Monday, April 30, 2012

Pirates Game 22 Recap - Pirates 9, Braves 3

If you got to watch the Pirates tonight then you were able to witness history. Well, no, not really, but it really felt like history because for the first time this season the Pirates scored more than five runs. 21 games before tonight the Pirates scored five runs or less, most of the time less, but they scored nearly double that with nine runs. In one game. Everyone rejoices.

For real, you really couldn’t really knock the offense tonight. After falling behind 2-0 in the first inning they tied it up in the third, took the lead in the fourth, added a pair in the sixth and opened up the flood gates in the seventh. How novel, scoring runs in more than one early inning. Horary!

Every Pirate started earned at least one hit, even Rod Barajas, and some players even had more than one hit. Neil Walker really had a nice night with three hits which raised his average to .282 and Yamaico Navarro had a pair of hits which included a two run blast to left field. Everyone else had one hit which also included a Pedro Alvarez home run to make the score 4-2 in the fourth inning. Alvarez hit the ball off lefty Mike Minor. Pedro is just grooving right now.

The night was really about James McDonald. This might have been his most efficient game of the season and he looked really good. The first inning it looked like it was going to be a lot of the same for McDonald as he was really all over the place. That led to a single, who was caught stealing, followed by a walk and a home run to Freddie Freeman. McDonald was able to get out of the inning with only 18 pitches and he just got stronger as the game went on. Most might think that his best game might have been last start when he gave up only one hit but he was largely inefficient. Not so tonight.

McDonald set a new career high with ten strikeouts and he was able to go a 7.2 innings. Sure, he threw 114 pitches to do so but this was a really solid game and the first one you can say that it looked like he was getting things together. He was able to throw 72 of his pitches for strikes which was much better than previous starts in terms of strikes thrown and his curveball was really outstanding which is what he used to rack up most of the ten strikeouts.

I know you don’t really like to be a downer on a night like this but the Pirates still struck out 12 times in the game with six position players who started registering at least one. That is no idea. They were, however, able to pick up three walks off Minor who rarely walks everyone but I guess when you get 11 hits the number of times you strikeout can be overlooked. Strikeouts have always been a problem with this team and it sucks to see because the offense isn’t going to be able to overcome that most nights.

The Pirates are finally done with the month of April and if you ask me they had a really nice month. Sure, they are 10-12 but this will far and away be the toughest month of the season and they were basically able to tread water and be right around .500 for that month. They head to St. Louis tomorrow to play the Cardinals for the second time this season. Hopefully the offense can continue to play well and the pitching keeps giving them great outings.

Pirates Game Day 22 Live Blog - @ Atlanta Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves - 7:10 p.m.
James McDonald (0-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (2-1, 3.42 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (9-12)
1. Tabata 9
2. Harrison 6
3. McCutchen 8
4. McGehee 3
5. Walker 4
6. Navarro 7
7. Alvarez 5
8. Barajas 2
9. McDonald 1

Braves (14-8)
1. Bourn 8
2. Prado 7
3. Freeman 3
4. McCann 2
5. Uggla 4
6. Jones 3
7. Hinske 9
8. Pastornicky 6
9. Minor 1


Hit the jump for the live blog

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pirates Game Day 21 Live Blog - @ Atlanta Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves - 1:35 p.m.
Kevin Correia (1-0, 2.00 ERA) vs. Tim Hudson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (9-11)
1. Presley 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. McKenry 2
9. Correia 1

Braves (13-8)
1. Bourn 8
2. Prado 7
3. Freeman 3
4. McCann 2
5. Uggla 4
6. Jones 5
7. Heyward 9
8. Pastornicky 6
9. Hudson 1



Hit the jump for the live blog

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pirates Game Day 20 Live Blog - @ Atlanta Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves - 7:10 p.m.
Erik Bedard (0-4, 2.63 ERA) vs. Randall Delgado (2-1, 5.74 ERA)

Linesups:

Pirates (8-11)
1. Presley 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Bedard 1

Braves (13-7)
1. Bourn 8
2. Prado 7
3. Freeman 3
4. Uggla 4
5. Heyward 9
6. Ross 2
7. Francisco 5
8. Pastornicky 6
9. Delgado 1



Hit the jump for the live blog

Steelers Draft Mike Adams And Sean Spence On Second Day

This is a little late and you probably have already read a ton of stuff on the second day of the Steelers draft , but if you haven't then you are in luck. Not really sure why you are lucky but I will at least give you a little info on the guys that are now Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the second round the Steelers got lucky again and had a few players slide to them and they once again went to the offensive line and drafted Mike Adams from Ohio State. Now if you were following me for some time you know that I did not want the Steelers to go for Adams in the first round. Early in some mock projections he was supposed to be the Steelers 24th pick and I just wasn't high on that but love the value pick in the second round.

Most had Adams as a first round grade but he had some character issues that pushed him out of the first round and from what I have seen over the past couple of days he was completely off the Steelers board. Adams was one of the five OSU players that were suspended for five games due to selling apparel and then he was charged with possession of marijuana in 2009 and then tested positive for pot at the combine so this really wasn't a Steelers type of pick.

Evidently Adams went up to the Steelers at the combine and told them the entire story and really aired his dirty laundry to them and convinced them to put him back on their board and when he was there during day two they took him. A lot of people aren't really high on taking the risk on Adams but at this spot in the draft I think it is a pretty nice get for the Steelers. They have struggled on the offensive line for some time and Adams should be able to help. This kind of reminds me of Marcus Gilbert last season. They drafted the Florida guard in the second round and people were pretty upset about it and didn't understand it but all Gilbert did was go out and play pretty good football his rookie year. Couple Gilbert and Adams with DeCastro and Pouncey and all of a sudden the Steelers are really young with a ton of potential.

Granted the Adams pick could blow up in their face with personal problems but the talent is there. He is a very good pass blocker and is known to be pretty athletic with good feet and can more than hold his own run blocking. Getting a guy like this in the second round is a pretty nice get.

Here is the breakdown from ESPN:

What he brings: Adams is one of the most frustrating prospects to watch on film. He has the quick feet and length teams covet at left tackle, and he's also an effective run blocker who can cover up defenders. However, he's highly inconsistent and seems uninterested at times.

How he fits: He is a big, gifted athlete. The reason he dropped this far is well-documented. He probably best fits at LOT because of his feet, but the Steelers recently moved Marcus Gilbert from ROT to LOT. You would think they could move Gilbert back to ROT and insert Adams at LOT, and along with OC Maurkice Pouncey and new ROG David DeCastro, this offensive line that has struggled in pass protection and run blocking is all of a sudden starting to look like a much-improved unit. Big Ben should be the happiest guy in town.

