Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cole Train v Justin Verlander; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Gerrit Cole (11-3, 2.16) faces Justin Verlander (0-1, 6.17) to open the Tiger set. Gerrit has the Reds, his nemesis, in the rear view mirror and can start working on racking up a few more wins against the rest of the league. The Cole Train won a 5-4 decision (6 IP - one ER) against Anibal Sanchez in Pittsburgh’s home opener on April 13th in his only career start against Detroit.

Verlander, the 32-year-old former CY Young and MVP winner, missed his last start with back stiffness, but is back on the bike. He was out for the first 2-1/2 months of the season with triceps soreness, and has juste two starts in 2015. Pittsburgh is a good match for him; he's 4-1/3.00 in five lifetime starts v the Pirates. The game starts at 7:08 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Gettin' tough to get Jordy to sit down (photo Justin Aller/Getty Images)

The Lineup - Gregory Polanco RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Starling Marte LF, Jung Ho-Kang 3B, Fran Cervelli DH,  Pedro 1B, Jordy SS, Stew C (Cole P).

Ah, the land of the DH. It would be a nice series to see the Bucco bats wake up. Detroit isn't working through that issue, entering this series hitting .306 in their last seven games and plating 46 runs. Of course, a team ERA of 4.55 during June helps offset those bats; that's why they're 11-12 this month.

  • Gerrit needs one win to become the first Pirate pitcher with 12 wins before the All Star Game (and fifth overall) since Ken Brett (12) in 1974. The others to accomplish that feat were Dock Ellis (14-3 in 1971), ElRoy Face (12-0 in 1959) and Rip Sewell (12-2 in 1943). 
  • Jordy Mercer went 3-for-4 on Sunday and is hitting .414 with five doubles in his last seven games while producing four straight multi-hit outings. Cutch has a six-gamer and Starling has a five game streak goin' on, too.
  • Seven Pirate position players (Josh, El Coffee, Starling, Fran, JHK, The Kid and Jordy) have batted in at least four different spots in the lineup. So start with Cutch at third, Pedro fifth or sixth and the pitcher ninth, then roll dem bones...
  • .Pittsburgh lost both games played at Comerica Park in 2014 and has gone 2-8 in Detroit dating back to 2012. They also dropped 2-of-3 to El Tigres at PNC Park in April. It might help that this is a Bucco fathers' day trip - 16 Pirate paps will make the trip to Motown.
  • The Bucs play ten straight games from now until the All-Star break.
  • RHP Chris Volstad is out of options; so he could be claimed on waivers. If he passes through that, he can opt for free agancy if he wants. That gamble is why you don't often see the most likely prospect called up early in the season.
  • From TSN's Cory Collins: Travis Snider and his #1 fan in a story that'll make ya say "awwww..."

6/30: FF Opens; Jovo, Smith, Gross B-Days; Trades, Don't Boo Stu...

  • 1895 - Pittsburgh native RHP Johnny Miljus was born in Lawrenceville. Known as “Jovo” or “The Big Serb,” he got his start with an inning for the Pittsburgh Rebels of the Federal League in 1915, and later worked for the Bucs from 1927-28, going 13-10-1 with a 3.53 ERA. He was multi-role hurler, and did everything from start to close. He’s best remembered for his wild pitch that allowed the Yankees to sweep the 1927 Series. Jovo struck out Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel in the ninth and got two strikes on Tony Lazzeri. But he overthrerw the next pitch and it got past C Johnny Gooch, allowing Earle Combs to score the winning run.
  • 1902 - RHP Hal Smith was born in Creston, Iowa. Smith broke into the big leagues as a 30 year old, and spent his four year career (1932-35) as a Buc. In that span, he went 12-11-1 with a 3.77 ERA with his time split between starting and the bullpen.
  • 1909 - A SRO crowd of 30,338 was on hand as the Pirates fell to the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, in the debut of Forbes Field. Ed Ruelbach tossed a three hitter to top Vic Willis. Mayor William Magee threw out the first ball. He was in the second tier and lobbed the ball to John M. Morin, Director of Public Safety, on the field below. Morin then went to the mound and threw the first pitch to open the festivities. The ballyard was one of the nation's first made completely of concrete and steel. FF’s firsts: the first radio broadcast in 1921, the first fan elevator installed in 1938, and the first pads to cushion the wall in the forties. It had a print shop (Banker’s Lithographing) in its interior and in the twenties, the space under the LF bleachers was used for car sales and repairs! It wasn’t exactly embraced at the beginning; it was often called "Dreyfuss' Folly" in its early years. Some folly; the yard was the Pirates’ home for 61 seasons.
Forbes Field Opening Day via Robert Hughes Auctions
  • 1917 - Pirates skipper Jimmy Callahan was fired after the club staggered to a 20-40 start, and Honus Wagner took over as player-manager. The Wagner-led Bucs won 5-4 win over the Reds‚ with the Dutchman banging a two-run double. Wilbur Cooper went the distance for the win at Forbes Field. Wagner resigned after a five-game stint at the helm; he much preferred playing to filling out lineup cards, and business manager Hugo Bezdek took the reins.
  • 1931 - LHP Don Gross was born in Weidman, Michigan. Gross pitched from the pen for the Bucs from 1958-60, going 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA. The Pirates made one of their “what was I thinking” deals when they got him from the Reds; they sent RHP Bob Purkey to Cincinnati, who won in double figures for eight seasons and made three All-Star teams.
  • 1934 - A small stone monument dedicated to Barney Dreyfuss was unveiled outside Forbes Field’s RF gates, leading to Schenley Park on the 25th anniversary of the ballyard. The monument was later displayed in TRS and it’s now located at PNC Park, on the concourse behind home plate. The ceremony didn’t help the Bucs, who were 4-2 losers to the Cubs.
  • 1960 - Dick Stuart bombed three consecutive HRs to key an 11-6 win as the Pirates split a DH with the second place Giants at Forbes Field. Stuart had seven RBI in the nitecap and joined Ralph Kiner as the second Pirate to hit three homers in a game at Forbes Field. Joe Gibbon worked 7-⅔ innings, giving up six hits and a run after Vinegar Bend Mizell was chased by the G-Men in the second frame. The Bucs were flattened in the opener, losing by an 11-0 count.
Dick Stuart 1963 Post Cereals series
  • 1962 - The Pirates clobbered the Cards 17-7 at Busch Stadium. Smoky Burgess had two homers and a double, good for seven RBI. Roberto Clemente had a hot stick, too, going 4-for-5 with a homer, double and five runs driven in. Dick Groat, Bob Skinner and Dick Stuart added three knocks apiece as the Pirates drilled 22 hits against St. Louis.
  • 1982 - The Atlanta Braves traded LHP Larry McWilliams to the Pirates for RHP Pascual Perez and minor leaguer Carlos Rios. Both pitchers were solid starters for a spell in an even up deal.
  • 1997 - Jon Lieber tossed a five hit, ten K, complete game 3-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at TRS, backed by homers from Kevin Young and Dale Sveum. But the most memorable part of the afternoon was Lieber’s dominance of Albert Belle, who he whiffed four times. The 28,070 fans loved it; Belle was in the first year of an $11M contract, while the “Freak Show” Pirates had a $9M payroll for the entire team. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette headline for Bob Smizik’s game story was “Pirates Clang Belle.” Lieber also held Frank Thomas, who was making a mere $7.15M, 0-for-2, though the Big Hurt did draw a walk and had a sac fly for Chi-town’s only RBI.
Jon Lieber 1994 Fleer Update series
  • 1999 - The Bucs rode an eight run fourth frame to a 9-1 win over the Phillies at TRS. Brian Giles had a three run homer, Al Martin had a three run bases loaded double and Brant Brown doubled in another pair as the Bucs banged out six hits to go with three walks in their big frame. Jason Schmidt cruised to victory, with ninth inning help from Brad Clontz.
  • 2007 - To protest the team’s small payroll and general ineptitude, a group called “Fans for Change” staged a walkout at PNC Park. Estimates ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand of the 26,959 on hand who strolled out of the park after the third inning. They picked a bad day for it, as the Bucs beat the Nats 7-2 behind Tom Gorzelanny, who was supported by a three run homer by Adam LaRoche. Though the sentiment was widespread, the boycott had little effect.
  • 2008 - The Pirates penciled a pitcher in the eight hole for the first time in over 50 years when John Russell had Paul Maholm (.161) bat ahead of Jack Wilson (.312). Didn’t work as the Bucs went down 4-3 to the Reds at GABP after Matt Capps gave up a two run homer in the ninth to Junior. Maholm went 0-for-3; Wilson 1-for-3.
  • 2009 - The Bucs traded LF Nyjer Morgan and LHP Sean Burnett to the Washington Nationals for RHP Joel Hanrahan and OF Lastings Milledge in a change-of-scenery swap. Hanrahan would become the major piece, eventually taking over as the Pirate closer. They also completed a more minor deal the same day, shipping utilityman Eric Hinske to the Yankees for minor leaguers Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson.
Lastings Milledge 2009 photo via mlb.com
  • 2013 - The Pirates won their ninth straight game 2-1 in 14 innings over the Brewers at PNC Park. The game was delayed in the second inning for nearly 2-1/2 hours, and the bullpens took over with Milwaukee ahead 1-0. Andrew McCutchen tied the game in the eighth when his two out knock drove in Starling Marte. The Pirates left the bases loaded in the 13th to miss a golden chance, but Russell Martin, the last Pirate position player remaining, singled home Gaby Sanchez, who had an infield knock and stolen base to open the frame, with the game winner in the following go-around. Tony Watson got the win after three scoreless innings. He followed five other Pirate relievers, and the ensemble tossed 12 innings of two-hit, shutout ball without issuing a walk, led by Vin Mazzaro’s perfect five inning stint. It was the first time in franchise history that the bullpen put up that many consecutive zeroes in one game

Monday, June 29, 2015

Deolis Guerra - Who Dat?

