Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bucs Blast Cubs 8-1; Cutch Gets #1,000, Notes

It like like a little more of the same ol' in the early going; the Cubs drew first blood in the second frame. Kris Bryant walked and then went to second when he was picked off (Gerrit Cole actually got an assist) but Pedro whiffed on the throw (actually, the ball tore through the web of his glove), and that put him in position to score when Miguel Montero bounced a single off El Toro's mitt. But that just seemed to light a fight under Cole.

He struck out the side after that and retired the next 15 Cubbies in a row. Cole lasted six, tossing 95 pitches, and gave up just three hits while whiffing eight with the one walk in a truly dominating performance. The bullpen charged into the breach after that, with Arquimedes Caminero, Tony Watson and Mark the Shark putting up zeroes. They were nicked for four hits ensemble, but each had a pair of K as Bucco hurlers put on a swing-and-miss clinic. Ump Dale Scott's strike zone helped the pitcher's cause; in all, 25 K's were registered last night in the Pirates 8-1 victory..

The AWOL offense reported for duty last night, banging out 14 hits, including Cutch's #1,000, a shot to third that was knocked down but beat out, gimpy knee and all. After Kyle Hendricks labored through five frames but down only 2-1, the Bucs teed off on relievers Gonzalez Germen in the sixth and Phil Coke in the ninth.

Cutch legs out #1,000 (image from
The Pirates tucked it away when they scored four runs in the sixth, all with two outs, which seems to be the theme of this series. Cutch had a big triple, but the key at-bat may have been Jordy's 0-2 single, plating a run and keeping the inning alive.

Jung Ho Kang had his first three-hit day in the show while Cutch, Jordy and Chris Stewart added a pair of knocks each. The Bucs spread the wealth; every starter, including Cole, had a hit; their eight runs were scored by seven different guys, while Cutch, Starling Marte and Kang drove in two each. Heck, it was such a good day at the plate that the Pirates even drew five walks (just one was intentional), and were a very sweet 6-for-18 with RISP.

The Bucs have the day off, then AJ opens a three game set against the Cards in St. Louis.

  • Cutch's first hit in the show was a leadoff single off the Mets Mike Pelfrey. It was during his first  major league at-bat on June 4th, 2009 at PNC Park after being called up to replace Nate McLouth.
  • Cole has been on a roll since September 7th of last season. In that span, he's gone 8-0 with a 2.40 ERA over 10 starts; he's 4-0/1.76 so far this season.
  • Hard to believe with a team that's got so many burners, but Cutch's triple in the sixth was Pittsburgh's first of the campaign.
  • Starling Marte matched his season total of walks by drawing two free passes, one during a very impressive at-bat when he fell behind 0-2 but eventually laid off four wide chasers with the bases full in the fifth to give Pittsburgh the lead.
  • Scrub Jaff Decker for awhile. He was taken off the DL and assigned to Indy on the 18th, but couldn't play through the injury to his calf and is back on the DL again.

4/30: Pud, Ray Miller & Scrap Iron B-Days, Bert Walks, Meares Deal, X-Man's Big Month & More

  • 1877 - Jim “Pud” Galvin of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys tossed the International Association’s first shutout‚ defeating Columbus 2-0 at Union (Recreation) Park. The IA disbanded after the season. 
  • 1887 - The Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first NL game, defeating the defending champion Chicago White Stockings 6-2 behind Pud Galvin in front of nearly 10,000 fans at Recreation Park. In pre-game ceremonies, Fred Miller’s beloved pet monkey, which had passed on to simian heaven, was buried beneath home plate. The team wouldn't become the Pirates until 1891, when they "pirated" the services of second baseman Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics. 
Pud Galvin - 1887 Old Judge series
  • 1924 - At Cubs Park, Rabbit Maranville lined a triple in the 14th inning and then stole home to beat Chicago‚ 2-1. Johnny Morrison was the winner over Elmer Jacobs; both pitchers went the distance. The Pirates had 12 hits, led by Max Carey’s three, but hit into four DP during the day. 
  • 1938 - 3B Bill Brubaker set a modern MLB record by committing four errors in a 2-0 loss to Cincinnati at Crosley Field. Bill’s boots didn’t contribute to the loss; both Red runs were earned. 
  • 1945 - Ray Miller was born in Takoma Park, Maryland. He spent ten years as the Pirates pitching coach (1987–96) under Jim Leyland, replacing Ron Schueler, and worked with Cy Young winner Doug Drabek. Miller also managed for Minnesota and Baltimore, and as pitching coach tutored Mike Flanagan and Steve Stone for the Os. 
Ray Miller - 1991 Upper Deck series
  • 1949 - Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee. He spent five years (1977-81) with the Pirates, playing second base for the 1979 World Series club. Scrap Iron hit .267 and stole 112 bases while a Bucco. After his playing career, Garner managed the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros. 
  • 1955 - A statue of Honus Wagner, created by Frank Vittor, was unveiled outside the left field gates at Forbes Field. It’s been moved twice: first to TRS, then to PNC Park where his likeness greets fans at the main gate. 
  • 1960 - Pittsburgh scored ten times in the second inning against the Reds at Crosley Field on the way to a 12-7 win, their eighth in a row. Roberto Clemente, Billy Maz and Dick Stuart each drove home 3 RBI.
Dick Stuart - 1994 Topps series (rookie card)
  • 1967 - Juan Pizarro struck out eight batters and tossed a four hit shutout in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Jerry May knocked in both of Pittsburgh’s runs with a run-scoring single in the second inning and a solo home run in the fifth frame. 
  • 1980 - Phil Garner had his first two homer game, good for three RBI, and Bill Robinson added another as the division leading Pirates took a 5-0 victory over the Expos at TRS. Jim Bibby tossed a six hitter for the win. The long balls were a birthday gift to himself; Scrap Iron turned 31. 
  • 1980 - Also in the news, Bert Blyleven went home to California and asked for a trade, saying Chuck Tanner showed no confidence in him. He eventually was traded to the Indians during the off season. 
  • 1996 - For the second time in his career, Jeff King hit a pair of bombs in the same inning - one a grand slam - to lead the Bucs to a 10-7 win over the Reds. The first baseman joined Andre Dawson and Willie McCovey as the only MLB’ers to have accomplished the feat twice. The Bucs tallied nine times in the fourth frame to spark the victory at Cinergy Field, sending Cincinnati to its eighth straight loss. 
Jeff King - 1994 Studio series
  • 1999 - Pat Meares, 30, was signed to a one year, $1.5M contract by Cam Bonifay. He broke his wrist in spring training (the Pirates misdiagnosed it as a sprain), and a week after he came off the DL was given a four year, $15M extension. He played 240 games for the Pirates and 2001 was his last season, reaching a settlement that paid him for 2002-03 without him playing. 
  • 2002 - Buc starter David Williams hit two batters and committed two balks in the fourth inning of a 10-0 thumping by the Rox at Coor Field. The Bucs mustered just three hits against Mike Hampton; the Rockies banged out 13 knocks, including a pair of homers. 
  • 2008 - Pirate RF’er Xavier Nady went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks while driving in three runs during a 13-1 rout of the Mets in New York. Nady’s three RBI increased his total to 26 for the month of April. That was tops in the NL at the time, and the most for a Pirate in the season’s first month since Willie Stargell’s 27 in 1971.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cole Hopes To Turn The Tide; Bucs v Cubs Notes & Lineup

Today's Game: Gerrit Cole takes on Kyle Kendricks tonight. The Cole Train will try to salvage a game of the series from Chicago. While he hasn't been overwhelming against the Cubbies, Cole has gone 5-0 against the Cubs in his career. Kendricks got a no decision earlier this month against the Bucs, giving up three runs on five hits over 5-1/3 innings. The game starts at 8:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup: Gregory Polanco RF, Jordy Mercer 2B, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 1B, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Chris Stewart C, Cole P.

More shake-and-bake. Josh gets a day off - he has played in 20-of-21 games - and Fran Cervelli gets a seat; wonder if those five steals last night had anything to do with that?

Stew is donning the tools tonight (photo: Getty Images)
  • Could be a "circle the calendar" night for Cutch. Andrew is just two knocks away from career hit #1,000. 
  • The Bucs go into the game at 11-10. A victory tonight would give the Pirates a winning record in April for only the fourth time in the last 20 years: 15-12 in 2013, 11-10 in 2009, 14-10 in 2002.
  • The lack of walks is disappointing (4.8%, last in MLB), but not surprising. Russell Martin, Ike Davis, Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez combined for 173 free passes last year, and that's a lot to make up. The league average for walks is 7.6%, and Cutch is the only regular much above it at 11.1%; Jordy Mercer is a nit over at 7.7%.
  • FanGraphs Brett Talley is liking Arquimedes Caminero.
  • Two Pirates were included by ESPN's Keith Law in his "25 under 25: MLB's Top Players Under Age 25." They were Gerrit Cole (#9) and Gregory Polanco (#12). 
Yes, it's All-Star time again. Your Bucco nominees are: 

Bucs Sleep Walk Through 6-2 Loss

Jeff Locke doesn't as a rule match up very well with the Cubs, particularly at Wrigley, and he sure didn't last night. A lethal brew of liners, ground ball singles, walks, steals and Bucco boots led to a five inning, six run outing, and that was more than the Bucs could overcome in a 6-2 loss to Chicago.