Here is what the NFL Network thinks of him:

Strengths
Adams has a good frame and good enough footwork to not get beat at the college level. He employs a decent pass set to get back and anchor himself against the bull rush, and has the footwork to shuffle and keep his feet chopping when blocking to drive a man downfield in the run game. His big-game experience playing at Ohio State helps his value.

Weaknesses
Adams is not a very exciting player and can struggle at times with effort-based issues that don't allow him to get much movement on the line when run-blocking. He is more of a catch-and-react blocker than one who delivers blows, and will need to play with more fire and look to unleash his inner-athleticism to be able to succeed at the next level. Those suspensions and injuries will also eat away at his draft stock.


Here is some film on Adams:






Going into the second day I kind of wanted the Steelers go with an inside linebacker in the second round and then see what was there in the third but when they went with Adams (which I now agree with) the Steelers were almost certain to go linebacker with the next pick. They did. With an aging inside core and the loss of James Farior the Steelers needed depth and youth and they got that by drafting Miami linebacker Sean Spence.

Spence might not seem like an ideal linebacker because he is only 5'11 but from all accounts this is a guy that is going to help the Steelers big time. Maybe not right now, but he is said to be a three down linebacker that is excellent in coverage and has great instincts. If you are a person that likes when linebackers get burnt in coverage then you would not enjoy this pick. With the way the NFL is going in terms of being a passing league where tight ends are a now a premium position it makes this pick make that much more sense.

When you read about Spence the first thing you are going to see is that this kid has great instincts and is very athletic, both things that the Steelers needed to have to compliment Lawrence Timmons. The thing that stood out to me when looking over his stuff is that he can be a three down back which is huge in this type of NFL. With his size he will get lost sometimes but it seems as if he is able to overcome a lot of that due to the fact that he can diagnose plays and get to the spot quickly which is good to see.

Here is the ESPN breakdown of Spence:


What he brings: Spence is undersized and he gets swallowed up by traffic on occasion. However, he possesses great instincts, lateral quickness and is a reliable player in space.

How he fits: With James Farrior gone, they really need to develop the depth inside. Their young guys right now are mostly on special teams. With Lawrence Timmons able to play inside or outside, Spence is an inside guy that might be able to play all three downs and contribute in pass situations.

Here is what the NFL Network thinks of him:

Strengths
Spence's athleticism shows in all that he does. He can quickly diagnose a play and use his explosive hips to meet running backs and deliver the blow. He has fluid hips in coverage and uses his arm strength to shed blockers when he gets engulfed by bigger players. He is an experienced starter at a high level, and this should allow him to play fast and instinctively from the start at the next level. He has natural athletic ability to fit in a 4-3 scheme, in which he can play freely and flow to the ball. He is an active player and almost always involved on run plays.

Weaknesses
Spence is undersized and needs to play free of big blockers on him to be productive. He can flow to plays but "rides the pole" and falls off tackles at times. The scheme he plays in is key to his production.

Mike Mayock loves Spence. If he loves him then you should love him.

Here is some video of him:






Both the NFL Network and ESPN have raved about the Steelers draft including the second day picks. I try to get into this as much as I can but so far the Steelers are doing what they always do, taking the top talent on their board and luckily this season it comes at need positions.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pirates Game Day 19 Live Blog - @ Atlanta Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves - 7:35 p.m.
A.J. Burnett (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (2-2, 3.38 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (8-10)
1. Presley 7
2. Barmes 6
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. McGehee 3
8. Barajas 2
9.Burnett 1

Braves (12-7)
1. Bourn 8
2. Prado 7
3. Freeman 3
4. McCann 2
5. Uggla 4
6. Jones 5
7. Heyward 9
8. Pastornicky 6
9. Hanson 1



Hit the jump for the live blog

New @Benstonium - Penguins Google E-mail

I know I always come in and say that Benson has a great new video and throw it up here and you enjoy it. I always say that and believe it 100% but this one might truly be the best one he has done in the time I have been sharing them with you.

This one takes a spin off of the Google commercials and adds some Pittsburgh flavor. Enjoy

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Steelers Select David DeCastro

The NFL draft was tonight in case you forgot (I did until a couple days ago) and the Steelers won in a big way. Generally picking late in the draft you aren't going to get that flashy play maker but picking that low means that you are having a successful season so I can more than deal with that. Tonight they got some unreal luck and had Stanford guard David DeCastro fall to them at the 24 spot.

DeCastro was considered a junior in the draft but he had already graduated from Stanford and really it's amazing that he fell this far. If you were looking at mock drafts like I was most of them had DeCastro gone in the top-15 and some of them even had him as a top-10 pick. For him to drop all the way to 24 is really great and the Steelers must have been stunned to see him still on the board.

DeCastro is listed as 6'5 and 316 pounds but he has really good feet and a really solid center of gravity. His strengths are many as he is a very good run blocker and is also very proficient in pass blocking. Rather than me try to tell you what he does here is the breakdown from NFL.com on DeCastro:

Strengths
DeCastro is a technician on the field and is beautiful to watch for those who respect offensive line play. He is very quick off the ball to get into his block. DeCastro is able to shuffle nicely to avoid trash when pulling or down blocking. Once engaged, he is very strong to his ground. He demonstrates a good snap upon contact with defenders and is usually the one providing the drive-back pressure on his man. Once locked on his man, he can drive and maneuver them at will using his very strong upper body. DeCastro is extremely controlled in his movements, and he has body control and overall balance that is rare for a man his size. DeCastro is very athletic on the move and can key in and adjust well on his moving target. It's nearly impossible to find many weak points in DeCastro's play throughout college, and he could easily be the best lineman on his team as a rookie.

Weaknesses
DeCastro is inconsistent when finishing run blocks downfield. There were times in 2011 when he would fall off his blocks at times -- although never an effort issue, there are some slight hitches in his bending and footwork downfield that cause him to fall off slightly. He is not a violent puncher with his hands, but he doesn't necessarily need to acquire that trait because he is such a technician.

I don't know about you but it seems like the weaknesses are few and far between and the strengths are all there. Really great to see him fall to the Steelers and you should be amazingly happy that he is there. He will be an immediate help and will fit nicely in an offensive line with youngsters like Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert the line will be instantly better. The real key to DeCastro that a lot of people bring up is that he has a real mean streak. People in Pittsburgh like that kind of player. He will be very good in Black and Gold.

What was really awesome is the amount of good talents that were still on the board when the Steelers picked. Dont'a Hightower was still on the board when the Steelers went and he was scooped up by the Patriots right after Pittsburgh made the DeCastro pick. While I LOVE the pick of DeCastro there still is a hole in the defense that needs to be filled but that can be figured out later. The defense is old and could really use Hightower but the Steelers would have been foolish to pass up DeCastro.

Should be an interesting day tomorrow to see what the Steelers do, but with the talent on the board still I would like to see them move up in the second round, but I say that every year.

