Saturday, April 30, 2016

Frankie & The Boys Whip the Reds 5-1

So out into the drizzle they splashed. Frankie got a pair of quick, routine outs to open the game. Then Josh booted a ball and Brandon Phillips singled before the third out, and he had a 24 pitch frame. Alfredo Simon had been absolutely raked since beating the Bucs on April 8th, and his very bad streak continued when JJ banged his first pitch into the seats. He kinda settled in afterward, going K-W-K-W-WP, but got Gregory to pop out to leave Buccos at second and third after 34 pitches.

Frankie worked a 1-2-3 second; so did Simon, with a couple of solid plays behind him. The Reds got a two-out knock in the third, a ball that just got under Josh, and that was it. Cutch walked with one away and went to third on a Freeser knock to right. Marte whiffed again - he's been biting on fastballs down and in, then put away with the splitter - and Fran bounced out to strand another pair. Simon is up to 71 pitches.

Frankie's back in town (photo Justin Aller/Getty)

The Bucs flashed leather in a clean fourth, with Freeser and Jordy both making plays on infield rockets. With two gone, Jordy and Frankie lined singles and JJ walked, but Cutch's weak roller ended the fun; that's seven stranded in four frames. The Reds evened it with two away in the fifth (one on some pretty shoddy running by Simon; he reached first on a misthrow, but was tagged out at second on the shoulder without sliding) when Billy Hamilton slapped a single and came around on Zack Cozart's double; the relay was a heartbeat ahead of the Red flyer, but the shorthop came up just a bit, allowing Hamilton to get under the tag.

Pittsburgh answered. Freese singled, Marte was hit in the hand (with review needed to confirm it didn't catch the bat first) and Fran dropped a looper into center to chase Freeser home. That brought JC Ramirez on, and a right side grounder and sac fly rang up another point. Frankie tossed a clean sixth, as did Ramirez.

Frankie opened the seventh and plunked Bruce in the elbow. A couple of nice grabs by Cutch and El Coffee was followed by a 45' roller by Hamilton for an infield knock. That was it for Frankie, who went 6-2/3 IP, giving up a run on five hits with NO walks, HBP, six whiffs and 109 pitches. Neftali Feliz climbed the muddy mound and got a first pitch pop to close it. Tony Cingrani kept the Bucs at bay. He gave up a pair of knocks that were stranded, bringing the LOB to 11.

Tony Watson toed the rubber in the eighth; he surrendered a one out walk, then got the next pair of Redlegs swinging. Caleb Cotham answered Bryan's Price's call, and was rudely greeted by the dynamic duo - Matt Joyce smoked a single and S-Rod lined one over the 379' mark in left center. The rest of the inning went quietly, except for Starling getting hit again, this time in the shoulder. AJ Schugel came on with a 5-1 lead, and sandwiched a walk around two outs. Hamilton hit a pop single into no man's land, and Clint called for the Shark, who fanned Cozart on three pitches.

S-Rod goes yard to ice it (photo via Pittsburgh Pirates)

We're not really with this save on a platter concept, especially with the Cubs coming to town. MM, to his credit, has used all of five pitches to nail the last two games, making three of his seven saves of the one out variety. Hopefully he won't be on ice during the Chicago festivities. Nice comeback game for Frankie; deep counts, but no walks. And God bless Matt and S-Rod; the bench has been awesome in April. One more to go before the anointed best team in baseball hits town.

  • Jordy has a seven game hitting streak and 12 game on-base stretch. Josh is even hotter, with a nine game hit streak.
  • John Jaso's first Pirate long ball was also his fifth career leadoff homer. 
  • 15 wins in April ties a team record for the most victories in the month.
  • By putting up a zero in the second, Alfredo Simon broke of streak of six straight innings he had been scored on, giving up 19! runs in that span.
  • The Reds’ bullpen has given up at least one run in 18 straight games to keep our bullpen woes in perspective.
  • The crowd was 34,810 tonight; forget the weather, it's fireworks night!
  • The players had a pre-game informational meeting with MLBPA and health officials concerning the Zika virus in Puerto Rico as they have a scheduled set of games with the Marlins in San Juan at the end of May. The players, we assume, will be kept in the loop, but whether the games will be played and if they are, under what safeguards, will be hashed out by MLB and the union.

    Saturday: Frankie Liriano v Alfredo Simon, Lineup, Notes - Hughes Back, Scahill To Indy

    Tonight: The game starts at 7:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. It'll be a busy house; no home Penguins match and a fireworks night should counter the autumn-like weather.

    Pitchers: Frankie Liriano (1-1, 4.64) meets Alfredo Simon (0-2, 16.39). Guys are waiting out Francisco, making him throw strikes, and that's been a smart play. Liriano leads the league with 17 walks in 21-1/3 IP. He went five innings against Cincy earlier in the year, giving up five hits, four walks and three runs. He hasn't done well against the Reds, going 1-5 in 13 outings. The Cubs (twice) and Cards have ripped Simon. But he's a tough nut for Pittsburgh; he gave up one earned run over five innings against them earlier in the month and slashes 4-5/3.46 in his career.

    Frankie on the hill (2016 Topps Series 1)

    Lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, Josh harrison 2B, Jordy SS, Frankie P. This has been about as stable a Pirate lineup so far as we've seen during the PNC era.

    • The Pirates activated Jared Hughes from his rehab assignment. To make room, Rob Scahill has been optioned to AAA Indy. 
    • The Pirates are doing more than just making contact.Per Fangraphs, four are making hard contact better than 1/3 of the time - David Freese (42%), Gregory Polanco (36%), Fran Cervelli (34%) and Starling Marte (34%). Three of them are at 85% or better at squaring up to drill hard/medium balls - Freese (92%),  Polanco (89%) and Fran (85%). Not many softball hitters in April.
    • The Reds have gone 4-13 since taking two of three against the Pirates during the first week of the season.
    • The Pirate coaches signed through next season are pitching coach Ray Searage, hitting coach Jeff Branson, 1B coach Nick Leyva, 3B coach Rick Sofield, ass't hitting coach Jeff Livesey, catching coach Brad Fischer, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas and his ass't Herbie Andrade.
    • Big day for the farm - five of the 20 players on this week's Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet are young Buccos: Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, Mitch Keller and Jameson Taillon. All but Keller are at Indy; Mitch, 20, is tossing for the WV Power in the Low A Sally League.

    4/30: Big Days For Pud & Phil, HBD Uncle Ray, Hans Statue Unveiled, More...

