Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Duel Unravels Late, Buc Rally Falls Short In 3-1 Loss

The ballyhooed matchup began with a clean first frame by Jose Fernandez; Gerrit Cole continued his bob-and-weave tactics by giving up a knock and a walk, but no runs. The teams exchanged second inning singles. In the third, Josh became the first Pirate to reach second on a bloop single and bunt, but got no further. Miami opened with an Icharo knock - the first solidly hit safety of the game - followed by a dying quail single by JT Realmuto; Marte's no-chance throw went to third to put Fish at second and third. A whiff was followed by a contact play 5-2 tag at home and capped with another K as Cole Train rolled on.

Jose tossed a clean fourth, helped by a couple of borderline calls that strike throwers get. Gerrit tossed a quiet frame too, behind some nice leatherwork by JJ and Josh. 1-2-3 went the Pirates in the fifth, and ditto for the Fish. The Pirates went quietly again in the sixth.  Christian Yelich opened with a single, and Marcell Ozuna reached when JHK tried to turn his soft grounder into a force; his throw was both late and off target. An out later, a single filled the sacks with Fish. A soft flare to Josh was out number two; his flip to first was just a heartbeat from a DP. No diff; a looper to Gregory shut down the Marlins.

Gerrit couldn't catch a break in the seventh (photo via MLB.com)

Cutch opened the seventh with a single to right center, cut off nicely by Icharo to hold him to one sack. His hustle was rewarded when Gregory lasered a one hop at 'em ball to second for a 4-6-3 DP and another three up, three down frame.

Icharo turned on fastball and lined it into right for a one out rap; Realmuto followed with an infield single. More trouble: Yelich singled in a run, and the runners moved up on the play at home. It came on the heels of a missed third strike call, one that had even the Marlin broadcasters shaking their heads. Clint kept Gerrit in; he walked Ozuna on a wild pitch, allowing Realmuto to score. The Pirates got a review of the call, but lost; it was a bang-bang play, and NY opted to uphold the field decision. In came Jared Hughes. He got a DP ball, but with the shift on, it took too long for Josh to reach the bag and make a strong turn. The forceout let a third run cross the plate.

David Phelps replaced Fernandez in the eighth, even though Jose had thrown just 88 pitches. After a pair of whiffs, Josh singled before a bouncer ended the frame. AJ Schugel came in and survived a leadoff double  via a DP on Jordy's dandy grab of a liner. AJ Ramos took the ball looking for the save. He lost Matt Joyce, JJ rolled a single through the infield and Cutch walked to juice the sacks. El Coffee lifted a sac fly to the wall in deep center, just missing his second grand slam. JHK went down looking at three pitches, never offering a swing. There was no Marte party tonight as he flew out to right, and the Bucs went down 3-1.

Gregory came within a hair of pulling out the win (photo USA Today)

Tonight was a game of ifs - if the ump rings up the third strike call on Yelich, maybe the Fish don't have an inning. If Gregory's drive carries a couple of more feet or was pulled a little more toward the gap, the Bucs all trot home. But neither happened, and the Marlins, behind a brilliant job by Jose Fernandez, hung on. Cole Train continues to mature as a pitcher, finding that reserve with runners threatening. We wonder if that sequence of a missed third strike followed by a single broke his focus briefly. Still, another strong outing, and against most other pitchers, it would be another W.

  • Josh and Cutch were the only Bucs to get on base twice tonight - Harrison had two hits, Cutch a knock and a walk. The top three for the Marlins - Suzuki, Realmuto and Yelich - went 7-for-10 and scored all three Fish runs.
  • With their ninth inning run, the Pirates remain the only team in baseball not to be shutout this year.
  • No greater testament to the attendance woes in Miami when a Cole-Fernandez match up draws only 10,637 fans. 
  • Indy C Jacob Stallings' seven RBIs tonight (he had two homers) set a new Indians single-game record in the Victory Field era (1996 to present).
  • Jason Grilli is on the move; the Braves traded him to Toronto for a minor league pitcher.

Tuesday: Gerrit Cole vs Jose Fernandez, Lineup, Notes

Tonight: The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10, with coverage by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pitchers: Gerrit Cole (5-3, 2.53) and Jose Fernandez (7-2, 2.82) in a marquee matchup. Cole Train has put together four strong starts (26 IP, three ER, dropping his ERA from 3.95 to 2.53), although the last pair were mind over matter outings where he ducked the raindrops. Fernandez had a tough start to the season, but he's back. In his past four games, Jose's tossed 27 IP, giving up three runs on 18 hits with 43 K, and has been rolling since late April with six consecutive wins.

Gerrit Cole will duel Jose Fernandez (photo Jason Vinlove/USA Today)

Lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, Gregory Polanco RF, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Josh Harrison 2B, Jordy SS, Cole P. The A-Team has all hands on deck against the formidable Mr. Fernandez.

Today, btw, wa slated to be Roberto Clemente Day in MLB. This is one of the games that was supposed to be played in San Juan before the Zika scare. A pity that site was lost (and the day pushed back to its usual September date), but this is a great matchup anywhere.

  • Jung Ho Kang has appeared in 19 games. He's had a home run in five of them and at least one RBI in a dozen (six homers, 18 RBI). 
  • The Buc batters keep disrupting NL pitching. After the Arizona series, two Snakes were placed on the DL and two others sent to the minors after facing the Pirates. With just one game gone in the current series, Miami's Edwin Jackson, who tossed yesterday, was DFA'ed. 
  • Talk about history almost repeating: Jeff Locke's 10-0 three hit, complete game shutout was the first by a Pirate lefty since May 28th, 2011, when Paul Maholm beat the Cubs 10-0 at Wrigley Field on a three hit, complete game shutout.

5/31: Jose's HR Streak, HBD Joe, Coke Trail, BB's First Hit, Rallies & More...

