Friday, August 31, 2012

Pirates Game 131 Recap - Brewers 9, Pirates 3

Just your typical game in Milwaukee. The Pirates came out and gave up four runs in the first inning and the offense couldn't figure out rookie Mark Rogers again and drop the first game in Milwaukee. This stuff kind of reminds you what games were like when the Pirates couldn't buy a hit in Milwaukee and the way this game started you kind of figured it was going to be "one of those nights."

Really it went all down the drain when you realized that Jeff Karstens wasn't healthy and probably shouldn't have made the start. If you remember he left his last start early because he dinged up his groin and this start it wasn't really ready enough to go. He was leaving a ton of pitches up and hanging all his breaking pitches and had to be taken out because of the same injury. It is a shame that he was out there and put the team behind the eight ball in the first inning but that is what happened and hopefully he can get the injury taken care of quickly and return to the rotation because when he has been healthy he has been really good.

Outside of Karstens the pen did a pretty nice job. Kyle McPherson got the call to replace Karstens and had a little rocky start by giving up a run in the second inning as he hit two btters and walked another before throwing a wild pitch but battled back the one out jam with runners on second and third by getting back-to-back strikeouts. It was a little interesting that McPherson only went 1.2 innings as I would have figured Clint Hurdle would have treated this as a start for McPherson and seen how far he could have went but he turned to Kevin Correia instead. Corriea actually did a really nice job throwing four shutout innings where he only gave up four hits. Logic only tells you that he will probably start tomorrow's game.

Jared Hughes came in and gave a strong shutout inning and somehow the Pirates were still in the game only being down 5-2. That is when the bottom of the eighth happened when the Brewers scored four more runs off newly acquired Hisanori Takahashi and that was pretty much all she wrote. All in all besides Takahashi the pen was good and that is a great thing to see. Not sure if he would have been in there if it was a closer game but come to think of it a three run deficit against the Brewers pen isn't that big of a mountain to climb so I have no idea. Trying to figure out Hurdle's bullpen strategy is like trying to speak French when you have never learned how to speak it.

The offense wasn't bad but it wasn't really all that good either. Pedro Alvarez and Josh Harrison each had multiple hits but there really wasn't much else that happened in the game. The runs that the Pirates scored came on a Garrett Jones home run and an Alex Presley groundout but they left some runs on the bases. Prime example was after the GFJ home run when Alvarez and Michael McKenry each had hits and were on second and third with one out and Harrison poped out and Clint Barmes fouled out to not even give the Pirates a chance at another run. At the time the score was 5-1 and cutting that lead to 5-3 would have been huge in the fourth inning.

The good news about tonight is that the Cardinals and Braves both lost and as I am typing this the Dodgers also are losing. They will not lose any games in the wild card chase but man it would have been nice to gain a game on everyone. All the Pirates need to do is come out and win tomorrow with A.J. Burnett on the mound and set themselves up for a chance to win the series on Sunday. I will be at the next two games so they better win. Hopefully they got this bad game out of the system because this one was bad.

Pirates Game Day 131 Live Blog - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers - 8:10 p.m.
Jeff Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Mark Rogers (2-1, 4.28 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (70-60)
1. Presley 8
2. Tabata 7
3. Snider 9
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. McKenry 2
7. Harrison 4
8. Barmes 6
9. Karstens 1

Brewers (62-68)
1. Aoki 9
2. Weeks 4
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Hart 3
6. Lucroy 2
7. Gomez 8
8. Segura 6
9. Rogers 1




Hit the jump for the live blog



Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Pirates and 70 Wins

With the off day today I thought I would sit down and take a look at the Pirates win total and how that compares to the past season. Obviously this is going to be a much better season in this terms because the team has been so bad that they barely get to 70 wins in the whole season. This year the Pirates got to the 70 win mark before the calendar hits September and they are in the thick of the wild card race. Fun times in Pittsburgh.

So lets just take a look at the point in the season when the Pirates hit 70 wins with the date they did so, the game number it was done in and the teams record at the time since the 1990 season:

2012: August 29, Game 130, 70-60
2011: September 23, Game 157, 70-87
2010: Only won 57 games
2009: Only won 62 games
2008: Only won 67 games
2007: Only won 68 games
2006: Only won 67 games
2005: Only won 67 games
2004: September 27, Game 156, 70-86
2003: September 17, Game 151, 70-81
2002: September 24, Game 157, 70-87
2001: Only won 62 games
2000: Only won 69 games
1999: September 11, Game 142, 70-72
1998: Only won 69 games
1997: September 6, Game 143, 70-73
1996: September 22, Game 155, 70-85
1995: Only won 58 games
1994: Only won 53 games
1993: September 20, Game 150, 70-80
1992: August 22, Game 123, 70-53
1991: August 18, Game 116, 70-46
1990: August 18, Game 119, 70-49

Since the 1990 season, which was the first of three straight NLCS appearances, the Pirates haven't even reached 70 wins 11 times and this is the earliest they have had 70 wins since the 1992 season which marked the last winning season that the Pirates have had.

None of this is supposed to signify that the Pirates will make the playoffs or that they are going to break the losing streak that they are so well known for but it serves as a reminder that the team has come a long way since the times of winning 70 games in the entire season was seen as an accomplishment. Before the year I was thinking this was a 73(ish) win team and they almost had that done before the calendar turned to September. Pretty good for a team that most people laugh at.

We will see what comes of September (and hopefully well into October) but for a second just put the Pirates season in perspective up to this point because it has been one hell of a ride so far.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gerrit Cole Promoted to AAA Indianapolis

After the Pirates 5-0 shutout win the club announced that Gerrit Cole will be leaving Altoona and be placed on the AAA Indianapolis Indians roster. It is a pretty surprising move after only throwing 59 innings.

Cole started 12 games for the Curve this season and posted a 2.90 ERA with a 60:23 K:BB and a 1.30 WHIP. So far in 2012 between A+ and AA Cole has thrown 126 innings with a 2.71 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He has 129 strikeouts and only 44 walks.

While this seems pretty quick to move Cole up to AAA this is a move that will bolster the Indians lineup that will more than likely lose a lot of arms to September call ups all while playing in the playoffs themselves. This isn't really all that surprising all things considered but it will be very interesting to see what Cole can do at the AAA level.

If I have anything else on this I will post it here.

Pirates Game 130 Recap - Pirates 5, Cardinals 0

Nothing like Wandy Rodriguez going into the game and throwing six shutout innings while Pedro Alvarez continues to dominate the Cardinals to get the Pirates to within one game of the birds in the wild card standings. It feels good, real good.

Everything that happened last night pretty much carried over to tonight. I kind of wondered to myself last night if it was just going to be a one time thing of how dominant the Pirates could be in all facets of the game but tonight they proved that they can do that in consecutive nights.

Rodriguez has been through the ringers with the fans, and mostly for good reason. He hasn't really been all that good since being dealt to the Pirates but tonight was probably his best start of his Pirates tenure so far. He only was able to go six innings but only allowed three hits. The only player who gave Rodriguez any sort of trouble was Jon Jay who worked three walks on Rodriguez and saw 24 pitches in his three plate appearances against Wandy. Other than that he cruised and got some big outs and really never gave the Cardinals a chance to get into the game even though his pitch count was a little higher than you would like.