Travis Wood looked sharp against the Pirates, scattering two runs (a two-run shot by Starling Marte accounted for the scores) and five hits over seven innings with nine K. Overall, Pittsburgh whiffed 11 times without drawing a walk. Corey Hart had a particularly brutal day, bobbling a throw, then bouncing his relay off the ump, followed by being picked off third after taking too big a turn after a single and lah-di-dah'ing his way back.

He wasn't alone. The Cubs stole five bases off Fran Cervelli, with three different pitchers on the hill.  Jordy fumbled a DP ball, and the list goes on. Just the LOB line explains the Cubs dominance - they stranded 12 runners, and the Bucs just three. It's been a tough two days in the Friendly Confines, and the Bucs could use a wake-up call for tonight's game as Gerrit Cole hopes to be a stopper against Chi-Town's Kyle Hendricks.

Starling Marte providing some muscle (photo: Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • Neil Walker's hitting streak ended last night. 
  • Greg Polanco pinch hit last night, and told the media guys after the game that he felt fine, but it was a chore getting his legs loose in the cold weather of Chicago.
  • Chicago was a go-go in the fourth inning when they pulled off not one, but a pair of double steals.
  • Less than 55% of the pitches Pittsburgh sees are fastballs; opposing teams learned their lesson last year. Might be time for the Pirates to recognize that fact in the box; it takes more discipline than they've been showing early on to handle a diet of off speed stuff.
  • Charlie Morton will start a rehab assignment with the Bradenton Marauders on Saturday.
  • It may come as a surprise to you, but MLB is not a tax-exempt business; only the NHL among all the sports league is. And the truth is the teams themselves were always taxed; just the league offices, relative small fry in the revenue pool, were exempt. Major League Baseball  relinquished its tax exemption in 2007. The main reason was that as a taxable entity, it no longer had to disclose the pay of commissioner and others on the office payroll. But they all are still exempt from the anti-trust act, so it's business as usual.

4/29: Murderer's Row, Greenlee Field, Sunday, JVW, Bombs Away, No-Hitter

  • 1930 - Rollie Hemsley, George Grantham and Charlie Engle combined for 11 hits and 12 RBI to lead the Pirates to a 13-9 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Bucs rallied from a 7-1 deficit with a seven run sixth inning and never looked back. Ralph Erickson got the win (his only MLB victory) in relief of Ray Kremer, with the save going to Steve Swetonic.
  • 1932 - Greenlee Field in the Hill, home of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, opened in front of 4,000 fans. Hall of Famers Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson were the battery as the Pittsburgh Crawfords lost the opener to the New York Black Yankees 1-0 in a pitching duel with Jesse "Mountain" Hubbard. Paige struck out 10 and allowed six hits, but Hubbard bettered that line, surrendering just three knocks. The Allegheny County commissioners, Pittsburgh's mayor and the city councilmen caught the opener from the field boxes. It was the first ballfield built specifically for a black team, erected by team owner Gus Greenlee. When finished, the grounds would seat 7,500, with lights added in 1933. It was demolished in 1939 to clear space for the Bedford Dwellings.
Greenlee Field (via The Baseball Page)
  • 1934 - Red Lucas won Pittsburgh’s first Sunday home game as the Pirates beat Cincinnati 9-5 at Forbes Field, backed by Gus Suhr’s three hits and four RBI. Both Suhr and Paul Waner, who also had three knocks, homered. Because of Pennsylvania’s Blue Laws, Pittsburgh was the last major league city to play a home game on a Sunday. 
  • 1966 - OF/1B John Vander Wal was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He played for the Bucs in 200-01, and in 232 games hit .290 with 35 HR and 144 RBI. The Pirates traded him at the 2001 deadline with Jason Schmidt to the Giants for Ryan Vogelsong and Armando Rios in one of GM Dave Littlefield’s early deals after replacing Cam Bonifay in mid-July.  
John Vander Wal 2001 Topps series
  • 1990 - The Bucs swept San Diego 10-1 behind a four homer barrage at Jack Murphy Stadium. Barry Bonds and Jay Bell hit three-run bombs, Bobby Bonilla banged a two-run blast and Don Slaught added a solo shot to grease an easy outing for Doug Drabek. It was the Pirates sixth consecutive win. 
  • 2012 - Pitching for the AAA Indianapolis Indians against the Durham Bulls, Justin Wilson tossed the first 7-1/3 innings of a combined no-hitter (2 walks, 9 K, 107 pitches), completed by Jose "Jumbo" Diaz and Doug Slaten.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cubs and Bucs - Locke Looks to Even Series, Notes & Lineup

Today's Game: Jeff Locke faces off against Travis Wood. Locke's last start against the Cubs was rocky, as he was touched up for four runs in five frames. Wood wasn't a whole lot better in his outing against the Bucs, giving up three runs in his five frames in a game the Cubbies eventually won with a late rally against The Shark, 9-8. The game begins at 8:05 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, Corey Hart 1B, Starling Marte LF, Neil Walker 2B, Fran Cervelli C, Sean Rodriguez RF, Locke P.

Jeff Locke (photo: Associated Press)
El Coffee and Pedro are out - both lefties, so sera, sera. The bake-and-shake lineups have done OK for Clint so far this year. We'll see how Locke Ness Monster does; he's traditionally had a tough time against da Cubbies.

  • The Kid still has a bit to go to match his longest hitting streak - he's at 10 games now; but his best was an 18-gamer in 2010.
  • With his next home run, Pedro will tie Hall-of-Famer Paul Waner and outfielder Bill Robinson for 17th place on Pittsburgh’s all-time home run list with 109. After them, Bobby Bo is next on the list with 114 bombs.
  • Did ya know:..AJ Burnett has defeated all 30 teams in MLB? Frankie Liriano is one away from joining him, but he needs a Marlin scalp to add to his belt. They're the one club that he's never faced. Pittsburgh has a home & home with Miami, so maybe this is the year Francisco joins the "I beat 'em all" club.(He was on the DL in June when the Bucs met them, and the other 2013-14 sets missed his rotation turn)
  • Andrew Lambo has a 25% line drive rate but just an .063 BABIP. No wonder he's hitting .045.
  • Edinson Volquez is 2-2 as a Royal - with a 1.91 ERA/2.55 FIP. Eddie started serving his five-day suspension for a Royal brawl on Monday as he's fitting right in with KC.

Bucs Leave Bats In Arizona, Lose 4-0 To Cubs

Jason Hammel was a dominator and Vance Worley wasn't last night. But for one walk, it could have been different. His two out pass to Dexter Fowler led to a three-spot for Chicago, as Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant followed with knocks. Worley tried to work the Cubs away; and they may be young, but they're disciplined and all three went the opposite way with the ball.

Vanimal, as is becoming his MO, scuffled throughout his outing, giving up nine hits during his six IP and again dodging raindrops; the pinpoint command of 2014 hasn't been there this season. He needed a gem anyway, as the Pirate batters met their match in Hammel.

He went eight shutout frames, limiting Pittsburgh to four hits and no walks *surprise* while collecting a season-high seven whiffs. The Bucs' best shot at the scoreboard was in the fifth when Josh was up with two down and runners at second and third. Three sliders later - the last one in the dirt - he sat down, and that was the ballgame for all intents and purposes.

Jeff Locke toes the rubber tonight against Travis Wood, looking to knot the series.

Rob Scahill tossed two scoreless last night, keeping his ERA at 0.00 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
  • The Kid ran his hitting streak up to 10 games last night while Starling Marte's six-game streak skidded to a halt.
  • Gregory Polanco is "day to day" with groin soreness; he apparently tweaked his leg during the D-Back series.
  • Every Cub position player except LF Chris Coghlan had a hit. 
  • Kind of reminiscent of the fan at PNC getting clocked by a foul, a lady in the seats at Wrigley was knocked out when Addison Russell's bat flew into the stands. These Pirate-Cub games are becoming hazardous duty assignments for fans in the box seats.
  • The Pirates were supposed to be on RHP Brandon McCarthy during the off season, but he signed with the LA Dodgers. He just tore his UCL and is out for the season
  • MiB's Tyler Maun takes a look at Altoona 1B Josh Bell.