  • 1888 - S/O to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects “This Date In Pirate History.” The Alleghenys forfeited a game to the New York Giants when they failed to show up at the Polo Grounds while it was raining. The Pittsburg Press wrote “ Manager Phillips claimed that he had word that there would be no game and that it rained from 3:30 to 4 (the game’s starting time). President Nimick will protest the game.”
  • 1915 - The Pirates swept the first place Cubs by identical 1-0 scores at Forbes Field as Wilbur Cooper and Al Mamaux hurled complete game shutouts. The Pirates won the first game on a bases-loaded beaned batter and the second on a wild pitch. 
Wilbur Cooper circa 1917 (The Sporting News Archives)
  • 1927 - The Pirates overcame a 6-1, sixth inning deficit by scoring nine times in the final four frames to nip the Cubs 10-9 at Forbes Field. 1B Joe Harris was on fire, going 5-for-5 with two triples, a double, four RBI and two runs scored.
  • 1937 - The Reds beat the Pirate 8-3 in the opener of a DH at Crosley Field. It was the only game Cincinnati won against the Pirates in 1937. Starting with a 7-5 loss in the nightcap - Pep Young’s three run homer was the big blow - Cincy lost the next 17 straight to the Buccos, and dropped 21 of 22 games‚ tying the MLB record set by the Cubs over the Braves in 1909 and the Yankees over the Browns in 1927. In fact, the Reds would drop the first three to open 1938 for a 20 game losing streak against Pittsburgh, another MLB record.
  • 1942 - Satchel Page rejoined his old Grays teammates as they played against the Dizzy Dean All-Stars in an exhibition game at Washington’s Griffin park. It drew 22,000 fans (the Senators averaged just 5-6,000 per game) and beat the Deans 8-1. Clark Griffin, the Sens’ owner, told Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard after the game that he was going to “break up your league” and sign black ballplayers, but he never made good on the promise.
1942 - Josh never got his shot at MLB (photo: Teenie Harris)
  • 1948 - At Wrigley Field‚ the Cubs set a paid attendance record when 46‚965 fans passed through the turnstiles during a doubleheader split with the Pirates on Memorial Day. The Bucs lost the opener 4-3 after Chicago scored in the ninth off Kirby Higbe. Pittsburgh rallied in the nightcap behind Elmer Riddle to win 4-2. Danny Murtaugh chased home a pair of runs and scored once to provide Riddle with some working space.
  • 1953 - Vic Janowicz became the first Heisman Trophy winner to play MLB when he appeared as a pinch runner for the Pirates in the first game of a doubleheader loss to the Dodgers.
  • 1961 - Pittsburgh bashed out nine doubles (two by Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, with one each from Joe Gibbon, Dick Groat, Hal Smith, Gino Cimoli and Dick Stuart) in a 9-1 laugher at Forbes Field against the Milwaukee Braves. Joe Gibbon tossed a six hitter with 10 strikeouts to earn the win over Warren Spahn.
  • 1962 - Joe Orsulak was born in Glen Ridge, NJ. A sixth round pick of the Pirates in the 2008 draft, he was seen as the Bucs future lead-off man and CF’er. In his four years in Pittsburgh (1983-86) he never managed to secure the job, though he did hit .272. He lasted 14 years in the show, hitting .273 lifetime as primarily a platoon outfielder.
Joe Orsulak 1986 Donruss
  • 1964 - Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers beat the Pirates 6-4 at Forbes Field, but had to survive a towering blast by Roberto Clemente to do it. The Great One hit a ball halfway up the light tower 450’ away in center field. It was estimated to be potentially a 500’ drive had the pole not gotten in the way.
  • 1973 - The Bucs topped the Atlanta Braves 3-1, backing up Nellie Briles three hitter with Willie Stargell’s three-run blast in the eighth at TRS. Stargell’s ball went 468’ and landed in the upper deck. Of the 12 shots that carried into the cheap seats in TRS history, Pops launched the most; this was his fourth and final second-tier homer. It broke up a gem by Gary Gentry; he had a shutout going into the eighth when with one out, an infield single and 3-2 walk that raised the hackles of Bravo manager Eddie Matthews was followed by Willie’s blast. Briles went the distance for the win, sending Atlanta to their seventh straight loss.
  • 1985 - A Federal grand jury indicted seven for cocaine distribution and sales in baseball, none of which were Pirates (the players that testified were granted immunity). GM Joe Brown hoped the indictments would “...remove the shadow that has existed over the Pirates…” but his hope was in vain; the coke trials tainted the team’s clubhouse culture and several Bucs, notably Dave Parker and Rod Scurry, in the eyes of the fans.
  • 1986 - Barry Bonds collected his first MLB hit, a first-inning double off Rick Honeycutt, as the Bucs beat the LA Dodgers 4-0 at PNC Park. Bonds must have been excited; he was picked off a batter later. It was BB's second MLB game after debuting with an 0-fer the day before. Bill Almon’s two-run homer and Bob Kipper’s eight shutout innings were plenty enough for Pittsburgh to prevail.
Barry Bonds 1986 Fleer
  • 1994 - It wasn’t a good day to be a Pirate pitcher. San Diego scored 13 runs in the second inning on the way to a 15-5 whipping of the Bucs at Jack Murphy Stadium. Steve Cooke and John Hope were the hapless hurlers in that unlucky frame.
  • 2006 - Jose Castillo homered in his fifth straight game as the Pirates defeated Milwaukee 6-1 at PNC Park. Castillo hit a two run shot off Chris Capuano in the second inning to continue a streak that began on the 26th against Houston’s Taylor Bucholtz, the third longest in franchise history behind Dale Long’s eight game streak and Jason Bay’s six-gamer. Ian Snell and three relievers combined on a three hitter against the Brew Crew.
  • 2008 - SS Luis Rivas had four RBI, two runs scored, a homer and double as the Bucs pounded St. Louis 14-4 at Busch Stadium. Ronny Paulino added three RBI with three hits and a homer of his own while Jose Bautista chipped in with four knocks. Xavier Nady and Freddie Sanchez had three hits each as the Pirates pounded out 19 knocks.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Locke's 3-Hitter, Gregory's Grannie, Freeser's 4-Hits Lead Bucs In 10-0 Feeding Frenzy

The Bucs used two out lightning against Justin Nicolino; Freeser doubled and RBI machine JHK singled him home, with David 's hustle just beating the tag at the plate. Jeff Locke gave up an opening single, quickly erased via a 6-3 DP for a 1-2-3 IP. The second went quietly, tho the Fish did lay good wood to the ball. Josh legged out an infield hit with one gone in the third and stole second after several tosses over. It paid off when Freeser's two out bouncer into left plated Harrison. The Fish opened with a knock, and an out later (thx to a sweet grab by Cutch), Nicolino bunted into a 5-6-4 DP to clean it up.

Jeff was focused and in Locke-Down mode tonight (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Starling started the fourth with an opp field single and swiped second. He was shook up after the play, but stayed in as the Marlins challenged the call. The pileup for naught as he was ruled out, apparently coming off the bag a bit. The Pirates finished quietly and Locke cruised through his half, with S-Rod climbing the ladder to snag an inning ending liner. The Bucs went without a peep in the fifth; Jeff has been up twice, whiffed twice, and never taken the bat off his shoulders. Talk to Frankie, dude! S-Rod and Josh both hit the ball on the nose, but found leather. Locke kept rollin' on, and has faced 15 Fish through five innings.

Cutch led off the sixth with a knock, and in came Jose Urena. Nicolino was at 85 pitches and hasn't hit the 100 mark yet this season, and it his the third time through the lineup. Freeser flared a change into short RC, and it tcked off Cole Gillespie's mitt for a double. JHK lined out to third, leading to Marte's intentional pass to juice 'em. Fran brought home a run on a chopper that Urena couldn't handle. Gregory was fed a change; and he golfed it over the wall in RC for a grand slam to make it 7-0 before the third out. It was another calm frame for Jeff, who's sitting at just 68 pitches.

Freeser was almost unstoppable at the dish tonight (photo Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Edwin Jackson quieted the Bucco bats in the seventh, and holy Locke-Down, it took Jeff just six pitches to get three routine grounders. Starling beat out an infield knock with one gone in the eighth, but a DP kept Jackson's slate clean. Jeff mowed the Fish down once again. The Bucs solved Edwin in the ninth. Gregory singled to open and S-Rod went boom to right to make it 9-0. Josh doubled with an out and Freeser singled him home with two gone. Now it was Jeff's game to finish. He gave up a lob single to right with two outs, breaking a streak of 19 consecutive Marlins retired. It only delayed the inevitable; his 105th pitch was rolled to short, and he crossed a complete game shutout off his bucket list.

Jeff got into his groove as the game wore on, finding the bottom of the strike zone more regularly and getting grounder after grounder, quite a welcome change from his recent outings. It was nice to see the Buc bats show some authority, too. Jose Fernandez will be a different breed of cat tomorrow, and that makes taking the first game large.

  • Jeff's shutout was his first complete game; it took him 101 starts to get one. He spun a three hit, no walk, one K textbook outing in pitching to contact, facing just 28 batters and never having a runner on base for longer than an at bat. Not many recent era Buccos see the chance to get the 27th out in the quick hook era - the last nine inning performance was by Vance Worley on July 28th, 2014, when Vanimal goose egged the Giants 5-0.
  • Gregory's grand salami was his first in the show, and it was no cheapie, traveling 423'.
  • David Freese was smokin' hot. he went 4-for-5 with two 2B, two RBI and two runs, outhitting (and outscoring) the entire Miami team. Josh, Gregory and Starling added two hits each.

5/30: HBD Al & Tony, Moose Surgery, Rizzo Drives In 9, Lofton's Streak, Bombs Away & More...