Alvarez was again the main driving force for the offense and man did he put on another offensive display at PNC Park. He blasted a three run bomb almost out of the stadium in the third inning that stretched the Pirates lead to four runs and then he roped a double into the right centerfield gap and scored on a Josh Harrison double. He is laying off pitches out of the zone and punishing pitches that were in the strike zone. He is locked in and it really sucks that the Pirates have the day off tomorrow because with the way that Pedro is swinging the bat you want him to swing at as many pitches as he can on consecutive days.

The offense as a whole was pretty outstanding tonight. They scored five runs and all five runs came with two outs. The past couple of weeks when the Pirates were in this slump they weren't swinging the bat very well with two outs and runners on and they completely turned that around tonight. Garrett Jones laced a two out double to give the Pirates a first inning run, Alvarez launched a home run with two outs and then Alvarez and Harrison went back-to-back doubles with two outs to round out the scoring. Just exactly what you want to see.

It also was nice that the Pirates just weren't reliant on Alvarez to get the offense going. The team only put together nine hits but every starter but Jose Tabata had a hit and four extra base hits. Really great to see and I think the Pirates might be starting to come out of the slump that they were in but they worked the count and got into good hitting counts. The most evident of this will most likely get overlooked but before the Alvarez home run both Travis Snider and Jones worked walks to bring up Pedro and he made them pay. That is what good offenses do.

It must be noted that the Pirates shut out the league's top offense on back to back days and finished the three game set without giving up a run in the last 21 innings. The Cardinals have the best run differential and the pitching staff, starters and reliever alike, didn't allow a single run in over two games. Awesome.

The Pirates get the day off tomorrow before they travel to Milwaukee for a three game set that I will be attending. Get pumped.

Pirates Game 130 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:00 p.m.
Joe Kelly (4-5, 3.26 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (8-13, 4.01 ERA)

Game will be shown on ESPN if you are not in the ROOT broadcast unbrella and you can always watch the game on WatchESPN.

Lineups:

Pirates (69-60)
1. Tabata 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. Harrison 4
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Rodriguez 1

Cardinals (71-58)
1. Jay 8
2. Beltran 9
3. Holliday 7
4. Craig 3
5. Freese 5
6. Schumaker 4
7. Cruz 2
8. Furcal 6
9. Kelly 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pirates Game 129 Recap - Pirates 9, Cardinals 0

It has been a really long time since the Pirates had a game where you and I could sit back and laugh and have some fun and enjoy it. Tonight was one of those games and man did it make me feel amazingly good. The Pirates pitched well, they hit well and they played good defense. I talked the other night about the Pirates having a complete game but they barely won that one. This time they routed the team they were playing, that team being the St. Louis Cardinals.

The offense banged out 14 hits and scored nine runs which came in all kinds of situations. Jake Westbrook started for the Cardinals and didn't have any of the hitters fooled and man was it fun to watch. The Pirates got a lone run in the first inning and then added on with a pair of runs in the third, four runs in the fifth and single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Man, what a night.

The night was about two players, really, and it came down to a great offensive performance from Pedro Alvarez and an outstanding pitching performance by James McDonald. First lets talk about Alvarez.

Much has been made about Alvarez this season. There were always high expectations for Alvarez since he was brought up and while he has had some major struggles it always seems like he leaves people expecting more no matter what he does. Not tonight. Tonight was one of those games where Alvarez was absolutely locked in and turned that into a 4-for-5 night with two massive home runs and a double. He has 11 total bases and raised his line to .247/.327/.484 with 25 home runs. In the third inning he took a pitch in the low insise portion of the strike zone and launched a 422 foot home run to the North Side Notch. For a left handed hitter to do that you need to have a lot into that and this was a jaw dropping home run. Seriously, watch that home run then watch it five more times. Unreal.

That would have been good enough going with the double and single he had but he did something even more impressive in the sixth inning when he launched a ball over the seats in right centerfield that went 469 feet which is the longest home run ever for a Pirates player at PNC Park. Do yourself a favor and go watch that again and again and again and again. A lot of people give Pedro a tough time and he has had a very up and down season buy overall I will take a .250 hitter with 25+ bombs. With how bad he was last year and how badly he struggled this year this is a pretty good season. When he is on his bat can carry the team and when the team needed him the most he stepped up and drive in four runs. If he stays hot for a few weeks this is going to get really, really, interesting.

The other guy in the game tonight was McDonald. He is going to be wildly overlooked because of the night that Pedro had but all McDonald did was shut down a potent Cardinals lineup with seven shutout innings and only giving up two hits and walking one, striking out six. Man, what a big time performance from McDonald who is starting to look like he is stepping away from the bad starts of the post All_Star Game slump. He was confident and throwing all his pitches for strikes and while the Cardinals lineup can put runs on the board in bunches McDonald pretty much laughed at that and shut the door. A huge performance after A.J. Burnett didn't get the job done last night. If McDonald is going to throw games like this then the Pirates are going to be that much better. It is kind of the same line as Alvarez but if these two guys start performing, watch out.

I guess I can't go through this recap without talking about the collision that happened at home plate between Josh Harrison and Yadier Molina. With Harrison on second Jose Tabata singled to right field and the resulting play at the plate was pretty scary. Watch for yourself:



First off I just want to say that I don't think anyone really wants to see any player get hurt. It was pretty nasty and it didn't look like Molina took it really well and just not a good thing. I know Harrison had to do what he felt like he had to do to score but this is really a no win situation for Molina. I think it was pretty funny that a lot of people were saying that Harrison made a "hard nosed baseball play" when in reality Harrison had a 90 feet head start when Molina had no idea where he was and got crushed literally as he caught the ball. No idea how that is a "hard nosed baseball play" but I guess you can think what you want. When we talk about guys getting hit in the head it is pretty much a no tolerance thing in an uber physical sport such as football so why should it be OK in baseball where, the last time I checked, concussions can happen. I don't know, I don't really feel great on this one way or the other but I am going to say that it probably wasn't ideal.

I understand that things like this happen in baseball, especially when you are a catcher trying to protect the plate but I guess this is really a tough spot because catchers, in that situation, are pretty much set up to get injured. I hope Molina is OK.

I found it interesting that the Cardinals responded by hitting Harrison not in his next plate appearances but in the second plate appearance after the incident. Look, by everything it was a "clean" play. I know a ton of people were all up in arms because the Pirates didn't hit a Reds player after Chapmen hit Andrew McCutchen but I am not really sure what hitting Harrison accomplished besides putting another runner on base. Did it magically make Molina better? Did it scare the Pirates? Did it say that the next time you run a catcher in a supposed "clean" way you will get hit? I guess you can say that Westbrook was sticking up for his teammate but if he was doing that why wasn't Harrison hit in the very next plate appearance? I guess there is this misconception that teams that hit players that do something borderline changes how games in the future are played but I highly doubt they do. It is foolish, plain and simple.

This was really a great game and I could go on for probably another thousand words but just let this one soak in and then lets hope this can propel the Pirates to go streakin.

