Friday, July 31, 2015

Kang, Marte Lead the Way To 5-4 Win

Gregory opened with an infield knock and immediately stole second, against a pitch out. Starling then took a pitch to the hand (called a foul, then overturned to a HBP). Two outs later, JHK drilled a ground rule double to plate one run. That big hop cost as Starling would have scored easily had it stayed in play, but it is 1-0 against Michael Lorenzen. With two outs, Joey Votto walked after being behind 0-2 and reached second on a wild pitch but Jeff Locke left him there by whiffing Todd Frazier.

The second went quietly enough for Pittsburgh with just a walk; not so for the Reds. Marlon Byrd singled of A-Ram's glove, and an out later, Ivan Dejesus Jr. sent a first-pitch change over the wall to make it 2-1. Lorenzen singled and hey, why not walk Billy Hamilton while we're at it? Locke left an 0-2 curve over the plate, and Brandon Phillips lined it to left to load the bases. Jason Bourgeois made it 3-1 on a 6-5 fielders choice, a heads up play by JHK & A-Ram. A double steal and another walk to Votto loaded the bases, but Locke got Frazier.

1-2-3 went the Bucs in the third, as did the Redlegs. JHK continued to rake, doubling to open the fourth. An out later, Pedro banged one through the right side, and it was 3-2 after Jeff tossed another clean frame. with two gone in the fifth, Lorenzen tried to sneak a heater away to Andrew; he drilled it into the RF seats. Bourgeois opened with a knock, but was erased by his happy feet when he was doubled up by Gregory after Votto's lineout to right. Another out took us into the sixth 3-3.

JHK keeps raking (photo Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Someone tugged on Kang's cape tonight; he opened the frame with his third straight two-bagger. Two outs later he was at third, and Fran was intentionally walked to get to Locke; Clint sent up Ishy. A short wild pitch got Fran to second, and Travis eventually walked. The Reds brought in Jumbo Diaz, a hard throwing righty, to face Gregory as Cincy has been challenging him with fastballs tonight, whiffing El Coffee twice. Kinda backfired; a wild pitch brought in a run and moved the Bucs to second and third. Polanco walked to load them once again. Starling singled in another run on a liner to left, but Ishy was cut down by a mile trying to score. Put the blame for that TOOTBLAN on Rick Sofield, who could chill with the arm waving, especially with Cutch on deck.

Jared Hughes came on, and Byrd greeted him with a huge homer to center to make it 5-4. Brayan Pena followed with a double; sheesh, the bullpen. But Hughes settled in and left him stranded. JJ Hoover stopped the Bucs in the seventh. Joakim Soria got his first call as a Bucco; after two easy outs, he walked Votto, Frazier singled and Byrd drew an eight pitch pass. Clint kept him in, after 27 pitches and with a lefty, Pena, up. Soria fell behind 3-0, but came back to get him two pitches later on a liner to the box, a textbook "lookee here" snag.

Burke Badenhop took the ball in the eighth and worked a rocking chair inning. S-Rod took over first and Tony Watson took over the hill, working a clean frame with two punch outs. Ryan Mattheus retired the Pirates in order in the ninth.

Mark the shark gave up a lead off single to Phillips on a hung 1-2 curve. he was bunted to second, and Votto drew a walk; can't get a call when he's up. After that, it was no longer Melancon's game; it was a Marte partay.

Frazier singled to left past a floundering A-Ram (maybe when Pedro comes out, so should Ramirez) and Jim Riggelman waved Phillips home; Marte cut him down like he was standing still (tho the play did have to undergo a plate-blocking review, the dumbest rule in baseball). Then Byrd got ahead 3-0; the Shark came back to make it a full count, then Marlon hit a sinking, hooking liner to left. Starling dove and tumbled, snatching the ball an inch or two above the grass to preserve the win. Pasture mates Cutch and El Coffee tipped their caps to him; Mark gave Starling a very unshark-like hug in the post game lineup.

The Bucs did enough to win and finally get off the schneid at GABP. Tomorrow, Gerrit Cole goes against Raisel Iglesias. The Bucs missed Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, both due to pitch in this series, because of trades; hopefully Pittsburgh can take advantage. Give the Reds credit, too - the team lost a couple of long-time teammates and top gun starters, yet they're still playing hard in their yard.

  • Starling has a 10 game hitting streak.
  • Pittsburgh had seven hits; Jung-Ho had three of them.
  • After a meeting pre-game between Clint and AJ, Burnett ended up on the 15-day DL because of right elbow inflammation; LHP Bobby LaFromboise was called up to replace him. For LaFromboise, it's his second stint with the big club this year; he was up once last season, too, and has pitched creditably well. He went 1-1 with a 2.72 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 43 IP for Indy this season. 
  • The Bucs added another pair of players to the roster. 1B/OF Mike Morse joined the club from LA for Jose Tabata, and LHP JA Happ was sent to Pittsburgh by Seattle for Indy RHP Adrian Sampson.
  • Not a big surprise: RHP Deolis Guerra was DFA'ed to clear roster a spot for Joakim Soria, who is in uniform tonight.

Deadline Deals: JA Happ, Mike Morse, Joakim Soria, Joe Blanton, A-Ram

The Pirates picked up LHP JA Happ from Seattle for Indy RHP Adrian Sampson. Happ, 32, went 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 21 appearances (20 starts) this season for the Mariners. He has a career record of 55-59 with a 4.29 ERA and 790 strikeouts in 185 games (160 starts) between Philadelphia (2007-10), Houston (2010-12), Toronto (2012-14) and Seattle (2015). For the time being, it looks like he'll plug into AJ's spot while he's on the DL. Happ's a rental, going into free agency in 2016. In fact, the surprise deal actually resulted after the Pirates had determined Burnett was DL-bound.

Sampson, 23, projects as a back-end starter/ long relief guy who's close to big-league ready in those roles. A neat little twist: he's from Redmond, Washington, and is returning home.

1B/OF Mike Morse had three pretty good years for the Nats from 2010-12, was bad for Seattle & Baltimore in 2013 (.215/13/27), bounced back for the Giants in 2014 (.279/16/61) and is in the midst of another nosedive this year as a Marlin (.213/4/12).He's a right-handed bat to caddy for Pedro Alvarez, but an OF'er in name only, so we don't expect to see him as a viable option for Gregory against lefties.

Morse has virtually no career platoon split, so he's handy off the bench. With the Corey Hart experiment having gone south, Morse is the resurrection of Petey's new playmate. He cost the Bucs Jose Tabata, Pittsburgh's black sheep, as the FO finally found someone to take his contract. Morse is no bargain; he's making $7.5M this year and $8.5 in 2016, so the Pirates made sure they had some cash (an undisclosed amount right now) tossed into the pot.

The Bucs got a much needed back-end reliever to spell Tony Watson and Jared Hughes in Joakim Soria. Soria's a serious closer, so high leverage situations should be his cup of tea. He has 23 saves and a 2.85 ERA (3.29 SIERA), using a fastball/cutter combo with a slider, cahnge and curve in the toolbox. Soria is a rental, becoming a FA after the season.

SS JaCoby Jones, 23, who was his trade mate, is fast, athletic and has some pop for a SS. He also K'es a lot and walks a little; at age 23, he's like buying a lotto ticket, with a chance to hit big but a much greater likelihood to crap out.

RHP Joe Blanton, 34, was DFA'ed by KC and the FO picked him up for cash. In 15 games (four starts), Blanton has a 3.89 ERA and 40 strikeouts with seven walks in 41-2/3 innings. The Pirates DFA'ed VAnce Worley to make space; they saw similar pitchers, but in Blanton they got a guy who they can use as anything from a spot starter to a bridge arm, and that versatility is the reasoning behind that move. He's also a rental

3B Aramis Ramirez gives the Bucs a competent finger to stick in the dike until Josh and Jordy return, altho he and JHK on the left side aren't exactly an athletic duo They club gave up RHP Yhonathan Barrios, a converted infielder who touches three figures, but has no secondary pitch; the Brewers are taking a chance on being able to coach him up some.

The roster counter moves?  For Mike Morse, we'll find out Sunday, and for JA Happ, AJ Burnett went on the DL. Joakim Soria was swapped out for Deolis Guerra. To clear Joe Blanton's space, Vanimal was DFA'ed. Brent Morel got the same treatment when A-Ram arrived.

Jeff Locke v Michael Lorenzen; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Jeff Locke (5-6, 4.01) meets Michael Lorenzen (3-5, 4.58) tonight. Locke has been frustratingly up-and-down. His pattern is to have a bad fourth inning (second time around syndrome?), then settle in until the seventh where he's generally gassed. Still, he's posted a 2.53 ERA in his last eight starts, helped because he hasn't given up a long ball over that span. Jeff is 2-2 with a 3.26 ERA in nine career starts against the Redlegs. This season, tho, he's already lost a 7-1 decision to Lorenzen and had a no decision in a 7-6 win at PNC, giving up a 2015 total of eight runs in 11 innings against Cincy.