  • 1892 - Mark “Fido” Baldwin, a native Pittsburgher alleged to have the best fastball in the league, tossed both ends of a Pirate DH sweep of the Baltimore Orioles at Exposition Park, winning 11-1 and 4-3. Baldwin went 26-27/3.47 with 45 complete games and 440 IP in ’92.
  • 1893 - From Baseball Chronology: "Jake Beckley successfully pulls the 'ancient’ hidden-ball trick on Baltimore Oriole Joe Kelley, as Pittsburgh wins 9-1.” The Bucs swept a DH from the Birds, also taking a 10-3 victory, at Exposition Park. It was a pretty good club; the team finished 81-48, five games behind the NL Champs, the Boston Beaneaters.
  • 1894 - RHP Al Mamaux was born in Pittsburgh. He went to Duquesne, and pitched for the Pirates from 1913-17. Mamaux was 49-36/2.61 during that time, and had strong seasons in 1915-16, going 42-23 with back-to-back 21 win campaigns. He spent the off-season as a crowd pleaser of another sort, touring as a vaudeville singer touted as "The Golden Voice Tenor.”
Al Mamaux 1916 Sporting News Collection
  • 1912 - The Pirates sent veteran 3B/OF Tommy Leach and P Lefty Leifield to Chicago for UT Solly Hofman and P King Cole. Leach, 34, started the next two years for the Cubs and came back to retire as a Pirate in 1918. Lefty pitched five more seasons, going 57-25. Cole lasted one year in Pittsburgh, going 2-2/6.43; Hoffman played two years for the Pirates, getting into 45 games and hitting .246.
  • 1921 - There were four NL doubleheaders on this date, and all four resulted in a sweep. The Pirates did their part by taking two from the Chicago Cubs at Forbes Field, 13-0 and 6-3. Jimmy Zinn tossed a five hitter in the opener, backed by four RBI from George Cutshaw and Possum Whitted, with Max Carey scoring four times. The nitecap was led by Whitted and Walter Schmidt who both went 3-for-4, with Possum scoring three times and Schmidt driving in a pair. Chief Yellow Horse, the third Pirate pitcher, went 7-⅔ shutout innings for the win and recorded the only strikeout of the day by Pittsburgh’s moundsmen.
  • 1925 - The Pirates set a MLB record by hitting eight triples against the St. Louis Cardinals at cavernous Forbes Field in the nitecap of a DH. Max Carey and Clyde Barnhart each banged out a pair of three baggers while Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor, Glenn Wright and Eddie Moore each had one. Barnhart had four hits, four runs and five RBI in the game as the Bucs ran their win streak to seven with a 15-5 romp. The Bucs took the opener 4-1 behind Emil Yde. Max Carey had a pair of RBI and George Grantham had three hits, including two doubles in that match.
Clyde Barnhart 1925 (photo Bain News service/Library of Congress)
  • 1927 - The Bucs lost the opener of a Forbes Field Memorial Day doubleheader to the Cubs 7-6 in 10 innings, ending the Pirates 11 game win streak. The big play was made by Cubs’ SS Jimmy Cooney, who snared Paul Waner's liner, stepped on second to double up Little Poison, and then tagged Clyde Barnhart coming from first for an unassisted triple play. Pittsburgh came back to win the nitecap‚ 6-5‚ also in 10 innings. Lloyd Waner collected seven hits during the twin bill.
  • 1939 - Johnny Rizzo set a club record that still hasn’t been matched by driving in nine runs against the St. Louis Browns in a 14-8 win at Sportsman's Park, gaining a doubleheader split for the Bucs. He banged a pair of homers and two doubles.
  • 1958 - The Milwaukee Braves beat the Bucs and ElRoy Face 7-4 at Forbes Field. The Baron of the Bullpen gave up four runs, two unearned, but came back strong; he wouldn’t lose again until September 1959, claiming 22 straight wins.
ElRoy took the loss, but it would be a long time before he got tagged with another - 1958 Topps
  • 1971 - Willie Stargell launched a Ken Holtzman pitch into the upper deck in right field, the third of four that he’d ship to the top tier at TRS in his career, to cap a 10-0 win over the Cubs. Roberto Clemente and Bob Robertson also went long. Bob Moose didn’t need much help; he fired a three hitter and fanned seven.
  • 1974 - Bob Moose had surgery to remove a blood clot from his arm after it had swollen to double its size. The clot wasn’t thought to be baseball related, but it cost Moose the rest of the season as one of his ribs also had to be removed. He was having an outlier year anyway, with a 1-5 record and 7.57 ERA, easily the highest of his career, likely related to his arm woes. Moose never again reached the 100 IP mark, after averaging 213 IP and 30 starts in 1972-73, before meeting a tragic end in a car wreck after the 1976 campaign.
  • 1977 - Dave Parker was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the story “Battle Royale In the East.” The Buccos finished second in the NL East race with 96 wins, five games behind the Phils. The Cobra played in a team-high 159 games with 21 HR and a .338 BA.

  • 1985 - LHP Tony Watson was born in Sioux City, Iowa. The ninth round pick of the 2007 draft was a converted starter that moved to the pen, and made his debut with the Bucs in 2010, evolving into a solid bridge man for the Pirates and then taking over Mark Melancon’s eighth inning role last season in spectacular fashion, posting a 1.63 ERA with a couple of saves, 34 holds and 9.4 K per nine innings. The media coined the phrase "It's elementary, Watson" to describe his consistent excellence.
  • 1998 - Jason Kendall hit a walk off bases loaded single to cap a three run ninth and give the Pirates an 8-7 win over the Montreal Expos at TRS. It was Kendall’s third hit of the day and his second RBI. Manny Martinez hit a two run homer and Kevin Young banged out four hits. Three Pirate relievers tossed four goose eggs, with Jason Christiansen earning the victory.
  • 2003 - Kenny Lofton homered against the Cards in a 7-3 win by Jeff Suppan to keep his 26 game hitting streak alive. He would go 0-fer the next day against the Cards Woody Williams and Jeff Fasaro, falling a game short of tying the club record during a 5-4 Pirate victory tossed by Kip Wells.
  • 2013 - For the second time in three days, the Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers, 1-0 in 11 innings. The Bucs used four pitchers - Mark Melancon got the W - and a Neil Walker homer to win at Comerica Park on the 28th, then came home to PNC Park and won with Bryan Morris and five other pitchers, cinched by a Russell Martin walk-off single off the wall in left center field. It was the club’s fourth 1-0 win in an 11 game span.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day: Jeff Locke v Justin Nicolino, Lineup, Series Preview, Notes

Tonight: The series starts at 7:10 at Marlins Park. It will be aired by Root Sports, 93.7 The Fan and the MLB Network for out of market fans.

Pitchers: Jeff Locke (3-3, 5.08) takes on Justin Nicolino (2-2, 4.37) in a southpaw duel. Locke is trying to reinvent himself into a guy that challenges hitters, and hasn't walked more than two batters in his last six starts. But it comes at a cost - Jeff has become a fly ball pitcher. He's given up six homers in his last four outings, so he's trying to find that fine line between working off the edges and a hit-it-if-you-can mentality. Still, he's been solid lately, and looking for three straight wins for the first time in his Bucco career. Locke is 3-2/3.00  in seven career starts against Miami. The 24 year old Nicolino hasn't gotten past the sixth in his past six starts (he hasn't made it even that far in his past three), or given up fewer than three runs. Like Locke, he doesn't pile up strikeouts, so there should be a lot of balls in play. In his only start versus Pittsburgh, Nicolino gave up two runs while walking four over six innings in a 2-1 loss last August.

Jeff is looking for his third straight W (photo via ESPN)

Lineup: Josh Harrison 2B, Cutch CF, David Freese 1B, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, S-Rod SS, Locke P. Josh is finally feelin' his oats and Jordy gets a day off. Prob could use one; he's in a .143 funk over the past week.

Preview: It should be an interesting series. The Bucs face three lefties in the four game set, and red hot JJ usually gets a seat against southpaws (not that JHK & Freeser on the corners is too shabby); it could also be that Gregory gets a day off in Miami, too, so this looks like a S-Rod kinda series. Marcell Ozuna has hit safely in 11 straight games with multiple hits in six of the last seven contests to lead the Marlin attack. Giancola Stanton is expected to return at some point during this series to add some punch (hopefully not tonight; he's owned Jeff in their career meetings.) Pittsburgh has won eight of the last nine matchups with the Fish and taken the season series the last four years, so there's that.

  • The Pirate bullpen woes are shared by the rest of the NL Central. By Fangraph WAR, the five division clubs fill in the bottom 11 spots in baseball. Good hitting, bad pitching, or a dash of both? The diff is in rotations - again, by WAR, the Cubs are #1, the Cards mid-pack, and the Brewers, Bucs and Reds are bottom dwellers.
  • June will be a hot month in the field - the Bucs will host the Angels, Mets, Cards, Giants and Dodgers (LA & SF are 4-game sets) at PNC. They close out the Miami series, visit the Mets and Cubs, play the Rox snow-out game and begin a series in Seattle during the month, too. 
  • Also other good stuff in June - the MLB draft (6/9-11), the Super Two deadline passing by, and often the beginning of the trade season, although Pittsburgh should be involved much more in the first two activities rather than the last. Mid-month should see the minor league pipeline starting to reach the show, with Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, Josh Bell and the gang knockin' on the door.

True Outcomes Give Texas the Series Clincher 6-2

The Bucs opened strong against Martin Perez, with Jordy and Cutch banging consecutive doubles to put Pittsburgh up. Frankie gave up a bloop to start, but settled in for a nice frame. The second went quietly, with the Pirates drawing a walk and the Rangers sitting down without any noise. Freeser drilled a first pitch homer to start the third; Liriano spotted Texas a lead off double then shut them down.

In a pivotal frame, Fran singled and S-Rod doubled to open, but a pair of grounders and a fly kept them off the board. Texas took full advantage of Frankie's double shot of free passes and long flies, especially on the road. Prince Fielder homered and so did Mitch Moreland (he clobbered it), with MM's being a killer with two runners ahead of him via walks. Both homers were 92 MPH fastballs pretty much down the middle and, salt to the wound, to struggling LH hitters. The fifth was 1-2-3 for both sides, with the Rangers hitting into a DP.