Pirates Game Day 129 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jake Westbrook (13-9, 3.67 ERA) vs. James McDonald (11-6, 3.73 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (68-60)
1. Tabata 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. McKenry 2
7. Harrison 4
8. Barmes 6
9. McDonald 1

Cardinals (71-57)
1. Jay 8
2. Schumaker 4
3. Holliday 7
4. Craig 3
5. Beltran 9
6. Molina 2
7. Freese 5
8. Furcal 6
9. Westbrook 1




Hit the jump for the live blog



Pirates Release Erik Bedard




In what shouldn't have been a real shocking development from the Pirates this morning it was announced that they released lefty Erik Bedard after what was a pretty disappointing season. The released was announced earlier today but due to my job I couldn't get anything up until now as I am sure this will be a basic recap of everything you have already read.

After his start on Sunday I wrote in the game recap that he should probably be moved at least to the bullpen but it looks like the Pirates went a step further and just released him.

Bedard wasn't terrible to start the season as he threw 29 innings between March and April and posted a 2.48 ERA and gave up only eight earned runs while holding a 26:12 K:BB. He wasn't terrible in May with a 3.91 ERA in 23 innings but was holding hitters to only a .218/.305/.400 line making it look like if he could stay healthy he could be a nice number three or four.

After that it was all downhill. Bedard has not held an ERA under 5.90 in a month since that and just hasn't been able to find the strike zone. He was giving up way too many walks and while before he could get the big strikeout to escape from some of those walks he was now giving up doubles and home runs instead. That isn't going to win you games and when you are in the spot the Pirates are in you can't afford to have him on the mound going forward.

It was a good gamble to bring on Bedard at the beginning of the season and while it was an injury risk since he has had multiple problems with his arm and has only thrown 293.1 innings from 2008-11. It was nice that he was able to not go on a long DL stint this year which was thought to be the main concern coming into the season but it turned out that his performance would be his undoing.

The Pirates recalled Chase d'Arnaud to take Bedard's spot on the roster but I would imagine that this is a very short term move. With Neil Walker probably on the shelf for a couple of days with his back you would expect that d'Arnaud is up to take his spot and then when the rosters expand in a few days there will be someone up to take his spot in the rotation, I hope. If the Pirates stick Kevin Correia in Bedard's spot I will not be happy. I would expect someone like Jeff Locke or Justin Wilson to get the spot that was occupied by Bedard and am hoping that Bryan Morris is part of the call ups to actually pitch.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pirates Game 128 Recap - Cardinals 4, Pirates 3

Same stuff, just a different day. This time the Pirates came out and grabbed a 2-0 lead off one of the better pitchers in the league with staff ace A.J. Burnett on the mound and all they do is give up that lead the next half inning and then fall behind and can't come back. The Pirates now are three games back of the wild card and fading fast. Really fast.

What makes this loss a little more depressing than previous losses because the Pirates didn't really play all that terrible. Sure they booted the ball round a little bit and didn't always make the crisp play but it was a pretty complete performance with Burnett giving up four runs (only two earned) and the offense really stinging the ball off Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse who has been outstanding this year. They got some key hits and had some great at bats, just didn't do enough.

Burnett pitched really well for the first three innings but after the Pirates took the two run lead things just didn't go well. This really isn't as much on Burnett as it is all the starters because the big problem, in my eyes, is that they can't get put up the zero after the offense scores the runs. The Pirates score two and were starting to get some momentum and for the Cardinals to come right back and tie the game really took the life out of the building.

Just another game back. It isn't over but James McDonald needs to come back strong tomorrow. In a big way.

Pirates Game Day 128 Live Blog - vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Kyle Lohse (13-2, 2.61 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (15-4, 3.63 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (68-59)
1. Tabata 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. Harrison 4
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Burnett 1

Cardinals (70-57)
1. Jay CF,
2. Carpenter 3B,
3. Holliday LF,
4. Craig 1B,
5. Beltran RF,
6. Molina C,
7. Schumaker 2B,
8. Furcal SS,
9. Lohse P



Hit the jump for the live blog



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pirates Game 127 Recap - Brewers 7, Pirates 0

There are some games you have a chance to win and then there are games where you fall behind and you have no chance. The Pirates have been on the latter half of that statement far too many times in the recent past and today was the same way. Erik Bedard was decent for three innings but then ran into a buzz saw where he gave up six runs and only lasted 4.2 innings.

There isn't much else to say. Things are bad right now. The team is only two games out of the wild card but it feels like they just can't do anything right. For as good as the win was overall on Saturday night this just put things back into perspective. It sucks.

A lot of things to talk about here but it isn't much more than I have said in past recaps over the last two weeks. The offense is struggling and the starting pitching has been wildly inconsistent. Can't win like that.

Andrew McCutchen is in a serious slump and as much as I want to say that this isn't like last season, it is. He looks pretty pull happy right now and looks very tentative in the box. He isn't hitting the ball to the other field and is swinging through fastballs that he was hammering a month ago. He can't recognize the off speed pitches and really is just a mess right now. You can tell when a guy goes up to the plate and looks lost and that is McCutchen right now.

Also I think it is about time we truly think about sitting Bedard down. Down in AAA there are some guys that are throwing the ball really well. Bedard is not throwing the ball really well, at all. He has had a couple good starts recently but he just can't figure it out. Send him to the pen and figure it out but I don't want to trot him out there three or four more times before the team figures out they should try someone else. Things will be far too over by then.

I don't think the season is over by any stretch. The Pirates have an extremely soft September schedule and they are only two games back of the wild card so there is still a ton of time but things need to start looking better soon or we might be talking about another second half collapse like last season. This one won't be as bad as last year but I am not sure a lot of people will see that.

On to the next one.

Pirates Game 127 Live Blog - vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Mark Rogers (1-1, 5.02 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (7-13, 4.76 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (68-58)
1. Snider 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Clement 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Harrison 6
9. Bedard 1

Brewers (58-67)
1. Aoki 9
2. Weeks 4
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Hart 3
6. Lucroy 2
7. Gomez 8
8. Segura 6
9. Rogers 1


Hit the jump for the live blog



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pirates Game 126 Recap - Pirates 4, Brewers 0







The Pirates finally got off the slide in a big way. It was probably the most complete game the Pirates have played in some time and got great pitching from Jeff Karstens and some good, timely, offense to down the Brewers.

The Pirates scored all four of their runs on the night in the fifth inning and did most of the damage with two outs thanks to an error from Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez muffed a pretty routine fly ball by Neil Walker to lead off the inning and that left the gates open for the Pirates to strike. They scored one run with a Michael McKenry one out double to left center to score Walker and then scored the final three runs after a Clint Barmes strikeout. Karstens helped his own cause with a run scoring single and then scored on a double to the notch by Jose Tabata.

Karstens was outstanding on the mound tonight. I think it is pretty easy to say that he is the most consistent pitcher on the staff and gives you pretty much the same result each time out. Tonight he went 7.0+ innings and gave up seven hits but didn't walk a single batter and struck out four while only throwing 84 pitches. It wasn't a quick hook by Clint Hurdle but it was a groin injury that forced Karstens out of the game. Not really sure what happened but hopefully Karstens is OK because that would be a pretty big blow to the staff if he had to miss significant time.

The Pirates offense didn't really do anything special tonight but what they did do was take advantage when the Brewers made a mistake. It seems like the past couple of weeks teams have been taking advantage of every Pirates error and the Pirates offense hasn't been able to do the same in return to other teams. Tonight Gomez made a big error to start the fifth inning and the Pirates made them pay with three unearned runs when the Brewers should have been out of the inning. Felt really good.