Pittsburgh called up right-hander Deolis Guerra from Indy after Rob Scahill went on the DL with forearm tightness. And much like when Scahill made the team, the Bucco fans are asking "who dat?"

Guerra, 26, came to the Pirates as a free agent. He had toiled for a decade on various farm clubs, but never got the call to the dance until yesterday. The big guy was a promising prospect once (Top #100 in 2008) and was considered a key piece of the trade that sent Johan Santana to the Mets. Guerra had signed with New York as a 17 year old free agent in 2005 and was named a South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week in 2006. The following season, he earned a spot on the World Futures Team.

Deolis Guerra (photo Ronald Modra/Getty Images)

After joining Minnesota, he was added to the Twins' 40 man roster in 2009 and the Twinkies converted him from a starter to reliever in 2010. He was hospitalized with a blood clot in his right shoulder in March 2013, a condition that was potentially life-threatening. It required surgery followed by six months of blood thinners to treat and cost him virtually all the season. It also cost him a shot at the World Baseball Classic; he was named to the Venezuelan roster before the thrombosis was discovered.

He came back from that fairly strong and pitched in his native Venezuelan Winter League (as he does almost every winter), where his heater, with his arm at 100%, jumped up a few ticks to 94 (he's been throwing 91 here). He came to the Bucs attention there as Guerra worked with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason.

This year, he put it together at Indy. Guerra was 4-1 with four saves and a 1.23 ERA in 25 games and his last 11 appearances were scoreless; he's tossed 22 zippo outings in 25 appearances for the Tribe. He's a fastball/changeup guy and fits into the Bucco mold, standing 6'-5" and 245 pounds. He's not, oddly enough, a reclamation job. According to Deolis, he's the same mechanically, but the light came on in his mental approach and preparation, especially regarding his secondary stuff.

Deolis has youth on his side and averages a strikeout per inning. On the other side of the pillow, he's out of options and this is the first time he's put together a strong - or for that matter, even decent - AAA campaign. Guerra does have an excellent change; his knock has been that he doesn't use his fastball enough to set it up.

But he's easily been the best performer out of the Tribe pen, and that's what got him the call over the likes of Bobby LaFramboise and Blake Wood (John Holdzkom is throwing well now, but we're sure the FO wants him to get work and repetition). Also, like Chris Volstad, when they send him back down to Indy, there's the risk that he may not clear waivers, so the pecking order has something to do with it, too.

We don't expect a long stay, but welcome to the show, Deolis. It's been a long road to get to that first appearance, but he did Saturday, collecting his first big league inning, giving up his first big league hit and whiffing his first big league batter, and he got a call yesterday, too.

His control was fine (17-of-25 pitches for strikes), and he does have a money change with a big slow bender. His heater sits at 91, which isn't much velocity for a big RHP, though it does offer good separation from his change (80) and hook (78). All in all, there have been worse middle inning guys, and even if he doesn't stick with Pittsburgh , a couple more creditable outings may see him finally working in the bigs somewhere.

6/29: Willie's #400; Expo Park's Last Game; Rock's B-Day; Kiner on SI...

  • 1907 - The Pirates edged the Cubs 2-1 at West Side Park when CF Tommy Leach gunned down Chicago’s Harry Steinfeldt at the plate in the ninth inning. Deacon Phillippe was the winner over Ed Reulbach‚ who had a 17 game winning streak snapped.
  • 1909 - The Pirates won the final game they played at Exposition Park by an 8–1 count from the Chicago Cubs in front of 5,543 people, moving on to Oakland and Forbes Field the next day. George Gibson banged the final big league hit in the ballpark and Lefty Leifield earned the win over Three Finger Mordecai Brown. Lefty ended the game dramatically, striking out Jim Archer. Tommy Leach and Dots Miller, with four RBI, each collected three hits, and three other Bucs had a pair of knocks. The Park was ushered out in appropriate style - “Commodore” Charles Zieg played Taps after the game concluded.
Exposition Park (photo via Historical Society of Western PA)
  • 1949 - Ralph Kiner was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post‚ and celebrated by driving in five runs with a grand slam and a double to lead the Bucs to a 7-3 win over the Reds at Forbes Field.
  • 1952 - The Bucs stopped the Cards 2-1 at Forbes Field behind Howie Pollet. The game went just five frames as a thunderstorm rained out the remainder. The rain also pulled the plug on local son (he was from Donora) Stan Musial’s 24 game hitting streak; he walked and lined out in his only two at-bats before the weather turned soggy.
  • 1967 - John Wehner was born in Carrick. The infielder spent nine seasons (1991-96, 1999-2001) with the Bucs as a utilityman, hitting .250. On October 1st, 2000, The Rock hit the final home run smacked at TRS. He’s now an analyst on Root Sports’ TV team.
John Wehner 1992 Fleer series
  • 1977 - Pops Stargell became the first Pirate player to hit 400 career home runs when he connected at Busch Stadium in the fifth frame off Eric Rasmussen in a 9-1 win. Bill Robinson had a four bagger and double while Phil Garner added a long ball against the Cards. Bruce Kison and Goose Gossage combined for a seven-hitter.
  • 2000 - Jason Kendall put on a show with two hits, including a homer, walk, two stolen bases, three RBI and two runs as the Bucs outlasted the Cubs 5-4 in ten innings at TRS. He capped the game with a walk off single to bring home Mike Benjamin for the extra inning win.
  • 2003 - Matt Stairs drove in four runs with a homer and double, and Jason Kendall added four knocks to lead the Bucs to a 9-0 whipping of the Rockies at PNC Park. Jeff Suppan pitched a complete game, four hit shutout for the win.
  • 2005 - LHP Ollie Perez was placed on the DL with a broken toe. He kicked a laundry cart in frustration after being pulled from a game in St. Louis on the 26th (an eventual 10 inning, 5-4 Pirate win) and was out of action for 10 weeks.
Ollie Perez 2002 Donruss Diamond Kings series
  • 2006 - The Pirates edged the White Sox at PNC Park 7-6, ending a club-record 13-game losing streak. Freddy Sanchez was the hero with four hits, including a walk-off ninth inning homer.
  • 2012 - The Pirates pounded four homers on the way to a 14-5 win at Busch Stadium. Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes and Alex Presley all went yard. Cutch had a 4-for-5 day with four runs and three RBI; Alvarez added four RBI. 
  • 2013 - A life-size statue of Roberto Clemente was unveiled at the 25-acre Roberto Clemente State Park along the Harlem River in the Bronx. The likeness, sculpted by Maritza Hernandez, was the first in New York to honor a person of Puerto Rican heritage, according to the park's director.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bucs Bats Dreary As The Weather In 2-1 Loss

Kinda gloomy day, but everything started on time. Jeff Locke had trouble throwing strikes - he walked one and went to three ball on two other hitters - and didn't cover first on a DP ball, but still got away unscathed in the first. Alex Wood plunked JHK on the back of the leg. He stole second, but was left stranded. Jeff whiffed a pair and walked a pair in the second for another zero. Jordy singled for the Bucs and went nowhere. The third went by quietly.

Back-to-back singles and a bunt put the Bravos in business, but a couple of nices plays bailed Locke out. JHK went home to erase the lead runner on a sharp grounder, and then Jordy roamed deep in the hole and got an inning-ending force. The Bucs went down in order.

With two outs in the fifth, Cameron Maybin rolled a half swing, excuse me single into left. A passed ball moved him to second - it looked liked Fran tried to frame a pitch away, and it popped out of his mitt - and he scored when Nick Markakis singled through the shift. Another knock had Locke in hot water, but Sean Rodriguez snared a liner to end the frame. Three up, three down for the Bucs again. Jordy led off with a single, but was easily nailed trying to steal on perhaps a botched hit and run, followed by a whiff and grounder.