    • 1877 - Jim “Pud” Galvin of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys tossed the International Association’s first shutout‚ defeating Columbus 2-0 at Union (Recreation) Park. The IA disbanded after the season. He tossed for 15 years, was MLB's first 300-game winner (he won 365 games) and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965.
    • 1887 - The Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first NL game, defeating the defending champion Chicago White Stockings 6-2 behind Pud Galvin in front of nearly 10,000 fans at Recreation Park. In pre-game ceremonies, Fred Miller’s beloved pet monkey, which had passed on to simian heaven, was buried beneath home plate. The team wouldn't become the Pirates until 1891, when they "pirated" the services of second baseman Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia Athletics. 
    Big day for Pud - 1887 Old Judge
    • 1924 - At Cubs Park, Rabbit Maranville lined a triple in the 14th inning and then stole home to beat Chicago‚ 2-1. Johnny Morrison was the winner over Elmer Jacobs; both pitchers went the distance. The Pirates had 12 hits, led by Max Carey’s three, but hit into four DP during the day.
    • 1938 - 3B Bill Brubaker set a modern MLB record by committing four errors in a 2-0 loss to Cincinnati at Crosley Field. Bill’s boots didn’t contribute to the loss; both Red runs (one off Russ Bauer and the other off Mace Brown) were earned.
    • 1945 - Ray Miller was born in Takoma Park, Maryland. He spent ten years as the Pirates pitching coach (1987–96) under Jim Leyland, replacing Ron Schueler, and worked with Cy Young winner Doug Drabek. Miller also managed for Minnesota and Baltimore, and as pitching coach tutored Mike Flanagan and Steve Stone for the Os.
    • 1949 - Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee. He spent five years (1977-81) with the Pirates, playing second base for the 1979 World Series club. Scrap Iron hit .267 and stole 112 bases while a Bucco. After his playing career, Garner managed the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros.
    Phil Garner had a big day, too - 1977 O-Pee-Chee
    • 1955 - A statue of Honus Wagner, created by Frank Vittor, was unveiled outside the left field gates at Forbes Field. It’s been moved twice: first to TRS, then to PNC Park where his likeness greets fans at the main gate.
    • 1960 - Pittsburgh scored ten times in the second inning against the Reds at Crosley Field on the way to a 12-7 win, their eighth in a row. Roberto Clemente, Billy Maz and Dick Stuart each drove home three RBI.
    • 1967 - Juan Pizarro struck out eight batters and tossed a four hit shutout in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Jerry May knocked in both of Pittsburgh’s runs with a run-scoring single in the second inning and a solo home run in the fifth frame.
    • 1980 - Phil Garner had his first two homer game, good for three RBI, and Bill Robinson added another as the division leading Pirates took a 5-0 victory over the Expos at TRS. Jim Bibby tossed a six hitter for the win. The long balls were a birthday gift to himself; Scrap Iron turned 31.
    • 1980 - Pitcher Bert Blyleven left the team and announced that he would retire if he wasn’t traded, citing “the non-support and lack of confidence from his manager,” unhappy that Chuck Tanner wouldn’t let him pitch deeper into games. He did finish out the year, going 8-13/3.88 in 216 IP, and was granted his wish when he was sent to the Indians during the off season.

    • 1984 - Bill Madlock was featured on the cover of The Sporting News for the story “Have Bat - Will Hit.” Not quite...Mad Dog tried playing through a sore elbow, and eventually had surgery in August to remove bones spurs. He hit just .253 for the campaign.
    • 1996 - For the second time in his career, Jeff King hit a pair of bombs in the same inning - one a grand slam - to lead the Bucs to a 10-7 win over the Reds. The first baseman joined Andre Dawson and Willie McCovey as the only MLB’ers to have accomplished the feat twice. The Bucs tallied nine times in the fourth frame to spark the victory at Cinergy Field, sending Cincinnati to its eighth straight loss.
    • 1999 - Pat Meares, 30, was signed to a one year, $1.5M contract by Cam Bonifay. He broke his wrist in spring training (the Pirates misdiagnosed it as a sprain), and a week after he came off the DL was given a four year, $15M extension. He played 240 games for the Pirates and 2001 was his last season, reaching a settlement that paid him for 2002-03 without him playing.
    Pat Meares wasn't such a great deal - 1999 Upper Deck
    • 2002 - Buc starter David Williams turned hog wild when hit two batters and committed two balks in the fourth inning of a 10-0 thumping by the Rox at Coor Field. The Bucs mustered just three hits against Mike Hampton; the Rockies banged out 13 knocks, including a pair of homers.
    • 2008 - Pirate RF’er Xavier Nady went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks while driving in three runs during a 13-1 rout of the Mets in New York. Nady’s three RBI increased his total to 26 for the month of April. That was tops in the NL at the time, and the most for a Pirate in the season’s first month since Willie Stargell’s 27 in 1971.

    Friday, April 29, 2016

    Juan-derful; Nicasio & Two-Out Lightning Carry Bucs To 4-1 Win

    Good start for Juan Nicasio; two quick whiffs and a steady inning marred only by a Joey Votto two-out single. Dan Straily had an easy frame, too. The Reds opened the second with a double; Juan whiffed the next three. Pittsburgh started with a knock and walk, but Gregory chased an ankle high change and banged into a 4-6-3 DP. Josh went after a couple of sliders well off the dish, and then missed a change to end it.

    Juan Nicasio - bullpen, hah! (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    Juan added another K in the third. Jordy singled, was bunted up and JJ walked after starting in an 0-2 hole. Cutch fanned, but a soft lob into right by the Freeser made it 1-0. Eugenio Suarez saved Straily's bacon, taking away a hit from Starling with a diving grab to stop the music. Votto walked to start the fourth, but no damage; Josh made a sweet layout and flip to stop things from escalating. Fran took a stroll to begin the Buc half; he was doubled off first on a Gregory liner to first. Josh took away some sting when he dropped a 3-1 heater over the Clemente Wall to make it 2-0.

    An infield squibbler put the Scott Schebler aboard in the fifth and he was bunted to second. No prob; Juan didn't allow a ball out of the infield; ditto for Straily. Nicasio picked up a couple of more whiffs in the sixth; his velo is still strong and he's at just 81 pitches. Starling doubled with an out, but with two gone was caught trying to steal third; not a real heads-up play with Gregory up. 1-2-3 in the seventh for Juan; he gave up three hits with a walk and eight K on 97 pitches in that span, and his velocity sat at 94-95 most of the game. Guess that'll calm down the talk about moving back into the pen.

    JJ Hoover took over for the Reds. Straily did a commendable job against a team that's been strokin', mixing up pitches, speeds and locations nicely. Not so for Hoover; Jordy singled with two outs (and one of those was spanked) and Matt Joyce took a fastball deep the other way (actually, it barely cleared the wall just inside the foul pole, traveling 334', but hey...) to give the bullpen a four run cushion.

    Matt Joyce says bye-bye (photo via Pittsburgh Pirates)

    Hold your breath; here come the relievers: Tony Watson gave up a leadoff double. It took him 10 pitches but he fanned Billy Hamilton, and then polished the eighth off routinely after that. JC Ramirez took the hill and put up a zero. Arquimedes Caminero came in, and Votto greeted him with single. He served up triple digit heat to get the next two guys, then Tucker Barhart turned a 102 MPH heater into an RBI double, a ball that Cutch misread - it went off his glove - or it would have been game over. So in came The Shark.

    Pity to waste him here, but Arquie was his own worst enemy, falling behind all four hitters 2-0 and taking his slider/splitter out of play. It took MM two pitches to get a pop, and the Bucs start the homestand off with a 4-1 victory.

    Nicasio was tough, and all four Pirate runs came after two were out, three on long flies, so today's win was due to strong pitching and clutch homers, a departure from the usual shootout. We'll take it.

    • Jordy Mercer has reached base safely in 11 straight games. He and Starling paced the attack with two hits apiece.
    • Josh has an eight game hitting streak, and broke a stretch of 379 at-bats without a homer.
    • Tony Watson appeared for the 344th time, the fourth most appearances by a Pirates lefty. He's behind Wilbur Cooper (469), John Grabow (390) and The Candy Man (345). 
    • 29,938 came out for the game; not only did they get a Fran tee shirt and a win, but a rare sub-three hour contest. It lasted 2:41.
    • Neftali Feliz has a maintenance day off tonite. He worked three of the last four coast trip games and tossed 76 pitches, so his arm could use a little extra ice time.
    • Jared Hughes was at PNC Park; he could be activated as soon as tomorrow.

    Friday: Juan Nicasio v Dan Straily; Lineup, Notes

    Tonight: The Reds come to town for a 7:05 series opener. The game will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. If you like tee shirts, this is "That's Amore" Fran shirt giveaway night. Unfortunately, its supposed to be a dreary weekend weather-wise, so let's hope the Bucs are mudders.

    Starling is back and the A-Team lineup is intact tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    Pitchers: Juan Nicasio  (2-2, 4.50) kicks it off against Dan Straily (0-0, 3.50). Nicasio has been a wild child as a starter, although he did show a third pitch, his change, a bit last outing, so that may help generate an extra strike or two. He needs those strikes, too - 11 walks in 20 IP have been running up his pitch count and ERA. Straily has had a kind of whirlwind relationship with the Reds. He was claimed from San Diego, carried as a long man after a career as a starter, and then tossed back into the rotation to replace Tim Melville. This will be his third start; he's had one good and one bad turn in that role so far. He's been workmanlike against the Bucs, seeing them four times with a 1-0/3.55 mark.

    Lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, Josh Harrison 2B, Jordy SS, Nicasio P. Nobody down for maintenance today; it's the regular lineup.

    • The Pirates have won four in a row for the second time this month. It won't be that easy to extend, tho; the Reds took two-of-three earlier in the month at  GABP and won 11-of-19 last year.
    • The Pirates today announced the extensions of the entire coaching staff through 2017, so Uncle Ray and the gang will be back next season.
    • Baseball news: Marlin 2B Dee Gordon flunked his PED test and was suspended for 80 games.

    4/29: Greenlee Opens, Sunday Ball, HBD Vander Wal, Wilson No-No, Big Bats

    • 1930 - Rollie Hemsley, George Grantham and Charlie Engle combined for 11 hits and 12 RBI to lead the Pirates to a 13-9 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Bucs rallied from a 7-1 deficit with a seven run sixth inning and never looked back. Ralph Erickson got the win (his only MLB victory) in relief of Ray Kremer, with the save going to Steve Swetonic.
    • 1932 - Greenlee Field in the Hill, home of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, opened in front of 4,000 fans. Hall of Famers Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson were the battery as the Pittsburgh Crawfords lost the opener to the New York Black Yankees 1-0 in a pitching duel with Jesse "Mountain" Hubbard. Paige struck out 10 and allowed six hits, but Hubbard bettered that line, surrendering just three knocks. The Allegheny County commissioners, Pittsburgh's mayor and the city councilmen caught the opener from the field boxes. It was the first ballfield built specifically for a black team, erected by team owner Gus Greenlee. When finished, the grounds would seat 7,500, with lights added in 1933. It was demolished in 1939 to clear space for the Bedford Dwellings.
    Greenlee Field (image via Pittsburgh Sports Forum)
    • 1934 - Red Lucas won Pittsburgh’s first Sunday home game as the Pirates beat Cincinnati 9-5 at Forbes Field, backed by Gus Suhr’s three hits and four RBI. Both Suhr and Paul Waner, who also had three knocks, homered. Because of Pennsylvania’s Blue Laws, Pittsburgh was the last major league city to play a home game on a Sunday.
    • 1966 - OF/1B John Vander Wal was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He played for the Bucs in 200-01, and in 232 games hit .290 with 35 HR and 144 RBI. The Pirates traded him at the 2001 deadline with Jason Schmidt to the Giants for Ryan Vogelsong and Armando Rios in one of GM Dave Littlefield’s early deals after replacing Cam Bonifay in mid-July.
    • 1990 - The Bucs swept San Diego 10-1 behind a four homer barrage at Jack Murphy Stadium. Barry Bonds and Jay Bell hit three-run bombs, Bobby Bonilla banged a two-run blast and Don Slaught added a solo shot to grease an easy outing for Doug Drabek. It was the Pirates sixth consecutive win.
    Justin was called up in late August after his no-no - 2013 Topps Chrome
    • 2012 - Pitching for the AAA Indianapolis Indians against the Durham Bulls, Justin Wilson tossed the first 7-1/3 innings of a combined no-hitter (2 walks, 9 K, 107 pitches), completed by Jose “Jumbo” Diaz and Doug Slaten. He worked his first Bucco game on August 20th.

    Thursday, April 28, 2016

    Pirates Come Home to Face Reds, Cubs, Then Big Road Trip

    Well, they'll have to shoehorn in a make-up game in Colorado (they have two left coast trips left, in late June and mid August; both June 30th and August 18th are mutual off days) but the combination of winter mix falling from the gray skies and cold was right on time for the battered Bucs. Oh, the position players love the short bench, as everyone is involved and getting innings, but even with a crowded bullpen, the relief corps needs some down time (starters too, for that matter).

    The pen has covered 41-1/3 IP during the nine game road trip. The relievers are picking up four innings per game, with an extra six thrown in thanks to extra innings, which came about because the pen couldn't hold late leads. It's also a given that Chase and Coors Fields make pitching a challenge. Still, the pitching at both ends has been pretty much a train wreck, so a day off and a return to the hurler-friendly confines of PNC are just what the doctor ordered. The relievers get to lick their wounds and the rotation all get an extra day's rest, as Clint opted to push everyone back rather than skip a turn.

    Yes, a day off! (photo Dave Zulabowski/Associated Press)

    Pretty big, if short, six-day homestand. The Pirates are coming off a nice 6-3 coast trip, but the Reds have proved to be a royal pain in the Bucco butt, and then the Cubs roll into town for the season's first head-to-head meeting. The first part of May is a bear; after the Cub set, it's off to St. Louis, Cincy and Chicago. The second part should be a chance to rack up some wins with a 10 game stretch at home against Atlanta, Arizona and Colorado before a fairly brutal June schedule.

    So far, so good; the Bucs are three off the pace at 13-9, and the dink-and-double attack backed by a strong bench has worked like a charm. Now only if the pitching comes around. To cherry pick a couple of stats, this year's HR/game is 1.43 (0.66 in '15) while walks per game are 4.51 (2.74 in '15), and the resulting SIERA for 2016 is 4.31; it was 3.56 last year. A couple more strikes and keeping it in the yard look like the key to a turnaround.

    • Slated matchups v the Reds: Friday - Dan Straily vs Juan Nicasio,  Saturday - Alfredo Simon vs Frankie Liriano, and Sunday - Raisel Iglesias vs Jeff Locke. Gerrit Cole, Jon Niese and Juan Nicasio are in line for following the Cub series.
    • More good news from Indy: Jameson Taillon went seven innings today, giving up a run on five hits with two walks and seven K, using just 89 pitches.

    Thursday: Juan Nicasio v Tyler Chatwood, Lineup, Notes SNOWED OUT

    Today: The getaway game begins at 3:10, ending the Colorado series and a 10 game road trip to the left coast. The game will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. Great day for a ball game - the tarp is down to protect the field from light snowfall. Ehhh, maybe more than light  - the game was postponed at 1:30; it was 37 degrees out..

    Pitchers: Juan Nicasio (2-2, 4.50) meets Tyler Chatwood (2-2, 3.47). Nicasio has been wildly inconsistent with control issues, although he did use a third pitch, his change, a bit last outing, so that may help generate a swing and miss or two. Juan, who was with the Rockies from 2011-14, is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in six appearances against Colorado. He should be comfortable - he's made 48 appearances (37 starts) at Coors, all but one as a Rockie. Chatwood's returning to the mound after dual TJ surgeries in 2014. The 26 year old has been up-and-down, but has a couple of strong starts under his belt this year.

    Juan looking for consistency (photo Butch Dill/YSA Today)

    Lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Matt Joyce LF, Josh Harrison 2B, Gregory Polanco RF, Jordy SS, Stew C, Nacaio P. Fran should enjoy the day off; not only is it a day after night game, but he's been taking a beating behind the dish. Starling is also off; a maintenance day before heading back home.

    • The Pirates have won eight straight at Coors Field, matching the Angels for the longest streak at the park.
    • Steven Brault tossed six scoreless frames for Indy, giving up four hits and fanning 11 during a game the Indians lost in extra innings. He's also having a strong year, with a 1-1/1.83 slash and 25 K in 19-2/3 IP.

    4/28: HBD, Red & Snake, Buckshot's 1st Homer; Chippin' Away, Streak Stopper, X-Tras

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

    Bucs Blow 7-0 Lead, But Grind It Out In 12 Innings 9-8

    Jon Gray and Jon Niese both put up a zero, stranding first inning doubles. Fran and Josh singled to put runners on the corners; a Jordy force out brought home a run. The play was challenged after a fairly innocuous slide by Josh at second, tho he did come off the bag, but the play was upheld after a long review. The Rox had a lead off knock erased on a DP, and it stayed 1-0 after two frames.

    JJ and Cutch opened the third with knocks. David Freese had a nice at bat, running the count full on eight pitches and rolling the ninth into left to plate a run. Fran walked with one away to load 'em up. El Coffee's sac fly brought in a tally; Josh's bloop single another. Niese spun a 1-2-3 frame.