Starling kept on keepin' on with another pair of hits (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

In the sixth, Starling and Fran led off with singles; Marte stole third an out later, but again the Bucs left them stranded. Liriano was tapped for a leadoff walk and a pair of walks. Clint decided to let him in, and he almost wiggled out of it, giving up a tally on a sac fly. Matt Bush took over in the seventh and coaxed three bouncers; only Cutch put up a fight, going 11 pitches before drilling a hot shot to third. Rob Scahill took the ball, and more fun: a lead off single scored when the inning-ending K (a blocked slider in the dirt ruled a wild pitch) was tossed into right by Stew.

Tony Barnette got the call in the eighth and was touched by a double by Starling, who died at third. Neftali Feliz came in and worked a quick, quiet inning. Sam Dyson toed the rubber in the ninth and shut the door with a pair of whiffs.

True outcomes (walks, whiffs, HRs, so called because a ball put in play is subject to the whims of the baseball gods rather than the pitcher or hitter) are biting Frankie this year. His walk rate is as high as it's ever been at five+ per game, his K rate is the lowest its been in five years, and his home run rate is double his career norm. If Francisco can't find the dish early to work ahead of guys - and today's foe, Texas, is free swinging and ranks near the bottom in BB% - it's going to become a very long season.

Frankie & the strike zone need to meet (photo: Phil Vasquez/Chicago Tribune)

RISP, of course, is a cherry picking number, tho the Bucs were just 1-for-10 for the second game, and let their recent big frame mojo escape. Pittsburgh is tops in stranding RISP, but the Cubs and Cards are in the bottom seven too, so teams that put a lot of runners on also leave a lot of runners on. Today was pretty much a matter of the bench playing like bench guys; Matt Joyce and Stew left nine runners on the pond between them. Still, the Bucs saw another playoff caliber club and some tough pitching. Now the team has to shower off and face another competitive club, the Marlins, four times in Miami.

  • Fran and Starling each had a pair of hits for Pittsburgh. 
  • Fielder and Moreland's homers were the first Frankie had given up to lefty hitters this year.
  • Justin Masterson saw his first game action after pouring out some sweat in Pirate camp, going five innings for High A Bradenton, giving up two runs on two hits and three walks with eight K after 81 pitches. He's working off rust, and could be in play for a late summer bullpen call if all goes well.
  • Fun fact - Andrew is the only Bucco with 1,000 hits, 150 HR and 150 SB. We checked a couple of guys we thought would challenge - Barry Bonds, (984/176/251), The Great One (3,000/164/83) and Hans Wagner (2,967/101/723), and sho' nuff, Cutch is the only one to hit the trifecta.

Sunday: Frankie v Martin Perez, Lineup (Mix-N-Match Day), Notes

Today: The series finale begins at 3:05 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. The winner takes the series.

Pitchers: Francisco Liriano (4-3, 4.30) ends the set against Martin Perez (2-4, 3.13) in another lefty matchup. Frankie needs to toss some early strikes; guys are waiting him out to get into good counts, run up his pitch total and draw a few walks. That goes against Lirinao's chase 'em mind set, so we'll see. Francisco has won his last four starts against Texas with a 1.63 ERA but hasn't faced them since 2013. Struggling Derek Holland was in line for today's start, but was pushed back a day, which doesn't help the Bucco cause. Perez is tough - his last outing was six shutout frames v the LA Angels. His Achilles heel, if he has one, is "bad inning syndrome," where he gives up a crooked number of runs; it's bit him in five of his starts. Even with that, he's only given up four+ runs twice this season, and he's tough at home, where he's 2-1/2.08 in five starts.

Frankie on the hill (photo Associated Press)

Lineup: Jordy SS, Cutch CF, David Freese 1B, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Starling LF, Fran Cervelli C, S-Rod 2B, Matt Joyce RF, Stew C (Frankie P). Kinda off-one lineup, but Josh is still sick, Fran gets a well deserved break from the dish as the DH, Gregory gets an R&R day against a LHP (another LH, Matt Joyce, gets the call as S-Rod is filling in for Josh), JHK is back in the field with Freeser shifting to first...gotta admit, the Bucs don't just pay lip service to versatility.

  • Frankie has been Jekyll and Hyde this year - at PNC, he's 3-1/1.42 in four starts w/an opponent BA of .187, while away from the Allegheny he's 1-2/7.00 in five outings with his foes hitting .291, even including his strong showing against the Cards. He's given up 8 of his 9 HR on the road.
  • May Day - our two contract kids have had wildly divergent Mays. Gregory Polanco has slashed .308/.357/.560, while Fran Cervelli has eked out a .186/.206/.2000 line in the past four weeks.

5/29: Big Bill Visits, Stuffy Signs, Hemsley for Grace, Big Day for Roberto, More...

  • 1884 - The Pittsburgh Alleghenys were no hit by Columbus Buckeyes hurler Ed Morris at Recreation Park during a 5-0 whitewash. Morris walked just one in a near perfect performance. The Alleghenys had been no hit just five days earlier by Al Atkinson of the Philadelphia Athletics, who hit the first batter and was perfect the rest of the way.
  • 1895 - Jake Beckley blasted a three run homer in the ninth to give the Pirates an 8-6 win over the Washington Senators at Boundary Park. The 1B ended the year with five homers, second on the team to Jake Stenzel’s seven, with a club-leading 111 RBI.
  • 1909 - President William “Big Bill” Taft visited Exposition Park (Forbes Field would open a month later) to catch a Bucs-Cubs match, and made himself at home in the cheap seats, delighting the 14,091 fans. The Pirates weren’t so delightful, tho, as they went down to Three Finger Brown in 11 innings, 8-3, with Lefty Leifield taking the loss. The Prez must have made the Buccos nervous as the loss was the only time the team was defeated in a 19 game stretch.
Taft (center, second row, clapping) liked Hans' hit (photo Frank Bingaman/Pittsburgh Press)
  • 1922 - In a decision that was pretty big for the Pirates as well as MLB, the US Supreme Court ruled that organized baseball was a sport, not a business, and exempted it from antitrust and interstate commerce laws.
  • 1925 - 1B Jack “Stuffy” McInnis was signed as a free agent. The veteran was a reserve, getting into 106 games over two seasons, starting 64 of them. But his bat still held up; in 1925-26, he hit .337 for Pittsburgh, and .286 in the 1925 World Series against the Washington Senators. He played one more game after leaving Pittsburgh for his original club, Philadelphia, in 1927 before hanging ‘em up.
  • 1931 - C Earl Grace was traded by the Cubs with cash to the Pirates for C Rollie Hemsley. Grace caught five years for the Bucs and hit .275 over that span, retiring after 1937. Hemsley ended up playing 15 more years for five teams, hitting .262 and playing on five All-Star teams.
  • 1955 - At the age of 20 years and 284 days, Roberto Clemente became the second youngest player to hit three doubles in a game in MLB history, behind the Braves’ Eddie Mathews (ironically against the Pirates in 1952). The Bucs beat the Phillies 11-5 at Forbes Field; the young Clemente was the leadoff hitter, and banged his two-baggers off three different pitchers.
The Great One had a great day - 1955 Topps rookie card
  • 1965 - Despite allowing three runs in the first inning, the Pirates rallied to defeat the New York Mets 7-4 at Shea Stadium. The Buccos were led by Roberto Clemente, who went 4-for-5, collected two RBI, scored three runs, and finished a home run shy of the cycle. The Pirates put the game away in the seventh when a two-out walk followed by four singles plated three runs. Don Schwall took the win and Al McBean got the save. 
  • 1991 - The Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0 at Busch Stadium as Zane Smith threw the second one-hitter of his career, striking out five to earn his seventh win on the season. Orlando Merced led the attack with two hits and two RBI for the Bucs.
  • 1992 - Pittsburgh rocked the San Francisco Giants 13-3 at TRS. Barry Bonds went 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBI, Jose Lind chipped in with three runs driven in and Andy Van Slyke had three hits to give Vincente Palacios the win and Bob Patterson a save for tossing the final three frames. The Pirates used a 13 hit, 10 walk attack and an eight run seventh inning to pull away.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rangers Ride Big First Inning To 5-2 Win

JJ welcomed Yu Darvish back to the show with a second pitch knock. He settled in; Cutch K'ed and Gregory lined out. That rope perversely enough moved Jaso to third when the DP toss to first landed in the dugout, but a bouncer left him there. The well rested Juan Nicasio was nicked for an infield hit to open, then some high heat was turned into a double by Ian Desmond. A weak grounder brought in one run. Adrian Beltre fought a nine pitch duel and won; Nicasio served a center cut, 3-2 fastball that was launched over the wall in straight center. He escaped after that, at the cost of 36 pitches.