4/28: Red, Buckshot, Snake, Cubbies & Brewers...

  • 1902 - The Nashville Narcissus, Red Lucas (he lived in Nashville and a sportswriter gave him the nickname), was born in Tennessee. The righty spent the last five years of his career (1934-38) with Pittsburgh after coming over in a deal with the Reds. He put up a 47-32/3.73 line for the Bucs. Lucas was also a good stickman; he pinch hit in more games as a Pirate than he pitched, though his .238 BA was well below the .300 average he carried with Cincy. Oh, and he remembered the team that traded him - he was 14-0 against the Reds during his Pirate era. 
  • 1924 - Bucco rookie SS Glenn Wright hit his first homer off Vic Keen in a 7-4 victory over the Cubs. Wright was better known for his mitt than his thunder; he set a MLB record during the season with 601 assists, a record that lasted until 1980, when Ozzie Smith had 621 Astroturf assists. “Buckshot” was the Pirate SS until 1928 when he was traded to Brooklyn Robins, and hit .298 over that span.
Glenn Wright 1925 (photo: National Photo Co via Library of Congress)
  • 1930 - RHP Tom Sturdivant was born in Gordon, Kansas. Nicknamed “Snake” because of his nasty curve, he was an outstanding pitcher for the Yankees until he suffered a rotator cuff injury in 1958 that threw up a speed bump on his promising career: after posting 16 wins in 1957, he never again reached double-figures in season victories. He persevered as a seven-team journeyman, not leaving baseball until after the 1964 season. Snake hurled for the Bucs from 1961-63 with a 14-7-3/3.49 slash.
  • 1966 - The Pirates scored one run in each of the final five innings of regulation and added four more in tenth to outlast the Cubs at Wrigley Field 9-6. The tying run scored with two out in the ninth. Roberto Clemente fell behind Ted Abernathy 0-2, worked the count full and drew a walk after fouling off eight straight pitches. He then came around on Willie Stargell’s double. The Bucco tenth was highlighted by a delayed double steal, with Clemente swiping second and Manny Mota home. 
  • 1970 - The Bucs 6-1 victory at Forbes Field ended Chicago’s 11 game winning streak. Luke Walker, Bruce Dal Canton and Dave Giusti combined for a three hitter while Manny Sanguillen hit a pair of homers and had 3 RBI. Gene Alley, known more for his leather than wood, went 3-for-4. 
Gene Alley (photo: Virginia Sports Hall of Fame)
  • 2010 - The Pirates defeated the Brewers for the second straight game to take the series at Miller Field with a 6-5, 14 inning victory. The Bucs tied the game in the ninth on a Ryan Doumit homer and went ahead in the 10th on a Cutch long ball, but the Brew Crew came back to tie it off Octavio Dotel, who left the bases full of Brewers before escaping the frame. Garrett Jones doubled home Akinori Iwamura with two down in the 14th while DJ Carrasco worked three innings of scoreless, one hit relief for the win.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pirates v Cubs, Lineup & Notes

Today's Game: Vance Worley takes on Jason Hammel. Vanimal held the Cubs to an unearned run in 5-2/3 IP last week, earning an eventual 4-3 win over Hammel, who the Bucs chased after five frames. It was also the starting point for the Bucs current five game winning streak. In addition, Worley seems to have Chicago's number: he's 3-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five lifetime starts against them. Hammel is kinda meh v Pittsburgh, with a lifetime 4-4/4.03 line. The contest starts at 8:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, Worley P.

Look familiar? Clint is sticking to the ol' "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.

El Toro has been banging out some big hits (photo: Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

  • With all the concern about the Bucco bullpen, the Pirates are 8-1 when leading after six innings and 9-1 when leading in the seventh/eighth. The relievers are still keeping the games short, as they have the past two seasons.
  • Pittsburgh has fared pretty well in recent trips to the Windy City. The Pirates have won five in a row in Wrigley Field and are 16-9 there since the start of the 2012 season.
  • A win tonight would give Pittsburgh its first six-game winning streak in April since 2002.
  • The Bucco rotation isn't the only one in the organization that's rockin' - Tom Singer of notes the accomplishments of Altoona's starting five.
  • John Wagner of looks at Indy's two-catcher set up with Tony Sanchez and Elias Diaz.
  • Another ex-Buc who found a change of scenery (and maybe a little wake up call) to his liking: Jason Grilli is 7-for-7 in save opportunities for Atlanta with a 1.29 ERA giving up two hits and whiffing 11 in seven IP. 
  • Get the fishy one-liners ready - Mike Trout homered off Anthony Bass yesterday.
  • Finally, Josh Hamilton was sent to the Rangers.

4/27: Brewer Hex Ends, Willie's Hot April, Rubber-Arm Wakefield, Jose's 300th Save, Matty Mo

  • 1893 - The Pirates opened the season against the Cleveland Spiders and were spanked by Cy Young, losing 7-2 in front of 7,600 fans at Exposition Park. The team had a strong season despite that sluggish start, finishing second in the National League with a 81-48 mark. Louie Bierbauer had two hits, as did Jake Beckley and Denny Lyons. Frank Killen took the loss after surrendering four first inning runs. 
  • 1902 - Pittsburgh whipped Chicago 2-0 at Exposition Park‚ as Deacon Phillippe bested rookie Jim St. Vrain. St. Vrain only gave up a single to Ginger Beaumont, but it came after the Pirates had loaded the bases on an error sandwiched between a pair of plunked batters in the eighth inning. Phillippe fanned seven and all the other outs were recorded by the infield, with 1B Kitty Bransfield recording 16 putouts. St. Vrain wasn’t quite as sure of himself in the box as he was on the mound. He grounded a ball to Honus Wagner in the seventh and lost his bearings; the confused 19-year old ran toward third base as the astonished Hans threw him out rather easily, per Gene Alston’s Journal column. 
Deacon Phillippe - Pittsburgh Heroes series
  • 1912 - The Pirates walloped Cincinnati 23-4 at Forbes Field‚ and without a home run (although they had five doubles & three triples among their 27 hits). Bobby Byrnes and Dots Miller had five knocks apiece. Reds reliever Hansey Horsey surrendered 14 hits and 12 runs in four innings in what would be his only MLB appearance. Vice President James “Sunny Jim” Sherman, a big baseball fan, attended the game along with PA Congressman Jim Burke, Lieutenant Governor JM Reynolds and an assortment of politicos and generals. 
  • 1930 - The Pirates won their seventh game in a row 9-5 over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. OF Adam Comorosky went 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI. Gus Suhr drove home three more and Ira Flagstead homered. 
  • 1954 - Toby Atwell and Jerry Lynch hit back-to-back homers in back-to-back at-bats in the sixth and eighth innings, the first Pirates to accomplish the feat in the 20th century (Neil Walker & Gaby Sanchez matched the feat in 2014). It wasn’t enough as Pittsburgh lost to the Reds 8-7 at Crosley Field. 
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell set a MLB record with his 11th HR in the month of April, a shot over the TRS center field wall against LA’s Pete Mikkelson, in a 7-5 loss. The record stood for 36 years until it was broken by Albert Pujols, who hit 14 opening-month bombs in 2006. 
Captain Willie - photo via Sports Illustrated
  • 1990 - Wally Backman became the first NL’er to get six hits in one game in 15 years when the 3B’man went 6-for-6 against the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in a 9-4 Pirate win. The Bucs banged out 19 hits, with Barry Bonds collecting four, including two homers and a double. Neal Heaton claimed the win. 
  • 1991 - The Bucs had their way with the Mets at Shea Stadium, winning 10-1. Randy Tomlin and Bob Patterson combined on a four hitter while a trio of Pirates had three hits - Bobby Bonilla, who had four RBI and a run scored, Spanky LaValliere, with two runs driven in and one scored, and Curtis Wilkerson, who plated three times. Pittsburgh took over sole possession of first place, and never lost it as they won the division by 14 games. 
  • 1993 - Tim Wakefield threw 172 pitches in defeating Atlanta‚ 6-2‚ in 11 innings at Fulton County Stadium, and he didn’t even go the distance. He was relieved by Paul Wagner in the 11th after issuing a lead-off walk. It was the most pitches tossed by one pitcher in a single game during the nineties and the most ever by a Pirate. Fernando Valenzuela was the last to throw that many pitches in a game back in 1987. The Pirates took command of the game when Mike Stanton threw away a bunt attempt by Wakefield in the 11th, setting up a pair of two-out knocks and four unearned runs. 
Tim Wakefield - 1994 Pinnacle series
  • 1985 - Pittsburgh traded minor league C Steve Herz to the Phillies for utility PH Mike Diaz. Diaz fit in nicely as a bench player for a couple of seasons, putting up a line of .250/28/89 in 606 PA. 
  • 2005 - Jose Mesa sat Houston down 1-2-3 in the ninth to save Kip Wells’ 2-0 victory. It was his 300th career save, making Mesa the 19th pitcher in MLB history to reach that mark. Jason Bay and Jack Wilson drove home the runs at PNC Park. 
  • 2008 - RHP Matt Morris was released by the Pirates after going 1-2/3 innings against the Phillies in his previous start the day before, giving up six runs on six hits. The 33-year-old compiled an 0-4 record with a 9.67 ERA in his five outings with Pittsburgh in 2008. He retired soon after, but the Bucs ate $11,037,283 in salary, including a $1M buyout for 2009. Pittsburgh replaced him by calling up RHP John Van Benschoten. 
  • 2010 - A five-run ninth inning sparked by Ryan Doumit's grand slam and Ronny Cedeno's solo shot off Trevor Hoffman ended the Pirates 22-game losing streak in Milwaukee as the Bucs took a 7-3 victory at Miller Park. The Brew Crew's hometown hex over the Bucs was the longest held by one team over another since the Browns/Orioles lost 27 consecutive contests to the Indians in Cleveland from 1952-54.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bucs Steamroll D-Backs 8-0