Some video of DeCastro:



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pirates Game 17 & 18 Recap - Pirates 1-5, Rockies 2-1

Although the Pirates were only able to pull out a split with the Rockies today you had to go away feeling pretty good about what went on in the field. These games had totally different feels to them but there were two pretty constants in them. The Pirates got great pitching and they finally were able to rack up some hits and while it didn’t help them in the first game it won them the second game.

The pitching today was just outstanding. First let’s start with James McDonald who pitched the front end of the double header. J-Mac finally got a start where he was able to complete seven innings but even more impressive is that he was able to take a no hitter through 6.1 innings and really dominate for large stretches of the game. He ended up with eight strikeouts but what was even more impressive was his ability to get out of trouble. He did put some base runners on by hitting them and walking them but he was able to get the double play ball and get the clutch strikeout when he needed it. McDonald is never going to be a guy that is going to be ultra efficient but this was a great start for him, unfortunately he wasn’t able to get the win but still good nonetheless.

In the second game it was all Charlie Morton all the time as he was straight deal to the Rockies hitters. Morton went seven innings and scattered six hits and only gave up one run. Really solid work from Morton who got 16 ground ball outs as opposed to only three fly ball outs. He threw 101 pitches and might have went another inning had it not been a rough ending for him giving up a few hits in the seventh.

Overall the pitching was just outstanding. Overall the Pirates gave up only nine hits in two games and were only charged with three runs. When you look at why the Pirates are only two games under .500 and not six or seven you need to go no further than the pitching staff. Everyone from the top starter to the last guy out of the pen has been able to pitch big innings and it’s really fun to watch.

We could probably sit here and talk about pitching all day but today the hitters decided to show up and give the team some much needed runs in the second game and was even to string together a few hits in the first game. Overall in both games the Pirates racked up 20 hits which would have taken maybe three weeks to do at the beginning of the season. The Pirates did strike out 17 times which included 10 times in the night cap but they won that game so I don’t count it.

Today was a great day all things considered for Pedro Alvarez. He hit a pair of home runs, one in each game, and added a double while only striking out twice in eight at bats. I talked about it a few nights ago when I said that it looked like Pedro was having some good approaches at the plate and while he wasn’t getting rewarded for it I thought it would come. Oh, it was there and it was in a big way today. Pedro was responsible for the only run in the first game and then followed up a Garrett Jones two run bomb by hitting the foul pole in right field. In the past Pedro has had trouble hitting the off speed stuff but he is able to hammer that this year. Of his four home runs three of them have been on changeups and the other was a curve. Really nice to see. For those who don’t think he can hit the fastball anymore, well he was able to one hop the wall in left field with a double on a 95 mph fastball in game two. The big day from Pedro raised his triple slash line to .156/.174/.444 so things might start to look up for him.

What was most encouraging for me about Pedro today wasn’t the home runs or the RBI’s or even hitting the ball hard in each at bat. Sure, all of that was great and good to see but far and away what was most encouraging was that he was consistently taking the ball to the opposite field. Hitting the ball where it is pitched is a huge key for Pedro and when he has struggled he is trying to pull the outside pitch and just rolling it over to the right side. In at least half of his at bats today he was going with the pitch and taking it to left field if that is where it was pitched. Really good to see. Why do you ask? Well when you hit the ball the other way you really have to be able to recognize the pitch and wait for it to get deeper in the zone. When you do that and you make contact you have to keep your bat through the zone to take it to left field (for a left handed hitter) and have great balance. Seeing Pedro able to do that makes me feel really good about him going forward and instead of watching his at bats hoping he doesn’t strike out and I watching him anticipating him getting a hit.

The finally thing on Alvarez that I would ask is to not get your hopes up like he is going to all of a sudden figure it out because of two games. He is still going to strike out a good bit and he isn’t going to be a .300 hitter. Pedro is what he is, a power hitter that is going to hit for a low average with the ability to put the ball in the stands. Right now he is having some really good at bats but he is going to have a cold streak too. I don’t know when that is going to happen and when this is going to happen but try not have unrealistic expectations for a guy that has never showed that he could live up to them.

Speaking of streaky hitters you can look no further than the guy who hit in front of Alvarez in the second game as a case of a guy being hot. Garrett Jones picked up three hits in four at bats and went deep to raise his season average to nearly .300. A few weeks ago a lot of people wanted Jones on the bench but all he has done is gone 9-for-23 in the last nine games that includes three home runs and six runs batted in. Jones is going to be a guy that goes on streaks. The lows are bad but the highs are great. You never know when streaks are going to happen so you need to throw him out there but when it is good it goes really good. Nice to see Jones come up big today.

Clint Barmes had another nice day at the plate which makes it two straight days where he has played some good offensive baseball. Barmes ended up going 6-for-11 in the series and it is really amazing how much better the offense is when he is putting pressure on the defense.

Starting tomorrow the Pirates are on the road in Atlanta to go against a really good Braves team. Should be a nice measuring stick.

Pirates Game Day 17 & 18 Live Blog - vs. Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates - 12:35 p.m./30 min after completion
Juan Nicasio (1-0, 6.19 ERA) vs. James McDonald (0-1, 3.45 ERA) - Game 1
Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 4.80 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-1, 3.60 ERA) - Game 2

Lineups

Game 1

Pirates (7-9)
1. Presley 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. McGehee 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. McKenry 2
9. McDonald 1

Colorado (8-8)
1. Scutaro 4
2. Colvin 8
3. Gonzalez 7
4. Tulowitzki 6
5. Giambi 3
6. Cuddyer 9
7. Rosario 2
8. Nelson 5
9. Nicasio 1



Game Two

Pirates (7-10)
1. Presley 7
2. McLouth 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. Navarro 4
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Morton 1

Rockies (9-8)
1. Scutaro 4
2. Fowler 8
3. Gonzalez 7
4. Tulowitzki 6
5. Helton 3
6. Cuddyer 9
7. Hernandez 2
8. Herrera 5
9. Chacin 1


Hit the jump for the live blog for both game one and game two.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pirates Game 16 Recap - Pirates 5, Rockies 4

Kinda felt like forever since the Pirates played, didn’t it? Although they only went one day without a game it seemed like weeks and the Pirates managed to get out of their own way enough to score a 5-4 win.

Kevin Correia got the start and it really didn’t look good for him to start. He gave up a two run shot to Carlos Gonzalez and it was 2-0 before the Pirates bats even got to work. Usually two runs in the first inning isn’t much for a team but when you are the Pirates two runs can seem like five even if 49 year old Jamie Moyer was on the bump for the Rockies.

The Pirates got a run back in the first inning when an Andrew McCutchen groundout scored Alex Presley who led off the game with a double and was bunted over by Jose Tabata. I will get to more of the bunting stuff later.