Jeff Locke takes his turn against the Reds (photo Charles LeClaire/USA To0day)
Lorenzen has been plagued by control issues - he walks five per game - and long balls, giving up 1.6/nine innings during his rookie campaign. Still, he handled the Bucs easily in his only outing against them, winning 7-1. Lorenzen went six, giving up three hits and three walks while whiffing four. Overall, he's been pretty solid, giving up three runs or less in 11 of his 14 starts.

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

Today's Lineup - Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte LF, Cutch CF, A-Ram 3B, Jung-Ho Kang SS, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Locke P.

The usual suspects.

  • Joakim Soria arrived in the clubhouse about 4PM, so we suppose he'll be good to go tonite. No confirmation yet on who he's replacing.
  • Starling Marte leads MLB with 25 infield hits and NL hitter in overall knocks with 92. He's also in the midst of a nine game hitting streak.
  • Pedro's homer off David Holmberg yesterday was his first off a LHP since 4/17/14 vs Milwaukee's Wei-Chung Wang.
  • Gorkys Hernandez cleared waivers and was returned to Indy.

7/31: Deadline Dealing - Jay Bay, Jon Lieber, J-Mac, Ollie Perez, Matt Morris, Don Robinson & More...

  • 1987 - The Pirates traded RHP Don Robinson to the San Francisco Giants for C Mackey Sasser. The Giants turned Robinson into a starter the next season and he became a rotation pitcher for the next three years while Sasser was flipped to the Mets in 1988, where he had a long run as a back-up catcher.
  • 1993 RHP Jon Lieber was traded by the Kansas City Royals along with reliever Dan Miceli to the Bucs for closer Stan Belinda.
  • 2001 - The Pirates traded the well-traveled LHP Terry Mulholland to the Dodgers for pitchers Mike Fetters and Adrian Burnside. Mulholland, from Uniontown, pitched for 11 teams in a 20 year career, and had a pair of stints with the Cubs, Phils and Giants. The FO also swapped Mike Williams to the Astros for RHP Tony McKnight. It was actually more like a lend-lease, as Williams signed with the Bucs again as a free agent after the season.
  • 2002 - The Bucs sent first round bust OF Chad Hermansen to the Cubs for OF Darren Lewis, who refused to report to the Pirates and retired instead.
Chad Hermansen 2001 Upped Deck series
  • 2003 - Pitchers Brandon Lyon, Anastacio Martinez and Jeff Suppan were traded by the Bucs to the Red Sox for LHP Mike Gonzalez, 2B Freddy Sanchez and cash. Originally, Gonzalez had gone to Boston for Lyons and Martinez a few days earlier, but Lyons had an iffy physical causing a reworking of the deal. The mulligan panned out pretty well for the Bucs.
  • 2004 - GM Dave Littlefield reportedly rejected an offer to deal pitcher Kris Benson to the Phillies for a power-hitting prospect named Ryan Howard, who would eventually become a NL MVP. The Bucs thought they had a Howard clone already in their system with Brad Eldred.
  • 2005 - The Cubs sent young OF Jody Gerut to Pittsburgh for vet OF Matt Lawton. The Cubs shipped Lawton to the Yankees for a minor leaguer in August. Gerut, hampered by a bum knee, barely played and was released after 2006, appearing in just four games as a Pirate.
  • 2006 - Busy at the deadline: The Pirates traded pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to the Mets for Xavier Nady. Pittsburgh also sent P Kip Wells to the Rangers for P Jesse Chavez, traded OF/1B Craig Wilson to the Yankees for P Shawn Chacon and acquired RHP Brian Rogers from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for 1B Sean Casey.
Sean Casey - Pirate Promo
  • 2007- The Bucs traded OF Rajai Davis and IF Stephen McFarland to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Matt Morris, who was being paid $7.5M in 2007 and under contract to make $9.5M in 2008 with a $1M buyout for 2009. He was released on April 27th of 2008 after going 3-8 with a 7.04 ERA in 16 Pirate starts. Many believed this deal was the straw that broke the back of GM Dave Littlefield’s era in Pittsburgh.
  • 2008 - Jason Bay and Josh Wilson were traded to the Boston Red Sox in a three team deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andy LaRoche with Bryan Morris to the Pirates from LA, with Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen coming to the Bucs from Beantown. None of the prospects panned out for Pittsburgh, and Bay’s career was hamstrung by injury. Speculation was that Tampa Bay was very much interested in dealing and offered SS Reid Brignac & P Jeff Niemann for Bay, but the Bucco FO wanted Wade Davis instead of Niemann.
  • 2010 - A lot of dealing: RHP James McDonald was traded to Pittsburgh with OF Andrew Lambo by the LA Dodgers for RHP Octavio Dotel and cash. The Bucs also flipped LHP Javier Lopez to the Giants for RHP Joe Martinez and OF Joe Bowker. In a house cleaning & change of scenery deal, SS Bobby Crosby, RHP D.J. Carrasco and RF Ryan Church were sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash, C Chris Snyder and SS Pedro Ciriaco.
DJ Carrasco (photo Getty Images)
  • 2011 - OF Ryan Ludwick was sent to the Pirates by San Diego for cash. He hit .232 with two homers during the stretch run and then signed with the Reds in the off season.
  • 2012 - 1B Gaby Sanchez and RHP Kyle Kaminska went from the Marlins to the Pirates for OF Gorkys Hernandez and 2013’s sandwich compensation draft pick five minutes before the deadline expired. Before that trade, the Bucs dealt 3B Casey McGehee to the Yankees for RHP Chad Qualls.

7/31: Starg Enters the Hall; HBD Joe, Peanuts, Vic & Mike; Wakefield Debut; Bragan Goes Bonkers; Bucs Sweep Cards

As we did yesterday, the deadline deals will be on a separate post.
  • 1870 - C/1B Joe Sugden was born in Philadelphia. Sugden spent the first five seasons (1893-97) of his 13 year big league career with Pittsburgh, hitting .277.
  • 1892 - LHP Erv ”Peanuts” Kantlehner was born in San Jose. Working mostly as a starter for the Bucs from 1914-16, he went 13-29 with a 2.85 ERA.
  • 1896 - After a disputed call‚ Pirate P Frank “Lefty” Killen punched umpire Daniel Lally in the face. When Lally responded in kind‚ hundreds of fans charged onto the field and eventually Killen was arrested for disorderly conduct, according to Charlton’s Baseball Chronology. Pittsburgh won in spite of the rhubarb 9-7 over the Cincinnati Reds at League Park.
  • 1912 - The Pirates scored three runs in the 19th inning and then barely held off Boston to take a 7-6 decision at the South End Grounds. Honus Wagner was the man of the hour, stealing home and later driving in the final, game-winning run for Pittsburgh against the Braves.
Honus Wagner (photo via Dugout Legends)
  • 1936 - OF Vic Davalillo was born in Churuguara, Venezuela. He played for the Bucs from 1971-73, hitting .290 while a platoon player in the outfield and first. Vic played on two Pirate playoff clubs, and when he was traded to Oakland in 1973, he was on his third.
  • 1939 - The Pirates obtained 6' 9" LHP Johnny Gee from Syracuse of the International League for $75,000 and four players. Nicknamed “Gee Whiz,” he lasted parts of four seasons (1939, 1941, 1943-44) with the Bucs, winning five games. Also known as “Long John” (and as the “$75,000 Lemon”), he never fully recovered from a 1940 arm injury. Gee was the tallest person to play MLB until 6’10” Randy Johnson debuted for the Montreal Expos in September, 1988. Not too surprisingly, he also went on to play pro hoops for the NBA Syracuse Nationals.
  • 1957 - Manager Bobby Bragan was ejected for arguing a call (actually, he held his nose) during a 4-2 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. After being tossed, he went slightly bonkers. Bobby got an orange drink from the stands; the umps told him to take it into the clubhouse, and he threatened to toss the juice into their faces. He quickly relented and offered them all a sip, but they weren’t amused. After their report to the league, Bragan was fined $100 and threatened with suspension if he didn’t clean up his act. After the game, Bragan was quoted by the Pittsburgh Press’ Les Biederman as saying “My only regret is that the hot dog didn’t arrive in time.” Bragan was fired three days later and replaced by Danny Murtaugh on a temporary basis. “Temporary hire” Murtaugh managed until 1964 and was brought back as skipper three more times.
Bobby Bragan (photo via Sports Memorabilia)
  • 1959 - RHP Mike Bielecki was born in Baltimore. His first four years (1984-’87) were spent in Pittsburgh, where he went 10-17 with a 4.57 ERA. He was the Pirates first round pick in the 1979 draft (secondary phase) and went on to have a workmanlike 14 year MLB career.
  • 1961 - C Smoky Burgess, OF Roberto Clemente, P ElRoy Face and 1B Dick Stuart repped the Bucs in the second All-Star game of the year at Fenway Park, a 1-1 tie called after nine innings because of rain. Clemente went 0-for-2, Burgess and Stu 0-for-1, and the Baron of the Bullpen was uncalled upon by manager Danny Murtaugh.
  • 1964 - It happens to the best of them. The San Francisco Giants took advantage of three errors by Bill Mazeroski and three more by his teammates to edge the Bucs 8-6 at Forbes Field. Maz's last error, a dropped catch on a potential around-the-horn DP ball in the ninth, would have ended the game with the Pirates on top 6-5 if he had held on to turn the pivot.
  • 1976 - Al Oliver was featured as the cover story of The Sporting News in an article titled “Batting Demon.” It was his third AS year, and he finished the season with a.323 BA and .839 OPS. He played 18 years of MLB ball and finished up with a .303 lifetime batting average, .795 OPS and seven All-Star appearances.
  • 1983 - Rookie Jose DeLeon held the Mets hitless for 8-1/3 innings before Hubie Brooks singled, but Mike Torrez countered with 11 shutout innings as New York won 1-0 in 12 frames. In his previous start‚ DeLeon had held the Padres hitless for 6-1/3 innings.
  • 1985 - The Pirates scored twice in the bottom of the 10th to rally past the Phillies 4-3 at TRS. Cecilio Guante picked up the win in spite of himself, allowing a home run in the top of the 10th and tossing a wild pitch in the ninth that tied the game. Former Bucco Kent Tekulve suffered the loss after Steve Kemp lined a two-out walkoff single to left to bring home Larry McWilliams, pinch running for Jason Thompson. The batter before Kemp, Marvell Wynne, hit into a force that plated Lee Mazzilli and knotted the score.
  • 1988 - Willie Stargell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the sole honoree that year. Stargell played his entire career (1962-1982) with the Pirates, batting .282 with 2,232 hits, 475 home runs and 1,540 RBI. His home run and RBI totals remain first on the club’s all-time list, in addition to his 937 walks and 953 extra-base hits.
  • 1992 - Knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield made his debut against the Cards at TRS, replacing Zane Smith who was hurt, and pitched his way to a 3-2 win. He was in hot water early giving up a couple of unearned runs in the fifth after working his way out of second and third frame jams. But he left the bases full of Redbirds in the fifth and cruised afterward. He got all his support from a pair of bombs, a two run shot by Barry Bonds and a solo homer off Jay Bell’s bat, and made the three scores stand up. The Bucs went into first after the win and never looked back.
  • 2012 - AJ Burnett held the Cubs hitless through 7-2/3 innings before giving up his only knock, a single to right by Adrian Cardenas. The Bucs won 5-0 at Wrigley. Burnett pitched a complete game while Neil Walker had all five RBI.
  • 2013 - The Pirates took their fourth straight game of the series over St. Louis with a 5-4 win at PNC Park. With Card ace Adam Wainwright on the hill, Pittsburgh rallied three times from early deficits to tie the game 4-4 in the fifth. The score stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth. Neil Walker opened with a single and tagged to second after Pedro Alvarez’s drive to left died in the corner for the second out. Russell Martin turned on a slider and lined it into short left center for the game winner. The Pirate bullpen tossed five scoreless innings in the victory, with Tony Watson getting the win and Mark Melancon earning the save.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