    Jon started the fourth with a knock and came in on Freeser's two-out double. That brought on Eddie Butler; Gray tossed 96 not so effective pitches and left down 5-0. Starling beat out a ball to third (he was originally rung up, but the call was rightfully overturned on review) and Fran doubled in two more before it was done. Just as suddenly, Colorado sprang to life. Two homers, double, triple, walk, and a single brought the tying run to the plate with an out. Niese finished up, stranding runners at second and third with a 7-4 lead.

    Pittsburgh went quietly in the fifth, and so did the Rox. Butler had another easy inning, helped by a great play by an unlikely source as Mark Reynolds speared Cutch's rocket. The Rockies opened with three straight ground ball singles, and that was it as Ryan Vogelsong was waved in. Niese went five, giving up runs on 10 hits with two walks and five whiffs on 85 pitches. Mercer helped the cause when he snagged a deflected grounder and got a force at third, and then V-Song shut the door with the count 7-5 Buccos.

    V-Song cleaned up a mess (photo Tiffany Tompkins/Bradenton Herald)

    Justin Miller took the ball in the seventh, and Gregory stopped the bleeding a bit when he crushed a two out solo shot to dead center. Neftali Feliz came in, we thought he'd be on ice today with his pitch count and results of late. It showed: a double (Polanco's bad; he misplayed it) and  Mark Reynold's homer cut the lead to one. Tony Watson answered the phone and closed the frame with the score 8-7 good guys. Chad Qualls had a calm eighth. Tony didn't fare so well; he left a sinker dead center to Geraldo Parra and he planted it in the seats, a new ballgame as we head into the ninth.

    Jake McGee climbed the hill, and had the luck of the Irish. Cutch hit a 400' foul before walking and Freese's liner to center was outrun by Parra. Starling singled, but Fran up 3-1, swung at ball four, then bounced into a DP. The Bucs sent out Kyle Lobstein. After a pair of whiffs, he gave up a pair of singles before getting the third out.

    Boone Logan took the ball in the 10th, and Matt Joyce smacked a one-out double lefty-on-lefty; he had come in on a double swap to replace Starling. Jordy walked, but the Bucs couldn't take advantage. The Lobster got his three outs without any drama. Carlos Estevez tossed a clean 11th; Lobstein faced three batters thanks to a DP. Praise the Lord; in the 12th, Gregory's walk turned into a run on Jordy's two out double. The Shark came on. With an out, DJ LeMahieu walked after an 11 pitch battle, then stole second. The next hitter walked on a full count, and a grounder moved them up a station. But Melancon had the three pitch K up his sleeve and played it to end a long night with a Bucco win.

    The Lobster turned the tide tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    The Lobster deserves props all around; he was the only Pirate pitcher (beside V-Song) that actually deserved to earn the win. And give MM credit too; that closer mentality kicked in at the right time. Pittsburgh keeps on churning out runs; now if the pen would start churning out some goose eggs.

    • Another amazing break from the gates: by the fourth inning, every Pirate had scored or driven in a run, including the pitcher. 
    • Gregory Polanco continues to mature at the plate - he homered, hit a sac fly, scored twice and chased home a pair.  
    • Josh now has a seven game hitting streak.
    • Four in a row is the Pirates longest win streak of the year.
    • Tony Watson has surrendered three homer in 10-1/3 innings, which equals the total he gave up in 75-1/3 IP last season.
    • Jared Hughes gave up three runs on five hits in two innings; looks like his quick recall may have hit a speed bump.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2016

    Wednesday: Jon Niese v Jon Gray, Lineup, Notes

    Tonight: The first pitch is at 8:40, and the game will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

    Pitchers: Jon Niese (3-0, 4.24) toes the rubber v Jon Gray (0-0, 9.00). Niese has only failed to get into the sixth once this year, but except for a strong outing against the Brewers has been kinda meh, although in justice a couple of those games featured some ugly fielding behind him. He's 3-3 with a 5.34 ERA in nine starts against Colorado. One thing to watch - he's been leaking long balls, not a good thing at Coors. Gray is a bit of a mystery, making just his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list with an abdominal strain. His heater hits 96, but hasn't blown away many Pirates; he was 0-1/8.00 in two outings against them in 2015.

    Jon Niese goes tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    Lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, Josh Harrison 2B, Jordy SS, Niese P. The gang's back together now that there's a righty on the hill.

    • Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte are tied for the MLB lead in doubles with nine. The team has banged out 50 two-baggers, tops in the NL.
    • LOL stat from @espn: "Andrew McCutchen had as many home runs (3) in 5 at-bats last night as the Braves have had in 674 at-bats this year."
    • Bad news for a good guy: Charlie Morton will require surgery and miss the rest of the season because of a torn left hamstring, per the Phillies.
    • Astros backup catcher and former Bucco Erik Kratz pitched an inning yesterday. He threw more pitches 85 MPH+ in that frame (and a knuckler!) than Jered Weaver has this season by a 9-7 margin.  (Thx to @darenw).

    Cutch Is Back; Bucs Roll Over Rox 9-4

    A little rain in Denver caused tarps-down and chased all the pre-game stuff inside, but the drops were supposed to quit falling by game time and play nice the rest of the night. They did.

    The Bucs brought their own sunshine in the first. Jorge De La Rosa was touched up for back-to-back homers on back-to-back pitches by Cutch and David Freese. With two outs and the bases empty, a walk, HBP and Josh's single off the SS's glove made it 3-0. Cutch happened again in the second to make it 4-0. But Colorado chipped back, scoring single runs in the second, fourth and fifth frames on a collection of singles, a homer, walks, a wild pitch and a passed ball to cut the gap to 4-3. It would have been tied had not the combination of Starling's arm and a great snag and swipe by Fran cut down Geraldo Parro at home, a bang-bang play that survived review.

    Cutch happens (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    Enough, said the Pirates. Gregory doubled, and an out later Jordy walked ahead of Cutch, who lost his third baseball of the night by banging a three run shot off Christian Bergman heat. Starling got into the act, banging another ball yard off Gonzalez Germen, and the nail biter was suddenly 8-3. The Rox, helped by a misthrow, answered with a run of their own.

    The Cole Train was done after six, giving up four runs (two earned) on eight hits with two walks, a wild pitch and three whiffs after 103 pitches. Pittsburgh went quietly in the seventh, and Arquimedes Caminero made it a little more interesting than need be, walking the first pair of Rox. The next batter lined out to Cutch, and a timely 6-4-3 kept the Rockies at bay.

    The last two innings played out calmly for the Bucs. Neftali Feliz and Rob Scahill each gave up a walk (the Pirates added six more free passes to their league leading number) but no runs, and Gregory singled home a salt-in-the-wound score in the ninth, chasing Fran home to make the final 9-4.

    Gregory is hitting .333 (photo Brian Kerbey/Getty Images)

    The Cole Train was good enough, reverting to a fastball heavy game plan against Colorado.He said with the lead, he just wanted to stay aggressive, and Clint noted that breaking balls don't spin very well in the thin Denver air. As for Cutch, well, a day off sure did wonders for his stick. He told the press gang afterward that he had "found something" while recently working in the cages; hope he doesn't lose whatever it was he found.

    • Cutch has hit three home runs in a game twice during his career (the other time was in 2009 v the Nats). McCutchen joined Ralph Kiner (four), Willie Stargell (four) and Roberto Clemente (two) as Pirates to have multiple three-homer games. He  also became  the third player to have 10 multi-home run games while spending his entire career with the Pirates. Willie Stargell (36) and Roberto Clemente (13) are the others.
    • Andrew wasn't alone; the Bucs went long five times, and Jordy just missed one, doubled off the newly extended fence in right and becoming the first non-Rockie to lose a homer to the new configuration.
    • Cutch's three hits led the way; Jordy Fran and Gregory added a pair of knocks each as the Bucs totaled 12 hits.
    • The Pirates have hit at least one double in every game this year.
    • In the Central, the Cubs are first with 15 wins, the Bucs second with 12 (3-1/2 games back) and the Cards third with 11 victories (four games off the pace.) The big three...