Yu was feeling it in the second; seven pitches, two Ks. Juan got through the frame yielding just a single. Figgy walked with an out in the third. JJ K'ed chasing a full count slider as Figueroa stole second, his first MLB swipe. Cutch looked at two balls down the middle, then golfed an ankle biter slider softly to short. Texas went down in order on six tosses. The Bucs went quietly in the fifth; Texas added on when Mitch Moreland, behind 0-2, worked the count full and lifted a slider over the RC wall.

Figgy took advantage of his first Bucco start with a hit, walk, SB & RBI (photo Ron Modra/Getty)

Fran singled and stole second in the fifth, and Figgy punched a two out, full count slider to right to plate him. Juan gave up a two out double, then a walk, and was up to 105 pitches. AJ Schugel came in to put out the fire. Tony Barnette replaced Yu in the sixth - great outing for Darvish - and got into one out hot water. Cutch just missed going yard, then Gregory blooped a single and Freeser reached via the boot route. A Marte force and steal put Bucs at second and third, but Fran flailed at a 3-2 curve in the dirt to kill the frame. AJ worked a quiet frame.

Jake Diekman put away the Pirates in the seventh; not so for Jared Hughes. A Jurickson Profar triple came home to make it 5-1. Matt Bush worked the eighth, and was greeted by back-to-back JJ and Cutch singles, but he barely broke a sweat getting out of the pickle. Daddy Watson took the hill and got in a dozen pitches, retiring the side 1-2-3. Sam Dyson looked to close it out. He did, although he was dinged for a Matt Joyce triple and grounder RBI by Jordy.

The Bucs have been managing to ring up a big inning pretty regularly, but tonight the clutch hit wasn't there, with a 1-for-10 w/RISP. Juan did nothing to change his spot as the pitcher most likely to be replaced by Jameson Taillon; he just had too many balls that were up and over the dish. Still, but for an icy first frame by Nicasio, it was a pretty competitive, well pitched game. Tomorrow afternoon will decide the series.

  • JJ was back in his AL milieu, and he was the only Buc to have two hits tonight.
  • Well, that was quick. Tony Watson was reinstated from the paternity list (congrats on baby Theodore to papa Tony & mama Cassie) and Kyle Lobstein was optioned back to Indy. 
  • Even with the loss, the Bucs are 10-4 on the road against AL teams in 2015-16
  • 2014 first round pick SS Cole Tucker was promoted to the High-A Bradenton Marauders. He missed the second half of last season with labrum surgery, so it's good to see him back in the saddle and riding high.

Saturday: Juan Nicasio v Yu Darvish, Lineup (No JHK, Josh), Notes

Tonight: The game at Arlington will begin at 7:15 and be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pitchers: Juan Nicasio (4-3, 4.46) takes on Yu Darvish, making his long awaited return. Nicasio's last three starts have been forgettable (1-1/6.46), and even his inning in the rain out was sketchy. He hasn't worked since the 15th, so maybe the rest will give him a chance to iron out a couple of wrinkles. The last time the Bucs met Darvish, they came away with a 1-0 win in 2013. This will be Yu's first MLB outing since he had TJ surgery in March of 2015, and all eyes will be on the strikeout ace. He'll be on a pitch count, but a generous one of 85-90 pitches. Darvish looked fine in the rehab trail. He had a 0.90 ERA through five starts at AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock, striking out 21 batters with three walks in 20 IP.

Juan looks to right his ship tonight (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Lineup: John Jaso 1B, Cutch CF, Gregory Polanco RF, David Freese 3B, Starling Marte LF, Fran Cervelli C, Matt Joyce DH, Jordy SS, Cole Figueroa 2B (Nicasio P). Josh is still suffering with a bug, and Clint is giving Figgy a chance. JHK and S-Rod are both starting on the bench tonight. If ya got a bench, use it.

  • The Pirates have won five in a row and 10-of-12. 
  • Last night was Jung Ho Kang's first appearance as a DH. It was also Cole Hamel's first loss since August of last year (he was 12-0, spanning 19 starts). The two are intertwined, as JHK's three run homer stuck the fork in Hamels.

5/28: Long's 8-Game HR Spree, Mack's Big Day, Bay's Long Ball Streak, More...

  • 1903 - OF Romer “Reddy” Grey‚ brother of author Zane Grey, made his MLB bow as a Buc. He went 1-for-3 in his only big league game as the Pirates beat Boston 7-6. Gray scored a run, knocked in another, drew a walk, and caught the only ball hit his way in the OF. He played on loan from the nearby Worchester minor league club as the Pirates, due to some injuries and personal issues, found themselves short handed for the game against the Beaneaters at the South End Grounds. Grey was an early AAAA ballplayer; he never found a home in MLB but had a career .311 minor league BA.
  • 1921 - Pittsburgh protested their 4-3‚ 10-inning loss to the Reds and won. After Reds P Dolf Luque tossed the ball into the Cincinnati dugout‚ Clyde Barnhart was called out going to third when the ball was tossed back into the field. The Pirates said no way; it was a dead ball, and NL president Heydler agreed. The game was later replayed from that point (it was 3-3), and the Bucs took full advantage of their second chance, turning the table to win 4-3 on June 30th.
Clyde was the main figure in a successful appeal (photo: Bain News Service/Library of Congress)
  • 1956 - First baseman Dale Long set a major league record by hitting a home run in his eighth consecutive game, a 3-2 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers at Forbes Field. The liner was hit off of Carl Erskine in front of 32,221 Forbes Field fans who didn’t settle down until the big first baseman made a curtain call, said to be the first in MLB history. The record was later tied by Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (1993).
  • 1960 - More Destiny’s Darlings lore: Roberto Clemente was on third and Hal Smith on first with two outs in the eighth with Maz up at Forbes Field. He fanned on a ball that hit in the front of the plate, ricocheted off ump Al Barlick and to Phillies pitcher Jim Owens. Maz froze, Smith jogged to second and Clemente went halfway down the baseline. Owens chased Clemente as his bench called for him to throw to first. In the run-down‚ Clemente knocked the ball out of C Jim Coker's glove to score the tying run. The Pirates won 4-2 in the 13th on Don Hoak's 2-run HR.
  • 1963 - Called out at first on a close play for the second time in the game‚ Roberto Clemente twice jostled ump Bill Jackowski while arguing the decision. Clemente was ejected‚ and skipper Danny Murtaugh got his Irish up, challenging the man in blue to duke it out until he was pulled away. The Great One was fined $250 and suspended for five days by the league. To top the day off, the Pirates lost 5-1 to the Phils at Forbes Field.
  • 1990 - Memorial Day seemed like it was going to be more memorable for Dodger pitcher Tim Belcher, who was working on a one hitter through eight innings at TRS, than anything the Bucs would do. But in the end, the Pirates provided the holiday fireworks, scoring five times in the ninth off two Dodger relievers to take an improbable 6-5 win from LA. The Bucs trimmed the lead to 5-3 and loaded the bases with two down in the final frame. Jose Lind spanked a 3-2 liner through the right side and RF’er Hubie Brooks tried to cut down the tying run, Gary Redus, at the plate. The throw was up the line and C Mike Scioscia tried to pick the ball and swipe the runner. It didn’t pan out; he missed the throw entirely and it rolled to the back wall, allowing Don Slaught to lumber in from first to plate the game winner for Bill Landrum, who worked the ninth for Pittsburgh.
Rob Mackowiak 2004 Upper Deck
  • 2004 - Utilityman Rob Mackowiak smacked a two-out, walk-off grand slam for a 9-5 Pirates victory barely nine hours after his wife, Jennifer, gave birth to their first child, Garrett Matthew. In the second game, he drilled a two-run shot, the 500th homer at PNC Park, into the same right center field seats as the one he hit three hours earlier to send the nitecap into extra innings, later won by Craig Wilson’s 10th inning homer for a 5-4 sweep of the Cubs. It was the first time since 1967 that a doubleheader was won by walkoff homers. Chicago’s Matt Clement also tied a MLB record when he plunked Bobby Hill, Jason Kendall and Craig Wilson in the fifth inning of the opener.
  • 2006 - The Pirates lost to the Astros 5-4 at PNC Park. Houston scored four times in the ninth off three different Pirate pitchers to tie the game, then won it in the tenth on a Preston Wilson knock off Salomon Torres. The game did have a bright side. Jason Bay homered off Fernando Nieve in the fourth inning to run his consecutive game HR streak to six contests, the second longest in Pirate history after Dale Long’s 1956 skein. It started on the 22nd against Arizona’s Orlando Hernandez. Bay had a pair of bombs on the 20th, too, giving him nine home runs in eight games.
  • 2011 - Four Pirates - Andrew McCutchen, Lyle Overbay, Chris Snyder and Ronnie Cedeno - went long as Pittsburgh whipped the Cubs 10-1 at Wrigley Field. Paul Maholm tossed a three hitter for the complete game victory.
Ronny Cedeno 2011 Topps Heritage
  • 2013 - The Bucs rode strong pitching and an eleventh inning home run by Neil Walker off Jose Ortega to edge the Tigers at Comerica Park 1-0, despite striking out 14 times. Jeanmar Gomez and Rick Porcello started the game while Jason Grilli finished it in style with swinging strikeouts of Motown’s Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in order to earn his 21st save and Mark Melancon’s first win as a Pirate.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Pirates Pound Four Long Flies, Niese Sharp In 9-1 Runaway Against Rangers

Cole Hamels got through the first, dinged only by a two-out Freeser quail to center. Jon Niese got a couple of grounders, then laid one over the plate that Prince Fielder banged for a two bagger. He left him there. With one gone in the second, Hamels fell behind Starling 3-1 and served him a meatball that ended up over the wall, 415' to straight center. The Bucs got a pair more aboard - Josh was HBP & S-Rod's two-out knock - but left those ducks on the pond. Ryan Rua battled his way to a one out, ten pitch walk off Jon and stole second. A wild pitch with two gone moved him to third, but no damage ensued.