The Pirates looked like they were going to win the game in the seventh inning when McCutchen doubled home Presley and Tabata who reached to start the inning. Although it was only a double, McCutchen absolutely crushed the ball to dead centerfield and hit a little more than halfway up the fence. It was great to see McCutchen coming through with an extra base hit in crunch time as most of his hits this year have been singles.

All was good as Jason Grilli came in and got a pair of strikeouts with a double by Marco Scutaro sandwiched in between but for some reason Clint Hurdle decides to go with Tony Watson with Gonzalez coming up. Now, I know why Watson was called on. The lefty-lefty matchup is something that Hurdle loves to do and Watson has been really good so far this year. However, it would have been nice to go with either your best reliever (Grilli) who dominates left handed hitters or go with your closer, Joel Hanrahan, who is pretty good against one of Colorado’s top hitters. Well, Watson is in and Gonzalez goes deep to give the Rockies a one run lead. It was the first inherited runners that Watson had let score all year (previously 10-for-10).

The Pirates bounced back and retook the lead in the bottom half of the inning and it all started with the star of the game Clint Barmes. He crushed a leadoff home run to tie then contest and then it was followed up by a walk to Garrett Jones followed by Alex Presley reaching when his bunt was flubbed. After Jose Tabata couldn’t get a bunt down and Andrew McCutchen grounded out but Casey McGehee came up ultra clutch with a base hit to score Nate McLouth who was running for Jones.

Hanrahan was filthy and got the save.

Really wild game and it was great for the Pirates to win it. They are now 7-9 and with the ineptitude of the offense for the season it is really amazing that they have won seven games. Interesting note is that the Pirates are the first NL team since 1965 Pirates to neither score nor allow more than 5 runs in their 1st 16 games. No idea.

Bunting has been a huge talking point on twitter. Now, if you know me you know that I am more tolerant to the bunting than most people but tonight was out of control. When you are down 2-0 in the first inning and your leadoff hitter gets a double there is no need to bunt them over. All night the Pirates were playing for one run and it could have really cost them in the end. Luckily it didn’t. It’s not going to change, this is how Hurdle likes it and he will either sink or swim with it so we all better get used to it (if we haven’t already).

So, how about Barmes? Dude has been nonexistent all season and tonight he comes out in a big way with a 3-for-3 night with a pair of doubles and the huge home run. You know it’s bad when a night like this earlier in the season only raises your average .146 you know you haven’t been performing but the Pirates needed someone to step up tonight and it was finally someone in the bottom of the order. Hopefully this is a start of a hot streak for Barmes so that the Pirates don’t have to exclusively rely on the top three in the order but, wooo.

The Pirates offense really had a nice night as they had 11 hits in only 33 at bats and even had more walks than strikeouts. I know I shouldn’t be overly excited about this, but I am. Five walks and only three strikeouts. I know this isn’t going to be something we see more of but when the Pirates get them they should take advantage and they did.

I am not a big Correia fan. I don’t think he is very good at all and I really don’t want him in the rotation but even I have to give him props for another solid start. He was able to go through six innings and although he threw 93 pitches that was set up primarily by the bad first inning he had. After that he cruised through the Rockies lineup and gave the offense a chance to catch up, which they eventually did later in the game. I am sure Correia is going to stay in the rotation and I think that he probably has earned this right but I hope they don’t keep sending him out there when it starts to get bad as it did last season.

All Juan Cruz does is get batters out. What a signing.

The Pirates were 4-of-16 with runners in scoring position tonight. Yikes.

Double dip tomorrow.

Pirates Game Day 16 Live Blog - vs. Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jamie Moyer (1-2, 2.55 ERA) vs. Kevin Correia (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (6-9)
1. Presley 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. McGehee 3
5. Walker 4
6. Navarro 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Correia 1

Rockies (8-7)
1. Scutaro 4
2. Fowler 8
3. Gonzalez 7
4. Tulowitzki 6
5. Helton 3
6. Cuddyer 9
7. Hernandez 2
8. Nelson 5
9. Moyer 1

Hit the jump for the live blog

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pirates Game 15 Recap - Cardinals 5, Pirates 1

Another day of Erik Bedard on the bump for the Pirates and a lot more of the same stuff as the Pirates can’t scratch any runs while he was in there for seven innings and the Pirates drop the series finale to the Cardinals 5-1. Meh.

Bedard actually pitched pretty well. He started off just like A.J. Burnett did last night, loading the bases with no outs but was able to get out of it only allowing a lone run. Bedard gave up a couple in the third inning but then really shut the door. He struck out seven and walked four while giving up seven hits and while it wasn’t a great start it was still pretty good. Any time your pitcher can go seven innings and give up only three runs you are going to have a chance to win, but the offense just couldn’t get going. This is the story of the season for the Pirates as they have only scored two runs with Bedard in the game in his four starts. Just not good stuff. Bedard also became the first Pirates pitcher to over 100 pitches with 102 pitches. They were the last team in the league to not have a starter throw 100 pitches. Interesting.

Staying on the pitching side there might not be a guy on the staff that frustrates me like Evan Meek. I am sure he is a great guy and he is trying really hard but he just doesn’t have it anymore. After the Pirates scored a run in the eighth to make the game 3-1 Meek came out and gave up two runs on three hits and a walk. It wasn’t as if he pitched well because of his 26 pitches only 12 of them went for strikes. He doesn’t have the big fastball and he is quickly becoming a below average reliever. I would not be shocked to see him sent down in the near future.

The Pirates only had six hits on the day and only Jose Tabata was able to get more than one. He has had a pretty nice series raising his average to .170 and hopefully this means he is breaking out of a slump. Just not good times for the offense. Michael McKenry was able to double which was one of only two extra base hits on the day but it just wasn’t enough. Frustrating times.

It could be a lot worse for the Pirates considering how bad the offense has been, but it has to turn around sometimes, right?

The Pirates face Jamie Moyer tomorrow. Yes, he is still alive.

Conference Quarterfinals Game 6 Recap - Flyers 5, Penguins 1

Not really an ideal day to be a Penguins fan as the team was ousted from the playoffs with a tough 5-1 loss to the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. I am typing this up after the game and I am pretty calm for the most part. I guess I kind of figured the Penguins weren’t going to win the series after they were down 3-0 and even when they won games four and five I just didn’t have a good feeling. I guess we should have known what type of game it was going to be when Claude Giroux scored just 32 seconds into the game.

The Penguins just couldn’t get anything going and you have to give all the credit in the world to the Flyers as they played some pretty amazing defense and pretty much did it all by blocking a ton of shots. They blocked a total of 40 shots in the game with four players having six or more blocked shots, who were all defensemen. That was the difference in the game. In the recap from game five I talked about the Penguins blocking a ton of shots and getting into the lanes as why they were getting wins and that is exactly what the Flyers did and they won. No huge surprise.