    4/27: Wally 6-for-6; Tim's 172 Tosses; Jose #300; Matty Mo Release; Rallies, Duels & More

    • 1893 - The Pirates opened the season against the Cleveland Spiders and were spanked by Cy Young, losing 7-2 in front of 7,600 fans at Exposition Park. The team had a strong season despite that sluggish start, finishing second in the National League with a 81-48 mark. Louie Bierbauer had two hits, as did Jake Beckley and Denny Lyons. Frank Killen took the loss after surrendering four first inning runs.
    • 1902 - Pittsburgh whipped Chicago 2-0 at Exposition Park‚ as Deacon Phillippe bested rookie Jim St. Vrain. St. Vrain only gave up a single to Ginger Beaumont, but it came after the Pirates had loaded the bases on an error sandwiched between a pair of plunked batters in the eighth inning. Phillippe fanned seven and all the other outs were recorded by the infield, with 1B Kitty Bransfield recording 16 putouts. St. Vrain wasn’t quite as sure of himself in the box as he was on the mound. He grounded a ball to Honus Wagner in the seventh and lost his bearings; the confused 19-year old ran toward third base as the astonished Hans threw him out rather easily, per Gene Alston’s Journal column.
    • 1912 - The Pirates walloped Cincinnati 23-4 at Forbes Field‚ and without a home run (although they had five doubles and three triples among their 27 hits). Bobby Byrnes and Dots Miller had five knocks apiece. Reds reliever Hansey Horsey surrendered 14 hits and 12 runs in four innings in what would be his only MLB appearance. Vice President James “Sunny Jim” Sherman, a big baseball fan, attended the game along with PA Congressman Jim Burke, Lieutenant Governor JM Reynolds and an assortment of politicos and generals.
    Bobby Byrne 1910 Tip Top
    • 1930 - The Pirates won their seventh game in a row 9-5 over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. OF Adam Comorosky went 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI. Gus Suhr drove home three more and Ira Flagstead homered.
    • 1954 - Toby Atwell and Jerry Lynch hit back-to-back homers in back-to-back at-bats in the sixth and eighth innings, the first Pirates to accomplish the feat in the 20th century (Neil Walker & Gaby Sanchez matched the feat in 2014). It wasn’t enough as Pittsburgh lost to the Reds 8-7 at Crosley Field.
    • 1970 - Steve Blass lost a pitching duel to Joe Decker and the Chicago Cubs 1-0 at Forbes Field. Blass surrendered just four hits over eight innings. One was a two-out triple by Glenn Beckert; he tried to stretch it into an inside the park HR and was dead at home, but Manny Sanguillen whiffed on the relay throw to allow the unearned, and only, run of the game to score. Meanwhile, Roberto Clemente was thrown out at the plate twice during the game, once trying to score on a Willie Stargell double and again in the ninth, when he tripled but was caught in a rundown a batter later, trapped following a comebacker. The Cubbies ran their winning streak to 11 games with the victory, a streak the Pirates would end the next day.
    Steve Blass 1970 O-Pee-Chee
    • 1971 - Willie Stargell set a MLB record with his 11th HR in the month of April, a shot over the TRS center field wall against LA’s Pete Mikkelsen, in a 7-5 loss. The record stood for 36 years until it was broken by Albert Pujols, who hit 14 opening-month bombs in 2006.
    • 1990 - Wally Backman became the first NL’er to get six hits in one game in 15 years when the 3B’man went 6-for-6 against the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in a 9-4 Pirate win. The Bucs banged out 19 hits, with Barry Bonds collecting four, including two homers and a double. Neal Heaton claimed the win.
    • 1991 - The Bucs had their way with the Mets at Shea Stadium, winning 10-1. Randy Tomlin and Bob Patterson combined on a four hitter while a trio of Pirates had three hits - Bobby Bonilla, who had four RBI and a run scored, Spanky LaValliere, with two runs driven in and one scored, and Curtis Wilkerson, who plated three times. Pittsburgh took over sole possession of first place, and never lost it as they won the division by 14 games.
    • 1993 - Tim Wakefield threw 172 pitches in defeating Atlanta‚ 6-2‚ in 11 innings at Fulton County Stadium, and he didn’t even go the distance. He was relieved by Paul Wagner in the 11th after issuing a lead-off walk. It was the most pitches tossed by one pitcher in a single game during the nineties and the most ever by a Pirate. Fernando Valenzuela was the last to throw that many pitches in a game back in 1987. The Pirates took command of the game when Mike Stanton threw away a bunt attempt by Wakefield in the 11th, setting up a pair of two-out knocks and four unearned runs. 
    Tim Wakefield 1993 Leaf
    • 1985 - Pittsburgh traded minor league C Steve Herz to the Phillies for utility PH Mike Diaz. Diaz fit in nicely as a bench player for a couple of seasons, putting up a line of .250/28/89 in 606 PA while Herz never made it out of AAA.
    • 2005 - Jose Mesa sat Houston down 1-2-3 in the ninth to save Kip Wells’ 2-0 victory. It was his 300th career save, making Mesa the 19th pitcher in MLB history to reach that mark. Jason Bay and Jack Wilson drove home the runs at PNC Park.
    • 2008 - RHP Matt Morris was released by the Pirates after going 1-2/3 innings against the Phillies in his previous start the day before, giving up six runs on six hits. The 33-year-old compiled an 0-4 record with a 9.67 ERA in his five outings with Pittsburgh in 2008. He retired soon after, but the Bucs ate $11,037,283 in salary, including a $1M buyout for 2009. Pittsburgh replaced him by calling up RHP John Van Benschoten.
    • 2010 - A five-run ninth inning sparked by Ryan Doumit's grand slam and Ronny Cedeno's solo shot off Trevor Hoffman ended the Pirates 22-game losing streak in Milwaukee as the Bucs took a 7-3 victory at Miller Park. The Brew Crew's hometown hex over the Bucs was the longest held by one team over another since the Browns/Orioles lost 27 consecutive contests to the Indians in Cleveland from 1952-54.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    Tuesday: Cole Train v Jorge De La Rosa, Lineup, Notes

    Tonight: The game's first pitch is at 8:40 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

    Pitchers: Gerrit Cole (1-2, 2.70) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (1-2, 9.87). Cole Train has been getting sharper after an abbreviated camp and looks to be on top of his game; pitch count is his only concern. De La Rosa is  coming off a loss last Tuesday at Cincinnati in which he allowed four runs on six hits over two innings. The Reds stole five bases with him on the mound - and he's a lefty. That could come into play. 

    Gerrit toes the rubber tonite (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    Oddly, given the usual Mile High stats, he's marginally better at home, going 1-1/8.44  in two starts at Coors Field this season. And he 's got stuff, still averaging 12 K/nine innings, but five walks per game (sound familiar?) and a sky-high .420 BABIP have hurt him, as have four homers in 17 IP, which is double his career average. He's due to regress toward the norm; hopefully that will come later rather than sooner. He's 4-1 at Coors lifetime against Pittsburgh with a 2.77 ERA, so there's that, too. Trap game?

    Lineup: Jordy SS, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran C, Jason Rogers 1B, Josh 2B, Gregory Polanco RF, Cole P. Jordy remains the lefty lineup lead off guy, and Rogers has shown a decent eye and stick since his call up. Still, it must have been a real poser for Clint to choose between Jason and S-Rod.

    • AJ Schugel is a Denver native and had some 30 friends and family at the game to see him notch his first MLB save. In fact, Schugel's dad, Jeff, was once a Rockies scout.
    • Jung Ho Kang's hitting is beginning to pick up; he's had hits in consecutive games, including a long ball today. Tyler Glasnow went six innings for the Indians, giving up two hits and a walk while whiffing 11; he leads the International League with 30 K in 21 IP. Indy scored seven runs in the ninth, battering old Bucco prospect Kyle McPherson, to turn a squeaker into a 9-0 romp.
    • C Kevan Smith, from Pitt via Seneca Valley HS, was set to make his MLB debut today for the White Sox; instead, he had back spasms and was put on the DL.