GABP Curse Continues: Bucs Bombed 15-5

David Holmberg gave up a bunt single to Gregory to open the game, but a couple of flies and a liner later put the Bucs away. AJ, on the other hand, remained in his doldrum. With an out, back-to-back Redleg knocks were followed by Marlon Byrd smoking a ball into the seats, making it 3-0 after a frame. More ominously, AJ topped out at 90; with most of his pitches in the upper 80s, a troubling sign.

In the second, El Toro got a run back when he lost a ball over the right center wall. The Reds went down with just a single; the bad news is AL didn't even get to 90 that frame. Pittsburgh left another runner aboard in the third, and the Reds added another run when Joey Votto's double - he's on fire recently - was cashed in on a sac fly. AJ's velocity is returning; maybe he just had trouble getting loose.

Fran walked with two away in the fourth but Pedro went down looking; Joe West is having another of his days with the amorphous strike zone. Billy Hamilton bunted his way on with an out, running out of the baseline as he evaded Pedro's tag without a call. He stole second, natch, and scored when Brandon Phillips tapped a curve off the end of his bat slowly through the right side; the infield was playing partially in. Phillips went to second on a pitch to the backstop and then stole third; Ivan Dejesus Jr. walked, much to AJ's displeasure. Votto walked on a full count. A whiff looking (TY, Joe West) and sharp grounder got him out of it.

Cutch & the top of the lineup had a nice night, anyway.

The Kid opened the fifth with a base on balls. He was bunted to second, and Gregory walked. The rally quickly fizzled when Starling banged into a 6-4-3. With an out, AJ plunked eight hitter Tucker Barnhart with a curve and Holmberg singled him to third with a flare on a hit-and-run (yep, a pitcher-catcher hit-and-run). Not a very good night for Burnett, and it got worse when Pedro fired a DP try into left field.

So Deolis Guerre got the call with runners on second and third. Phillips lined a curve into the cheap seats, and it was 9-1. Guess we can figure who's going when Soria arrives tomorrow. A single, walk, wild pitch, double and two whiffs later, it was 11-1.

Stew's sac fly made it 11-2; Phillips homer off Deolis made it 14-2. Ryan Mattheus was touched for three runs when five straight Pirates reached with two gone in the seventh, the inning ending when West mistook ball four for strike three. Marte got plunked that frame; Jay Bruce ditto to open the Red half as Antonio Bastardo at least kept that scorecard even, tho he did score when AB walked three following batters. Arquimedes Caminero mopped it up.

The Bucs went quietly in the eighth; Jaff Decker climbed the hill to take one for the team. Spotting his 80 MPH heat, he gave up a couple of hits but kept the Reds off the board. The Bucs left a couple on in the ninth, and it was finally over.

The only thing worse than getting a butt-booting is to have to take it with Joe West behind the dish. Nothing to do but wash off and get 'em tomorrow, with Jeff Locke facing Michael Lorenzen.

  • The Pirates first four batters, Gregory (2), Starling (2), Cutch (3) and A-Ram (2), collected nine hits tonight.
  • Jaff Decker was the first position player to pitch for the Buccos since Travis Snider June 18th, 2014, also against the Reds.
  • Tonight was the most runs given up by Pittsburgh in a game this season, not exactly the way Clint wanted to spend his birthday.
  • This is the third straight start that AJ has allowed five+ runs and 10+ hits.
  • Detroit closer Joakim Soria has joined the Bucs in exchange for Altoona SS JaCoby Jones. He'll join Tony as an eighth inning arm.
  • The Pirates traded infielder Justin Sellers, recently sent outright to Indy, to the White Sox. in a cash deal
  • The Athletics signed Brent Morel to a minor-league contract.

AJ v David Holmberg; Lineup & Notes; Joe Blanton Joins Club; Vanimal DFA'ed

Today's Game - AJ Burnett (8-4, 2.68) and lefty David Holmberg set the table for the Reds series. AJ's been regressing of late; hopefully, the karma will even out and he'll give the Bucs a solid run down the stretch. He's been pretty dependable against the Reds, going 8-6 with a 3.52 ERA in 19 career starts against Cincy, with a 1-0/2.45 ERA slash in three starts against them this year.

The lefty Holmberg has made eight big league appearances, including five starts with the Reds last season with none of his outings against Pittsburgh. The 23 year old is 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA lifetime. He's a pitch-to-contact, low K guy who was susceptible to surrendering the long ball this year in AAA. The game starts at 7:10 and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup - Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte LF, Cutch CF, A-Ram 3B, Jung-Ho Kang SS, Fran Cervelli C, Pedro 1B, Neil Walker 2B, AJ P.

Gregory has answered the bell this month (photo Gene Puskar/AP)
Not often that you see Pedro batting 7th and The Kid 8th. And tho he had a couple of hits yesterday, we'd still rather see Ramirez swap lineup spots with Kang (not that anyone asked).

The Bucs are 0-3 at Great American Ball Park this season (they've lost five in a row there) and are 2-7 overall against the Reds this season. Can't be moaning about the Cards when you're only 17-24 in the Central Division.

  • The Pirates bought RHP Joe Blanton from the Royals after he was DFA'ed. Blanton posted a 3.89 ERA in 15 games (4 starts) with KC this year. He's expected to be here tonight. The Bucs DFA'ed Vance Worley,as he never did settle into a bullpen role.
  • In his last six games, Francisco Cervelli has produced five multi-hit games.
  • With 2480 career strikeouts, A.J. Burnett enters tonight’s action ranked 33rd on the all-time list. Don Drysdale (2486) ranks 32nd.
  • ESPN Stats: Most Defensive Runs Saved due to shifts this season - Orioles 22, Astros 21, Rays and Pirates 15.
  • The Cleveland Indians traded 1B/OF Brandon Moss to the St. Louis Cardinals for LHP Rob Kaminsky, a 2013 first rounder who was ranked as their #5 prospect coming into the season by Baseball America.

