Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pirates Game 22 Recap - Reds 4, Pirates 1

This game was about the same thing that happened the last time the Pirates faced Johnny Cueto. Cueto again went for a complete game and again allowed the Pirates to only get three hits and again gave the Reds a win. While he didn't strike out 12 Pirates last night (only four) he was wildly efficient after throwing over 30 pitches in the first two innings. The only blemish that he got was in the ninth inning when Andrew McCutchen went oppo bomb on him to make the score 4-1 with one out. I rarely like to say that a starting pitcher "has a teams number" but Cueto has the Pirates number.

The good news is that the Pirates got another outstanding start from Edison Volquez. He pretty much went pitch-for-pitch with Cueto for the first six innings. The problem is the seventh inning didn't go all that well and that is where things fell apart. Entering the seventh the Reds only had one hit, but after back-to-back hits to start the inning the Reds got things going. They scored two runs that inning and that proved to be just enough for Cueto even if he got a few more insurance runs.

Volquez went seven full innings and gave up only five hits and two runs. I will take that outing every day of the week. He threw 71 of his 100 pitches for strikes and for a guy who wasn't able to throw a lot of strikes he is sure throwing a lot of strikes. He was getting ahead of hitters and making good pitches. It is still pretty early but it still is kind of amazing that he has been this productive. Hopefully this continues.

McCutchen is another positive. He is starting to hit the ball really well after a slower start and when he is consistently hitting the ball the opposite direction like he has been then things are join really well. The Pirates had three hits last night and McCutchen had two of them to go along with a walk. He is up to .288/.414/.500 line and is 16-for-44 in his last 11 games with seven walks, six strikeouts, and eight extra base hits. Of those 11 games he has at least one hit in 10 of them and while those are just arbitrary end points things are looking really good for him right now.

This is just one of those games. Cueto was really good and has been really good all season. The Pirates have two more against the Reds to finish up this week.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Penguins/Blue Jackets Game Three Mike Lange Goal Calls

Big stick tap to Benstonum for putting together Mike Lange's goal calls from game three last night to the video highlights. Enjoy.

Pirates Game 21 Preview - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Johnny Cueto (1-2, 1.50) vs. Edinson Volquez (1-0, 1.71)

Season Series (Tied 2-2)
April 14, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Cincinnati 7 [Recap]
April 15, 2014 - Cincinnati 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 16, 2014 - Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]
April 21, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Cincinnati 5 [Recap]


Pittsburgh (9-11)
1. Marte 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Martin 2
6. Davis 3
7. Snider 9
8. Mercer 6
9. Volquez 1

Cincinnati (8-11)
1. Hamilton 8
2. Votto 3
3. Phillips 4
4. Bruce 9
5. Frazier 5
6. Ludwick 7
7. Pena 2
8. Cozart 6
9. Cueto 1

Suspensions/Fines Handed Out For Pirates/Brewers Easter Incident

Nothing overly shocking here. Gerrit Cole not on the list might be a little shocking but I am not sure MLB wants to open up yelling at other players for fines or suspensions. Cole did somewhat start this but doesn't overly surprise me he wasn't on here. Even if Cole was suspended it would not have been for more than a couple of games and most likely wouldn't have caused him to miss a start.

The whole thing was largely dumb and stupid to begin with. That is right, fighting in baseball is dumb. Hopefully everyone can move on from this.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pirates Game 20 Recap - Pirates 6, Reds 5

The Pirates have had some really tough games recently. Including tonight they have had leads in each of the last four games and each time they have given up those leads late and before tonight they had lost all three. Tonight they were able to lose the lead, tie the game, then win the game. I would be lying if I said this didn't feel real damn good.

Actually the Pirates got all the offense they needed with one swing of the bat. With the Pirates already down 2-0 they went to work in the fourth inning. It started with an Andrew McCutchen single followed by a Pedro Alvarez double and a Neil Walker hit by pitch. Then came up Ike Davis. Davis has been pretty good in his few games with the Pirates and he took a first pitch fastball and hit a broken bat grand slam.