Hamels had a rocking chair third. Niese almost joined him, short by a two out single. Starling collected another knock with an out in the fourth and swiped second. A deep fly moved him up to third, where he died. Niese gave up a one out shift beater rap, with another no-harm outcome.

S-Rod drew a four pitch free pass to lead off the fifth, then Mitch Moreland tossed Jordy's bouncer away to put Pirates at second and third. A Cutch blooper brought one run in; Freeser's single tallied another. Boom went JHK, who took a heater the opposite way into the RF seats. An out later, Starling got plunked in the foot. It must be OK; he raced to third pretty quickly after Josh's single. Cole ate up Gregory pounding it inside, then lost Rodriguez for the second time this inning. Hamels got the hook and Luke Jackson faced Jordy. He gave him a pretty fat 3-2 pitch, but a fly to right left the sacks full of Buccos.

Jon Niese put together another strong outing (photo: Pittsburgh Pirates)

Niese gave up a dink into left and ground ball knock with an out, but left them on the corners, retiring big guns Ian Desmond and Fielder. Cutch got a hung hook for the first pitch of the sixth and lined it over the RF wall, just inside the pole. Freeser and JHK both singled, Kang's causing a demo derby collision in right center that *whew* everyone walked away from. Jackson worked out of it, thx largely to Fran's 6-3 DP on a ball up the middle. Figgy came in to play second; we're guessing Josh isn't 100% over his bug yet. Jon tried to get a heater on Adrian Beltre's hand; he missed and Beltre didn't, launching the ball far into the night. The Rangers tacked on a one out single before Niese closed the door.

Figgy opened the seventh with a knock and never got beyond first. Niese left after a job well done - six IP, one run, seven hits, a walk and two whiffs after 93 pitches, leaving the ball for Wilfredo Boscan. His command was iffy, but he worked a 1-2-3 frame. Lefty sidewinder Alex Claudio claimed the hill for the Rangers in the eighth and put the Bucs away without a peep. Beltre beat out an infield squibbler with an out, followed by another knock. Boscan deflected a potential DP shot up the middle, but Figgy turned it into an out, with the runners moving up. A pop ended the inning without further ado.

JHK continued his power surge (photo Mark Zarrilli/Getty)

Starling got a leg knock with one gone in the ninth. An out later, Gregory solved Claudio by lifting a change up over the fence in right center to make it 9-1 with three outs to go. Rob Scahill came in to turn out the lights. A ground ball single delayed the ending just a bit as the Bucs continued to roll.

The whole Buc outfield homered tonight along with JHK; so much for the predicted 2016 power outage. Jon Niese seems to have figured out what ailed him earlier in the season, giving up seven hits but only allowing two runners in the same frame once over six frames. More importantly, the grounders keep piling up and his control is getting sharper. Nice way to open the road trip, laissez les bons temps rouler.

  • Starling and Freeser each collected three hits, while Cutch and Gregory added a pair. Fran and Jordy were the only Pirates in the order held without a hit.
  • The Fort has embraced the dark side. C Mike McKenry just signed a minor league deal with the St. Louis Cards.
  • Well, the Bucs not only rocked the Snakes pitching last series; they shook it apart. Starters Shelby Miller and Rubby De La Rosa went on 15-day DL, while relievers Andrew Chafin & Evan Marshall were optioned back to the minors.

Friday: Jon Niese v Cole Hamels, Lineup, Notes

Tonight: The game begins at 8:05 at Globe Life Park and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Pitchers: Jon Niese (4-2, 4.75) and Cole Hamels (5-0, 2.83) hook up in a battle of southpaws. Jon's been coming around lately. His last two starts have been strong, and his groundball mojo is starting to kick in. The Bucco lefty is 1-0 /4.50 in two lifetime starts against the Rangers. Texas is 7-2 when Cole starts a game this season, and he's tossed five really good outings and four that were just workmanlike. That's left him with an unsightly 4.50 FIP and he's also coughed up a ton of long balls. But Hamels faced the Bucs twice last year, going 1-0/1.29 and striking out 21 batters in 14 IP, so he knows how to work through Pittsburgh's lineup. In his career, he's 3-2/2.43 in nine starts against the Pirates.

Jon Niese hopes to keep the good times rollin' (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Lineup: Jordy SS, Cutch CF, David Freese 3B, Jung Ho Kang DH, Fran Cervelli C, Starling Marte LF, Josh Harrison 2B, Gregory Polanco RF, Niese P. Yay, the Pirate bench is finally deep enough that the team isn't at a competitive disadvantage because of the DH.

Should be a great series; both teams have strong records, the Rangers building their success behind a stellar rotation and the Bucs through persistent attack coupled with good starting outings of late. The Pirates (27-19) have won four straight and 9-of-11 while Texas (27-20) has won 5-of-6. Both are sitting second in their respective divisions, with the Bucs 4-1/2 games behind the Cubs and the Rangers 1-1/2 games off of Seattle's pace.

  • Pittsburgh will not see 2B Rougned Odor, who will be out while serving his seven game suspension for punching Joey Bats. Jurickson Profar was recalled as his roster replacement.
  • Sam Dykstra in MiLB.com notes Indy RHP Chad Kuhl's impressive outing, his control and his ground ball rate. Then he gives us a reality check, citing a rock bottom .208 BABIP and 3.26 FIP. Chad is the real deal who's also riding the crest right now.
  • Speaking of Indy, RHP Trevor Williams was assigned to Indianapolis from Bradenton and is slated to start tomorrow against Pawtucket.
  • Rough year - Pirates Prospects reports that Bradenton (High A) SS Kevin Newman suffered an orbital fracture when he was beaned. He'll be sent to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. The 2015 #1 pick was hitting .346 for the Marauders.

5/27: Ken Brett Does It All, Rally Cap Day, Vinegar Bend Deal, TV Time For Dale Long...