A guy who had a really good night at the plate was Pedro Alvarez. He went 2-for-3 on the night but he had some really nice at bats. The first at bat of the game might have been the best of the season. He was down 0-2 to Shawn Marcum who previously was dominating the Pirates lineup but spit on pitches and worked the count to full and hit a laser to right field off the wall for a double. I know that Alvarez had a slow start to the season and his batting average is low but he has been getting on base at a great clip despite the low batting average in August. During the month (coming into tonight) he has a 17.1% BB and has a .366 OBP despite only hitting .235 during the month he has been having some great at bats and getting on base. His season might not look like the greatest from the numbers but I think he has definitely made progress.

Some bad news on the night were injuries. Not only did Karstens go off with a possible groin injury but Tabata also left the game in the sixth inning with a groin injury. Earlier in the year he had some groin/hip problems and can probably be responsible for some of his play. Coming into tonight he was performing really well since his call up with a .360 OBP and while that was in a really small sample size he was still giving the Pirates what they so desperately needed which was a solid lead off hitter. He looks much more confident at the plate and was making good things happen and hopefully this was more precautionary than it was an injury. Earlier in the year I don't think that you would say that losing Tabata would be a bad thing but he has been playing well and with Starling Marte still on the DL you need to have Tabata healthy and playing.



The Pirates needed a good start and a well rounded game and that is exactly what they got. The Cardinals lost earlier in the day so they are only one game back in the wild card and a chance to win the series tomorrow. That is all you can ask for.

Pirates Game Day 126 Live Blog - vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.39 ERA) vs. Jeff Karstens (4-3, 3.79 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (67-58)
1. Tabata 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. McKenry 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Karstens 1

Brewers (58-66)
1. Aoki 9
2. Weeks 4
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Hart 3
6. Maldonado 2
7. Gomez 8
8. Bianchi 6
9. Marcum 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Pirates Saturday Link Dump

Here are some links for you on this Saturday morning/afternoon in case you missed them during the week:

Anna McDonald did a nice story on A.J. Burnett for the SweetSpot Blog about how he is dealing with all of the changes mentally. [SweetSpot Blog]

The Texas Tech Communications department did a nice interview with 2012 supplemental draft pick Barrett Barnes. He talks about what it is like to be in professional baseball and how Texas Tech helped him with it. [Texas Tech Communications]

Pat over at WHYGAVS has a gif of Josh Harrison making a catch in the outfield. It is hilarious. Actually the gif was made by Cork Gains of Rays Index. It is a must see. [WHYGAVS]

FanGraphs did an interview with Altoona Curve closer Victor Black. It is a pretty awesome interview as Black is pretty goo don interviews. [TRBB]

Kristy Robinson does a really nice article on Nick Kingham. [Pirates Prospects]

Kevin Creagh takes a look at the definitions of large, mid and small markets in Major League Baseball. Really awesome read. [Pirates Prospects]

Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com tells us to keep things in perspective if Melky Cabrera wins the batting title. It could happen if McCutchen's keeps up his slide. [MLB.com]

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pirates Game 125 Recap - Brewers 6, Pirates 5




Another day and another loss for the Pirates, this time to the Brewers, at PNC Park. This slide that the Pirates were on was hoped to be over after the teams first day off in almost three weeks but it didn't. They got behind early, tied the game and then some shoddy bullpen management lead to a four run seventh inning that the Pirates offense couldn't overcome despite some late inning (almost) magic. Another frustrating loss.

The good thing, I guess, was that they escaped the first inning without giving up a run. So, that was cool. It didn't last long as the Brewers strung together multiple hits and it was 2-0 after 1.5 innings. Bleh.

The offense finally woke up in the fourth inning after they went weakly in order the first time through the order. Jose Tabata and Travis Snider then led off with a single and double and then Andrew McCutchen singled them both home. Woo hoo.

Things went relatively well for the Pirates as Wandy Rodriguez did a nice job of keeping the Brewers off base and getting out of trouble when he needed to and probably made his best start as a Pirate. He went 6.2 innings and was pulled probably earlier than he should have though he had hit the 100 pitch mark.

When Rodriguez came out he had a runner on first and two outs which I didn't really think was all that big of a deal considering how well he pitched but Clint Hurdle went with Jared Hughes instead. Hughes proceeded to plunk Rickie Weeks and walk Ryan Braun and came nowhere near the plate in either at bat. In my mind I thought this was a time to come out and get Hughes with the bases loaded and him not being able to find the zone, at all, but Hurdle decided to stick with Hughes and he grooved an 0-1 pitch to Aramis Ramirez and it got taken into the gap to score all three runs. Moreover he was left in the game to face Corey Hart and proceeded to give up another run. Frustrating.

The Pirates actually made it incredibly interesting in the ninth inning. With Jon Axford on the mound the Pirates strung together some base runners with a pair of walks and then a Neil Walker single to bring the winning run to the plate. Pedro Alvarez and Jeff Clement both struck out to dampen the chances for the Pirates but a Michael McKenry single made it a one run ballgame. Gaby Sanchez then came up and became the last out in what turned out to be a tough loss for the Bucs.

I really don't mind the choice to go to Hughes because I think he has done a decent job this year and I feel pretty good when he comes into the game. However, when you are nowhere around the plate you have to have a short hook. The offense has been scuffling and striking out a ton so you needed to keep the game tied at two and let the backend of your pen get a chance. For some reason Hurdle is stuck with this philosophy that relief pitchers can't be taken out in the middle of the inning. The hook should have been shorter with Hughes and it wasn't. Did it totally cost the Pirates the game? That is for you to decide but, I don't think I would have let him pitch to Ramirez. I know that sounds extremely hindsight but you are going to have to trust that is what my gut said.

I guess the most frustrating part of all this is that the best bullpen arms are not on the Pirates rosters. Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris, who could have both easily been in the situation that Hughes was in. I have no idea why guys like Chad Qualls is still on the roster when Morris and Wilson are just chillin in AAA. I guess they will eventually come up to the team but as everyday passes that they aren't the Pirates are another day closer to not making the playoffs.

The offense struck out 13 times on the night. Three times in the ninth inning in big spots. I am pretty surprised to see everyone kind of, well, surprised that the Pirates are striking out so much. Surprised as if the Pirates aren't the worst team in the league in K% (they are). It is good the the Pirates can get a ton of runs with one swing of the bat but this team is littered with guys that are going to strike out a lot and that is just the way it is going to be. Not a lot of these guys are good OBP guys and you have to live with that because it is a little late to worry about it now.

This was a bad loss to begin with and turned even more sour with the late inning offense that showed up for the Pirates. I don't like to peg this one one person, and I won't, but the bullpen management was pretty bad tonight and that is turning into a trend.

The good thing is that Pirates are still only two games back of the wild card (at the time of me writing this since the Reds and Cardinals are still playing) and a win tomorrow won't make everything better but I think you can term "stop the bleeding" to how I would feel if the Pirates won.

Whatever.