    4/26: HBD S-Rod, Francisco & Fire Trucks, Big Innings, Expo Park Blues, More...

    • 1900 - The Bucs drew 11,000 to the newly expanded Exposition Park, the biggest Pittsburgh baseball turnout to date, with a couple of thousand more fans trying to get in. The Pirates were fortified by the recent influx of Louisville players like Honus Wagner, but dropped a 12-11 slugfest to Cincinnati as the Reds lit up Rube Waddell and Jack Chesbro. The Bucs made a game of it by rallying for seven ninth inning runs.
    • 1905 - The Cubs beat Pittsburgh at Exposition Park, 2-1 as Chicago’s Jack McCarthy became the only major league OF’er to throw out three runners trying to score in one game. All three assists were on tag-up tries and resulted in double plays.
    • 1917 - Coach Virgil “Fire” Trucks was born in Birmingham, Alabama. After a long pro career, he became the bullpen coach/batting practice pitcher for Pittsburgh in 1960 and stayed with the Pirates until 1963. Trucks later operated baseball camps for the Bucs. Jack House, sportswriter for the Birmingham News, gave him the apt moniker “Fire,” not because he chased red engines but because of his blazing heater; Trucks tossed two no-hitters for Detroit in 1952. 
    Virgil "Fire" Trucks 1963 (photo Associated Press)
    • 1940 - After putting up four runs in the eighth the day before and falling just short, the Bucs crossed home seven times in the eighth this day to roll over the St. Louis Cardinals 10-4 at Forbes Field. Debs Garms and Joe Bowman both had homers and three RBI to spark the rally and earn Mace Brown his second relief win in four days.
    • 1958 - With Pittsburgh and Cincinnati knotted, 4-4, at Crosley Field heading into the eighth, Bill Mazeroski took over. First, he drilled an eighth frame solo shot to put the Pirates on top, then his three-run bomb in the top of the ninth sealed the deal, 8-4. It was the first of eight multi-homer games in his career, with his next coming less than a month later on May 10th. 1958 was also the year Maz earned his first of seven All-Star spots. Billy’s heroics gave Don Gross the win after he spun four innings of one-hit relief, with Roberto Clemente, Bob Skinner and Ted Kluszewski adding three hits apiece to aid the cause.
    • 1972 - RHP Francisco Cordova was born in Cerro Azul, Mexico. He spent his five year MLB career (1996-2000) as a Pirate, first as a reliever, notching 12 saves in his rookie year, then a starter. His slash was 42-47-12/3.96. He was part of one of the great Pirate moments on July 12, 1997, at a sold out Three Rivers Stadium when he pitched nine innings of a combined 10-inning no-hitter with Ricardo Rinc√≥n closing it out. The Pirates won the game on a three-run, pinch hit home run in the bottom of the 10th by Mark Smith.
    • 1978 - Ed Ott hit an 11th-inning home run at Shea Stadium to give the Bucs and Bert Blyleven, who pitched a complete game six hitter, a 1-0 win. It took 35 years for another Pirate, Neil Walker, to homer for the only run in a Bucco extra inning victory. 
    Ed Ott 1979 Hostess
    • 1980 - The Pirates scored five times in the first inning and cruised to a 9-2 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh pounded out 17 hits, led by three apiece from Mike Easler and Dave Parker. John Candelaria went the distance after allowing two runs on eight hits as the Pirates split a brief two game series with Chicago.
    • 1985 - Utilityman Sean Rodriguez was born in Miami. In his career, S-Rod has played every position but pitcher and catcher. The Bucs traded for him during the 2014 off season, and he played around the field for Pittsburgh, although he saw a lot of time at the unlikely position of 1B. He was signed up again for 2016 after hitting .246 and playing six different spots in 2015.
    • 1995 - 34,841 fans at TRS disrupted a delayed Opening Day by throwing whatever was handy (mainly giveaway day Bucco pennants) on the field to show their displeasure with the freshly resolved player’s strike and some shoddy play by the Bucs. The game was delayed for 17 minutes until the announcer told the unruly crowd that the contest was about to be forfeited. Might as well have been; Montreal won the game 6-2, chasing Jon Leiber in the fifth.
    Ralph Kiner's Statue (photo Kenny Muz/Flickr)
    • 2008 - Alhambra, California, dedicated a bronze statue to honor of its native son Ralph Kiner for his "accomplishments and contributions to the game of professional baseball and sports broadcasting.” The former Pirates slugger, a member of the Hall of Fame, grew up in Alhambra and graduated from its high school in 1940.

    Jeff Locke Down, Joyce Homer Keys To 6-1 Win

    Lets see...Pirate pen in shambles, playing at Coors Field, Jeff Locke on the hill...hmmm. Maybe not the way we'd plan it, but hey, it worked out swell as the Bucs took a 6-1 victory behind some late two-out hitting and strong outings by Locke and AJ Schugel.

    Jeff came up big tonight (photo Kim Klement USA Today)

    Jeff and Chad Bettis were locked in a pitcher's duel (and not many of them at Coors). At the end of six, it was 1-0 Pittsburgh. The Pirates made little noise against Bettis, using a hit batter, single and bouncer to score their run in the fifth. Jeff had one jam to work out of in the fifth.

    Locke left after the sixth, giving up five hits, two walks and whiffing eight (five looking). Lance Barrett's low strike zone and some subtle framing by Fran did the trick, although three were ejected (two Rox, one Buc) debating that zone. Still, it was gutsy outing by Locke. The game was halted for 30 minutes by a downpour with two outs in the second; he had to finish that out and stay loose for four more frames.

    Bettis went a little longer, and almost got away with it. In the seventh, the Pirates put it to bed. Gregory led off with a single, tagged to second on a fly, went to third on a grounder and scored on a wild pitch. Jason Rogers drew a  3-2 walk. Chris Oberg took the hill, and he lost JJ, also on a full count. Matt Joyce wasn't that patient, taking a 1-1 fastball the opposite way into the seats, and suddenly a cliffhanger was a 5-0 game.

    Of course, no lead is safe with the Bucco bullpen of late. Rob Scahill faced five batters; three reached and one scored. AJ Schugel got the call to face the dangerous Nolan Arenado, and got him to pop out to Jordy. Pittsburgh used some two out lightning in the eighth. With Christhian Adames on the hill, Gregory doubled off the wall and Josh banged one up the middle to plate another.

     And so did Matt Joyce (photo Leon Halip/Getty Images)

    AJ stranded a two out triple (it hit off the new high fence; it would have been a HR in 2015) in the Colorado half. The Bucs went down quietly in the ninth, and the Rox managed a single as Schugel closed the gate and like Arquie yesterday, earned his first MLB save. Jeff got his first win of the campaign, and the predicted nightmare at Coors instead became sweet dreams.

    The stars aligned for the Bucs. Locke, who is notorious for working off the plate, benefited from Barrett's generous zone, and the Rox went 1-for-12 with RISP, stranding 11. Kinda nice to see the bad guys wear those numbers.

    • Matt Joyce and Gregory each had a pair of hits; they scored three and drove in three together. 
    • Starling Marte swiped a sack; he's 6-for-6 so far this season.
    • The Pirates have won six straight at Coors Field.
    • If you're wondering about AJ being awarded a save, he came in after the sixth inning with the tying run on deck and finished the game (the usual save rule).

    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Monday: Jeff Locke v Chad Bettis, Lineup, Notes

    Tonight: The Coors Field opener against the Rockies starts at 8:40 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

    Pitchers: Jeff Locke (0-2, 7.24) begins the series against Chad Bettis (2-0, 3.33). Jeff is a guy that just when you're ready to write him off comes up with a string of nice outings. The bullpen is pretty much running on fumes, so this would be a grand time for Locke to step it up, throw some strikes and string together some innings. Bettis broke into the rotation last year and was pretty solid, finally getting command of his off speed stuff after tinkering with his mechanics a bit. He's starting today in place of  Jorge De La Rosa, who is recovering from an illness. He flipped spots with Bettis and is slated to go tomorrow.