Jordy keeps on tickin' (photo UAS Today)
Deolis Guerra took the ball and worked a drama free frame while Pittsburgh again floundered at the dish. Vanimal toed the rubber, and the first hitter, Jace Peterson, caught a breaking ball in the lefty sweet spot and dropped it over the Infiniti sign in right center to make it 2-0.

The Pirates blew their first golden opportunity. Cutch and Starling led off with singles, and Fran bunted them up; we'd have had him swinging. Jordy had a miserable at bat, swinging through a fastball that was right there, fishing for high heat, and then taking strike three on the corner. Sean Rodriguez didn't do much better; he also swung through a heater that was center cut on a 3-1 pitch and then popped out.

The Bravos went down without a peep in the eighth. With an out, The Kid chased Wood, doubling into the left field corner, just a couple of feet short of dropping it over the short porch. Jim Johnson climbed the hill, and K'ed Josh on three pitches without throwing a strike. Pedro pinch hit and just missed a heater, getting under it for a mile-high fly out.

Jared Hughes took seven ninth inning pitches to get the Bucs back to the bat rack. Jason Grilli was out sniffing for the save and got it though he and the Bravos did everything they could to let the Bucs back in.

With an out, Starling tried to check his swing on ball four and instead tapped back to the mound. Fran walked, and Jordy drove a ball to the bullpen fence; it should have been a loud out but the Brave outfielders ran into each other, letting a run in and putting Mercer at second. Gregory pinch hit and worked the count the 3-2 after falling behind 0-2. Grilli threw ball four in the dirt; Polanco couldn't hold up his swing, and that was it.

It was one of those days that drive a fan (or batting coach) nuts. Wood filled the strike zone, and between looking at strikes or swinging through 92 MPH heaters and balls in the dirt, the Pirates made him look like Cy Young. Tomorrow is an off day, then Pittsburgh starts a three gamer at Detroit, with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander to kick things off Tuesday.

  • Jordy had three hits; the team had six.
  • Today was Gorky's first big league appearance since 2012 with the Marlins.
  • The crowd was 36,082.
  • Two things we think: the Pirates need someone who can homer every so often badly, and with Andrew Lambo, JT and now Gorkys as the fourth outfielder if the FO would like a redo of the Travis Snider trade. 

Jeff Locke v Alex Wood; Lineup & Notes (JT, Volstad Gone; Gorkys, Lombardozzi Up)

Today's Game - Jeff Locke (4-3, 4.73) toes the rubber against Alex Wood (4-5, 3.44) in a dueling lefties' series finale.

Jeff has been somewhat passable in his last three outings but remains the weak link in the rotation. He's been solid at home, going 2-1 with a 3.17 ERA in eight starts, and the Pirates have produced a 14-3 record in his last 17 starts at PNC Park. Locke has a no decision against Atlanta this year, a game the Bucs lost 5-4 at Turner Field.

Wood has hit a rough patch, winless in his last four starts, though with quality starts in his last two outings. He dropped his last Pirate match to Gerrit Cole earlier in the year 3-0; you may remember him being ejecting for a between-innings scolding of the plate ump re: balls and strikes. Overall, he's 0-2/3.28 lifetime v Pittsburgh. The game starts at 1:35 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

The Lineup - Josh Harrison 2B, Jung-Ho Kang 3B, Cutch (yay!) CF, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, Sean Rodriguez 1B, Gorkys Hernandez RF, Locke P.

Clint must have had a lot on his mind between all the moves and Cutch's elbow; this is as late as we've seen a lineup posted. Still, pretty much the lineup with a lefty on the hill, with Gorkys replacing Gregory.
Jose heads back to Indy (2010 Topps card)
  • The Pirates have DFA'ed Jose Tabata (again) and sent Chris Volstad back to Indy. Gorkys Hernandez (.275, 8 SB) was recalled to replace JT and Steve Lombardozzi (.316, 9 SB) was brought back; now the bench and bullpen are in sync numbers-wise. Gorky's glove must have outweighed Jaff Decker's left-handed bat; we assume JD is next in line for a call. No need for any 40-man moves; Gorkys slides into JT's place and Lombardozzi was already on the roster.
  • Jordy has a three-game multi-hit streak; Pedro has back-to-back multiple hit outings.
  • The Bucs have a 10 game win streak in daylight games at PNC Park.
  • Been awhile: Pittsburgh’s last three-game sweep of the Braves came at TRS in 1994.

6/28: Forbes Field Finale; Willies #300; Mad Dog Deal; Cole On A Roll

  • 1880 - P Mike Lynch was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The righty pitched four seasons (1904-07) for the Pirates, picking up 32 wins and working over 400 innings in his first two years. He was still effective in his final two years with the team, but the Bucs had juiced up their staff and he became the odd man out, going to the Giants during the second half of ‘07 and then retiring to go into business. His career Pittsburgh line was 40-26/3.01.
  • 1894 - Although he was still several seasons from being a Pirate (1900), Hall of Fame OF’er and later manager Fred Clarke had one of the greatest debuts in MLB history, going 5-for-5 against the Philadelphia Phillies for the Louisville Colonels at Eclipse Park to spark an 11-9 victory.
Fred Clarke 1911 American Tobacco series
  • 1916 - Cubs catcher Bill Fischer set an MLB record by catching all 27 innings of a doubleheader loss to the Bucs at brand new Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh won both games 3-2, with the second game going 18 innings. The winning pitchers were Mike Prendergast and Tom Seaton; Prendergast pulled double duty, coming on to get the save in the nitecap. Impressed with Fischer's stamina‚ the Pirates traded for him at the end of July, and he played his last two seasons in the show for Pittsburgh.
  • 1970 - The Pirates swept a twin bill from the Chicago Cubs, 3-2 and 4-1, in the final games at 61-year-old Forbes Field in front of 40,918, the second largest crowd to gather at the ballyard. Al Oliver hit the last home run in FF history. Jim Nelson got the final W iced by a Dave Giusti save. It was a fitting finale; the Cubs were the first team the Pirates played at Forbes Field in 1909. Bill Mazeroski had the last Pirate hit there, a seventh inning double, and recorded the last put-out on a force play at second.
  • 1973 - Willie Stargell hit his 300th career home run as the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6–0 at TRS. Al Oliver had a huge day, going 4-for-5 with a triple, two doubles and three RBI while Rennie Stennett added three hits to back Dock Ellis’ five hitter.
  • 1979 - The Pirates traded pitchers Ed Whitson‚ Al Holland‚ and Fred Breining to the Giants for P Dave Roberts and infielders Bill Madlock and Lenny Randle. Mad Dog solidified the Bucco infield at third and spent six seasons with Pittsburgh, winning batting titles in 1981 (.341) and 1983 (.323).
Bill Madlock 1984 Donruss Diamond Kings series
  • 2011 - Alex Presley was called up to replace an injured Jose Tabata and banged out a pair of hits, including his first MLB homer, while driving in three runs to lead the Bucs to a 7-6 win over Toronto at the Rogers Centre. An unlikely pair of batting heroes, Matt Diaz and Ronny Cedeno, combined for five hits, three runs and an RBI to help the cause against the Jays. Chris Resop, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan pitched three scoreless frames to preserve the win for Kevin Correia.
  • 2013 - Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick of the 2011 draft, became the first Pirate rookie since Nick Maddox in 1907 to win the first four games he started when the Bucs shellacked the Brewers 10-3 at PNC Park in front of 36,875. Cole went six frames for the win, supported by Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, who each had three hits. Cutch had a double, homer, three RBI and a run while Starling added a double, triple, two runs and two RBI.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Buc Bats Blossom In The Rain; Braves Fall 8-4

Hey - what's that? Dang, the sun. Yep, it came out about 3 o'clock, the Bucs and Bravos climbed out of the Ark two-by-two, the ground crew worked its magic, and the game started just a few ticks behind schedule at 4:20.

Charlie tossed a scoreless first the hard way - a Baltimore chop single, 6-4-3 DP, ground ball knock and finally, a throw-out at home. AJ Pierzynski rattled one in the RF corner; Polanco took forever to get to the ball, but Nick Markakis isn't exactly American Pharaoh, and Gregory's relay to The Kid was followed by a strike home to easily nail the galloping outfielder. Oddly, the Braves challenged; the out call was quickly confirmed.

The Bucs had themselves an inning against Julio Teheran. With an out, The Kid singled. Cutch got popped behind the elbow and had to leave the game; that bummer seemed to fire the Pirates up. Starling singled home a run; he and pinch runner JHK moved up a station when the throw home got away. Petey doubled them across, and Fran knocked him home. Gregory walked and Jordy singled to center to make it 5-0. After a bunt, Josh got the distinction of making the first and last out of the inning. But a steady drizzle and Cutch's condition left a gray cloud over the frame.