The Bucs started fast, loading the bases in the first on two singles and a walk. A foul out and whiff later, things didn't look quite as promising, but Pete delivered a two-out knock scoring Josh and Gregory to put the Bucs up 2-0 before Arizona could find the bat rack.

Frankie Liriano struggled with the lead; he gave up a couple of hits and four walks in the first four frames, but no runs. He had the K stuff going on with six and had some help from his friends - Starling Marte threw out one runner, and Chris Stewart picked off another.

The Pirates upped the ante in the fifth when a smokin' hot Walker drilled a two run double to plate Cutch and El Coffee. It came with an out, breaking a streak of eight straight two-out runs scored by Pittsburgh in the series and chasing Jeremy Hellickson. With the 4-0 lead, Francisco kicked it in gear and cruised through the fifth and sixth.

Frankie gets off the schneid (photo: Associated Press)
But Liriano and the strike zone once again parted ways in the seventh; he walked the 7-8 hitters with one gone. Who ya gonna call? Yep, Jared Hughes, who got a two-pitch 4-6-3 DP to keep things in order. The Pirates added another tally on a Chris Stewart sac fly, while Arizona went quietly in the eighth, with Arquimedes Caminero on the hill for the Bucs.

Pittsburgh piled it up in the ninth, when runs steaming home after a Polanco double, Cutch sac fly and birthday boy Sean Rodriguez knock to make it 8-0. Antonio Bastardo mopped it up to seal Frankie's first W, and the Bucs raised the Jolly Roger on a broomstick tonight.

Vance Worley faces Jason Hammel at Wrigley Field tomorrow night.

  • The Kid is on a roll; his hitting streak is now at nine games. Walker really tortured the D-Backs, going 7 for 12 with four doubles.
  • In fact, the Bucs 1-5 hitters (Josh, Gregory, Cutch, The Kid & Starling) went 11-for-21 with three doubles, three walks, eight runs scored and four RBI.
  • The Pirates have won five in a row, their longest April winning streak since 2007, and gone 8-of-10 while sweeping two of the past three series. The Bucs didn't cobble together a five game streak last season until mid-September.
  • Cutch ended an 0-for-16 streak with a fifth inning single. He had drawn three walks in his previous seven plate appearances.

Bucs Look to Broom D-Backs Behind Frankie; Getaway Day Lineup & Notes

Today's Game: Frankie Liriano takes the hill v Jeremy Hellickson. Francisco has pitched well without a W to show for it, while Hellickson, like De La Rosa last night, will be making his first career start against Pittsburgh. He'll be the second southpaw the Bucs have seen start this year. The game begins at 4:10 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Frankie lookin' for win #1 (photo Phil Valesquez/Chicago Tribune)
Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Chris Stewart C, Liriano P.

The getaway day lineup looks suspiciously like the everyday lineup, with just Fran Cervelli getting a blow. We thought there might be a Corey Hart sighting with Pedro or El Coffee taking a seat against the lefty Hellickson; we thought wrong. Mark Melancon should be down today after three straight appearances.

  • Cutch hit a couple of balls on the nose last night, so he may be shaking his slump. But he did look a bit hobbled in the outfield; it may be that cranky knee is giving him more problems than he and the club are letting on.
  • Like AJ, Frankie doesn't have a win yet, and the Pirates have lost all three of his prior starts due to a combo of not scoring and some shoddy bullpen work.
  • Tony Watson had a chat with Fangraphs David Laurila in his Sunday Notes column, and Tony tells him about his pitches, their appearance to the hitters and wins.
  • Tough division (S/O to @ForbesToFederal ):

  • Lowest walk rate in MLB? Yep, yer Buccos at 5.2%.
  • In NL Central news, the Cards' Adam Wainwright injured his ankle getting out of the box last night. He was placed on the 15 day DL, and the Cards believe it's an Achilles injury. He'll get an MRI tomorrow to confirm. Beside possibly altering the division dynamics, it will be sure to throw some gasoline on the already raging "DH-or-no-DH" fire. 

4/26: Rowdy Openers, Gunner, Fire Trucks, No-Go Zone, Ott & Bert...

  • 1900 - The Bucs drew 11,000 to the newly expanded Exposition Park, the biggest Pittsburgh baseball turnout to date, and there were a couple of thousand more trying to get in. The Pirates were fortified by the recent influx of Louisville players like Honus Wagner, but dropped a 12-11 slugfest to Cincinnati as the Reds lit up Rube Waddell and Jack Chesbro. The Bucs made a game of it by rallying for seven ninth inning runs. 
  • 1905 - The Cubs beat Pittsburgh at Exposition Park, 2-1 as Chicago’s Jack McCarthy became the only major league OF’er to throw out three runners trying to score in one game. All three assists were on tag-up tries and resulted in double plays. 
  • 1917 - Coach Virgil “Fire” Trucks was born in Birmingham, Alabama. After a long pro career, he became the bullpen coach/batting practice pitcher for the Bucs in 1960 and stayed with the Pirates through 1963. Trucks later operated baseball camps for the Bucs. 
Virgil Trucks tossing some BP in 1963 (photo - Associated Press)
  • 1940 - After putting up four runs in the eighth the day before and falling just short, the Bucs crossed home seven times in the eighth this day to roll over the St. Louis Cardinals 10-4. Debs Garms and Joe Bowman both had homers and three RBI to spark the rally. 
  • 1948 - Legendary announcer Bob Prince broadcast his first Pirates game, joining another Pittsburgh favorite, Rosey Rowswell (“Open the window, Aunt Minnie”) on the air. "The Gunner" went on to describe Pirate action for 28 years. 
  • 1978 - Ed Ott hit an 11th-inning home run at Shea Stadium to give the Bucs and Bert Blyleven, who pitched a complete game six hitter, a 1-0 win. It took 35 years for another Pirate, Neil Walker, to homer for the only run in a Bucco extra inning victory. 
  • 1980 - The Pirates scored five times in the first inning and cruised to a 9-2 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh pounded out 17 hits, led by three apiece from Mike Easler and Dave Parker. John Candelaria went the distance after allowing two runs on eight hits as the Pirates split a brief two game series with Chicago.
Dave Parker (photo - CBS Sports)
  • 1995 - 34,841 fans at TRS disrupted a delayed Opening Day by throwing whatever was handy (mainly giveaway day Bucco pennants) on the field to show their displeasure with the freshly resolved player’s strike and some shoddy play by the Bucs. The game was delayed for 17 minutes until the announcer told the unruly crowd that the contest was about to be forfeited. Might as well have been; Montreal won the game 6-2, chasing Jon Leiber in the fifth. 
  • 2008 - Alhambra, California, dedicated a bronze statue to honor of its native son Ralph Kiner for his "accomplishments and contributions to the game of professional baseball and sports broadcasting.” The former Pirates slugger, a member of the Hall of Fame, grew up in Alhambra and graduated from its high school in 1940.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bucs Grind Out 2-1 Win

Well, the Bucs forgot their bats for AJ again. He went seven innings, giving up a run on five hits and two walks with four K, exiting with the game tied. So that's four starts with a 1.80 ERA and no wins; the team has backed him with all of four runs. Sheesh.

AJ surrendered a run in the second on a two out single that was bobbled by El Coffee; the Bucs tied it in the fourth when The Kid and Pedro banged back-to-back, two-out doubles off Rubby De La Rosa. And there it sat until the ninth.