A reoccurring theme this series continued as the Flyers were able to limit the Penguins big stars to virtual invisibility. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin played good for stretches in the series but the Flyers really did a nice job to keep them contained and to frustrate the hell out of them. They were not good at all and when the Penguins needed someone to lead on the ice they were nowhere to be found. Claude Giroux was the exact opposite for the Flyers as he was the top player and he made the big plays when the Flyers needed it.

Marc Andre Fleury wasn’t great today and despite how well he played in game four and five that couldn’t translate into another good start by the Flower. He gave up a few softies today and with a game that was going to be won with defense you couldn’t get behind the eight ball and that is exactly what happened. This shouldn’t take away from the season he had because it was really his best of his professional career but he is not the goaltender that we saw in the playoffs in my opinion. There have been some talk that Flower hasn’t been good since he got blasted in the head by Paul Martin in the stretch run of the regular season but I would expect him to come back and be good next year.

Not going to get into this too much but I do have some overall thoughts on the series. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Flyers were the worst possible match up for the Penguins. I know this is an after the fact kind of statement but I think the Penguins probably beat any other team in the East if they would have played in the first round. The Flyers have just as much talent as the Penguins and they overall are probably a deeper team than the Penguins. Going down three games to none was just a death wish.

That being said I do not have a problem with how the NHL does its playoff system. With the division format I think you have to reward the teams that win their respective divisions in some capacity so I think the top three seeds should be given out accordingly. The Penguins could have avoided this whole mess by winning the division.

I also saw some people saying that this is the most disappointing playoff loss in Pittsburgh sports history. I couldn’t disagree with that more. Sure, this was a Stanley Cup favorite going in but the Penguins are now 4-8 against the Flyers this season. Why is it so shocking that the Flyers won this series? Does it suck? Yea, it does suck but let’s not sit here and pretend like the Penguins just got ousted by the Blue Jackets. Like I said before the Flyers are just as talented as the Penguins and sometimes you team doesn’t win. The Penguins have not performed well in the playoffs since their Stanley Cup winning season but this season they just ran into the wrong team.

Dan Bylsma is not getting fired. End of story.

The Penguins are probably going to have to make some tough decisions in the offseason and I have no idea where that will even start. I am sure there will be a lot of discussion about the defense and how it needs to improve but I would not be shocked to see some moves. Guys like Simon Despres and Brian Strait really played some good hockey in the playoffs and that might figure into the decision but it should be interesting to see what happens in the upcoming months.

The loss stings but like I always say if the Penguins losing a series to the Flyers is my biggest problem then I have a pretty good life.

Pirates Game Day 15 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Kyle Lohse (2-0, 0.89 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (0-3, 2.65 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (6-8)
1. McLouth 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. Jones 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. McKenry 2
9. Bedard 1

Cardinals (10-5)
1. Furcal 6
2. Greene 4
3. Holliday 7
4. Beltran 9
5. Freese 5
6. Molina 2
7. Carpenter 3
8. Robinson 8
9. Lohse 1


Hit the jump for the live blog

Penguins Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Day 6 - @ Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

12:00 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Going to Wells Fargo one last time this season.

Once again, it's win or go golfing.



The series (Flyers lead 3-1):

April 11, 2012 - Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)



April 13, 2012 - Philadelphia 8, Pittsburgh 5



April 15, 2012 - Philadelphia 8, Pittsburgh 4



April 18, 2012 - Pittsburgh 10, Philadelphia 3



April 20, 2012 - Pittsburgh 3, Philadelphia 2




The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams

Defense
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland
Brian Strait

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury



The Flyers probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Daniel Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
James van Riemsdyk - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek

Defense
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Erik Gustafsson
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Goaltender
Ilya Bryzgalov


The stats:


Saturday, April 21, 2012

New @Benstonium - Dan Bylsma's Stayin Alive

Great job again by the boys to get Dan Bylsma as he was walking on the street.

Pirates Game 14 Recap - Pirates 2, Cardinals 0

After being pretty much dominated yesterday by the Cardinals the Pirates came out and played a really nice game tonight against the Red Birds and earned a 2-0 win. As it has been all season the pitching really carried the team and Pedro Alvarez stepped up with some clutch at bats to lead the team to victory.

I don’t think you really need to go any farther in this recap without saying how absolutely great A.J. Burnett was tonight. He was supposed to make his last rehab start in Altoona tonight but Kevin Correia came down with some side soreness that forced Burnett to pitch tonight and boy did he show up. He was pretty bad in his two rehab starts but you didn’t see any of that tonight. Burnett threw seven shutout innings, striking out seven while only giving up three hits and two walks. He was amazingly efficient only throwing 76 pitches and what makes that even more remarkable is that the threw 24 of those pitches in the first inning. Burnett issued two walks and a hit in the first three batters of the game but didn’t give in as he got two straight strikeouts and a lineout to get out of the inning. I know this is only one game and is a really small sample size in the grand scheme of things but this game is the exact reason I loved the deal when it happened. It is really great to finally have a pitcher that can get that big strikeout when they need it. Just a great outing by Burnett.

While we are talking about good things we can touch on the night Alvarez had. This was his first two hit night of the season and he collected a pair of singles which were his first non-home run hits of the season which finally gives him a batting average on balls in play. The single in the fourth inning was an infield single to third base where the ball was hit pretty hard and it scored Andrew McCutchen and the insurance run came in the sixth inning on a hard hit ball through the right side to score McCutchen again. In the last handful of games he has really had good at bats and that was true tonight also. He was laying off the pitches that he normally swings at and was waiting for pitches he could handle and had some really good AB’s tonight. He was even let on to face a lefty in the eighth and hit a pitch pretty hard to dead center that was caught on the track. Hopefully he can continue this but he looks like he has been improving as the season as gone on.

While I didn’t agree with Clint Hurdle pulling Burnett after seven innings and only 76 pitches he went to a bullpen that has been outstanding so far this season. I would have kept Burnett in since he was supposed to throw 100 pitches in his rehab start and probably could have been under that in a complete game but for whatever reason he wasn’t in there. Juan Cruz came in and got an out despite giving up two hits and then Tony Watson and Jason Grilli came in and each got strikeouts to end the threat and Joel Hanrahan came in and got the save despite waling two batters and throwing 20 pitches.

One thing that really was a terrible decision came in the eighth inning. With two outs there were two runners on with Alex Presley occupying second and Jose Tabata was on first base with McCutchen up and there were two outs. With a 1-2 count McCutchen takes ball two but Presley and Tabata went on the double steal and Tabata was caught trying to steal second. I at first thought this call came from the bench but it turns out that those two ran on their own which makes it an even worse decision. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is one of the best in the league and threw out Tabata on the back side of the double steal and ended the inning. Not really sure why those two ran but I put that solely on Presley. As the lead runner he would have gave a sign to Tabata to let him know he would be running so that, in effect, made it a double steal but it never should have happened.