It rained a little heavier, and Charlie gave up a leadoff knock. Two outs later, he clipped Adrelton Simmons in the back foot; that earned a warning to the benches. At any rate, he K'ed Teheran to close it out just as a storm warning was being issued. The drops quieted down some, though, and so did the Bucs, who went down 1-2-3.

With an out in the third, Cameron Maybin hit a little league triple - a pop fly that landed just inside the line; the throw to second got away, and ditto for the throw to third (he was ahead of both of them). That was followed by back-to-back singles; Charlie can't get his sinker down. He wiggled out, as the Braves have seven hits but just one tally.

The game went on without drama, with Charlie going more to his curve and Teheran surviving a couple of blasts by Polanco and Walker that hooked foul, landing beneath the Pirate Charities sign. Then the rain returned (tho the sun was shining; go figure), and the tarps went down with one gone in the fifth, just two outs shy of a regulation game. Took a half hour, but the game resumed; it took Charlie six pitches to finish it up.

The Pirates stole a run with two down. Marte and Pedro were on the corners, and Petey jogged to second, setting up a rundown that the Braves executed pretty poorly, and Starling beat a weak throw home to make it 6-1.

The wheels fell off for Charlie in the seventh. Back-to-back singles, a hit batter and a bases-clearing double by Jace Peterson made in 6-4 in a heartbeat, and Arquimedes Caminero rushed in with nobody out. He got the first out, then Clint, in a rare match up move, hooked him for Antonio Bastardo with lefties Markakis and Pierzynski due up. He got them both on high, lazy flies, although a wild pitch put the Braves a single away from tying the game.

That woke the Pirates up against Nick Masset. Marte singled, went to second on a wild pitch (just prior to that, he did a somersault when he dove into second on a steal attempt cancelled by a foul and stuck in the wet dirt) and scored on Fran's double. Jordy's single brought him home, and 8-4 is a much more comfortable tally.

Deolis gets some bro love from Fran (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
The eighth went by quickly and quietly. Deolis Guerra, after a decade in the minors, got his first MLB appearance in the ninth and gave up his first hit, struck out his first batter and finished his first game in the show. Good stuff.

The brooms will be wavin' tomorrow as Jeff Locke takes the bump against Alex Wood.

  • Starling had three hits, three runs scored, an RBI and a steal of home. Four other Pirates - Neil, Pedro, Fran & Jordy - had two knocks each. Cervelli scored twice with a pair of runs batted in.
  • The five runs in the first match the Bucs opening inning high for the season, equalling their outing against the Chicago White Sox.
  • Starling's set-piece delayed steal of home was the Pirates first since 2013 when Cutch was on the front end of a double steal; on the back end, it was El Toro's first swiped sack of the campaign.
  • X-rays on Cutch's elbow came back negative, so that's a positive sign. Maybe he'll add an elbow pad to his outfit in the future; he's been brushed back every at bat lately, it seems. He has a different plan in mind, tho, as he told the press gang after the game: "Maybe I need to drop-kick a pitcher."
  • Fran was the perfect guy to shepherd Guerra through his first outing; they were teammates in the Venezuelan Winter League.
  • Great crowd of 36,417 - and a lot of them stayed to the end despite the rain.

Charlie v Julio Teheran; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Charlie Morton (5-1, 3.97) takes on Julio Teheran (5-3, 4.67) in the second game of the set. Charlie was undressed by the Nats in his last outing after a solid streak of strong outings, so we'll see if he can jump back up on the bar stool today. He faced Atlanta once this year, lasting five innings and giving up four runs (three earned), picking up the W for an eventual 10-8 Bucco victory.

Charlie Morton 2011 Topps Diamond series
The good news for the Bucs is that Julio is a home boy - he has a 2.35 ERA at Turner Field and a 7.17 mark on the road. He is coming off a 1-0 win against the Mets, played, natch, in Atlanta. Patience may be the key against Teheran; he's throwing fewer first pitch strikes than in the past, and perhaps as a consequence, getting fewer swing-and-misses. He's 2-0/3.29 lifetime against Pittsburgh, but this will be just his third appearance at PNC Park, where he has no record and a 5.14 ERA.

The game starts at 4:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. They may try to sneak the contest in; the main green blob has passed through, with a patchwork of stringy green blobs behind it with a 60% chance of rain from 5-7 PM. Tomorrow does have a much better chance of providing dry-ish weather, and it is Atlanta's only trip to town, so we'll see.

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

  • Cutch has a five game hitting streak.
  • The Kid is 5-of-35 since June 9th with one extra base hit, though he has drawn nine walks (one intentional) during that span.
  • The Pirates have gone 9-0 at home this season in games played during the afternoon.
  • The Josh Harrison bang off Williams Perez's spikes last night landed him on the 15-day DL with a foot contusion.

6/27: Daryle Ward B-Day; Clutch Clemente; Denny's Grand Slam; Maz's Triple Play...

  • 1903 - The Pirates banged 15 hits off Iron Man Joe McGinnity‚ including four hits by Honus Wagner‚ and it still took the Bucs extra innings to topple the Giants 4-2 at the Polo Grounds. Tommy Leach hit a two run double in the 11th, drilling a McGinnity curve off the LF wall, to earn a W for Deacon Phillippe, who notched his seventh straight victory.
  • 1964 - Roberto Clemente's two-run, ground rule double to CF in the eighth tied the game against the Reds at Forbes Field. He became the winning run ahead of pinch hitter Manny Mota, who homered to give the Pirates and Al McBean, in relief of Steve Blass, a 4-2 win.
  • 1967 - Bill Mazeroski hit into the only triple play of his career (although he participated in a pair as a fielder) at Shea Stadium. It didn’t hurt the Bucs, though - it was staged before the game and filmed in ten minutes as a scene for the TV show “The Odd Couple.”
  • 1971 - Roberto Clemente bombed a pinch hit homer in the eighth to give the Bucs a wild 10-9 win at Philadelphia. He became the first player to “ring the bell’ as his drive hit the facsimile Liberty Bell in the second level of center field at Veteran’s Stadium, perhaps to celebrate his 1,200 RBI. But Jose Pagan earned the game’s gold star with a pair of home runs and five RBI.
Jose Pagan 1968 KDKA promo
  • 1975 - 1B Daryle Ward was born in Lynwood, California. He played from 2004-05 for the Bucs, with a slash of .256/27/120. Ward joined his father, Gary, to become the first father-son combination in major league history to hit for the cycle after he matched his dad’s feat in 2004 against the Cards. Ward was also the first player to hit one into the Allegheny from PNC Park while he was a member of the Astros, launching his shot off Kip Wells in 2002.
  • 1991 - The Bucs solved rookie Frank Castillo in the ninth (he was making his MLB debut), turning a 3-0 deficit to the Cubs into a 4-3 win at TRS. Castillo and two relievers gave up four singles, two walks, and a two-out wild pitch that allowed Barry Bonds to score from third with the walk-off game winner.
  • 1995 - P Denny Neagle helped himself to his ninth W by belting a grand slam off Jim Bullinger, the key blow in a 6-5 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Neagle became the first Pirate pitcher to hit a slam since Don Robinson on September 12th, 1985. Neagle told Ben Walker of the Associated Press. "Something must have been in the coffee."
Denny Neagle 1997 Fleer Ultra series
  • 2004 - Jason Bay, Jack Wilson and Craig Wilson combined to go 9-for-16 with three walks, three doubles, a triple and homer to score seven runs and drive in seven more as the Bucs romped over the Reds 14-4 at GABP.
  • 2014 - Two youngsters, the Bucs’ Brandon Cumpton and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, pitched creditably and then turned the gamer over to the bullpens as the Pirates outlasted NY 3-2 in 11 innings at PNC Park. Pittsburgh was clutch; Jordy Mercer singled in a pair of runs with two outs in the fourth after Pedro Alvarez was worked around and walked, then Josh Harrison doubled home Clint Barmes with the game winner with a two-out double to right center; both RBI knocks came on the first pitch. Jared Hughes picked up the win.
  • 2014 - In a change of scenery deal, the Pirates and Angels traded struggling closers, with Pittsburgh sending Jason Grilli to LA for Ernesto Frieri. Both had lost their closing gigs in 2014 after being the shut-down guy in 2013. Grilli is now closing for Atlanta while Frieri was released by the Pirates and most recently DFA’ed by Tampa Bay.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bucs Bump & Grind To 10-Inning Walk Off Win, 3-2

For a change, the Bucs got through the first without giving up a score (a DP helped the cause), but it didn't take Atlanta much longer to plate a run. In the second inning, back-to-back flares put Bravos on the corners. Frankie got a pop out, then walked the seven-eight hitters on nine pitches to give the Braves the lead. He escaped what could have been an ugly frame with another pop and a whiff after the gift wrapped score. The Pirates got their first hit, a two out double by Jordy, off Williams Perez, but El Coffee looked at a third strike; two strikes, including the last, called against him were balls. When you're hot...