Pirates Game Day 125 Live Blog - vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Mike Fiers (6-6, 2.90 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (8-12, 4.00 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (67-57)
1. Tabata 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Rodriguez 1

Brewers (57-66)
1. Aoki 9
2. Weeks 4
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Hart 3
6. Lucroy 2
7. Gomez 8
8. Segura 6
9. Fiers 1


Hit the jump for the live blog



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pirates Game 124 Recap - Padres 4, Pirates 2

Going into the game the Pirates had lost 21 of the last 25 contests against the Padres. After tonight the Pirates are now 4-22 in the last 26 games as they were swept out of San Diego and add to a dreadful record this year on the West Coast. The NL West is not somewhere I would like to play and thankfully the Pirates are done playing the Padres this year. I hope I never see them again. Ever.

The Pirates only had four hits on the day and while the offense has been off and on for much of the last couple of weeks this came at the hands of puss chucking lefty Andrew Werner who only gave up a pair of runs in six plus innings. Werner didn't have much but he located pretty well and took advantage of the Pirates hitters who were seemingly having a contest to see who could hit the most ground balls to short.

To say this was a frustrating series would be a pretty big understatement. You know how frustrating it was? Kevin Correia had the best start of the series when he was coming off zero days rest.

James McDonald wasn't terrible but another rough first inning really doomed the Pirates. McDonald started the game by walking the bases loaded and gave up a double to the deepest part of the park to score a pair. A sac fly later and it was 3-0 and the Pirates only recorded one out. Outside of the horrid first inning McDonald wasn't terrible even though he was only able to go five full innings. He gave up five hits and only struck out a pair while walking five but that is actually pretty decent compared to what he did in his 30 pitch first inning. I have no idea what to think about him now. I guess you never know what you are going to get.

Just a frustrating game. The Pirates finally get a day off tomorrow after playing for 20 straight. The day off couldn't come at a better time. The team is reeling and really I don't think there is much that can be done. The best thing for every guy on this team is to get as far away from baseball as they can tomorrow and not think about it. They need to clear your head and move on when they get back after it on Friday. At least, that is what I hope happens.

Pirates Game 124 Live Blog - @ San Diego Padres

Pittsburgh Pirates at San Diego Padres - 6:35 p.m.
James McDonald (11-5, 3.61 ERA) vs. Andrew Werner (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (67-56)
1. Tabata 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. McKenry 2
8. Barmes 6
9. McDonald 1

Padres (55-70)
1. Cabrera 6
2. Venable 9
3. Headley 5
4. Quentin 7
5. Kotsay 3
6. Forsythe 4
7. Maybin 8
8. Baker 2
9. Werner 1




Hit the jump for the live blog



Pirates Game 123 Recap - Padres 7, Pirates 5 (10 innings)




The game overall wasn't very good for the Pirates. Going into the night they were only 7-for-42 with runners in scoring position and last night they only went 1-for-10 so despite getting some guys on base they were continually not good at getting them in. A.J. Burnett wasn't on the top of his game giving up a ton of hits but able to get out of trouble on a consistent basis and the defense was just really, really, bad for stretch of this game. Despite all that the Pirates were going to extra innings with the Padres. They lost, it was frustrating and I wasn't even frustrated at any of the on field players.

This isn't going to be as much of a recap as it is a "what the hell is going on in there" post. As you know I am not a big fan of Clint Hurdle's in game managing tactics as I think they are pretty awful and last night he just added to my case.

Granted I don't want to take away from the game itself because the Pirates have no been good the last couple of days. If it wasn't for Burnett taking a fire extinguisher to some situations this game could have been a lot uglier a lot earlier. The offense had five runs and 12 hits but like I said the 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position is just unacceptable.

With all that said the manager of this did, and the general manager of the team, are not putting the team in the best possible situation to win. Tony Watson came in to relieve Burnett with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to give up sacrifice fly to give the Padres a one run lead. The Pirates could do nothing but this game was still far from over. What does Hurdle do? Brings in Chad Qualls. Now, I know that Hurdle loves trusting the veterans but where is Jason Grilli? Why is it that holding a one run lead is so vastly different than trying to keep a game at a one run deficit? With two at bats left and the Pirates offense at least getting runner on why is Qualls your second arm out of the pen? Is this just saying you don't really care and you are just throwing your hands up? Surprising to no one Qualls gives up a run and looks pretty terrible.

So the Pirates go into the top of the ninth and get just a massive home run from Garrett Jones to tie the game. It was Jones' second home run of the night and it was mashed to dead center and there was life. Now, I am NOT saying that if Grilli or Resop or Hughes came out and didn't give up a run that Jones would have still hit a home run but I think you get my point. Why Qualls is in that situation, let alone on the 25 man roster, is just baffling to me.

So the Pirates are tied and then it is OK for Grilli to come out and hold the tie score. He did and the game was off to extras. The Pirates couldn't get anything going and then newly called up Daniel McCutchen was called on for the 10th. Again, not Hughes, not Resop and not Hanrahan but McCutchen. Now, I am sure McCutchen is a good guy but he was brought up to be long relieve in case they needed him. I am not sure the 10th inning of a game where you have nearly your entire bullpen is time for the long relief guy. Was Hurdle planning on this going 19 innings in the 10th? I sure as hell hope not. Well, predictably, McCutchen walked the first batter and got behind 3-0 on Chase Headley. McCutchen showed no control and the 3-2 pitch was right down the gut.





The result was a walk-off home run.

So to recap. With the top of the order coming up in the tenth inning of a game your offense just came back to tie you go with your worst bullpen arms in the the eighth and tenth innings and they combine to give up three runs in a 7-5 loss. I have no idea what was going through Hurdles head but while the offense struggled at times and while the defense was pretty bad Hurlde was probably the worst of the offenders last night.

This just isn't all on Hurdle though. The problem is that Qualls and McCutchen never should have been on this roster to begin with. With guys like Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson and Kyle McPherson sitting in AAA why is there room on the 25 man for Qualls and McCutchen? The best 25 players are not on the 25 man roster and that is the problem. That is just as much fault of Neal Huntington as anyone else and while I bet they are trying to wait until the rosters expand in September that is going to be two weeks too late.

If the Pirates stick with guys like Qualls and McCutchen in these situations over the next week then the team isn't going to win games and they will not make the playoffs. I have been as optimistic as anyone but shit like this can't fly when you are in a playoff race. It is unacceptable.It is unacceptable to not have your best players on the team. There is some credence to the point that Hurdle can only do so much based on the roster he has but it is just as much Clint's fault as is it Huntintgton's. Just can't do it.

I know it might seem like I am blowing things out of proportion and maybe I am to an extent, but this is the type of shit that Hurdle has been doing all season and it is no more frustrating now than it was two months ago. Hurdle is a great clubhouse guy but in terms being an in game manager he is very poor. I wish I could say things will change, but I don't think it will.