A little piece of information that is pretty telling on the night was that the Cardinals three and four hitters, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran went a combined 0-for-7 with six strikeouts. Those are some top notch hitters that didn’t get anything done. Really great job by the Pirates staff to get it done.

The Pirates are back at it tomorrow to try and win another series.

Pirates Game Day 14 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jake Westbrook (2-0, 0.64 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (5-8):
1. Presley 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. McGehee 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Burnett 1


Cardinals (10-4)
1. Furcal 6
2. Carpenter 3
3. Holliday 7
4. Beltran 9
5. Freese 5
6. Molina 2
7. Descalso 4
8. Robinson 8
9. Westbrook 1


Hit the jump for the live blog

Friday, April 20, 2012

Conference Quarterfinals Game 5 Recap - Penguins 3, Flyers 2

For the first time in this series there was playoff hockey. Not to say that the first four games of the series weren’t high intensity and had a lot of different plot lines but there wasn’t that true low scoring one goal playoff game. That was played tonight as there were only five total goals scored and the Penguins came out with one more than the Flyers in a 3-2 win in front of a raucous crowd at the CONSOL Energy Center.

The Penguins were behind the eight ball after the first period of play as they were down 2-1 thanks to a pair of power play goals by the Flyers. The orange and black opened up the scoring with a power play goal from Matt Carle almost 12 minutes into the game which shattered the longest into the game that there was a goal. The Penguins battled back with a power play goal of their own as Steve Sullivan continues to be just a beast on the power play scoring as the Penguins second power play of the period was expiring. Scott Hartnell ended the scoring on a 5-on-3 power play thanks to a terrible penalty by Evgeni Malkin and Craig Adams. The Penguins were able to kill off the second half of that 5-on-3 which is a small miracle that they didn’t give up a power play goal.

The Penguins scored a pair of goals in under four minutes in the second period as Jordan Staal tied up the game with his sixth of playoffs and then Tyler Kennedy continues to earn his pay this year with the game winner halfway through the period. That was all she wrote as the Penguins held the Flyers to only five shots in the second period after giving up only seven in the first period.

The first star of the game far and away was Fleury as he played his best game of the playoffs and became the first goaltender in this series to steal a win. The third period was all Fleury all the time and if he is starting to get his confidence then this gives the series a whole different look. His shining moment came when Tyler Kennedy took a horrid penalty just seven and a half minutes into the third period and MAF made seven saves on that power play and held the Penguins lead. I am not talking about a bunch of outside shots, I am talking about straight up robbery on Danny Briere in front. If the Penguins wanted to have a realistic chance at coming back in this series MAF had to steal a game or two and he stole one tonight. Funny that the Flyers had two goals which were both power play goals and he hasn’t given up a 5-on-5 goal since the third period of game three. Going to need him to be huge on Sunday but if he plays like he did today then the Penguins will have an outstanding shot.

The one guy who isn’t getting enough credit is Jordan Staal. All he has done is scored huge goals all while playing shut down defense at the center position. He now has six goals in the series which means that he leads the entire NHL is goal scoring for the playoffs so far. What a performance.



Sullivan has also gone largely unnoticed in this series but he has been scoring some big goals himself. They might not be go ahead goals but they come on the power play at points where the Penguins need a play. His goal tonight tied up the game at one after the Flyers made it look easy on the power play and just in general he is the unquestioned quarterback of the power play. When he was thrown on the top power play line they started to click and while he might not be the most fluent guy out there he just makes plays and knows what to do. Mad respect for that.

During the regular season I was pretty hard on TK and even probably said that he should have been benched. I was probably right in saying so but I will tell you this, he has earned every single penny of his contract in this playoff series. He got the puck with the score tied in the second period and walked it in about five feet and threw a blister shot on net that beat Ilya Bryzgalov top shelf and it turned out to be the game winner. That was Kennedy’s third goal of the series and he might be the hardest worker of any of the skaters so far this series. Just a huge turnaround.

Defensively the Penguins were much, much better tonight than they have been at any point in the playoffs so far. One huge thing I noticed tonight was that the Penguins were able to get into a lot more of the shooting lanes which resulted in blocking a ton more shots. I haven’t looked at the stats from the first four games but just watching the game tonight it was evident that they were blocking a lot more shots which in turn leads to less stops and rebounds off MAF and created some chances the other way. The third period they started to let up a little bit and it seemed as if the Flyers were getting better looks but overall it is a night and day difference from the first three games of the series. Really fun to watch.

Big ups to everyone that was at the CONSOL tonight. It was great to hear the crowd that loud and I know there was a sense that there really wasn’t that signature win yet in that barn since the Penguins have struggled so mightily in the new building but this was as big of a win as it gets. It was awesome to see all the media guys saying how loud it was and that wasn’t just Pittsburgh media members, it was national media and even Philadelphia guys were talking about it with one of them saying the noise level was as loud as it gets at the Bell Centre. Going in there was a nice movement by the guys at the Pensblog to “remember the Igloo” and I think everyone went to the arena tonight and made it feel like they were in the Igloo. Just an unreal atmosphere.

Maybe the best part of the night was a move by the Penguins media department. Last year when the Penguins moved into the CONSOL they changed out the goal song to Song 2 by Blur and I am not going to lie, I hated it. I thought that song was a good for after a Penguins win but it never seemed like a good goal song. Well, tonight when Sullivan banged in that first goal they went back to the original, Rock and Roll Part II by Gary Glitter. Really amazing song and when the “hey” drops and the crowd screams it with the song it gives you chills. Great move by the Penguins there.

One thing that has to improve for game six is discipline. The Penguins took way too many penalties and put themselves behind the eight ball against a power play that has absolutely owned them this year. The officials let the game go late but if you give the Flyers five or six power play chances they are going to bury them. The PK did a much better job in the second and third period but I would rather not take that chance. A lot of these penalties are dumb ones. TK’s slash was foolish and so were the penalties that Malkin took. They have to be more disciplined.

The game on Sunday will be at NOON in a game six. You have to figure the pressure is now on the Flyers. If I were them I would not want to come back to Pittsburgh for a game seven.

What a feeling.

Pirates Game Day 13 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Lance Lynn (2-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-0, 5.40 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (5-7)
1. Presley 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. Jones 3
6. Barajas 2
7. Alvarez 5
8. Barmes 6
9. Morton 1


Cardinals (9-4)
1. Furcal 6
2. Carpenter 3
3. Holliday 7
4. Beltran 9
5. Freese 5
6. Molina 2
7. Robinson 8
8. Descalso 4
9. Lynn 1





Hit the jump for the live blog

Penguins Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Day 5 - vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

7:30 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


James Neal and Craig Adams will return to the lineup tonight after each serving their respective one game suspensions. Arron Asham will serve the second of his four game suspension he got.