Atalnta started off the third with a single just past Pedro. A DP ball was wasted when Jordy had to hold the relay when Frankie was a bit leisurely covering first, but the next roller was turned 6-4-3. The Bucs tried for some two out lightning following a Josh knock and a plunk (on the foot) of The Kid, but Cutch popped out to end the music.

For the third time, Francisco let the leadoff runner reach, walking Juan Uribe, and for the third time in four innings, the Bucs turned a DP. Pittsburgh made a run at scoring in their half. Pedro singled and Gregory walked, with Jordy having replaced Alvarez via a force. Stew singled sharply to the SS hole; Mercer stopped at third (and perhaps should have kept on running as  the throw went to first and Frankie due up) but Gregory didn't. With both runners on the base, Polanco was finished off in a rundown that he almost beat before Mercer could reach the plate. Still, El Coffee's bad; especially with all the action in front of him.

Liriano was working on a 1-2-3 frame in the fifth until Pedro booted a big two-out hopper; no sweat as Frankie picked him up with a K. Perez got a painful assist on the second out; Josh's hard grounder was ticketed for center, but caught the pitcher's ankle and ricocheted to first. After being checked out, he stayed in the game, but a walk, balk and plunked batter got him to the trainer's room. Luis Avilon came in. Starling greeted him with an infield knock (after review) and Pedro won the lefty-on-lefty duel with a two run shot into center to put the Pirates up 2-1, doing all the damage with two own and the bases empty.

No save for the Shark tonight - he had to settle for a win. (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The lead didn't last long. After two easy outs, Uribe got under a pretty decent pitch, down and in but with just a little run over the edge of the plate, and deposited it beside the batter's eye in center to tie the game. The bottom of the Pirate order went down quietly. The Bravos got a dink single but were retired routinely otherwise in the seventh. Nick masset took over. Cutch singled and stole second with two gone, but Starling couldn't cash him in.

Jared Hughes climbed the hill - we thought Clint might try to milk one more from Frankie, but 97 pitches is plenty - and got three ground outs, two on outstanding plays by Josh and Jordy. Jim Johnson tossed for the Braves and worked an easy frame thanks to an El Coffee DP. Hughes worked another clean frame; he's tossed 10 pitches and collected six outs.

The Pirates continued their little league running exhibition in the ninth. JHK walked and got to second with two outs on a missed catch trying to double him up after a liner. The Kid banged one past third; Uribe gloved it, but had no play. Jung-Ho made a turn, and then tried to dive into the bag as Uribe charged in with a tag; Kang was called out, and on review, remained out. The decision stood, meaning it was too bang-bang to decide, so the original call remained in effect.

Mark the Shark took the ball in the 10th, with just a two out walk to mar the frame. His predecessor, Jason Grilli, took the hill. Cutch bounced his first pitch into the stands for a ground rule double, and Starling was intentionally walked. Pedro whiffed looking at a pitch that was a little outside, but Grilli got the call on. When Jordy fell behind 1-2, that sinking feeling from last night came back, but he took a two strike fastball off the plate and banged it high off the Clemente Wall as Cutch flew - and we mean full tilt boogie - home for the walk off win. Lotsa chances again; this time, the Bucs finally took advantage.

Odd game, with the base running blunders and all. The Bucs stranded 11, but went a strong 5-for-10 with RISP for a welcome change, even if they only brought three ducks home. And dang, what a bullpen even if they did hit a bump Thursday night. Charlie Morton and Julio Teheran hook up tomorrow afternoon in the middle game of the set.

  • Pedro has a four game hitting streak, and Jordy has five hits in the past two games. He's hitting .278 for June after a brutal first couple of months.
  • The attendance was 34,220 tonight.
  • Ryan Lavarnway's bases loaded walk is his only RBI of the season.
  • The roster transactions to bring up Deolis Guerra were almost as expected. Rob Scahill went on the 15-day DL with right forearm tightness and Andrew Lambo went from the 15-day to 60-day DL.
  • Pete Mackanin is the Phils interim manager now that Ryne Sandberg has resigned. He's got Bucco roots. After a couple of years managing in the minors for the Bucsh from 2001-2, he became the bench coach for Lloyd McClendon, and the Bucs' interim manager after Lloyd was let go in 2005, leading the team to a 12–14 record.

Frankie v Williams Perez; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Francisco Liriano (4-6, 3.26) opens the Bravo series against Williams Perez (4-0, 2.78). Frankie pooped out in his last outing against the unhittable Max Scherzer, but still has gone 3-2 with a 2.21 ERA and 53 strikeouts in his last six starts. He split against the Bravos last year, getting clobbered in one outing while untouchable in the other. One concern: Liriano has gone 2-4 with a 4.35 ERA so far this year at PNC Park as six of the eight HR he's surrendered have been at home.

Frankie on the bump (photo Gregory Bull/Associated Press)
The rookie Perez uses a sinker (51% ground ball rate), mixed in with a curve and change. He was the starter of a wild one in Atlanta earlier this month that the Buccos took by a 10-8 score; he gave up five hits and walked five in five innings, but escaped with a no decision. Caveat emptor, though; that was the only game of his last five starts that he didn't win.

Tonight's game starts at 7:05 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. And they should be able to get this one in; the heavy rain isn't supposed to roll through until midnight or so.

Stew is behind the dish after a long night at the office by Fran. JHK is back on the pine and Gregory is dropped way down in the lineup. The Bucs aren't scoring much of late and the Braves were held to a pair of runs while being swept  in a three game set against Washington. Smart money says take the under tonight.

  • Cutch has reached safely in four straight games with three doubles and a home run. He's collected five hits and five walks during that span.
  • No Freddy Freeman this series; he's on the DL with a sprained wrist. 
  • The Bucs have called up RHP Deolis Guerra from Indy. He was 2-1-4/1.23 with a strikeout per inning with the Tribe. No announcement has been made yet as to corresponding moves, but Rob Scahill has an option remaining and can be safely sent down, while switching Andrew Lambo from the 15-day DL to 60 is no problem, as he's been on the DL since May 4th and most certainly won't be back in the next week or two. This also means the Bucs will continue to play a man short on the bench as the bullpen is carrying an extra arm.
  • The Braves have lost five of the past seven series at PNC Park.

6/26: Kendall, Robinson B-Days; Wills 24 Gamer; Turning Two; Lloyd Steal First; Hot El Coffee

  • 1897 - Pittsburgh CF Steve Brodie's string of consecutive games ended at 574. His arm was so sore the Pirates went on the road without him, though he did recover. The streak was a 19th-century NL record, three games shy of the then MLB mark. Brodie was a strong two-way player that the Bucs released the following year in a move to cut salary, a fairly recurrent theme throughout franchise history.
  • 1930 - Larry French tossed a seven hit shutout to beat Phil Collins and the Philadelphia Phils 1-0 in the opening game of a Forbes Field DH’er. The Buc bats woke up in game #2, pounding out an 11-5 win. Paul Waner had three hits, including a double and triple, scored four times and drove in a run to lead the attack. All nine Pirates had hits; seven different Bucs scored and seven had RBI. Ery Brame went the distance for the victory.
  • 1935 - CF Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner set a MLB mark when he recorded 18 putouts during a 5-1, 4-2 doubleheader sweep of the Boston Braves. He had nine grabs in each game and rapped out five hits during the twinbill at Braves Field to support Buc pitchers Guy Bush and Bill Swift.
  • 1943 - OF Bill Robinson was born in McKeesport. The Elizabeth-Forward grad played eight years for Pittsburgh, from 1975-82, batting .276 with 109 HR and 412 RBI. He was a fairly regular starter from 1976-79, and won a ring with the 1971 Bucs.
  • 1968 - Bucco 3B Maury Wills ran his hitting streak to 24 games against Bob Gibson in a 3-0 loss to the Cards at Busch Stadium. It ended during the second game of the DH, a 3-1 Pirate win, when Larry Jaster and Wayne Granger laid an 0-for-5 on Wills.
  • 1974 - Jason Kendall was born in San Diego. He spent nine years as a Pirate (1996-2004), putting up a .308 BA, hitting over .300 six times and earning three All-Star berths.
  • 1984 - 1B Jason Thompson hit two homers in each game (a pair off Dennis Eckersley and then two more off Rich Bordi) of a doubleheader split with the Cubs at Wrigley Field, winning 9-0 behind a Rick Rhoden four hitter and dropping the nitecap 9-8. Thompson tied the club record (established by Ralph Kiner on 9/11/47) by hitting four home runs in a doubleheader.
Jason Thompson 1984 Nestles series
  • 1991 - The Bucs scored five times in the third inning and then hung on to defeat the Cubs at TRS 7-6. Jose Lind had a three run homer, Barry Bonds a two run shot, and Jay Bell went 5-for-5 to prime the attack against Chicago.
  • 1999 - SS Pat Meares, on the DL recovering from surgery on his left hand but traveling with the team, ran in a mascot race at Milwaukee's County Stadium. Meares, dressed as a bratwurst, won the race by defeating a hot dog and a polish sausage. Two days prior, Meares was caught on videotape sunbathing in the upper deck of Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium for the first six innings of a game. He missed all but the first 21 games of the ‘99 season after signing a contract that carried him until 2003. He played 2000-01 for the team, then spent the next two years on the DL; the Pirates wanted further surgery on his hand and he didn’t.
  • 2001 - On his 27th B-Day, Jason Kendall was ruled out at first, prompting the most famous steal in Pirate history. Manager Lloyd McClendon stormed out, put on a show for the 24,120 fans at PNC Park, and finally pulled the sack off its stanchion and carried it into the dugout in protest. As for the game, the Bucs came back to beat the Brewers 7-6 in 12 frames. They dodged a late bullet when Aramis Ramirez smacked a two-run, two-out eleventh inning homer to keep the game alive after the Brew Crew had taken the lead on back-to-back homers in their half off Mike Williams. Rob Mackowiak singled through a drawn in infield to plate Kevin Young, who had opened the twelfth with a double and moved to third on a ground out, to seal the deal for Omar Olivares and Pittsburgh.
Lloyd swipes first (photo Mike Zarrelli/Getty Images)
  • 2004 - Randall Simon’s home run in the ninth was all the Pirate pitching needed as they edged the Reds 1-0 at GABP. Ollie Perez gave up three hits over seven frames. Mark Corey got the win and Jose Mesa earned his 17th save.
  • 2005 - The Pirates turned six double plays and beat the Cardinals in St. Louis 5-4 in 10 innings. The six twin killings were a club record and each was scored differently (2-4; 5-4-3; 9-4; 4-6-3; 5-2-3; and 6-4-3). Jason Bay hit a three run HR in the third and a game-tying blast in the top of the ninth. Jose Castillo’s solo shot in the tenth iced the victory. During the game, starter Ollie Perez broke his toe when he kicked a laundry cart in the clubhouse, frustrated that he had been pulled in the seventh inning. He wouldn’t pitch again until September.
  • 2014 - Gregory Polanco went 2-for-3 with a walk and stolen base, hit his first PNC Park homer and had four RBI to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 win over the Mets. Vance Worley got the win.