Try to salvage the series today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pirates Game Day 123 Live Blog - @ San Diego Padres

Pittsburgh Pirates at San Diego Padres - 10:05 p.m.
A.J. Burnett (15-4, 3.54 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (6-7, 4.08 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (67-55)
1. Tabata 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. Jones 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Burnett 1

Padres (54-70)
1. Cabrera 6
2. Venable 9
3. Headley 5
4. Quentin 7
5. Grandal 2
6. Alonso 3
7. Amarista 4
8. Maybin 8
9. Volquez 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Monday, August 20, 2012

Pirates Game Day 122 Live Blog - @ San Diego Padres

Pittsburgh Pirates at San Diego Padres - 10:05 p.m.
Kevin Correia (9-7, 4.56 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (7-9, 4.31 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (67-54)
1. Tabata 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Correia 1

Padres (53-70)
1. Cabrera 6
2. Venable 9
3. Headley 5
4. Quentin 7
5. Grandal 2
6. Alonso 3
7. Amarista 4
8. Maybin 8
9. Volquez 1


Hit the jump for the live blog



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pirates Game Day 121 Recap - Pirates 6, Cardinals 3 (19 innings)




Last season the Pirates played a 19 inning game that resulted in a heartbreaking loss that some might say was the beginning of the end to their season. While I disagree as that being the "starting point" for the Pirates eventual collapse it was a tough pill to swallow as I was up until nearly 2 a.m. watching the game and writing this hardly legible recap. Today could have been a little like that except that it was nothing like that. The story played the same with the game going 19 innings and the Pirates and Cardinals both squandered a combined 26 runners on the day but this time the Pirates would come back and defeat the team they were playing. Top of the 19th, a Pedro Alvarez home run then an Andrew McCutchen two out, bases loaded single to plate two more runs. Everything came full circle and damn it felt good.

I am not even really sure where to start with this. There were so many thing that were bad with this game but then again there were good things that overcame the bad things that happened. The Pirates were playing on a getaway day before going West to play the Padres and they just didn't care. They probably weren't actively thinking about the Meals game last season as it got into the 13th inning but I know I was and so were a lot of other people. The guys on the field were just thinking about winning and they knew they weren't going to leave St. Louis without a win and every single member on that team sacked up and did what they had to do to win.

The bench was short and with injuries to Travis Snider late in the game it forced Josh Harrison to play right field and with Starling Marte down Jose Tabata had to come up from AAA to play left field and even though Michael McKenry went 0-for-8 on the day he wasn't letting a single ball get behind him with the Cardinals winning run on third base and Joel Hanrahan was bouncing pitches. It was a full on team game and ever single member of the 25 man roster contributed. It was great to see and shows how different this team was than what they were last season and a big reason why I didn't think this Pirates team was going to have a 2011 slide.

No reason to go through everything in this game but the Cardinals got a pair of runs and then the Pirates got those runs back. That was all done by the sixth inning. The next run scored in the game was a Garrett Jones infield single that scored James McDonald (!). Honestly, McDonlad was brought in to pinch hit with two outs and singled up the middle and moved to third a few hitters later and Jones got the job done. When I talked about every single player making a difference that is what I am talking about, McDonald, a starting pitcher, singling and scoring the go ahead run.

With the Pirates really hurting in the pen Juan Cruz was the last hope out of the pen but wasn't able to get the save. He gave up a run and was lucky to get out of the inning. Things just kept going and the Pirates were forced to go to Wandy Rodriguez who was supposed to be the starter for tomorrow. Rodriguez pitched a pair of innings and earned his first win as a Pirate. Oh man.

Going into the 19th things were dire. The pen was used up to where the Pirates were using starting pitching and the Cardinals were in nearly the same boat. With one out Alvarez came up to the plate after going 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts and was facing a left Barret Browning and hit a ball 416 feet to right centerfield. I jumped up off my couch as the ball was in the air and threw my hands up and screamed. I didn't do that for the Jones hit and I have no idea why but Alvarez deserves this. He is vilified by the fan base and has had a tough start to his major league career and he needed to have that. You gotta love seeing that kid smile.

McCutchen was having an equally bad day with four strikeouts and only one hit in seven at bats. He worked a 3-0 count and then got a pitch he could hit and drove home a pair of runs to put the icing on the cake. He needed that hit. Rodriguez needed those other runs. People want to run Rodriguez out of town already and all he did was pitch two innings and strike out three guys and only give up one hit. Those guys needed to step up, not for the fans, but for themselves.

I know I talked about the offense and the guys getting the job done in crunch time but the real hero's of this game is the bullpen. Jeff Karstens got the start and did an outstanding job of going seven innings and only giving up two runs and two hits but it was the collective work of the bullpen to completely shut down the Cardinals and give the offense a chance to do it's thing. The pen hasn't been good the last couple of weeks but they grab their collective balls in this game and got the job done. It is different as a pen when you are the home team because you know that if you make a mistake then your offense can come clean it up. WHen you are on the road in a game like this and you make a mistake the game is over. No second chance, that is it. That is why this was a great job by this team. Not because they only gave up one run over 12 innings but because they put their shoddy past couple weeks behind them and sacked up. That is what you are supposed to do.

Jason Grilli, Kevin Correia, Chris Resop, Hanrahan, Jared Hughes, Cruz and Rodriguez all combined to go 12 innings and give up one run on nine hits and fanned 11 hitters. Just an outstanding job by all of those guys. Cruz didn't have the greatest outing and I don't think that Clint Hurdle did a good job of using his bullpen but when guys were called on they came in and did the job. Just can't say enough how huge it was to have every single guy in the pen come in and get the job done. Not every team has a pen that can do that.

While it was great to get good performances from those guys and from the team as a whole but it also creates a lot of problems in who is available to pitch and who is going to be able to come off the bench. You can probably assume that Resop and Rodriguez aren't going to pitch tomorrow and I would assume they would be hesitant to use Correia and Hughes so that leaves the pen really thing. Add on to that the team is going to be adding Chad Qualls back and you are going to see a lot of moves tomorrow. Kyle McPherson is the scheduled starter tomorrow for Indianapolis so he could come up or Justin Wilson could come up as he is on five days rest. Travis Snider most likely will see some DL time and with Jordy Mercer going on maternity leave there will need to be some moves for the offensive side of the ball. It is going to be a crazy day for a lot of people. Lots of press releases tomorrow for call up and someone will probably be making their MLB debut. Cool stuff.

It must also be mentioned that the Pirates are now undefeated since the Zoltan Taco came to life. For those of you that don't know the Zoltan Taco is thanks to Josh.


There are a million other words that I could write about this game because I am still super stoked. I might sleep on it some more and add tomorrow but I don't know if I want to do that. It just feels good right now. Real good.

Enjoy this one and then get geeked up for late night baseball in San Diego.

Pirates Game Day 121 Live Blog - @ St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals - 2:10 p.m.
Jeff Karstens (4-3, 3.91 ERA) vs. Jaime Garcia (3-4, 4.48 ERA)

Lineup

Pirates (66-54)
1. Tabata 7
2. Harrison 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Sanchez 3
5. Snider 9
6. McKenry 2
7. Alvarez 5
8. Barmes 6
9. Karstens 1

Cardinals (65-55)
1. Jay 8
2. Craig 3
3. Holliday 7
4. Beltran 9
5. Freese 5
6. Molina 2
7. Schumaker 4
8. Furcal 6
9. Garcia 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pirates Game 120 Recap - Cardinals 5, Pirates 4

In a baseball season there is a general rule of thumb when it comes to a team's record that will stay true for most teams that aren't the 2012 Astros or 2010 Pirates. That rule is that you are going to win a third of your games you are going to lose a third of your games and the other third is going to determine how you shape your record. Today was one of those "determine your season" types of games for both teams and the Pirates came out on the short end of the stick.