7/30: Deadline Dealing - Jack Wilson, Jason Schmidt, Kris Benson, Gorzo, Derrek Lee, Bad Brad, Joe Blanton

 Not as busy as tomorrow's list, but with enough action to merit its own page:

  • 2000 - The Bucs got SS Jack Wilson from the Cards in exchange for LHP Jason Christiansen. Wilson was the starter at short when healthy from 2001 until he was traded in 2009, and won a Gold Glove and All-Star berth in 2004. 
Jack Wilson 2002 Fleer Tradition series
  • 2001 - The Bucs sent RHP Jason Schmidt and OF John Vander Wal to the Giants for OF Armando Rios and RHP Ryan Vogelsong. Schmidt went 7-1 the rest of the year for SF and then signed a big four-year contract. Vogelsong underwent Tommy John surgery two months later.
  •  2004 - The Pirates traded RHP Kris Benson and IF Jeff Keppinger to the Mets for 3B Jose Bautista (who they had lost in the 2003 Rule 5 draft), IF Ty Wiggington and RHP Matt Peterson. Bautista became the tenth major leaguer to play for four teams in a season, having been on the rosters of Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Kansas City. In fact, he was actually on five teams, as he was acquired by the Mets from the Royals but sent to Pittsburgh the same day.
Joey Bats 2002 Topps rookie card
  • 2009 - The Pirates shipped lefties Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs in exchange for IF Josh Harrison and RHPs Kevin Hart & Jose Ascanio.
  • 2011 - The Pirates traded minor league 1B Aaron Baker to the Orioles for 1B Derrek Lee, the first time that Pittsburgh was a buyer at the trade deadline since dealing for SS Shawon Dunston in 1997 to bolster the “Freak Show” lineup.
  •  2012 - In a trade of 2006 first rounders, Pittsburgh sent RHP Brad Lincoln to Toronto for OF Travis Snider. Lincoln is back in the organization while Snider was traded to Baltimore in 2015 for a pair of prospects. 
  • 2015 - The Pirates acquired veteran RHP Joe Blanton, 34, from the Royals for cash after he had been DFA’ed. Blanton posted a 3.89 ERA in 15 games (4 starts) with KC in 2015.

7/30:HBD Clint, Casey, Merritt, Rizzo & Finney; Bucs Move Into First; Westlake Cycle; Groat's Big ASG;

Little different format for the next couple of days; since there were so many deadline trades on the 30th & 31st, we're going to post them separately a little later.

  • 1870 - C/1B Bill Merritt was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. The reserve played for the Pirates from 1894-97, with a brief stop in Cincinnati (Pittsburgh was one of Bill’s six MLB stops). He hit .280 with Pittsburgh. 
Bill Merritt 1898 Cameo Pepsin Gum pin
  •  1886 - Enjoying an off day between games against the Metropolitans in New York, Allegheny pitcher Gentleman Jim Galvin decided to take in the NY Giants-St. Louis match at the Polo Grounds, and ended up with the best seat in the house. Still steaming over some verbal blasts unleashed during the prior day’s game, ump John Gaffney demanded a pre-game apology from the Giants. With none forthcoming, he stormed of the grounds, and Pud was pulled from the stands to ump. The Giants edged the Maroons 2-1 and Jeems escaped in one piece.
  • 1890 - OF Casey Stengel was born in Kansas City, Missouri. The old Perfesser spent 1918-19 as a Pirate, with a .280 BA, and performed his famous Brooklyn “bird in the hat” stunt as a Bucco.
  • 1891 - The Pirates got off to a 31–47 following a disastrous 23–113 season, demoted captain/manager Ned Hanlon (who had left the team in 1890 for the Pittsburgh Burghers of the upstart Players' League before returning to the Alleghenys after that league folded) and hired Bill McGunnigle as skipper. McGunnigle managed the club to a modest 24–33 record over the remainder of the year. He was replaced by Tom Burns, who didn’t make it through the 1892 season before losing his job to Al Buckenberger.
  • 1905 - C Hal Finney was born in Lafayette, Alabama. He was a reserve that played for the Bucs from 1931-34 & again in 1936. He spent his MLB career in Pittsburgh, finishing with a .203 BA. 
Hal Finney 1931 (photo: TSN/Mears Collection)
  • 1909 - The Bucs ended NY Giant’s Christy Mathewson’s 13 game winning streak by a 3-1 score at Forbes Field. Tommy Leach doubled in Fred Clarke and Alan Storke, and was chased home by Dots Miller in the first. That’s all the support Vic Willis would need, scattering nine hits for the complete game win.
  • 1912 - OF Johnny Rizzo was born in Houston. He burst on the scene in 1938, hitting .301 with 23 HR and 111 RBI as a rookie; his HR mark for a first year Pirate stood until Jason Bay bettered it in 2006. He cooled off after that sizzling start, and early in 1940 was traded for Vince DiMaggio after hitting .283 with 29 HR and 168 RBI as a Bucco.
  • 1922 - Max Carey went deep twice as the Pirates beat the Giants 7-0 at the Polo Grounds. Carey hit a two-run shot in the seventh inning and then connected for another two-run blast as part of Pittsburgh’s 13-hit attack. Johnny Morrison went the distance for the Pirates, allowing seven hits in the shutout.
  • 1948 - Pittsburgh unleashed a four homer barrage against Brooklyn to take a 10-5 win at Ebbets Field. Wally Westlake hit for the cycle, while Max West, Monty Basgall and Clyde Kluttz homered to chase Dodger workhorse Ralph Branca. Bob Chesnes went the distance to claim the win.
Monty Basgall 1952 Topps series
  • 1956 - Sports Illustrated wrote that “Bing Crosby, one of the 11-man syndicate that made the winning $5,500,000 bid for the Detroit Tigers, is also 16% owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Crosby could own an interest in only one club at a time, the Groaner said he would keep the Pirates.”
  • 1957 - Clint Hurdle was born in Big Rapids, Michigan. After a 10 year stint as a player and then managing the Colorado Rockies from 2002–2009 with a World Series appearance, Hurdle took over the Pirate reins in 2011, replacing John Russell. He broke the Pirate 20-year losing season streak in 2013 when he guided the club to 94 wins and the playoffs.
  • 1962 - In the second All-Star game of the year, this one played at Wrigley Field, the AL bashed the NL 9-4. Dick Groat went 2-for-3 and was HBP while driving home two runs. Roberto Clemente went 0-for-2 and Bill Mazeroski 0-for-1.
  • 1975 - The Pirates had to delay the start of the game at TRS by 18 minutes to let the Ladies’ Day promotion crowd of 43,260 get to their seats. It was worth the wait as the Bucs pounced on the Phils’ Steve Carlton on the way to an 8-1 win. Jerry Reuss went the distance, as Manny Sanguillen had a big day, going 5-for-5 with a homer. Al Oliver (HR, 2B), Willie Stargell (2B) and Dave Parker (2B) each had two-hit days. There were 21 hits banged out between the clubs, but the game still took just 2:25 to play.
Jerry Reuss 1974 Topps series
  • 2002 - Pittsburgh snapped a six game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park. The Bucs broke open a duel between Kris Benson and the Rox’s Denny Neagle in the eighth, scoring three times with two outs. The rally was keyed by Adam Hyzdu’s two-run double. Mike Williams earned the save of Benson’s win.
  • 2006 - Pittsburgh concluded a five game winning streak by taking a 2-1, 10 inning victory from the SF Giants at PNC Park. Jose Castillo’s leadoff homer in the ninth forced the game into extras, and Jose Hernandez’s single in the 10th scored Jack Wilson with the tie breaker. Both starters, Zach Duke and Matt Morris, put up zeroes but were gone before the seventh was done, and it took 11 more pitchers to finish up. 
  • 2013 - The Pirates swept a doubleheader from the Cards by 2-1 and 6-0 scores at PNC Park to vault over them into first place in the NL Central. The opener went 11 innings, with the winning run scoring after Alex Presley’s apparent DP ball deflected off pitcher Kevin Siegrist’s glove and into left to plate Russ Martin. Vin Mazzaro got the win. The key blow in the nitecap was Andrew McCutchen’s two-run homer that bounced off Matt Holliday’s glove and into the second row of seats in left. Rookie Brandon Cumpton went seven frames for the win, tossing three hit ball. C Tony Sanchez took his MLB bow behind the dish and became one of seven Pirates to call a shutout in his first game; the last was Jason Kendall in 1996.
  • 2014 - The San Francisco Giants broke a six game losing streak largely thanks to a DP via a walk. The Pirates, who had won three in a row, led 5-4 in the sixth when Chris Stewart drew a one-out walk with runners on second and third. Giant hurler Jean Machi got the ball back from the catcher and noticed Travis Snider had wandered off second base, apparently thinking it was a bases-loaded walk (he later admitted that was the case). Machi picked him off, and Gaby Sanchez, who was at third, was caught in the backwash and picked off, too. The Bucs went on to lose 7-5 at AT&T Park, wasting long balls by Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bucs Steamroll Hapless Twins 10-4

Windy day, high sun, 25 hits and five errors  all conspired to make the getaway game an interesting one, as what was featured as a pitching duel ended up anything but.

Ervin Santana had no problems with the Buccos in the first, and Frankie gave up just a single for a quiet beginning. Jung-Ho is liking the Twin Cities; in the second, he pounded a 1-2 fastball into the seats for back-to-back homers following last night's game winner. Minnesota got it right back when Eddie Rosario tripled off Cutch's mitt and came in on a grounder.