13th Unlucky For Bucs; Reds Take Series With 5-4 Win

The opening pitch was delayed about an hour thanks to the rain; this Red series has been played at a snail's pace after a diet of sub-three hour games. It would be nice to see the Bucs get out of the first, but not tonight...again. A Jung-Ho error eventually led to an unearned run as Cincy drew first blood and AJ left guys on the corners before K'ing Eugenio Saurez. The Pirates went down 1-2-3, on a pair of whiffs and a fly to the track by Cutch. It's gonna be another wide plate day; Polanco was rung up without a swing on three balls out of the zone.

The Reds added on with two outs. Billy Hamilton singled, stole second and scored when Brandon Phillips tripled on a ball that Josh Harrison took a terrible route chasing down. The Reds are 2-for-2 stealing; Fran made a pair of poor throws or they may have been 0-fer (he did end up with a pair of CS). But the Bucs answered. A leadoff walk and two out error set up Jordy, whose ground rule double plated a run, then AJ singled in two more and Pittsburgh was up 3-2.

AJ stranded a two-out infield dribbler and walk by K'ing Skip Schumaker, and his pitch count is already redlining at 63. Pittsburgh went down quietly. Burnett is not having a good command day; he walked the pitcher and gave up a one out, 0-2 single to Phillips, but eased out again by getting Joey Votto on a 3-6-1 DP. The Pirates left the bases empty in their half.

AJ in action (photo Justin Aller/Getty Images)

Burnett had to work hard again in the fifth. A ground ball single, a DP that wasn't turned when Jordy's wide relay took Pedro's toe an inch off the base and a short wild pitch didn't amount to a run, but did lead to 101 pitches. The Bucs left Jordy at second and onto the sixth. The Reds added another squib hit, and that was it. Cutch walked to open the Bucco half, went to second on a one-out knock by JHK and scored on Fran's two-out roller into right.

Arquimedes Caminero came on, and two batters later it was tied when Votto singled and Todd Frazier lost a 99 MPH heater in the LF stands; Arqie left a couple of balls up and paid. After a whiff, he plunked a batter and gave up a bullet to left that brought on Antonio Bastardo, who punched out a pair of pinch hitters. Burke Badenhop took over and tossed a 1-2-3 frame, even with a couple of balls hit on nose.

Tony Watson worked a clean eighth. JJ Hoover started by walking Cutch, followed by a 4-6-3 DP hit into by The Kid. Pity; JHK and Starling both singled afterward, and the Bucs still came within a step of the lead when Fran's shot into right center was run down by Marlon Byrd. Mark the Shark got two quick outs, followed by single dropped into center. Then Jordy was tested twice; a ball in the hole was beat for a single, tho he had a force at second; we assume there was just bad communication there. He ran down another slow roller in the hole, and this time beat the batter by a hair.

Ryan Mattheus came on for the Reds. Pittsburgh left runners at first and third when Cutch flew out, and it was extra frames. Vanimal tossed a scoreless 10th. Hamilton dropped a pop into no man's land for a single, but was caught stealing (finally) when he got a bad jump, tried to get back to first, stumbled and was run down for the out.

Carlos Contreras took the ball and the Bucs bailed him out. The Kid walked, and was forced at second when JHK channeled his inner Starling Marte and hacked at everything. A botched bunt by Vance and pop out by Fran ended the frame quietly.

Vance gave up a pop single (TY, no-doubles D), wild pitch and intentional walk to start the 11th, but a whiff and a couple of grounders cleaned that up. Aroldis Chapman came on and the Bucs again proved they have mostly warning track power as Jordy and El Coffee both flew out to the track in center. It took Worley four pitches to retire the Reds in the 11th. In came Pedro Villareal.

Cutch doubled off the wall in left and The Kid was intentionally walked. Jung Ho lined an at 'em ball to Votto; Walker was off on contact instead of freezing and was easily doubled off. JT pinch hit and was walked, but Fran's bouncer ended the frame. It was Rob Scahill's turn, and he got off to a bad start when Phillips blasted one over the fence in left. That won it as Villareal won his first MLB game with a 1-2-3 13th.

We mentioned before the series to watch for the long ball; the two games the Red won, they went long; the one the Bucs won, they homered. Earl Weaver would approve. Atlanta comes to town tomorrow with Frankie going up against Williams Perez.

  • The Pirates have lost 5-of-6, and forget the Cards - the Cubs are on their tails right now. 
  • The Reds have taken seven of nine from the Pirates this year.
  • Pittsburgh has given up 17 first inning runs in the past four games.
  • AJ has a career high four RBI this season; it was also his first multi-RBI game. Pitching wise, he passed Sudden Sam McDowell on the all-time K list to take over #36.
  • Tony Watson had a string of five consecutive strikeouts broken in the eighth when Phillips grounded out.
  • The Bucs drew 35,016 tonight
  • Bucco prospect Austin Meadows has been in a slump, landing him a spot in Baseball America's "Not So Hot" Prospect Sheet.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

AJ v DeSclafani; Lineup (Starling Sits) & Notes

Today's Game - AJ Burnett (6-3, 2.05) closes out the series against Anthony DeSclafani (5-5, 3.48). AJ was rocked last outing, but has gone 2-2 with a 1.27 ERA in six starts at PNC Park this season, the NL's lowest home field ERA. He's 1-0 in two starts against the Reds this year, with a 7-2 decision over DeScalfani in May. He's won his last three decisions against Cincy while allowing two earned runs or fewer in each of his last five starts against them.

DeSclafani was part of the Mat Latos deal, and he's filled in nicely as his replacement. He doesn't impress as a guy with overwhelming stuff, but gets by on pin point location and mixing his pitches. DeSclafani has split two decisions against the Bucs so far this season with a 3.75 ERA. The game starts at 7:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

AJ (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates) 

Today's Lineup - Josh Harrison RF, Gregory Polanco LF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, AJ P.

Here we were all worried about El Coffee's spot in the lineup and Starling gets a seat instead after a pair of fairly miserable clutch at-bats last night. So the outfield is a bit reshuffled tonight for AJ, who's looking for a bounce back game and a possible All-Star berth.