To be honest I don't really get "mad" or "upset" when the Pirates lose for the most part because it is a 162 game season and like I said above even the best teams in the league are going to lose at least a third (plus) of their games. Today was one of the few times it was really frustrating to sit on the couch after a Pirates lost. Playing from behind all game is one thing but going into the ninth being down two runs and to get the bases loaded with no outs and your three and four hitters up and you aren't able to even tie the game. That is frustrating. That is baseball.

This game was a pretty sloppy game all together as both starters weren't very good, at all. Lance Lynn and Erik Bedard both were all over the zone as Lynn was out of the game after 4.1 and Bedard was out of the game a little later after 4.2 innings. Bedard got hit around giving up nine hits which was a season high and was responsible for all five runs. He was really good through four innings but it just unraveled in the fifth and Yadier Molina ripped a two out double with the bases loaded that scored the Cardinals fourth and fifth runs which were the game winners.

The Pirates weren't too good with runners in scoring position today and left a ton on the bases when they had a chance to have a big inning. They went 1-of-14 with runners in scoring position. That isn't going to win you games and when you lose a one run game it makes that statistic sting a little bit more. The worst part of the day was that in Andrew McCutchen's five at bats today he had four opportunities with runners in scoring position and went 0-for-4. He did drive in a run with a groundout but the Pirates needed more than that when that groundout came with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth when the Pirates were down by two.

McCutchen had only his second 0-for-5 day of the year and didn't look good today at all. I see a lot of people talking about him being bad since he got hit by the Chapman pitch but that is merely an arbitrary start point that has no shred of truth to in. In the six games after getting hit by Chapman McCutchen only went hitless once and had seven hits in the other five games. So how exactly did the Chapman hit by pitch start everything when Cutch was good right after it happened? I guess that doesn't fit the narrative.

Jordy Mercer had a really nice game today going 2-for-4 with a double and driving in a pair of runs. He has been playing second base since Neil Walker went out with the dislocated finger in his throwing had but bad news caught up to Mercer in the ninth inning. He was up with a pair of runners on and got hit by a pitch in the hand to load the bases. Getting on base was great but it looked like Mercer could have messed his hand up pretty bad as he will get someone to look at it tonight. Losing Mercer would further deplete a bench that is already pretty bad and force Josh Harrison to play second base which I am not too excited about.

All in all just a frustrating game. I know I talked about the ninth inning a lot but after the McCutchen groundout the Pirates still had runners on the corners with one out and Garrett Jones up. Jones worked a 3-0 count and when the fourth pitch came in high and tight Jones took a huge hack at it and whiffed. Now I don't really have a problem with Jones swinging 3-0 because he has been so good but if you are going to swing 3-0 then you have to be able to do something with the pitch. The pitch that Jones got was high and tight and even if Jones got his bat on it he pops it up or swings and misses. You need to spit on that and loaded the bases, even if that brings up Josh Harrison with the bases loaded and he hasn't been good all he needs to do is get the ball into the outfield and you put the winning runner in scoring position.

Molina just kills the Pirates. He had three hits today and one of them was a two out double down the right field line to score the game winning run. Coming into the game today Molina was hitting .321/.383/.481 against the Pirates in 394 career plate appearances. Not having him in the game on Friday night was huge and having him in the game today was even bigger. He is a Pirates killer and to be honest he scares me more than any other guy in that lineup.

Not much more to say about this one. Come back and get the win tomorrow and this is a successful trip to St. Louis and you are in good position.

Pirates Game Day 120 Live Blog - @ St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals - 4:05 p.m.
Erik Bedard (7-12, 4.56 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (13-5, 3.65 ERA)

Linesup:

Pirates (66-53)
1. Marte 7
2. Mercer 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Snider 9
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Bedard 1

Cardinals (64-55)
1. Furcal 6
2. Carpenter 9
3. Holiday 7
4. Craig 3
5. Freese 5
6. Molina 2
7. Robinson 8
8. Jackson 4
9. Lynn 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Friday, August 17, 2012

Pirates Game 119 Recap - Pirates 2, Cardinals 1

Although a lot of people put a lot of weight on the Dodgers series I think we can all say that the three game series against the Cardinals was another level than that Dodgers series. The Dodgers are now sitting atop the NL West and not really a factor in the wild card race anymore while the Pirates will be battling the Cardinals for that final spot in the playoffs. The Pirates started off the three game set with a huge win, 2-1, over the Cards and now can finish no worse than tied with the Cards after this series.

It was all about James McDonald tonight who came back in a big way with a stellar six innings where he allowed only two hits and struck out sevens while not giving up a single run. While the strike zone was pretty huge all night McDonald was able to recognize that and pitched to the zone and had the hitters off balance all night and it was great to see after how bad he was since the break.

The Pirates only had six hits and scored two runs and the reason they scored those two runs really had nothing to do with hits. The Pirates got both runs in the fourth inning and were set up by consecutive singles from Travis Snider, Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones. Snider would score on a wild pitch and then McCutchen would score on a passed ball. That was it. That is how the Pirates scored. They set it up with half of the hits they got in the entire game and then used a little bit of luck to get them a few runs.

Really the game was pretty well played all around. The Pirates played clean baseball and also got a pair of hits from Pedro Alvarez and the pen was able to shut it down for the most part aside from a struggle of an outing by Chris Resop.

Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan were good as usual and that was all she wrote.

I talked about the strike zone a little bit before but I would like to expand on that a little bit because I thought the Pirates did an outstanding job of playing to the zone while the Cardinals did a pretty terrible job in that department. The zone was pretty big in all aspects today and while McDonald recognized that and pitched to the larger zone the Cardinals did not adjust and complained the entire night about it. Listen, I am not saying the zone was good, because it wasn't, but it was consistent. As a hitter/pitcher the only thing you really should expect form the umpire is a consistent zone. Every umpires zone is going to vary so the first few innings you feel it out and if the umpire is consistent you should know what the zone is after a few innings and you should be able to adjust to what will be a strike. That is a part of baseball. The Cardinals evidently didn't get that memo and I found it interesting that they would rather bitch and complain in the seventh inning on pitches that have been a strike all night. The Pirates adjusted and the Cardinals didn't, simple as that.

The Pirates will be playing on FOX tomorrow at 4:05 p.m. You can click here for a link to see if you will be lucky enough to see the Pirates.

Pirates Game Day 119 Live Blog - @ St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals - 8:15 p.m.
James McDonald (10-5, 3.77 ERA) vs. Westbrook (12-8, 3.62 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (65-53)
1. Marte 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. McKenry 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Mercer 4
9. McDonald 1

Cardinals (64-54)
1. Jay 8
2. Craig 3
3. Holliday 7
4. Beltran 9
5. Freese 5
6. Descalso 4
7. Cruz 2
8. Furcal 6
9. Westbrook 1




Hit the jump for the live blog



Pirates Promote Jameson Taillon to AA Altoona

As I was typing up a post on FanGraphs doing an interview with Curve closer Victor Black the Pirates released that they will be promoting 2010 first round pick Jameson Taillon to AA Altoona.

Taillon will make his AA debut on Tuesday, August 21 when the team travels to Trenton.

Taillon pitched for the Pirates high A team this season and threw 125 innings where he posted a 3.82 ERA and a K:BB ratio of 98:37.