JHK finding that power stroke (photo Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press)
In the third, a walk and an error put Bucs at second and third with an out, but Starling flew out to short left, Cutch was walked intentionally, and A-Ram bounced out. With one gone in the Minny half, Brian Dozier smacked a hanger off the top of the wall in left-center; Aaron Hicks singled him home and went to second when Starling bobbled the ball. He plated an out later on Miguel Sano's knock. Further damage was averted when Sano was caught in a rundown trying to test Gregory's arm and tagged to end the frame.

Both sides stranded a runner in the fourth; the big news that frame was Gregory leaving the contest with an achy knee.

The Bucs tied it up in the fifth. With two gone, Starling dropped a lob into right and Cutch followed with a 408' liner that cleared the fence. A-Ram followed with double, his first hit as a Pirate since 2003, but was left at second. A double was followed by a one-out single off A-Ram's glove (it froze the runner at second when JHK's back-up kept it in the infield), but Frankie got a pair off grounders to put up another zero.

Pittsburgh broke it open in the sixth. The Kid opened with a single and was forced on Pete's grounder. He was chased to third on Fran's double, scoring soon afterward on a wild pitch (well, prob should have been a passed ball, but same result). Ishy and Jaff Decker walked, then Starling lifted a sac fly to mike it 5-3 Pittsburgh. 

Cutch lined a ball to right that bad hopped past Eddie Rosario and went to the wall, allowing Travis and Jaff to score as Andrew steamed around the sacks. The relay went through the 3B'man's wickets; Cutch headed home while Eduardo Nunez chased after the ball. Both were looking different directions and the inevitable collision was NFL-worthy. Neither was hurt, despite their human tumbling dice impressions, and Cutch was awarded home on an interference call. it was a textbook little league homer. Blaine Boyer took over for Santana and got the final out.

Frankie couldn't hang on, though, and was pulled with two outs and Twins on the corners for Antonio Bastardo. He punched out Shane Robinson to quell the threat.

Three of the first four Bucs reached against Boyer, but a DP in between kept Pittsburgh from lighting up the board again. In the bottom of the seventh, AB was his worst enemy. He picked up another whiff, but also walked a pair and threw ball away on a comebacker. That mess brought on Jared Hughes with the bases jammed and an out. No prob; a K and a grounder to first later safely closed the frame.

Ryan O'Rourke pitched a clean eight, and so did Arquimedes Caminero, tossing the first 1-2-3 inning by a Pirate hurler so far in the brief series.

JR Graham worked the ninth, giving up knocks to A-Ram and JHK plus a two-run double to Pedro to make it 10-3. Deolis Guerra K'ed the first two twinkies, then gave up a single, wild pitch and double, which oddly enough ended the frame; Sano was gunned at third by Jaff to close out the contest.

Well, wasn't pretty, and if Neal Huntington doesn't see a need for an arm or three for the pen, well, we do. But winning ugly sure beats losing ugly. The Bucs have taken 5-of-6 and move on down the line to Cincy, where AJ takes on David Holmberg tomorrow night.

  • JHK had three hits, while The Kid, Cutch,A-Ram and Fran had a pair of knocks.
  • Gregory Polanco's early exit ended a six game hitting streak and 18 game on-base string. His knee has been sore for a while, and there was no official word on whether he'll be available tomorrow.
  • It was the Pirates 11th sweep of the season. That's the most Bucco broomings since they took a dozen sets back in 1992. 
  • The club is done with interleague play, finishing the year finish 13-7 against the AL.
  • A-Ram went into the game 0-for-14 as a 2015 Bucco before getting his first hit. .
  • The Pirates sold LHP Jayson Aquino to Indians; he had been DFA'ed to make room for Pedro Florimon.

Frankie v Ervin Santana; Lineup (Starling's Back) & Notes

Today's Game - Francisco Liriano (6-6, 2.91) and Ervin Santana (2-0, 2.60) hook up on get-away day. Frankie's been a stalwart, going 5-2 with a 2.10 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 73 IP in his last 11 starts. That 12th start, though, was a rough one against the Twinkies, as he gave up a seven spot in two frames in May. Overall, he's 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in three career starts with the other two outings coming as a member of the White Sox in 2012.

Frankie faces his old team (photo: USA Today)
Ervin signed a big deal with the Twins and then promptly got smacked with an 80-game suspension for a PED violation. But he's been light's out since returning four starts ago, having pitched scoreless ball the last two times out. He's faced the Bucs once, winning 7-3 as a Bravo last year.

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

Today's Lineup - Gregroy Polanco RF, Starling Marte LF, Cutch CF, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Jung-Ho Kang SS, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro DH, Fran Cervelli C, Travis Ishikawa 1B (Liriano P)

Starling's back from his tummy ache, so that's good news. Pedro remains at DH and Ishy at 1B. Apparently A-Ram can't slump his way out of cleanup; guess Clint figures he's due. Fran gets another day-following-night stint; hope that doesn't wear him down as the dog days heat up.

  • Former Twin Francisco Liriano is still the all-time leader in strikeouts at Target Field with 258.
  • Yes, you can go home again: Third Base Coach Rick Sofield was selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 1975 June Draft, then made his big league debut and played three seasons (1979-1981) with the Twins.
  • Today is the last interleague game of the season for the Pirates. The Bucs are 12-7 v the AL going into today.
  • RHP Tyler Glasnow is a step closer; he was promoted to Indy today.We don't expect to see him in September - that's not the Pirates way - but gives him the opportunity to be pitching in Pittsburgh sometime in 2016.

7/29: Freddy, Jack & Ian Traded; HBD George Cutshaw & Mike Williams; Hans Grand Slam; 2014 Run

  • 1886 - 2B George Cutshaw was born in Wilmington, Illinois. He came to the Bucs in exchange for Burleigh Grimes, and manned second base for four seasons (1918-21). Cutty hit .275 as a Pirate. His best year was his last, when he hit .340. But he was injured in August, and the 35 year old was sold to Detroit, where he spent the last two years of his career.
George Cutshaw 1921 National Caramel E220 series
  • 1915 - Honus Wagner hit a grand slam in the eighth inning off Brooklyn Dodger Ed Pfeffer (It was “a dandy drive” per the Pittsburg Press) during Pittsburgh’s 8-2 victory at Forbes Field. The inside-the-park round tripper made the 41-year old infielder the second oldest player ever to hit a homer with the bases full, a record set by 42-year old Cap Anson in 1894. (The mark that stood until 1985 when 44-year old Tony Perez of the Reds claimed it.) Erving Kantlehner scattered nine hits while going the distance for the win, helped by an unassisted DP when RF Bill Hinchman snared a short line drive and raced to first base to double off Pfeffer.
  • 1940 - The Bucs scored six times in their final at-bat, with the lead run thrown out at the plate as Frank Gustine tried to score from first on Vince DiMaggio’s single. It was a big play; the Dodgers pushed across a two-out run in the bottom half as the Pirates went down 7-6 at Ebbets Field. The game was marked by a ninth inning brawl started when Brooklyn C Babe Phelps spiked P Mace Brown at a play at first. Manager Frankie Frisch was fined $100 and ejected, and three of his players were hit with $25 fines.
  • 1947 - Frank Gustine went 4-for-5 against the Boston Braves to lead Pittsburgh to a 6-5 win at Forbes Field. It ran his hitting streak to 21 games before it was snapped the next day. Tiny Bonham went the distance for the win.
Frank Gustine (image from The Sporting News collection)
  • 1968 - RHP Mike Williams was born in Radford, Virginia. In six seasons (1998-2003), he went 15-23 and saved 140 games for Pittsburgh with a 3.78 ERA. His mark of 46 saves in 2002 is still a team standard, but fame is fleeting - he was out of baseball after 2003.
  • 1971 - Gene Clines was the hero of the Bucs 8-5 win over Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. His three run homer was the big blow in a six-run sixth inning, and the CF went 4-for-4 with four RBI and a pair of runs. Bob Robertson and Willie Stargell also went yard in the win that was cemented by 5-2/3 scoreless frames tossed by the bullpen.
  • 2000 - Brian Giles went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles while Warren Morris and Emil Brown homered as the Bucs ran up a 10-2 count against the San Diego Padres at TRS. Francisco Cordova got the win as three Buc pitchers scattered six hits in front of a Saturday night crowd of 30,118.
Emil Brown 1999 Upper Deck series
  • 2009 - 2B Freddy Sanchez was traded to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Tim Alderson. The Bucs also traded RHP Ian Snell and SS Jack Wilson to the Mariners for RHP Aaron Pribanic, RHP Brett Lorin, 1B Nathan Adcock, SS Ronny Cedeno and 1B Jeff Clement. Snell was out of baseball by 2010 while Freddy & Jack were snake-bitten by injury. For the Bucs, the only contributor was Cedeno, and he wore out his welcome after 2011.
  • 2014 - The Pirates beat the San Francisco Giants 3-1 at AT&T Park behind Francisco Liriano’s 11 whiffs and homers by Travis Snider and Josh Harrison. After an April-May slump that saw them fall nine games behind in the NL Central race and eight games below .500, the Bucs pulled within a game of first and even in the loss column plus they moved into the second wild card spot

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

El Coffee, Jung-Ho & The Shark Carry Bucs To 8-7 Win

Mike Pelfrey got the first three Bucs; Charlie nailed down the first pair of Twinkies before Joe Mauer worked him for a nine pitch walk. He went to second on a balk. Then Miguel Sano tapped a ball to third and A-Ram's barehand toss got past Ishy, who should have but couldn't pick the short hop. Trevor Plouffe singled Sano to third before Charlie got the third out.