  • 1921 - Wilbur Cooper won his eighth straight game, this one by a 5-4 count at Forbes Field against Cincinnati when the Pirates pushed across a ninth inning run. All eight of Cooper’s victories were complete games. Rabbit Maranville’s sac fly brought in Walter Schmidt with the winning tally in the home half of the ninth. Maranville also tripled and scored twice for the Pirates. Between June and July, Cooper would go on an 8-of-10 win streak, and his two hot spells would carry him to a 22 win season for the Pirates.
  • 1927 - The Pirates overcame a 7-1 deficit by scoring six times in the sixth and seventh innings to defeat the St. Louis Cards in 10 innings at Forbes Field by an 8-7 count. They ran their victory streak to nine games; it reached 11 before being snapped. Kiki Cuyler had three hits to spark the Bucs. Guy Bush pitched three innings of one hit ball for the win.
Kiki Cuyler (photo via Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • 1956 - On the way home from a Philadelphia rainout, 1B Dale Long stopped in NYC as a guest of Ed Sullivan on his show “Toast of the Town” after hitting homers in seven straight games. After the appearance, he hurried back to Pittsburgh and hit his eighth against Brooklyn.
  • 1960 - Pittsburgh acquired 29-year-old LHP Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell from the Cardinals‚ along with LF Dick Gray‚ for minor leaguers IF Julian Javier and RHP Ed Bauta. Javier started at 2B for the Cards for a dozen years, but he was blocked in Pittsburgh by a guy named Bill Mazeroski. Mizell went 13-5 for the Bucs with a 3.15 ERA, solidifying their staff during their World Championship run.
  • 1974 - It was a big day for Ken Brett in a DH sweep against the San Diego Padres at TRS. In the opener, he carried a no-hitter into the ninth, settling for a two-hit, 6-0 win in a game that wasn’t decided until the Bucs put up a five spot in the eighth. In the nitecap, his two-run pinch hit triple primed a five-run seventh that was key for the Bucs 8-7 victory (the match was eventually won in the ninth on a two-run, two out homer by Richie Hebner). Brett ended the day going 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and three RBI to go along with his two-hitter in one of the Bucs’ top “do it all” performances.
Ken Brett 1974 Topps
  • 2006 - The Pirates won an 8-7, 18 inning match at PNC Park against the Astros when Jason Bay flattened Astros' catcher Eric Munson to score on Jose Bautista’s sac fly. The game time of five hours, 49 minutes tied it as the longest contest ever played in Pittsburgh. Bay also hit a homer in his fifth consecutive game, the first Pirate player to do so in 50 years.
  • 2015 - The Pirates scored five times in the seventh against the Miami Marlins after the bases were empty with two outs to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 5-2 win at PNC Park, their sixth victory in a row. Chris Stewart, Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison singled, scoring a run. Pedro Alvarez dribbled one through the SS hole against the shift to bring home the tying tally, then Andrew McCutchen walked to load the bases. Starling Marte took a 3-2 pitch down and away for a run-producing free pass. Jung-Ho Kang drilled a final two run single, and that was the ball game. Gerrit Cole got his seventh win while Mark Melancon earned his 12th save.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bucs Sweep Snakes 8-3, Head To Texas After Grand Home Stand

Ugh, what a start for the Cole Train. Fran and Freeser collided chasing a foul pop, and the ball fell free. Given a second life, Jean Segura doubled and came home when Michael Bourn smoked another two bagger. After a K, Jake Lamb drew a nine pitch walk; the next pitch, he pulled off a double steal with Bourn. The contact play cuts both ways, thankfully, as Bourn was chopped down at home on a grounder to JHK. Another roller ended it, with just one run of damage after all that. Cutch walked with one gone and Freeser followed with a knock to no avail against Patrick Corbin.

The Snakes again threatened Gerrit; a lead off double in the second, one out single and two out walk jammed the sacks, but Cole left the ducks on the pond. A boot and Gregory single led to a big inning when Cole Train pulled a Frankie and dropped a bomb (and it was stroked, landing in the Snakes' pen 409' away) to make it 3-0. More Cole-dini in the third. Arizona loaded the sacks again, this time with one out, on consecutive singles and a walk. A whiff and grounder stranded Snakes #6, 7 & 8. The Pirates left JHK aboard after his one out double.

Gerrit was a one man demo squad today (photo: Pittsburgh Pirates)

Cole worked a 1-2-3 fourth thanks to a DP. Gerrit kept up the stickwork with a two out double; he was the only Bucco not to fan that frame. Cole Train fanned the side in the fifth, but it took 24 tosses to do; he's at 105 pitches and done, giving up an unearned run on seven hits and three walks with five K. Corbin worked a clean inning. AJ Schugel took the ball in the sixth. He got the first two D-Backs easily, then the pitcher singled. Segura lined a ball back to the box that AJ could only knock down, and that was followed by a seven pitch walk. So from two outs and the pitcher up to bases loaded for Paul Goldschmidt... Schugel found behind him 2-0, gave him a heater down the middle, and Goldy's single tied the game. Aye carumba, this bullpen.

Fran singled with one gone in the Bucco half and a bouncer moved him up a station. S-Rod walked, and Josh pinch hit for Schugel; RHP Jake Barrett got the call from the pen. With the runners going on a full count, Josh went the opposite way, smoking one off the RF wall to double them both home. It was the Lobster's turn in the seventh, and he was greeted with a knock followed by a four pitch walk; in came Rob Scahill. After missing with his first two pitches, he zeroed in and coaxed a 6-4-3 DP. The next batter hit soft liner, but Gregory was there to haul it in on the slide.

Josh's clutch pinch hit double may have been the key blow of the game (photo: Pittsburgh Pirates)

Randall Delgado took the ball for the D-Backs. He lost Freeser after an out, and JHK followed up with a rap. Marte struck out swinging at a wild pitch; the runners were more alert and moved up 90'. Fran walked to fill the bases with Buccos, at the same time a cloudburst soaked the yard. LHP Andrew Chafin waded in to face Gregory and won the matchup, getting him on a grounder to first. Jung Ho got ahead 2-0, saw a heater and rolled it into left for a pair of breathing room runs. Marte added another with a double before the Pirates were sated.

Though it was 8-3, the Shark came in: we were expecting Jared Hughes, who has worked 4-of-5 games, but only tossed 19 pitches total. Melancon gave up a couple of singles but put up a zero at the cost of 24 pitches to seal the sweep against the Snakes. A most excellent home stand with a brooming and two series wins; the Buccos went 8-of-10 at PNC.

We'd like to see the dominating Cole over the gritty one, the guy who can blow it past people and go seven innings. And geez, both these bullpens raise gray hair.  And while Cole, Harrison and Kang's hit were clutch, the most important part of the day may have been Rob Scahill bailing out Kyle Lostein. To the future: now the Bucs are off to visit Texas and Banny for three games, then to Miami for a four match set (this was the weekend they were suppose to visit Puerto Rico before the Zika scare).

  • Jung Ho Kang has three hits to lead the Pirates; the only other multi-hit day was from Cole Train, with a pair of knocks.
  • Gerrit Cole is the first Pirates pitcher to hit a HR and a 2B in the same game since Danny Darwin, in 1996. He became first Buc hurler with multiple extra-base hits in the PNC era. 
  • The Pirates last five runs all scored with two outs.
  • Josh's big pinch hit was a deuces wild bang - two outs, two strikes, twos runs and a two bagger. But he did get his first MLB win.
  • AJ Schugel's deuces wild is a bit less shiny - he's given up two runs in three of his last four outings.
  • Great news: Ryan Vogelsong was at the park today with his wife Nicole; they came over from Allegheny General Hospital after his release to see the boys and watch some of the game. 
  • The attendance was 30,861.
  • By the by: our favorite diplomat, Tony LaRussa, "stormed" into the Bucco broadcast booth Tuesday night to scold Greg Brown for dissing him per Chris Adamski of the Trib. Brownie took him into a corner (appropriate; that's what the nuns did to us when we acted up) to respond during a "heated discussion," which explains the brief period when Steverino did the Root TV broadcast solo. LaRussa later told the desert media that Brownie spread "inaccuracies" regarding him; Greg replied "liar, liar" and said he expected an apology that never came. Tony wouldn't have much of a shelf life in a Pittsburgh bar, that's for sure.

Thursday: Gerrit Cole v Patrick Corbin, Lineup (Josh Still Out), Notes

Today: The finale is a 12:35 getaway day matinee. It will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan. It will also be on MLB Network for out-of-market rooters.

Pitchers: Gerrit Cole (5-3, 2.79) takes on Patrick Corbin (2-3, 3.99) in the series closer, looking to finish a sweep against the Snakes. The Cole Train has only had two bad starts out of eight, and has been on a roll lately, winning through either domination or determination. He split with Arizona last year, going 1-1/3.14. The Bucs rattled Corbin around pretty well in April, chasing him with three homers in the desert. He sometimes struggles with his control, and the Pirates like it like that.

Cole Train looks to broom the Snakes (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
Lineup: Jordy SS, Cutch CF, David Freese 1B, Jung Ho Kang 3B, Starling Marte LF, FranCervelli C, Gregory Polanco RF, S-Rod 2B, Cole P. Standard lefty lineup except for S-Rod, we guess Josh is still a bit under the weather.

  • Gregrory Polanco is 5-for-his-last-6 at bats, and has hit .426 over his last 12 games.
  • Mike Axisa of CBS Sports looks at the Bucco OF...might Cutch be the third best player in it?

5/26: Kitten's Pefecto, Ward's Cycle, Base-Brawl, Carey Steals 'Em All & More...