Taillon started the year off great as he gave up only six runs in his first seven starts which spanned over 36.2 innings but struggled pretty badly at the tail end of May into June. During that time period he gave up 29 runs over his next six starts. Recently Taillon has been good with a 2.14 ERA and a 23:9 K:BB ratio in his final six starts giving up only eight runs.

To be honest I am a little bit surprised with the move as the Curve season is really winding down and Taillon hasn't been dominating A+ but as I stated before Taillon has really been good over the past six starts. His overall line isn't going to wow you but it seems as if the Pirates think he has done enough to earn that spot. That Pirates are said to have promoted pitching prospects too slowing (which is not really true) so I guess you can say that he is "ready." I will say that him and Gerrit Cole in the same rotation will be fun going down the stretch run for the Curve.

FanGraphs Interviews Pirates AA Closer Vic Black

If you are a frequent reader of FanGraphs like I am you go on there daily to see what kind of stories they have up and probably spend hours reading them. They are at the front along with a few other baseball sites with sabermetrics and as a guy who loves the numbers of baseball this is the site you want to be at.

Today they featured an interview with Altoona closer Victor Black. As you know Altoona is the AA affiliate with the Pittsburgh Pirates and as FanGraphs tabs him the "Future Closer" of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This season Black has thrown in 51.1 innings with a 1.93 ERA while holding a terrific strikeout rate of 12.8 K/9. Black has all the tools to be the closer as he throws a terrific fastball that can get into the high 90's as well as a slider which he refers to as his out pitch.

The interview is about 13 minutes long and Black talks about what it is like to be referred to as a future closer of the team, what it is like to take long bus trips in the minors, about his injury that he had in 2010 and what it is like to be a closer.

Black is a very good interview as you will hear and it is pretty awesome to get stuff like this on Pirates in the lower system that aren't named Cole, Taillon, Heredia or Hanson.

Click here to get the interview.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A.J. Burnett Tells Hanley Ramirez What To Do

So if you read my recap tonight I talked a little bit about the situation that came between the Dodgers Hanley Ramirez and the Pirates A.J. Burnett.

If you didn't see it Ramirez hit a home run off Burnett in the fourth inning and posed a little at home plate then made a gesture as he rounded second base. If you saw A.J.'s face as Ramirez rounded second you knew he was pissed.

In my opinion this was easily the best moment of the season for the Pirates. When you get shown up on the field this is what you do. Come after the guy and then let him know about it.

SBNation earned the gif on this. Thanks to those guys for getting this. Enjoy everyone.


Pirates Game 118 Recap - Pirates 10, Dodgers 6




Man, how good does that feel? The Pirates finally put together some offense and got a good enough start from A.J. Burnett and finally beat the Dodgers. Granted the Pirates got to face Joe Blanton, who is terrible, but it didn't matter. The offense should have broke out against Blanton and they did. A win feels good. It feels real good.

The Pirates were all over Blanton. Namely Garrett Jones just went nuts and went deep two times with both of his home runs coming as three run shots. The first of the home runs came in the first inning to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead and then the second one came in the fourth inning when the Dodgers came back to force a tied game at four. The second one was an absolute bomb to right centerfield.

Before the year I was really on the fence with Jones and while he can be a little streaky and can look horrid against left handed pitching he really has had an outstanding season. I think most of us would be happy with him hitting around .260 with some power but his current like of .283/.316/.542 is I think over and beyond what Pirates fans could have asked for. What was awesome about all of this was that both home runs came after Blanton walked Andrew McCutchen. If teams are going to start walking him (three times today) then you need someone behind him that is going to make that pitcher pay. For much of the season the Pirates haven't had that guy and recently Jones is making them pay big time and it is so great to have him performing to this level.

It really wasn't all that far away as the Pirates just continued to let the Dodgers hang in the game. After Pedro Alvarez joined the home run party after Jones' second blast to give the Pirates an 8-4 lead. The Dodgers made it interesting in the seventh when they scored a pair of runs on an infield single and a hit by pitch off starter A.J. Burnett. With two outs and the bases loaded and the lead cut to only two Clint Hurdle went to Tony Watson. Yikes. Luckily Watson forced a groundout to Jordy Mercer and all was well.

I know that most of you know how I feel about Hurdle but that scenerio just reinforced how I feel. The first part is probably leaving Burnett in for a couple batters too long but I am willing to look past that a little more. The worst part is in the high leverage situation you are in (bases loaded, up two, two outs in the seventh inning) you bring in Watson. Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan are in the pen and Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris still in AAA and you bring in the struggling Watson. Just because Watson got the out doesn't mean it was the right call. Andre Eithier was up and Hurdle brought in Watson to face the lefty. No matter that Watson has reverse splits and pitches to righties better but if that wasn't the case then you bring him in becuase you have said numerous times that you don't like to bring in Grilli in the middle of an inning. So you bring in Tony Watson in the aforementioned situation so you can bring in Grilli, arguably your best bullpen arm, at the start of the next inning with a four run lead. Granted you didn't know you would have a four run lead but the point still stands.

Anyways, as I got off on a ramble that I didn't intend to be that long, the Pirates offense came through. Pedro Alvarez looked really, really, good at the plate today with three hits including an all arms home run to dead center and a double down the right field line. Oh, he also went the other way with a line drive single to left. He hasn't been great all season but if this is the start of one of his streaks then it is coming at the right time.

Clint Barmes. That dude has actually been playing some pretty good baseball lately and in the month of August he is 13-for-42 including a 2-for-4 day today. His average is now up to .221 which is somewhere I didn't think it would ever get to. Getting some, any, offense from Barmes is going to give some substance to the bottom of the lineup that really has been terrible all year. Ride the hot streak.

Burnett really wasn't great but he didn't need to be. All season he has been a stopper so it was nice for the Pirates to buck up and get a win for him in a tough start. Burnett went 6.2 and gave up seven hits and walked a batter while striking out seven. What was pretty unfortunate about his start was that he let six of the nine batters he let reach base score. That is pretty high and he wasn't helped by an early error on Pedro Alvarez but he got through the game. I certainly expect better in his next outing.

Burnett might have had the single best moment of the Pirates season in the sixth inning. To start Hanley Ramirez took Burnett deep in the fourth inning and while he was rounding second base he made a gesture at Burnett and you could tell that he wasn't happy. They got to face off in the sixth inning with two outs and after falling behind 3-0 Burnett came back to strike out Ramirez swinging and as Burnett walked off the mound he started at Ramirez and yelled at him to "sit the f--- down." Some people want to know how you are supposed to respond when someone shows you up, well that is how. It was the perfect response and easily the best moment of the season. Here was Burnett's quote after the game:



Just perfect.

The Pirates stay in the wild card hunt and have a huge series coming up with the Cardinals. Buckle up.

Pirates Game Day 118 Live Blog - vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 4:05 p.m.
Joe Blanton (8-10, 4.61 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (14-4, 3.32 ERA)\

Lineups:

Pirates (64-53)
1. Marte 7
2. Mercer 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Burnett 1

Dodgers (65-53)
1. Victorino 7
2. M Ellis 4
3. Kemp 8
4. Ethier 9
5. Ramirez 6
6. Loney 3
7. Kennedy 5
8. AJ Ellis 2
9. Blanton 1



Hit the jump for the live blog