    Jeff is looking to put up six innings today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    Lineup: John Jaso 1B, Matt Joyce LF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte CF, Fran Cervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, Josh Harrison 2B, Jordy SS, Locke P. Cutch gets a day off

    Colorado (9-9) has lost four of five after blowing a three-run, ninth inning lead in a 12-10 defeat to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday. They ran through six pitchers, including Chris Rusin, who was tentatively slated to work today, but aren't nearly as tattered as the Bucs since they only went nine frames. The Pirates didn't call anyone up, so they're going with what they've got.

    • The Pirates are 10-3 when scoring more than three runs.
    • One take from yesterday's marathon - Cutch's wheels are A-OK. Statcast had him going from first to home in 10.7 seconds, at one point hitting 20 MPH! 
    • Arqimedes Caminero earned his first MLB save last night in his 102nd career outing.
    • Two other stats dug up by @joe_block: Jon Niese was the first Pirate pitcher with an RBI hit since Ken Brett in 1974. A more amazing tidbit - for all the bullpen woes, the Pirate pen retired 13 Snakes with the winning run aboard.
    • Indy's Josh Bell was named the International League's player of the week after slashing .400/.438/.767 with two homers. 
    • The Indians also announced that IF Pedro Florimon has been officially assigned to them. To make roster space, OF Antoan Richardson has been released.

    4/25: HBD Fred & Bob, Hat Trick, Willie & Wally Homers, Kip Krushes & More...

    • 1896 - Fred Haney was born in Albuquerque. He managed the Bucs as a favor to Branch Rickey from from 1953-1955. His record reflects the fact that he was brought in during the early stages of a youth movement, losing 104, 101 and 94 games for a 163-299 (.353) slate.
    • 1899 - In a sign of things to come, Pittsburgh lost to Louisville 2-1 at Eclipse Park as future Bucco SS Honus Wagner went 4-for-4 with 2 HRs‚ the second being a ninth-inning game winner. The Colonels were managed by future Pirate skipper (and player) Fred Clarke. The following season, most of Louisville’s top players followed owner Barney Dreyfuss to Pittsburgh.
    Fred Clarke 1911 American Tobacco
    • 1943 - RHP Bob Johnson was born in Aurora, Illinois. He pitched for the Bucs from 1971-73, beginning as a starter and ending in the bullpen. He went 17-16-7/3.34 as a Pirate and appeared in a pair of NLCS and in the 1971 World Series.
    • 1948 - Wally Westlake homered, doubled and drove in six runs while Ed Stevens added five more RBI to lead the Bucs to a 13-10 win over the Reds in the second game of a twinbill at Crosley Field. Pittsburgh lost the opener 7-6 in the ninth.
    • 1970 - Willie Stargell homered over the RF roof at Forbes Field off Hoyt Wilhelm‚ the second time he'd done it in a week‚ as the Pirates edged the Braves‚ 8-7. Eighteen balls carried over the Oakland yard’s roof, with seven launched by Stargell. No one else hit more than a pair. Roberto Clemente had three hits (two were doubles) and four RBI as he stole the offensive thunder from Cap’n Willie.
    Willie Stargell 1971 Topps
    • 1992 - In the Pirates 1-0 win over the host Cubs‚ the Bucs were helped by a wayward hat. With Kirk Gibson on first‚ Jay Bell hit a potential DP grounder that struck Gibson's helmet‚ which had flown off as he headed to second, and the Cubs had to settle for a force. Andy Van Slyke noted‚ “the play goes 7-1/2 to 4 to 5 to 6" on your scorecard. Bell then scored when Van Slyke followed with a double for the game’s only run. Randy Tomlin was the winner over Greg Maddux.
    • 2003 - Kip Wells became the second player and first pitcher to homer into the batter’s eye at PNC Park with a third inning, 457’ blast off the Dodgers Odalis Perez. LA had the last laugh when they rallied for five ninth inning runs off Wells and Mike Williams to take a 5-2 victory.
    • 2011 - Pedro Alvarez homered in both games of Pittsburgh’s doubleheader split against Colorado at PNC Park, becoming the second Pittsburgh player in the last 22 seasons to hit home runs for the Pirates in two games played on the same day. El Toro joined Rob Mackowiak, who also went long twice in a DH on 5/28/04 against the Cubs on the memorable day his wife gave birth to their first child.
    Pedro Alvarez Topps Debut 2010
    • 2012 - The Pirates and the Rockies became the first teams in MLB history to add an extra player to the roster for their twin bill at PNC Park. The new CBA permitted teams to carry 26 on the active roster for doubleheaders to save the paper shuffling that calling up an extra pitcher entailed. The Bucs brought up Jared Hughes, who had started the season with Pittsburgh but was sent down when AJ Burnett came of the DL.
    • 2013 - The Bucs beat the Phillies for the third straight time at Citizen’s Bank Park by a 6-4 score. It was the first time in the eighteen outings that Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee threw back-to-back-to-back games that the Phils lost all three matches. The Pirates lost the first outing of the four game set, beaten 3-2 by Jonathan Pettibone, who was making his first MLB start.

    Sunday, April 24, 2016

    Bucs Survive Bullpen Implosion, Battle To 12-10 Win In 13 Innings

    The Bucs did there usual thing against Robbie Ray; they drew a bunch of pitches, loaded the bases, and stranded three. The D-Backs went about things more traditionally; Paul Goldschmidt banged a two-out homer off Frankie (one that El Coffee almost stole from the pen) to put the Snakes up 1-0. Gregory and Stew had terrible at bats in the second, both whiffing. The next two Bucs reached on an error and single; Cutch fanned and it's five LOB. Arizona got a bloop and a walk, but they died on base too.

    Pittsburgh put runners on the corners with no outs in the third and they were both cashed in on Jason Roger's triple. S-Rod knocked him home to make it 3-1. With two gone, Liriano gave up a walk, single, and another homer, a liner that barely cleared the wall and kissed the foul pole, to Welington Castillo who's been feasting on Pirate pitching. Just as quickly, the Bucs were back in the hole 4-3.

    The Pirates again opened with guys on the corners, and that got Ray the hook; Tyler Wagner grabbed the ball. A walk juiced 'em and Starling's single knotted the score. JJ pinch hit for Rogers; he bounced to first and an airmailed throw home let the lead run plate. An out later, Gregory bled one through the left side, and two more runs scored. Stew's knock brought in another tally to make the score 8-4. Frankie liked it; he used a dozen tosses to strike out the side.

    Frankie finished strong, but is still a concern (photo Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune)

    The Bucs tried to add on in the fifth when Marte doubled with Freese aboard, but he was cut down at home, withstanding a challenge by Clint (looked like a plate-block, but guess not). It was another clean inning for Liriano. Gregory doubled with an out in the sixth, but Stew and Frankie couldn't get him home. Castillo walked to open the D-Back half (Frankie was squeezed on a couple of pitches), but no damage ensued. That was it for Liriano - six innings, four runs on five hits and three walks with six whiffs after 97 pitches.

    Randall Delgado took the hill in the seventh and had an easy frame. Ryan Vogelsong trotted out and put up a zero, stranding a two out double. The Bucs went down quietly in the eighth. V-Song was touched for a leadoff homer followed by a walk, bringing on Tony Watson. He got two guys, but the third tripled.

    It's a ballgame at 8-6. Andrew Chafin took the hill in the ninth, giving up a walk and single, but a DP kept his slate clean.  Melancon started dancin'. With one away, he gave up a dink knock followed by another Goldschmidt homer. Like the first, it was an opposite field liner and so on to the 10th. Sidewinder Brad Zeigler 1-2-3'ed the Bucs. Pittsburgh sent out Kyle Lobstein, and a walk followed by a wild pitch put him in a quick jam. A bunt moved the runner up, but S-Rod, now at first, made a nice backhand play with the infield drawn in to gun the runner down at home, and the Lobster got an inning-ending whiff.