 Like I said, Davis has been pretty good since coming over to the Pirates. Including tonight he is 5-for-13 with a home run (grand slam tonight), four runs, and a double. Obviously he's not going to continue to hit like this but it is really nice to have a reasonably talented player for the big portion of the first base platoon.

 Anyways, back to the fourth inning. It was really nice to see. Mike Leake had done a pretty nice job the first time through the order giving up only three hits through those first three innings. In the fourth inning he gave up the hit to McCutchen, which isn't overly surprising, but against the two left handed hitters he didn't hit with a pitch he tried to go inside with a fastball. The one to Alvarez was 90 mph and the one to Davis was 89 mph. Both pitches got crushed. It was a huge inning.

 The Pirates offense actually played pretty well tonight which comes off a pretty good series against the Brewers. They had 12 hits tonight, walked four times, and only struck out three times. That is exactly what you need from the offense. Everyone but Russell Martin, Clint Barmes, and Jose Tabata had a hit and while you would like to see a hit here or there the other guys in the lineup picked up those guys. Good to see.

The Pirates came into the game with an extremely short bullpen as Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, and what seemed like 12 others weren't available so it was going to be extremely important for Francisco Liriano to go deep. He did. Frank went 7.0+ innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks.

It wasn't ideal as he exited the game and saw Justin Wilson give up a few runs he left on the pond but it was a pretty nice outing from Liriano. Wasn't a great outing but if he didn't go at least seven then the Pirates were going to be in a world of hurt. Thankfully it didn't come to that.

 The Pirates actually walked this one off. They were down 5-4 going into the bottom of the eighth inning when Reds manager Bryan Price acted in the Pirates best interest. In a wildly horrible decision Price brought in left handed reliever Manny Parra. That really wasn't the bad part of the decision, it was that McCutchen was leading off the inning. I know why Price brought in Parra, the Pirates had a left laden portion of the lineup coming up and maybe he didn't want to waste one guy for McCutchen. Big mistake. 'Cutch is a career .334/.419/.579 hitter against left handed pitching and hit .388/.479/.650 against them in 2013. All 'Cutch did was go deep to right centerfield. Tie game.

 In the ninth the Pirates got after it with Martin and McCutchen reaching base and then Walker came through with the bleeder and thanks to some awful defense from Cincinnati the Pirates walked it off.

Yay winning.

 Speaking of Walker he has been awfully good recently. He went 3-for-4 on the night and that one out was a screamer in his first at bat that he hit right at Jay Bruce on a line. He is seeing the ball well and has been putting a lot of balls over the fence. The ball he hit for the game winning probably should have been turned into an out, but it wasn't. I will take it.

Penguins ECQF Game 3 Recap - Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 3

This was just about a carbon copy of game two of this series except the teams just flipped who took the lead and dominated the game early. The Blue Jackets scored two goals in the first 3:18 of the game and the Blue Jackets fans were crazy into the game. The Penguins have played in some big situations and played in some really hostile places but they looked pretty shook to start the game. Luckily they settled down and Marc-Andre Fleury helped hold the fort with enough time for the offense to get going in the third period. When the offense came, it came in a big way (phrasing).

Like I said, this was totally opposite. The Penguins had nothing going through nearly two periods of play and it looked like it might get ugly. The Penguins then got a goal on a pretty nice play by Brooks Orpik with 1.8 seconds left in the second period. You know, Orpik just scoring big goals like we all planned.

I must admit that Orpik played a pretty damn good game tonight. He has been fairly awful all season and hasn't been good so far this playoffs but tonight he played some pretty good hockey. He was one of the most effective defenseman in terms of advanced stats (+8 Corsi) and even scored the goal. I haven't been very confident at all with him on the ice but tonight he stepped up in a big way in a game that started pretty poorly.