The Pirates went quietly in the eighth, and Tony Watson worked a wild and wooly, but ultimately scoreless, frame. The D-backs got the first two guys aboard, and a soft roller by Paul Goldschmidt moved them up a station. Tony got Mark Trumbo on a foul pop and whiffed Aaron Hill to enjoy another day at the beach.

The Pirates have become two-out terrors, and tonight's final frame was no different. Again with the bases empty and two gone, they struck when Walker smacked another double and Starling Marte followed with a thank you ma'am hopper that was perfectly placed and paced past a diving shortstop to give Pittsburgh the lead of Arizona closer Addison Reed.

The Kid led the way (photo Al Behrman/Associated Press)
Mark the Shark was short on velocity and command, but with a little help from his friends got the job done. A one out single was erased when Tuffy Gosewisch was nailed stealing; Fran Cervelli's throw was high but Jordy dropped it bunny-quick on Tuffy to get the call. Melancon then walked Cliff Pennington, but a Yasmany Tomas bouncer to The Kid ended the game with the Bucs up 2-1. Tony got the win, the Shark the save, and AJ another "atta boy."

The Bucs go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon when Francisco Liriano faces Jeremy Hellickson.

  • Neil Walker's hitting streak reached eight games.
  • Mark Melancon notched his third save in three days.
  • The Pirates have a four game winning streak, their longest in April since 2008.
  • Gregory Polanco was picked off first, but otherwise has been pretty stellar on the basepaths - his steal (upheld after review) made him 7-for-7, ranked third in the NL.
  • AJ's single was the first hit by a Pirate pitcher not named Gerrit Cole. And for as well as he's pitched, this is the first 2015 start of his that Pittsburgh has won.
  • In the past three days, not only the Pirates but all their minor league clubs - Indy, Altoona, Bradenton and West Virginia - have gone undefeated, with a 15-0 mark.

Bucs Send AJ Out Against D-Backs; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game: A.J. Burnett faces Ruby De La Rosa tonight. Burnett is still looking for some support and a win. He has a 2.00 ERA (2.99 FIP) and has been the Bucs tough-luck pitcher so far in April. De La Rosa is making his first career start against the Pirates. The opening pitch is scheduled for 8:10 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Josh Harrison is comin' on (photo: Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
The Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, AJ P.

The regulars, two days in a row! Hey, why fix something that isn't broke; the Bucs have won 6-of-8 and are making Clint look awfully smart. And he has used all the lineup; the only position players that haven't appeared in at least 11 games so far are the back-up catchers.

  • The Bucs have nine wins, but zero so far from Frankie Liriano and AJ, although the pair have given up just 10 runs in 36 IP (2.50 ERA) over six starts. Jeff Locke, Vance Worley and Casey Sadler have five wins already; go figure.
  • Since the start of the 2012 season, Tony Watson leads all MLB lefty relief pitchers in appearances (223). He also leads NL lefty relievers in ERA (2.08) since 2013 and ranks second in the Majors in that time behind New York’s Andrew Miller (2.06).
  • The Pirates traditionally were brutal, especially on the road, against their NL West foes (SF, LA, SD, COL, ARI), but that's changing of late. The Bucs are 21-12 v them since last season, with an 11-7 slate playing in the west. Pittsburgh has won seven of their last 10 games played at Chase Field.
  • Brandon Moss homered twice and drove in a career-high seven runs for the Indians last night. He has just a .214 BA, but an .850 OPS, kinda Pedro-esque numbers.
  • If you're wondering, Travis Snider's slash with the O's is .298/.389/.447. His .836 OPS tops that of any of the every day Buccos, ahead of Starling Marte's .823 OPS average.

Bucs Ride the Cole Train, Two-Outing Lightning to 4-1 Win Over D-Backs

Pittsburgh scored early and then let Gerrit Cole take over the show as they took a 4-1 win over the Diamondbacks last night in the series opener. Neil Walker singled home El Coffee in the first, Josh Harrison's double to right center chased home Jordy Mercer and Cole in the second, and The Kid struck again in the eighth, doubling home Cutch.

The Kid is heating up (photo: Dave Arrigo/Pirates) 
Cole allowed one run and seven hits in 7 2-3 innings and was still touching 98 on the gun in the eighth frame. He struck out seven, walked two, and the run he gave up was iffy. It came a bouncing throw by The Kid after a diving stop that allowed Paul Goldschmidt to barely get past Fran Cervelli's tag (the the Bucs challenged the call, to no avail).

Gerrit solved what has been traditionally a problem for him, getting ahead in the count, tossing 27 first-pitch strikes against the 32 batters he faced, though he still used 107 pitches. Jared Hughes closed out the eighth with a whiff and the Shark worked a quiet ninth against the bottom of the order for the save.

AJ Burnett takes on Arizona's D-backs: Rubby De La Rosa tonight.

  • Neil Walker wasted no time extending his hitting streak to seven games with a first inning RBI single.
  • Cole Train is on quite a roll. Since Sept 7th of last season, he's 7-0 /2.65 ERA with 68 K in 57- 2/3 innings.
  • All four Pirate runs scored on two-out hits. The second was particularly impressive: with two gone and the 8-9 hitters up, Jordy walked, Gerrit singled and both came around on Josh's two-bagger to the wall in right center.
  • At 9-8, Pittsburgh is over the .500 mark for the first time this year.
  • Pirate fans missed most of the action; it was 3-0 before the Penguin game (they lost 2-1 in OT) was over and Root Sports picked up the game.

4/25: Haney, L-Ville, Tip O' The Hat, Wally, Willie, Kip, Pedro & More...

  • 1896 - Fred Haney was born in Albuquerque. He managed the Bucs as a favor to Branch Rickey from from 1953-1955. His record reflects the fact that he was brought in during the early stages of a youth movement, losing 104, 101 and 94 games for a 163-299 (.353) slate.
Fred Haney 1954 Topps series
  • 1899 - Pittsburgh lost to Louisville 2-1 at Eclipse Park as future Bucco SS Honus Wagner went 4-for-4 with 2 HRs‚ the second being a ninth-inning game winner. The Colonels were managed by future Pirate skipper (and player) Fred Clarke. The following season, most of Louisville’s top players followed owner Barney Dreyfuss to Pittsburgh. 
  • 1940 - The Pirates put up a four spot in the eighth inning, but came up a run short to the St. Louis Cards 10-9 at Forbes Field. Elbie Fletcher went 3-for-5 with four RBI while Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner batted 4-for-5 and scored three times. 
  • 1943 - RHP Bob Johnson was born in Aurora, Illinois. He pitched for the Bucs from 1971-73, beginning as a starter and ending in the bullpen. He went 17-16-7/3.34 as a Buc and appeared in a pair of NLCS and in the 1971 World Series. 
  • 1948 - Wally Westlake homered, doubled and drove in six runs while Ed Stevens added five more RBI to lead the Bucs to a 13-10 win over the Reds in the second game of a twinbill at Crosley Field. Pittsburgh lost the opener 7-6 in the ninth. 
Wally Westlake 1951 Topps Red Back series
  • 1970 - Willie Stargell homered over the RF roof at Forbes Field off Hoyt Wilhelm‚ the second time he'd done it in a week‚ as the Pirates edged the Braves‚ 8-7. Eighteen balls carried over the Oakland yard’s roof, with seven launched by Stargell. No one else hit more than a pair. Roberto Clemente had three hits (two were doubles) and four RBI as he stole the offensive thunder from Cap’n Willie. 
  • 1992 - In the Pirates 1-0 win over the host Cubs‚ the Bucs were helped by a wayward hat. With Kirk Gibson on first‚ Jay Bell hit a potential DP grounder that struck Gibson's helmet‚ which had flown off as he headed to second, and the Cubs had to settle for a force. Andy Van Slyke noted‚ “the play goes 7-1/2 to 4 to 5 to 6" on your scorecard. Bell then scored when Van Slyke followed with a double for the game’s only run. Randy Tomlin was the winner over Greg Maddux. 
  • 2003 - Kip Wells became the second player and first pitcher to homer into the batter’s eye at PNC Park with a third inning, 457’ blast off the Dodgers Odalis Perez. LA had the last laugh when they rallied for five ninth inning runs off Wells and Mike Williams to take a 5-2 victory. 
Kip Wells 2003 Topps series
  • 2011 - Pedro Alvarez homered in both games of Pittsburgh’s doubleheader split against Colorado at PNC Park, becoming the second Pittsburgh player in the last 22 seasons to hit home runs for the Pirates in two games played on the same day. El Toro joined Rob Mackowiak, who also went long twice in a DH on 5/28/04 against the Cubs on the memorable day his wife gave birth to their first child.
  • 2012 - The Pirates and the Rockies became the first teams in MLB history to add an extra player to the roster for their twin bill at PNC Park. The new CBA allowed teams to carry 26 on the active roster for doubleheaders to save the paper shuffling that calling up an extra pitcher entailed. The Bucs brought up Jared Hughes, who had started the season with Pittsburgh but was sent down when AJ Burnett came of the DL. 
  • 2013 - The Bucs beat the Phillies for the third straight time at Citizen’s Bank Park by a 6-4 score. It was the first time in eighteen occurrences that Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee threw back-to-back-to-back games and the Phils lost all three matches. The Pirates lost the first outing of the four game set, beaten 3-2 by Jonathan Pettibone, who was making his first MLB start.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pirates v D-backs, Notes & Lineup (Marte Is Back)

Today's Game: Gerrit Cole faces Josh Collmenter at Chase Field, with the first pitch scheduled for 9:40 PM. Cole has won his last two outings, while Collmenter tossed a complete game goose egg for his first win on Friday. The game will be aired by 93.7 The Fan; Root Sports will pick it up right after the 7 PM Penguin game ends.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, Cole P.