    Daniel Hudson answered the bell for the 11th. He walked Gregory with two gone and left him at first. Lobstein gave up a one out, opposite field double and wisely walked Goldschmidt intentionally, and worked out of more hot water, getting a K and Castillo bounceout.

    Tyler Clippard stepped in for the 12th. Pinch hitter Fran greeted him with a single and was bunted to second. A pickoff throw to second skipped away a short distance, a break for Colorado as Cervelli was caught trying for third, out by four or five steps. Cutch walked, and Freese jumped on the next pitch, doubling Andrew home. Starling singled him home and then was thrown out at second (close play but right call, tho it was reviewed), so it's a two run, two TOOTBLAN inning.

    Neftali gave up two runs in his frame and still got the win (photo Joe Guzzy/Pirates)

    Neftali Feliz came in looking for his first Bucco save. So of course he walked Jake Lamb, the first batter, on eight pitches, Feliz's first free pass of the year. It took him 10 pitches to fan Nick Ahmed on a borderline call, getting an irate Ahmed tossed. With no bench players left, Zack Grienke pinch hit and banged a sharp infield single that Freese couldn't handle. Peralta got a fastball down Broadway and doubled home Lamb; Shelby Miller, running for Grienke, stopped at third. Jean Segura bounced a seeing-eye single into left on an 0-2 pitch to tie it. Neftali picked up a whiff on his 32nd pitch, and then walked Goldschmidt to load 'em with two gone. That was followed by another K and so on we go.

    Evan Marshall was the new hurler. Josh greeted him with a double and S-Rod followed with another. A roller moved him to third, and Stew was intentionally walked. The Buc bench is bare, too, and Jon Niese grabbed a stick. He fouled off five pitches, ran the count full, and then singled home Rodriguez. A DP ended the fun, and Arquimedes Caminero toed the rubber. He gave up a leadoff single, followed by a lineout to center. Another pitcher, Patrick Corbin, had to pinch hit and he went down on strikes, with Shelby Miller, pitcher-turned-LF, on deck. He fanned too, and it was over finally.

    Jon Niese did it was his bat, not his arm, tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

    Not much to say about a 5-1/2 hour game that featured 510 pitches, 22 runs, 35 hits, bullpen meltdowns, pitchers pinch hitting and playing the field, errors, TOOTBLANS, 43 players used, et al except we're glad it's over and that Pittsburgh won. Expect a callup from Indy; AJ Schugel and Rob Scahill are the only guys that didn't appear today, and Jeff Locke is slated for the hill. But with Cory Luebke and Jared Hughes both working at Indy tonight (and not very well), it'll be an interesting choice.

    • Starling Marte had four hits; David Freese and Gregory Polanco, three each. Marte and S-Rod both scored twice and had two RBI. 
    • Every Pirate starting position player had a hit and scored/driven in a run by the end of the fourth inning. Eight different Pirates scored; 10 had RBI.
    • John Jaso's hitting steak ended at 12 with an 0-for-3 day after he came on as a pinch hitter in the fourth frame.
    • For the fourth time in his career, Cutch got to wear the golden sombrero for striking out four times, all swinging.
    • Not a good day for rehabbing Bucco relievers - both Jared Hughes and Cory Luebke were touched up for AAA homers; Luebke gave up back-to-back blasts.

    Sunday: Francisco Liriano v Robbie Ray; Lineup, Notes

    Today: The Bucs close it out in Arizona at 4:10 in the decisive game of the series. The game will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

    Pitchers: Frankie Liriano (1-1, 4.11) meets Robbie Ray (1-0, 1.96). With Francisco, it's a matter of command. He's been walking a man per inning and running up his pitch count; he hasn't made it into the sixth in his last two starts. Liriano was 1-0/3.38 against the D-Backs in two starts last year, holding them to a .178 BA but issuing nine walks in 13 IP. He's pitched well at Chase Field, where he owns a 1.96 ERA in three starts.

    Batters are waiting Frankie out (just a 38% swing rate, compared to 45% last year), and with good reason. He has a 19% walk rate, and that's largely because his first strike rate is down to 49% this year; it was 58% in 2015.  Instead of Liriano getting guys in the hole and putting his swing-and-miss slider in play, he's the one working behind. Easy enough cure - throw a dang strike to start these guys off.

    Ray, who won the Snakes fifth spot in camp, tossed six shutout innings in his last start against the Giants. The southpaw is 0-2/5.73 in two starts against the Pirates.

    Frankie's been taking a walk on the wild side this year (photo USA Today)

    Lineup: Jordy Mercer SS, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Jason Rogers 1B, S-Rod 2B, Gregory Polanco RF, Stew C, Liriano P. These lefty lineups are always interesting. Fran and Josh are getting maintenance days, and Rogers gets another call at first (though hitless in his first start, he did make solid contact and drew a walk). We also like that El Coffee is getting thrown into the fire; the Bucs didn't sign him to be a platoon guy.

    • Frankie has been on fire with his stick. He's 4 for 6 with three RBIs at the plate this season and hitting .361 with a home run and 10 RBIs over his past 16 starts.
    • The D-Backs are in a hot stretch. They've won 6-of-7 thanks to some strong mound work; in the past five games, Arizona starters have pitched to a 2.70 ERA.
    • Old Buccos - Charlie Morton landed on the DL with a bad hammy , while Neil Walker hit his seventh HR and has bumped his BA up to .288, with a -0.3 defensive WAR.

    4/24: Allen's No-Hitter, Maholm's Gem, First Expo Park HR, Jaku & More

    • 1891 - Fred Carroll hit the first home run by a Pirate in Exposition Park (they played the year prior in nearby Recreation Park as the Alleghenys) as the Bucs defeated the Chicago Colts 11-8 for their first victory ever in Pittsburgh. They had become the Pirates in the off season, when they “pirated” Lou Bierbauer from the Philadelphia A’s. 
    Fred Carroll 1887 Buchner Gold Coin
    • 1903 - Honus Wagner was having a bad day in the field, booting three balls that helped the Cardinals head into the ninth with a 7-6 lead at Exposition Park, but his bat helped erase the deficit. He tripled in the ninth and scored the tying run on a Kitty Bransfield single. Then with two away in the eleventh, the Flying Dutchman walked, stole second and came around with the game winner on another Bransfield knock. Wagner collected four hits including two triples along with two runs scored, four RBI‚ and three stolen bases.
    • 1915 - Pittsburgh Rebel southpaw Frank Allen tossed a 2-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Terriers at Handlan Park in the last year of the Federal League, the short-lived (1913-15) major league “outlaw” option to the National and American Leagues. Allen went on to pitch a couple more seasons for the NL Boston Braves. The Federal League was absorbed by the NL & AL, and a suit the FL filed eventually led to the still existent ruling that exempted baseball from antitrust laws.
    • 1934 - The Bucs rallied to defeat the Gashouse Gang from St. Louis 5-4 at Forbes Field in their home opener. Behind 4-2 going into the ninth, Freddie Lindstrom homered over the LF wall with two aboard, and his walk-off gave the Pirates the win over the future NL champs.
    Freddie Lindstrom 1933 DeLong
    • 2007 - Paul Maholm tossed his first major league complete game after allowing three hits and throwing 99 pitches in the 3-0 shutout victory over the Astros at PNC Park. The game took just 1 hour and 57 minutes to complete. Jason Bay had three hits and drove in a pair while Ronny paulino added a solo shot.
    • 2010 - Chris Jakubauskas, in the first inning of his first appearance of the year, was struck in the head by a liner off the bat of Houston's Lance Berkman. The 31-year old right-hander left the field on a stretcher, but was later diagnosed with just a concussion and not a fracture as first feared. Jaku wouldn’t pitch for the Bucs any more that year, but tossed for Baltimore the following season. The Pirates lost the game 5-2.