  • 1894 - Pittsburgh was thumping Cleveland 12-3 in the top of the ninth when the crowd of 6,200 at League Park began to riot after being taunted by the 500 spectators had made the trip from Pittsburgh. The Pittsburg Press wrote “A more disgraceful affair never occurred upon a ball field...when the disappointed Forest City fans, unable to endure the disgrace of defeat, attacked the Pittsburg club, the rivalry at white heat...In a second, cushions and pop bottles were flying in all directions...the crowd swarmed out of the stands...” and rushed the field. Red Ehret got the win, backed by an 18 hit Bucco attack.
Red Ehret 1888 Goodwin (Louisville)
  • 1925 - Max Carey walked and then swiped 2B‚ 3B‚ and home during the Bucs 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. Kiki Cuyler added a two run homer and Al Neihaus drove in two more scores as Ray Kremer coasted to the win at Forbes Field.
  • 1946 - Josh Gibson launched another epic blast, this one 440’ into the Yankee Stadium bleachers, as the Homestead Grays whipped the NY Black Yankees 11-8. It was the Grays’ fourth straight win and propelled them into first place in the Negro National League.
  • 1959 - In baseball's ultimate pitching performance, Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against the Braves in Milwaukee’s County Stadium, only to lose the game, 1-0, in the 13th on a Dick Hoak error, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk and double that was a homer. (NL prez Warren Giles ruled that the final score should be 1-0‚ as runners Henry Aaron and Joe Adcock were ruled out, Aaron for leaving the field‚ and Adcock for passing him on the basepath. Adcock was credited with a double and not a HR.) In 1993‚ Bob Buhl admitted that the Braves pitchers were stealing the signs from C Smoky Burgess‚ who could not crouch down all the way because of his achy knees. They used a towel on the bullpen fence as a signal, making Haddix's effort even more remarkable. The only player who wasn’t impressed was Haddix, who told the Post Gazette afterward "My main aim all night long was to win. The perfect game would have meant something to me then. It's just another loss”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the next day.
  • 1959 - C Dann Bilardello was born in Santa Cruz, California. He spent most of his Pirate time at AAA Buffalo, hitting just .171 for Pittsburgh in 52 games played between 1989-90.
  • 1971 - Steve Blass carried the Pirates to 2-0 victory over Cincinnati at Three Rivers Stadium, recording a career-high 11 strikeouts while tossing a five hitter for his second shutout of the season. Willie Stargell hit a two-run homer off Reds starter Tony Cloninger in the sixth inning that proved to be the difference in the game.
  • 1980 - Lots of fireworks as the Phils rallied to beat the Bucs 7-6 at Veteran’s Stadium. Bert Blyleven brushed back a couple of Phillies early on; Philadelphia reliever Kevin Saucier later plunked Pops to even the score. The he went one better, bopping Blyleven, who charged the mound, bat in hand. A donnybrook ensued, and as it was breaking up, Phil’s coach Mike Ryan reignited things. Philly had the last laugh, scoring twice in the ninth off Kent Tekulve, who gave up four straight hits, to claim the victory.
Boppin' Bert 1980 Topps
  • 1997 - For the first time in twenty years, two inside-the-park homers were hit in the same inning when Sammy Sosa of the Cubs and Tony Womack both circled the bases five minutes apart in the sixth frame of Chicago’s 2-1 victory at Three Rivers Stadium. Francisco Cordova took the loss.
  • 2000 - Behind Francisco Cordova and an odd DP, the Pirates bested the Colorado Rockies at Coors Stadium 2-1 in the second lowest scoring game played to date at the mile-high field. In a 1-1 game, the Rox tried a double steal; the lead runner, Tom Goodwin, stopped between second and third, and the back runner, Mike Lansing, turned and retreated to first as catcher Jason Kendall ran the ball toward him. The nimble backstop tagged Lansing and then threw to third to catch the slow-reacting Goodwin. Cordova celebrated by singling home Mike Benjamin with the game winner in the seventh. He was supposed to bunt, but the third baseman crept in too close, and Francisco took advantage by swinging away for the hit. Luis Sojo made a nice pair of plays at third in the final two frames to seal the deal, and the Pirates ended a five game losing streak thanks to Cordova’s four hitter.
  • 2004 - Daryle Ward hit for the cycle with a career single-game high of six RBI against St. Louis at Busch Stadium as the Bucs won 11-8. Ward and his dad Gary became the first father-son team to hit for the cycle. The Pirates used six pitchers, with the win going to starter Kris Benson.
Daryle Ward 2004 Topps Total
  • 2012 - The Cubs lost their 11th straight game 3-2 to the Pirates, their longest losing streak since opening the 1997 season with 14 consecutive losses. The teams were tied in the bottom of the ninth at PNC Park when Jose Tabata led off with a single off Rafael Dolis. Two walks and two outs later, the aptly named “Hit Man” Matt Hague took a pitch in the ribs for a walk-off plunk. Joel Hanrahan earned the win in a game started by Kevin Correia.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Buc Bombs Overcome Early Hole, Pirates Rally For 5-4 Victory

Good start for Jeff Locke, tossing a clean, 12 pitch first frame. Cutch and Gregory singled with an out off Rubby De La Rosa, then Starling reached via a boot on a chopper to juice the bags. Freeser whiffed and S-Rod smoked a liner to third; *sheesh* the Bucs and bases loaded! More problems; there was a delay between innings. Plate ump Chris Guccione took a foul off the mask earlier and apparently was feeling the aftermath, leaving the game to crew mate Sean Barber and two base umps.

Lamb walked on four pitches after two were gone in the second, and it cost when Chris Owings bounced a changeup down the line for a double. Then Yasmany Tomas golfed another change of pace, inside and low, deep into the LF seats to make it 3-0. Both pitches were decently located two strike offerings; give the Snake 7-8 hitters credit, they were prob sitting on the change. Stew doubled with an out and moved up on Jeff's tapper. He became the Pirates fourth stranded runner and the club is already 0-for-5 w/RISP.

S-Rod homered and flashed some leather tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Nick Ahmed opened the third with a first pitch single. Two pitches later, a 6-4-3 DP mopped that up, started by a great glove play by Jordy, to key a quiet frame. Gregory slapped a heater to left with an out; he stole second as Marte whiffed chasing a shoe-top slider. Polanco became another base statistic when Freeser bounced out. The D-Backs had back-to-back one out singles in the fourth; then go figure -  Locke got Owings and Tomas on changeups. S-Rod solved the LOB conundrum by drilling a hung curve into the second deck to make it 3-1.

With two gone in the fifth and two strikes on Rickie Weeks, Locke hung a changeup and watched it bang high off the LF foul pole. Jeff needs a finishing pitch; every big bop tonight has been with two strikes. JJ opened with an opp field rap, and Cutch followed with a knock. Gregory doubled home a run; the last two hits were with two strikes, and it's De La Rosa's turn to flop at finishing batters. Starling's grounder plated Cutch, then Freeser sent a two strike slider, down the middle, thigh-high, into the Bucco bullpen 451' away to give Pittsburgh the lead. Exit Rubby; Jake Barrett came in to close down the frame.

It was a clean sixth for Locke, a great follow after the Bucs big inning. Then he legged out an infield knock with one away against Barrett, tho dying at first. With an out in the seventh, Tomas caught an elevated change (Locke's first of the frame) and doubled, the ball just eluding Polanco. Clint tried to get seven out of Jeff w/o Watson; it didn't work and in came Jared Hughes. Two grounders silenced the Snakes. Zac Curtis gave up a two out walk before finishing up the frame.

David Freese's long ball was the game winner (photo Marty Morrow/Pirates)

Neftali Feliz took the ball in the eight against the 2-3-4 D-Back hitters. Weeks opened with a knock, then Neftali blew 98 MPH heat past Paul Goldschmidt. He had Wil Castillo whiffed too, but the ump missed the call. It proved a blessing as the next pitch was lined to S-Rod at second; he flipped to first to double off Weeks. Tyler Clippard gave up a two out, two bagger to Matt Joyce, but Jaso couldn't chase an insurance run home.

It was up to The Shark in the ninth, with Clint shifting Freeser to first and bringing JHK in to man the hot corner. With two gone, Owings just missed tying it, hitting one high off the Clemente Wall for a double. But Mark had one more out left in him and retired Tomas for save #16.

Jeff used his change a ton tonight, and a couple of times it bit him. He also was a bit snake bit; Tomas' homer was closer to bouncing off his shin than crossing the plate and Weeks' ball hit the pole. But for the sixth time in seven starts, he's given the Bucs six competitive frames or better. And the Pirate bench continues to dazzle; S-Rod and Freeser homered while Joyce doubled. Nice team win, and another series is in the bag with a possible sweep tomorrow afternoon.

  • Gregory Polanco has had three-hit outings in four of his last nine games. He went 3-for-4, and with Cutch combined for a 5-for-8 evening.
  • Jordy's eight game hit streak ended. 
  • The Pirates have won 8-of-10.
  • A couple of sources posted that Ryan Vogelsong underwent surgery for his facial fractures today, although there's been no official word from the Pirates.
  • Congratulations to Tony & Cassie Watson on the birth of their son, Theodore.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects wrote that Jameson Taillon is due back on the hill Sunday.