After being a little nicked up for the Cub set, the Bucs are back at full strength with the A Team penciled in tonight. And give the bench guys their due; the team really hasn't missed a beat due to rest or injury so far.

Cutch got his blow and is ready to go (photo: ESPN)
  • Neil Walker has a quiet little six game hitting streak going on.
  • You might remember the last series between these teams, when Ernest Frieri broke Paul Goldschmidt's hand and Cutch paid the price the next night, taking a heater in the back. We'll see how (or if) the attitudes have adjusted with Kirk Gibson gone. 
  • The Bucs have played well in the desert, winning six of their last nine games played in Arizona, dating back to 4/17/12.
  • Collmenter tossed the majors' first shutout (and first complete game) last week in San Francisco, giving up just four hits after struggling through his first two starts. He was Arizona's Opening Day pitcher this year.
  • Wandy Rodriguez is supposed to start for the Rangers tonight.

Thoughts & Notes...

One road trip and one homestand into the season, and a couple of things come to mind.

First, no matter how much they shift, the Pirate infield defense could sure step up. In spite of an impressive errorless streak, their range is not great. The good news is that Pedro and Josh can only get better with more time at the corners. Josh only has 158 big-league games at third and about the same in the minors, so he's not a polished product at the hot corner yet. Pedro still misses a few reads, taking balls from The Kid & missing bleeder covers of the bag, but he should adapt OK, too. Remember, his problem isn't playing the field, where he's fairly nimble for a big dude, and his throwing woes should be minimized at first.

In the middle, Jordy isn't terribly rangy - Baseball Reference has him at league average over the past two seasons -  but dependably steady. Neil Walker, per BR, has the same profile, but this year has shown a marked decrease in range, and although a small sample size, that will bear watching. No such question in the outfield, with three guys who can go get it.

The Three Amigos (Keith Srakcocic/Associated Press)
Second, the rotation has been quite solid; we'd just like to see the pitchers get a little deeper into games as no team can thrive by exposing their relievers early and often. We're not all that concerned with the bullpen, unless Mark the Shark is in decline rather than a slump. Two flags wave for us: Melancon's return to form and the Caminero/Antonio Bastardo flip. Bastardo hasn't shown up all that well so far, doesn't get his number called much, and there's not much back end depth in the pipeline.

Which leads us to Clint using his pen members a little more regularly - it seems pretty easy to lose the skipper's confidence - and on a more situational, match-up basis. That's not his MO, a bit surprising considering how well he incorporates game data in his decision making, but bullpen management has worked well his way in the past, using set roles and a sometimes short list of staff.

Offensively, we think these guys are for real; not the Lumber Company, for sure, but deep enough. They appear to have their heads on straight now after an embarrassing case of early-season whiffitis, with more power and fewer automatic outs spread through the lineup & bench. When Cutch and The Kid start hitting on all cylinders, runs shouldn't be a big problem.

We like the team so far, especially as it has room to grow. They've kept the grinding that has been a big part of their 2013-14 surge, and even though they stumbled out of the blocks in this campaign's opening week, they've clawed their way back to .500, three games behind the Cards. At this time last year, they were 9-14 and 7-1/2 games out of first, so...

  • Gregory Polanco is featured in a Sean Collier article in Pittsburgh Magazine. Right on time, too. El Coffee has 11 hits in his last seven games, five for extra bases.
  • If you're wondering how the Pirate depth guys are doing, here's Indy's stats to date. Casey Sadler has kept on keeping on, as has late cut Steve Lombardozzi. And, as John Dreker of Pirates Prospects tweets, Big John Holdzkom still has some command issues: "In 5-2/3 innings this year, he's thrown 143 pitches - 74 strikes, 69 balls."Yikes! That equals out to 227 pitches per nine innings.
  • The KC Royals may want to consider joining one of those martial art leagues. After brawling their way through the Oakland series, some yapping sparked another donnybrook with the White Sox. Even Eddie Volquez got involved in the melee and earned an ejection.

4/24: Fred Carroll, Honus, Rebels, Gashouse Gang Goes Down, Chris Jakubauskas

  • 1891 - Fred Carroll hit the first home run by a Pirate in Exposition Park (they played the year prior in nearby Recreation Park as the Alleghenys) as the Bucs defeated the Chicago Colts 11-8 for their first victory ever in Pittsburgh. They had become the Pirates in the off season, when they “pirated” Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia A’s. 
Fred Carroll 1887 - Buchner Gold Coin series via Library of Congress
  • 1903 - Honus Wagner was having a bad day in the field, booting three balls that helped the Cardinals head into the ninth with a 7-6 lead at Exposition Park, but his bat helped erase the deficit. He tripled in the ninth and scored the tying run on a Kitty Bransfield single. Then with two away in the eleventh, the Flying Dutchman walked, stole second and came around with the game winner on another Bransfield knock. Wagner collected four hits including two triples along with two runs scored, four RBI‚ and three stolen bases. 
  • 1915 - Pittsburgh Rebel southpaw Frank Allen tossed a 2-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Terriers at Handlan Park in the last year of the Federal League, the short-lived (1913-15) major league “outlaw” option to the National and American Leagues. Allen went on to toss a couple more seasons for the NL Boston Braves. The Federal League was absorbed by the NL & AL, and a suit the FL filed eventually led to the still existent ruling that exempted baseball from anti-trust laws. 
  • 1934 - The Bucs rallied to defeat the Gashouse Gang from St. Louis 5-4 at Forbes Field in their home opener. Behind 4-2 going into the ninth, Freddie Lindstrom homered over the LF wall with two aboard, and his walk-off gave the Pirates the win over the future NL champs. 
Freddie Lindstrom 1934 (The Conlon Collection/The Sporting News Archives)
  • 2010 - Chris Jakubauskas, in the first inning of his first appearance of the year, was struck in the head by a liner off the bat of Houston's Lance Berkman. The 31-year old right-hander left the field on a stretcher, but was later diagnosed with just a concussion and not a fracture as first feared. Jaku wouldn’t pitch for the Bucs any more that year, but tossed for Baltimore the following season. The Pirates lost the game 5-2.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

El Coffee, Josh & Pen Lead the Way In 5-4 Win

We were at the game today, wondering exactly why we were watching baseball in a typhoon that occasionally blew a snow flake or two around, especially in the early going.

The Cubs jumped out to a 4-1 lead as Jeff Locke pitched five fairly forgettable frames. All the runs were earned, and he gave up seven hits and three walks, though he did K seven. Two runs scored on #9 hitter Jonathan Herrera's two-out triple, a double by #7 hitter Addison Russell and a bases loaded walk. The only early Bucco response was Sean Rodriguez's homer into the bullpen.

But the Pirates put up a three spot in the sixth and one in the seventh. Josh and El Coffee doubled in the sixth for the next run, while a walk and a wild pick-off throw by C Welington Castillo led to RBI knocks by The Kid and Jordy, tying the game. In the following frame, Polanco's grounder into left against the shift plated Josh with the winning run after a great at-bat. The Cubs walked PH Corey Hart to get to Gregory, and he fell behind lefty Phil Coke 0-2, but battled him to a full count and eight pitches before delivering the game winner.

El Coffee (photo: Mike James Baseball America)

Polanco went 3-for-4 with two RBI while Harrison doubled and scored twice. The Pirates bullpen showed their stuff, as Radhames Liz (who pitched two innings & got the win), Arquimedes Caminero (who struck out Jorge Soler & Kris Bryant, then got Starlin Castro on a foul pop) and Mark the Shark (working a 1-2-3 ninth for the save) tossed four shutout innings, giving up just one hit and whiffing five.

The Bucs now go on a nine game road trip, opening with Arizona. Gerrit Cole will face Josh Collmenter in tomorrow night's lid lifter.