The Pirates went quietly in the second. Aaron Hicks led off with a walk. Two grounders moved him to third, and a third ended the frame. Fran opened the third with a single to right; none of the Pirates behind him took the hint, although Gregory was robbed of extra bases and a RBI by a sweet leaping grab at the CF fence by Hicks. Torii Hunter singled to start the Twins off, and Mauer reached on JHK's throwing error, trying to start the DP at second. Charlie didn't fold; he came back with a three pitch whiff and an around the horn DP to shut the door.

The Kid drew a walk to begin the fourth (the last four leadoff hitters have gotten on). Two fly outs later, JHK singled but Pedro couldn't cash them in. Eddie Rosario banged a lead off triple for the Twins (actually a double, but the ball caromed past Cutch to give him three bags). A grounder plated him to make it 2-0 after four.

Continuing the first batter mojo, Fran singled to start the fifth. Ishy singled him up a station. Jaff laid down a bunt; it was thrown away, giving the Bucs a run and leaving Corsairs at second and third. Gregory hit his third straight bullet, but it was speared on the dive by SS Eduardo Escobar. The Kid rolled one to short; Ishy was off on contact and called safe on a bang-bang play at home. The Twins challenged; Ishy hesitated before breaking to make it a close shave, but the safe ruling was upheld. Cutch flied out to center, with Jaff taking third after the catch, but he died 90' short of the lead. Charlie tossed his version of a clean frame - whiff, walk, and 4-6-3 DP.

El Coffee celebrates after his big belt (image: Root Sports)

The Bucs got to Pelfrey in the sixth. Jung-Ho was plunked and Pedro walked. Fran should have had his third hit, but Hunter decoyed the runners into thinking he had the soft liner measured, played it cleanly on the hop and forced Pete at second. Ishy dumped a flare into left to score JHK, and Pelfrey gave the ball to Ryan O'Rourke. The lefty took Jaff and Gregory to school, whiffing both without tossing his slider anywhere near the strike zone.

Charlie walked Sano, then whiffed the next pair of Twinkies with hooks. Up 0-2 on Hicks, he went to the well once to often and his curve was drilled into right for a double (it was belt high; he needed to bury it). It became a triple when Gregory ho-hummed the throw in; this team takes a lot of plays on in the field. Charlie left and Jared Hughes came on close the door.

O'Rourke retired Walker, then Casey Fien, a RHP, toed the rubber and did the same to Cutch and A-Ram. Jared should have had a 1-2-3 frame, but after JHK made a nice stop in the hole, he fired a one-hopper that Ishy again couldn't come up with. It led to an uh-oh moment when Mauer poked one long into the corner, but Jaff had it measured a step or so shy of the foul pole.

Fien got an out before Pedro and Fran hit back-to-back singles, one a rocket and the other a well placed roller. That brought on lefty Brian Duensing and S-Rod to hit for Ishikawa. Rodriguez K'ed swinging without seeing a strike, but Jaff showed some discipline and drew a 3-2 walk. That brought up Gregory. He fell behind 1-2, laid off a chaser, spoiled a couple and then banged a bases-clearing double high off the RF wall. The Kid rolled one through the right side, and suddenly it was 7-3 Pittsburgh. Trevor May climbed the hill to get the last out.

The Twins didn't mail it in. After an out, three straight singles followed by a pair of doubles off money-in-the-bank Tony Watson made it seven up. The first two hits were soft; the last three laser beams. Mark the Shark got a rare eighth inning call, and used three pitches to close it down.

The Shark (photo Charle LeClaire/USA Today) 

Glen Perkins took over in the ninth. A-Ram was retired on an at 'em ball to third, then Jung-Ho caught all off a spinner and drilled it off the second-level facade in left center to regain the lead. Pedro lined a single to right, and Fran almost pulled off the coup d' grace when his blast into the upper decks just slid outside the LF pole. Perkins came back to get him and S-Rod. Mark gave up a one out walk, but the next pitch was turned into a 4-6-3. This time, tho, no save for the Shark; he has to settle for a W.

Not sure how the bullpen will line up tomorrow - Melacon only used 10 pitches, Watson 14 and Hughes 18, so you'd think they'd be good to go. Frankie Liriano and Ervin Santana is a marquee matchup for tomorrow's get-away game.

  • Gregory Polanco has reached base safely in 18 straight games and has a six-game hit streak. El Coffee only had one very clutch hit, but drilled three balls right on the nose for loud outs tonight.
  • Starling Marte was a late scratch; the team said he had gastritis and he may be iffy for tomorrow's day game.
  • Jordy took some grounders today; so far he and Josh seem to mending up on schedule.
  • Rob Scahill has some work planned at Pirate City and is slated to begin his rehab stint on August 6th with Bradenton.
  • Brent Morel, DFA'ed for A-Ram, cleared waivers and elected free agency.

Charlie v Mike Pelfrey; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Charlie Morton (6-4, 4.59) vs. Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.94). Here's hoping Charlie can get back on the bicycle. He hasn't won a game this month with an ERA of 7.76 over his last six starts. Charlie's given up four homers, 11 walks and hit four batters in his last four outings, so his command has been part of the problem. So has the seventh frame; he's surrendered just eight runs total in the first six innings of his past five outings, but 10 runs in the seventh inning alone. This will be the first time he's faced the Twins.

Pelfrey has hit on hard times, too, as he's winless in his last seven starts. Still, he's a tough hombre at home. The right-hander has posted a 2.22 ERA in eight starts at Target Field, and held the Pirates to a run over six innings May 20th in a no-decision at PNC Park. He's 3-2 with a 4.33 ERA against Pittsburgh lifetime.

Like the Bucs, Minnesota has had a feast or famine attack, scoring two runs or less in five of their last eight matches. The Pirates have gone 10-14 all time against the Twins, which includes an 0-2 record this season. Trivia point: Pittsburgh played its first ever interleague road game on June 16th, 1997 in Minnesota and won an 8-6 decision.

Tonight's game starts at 8:10 and is on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Add caption
Pedro DH'ing with Ishy at first base, AL cities are so much fun. Clint loves A-Ram in the clean up hole; we'd prefer him lower in the lineup by a couple of spots. Maybe Clint doesn't want Aramis' .241 BA too close to Pedro's .232 average.

  • This is the Pirates first visit to target Field since 2009.
  • Monday's Cubbies-Bucs game at PNC Park will be televised on ESPN.
  • Steve Lombardozzi cleared waivers and has returned to Indy.
  • Tyler Glasnow fanned a dozen hitters in six innings, but Altoona lost to Akron, 2-0.
  • Bradenton SS JaCoby Jones has been promoted to Altoona. He hit .253 with 10 HR (tied 3rd in FSL) and 58 RBI (3rd in FSL) in 93 games.
  • It was a good week for the organization. Bradenton OF'er Harold Ramirez was named the FSL Batter of the Week, Morgantown's Jonathan Brubaker was named the NYPL Pitcher of the Week and Bristol 1B Carlos Munoz was named the Appalachian League Batter-of-the-Week.

7/28: Giles Stuns 'Stros; Vanimal's 1st Shutout; Max Butcher Deal; SI & ESPN Appearances

