Friday, April 19, 2013

Pirates Game 15 Recap - Pirates 6, Braves 0

-Maybe the Pirates best overall game of the season. The offense showed up, the pitching was really good and the defense was good. Add in some good base running and you have a complete game. The Pirates have been playing some really good baseball recently and it just feels good to turn on the TV and know that there is a good chance you are going to see a good game. We didn't have that feeling in the first week or so and it has been a little touchy depending on the starting pitcher but with Wandy Rodriguez on the mound tonight you knew you were going to get a solid performance.

-Saying that Rodriguez gave you a solid performance would really do a disservice to what he brought tonight. Rodriguez was coming off a slight "injury" to his hamstring where he left one start early and missed the next start but tonight he was at his best. Rodriguez gave up only one hit and since he wasn't happy with allowing a base runner the very next pitch he induced a double play ball. He didn't allow another base runner in his seven innings of work where he only threw 82 pitches. To be honest if he wasn't coming off the tweaked hammy I think he probably goes back out for the eighth inning and probably gets a complete game. There were a fair amount of people who weren't happy when the Pirates traded for Rodriguez at the deadline last season but he has easily been the best and most consistent starter in the staff. You know exactly what you are going to get from him when he takes the mound and while he won't overpower you with his fastball he knows how to pitch and he can locate his pitches. Against a Braves offense that is one of the best in the league he wasn't afraid to attack them and threw 15 first pitch strikes to the 21 batters he faced. That is doing work.

-The Pirates offense backed up Rodriguez. They scored three runs in the second inning and then three more in the fifth inning and they wouldn't need nearly that many. What maybe has been most impressive about the Pirates offense recently is how they have managed to get on base at a much better clip. They walked five times tonight compared to only seven strikeouts and when you get free bases you can make teams pay and that is what they did.

-Russell Martin with another nice night with a 2-for-3 performance with a second inning double that he would score off of. Along with the hits he also earned a walk which means that he has reached base on seven of his last ten plate appearances. I talked about his OBP ability for much of the preseason and a lot here in the recaps but that has really been a struggle for Pirates catches and it makes a noticeable difference when you have multiple players in the lineup that can work a count and take a walk. While he is only hitting .178 he is getting on base at a .288 clip. While that isn't a good on base percentage if he starts dropping a few more hits in that will be around a .330 or .340 OBP which will look a lot better than the sub .300 OBP they got from Rod Barajas last season.

-Pedro Alvarez went deep again. Again it was an absolute bomb. This is why he plays and doesn't sit. He got the Pirates out to a 2-0 lead and while he struck out in his final three at bats the ability of him to be able to hit 450 foot home runs just can't be denied. I think he has looked good for much of the past week in terms of comfort and swings and hopefully this gets it started. Home runs in back-to-back nights might just be the springboard he needs.

-Neil Walker and Travis Snider each with two more hits tonight. Those two are getting hot at the same time and it really gives the top of the lineup another dimension. Each also drew a walk and didn't strikeout and both are giving you good at bats every time up. Snider doubled in the first inning and at the time it was his third double in the last five plate appearances. Snider is pretty much a pull hitter and while I would like to see him use the opposite field a little more you have to be so happy with how he started the season. Not only the hitting, but he is working counts and taking free passes and just generally looks good at the plate. His walk rate is over 13% and while it is still really early in the season that is a very good sign. Although I am sure Brad Lincoln could do the same thing this is huge for the Pirates to get the corner outfield spots solidified.

-Mark Melancon with another scoreless outing. Ho hum. Not really sure why he was called on to pitch the eighth inning of a game where the Pirates were up 6-0 but I think he might be my favorite Pirates player.

-I talked last night about how a split in the series would be huge and losing the opening game was a real setback since they had more than a chance of winning it. Getting the win tonight was a must with the unknowns of James McDonald and Jonathan Sanchez going the next two nights and the Pirates stepped up. If they can split the series I think this will be a huge boost for the team and with the win tonight that means they only need to win one of the next two. Lets see what happens now.

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