old Wood has quietly become a force on the hill for the 2014 Braves. His chief weapon is a knuckle curve with some wicked movement, and he also features a four-seamer and change up. The lefty hasn't surrendered more than three earned runs in an outing since late July, so expect another grinder-type game. Outside of his meeting with Cole last month, he's only faced Pittsburgh one other time, working two innings of relief in 2013.

The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, Russ Martin C, Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Gaby Sanchez 1B, Travis Snider RF and Cole P. Travis gets the nod over JT against a lefty; otherwise a normal southpaw lineup.

The game starts at 7:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
  • The Race: The Giants won in 13 innings last night, and ex-Pirate Hunter Strickland picked up his first MLB save in their win. The Cards won too, so except for Milwaukee being a game closer to going down the drain, the race is unchanged. A Pirate win tonight combined with a Brewers loss would clinch a Pittsburgh playoff berth for the second straight season while the Bucs remain tied with SF with the tiebreaker in hand for the home wild card.
  • Hot, Hot, Hot: Pittsburgh has won 10 of their last 12 games and gone 14-3 in their last 17. The club is season-high 14 games over .500.
  • Zippos: The Pirates have been involved in three straight 1-0 games for the first time since 8/31 to 9/1, 1917. They lost all three back in the day. The Pirates last recorded back-to-back 1-0 wins on October 3rd, 1976, vs. the Cardinals in a doubleheader sweep.
  • Hand In Hand: Mike Petriello of Fangraphs examines how improved defense and pitching - and aren't they the proverbial horse and carriage - fueled the Pirates resurgence in the second half of the season.
  • Stats N' At: Ben Lindbergh of Grantland has a fascinating look at how Clint Hurdle and Mike Fitzgerald, the Pirates SABR hound, cooperate to a degree perhaps unmatched in MLB. 
  • From There To Here: Richard Justice of Sports on Earth recaps the road that made the Pirates contenders after the biblical drought.
  • Rookie Tales: After 13 seasons and 1,095 minor league games, 31 year old Guilder Rodriguez of Texas got a call up to the show and collected his first MLB hit with his parents in the house.