  • 1932 - Pittsburgh swept a twin bill from the NY Giants‚ winning 10-7 and 9-1. Earl Grace had three hits and three RBI during the lidlifter to pace the Pirate attack. In the nitecap, Tony Piet smacked a grand slam and three-run homer to go along with two more hits for a seven RBI, three run day to plow the road for Heinie Meine.
  • 1939 - The Pirates traded veteran 1B Gus Suhr to the Phillies for RHP Max Butcher. Suhr was nearing the end of his career (he was released after playing just 10 games in 1940, his last MLB season), but Butcher became a mainstay for the Bucs, pitching for seven seasons, making 154 starts and winning 67 games in Pittsburgh.
  • 1940 - The Pirates won their eighth of nine games and fifth in a row after sweeping Boston at Braves Field by 5-2 and 7-3 scores. Maurice Van Robays was the hero of the opening match, homering and driving in three runs to give Dick Lanahan all the support he needed. The Bucs used a balanced attack to support Max Butcher’s four-hitter in the nitecap.
Max Butcher 1939 (photo: tnfotos Baseball Page)
  • 1958 - Frank Thomas was featured as the cover story of Sports Illustrated in an article titled “Nobody Knows Him But Everybody Wants Him.” In case you’re among the gang that doesn’t know him, the Pittsburgh native hit 163 HR in eight years as a Bucco and 286 bombs in his 16 seasons in the majors.
  • 1968 - Al McBean had one of those can-do-no-wrong Sundays. He gave up 13 hits to the Cards at Forbes Field, but still went the distance for a 7-1 win. The big blow? McBean’s grand slam in the fifth off Larry Jaster, coming with two down after Milt May was walked to get to Alvin. Donn Clendenon added a two run blast to the cause.
  • 1971 - Luke Walker spun a four hit, complete game whitewash at Los Angeles in a 4-0 win at Dodger Stadium. Bob Robertson homered and had a sac fly to bring home two runs. The Bucs nickled and dimed the Dodgers; every position player had a hit, four different guys scored and three had RBI as the club put up their runs one at a time in four different frames.
Luke Walker 1971 Topps series
  • 1987 - Barry Bonds hit 176 homers while wearing the Bucco colors, but only one was an inside-the-park job. In an otherwise blah 5-2 loss to the Phillies at TRS, rookie Bonds drilled a two out liner to right off Shane Rawley that kicked around, allowing him and Junior Ortiz to score the only Pirate tallies of the day. "Glenn Wilson tried to cut the ball off and missed it," Rawley recalled for the AP. "It rolled around the corner and ricocheted all the way around. By the time he got the ball, there was no way to get Barry." The hit was payback for Bonds, who Rawley had plunked twice. It was the first of three Bonds’ homers that didn’t clear the fence among his 762 long flies. The other two were in 1997 with the Giants.
  • 1996 - Orlando Merced hit two home runs and tallied four RBI while Al Martin & Mark Johnson had four hits each as the Bucs beat the Phillies 12-8 at TRS. Reliever John Ericks took home the win of the nationally televised ESPN Sunday Night Baseball match. It would be the last SNB appearance for the Bucs until 2014.
  • 2000 - Aramis Ramirez drove in six runs with a pair of homers, Emil Brown went long to plate four more runners while John Vander Wal also went yard in a 16-5 romp over the San Diego Padres at TRS. A-Ram, Jason Kendall, Kevin Young and Vander Wal scored three times each.
  • 2000 - The Bucs sent OF Wil Cordero to the Indians for IF Enrique Wilson and OF prospect Alex Ramirez. Cordero played respectably through 2003, while Wilson was traded again in 2001 and Ramirez began a long career as a slugger in Japan after the 2000 season.
Alex Ramirez 2001 Topps series
  • 2001 - Pittsburgh became only the second team in NL history (the Cubs were the first in 1952) to win a game by scoring seven runs with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning. Brian Giles capped the scoring with a walk-off grand slam off Astros ace Billy Wagner to win the game 9-8 after Pat Meares had hit a two-run shot earlier in the frame. The game was the opener of the first home day-night doubleheader in franchise history before a crowd of 32,977 at PNC Park. There was no drama in the nightcap as Houston rolled 12-3.
  • 2003 - Jeff Suppan won his sixth consecutive start with a 3-0 decision over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, scattering seven hits. He was backed by Reggie Sanders’ homer and three hits from Randall Simon. Suppan was flipped to the Red Sox three days later as part of a deal for Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez.
  • 2004 - In one of their more frustrating losses, the Bucs collected 11 hits but were shut out by the Braves 1-0 at PNC Park. Ollie Perez threw a five hitter with 10 K, but Chipper Jones’ fourth inning homer was enough run support for the Bravos. John Smoltz came out of the bullpen to save the game for Russ Ortiz.
  • 2005 - The Bucs traded for IF JJ Furmaniak from the San Diego Padres in exchange for C David Ross. Furmaniak batted 52 times as a MLB'er while Ross is still in the show.
JJ Furmaniak 2006 Bowman Rookie Blue series
  • 2012 - The Pirates won for the ninth time in 11 games, taking a 4-3 decision from the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Alex Presley and Neil Walker had solo shots, and Rod Barajas singled in Andrew McCutchen with the game winner with two out in the eighth. They remained two games back in the NL Central race.
  • 2013 - The final page in a deal that didn’t happen was turned when the Astros passed on the Bucs final offer of Luis Heredia & a competitive balance pick for Bud Norris. The give and take was released as part of Astro e-mails leaked by St. Louis Cardinal staffers. The Pirates offered one of Heredia, Tyler Glasnow or Alen Hanson for Norris; Houston GM Jeff Luhnow wanted Glasnow and either Heredia or Nick Kingham as a package, offers that Neal Huntington wisely rejected. (Thanks to Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review)
  • 2014 - The Pirates laid some small ball on Madison Bumgarner in the first inning, and it led to a big frame. The Bucs used three hits, two walks, an error and a pair of sac flies to jump ahead of the SF Giants 4-0, and then added on a final run when Josh Harrison homered. The rest of the night at AT&T Park belonged to Vance Worley, who tossed his first MLB shutout and just his second career complete game. He allowed four hits, facing two batters over the minimum, only one of whom advanced past first thanks to three DPs and a caught stealing, to toss the Bucs first complete game shutout since AJ Burnett turned the trick in 2012.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Deadline Approaches With Holes To Fill...

The opening deadline deal the Bucs swung for A-Ram was out of necessity, and well played, we think. The FO brought in a legit 5-6 hitter to poke a finger in the dike while Josh & Jordy are out, without adding to an already crowded left side of the infield. When they return, A-Ram adds a solid RH bat to the bench in September. The next set of moves is to shore up the soft spots; this is the week, as the deadline expires on Friday afternoon..

The biggest question the Pirates had to answer during the deadline selloff was whether they were going to stick with Pedro at first. Last week, Jeff Passan of Yahoo!Sports said he was being offered to everyone; this week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted his spot in Pittsburgh is etched in stone; we assume market response had something to do with that swing. And with Josh Bell's estimated arrival in 2017 meshing with Pedro's estimated departure, looks like it'll be the same ol' next season, too.

Pedro remaining at first simplifies the Pirates deadline dealing (photo Gene Puskar/AP)

If that is the case, the Pirates may or may not look to upgrade the spot by adding a RH hitter. But the market isn't offering much, even in that limited role, and Sean Rodriguez isn't going anywhere. Mike Napoli? Maybe, but he's not really much of an improvement. And where exactly does that leave the now redundant Travis Ishikawa?

The most obvious need is some bullpen help. After Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes - he's been every bit as dependable in his role as The Shark and Tony have been in theirs - the FO has to find an arm or two. Antonio Bastardo, Deolis Guerre and Archimedes Caminero may all have cool names, but unfortunately, that's where the coolness ends as all three have been wildly inconsistent. A Tyler Clippard, Tommy Hunter, Brad Boxberger type would bolster the pen considerably (EDIT - scratch Clippard. He went to the Mets for minor league RHP Casey Meisner.) Internal reinforcements include the return of Rob Scahill and rehab of John Holdzkom, but neither are on the near horizon.

A righty stick, preferably in the OF (ideally, 1B/OF) might be a piece worth considering, even with Ramirez aboard, to ease Gregory Polanco's transition. The Bucs are reported by Rob Beirtempfel  to have interest in Boston OF'er Shane Victorino. The Flyin' Hawaiian can still hit against lefties (.304 this season) which makes him a possible platoon guy with Gregory. He also carries what remains of a $13M contract with him, so his price shouldn't be much. Victorino is a FA at the end of the year and would be a pure rental, which would be a perfect fit. (EDIT - he was; but for the Angels, who picked him up today for Josh Rutledge.)

Don't let the smoke of players like Justin Upton get into your eyes; Pittsburgh is sold on Gregory and aren't gonna hedge their bets quite yet. The Pirate OF is actually quite solid on the farm, and the organization finally has a few youngsters at Indy, though none are making any noise yet.

More starters, please? Charlie has hit the wall after the sixth inning recently (a fact known to all but Clint, apparently), and AJ is regressing, as expected. But unless a well timed visit to the DL pops up, the Pirates really don't have anyplace to move the current rotation; there are no young guns to send down. That doesn't mean that twenty-something like Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner wouldn't interest the Pirates FO, but it would involve a lot of moving parts.

The possibility also exists that Pedro Florimon may wear out his welcome sooner rather than later, which would open the door for a Clint Barmes reunion. We don't think anything like a Ben Zobrist offer is in the works; the FO seems OK with most of the core and is looking to apply some putty around the edges.