  • Good news on the injury front - Jordy played today, and Starling Marte pinch-ran in the seventh and hung around to play some centerfield, so he should be back in action against the D-Backs.
  • It was the first MLB win for Radhames Liz since September 14th, 2008 v the Twins, when he tossed eight shutout innings. He was then with the Orioles.
  • Chris Stewart was 2-for-2 against Chicago's wanna-be base stealers today.
  • The Pirates have homered in seven straight games.
  • The Cubbies have lost back to back games for the first time this season.

Bucs Take 4-3 Win; Recap & Getaway Day Lineup & Notes

Last Night's Game: Good start to this one. Francisco Cervelli hit an RBI double and Jung Ho Kang followed with a sacrifice fly in the second inning to get the Pirates on the board, followed by Pedro's sac fly in the third and an El Coffee homer in the fifth, a bullet that seemed to clear the Clemente Wall before Polanco could even get out of the box.

And thanks to a Houdini by Tony Watson, it was just enough. Vance Worley put together a gum-and-duct tape start, giving up six hits and two walks but just one run through 5-2/3 frames and 106 pitches. The key was the fifth, when he retired Kris Bryant on a sweet running grab by Polanco after falling behind 3-0 with the bases loaded, thanks to back-to-back two out walks.

At any rate, it was another short if effective start. Rob Scahill finished the sixth for Worley, and Arquimedes Caminero tossed a clean seventh. Jared Hughes took the ball in the eighth (Mark the Shark was unavailable after a 25 pitch outing Tuesday), and had a rough time of it. A single, wild pitch and walk were followed by a couple of soft hits, leaving the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth inning of a 4-2 game. Enter Houdini.

Tony Watson came up big yesterday (photo: Getty Images)

Watson let one run in on a fielder's choice (Kang made a heads up play, forcing the runner at third), but otherwise shut the door. And then he went out in the ninth, allowing a two-out single but closing the deal for the Bucs.It took him 30 pitches to get six outs, so he'll be sitting out today's game.

Game notes: Starling Marte was plunked in the hand with a pitch. It was diagnosed as a bruise, and it's yet to be seen how that will affect his status. Kang continues to look more comfortable hitting as he gets some at-bats under his belt. Last night was the third career two-inning save for Watson. And just what you need in April - there was a brief sleet/snow squall during the Cubs' seventh inning.

Looking for another Locke-down day (photo: Associated Press)

Today's Game: Jeff Locke takes on Kyle Hendricks. Locke has been sharp in the early going while Hendricks has not; let's hope that's a trend that continues as the Bucs go for the split. Should be interesting - in his last 11 starts at PNC Park, Locke has put up a 2.77 ERA, while Kendricks had his most solid outing of the young season last time out. The game starts at 12:35 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Andrew Lambo RF, Gregory Polanco CF, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Sean Rodriguez LF, Chris Stewart C, Locke P.

Some delay in posting the shake-and-bake lineup today; Clint was waiting to see how Starling Marte's mitt felt after BP (not so hot). Jordy's back, Cutch is sitting during a scheduled rest day, and Fran Cervelli is catching a night-to-day game blow. Maybe Pedro will have one of his big daylight games...

  • Surprising (to us, anyway) stat: Jeff Locke will try to win three straight outings for the first time in his career today.
  • Tony Watson's two-inning save was the first multi-inning save for the Bucs since June of 2013 when Ryan Reid turned the trick against the Brewers. Reid's save was of the cherry-picker variety; he went the final three innings of a 10-3 win. The close was Tony's fifth career save; three have been two-frame gigs.
  • Following the game today, the Pirates embark on a 10-day, nine-game road trip to Arizona, Chicago and St. Louis.
  • Charlie Morton is scheduled to make a 65-pitch start in a Pirate City game today. If that goes well, he'll go on a rehab assignment, likely for the entire 30 days allowed.
  • Indy won 8-6 yesterday despite 11 walks from Chris Volstad, Charlie Leesman, Brad Lincoln and Blake Wood. Wood at least earned all four of his outs via the K, hitting 95-98 on the gun.
  • Who'd thunk it? The Mets have won 10 in a row.

4/23: Big Crowd, Big Bet, Quick Starts, Genie, Cotton, Happy Jack & Babe...

  • 1890 - The Pittsburgh Alleghenys beat the Cleveland Spiders 20-12 at Recreation Park in front of a crowd of 17 - with six paid in a yard that held 17,000. Smart fans - the team finished last in the NL with a record of 23–113, 66-1/2 games behind the first place Brooklyn Bridegrooms.  According to Wikipedia, Recreation Park was also known as Union Park and later, the Allegheny Athletic Association Grounds. It was tucked between Allegheny Ave, Pennsylvania Ave, Galveston Ave and Behan St in Allegheny West. No pictures of it as a baseball field are known to exist, though there are a couple of newspaper shots of Pitt playing football there. The baseball team left for Exposition Park in 1891 and Pitt followed suit years later, in 1904.
  • 1902 - St. Louis Cardinals owner Frank Robison put up a $10‚000 challenge that the Pirates wouldn’t repeat as NL champions. Pittsburgh players pooled their money to meet the bet, and then collected easily as they won the pennant by 27-1/2 games. St Louis finished sixth, 44-1/2 games off the Pirates’ pace.
  • 1917 - RHP Gene “Genie” Smith was born in Ashley, Louisiana. He pitched for the the Homestead Grays between 1946–1947. During his career, he threw a no-hitter, played in the East-West All Star game and in the Negro World Series, although not with Homestead.
  • 1922 - Second baseman Cotton Tierney collected a career-high five hits, doubled three times and knocked in a game-high four runs in Pittsburgh’s 14-3 rout of the Cubs in Chicago. The Bucs broke the game open with an eight run second inning and then added two more runs an inning later to make it 10-0. It was Pittsburgh’s sixth straight win after beginning the season with losses in each of the first three games. Hal Carlson took the win at Wrigley.
Cotton Tierney 1921 (photo: Bob Dorman)
  • 1946 - RHP “Happy Jack” Chesbro was elected to the Hall of Fame. A spitballer who won 41 games in 1904 for the NY Highlanders, he tossed for the Pirates at the beginning of his career from 1899-1902, with a line of 70-38/2.89. Also selected was Rube Wardell, a colorful hurler who began his career with Pittsburgh in 1900-01. They were inducted on June 12th.
  • 1946 - The Bucs sold 1B Ellsworth "Babe" Dahlgren to the St. Louis Browns. Dahlgren hit .271 with 176 RBI in his two year stint with the Bucs, but faded badly with the Browns as a 34-year old, and ‘46 was his last season in the show. He’s famous as the man who replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939 while with the Yankees.
  • 1947 - The Bucs were out of the gate in a hurry, winning their sixth of the first seven games of the season by an 8-5 count over the Cards at Sportsman’s Park. Billy Cox and Eddie Basinski each homered and combined for seven RBI. Ed Bahr tossed 6-1/3 shutout innings, giving up just three hits, to win in relief.
Billy Cox & Hans in 1947 (Associated Press photo)
  • 1962 - The Bucs record setting ten game, season-opening winning streak was derailed by the Mets and Jay Hook at Forbes Field. It was the first regular season victory ever for NY as they won 9-1, and it started the Pirates on a spiral of losing 13-of-17 games.
  • 1966: The Pirates scored three times in the ninth inning to pull out a 5-4 win against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Pittsburgh trailed 4-2 heading into the ninth before Bob Bailey, Jim Pagliaroni and Jose Pagan each hit solo homers off Dennis Aust and Hal Woodeshick to power the Bucs past the Cards.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pirates v Cubs, Lineup & Notes

Today's Game: Vance Worley goes against Jason Hammel. Vanimal is undefeated against the Cubs, with a 2-0 record/2.39 ERA in four career starts, with two strong showings and two that were meh. Hammel is 4-3 in eight career games v the Pirates with a 3.88 ERA. The game begins at 7:05, with no TV (Bucs & Pucks nite) but will be broadcast on 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup: Josh Harrison 3B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Starling Marte LF, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Jung Ho Kang SS, Worley P.

Fran Cervelli is starting his 12th game and hitting .306 (photo: Gene Puskar/AP)
Standard lineup, minus Jordy who is out another day. Kang is making his third straight start and looks like he's getting a little bit comfortable in the box with a nice arm in the field, but doesn't cover nearly as much dirt as Mercer does. Clint may book some downtime for Jared Hughes and/or Tony Watson. Both have appeared in 4-of-6 games and been called on eight and nine games respectively.