  • Three more whiffs and AJ passes Sudden Sam McDowell on the all-time K list to claim the 36th spot.
  • Pittsburgh’s bullpen brings a 2.39 ERA into tonight’s action, good for the third-best ERA among all MLB teams behind Kansas City (2.06) and St. Louis (2.09).
  • The rumor mill: Nick Carfaro of the Boston Globe says the Pirates had scouts out to look at Clay Buchholz last night. Rob Beirtempfel of the Trib reports the Phils are snooping around at Altoona (Ben Revere, maybe?), so there's some more deadline smoke in the air.
  • JHK feelin' it at home: He's hitting .337 at PNC Park.
  • Bats, plz: The Pirates have scored more than three runs just three times in their last 16 games. The Bucs are 31-6 when scoring four runs or more; 9-25 when scoring three or fewer, so four runs remains the magic number.
  • One reason for that lack of runs lately is the icy-cold stick of Gregory Polanco. He's gone just 4-for-24 in his last nine games, and there's been, fwiw, twitter talk about sending him back to Indy to polish up his game both at-bat and in the pasture.
  • Josh Bell (1B - Altoona) was named to the US Futures team; C Elias Diaz (Indy) was named to the World team. Altoona manager Tom Prince will be on the coaching staff for the US team.
  • Virginia became the first ACC school since 1955 (Clemson) to win the CWS last night, beating Vandy 4-2. Buc fifth-round draftee LHP Brandon Waddell retired the final 11 batters he faced and finished the night allowing two first-inning runs with four hits and two walks in seven innings.

6/25: Ralph, A-Ram, Maholm B-Days; Kiner Cycle; Starg Epic Blast; Win # 3,000, Five HR Games

  • 1902 - LHP Ralph Erickson was born in Dubois, Idaho. He had a brief and bland career with Pittsburgh, his only big league club, from September 1929 to May 1930, going 1-0 with an 8.40 ERA. But despite that, Ralph did put up one enviable longevity stat - before he passed away in 2002 at the age of 100, he was, for a brief while, the oldest living former MLB player.
  • 1903 - Ed Doheny surrendered just four singles as the Pirates won at Philadelphia 4-3 in ten innings to run their winning streak to 15 games. It would end later in the day as the Phils took the nitecap of the twinbill by a 5-1 tally.
Ed Doheny via Vermont Historical Society
  • 1912 - The Pirates swept a DH from the Cards by 10-4 and 19-3 scores, banging out 35 hits over the course of the day at Robinson Field. Max Carey and Chief Wilson hit grand slams, and rookie Stump Edington came close, being thrown out at home after clearing the bases with a triple. The Bucs put up a 10 spot in the seventh inning of the nitecap. Claude Hendrix and King Cole were the winning pitchers.
  • 1924 - Pitcher Emil Yde's bases-loaded double tied the score in the ninth inning and in the 14th, the Pittsburgh southpaw's two-run triple beat the Cubs at Forbes Field, 8-7. Beside the two hits and five RBI, Yde hurled 10-1/3 innings of one-run ball to earn the win.
  • 1940 - The Bucs won for the fifth time in six games when they whipped the Philadelphia Phils 9-7 at Shibe Park. Al Lopez had three RBI, Elbie Fletcher scored three runs and Bob Elliott went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles.
  • 1944 - The Cards edged the Bucs 2-1 in the opener of a twinbill as Red Munger outpitched Rip Sewell. The second ended in a controversial 5-5 tie, called after nine innings because of the Pennsylvania Blue Law. Pittsburgh tied the game in the ninth on a pinch hit long ball by Virgil Davis that went through the screen in front of the RF stands. Cards manager Billy Southworth protested, claiming that the ground rules were that a fair ball stuck in the screen was a double and the same reasoning should apply. Ump Beans Reardon didn’t buy the argument and ruled that since it didn’t stick but went through the fence, it was a homer.
Virgil "Spud" Davis 1940 Play Ball series
  • 1949 - The Bucs hit five home runs (Ralph Kiner twice, Wally Westlake, Ed Stevens & Dino Restelli) but the Dodgers banged out four of their own to leave Pittsburgh eating their dust at Forbes Field, winning a 17-10 slugfest. Rookie Restelli set a record as his four bagger was the seventh in his first ten MLB games; he would only hit six more in his abbreviated big league career.
  • 1950 - Ralph Kiner led the Pirates to a 16-11 win at Brooklyn by hitting for the cycle. He went 5-for-6 with two homers, a double, triple, scored four times and drove in eight runs at Ebbets Field. Stan Rojek added four hits against the Dodgers, Gus Bell had three and Ted Beard homered. Cliff Chambers got the win in relief of Vern Law though both gave up five runs in four innings.
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell hit the longest home run in Veterans Stadium history against Jim Bunning during a 14-4 win over the Phils. The spot where the ball landed in section 601 was highlighted with a yellow star with a black "S" inside a white circle until Stargell's 2001 death, when the white circle was painted black. The star remained in place until the stadium's 2004 razing.
  • 1978 - Aramis Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo. Signed as a 16 year old, he played five plus seasons (1998-03) in Pittsburgh with a .286/76/316 line before being sent to the Cubs in a salary dump that is still cited today as the epitome of the Dave Littlefield years.
Aramis Wilson 2001 Upper Deck series
  • 1982 - LHP Paul Maholm was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. The 2008 first rounder spent seven seasons (2005-11) with the Pirates, going 53-73/4.35 during the span and starting 227 games for Pittsburgh before being non-tendered in 2012.
  • 2002 - The Pirates won their 9,000th game with a 4-1 victory against the Montreal Expos at PNC Park, joining the Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers in that accomplishment. Kris Benson got the W and Kevin Young went 4-for-4 on the day.
  • 2003 - The Pirates broke a 3-3 tie by scoring three times in the ninth, then barely held on to claim a 6-5 win over Montreal at Olympic Stadium. The Bucs took the late lead on a Kenny Lofton sac fly and back-to-back two-out singles by Jason Kendall and Jeff Reboulet. It was just enough for Mike Williams, who gave up a two run homer to Ron Calloway and had Expos leading off first and second before getting the last two outs.
  • 2008 - In the title game, LHP Justin Wilson held the Georgia Bulldogs scoreless for seven innings and got the win as Fresno State won its first College World Series by a 6-1 score. Wilson was named to the All-Tournament team and became the Bucs fifth round pick in the draft, pitching for the big club from 2012-14.
Justin Wilson 2013 Topps Chrome series
  • 2009 - After falling behind the Indians 2-0 at PNC Park, the Bucs chipped away, winning 3-2 on a walk off bloop single in the ninth by Andrew McCutchen that scored Jack Wilson. Cutch was clutch; he scored the first run of the comeback in the sixth and drove in the tying run an inning later by drawing a bases loaded walk on a 3-2 count off Cliff Lee.
  • 2011 - The Bucs downed the Red Sox and one-time Bucco hurler Tim Wakefield 6-4 behind a three run homer by Lyle Overbay and a solo shot by Garrett Jones. Joel Hanrahan earned the save by striking out Adrian Gonzalez, who represented the tying run, in the ninth at PNC Park.
  • 2013 - The Bucs banged five homers for the first time since 2009 and rolled to a 9-4 win over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Starling Marte led the Pirates' offense with a pair of home runs, his first career multi-homer game, and a triple. Russell Martin, Brandon Inge and Gaby Sanchez also homered. The Pirates went long three times in the second inning off Joe Saunders; Inge and Marte went back-to-back. Jeff Locke coasted to the win, and in the process become the first Pittsburgh lefty to win seven in a row since John Smiley in 1991.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

First Inning Fireworks Carry Reds Past Bucs 5-2

If Gerrit Cole is Superman, the Reds are his kryptonite; nothing he does works against them. A leadoff walk to Billy Hamilton and stole second and third, where he sat with two outs.

Then the string began. Todd Frazier poked a pretty good pitch into right one-handed; Gregory hesitated a bit and couldn't come up with a diving effort to make it 1-0. Jay Bruce went with a pitch down and away and stroked it into left to make it 2-0, especially galling since he appeared to have been struck out two pitches earlier, but ump Ted Barrett didn't give up the call (and he had a wide plate all night). Then Marlon Byrd got a center cut heater and drilled it over the CF wall to make it 4-0. Cole tossed 38 pitches before he closed the gate.

The Bucs had their usual luck against Mike Leake; two well-stroked balls but nothing that found grass. Cincy stranded a runner in the second, and the Bucs got one back when The Kid opened with a double, went to second on Josh's attempt to bunt his way on and came in on Pedro's grounder. The third went quietly, as did the Reds fourth. The Pirates wasted a leadoff double by Starling in their half; the middle of the order couldn't bring him home.

Pedro scored and drove in a run tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
The fifth presented more problems. Back-to-back leadoff walks hurt (although the first runner was caught stealing). Joey Votto singled off Jordy's glove on a two-out play he should have made, and then Byrd slapped a single to right to score Votto; Gregory didn't come in very hard for the ball and Votto beat the throw that was a little up the line. After 106 pitches, Cole was done and in came Jared Hughes to close the frame with a swinging whiff.

Pittsburgh had a chance to put up a crooked number in their half, but settled for one. Pedro lined a single to open and went to third on a hit-and-run knock by Jordy. Stew tapped back to the mound; Leake looked back Pedro, costing himself a DP and a run when Alvarez came home on the force throw to second. JHK singled to put runners on the corners, but Polanco's liner was an at 'em ball to second and Starling bounced back to the hill on a hanger that we're sure both Marte and Leake would like to have back.