Another do or go golfing game.



The series (Flyers lead 3-1):

April 11, 2012 - Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)



April 13, 2012 - Philadelphia 8, Pittsburgh 5



April 15, 2012 - Philadelphia 8, Pittsburgh 4



April 18, 2012 - Pittsburgh 10, Philadelphia 3




The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams

Defense
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Matt Niskanen - Zbynek Michalek
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland
Brian Strait

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


The Flyers probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Daniel Briere - Wayne Simmonds (above)
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Eric Wellwood
Zac Rinaldo - Matt Read - Jakub Voracek

Defense
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Erik Gustafsson
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Goaltender
Ilya Bryzgalov


The stats:


Thursday, April 19, 2012

New @Benstonium - Game 5 Primer

Guys at Benstonium sent this over in preparation for game five. Great, short, video. Not much too it but that is exactly what the theme should be for the Penguins for the rest of this series.

Enjoy.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 Recap - Penguins 10, Flyers 3

Man. How good does that feel. Winning a game is one thing, scoring ten goals and shutting down the Philadelphia offense for the final two periods is a whole different ballgame. The Penguins got into some trouble early and gave up three power play goals in the first period but rebounded nicely to score eight unanswered goals and assured themselves of at least one more game in this series.

There were probably as many good things in this game as you could come up with in the first three games combined and they don’t necessarily only deal with the Penguins scoring ten goals. It was much more than that. They seemed composed and when the Flyers threw a punch they were able to throw back and they didn’t give the Flyers a chance to throw another punch. The defense looked good and Marc Andre Fleury threw up back-to-back shutout periods for the first time in this series for the Penguins.

I am not even going to come close to talking about all the goals scored here but I just want to talk about a few points. The first is that this game was called about as tight as it could be. The Penguins got nine power play opportunities and the Flyers got five themselves and while there were some legit penalty calls there were also some that really left you scratching your head. The officials were whistle happy and it just wasn’t a well officiated game. The plus side was that the Penguins got the message after taking unlimited penalties in the first period and play good, disciplined hockey in the second and third.

That being said the power play was on acid tonight. They had nine chances and they scored on four of them and really fueled the Penguins in the second period after they went into the break with only a one goal lead. While a lot of times the Penguins seem very stationary and get a lot of perimeter shots they were able to move the box against the Flyers PK and that opened up the East-West pass that just killed the Flyers. It actually looked a lot like the Flyers power play against the Penguins which was nice.

On the other side the Flyers power play just raked the Penguins over the coals. They were 3-of-5 on the power play and it really sparked the team. If the Penguins stayed out of the box this is probably a 10-1 game. If the Penguins want to keep this series going then they have to stay out of the box as much as possible because the Flyers power play just owns them right now.

While much of the first and second period were littered with power plays and penalties the Penguins did a really nice job when there was some 5-on-5 time. They dressed seven defensemen for the game and it was a great idea as it kept all of them fresh and you could really see the difference as they weren’t giving the Flyers any space to work and it was just really refreshing to see after they were so God awful bad in the first three games of the series. Maybe more impressive than the ten goals was the fact that the Flyers really didn’t have any solid chances for the final two periods. Most of the problems the last three games are the Penguins scoring a huge goal then giving up the goal right back to the Flyers. Not tonight, it felt good.

While Fleury has been largely bad for the series he really had a decent game by my looks. He was really shaky early and gave up a couple soft goals and even though the Flyers were on the power play they were shots he needed to stop. The second and third period he looked like he settled down and in the third period made a couple of really nice goals, one of which set up Jordan Staal’s third goal. Oh yea, on that goal he had the primary, and only, assist. If Fleury can come out and be about average then the Penguins are going to have a good chance to win Friday.

The Flyers thought they had figured out their goaltending situation but if it wasn’t for the Penguins playing so horribly defensively Ilya Bryzgalov would be getting talked about like people are talking about Fleury. Bryz was pulled after only 23 minutes of action and gave up five goals on 18 shots but it wasn’t much better for Sergei Bobrovsky who gave up the exact same line (five goals, 18 shots) in relief. Just not a good night to be a Flyers goaltender.

Staal might be the Penguins best forward and he continued to play some really good hockey tonight. Along with playing some really good defensive hockey he was able to net a hat trick and just has really come into his own on the offensive end. The third of his three goal was just an unreal laser that beat Bobrovsky high glove. Just a great game for Staal who has been good all series. I know there has been a lot of talk about Staal being the “third fiddle” but Staal played 22:53 tonight which was second on the team to only Kris Letang. Some third fiddle.



Honestly no idea where to even go. After being invisible all series Evgeni Malkin came alive with two goals and an assist. Welcome to the series Geno. Sidney Crosby also had three points with a goal and two assists while Matt Cooke (0+2), Pascal Dupuis (1+1), Tyler Kennedy (0+2), Chris Kunitz (0+2), Matt Niskanen (1+1) all had two points. Steve Sullivan also scored a goal and had two assists to join Malkin, Crosby and Staal with three points.

The three guys who deserve big credit is Eric Tangradi, Brian Strait and Simon Despres all played for the first time in the series and held their own. For a team that was in such shambles defensively it was a really strange feeling to see a pair of rookie defenseman playing in the playoffs, in the same game, but they looked pretty comfortable. They didn’t try to do too much and played good positional hockey which is what was needed. I bang on Tangradi a lot but he played a pretty nice game and even drew a penalty. I wasn’t excited about him being in the lineup but really nice job by him and the other two of stepping up when the team needed him.

A stat that typically goes unnoticed is faceoffs. The Penguins won 40-of-69 faceoffs tonight and that is a great job of getting extra possessions for your team. Staal was 15/23, Crosby 14/25 and Malkin 6/10. Just a great job by those guys of winning draws in order to give the Penguins extra possessions and more puck control which is what you want to do when you are working against a team with as much skill up front as the Flyers have. It was also interesting that only five players took a faceoff for the Penguins and Richard Park was the only one below 50% as he only won one of five.

Just a great feeling to win a game like this. I didn’t have much faith that the Penguins could come in and get a win, but they did. They get to play at home and have a chance to make this an interesting season. Hopefully Fleury can take some confidence from his shutout periods and the Penguins can stay out of the box and continue to play simple hockey. Should be a great atmosphere on Friday.

Pirates Game Day 12 - Pirates 2, Diamondbacks 1

At the end of the recap from last nights game I said that if the Pirates could get a win today and get to 5-7 that would really go a long way in how we look at this road trip. Well they did and it does. While they only went 3-5 on the trip they ended it winning three of the last four games and despite not having the offense click yet they were able to improve game to game and come away with a few big wins to get them somewhat close to .500 at 5-7.