7/27: Back To the Future; Big Buc Sweep in '79; Dandy Delwyn; The Fort

  • 1908 - Honus Wagner and Chief Wilson led the Bucs to a 4-3 win over the NY Giants and Christy Mathewson at the Polo Grounds. The Flying Dutchman had a pair of doubles good for two runs and an RBI while Wilson had two knocks including a triple, scored once and drove in a pair. Nick Maddox got the win while Irv Young came on the get the last out in the ninth.
  • 1927 - Vic Aldridge tossed a five hitter and the Bucs scored twice in the eighth to beat Dazzy Vance and the Brooklyn Robins‚ 2-1 at Forbes Field to take over undisputed possession of first place. Kiki Cuyler’s single scored Paul Waner, who had three hits on the day, and George Grantham for the win.
Vic Aldridge (photo TSN-Mears Collection)
  • 1932 - Bill Harris notched a pair of wins in a twinbill against the Giants at the Polo Grounds‚ tossing three innings in the opening 9-8 win followed by two perfect frames in a 4-2 nitecap victory. In the first game, Lloyd Waner had four knocks while Arky Vaughan and Tony Piet homered. The Pirates scored three in the ninth to take the second match with C Earl Grace knocking home two of his three RBI and Harris singling in another. The Pirates increased their NL lead over the Cubs to five games, but would finish the season four games behind Chicago in the pennant race.
  • 1941 - Homestead Gray 1B Buck Leonard launched a three run homer at Comiskey Park to lead the East to an 8-3 win over the West in the Negro League All-Star Game. The contest drew a record crowd of 50,256.
  • 1961 - Giants’ Manager Alvin Dark said before the game that "Juan Marichal will go all the way" and kept his bullpen in the dugout to emphasis the point. And he was right. Marichal threw a complete game, five hit shutout at Forbes Field, winning 2-0 over Vinegar Bend Mizell.
  • 1968 - Matty Alou was featured as the cover story of The Sporting News in an article titled “Pistol Packing Pirate.”
  • 1979 - The Bucs swept Montreal in a DH at Olympic Stadium in front of a crowd of 59,260, the biggest baseball turnout in Canada. They took the opener 5-4, three times losing leads to the pesky Expos before Phil Garner’s eighth inning single scored Dave Parker with the game winner. Garner had a big game, with three hits and a homer. Kent Tekulve allowed an inherited runner to score in the seventh to tie the game, but got the win, with Enrique Romo picking up the save. Bob Robertson went long and had four RBI while Phil Garner went 3-for-4 again with four runs scored in the Bucs 9-1 win in the nitecap. Bert Blyleven went the distance, scattering five hits and striking out nine as the Bucs cut the Expos lead to ½ game.
  • 1982 - Larry McWilliams tossed a three hitter and struck out 11 in complete game shutout win over Philadelphia, 4-0, at TRS. Jason Thompson drove home a pair and Bill Madlock homered to provide the cushion against the Phils.
  • 1991 - Jay Bell had the first two-homer game of his career, going 4-for-5 with four RBI and four runs scored in Pittsburgh’s 11-5 win at Houston’s Astrodome. Bell hit a one-out homer in the first off the Jimmy Jones, then a three-run shot in the sixth inning off Jim Corsi to extend the Bucs’ lead to 11-0. Barry Bonds added three RBI and scored twice as Randy Tomlin picked up the win.
  • 1998 - 2B Tony Womack set a record of 888 consecutive at bats without grounding into a double play in an 8-7, 13 inning loss to the Rox at Coors Field. The previous record had been held by Brooklyn's Pete Reiser, set in the mid-forties. Tony eventually went 219 straight games and 915 at-bats without hitting into a double-play. Jose Guillen had four hits and a homer and Kevin Young also went long with three RBI in the defeat.
Tony Womack 1998 Fleer Tradition series
  • 1999 - In one of baseball’s weirder promotions, the Pirates defeated the Mets‚ 5-1‚ in the first of MLB's "Turn Ahead the Clock Nights," sponsored by Century 21 Real Estate. Each team wore futuristic uniforms (the Bucs had red jerseys with yellow sleeves and a giant Bucco head logo)‚ with the hometown squad becoming the "Mercury" Mets for the night. The pre game rap was “Greetings, earthlings. Welcome to Shea Station 4C. Blastoff time is 7:40.” The theme was carried on throughout the evening‚ with the scoreboard flashing computerized graphics of the players of the future as each came to the plate. Rickey Henderson‚ for example‚ was given three eyes and pointy ears‚ and played "left quadrant." Al Martin hit the first of his two HRs in the first "sector‚" and rookie Kris Benson went the distance for the win.
  • 2009 - In an otherwise unremarkable 4-2 loss to Tim Lincecum at AT&T Park, Delwyn Young added a little spice to the show. Randy Winn’s bloop into right went off right fielder Garrett Jones’ mitt, then off his knee, and he kicked it into the air with his foot for good measure. Young, playing second, dove after the cowhide hacky-sack and made a lunging barehanded grab. Alas, the ump blew the call and gave Winn a hit, which was pretty much how the Pirates’ luck ran back then. Nevertheless, Tribune Review writer Joe Starkey called the catch the “Best play of the decade.”
  • 2013 - Mike McKenry showed why MLB catchers are a different breed of cat. He caught the final three frames of a 7-4 win against Miami at Marlins Park after tearing the lateral meniscus in his left knee during a slide, an injury that required season-ending surgery three days later. It was hard to tell, as the reserve catcher, who soldiered through the game because starting catcher Russell Martin had tweaked his knee the previous night, went 4-for-5. The Fort was the battery mate of Charlie Morton, who took home the win with a save by Mark Melancon.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ol' King Cole leads the Way As Bucs Take Series With 3-1 Win

Second base proved untouchable in the first; Bryce Harper singled off the wall and was tossed by Gregory trying to stretch it; Starling singled and was caught trying to swipe second. In the second, the only batter to reach was Yunel Escobar, who led off with a HBP and never got to second while the Bucs went down in order.

The third warmed up. Gerrit Cole was touched by a two-out Michael Taylor homer to make it 1-0. That was followed by Danny Espinosa's single and stolen sack; the Cole Train whiffed Harper to close the frame. Stew singled of Joe Ross, was bunted to second and came home on Gregory's liner up the middle. El Coffee zoomed to third on a throwing error (Stew was DOA at home if the relay was on line). Starling was plunked and both benches were warned, although there appeared to be no messages involving either plunk, tho both were in the side). Then Cutch gave the Bucs the lead with a single dropped into center to make it 2-1.

In an otherwise completely calm fourth, The Kid homered (437' into the bullpen) to put Pittsburgh up by a pair. Both sides went down in order in the fifth and the sixth. After Gerrit had put away 11 straight, the Nats were up to no good in the seventh with runners on the corners and an out. Wilson Ramos bounced a first-pitch heater to short, and the 6-4-3 DP ended the threat. Matt Thornton came on for Ross and worked a quiet inning.

Gerrit Cole leaves to a standing ovation in the eighth (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
In the eighth, the Nats had two on on and two out; Tony Watson came in - yes, in the middle of an inning - and got Harper to bounce to first, a testy play that defensive sub S-Rod ate up. Casey Jannsen shut down the Bucs; that's 14 in a row that Washington pitching has sat down. It was easy as 1-2-3 for Mark the Shark in the ninth, and the Bucs now have a well deserved day off as they travel to Minnesota to open a quick two game set on Tuesday.

  • Mark Melancon has made 31 appearances in a row without allowing an earned run. The record is 38 games, set by Craig Kimbrel in 2011. (s/o to @DavidManel)
  • The crowd of 37,597 was another sellout. 151,952 warm fannies caught the series, setting a PNC Park record for a four-game set.
  • Cole became the second Pirate with 14 wins before August, joining Dock Ellis, who has his fast start in 1971.
  • The press gang reports that Josh is playing catch and fielding grounders (soft ones, we hope) now that his cast has been removed.
  • Justin Seller, who's been on the DL all season, was outrighted to Indy to clear a spot on the 40 man.
  • Andrew Lambo has been shut down for three weeks, Casey Sadler is done for 6-8 weeks after a platelet injection , and Rick Scahill still has a ways to go before he's ready for MLB game action. On the plus side, John Holdzkom had a good rehab outing at Morgantown (1 IP, 2 K)
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has his take on how deadline dealing will go down around the league. Two names he tosses out for Pittsburgh are Mike Leake and Tyler Clippard. He adds "...there are a lot of other mid-level starter/reliever combos that could go here too. And if Ramirez doesn’t take to 1B well, I could see them swinging a deal for Mike Napoli, though that might be an August trade."
  • Johnny Cueto was scheduled to pitch this week against the Bucs, but not now - he was finally dealt, after a bump or two along the road, to the Royals for three LH piching prospects: Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed.

Cole Train v Joe Ross; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Gerrit Cole (13-4, 2.31) closes out the Washington series
against Joe Ross (2-2, 2.70). The California natives Cole (Orange) & Ross (Oakland)  were both first round selections in the 2011 Player Draft (Cole went #1 overall; Ross #25) with laser velocity.

Rookie Ross is a fastball/slider guy (he hits 97 MPH) with a change to keep batters honest, and has a 4-1 victory with 10 K this year against AJ in his only outing against the Bucs. Should be a nice match up of two young power arms. The game starts at 1:35 and will be on Root Sports and 97.3 The Fan.

Stew in for Fran (Cole pitching, day after night) backed by all the big boys today.

  • Gerrit Cole has surrendered three runs or less in 18 of his 19 starts (two or less 14 times).
  • Aramis Ramirez is tied with Brian Giles for sixth place on the all-time list for home runs hit at PNC Park with 45. He hit 29 while playing with the Pirates, 11 with with Cubs and five with the Brewers.
  • And if you were wondering, Ramirez wasn't a clean-up guy for Milwaukee; he typically hit fifth or sixth.
  • Bryce Harper has reached base in 22 straight games.
  • In a notes column, Dave Laurila of Fangraphs talks with 1B Josh Bell and his stance as Bell looks for a better power-hitting platform.