Hughes worked the sixth, giving up a hit but with no further damage. Cutch led off with a single, but was left standing. Chris Volstad got the call and worked a 1-2-3 inning. The Pirates blew another chance. Kang singled and went to third on Gregory's two-out roller to left; the throw was cut and went to second, where Polanco was ruled safe. It was of course challenged; Polanco did again come off the bag. But it stood on review; DeJesus' glove also came off briefly, and replay couldn't sort out the sequence. No diff; Marte never saw a strike, but went down swinging anyway.

Volstad put up another zero with a greater degree of difficulty. A one-out ground ball single and a bunt knock against the shift put him in a small jam, but a one hopper that Jung--Ho turned into a 5-3 DP ended the frame. Leake's night was done as Ryan Matthews took the ball. He walked Cutch, who was at second with two gone. Manny Parro came in to face Pedro lefty-to-lefty. Like Marte before, Alvarez was punched out without seeing a strike.

Antonio Bastardo worked a scoreless ninth, stranding a pair when Jay Bruce lined out into the shift. JJ Hoover, taking Aroldis Chapman's spot, came on and struck out a pair for the save.

Leake pitched a smart game; given Barrett's strike zone, he stayed off the edges of the plate, and the Bucs chased all night. When Pittsburgh did make some noise, their 0-for-8 with RISP did them in. So a big first inning, when the Reds took what was given - everything went to center or the opposite way as Cole stayed away from them - carried the day. AJ Burnett and Anthony DeSclafani will work tomorrow's rubber match.

  • Gerrit has three games this season where he's given up 3+ runs; all three were against the Reds. Tonight was the first time an opponent has gotten more than three scores against the Cole Train in 2015. Mike Leake is 3-0 in match ups with Cole.
  • Corey Hart was placed on the 15-day DL because of a left shoulder impingement. The Pirates brought up Chris Volstad to bolster the bullpen. Volstad made his first appearance in the show tonight since June 15th, 2013 as a Rockie against the Phils and tossed two scoreless frames.
  • Billy Hamilton is 11-for-11 stealing against the Bucs. 
  • Ivan DeJesus Jr, who the Bucs once had as part of the Joel Hanrahan deal with Boston, started at second for the Reds, replacing Brandon Phillips who jammed his thumb last night. He was called up June 3rd from AAA Louisville.
  • Talk about quick starts: Cincy has scored seven first inning runs against the Pirates in the first two games of the series.
  • The Bucs drew 37,659 for fireworks night.
  • Tyler Glasnow made his second rehab start at Morgantown, giving up one hit and one unearned run while striking out four batters in four innings.

Gerrit Cole v Mike Leake; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Gerrit Cole (11-2, 1.78) toes the rubber against Mike Leake (4-4, 4.01). The Cole Train has been dominating this month, even though his command has been a little erratic lately. He's gone 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts in June and is tough at home, with a 5-1/1.88 ERA slash at PNC Park in six outings. However, Gerrit seems to draw Mike Leake a lot and hasn't bested him yet. This year he lost a 3-0 contest to him at PNC Park in May following  a no-decision against him in April at GABP, and suffered a 7-5 loss to Leake in Cincy last season. Cole is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in four lifetime starts against the Reds.

Leake is a solid, mid-to-back end guy who is getting grounders at a pretty decent 52% rate this season and is coming off a two-hit, seven K whitewashing of the Marlins. He's provided more than solid pitching against Pittsburgh with a slash of 7-3/3.10, and hasn't lost to Pittsburgh since 2012 with five wins in that span.  He's a free agent at the end of the year and another Red who may be on the move as the trade deadline nears. The game starts at 7:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

They go together like a horse & carriage... (photo: Chris Hartline/USA Today)
Today's Lineup - Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte LF, Cutch CF, Neil Walker 2B, Josh Harrison 3B, Pedro 1B, Jordy Mercer SS, Chris Stewart C, Cole P.

Pretty much the regular grouping, with Stew behind the dish as usual for Gerrit. The most worrisome trend tonight is that Gerrit hasn't been very good against the Reds, and Leake has been tough on the Bucs.

  • With a victory tonight, Gerrit Cole would become the fifth Pirate pitcher to win 12 games prior to the All-Star break and the first since Ken Brett in 1974 (12-6). Others to accomplish the feat were Dock Ellis (14-3 in 1971), ElRoy Face (12-0 in 1959) and Rip Sewell (12-2 in 1943). 
  • Not only is Mark Melancon's velocity back to normal (his cutter has been 91-92 recently) but he's recovered his K touch, whiffing six in his last three innings.
  • Fifth round draft pick Brandon Waddell of Virginia gets the start against Vandy tonight in the deciding game of the CWS, going on three days rest. The game will be on ESPN at 8PM.

6/24: Jake, Rollie & Lefty's B-Day; Arky's Cycle, Starg Bombs Three...

  • 1867 - OF Jake Stenzel was born in Cincinnati. He patrolled center field for five years (1892-96) for Pittsburgh. Stenzel was a strong guy with the stick, putting up a line of .360/.429/.528 in his Alleghenys years, adding 188 stolen bases. He was a monster in 1894, hitting .352 with 150 runs and 121 RBI, banging 13 HR, 20 triples, and 39 doubles while swiping 61 sacks. Stenzel scored 100+ runs in his final three seasons with Pittsburgh. Per John Dreker of Pirates Prospects, Stenzel is the only player in baseball history to produce a .350 BA, 80 RBI, 100 runs & 50 SB line in a season four times (Honus Wagner did it twice) and is the franchise leader in batting average and on base percentage.
  • 1902 - The Bucs whipped the Orphans 7-2 at the West Side Grounds in a game that was highlighted by a brawl between Chicago’s Joe Tinker and the Pirates Wid Conroy. Steamed that Conroy had held him (literally) at second in the previous game, Tinker launched a punch at Conroy, who promptly retaliated before ump Hank O’Day could restore order. Conroy ended up with a 20 day suspension while instigator Tinkers was given a three day slap on the wrist. Pure baseball was at a minimum as the Pittsburgh Press described the game action as providing “an oversupply of bungling” and added that “neither team did sufficient good playing to deserve a victory.” Chicago picked up the nickname of Cubs during this season because of the youthfulness of their roster.
  • 1907 - C Ralston “Rollie” Hemsley was born in Syracuse, Ohio. Rollie spent the first four years (1928-31) of his 19-year MLB stay with Pittsburgh, starting the last two and putting up a .264 BA. After being traded, he went on to have five All-Star years with three different clubs.
Rollie Hemsley (photo: Retro Images Archive)
  • 1908 - The Flying Dutchman did it all this day: he smacked a home run and double‚ then broke a 3-3 tie with an eighth inning single. Wagner then added an insurance run by stealing home as the Pirates won 5-3 over the Reds at Exposition Park. 
  • 1917 - Pitcher Al “Lefty” Gerheauser was born in St. Louis. Lefty tossed during 1945-46 for the Bucs as a swingman, going 7-12 with a 3.93 ERA. He came to the Pirates from the Phils in exchange for Vince DiMaggio.
  • 1924 - Cincinnati’s Eppa Rixey retired the first 23 Bucco batters that he faced and had a 1-0 lead in a duel with Ray Kremer. But the Pirates scratched out a run in eighth and added three more in the ninth, with the big blow a two-run single by Kiki Cuyler, to take a 4-3 win at Redlands Field. The Reds almost came all the way back, scoring twice in their half of the ninth, with Edd Rousch, representing the tying run, cut down at the plate on a strong relay by SS Glenn Wright. Pittsburgh was outhit 13-6 in the contest.
  • 1933 - Arky Vaughan hit for the cycle against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. He went 5-for-5 with five RBI and three runs in a 15-3 Bucco victory. He was (and still is) the youngest MLB player to hit for the cycle, at 21 years, 3 months of age.
Arky Vaughan image via Deadball Era
  • 1963 - The baron of the Bullpen, ElRoy Face, was featured as the cover story of Sports Illustrated in an article titled “Baseball’s Best Reliever.”
  • 1965 - Willie Stargell’s first career three homer game (the Bucs hit five dingers during the match, with Bob Bailey and Jim Pagliaroni also going yard) sparked the Bucs to a 13-3 romp over first-place Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. Don Cardwell got the win over Don Drysdale.
  • 2008 - For the first time since Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees visited Pittsburgh. Bill Mazeroski threw out the first pitch at PNC Park, and it was deju vu all over again as the Bucs broke out the bats to win 12-5. Freddy Sanchez had three hits and three runs scored while Ryan Doumit and Adam LaRoche also had three knocks with a pair of RBI each. The Bucs were the last MLB team to earn a regular season win against the Yankees. Also true to form, they were clobbered 10-0 by the Bronx Bombers the following day.