Today I had mostly radio coverage as I was at work today and was only able to catch bits and pieces of the game on TV but there were still some good things that I was able to take from the game, I guess. The first is that the Pirates were able to get great long work out of their bullpen since James McDonald failed to even go five innings. He only went four complete and threw 78 pitches with only 46 of them going for strikes. Don’t ask me how McDonald does it because he only gave up one run and three hits and walked only one hitter. It was all in the first inning when he threw a boatload of pitches but really settled down after that. If he could figure out how to control himself in the first inning he could have a bunch of better starts.

Brad Lincoln was called up since Jeff Karstens was placed on the 15 day DL and he came up huge today. He pitched three scoreless innings and gave up only one hit. Sure he walked three guys but he also struck out four and ate some innings after the bullpen was pretty gassed after going deep last night and still not having Hanrahan. Chris Resop got an out and gave up a hit in the eighth and Tony Watson came in and induced a double play to close out the inning only throwing five pitches. Juan Cruz pitched a near perfect ninth only giving up a hit to earn his second save in as many nights.

Offensively the Pirates weren’t great but they were good when they had to be. They collected seven hits with Andrew McCutchen being the only one with more than one hit (he had two). With the Diamondbacks leading 1-0 in the seventh inning Pedro Alvarez went deep to right field to tie the game and then Neil Walker came through with a single to right field to score Clint Barmes with the go ahead run in the eighth. Some really big hits even though the Pirates didn’t have a ton of hits overall.

Alverez had a somewhat productive day. He struck out swinging in his first at bat but came back to walk in his second at bat and then hitting a home run later. All told he reached base in half of his plate appearances so you can’t really knock that. Sure he might have hit a home run on a changeup and still struggles getting to the fastball but he had a few pretty good at bats today. Hopefully he can build off this.

Pirates get the day off tomorrow before starting a home series against the Cardinals. It doesn’t get any easier.

Penguins Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Day 4 - @ Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


If you thought it was going to be tough right after game three then it got it tougher to win right now. The Penguins will be without James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams who were all suspended and Paul Martin will miss the game with an undisclosed injury. Neal and Adams will only miss one game while Asham was slapped with a four game suspension. It might not matter if the Penguins continue to play like they have.

Nothing else to say. The Penguins can't lose again in this series or they are golfing.


The series (Flyers lead 3-0):

April 11, 2012 - Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)



April 13, 2012 - Philadelphia 8, Pittsburgh 5



April 15, 2012 - Philadelphia 8, Pittsburgh 4



Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Dustin Jeffrey - Joe Vitale - Richard Park

Defense
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
Simon Despres - Ben Lovejoy

Goaltender
Marc Andre Fleury


Flyers probables (via Empty Netters):

Forwards
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr (above)
Brayden Schenn - Daniel Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot
Jakub Voracek - Eric Wellwood - Matt Read

Defense
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossman
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja

Goaltender
Ilya Bryzgalov


The stats:




Pirates Game Day 12 Live Blog - @ Arizona Diamondbacks

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks - 3:30 p.m.
James McDonald (0-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. Dan Hudson (1-0, 8.71 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (4-7)
1. Presley 7
2. Barmes 6
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. McGehee 3
6. Jones 9
7. Alvarez 5
8. McKenry 2
9. McDonald 1

Diamondbacks (7-4)
1. Bloomquist 6
2. Hill 4
3. Kubel 9
4. Montero 2
5. Roberts 5
6. Overbay 3
7. Pollock 8
8. Parra 7
9. Hudson 1



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Pirates Game 11 Recap - Pirates 5, Diamondbacks 4

Finally a game where you can honestly say that the Pirates played a pretty good ballgame the whole way through and the offense got the job done for maybe the first time all season. The Pirates pounded out 13 hits tonight and it was only the second time that the Pirates had a game with double digit hits.

The Pirates actually looked like they were going to go through the same routine that they have for most of the last three games. They scored a run in the first inning with three straight two out hits but were answered with three runs in the bottom of the first inning which seemed like an insurmountable deficit with how the offense has been performing.

Well the Pirates were able to tie the game up with a Neil Walker single that scored Andrew McCutchen and then a Garrett Jones double to score Walker in the third inning. OK, this was a little weird. Jones then came up and mashed a ball into the drink in right field to give the Pirates the lead in the sixth inning. Extra base hits, yay.

On came Jason Grilli who has pitched pretty well this year but with one out he gave up a solo shot to John McDonald who has hit like 20 career home runs and I know most of us thought “here we go again.” Luckily we were all wrong. With one out in the top of the ninth inning Alex Presley reached on an infield single followed by a pinch hit single by Casey McGehee to set up the dramatics. Andrew McCutchen came up and had a great at bat and got his fourth hit of the night and drove home Presley for the winner. Perfect.

The Pirates had 13 hits but the middle of the order was just ballin tonight. The 3-4-5 hitters, which were McCutchen, Walker and Jones, combined to go 10-for-14 with four runs scored and five RBI. Really spectacular night from all of them led by McCutchen with a 4-for-5 day including the game winner.

What was maybe more spectacular is that the Pirates won this game with Jeff Karstens only going one inning as he left the game with a bad right shoulder. No idea how bad it is but it can’t be good. The bullpen was short already as Chris Resop wasn’t available and Joel Hanrahan was out with the flu but they were able to gut it out for the win. Jared Hughes went 2.2 innings and gave up only one run on three hits, Tony Watson went a perfect 2.1 innings and Even Meek and Juan Cruz each worked perfect innings as well. Grilli gave up the bomb to tie the game but he looked pretty good sans the one pitch. Really nice job by the bullpen.

It wasn’t all good tonight as the moves that Clint Hurdle made was pretty bad. In the seventh inning Jose Tabata led off the inning with a walk and then he proceeded to have Alex Presley try to sacrifice bunt which he popped up and then Tabata was thrown out trying to steal. In the eighth inning the Pirate had runners on first and second with no outs against left handed reliever Joe Paterson and Hurdle let Jones and Pedro Alvarez both bat against him. Both are notoriously bad against lefties and with Casey McGehee on the bench it just was a really strange move since Hurdle is really big on the matchups.

Really good the Pirates got the win with Ian Kennedy on the mound. Dude was really good last year and while I don’t subscribe to pitchers win as a good stat he did win 21 games last season and the Pirates were able to rough him up for four runs on eight hits in six innings of work. Not really sure if this means the offense is waking up because a large chunk of the offense came from only three players but it is at least something.

The win also gives the Pirates a chance to salvage this road trip. If they can snag a win tomorrow they will go back to Pittsburgh with a 5-7 record which is pretty good considering how the Dodgers and Giants series went. It isn’t going to be easy tomorrow but a win would take the sting out of what has been a pretty bad West coast swing.