The stats are going to show that the Blue Jackets racked up 65 hits in the game. I am sure that is going to get a lot of talk and while I think hits in the playoffs are more tangible than in the regular season that is somewhat of a good thing for the Penguins. You know why? When you are throwing hits that means you don't have the puck. When you don't have the puck you can't score goals. As the Toronto Maple Leafs how that works outs. Just for fun take a look at the Fenwick flow chart from tonight's game:

Remember Fenwick is the goals scored, plus missed shots, plus shots on goal. Notice when things started to go bad for Columbus?

When you factor in block shots with all the fun stuff that Fenwick gives you that is where you get your Corsi number. In 5v5 play tonight the Penguins had a 60% Corsi. That is...very good.

The Penguins still had some big time problems tonight. Their power play went 0-for-6 and most of those came in the first half of the game when they were down two goals. The Penguins have thrived on the power play for much of the season and it was almost as if Columbus was begging them to get back into the game but the Pens couldn't figure out the Columbus PK and therefore were still searching after unlimited chances.

On the positive side the Penguins didn't give up a short handed goal (!!!) and the penalty kill did a nice job killing off all four Columbus power play opportunities, including one with about seven minutes left.

MAF only made a handful of saves thanks to Columbus not being at all interested in having the puck so the three goals he allowed on 20 shots aren't going to look all that good. It turns out to be an .850 save percentage and a lot are going to go with the "playoff Fleury" thing after looking at the box score. He didn't have to make a ton of saves but when your team lays down and plays as bad as the Penguins did in the first and most of the second it would have been easy for him to mail it in and move on to game four with the Penguins down 2-1. He didn't though and battled hard and gave them a chance. He looked like he was fighting the puck at times but over the last 55 minutes of the game he gave up one goal and should get some props for being one of the betters players on the ice for the entire game.

Sidney Crosby is getting a lot of talk about him needing to step up and be the best player in the world. He hasn't scored a goal yet this series and has had minimal impact on the game but tonight when he was on the ice in a 5v5 situation his line had the puck. Crosby's 5v5 CF% (Corsi-For Percentage) was 76.2% that led all skaters. He only had one assist on the night but like I said you need to have the puck to score and if he is going to have possession of the puck that much the goals are eventually going to come. Without scoring a goal Crosby played a really nice game.

Evgeni Malkin is getting the same talk and he had somewhat of an up and down game. Early on he was really bad. A lot of turnovers and even though he has the talent he hasn't been playing all that well. He was a monster in the third period and finished the game with a 71.4% CF%. That is pretty good.

Actually the Penguins had six other players that were 65% or better CF on the night. When I talk about the Penguins dominating possession this is what I am talking about.

This wasn't a good total game by the Penguins by any stretch of the imagination. The Penguins can win these games because they are just more talented than the Blue Jackets. The Penguins can not come to play for a period and they will still be alright. In games one and three the Blue Jackets didn't play for a period and it cost them the game. Twice. Not saying Columbus isn't a good team, because they are, but the Penguins just have more talent and most times the talent is going to win out.

Penguins ECQF Game 3 Preview - @ Columbus Blue Jackets

 Columbus Blue Jackets

7:00 p.m., Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH 

The Last Penguins Game
April 19, 2014 - Columbus 4, Pittsburgh 3 (2 OT)


Pittsburgh (1-1) (via Penguins website)

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Beau Bennett
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Lee Stempniak
Jayson Megna - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Marc-Andre Fleury

Columbus (1-1) (via Penguins website)

Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Jack Skille
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
RJ Umberger - Artem Anisimov - Nick Folingo
Derek MacKenzie - Mark Letestu - Blake Comeau

David Savard - Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky

Series (Tied 1-1)

April 19, 2014 - Columbus 4, Pittsburgh 3 (2 OT)

April 16, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Columbus 3