  • Jung Ho Kang's bases loaded (and clearing) double last night was his first MLB extra-base hit and RBIs.
  • The Bucs have scored in the first inning in four straight games.
  • The Pirate PR guys found out everything you want to know about Bucco leadoff homers: Josh Harrison hit his second leadoff home run of the season Tuesday night, the fourth of his career. The last Pittsburgh player with more than two home runs leading off the first inning in one season was Andrew McCutchen, who hit four in 2009. Harrison is now tied for eighth on the club’s all-time list for leadoff home runs, trailing Barry Bonds (20), Al Martin (10), Cutch (8), Bob Bailey (7), Cal Abrams (5), Omar Moreno (5) and Bill Virdon (5). Bob Bailey?
  • The Oakland A's Ike Davis did it Pittsburgh-style yesterday. In a 14-1 game, he came in to pitch an inning and retired the side 1-2-3, all on grounders. Ray Searage should be proud!

Old Formula Not Working As Cubs Rally Past Bucs 9-8

The Pirate success of the past couple of years has been based on shortening games and allowing the back end of the bullpen to close the gates. Sure didn't work that way against the Reds, and sho' 'nuf didn't work that way last night. Frankie Liriano got through some command issue with nastiness, striking out nine in his five frames.

But Jared Hughes, Radhames Liz and Tony Watson each gave up a run in their inning of work (although in justice Hughes was unearned; more on that later). Then the much discussed Mark the Shark came on in the ninth with a two run lead; that quickly went by the boards.

He only gave up two well-hit balls, and one found a glove. But he threw his knuckle curve into the dirt several times and was nicked for hits off it a couple more times. His cutter again didn't hit 90, and  looked like it was coming in flat, without its trademark dive.

A couple of nicely placed soft hits not withstanding, Melancon is a guy looking for answers right now, and that doesn't bode well. Various folk have noted that his release point is noticeably lower than it was in the summer of 2014, and  his velocity has dropped along with his arm. Whether that's just mechanical or a reaction to a possible injury or soreness, the Shark looks like a pitcher that should be on a short leash; we can't imagine that he's not a candidate for some less leveraged innings.

Kang comes through (photo: via
The Buc bats were the only thing working last night. Corey Hart made a couple of miscues at first, one on a throw and another on a grounder, Josh booted one, and and two or three balls made it through the infield that should have been converted into outs.

But the boys flashed some lumber last night. Harrison and Starling Marte homered, Fran Cervelli chipped in with a two-run knock, and Jung Ho Kang had a big, bases clearing double to plate three with two outs (and after Marte was intentionally walked to get to him). 

The Bucs have gone through streaks where they've had up-and-down hitting, and survived with dependable fielding and back-end pitching. They're still trying to recapture that winning combo.

  • The Cubs' young 'uns have played as advertised. Anthony Rizzo (25), Jorge Soler (23), Kris Bryant (23) and Starlin Castro (25) combined to go 9-for-18 with six runs scored and six RBI.
  • Jordy Mercer did some soft-tossing; he's still day-to-day with a bruised chest.
  • Each team had a pair of homers; the wind was blowing, sometimes briskly, toward the river.
  • The Pirates drew 13,680 to the game.

4/22: Expo III Opens, Terrible Ted's B-Day, Opening Day Celebrations, The Big Hurt & More

  • 1891 - The Pirates played their first game at Exposition Park, located on the North Shore of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh, not far from where PNC Park sits. Pittsburgh lost to the Chicago Cubs 7-6. The Pittsburg Press printed a special “Sporting Edition” that included a game story and illustrations. The 16,000 seat yard featured 400-foot foul lines and a 450-foot center field fence. It was their home field until 1909, when Forbes Field opened in Oakland. 
Exposition Park (undated photo from the Historical Society of Western PA)
  • 1892 - The Pirates set a franchise record when they scored twelve times in the first inning against St. Louis at Expo Park, beating the Browns 14-3. The game provided this footnote: Pittsburgh OF Elmer Smith worked a pair of free passes in that opening frame, the first time a player was walked twice in one inning. 
  • 1898 - Cincinnati's Ted Breitenstein tossed a no-hitter against the Pirates, winning easily by an 11-0 count at League Field. He struck out two, walked one, and another runner reached via error. All in all, the Pittsburg Press saw fit to call it “...a wonderful feat.”
  • 1902 - The Pirates and their opponents, the Cincinnati Reds, marched in a raucous parade from the Monongahela House hotel to Exposition Park for the Home Opener that was seen by thousands, the Pittsburg Press wrote on the front page. The Bucs raised their 1901 pennant flag over the ballyard in front of a record 15,000 fans and then edged the Reds 4-3, overcoming an early three run deficit. Tommy Leach scored the winning run in the eighth, singling and then advancing from first-to-third on a bunt. He scored on starting and winning pitcher Sam Leever’s sac fly. 
Sam Leever display (Goshen Ohio Historical Society)
  • 1903 - Theodore Roosevelt “Terrible Ted” Page was born in Glasgow, Kentucky. The speedy and gritty OF’er played for the Homestead Grays (1931-32) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-34). He grew up in Youngstown, and turned down a football scholarship offered by Ohio State to focus on baseball. The lefty Page batted .335 for his career, but injured his knee in 1934, leading eventually to his retirement in 1937. He stayed in Pittsburgh, and his sports focus switched. After baseball, Page ran bowling alleys, including Meadow Lanes (he was hired to work there by former teammate Jack Marshall), and wrote a bowling column for the Pittsburgh Courier. He met a tragic end, beaten to death at home during a robbery, and is buried at Allegheny Cemetery. 
  • 1913 - Manager Fred Clarke was suspended for five days after a “run in” with umpire Brick Owens, who rang up a Red at Forbes Field for the final out of a Bucco win on 4/19, only to change his mind and decide it was a ball, after all. The Pirates had started to trot off the field, allowing a runner to scoot to third while the club was in disarray. It became a moot point when the Bucs held on for a 6-5 win over Cincinnati. Afterward, Clarke admitted that he had used “forceful language” in arguing his case, but given the circumstances, was upset with the time off. First-place Pittsburgh was already missing injured stars SS Hans Wagner and C George Gibson, and would shortly start a slide that dropped them out of contention. 
  • 1937 - Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Truijillo signed several players from the Crawfords including Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, to his Dragones of Ciudad Trujillo squad. It was the blow that eventually brought down the Pittsburgh team as a powerhouse Negro League club. The Crawfords were sold in 1939 and moved to Toledo. 
  • 1941 - Pitcher Mace Brown was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mace had spent seven years as a Pirate, doing everything from starting to closing, but with Brooklyn was converted to one of the first full-time relievers. He was fairly effective over the next three years, but lost 1944-45 to the war while serving in the Navy, and 1946 was his last MLB campaign.
Mace Brown 1941 Double Play series
  • 1949 - The Pirates won their home opener‚ beating the Reds‚ 5-4. Ralph Kiner's 3rd-inning grand slam was the key blow. The Bucs had fallen behind 4-0 in the first, but Bill Werle tossed 7-2/3 frames of scoreless relief to claim the win. 
  • 1951 - Led by Gus Bell‚ who belted a homer‚ three doubles and a single while scoring three times‚ the Pirates defeated the Reds 7-5 at Crosley Field. Bill Werle tossed 2-1/3 scoreless relief frames to claim the win. 
  • 1957 - Hank Foiles hit a 425’ triple and a 258’ homer off the RF foul pole in a 3-1 loss to the Giants at the weirdly configured Polo Grounds. Willie Mays hit a two-out, three-run homer in the third off Luis Arroyo to carry NY to victory. 
Hank Foiles 1957 Topps series
  • 1962 - The Pirates won their tenth straight game since Opening Day, 4-3, equalling the major league record to start a season. Bob Veale beat the Mets at Forbes Field; the NY nine tied a NL record going in the opposite direction by opening the year 0-9. The Pirates won it in the bottom of the eighth when Bill Mazeroski’s double scored Roberto Clemente.
  • 1997 - The Pirates signed OF’er Turner Ward to a $300K deal after he had was released by the Brewers. He had two solid years for the Bucs, including an all-time TV moment when he crashed through the TRS wall. But he hit under the Mendoza line in 1999 and was released in August,. 
  • 2001 - Jason Kendall gave the Bucs their first walkoff win at PNC Park with a two-run homer off Chicago’s Jeff Fassero in the 10th inning. The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th on a leadoff homer by Gary Matthews. But in the home half, Kevin Young delivered a pinch-hit single and Kendall followed with his blast to give the Bucs and Mike Williams the win.
  • 2010 - The Pirates were humiliated by the Brewers at PNC Park 20-0 for their worst loss ever. Six Bucco pitchers surrendered 25 hits. The victory completed a three-game sweep of the Bucs in which the Brew Crew outscored Pittsburgh, 36-1