Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pirates Game 17 Recap - Pirates 3, Braves 1

-Just a huge win for the Pirates. The Braves are/were the hottest team in baseball coming in with only two losses and hadn't been beat when they scored at least one run. All the Pirates have done in three games is beat them two times against two pitchers that have been really hard to score on. Paul Maholm hadn't given up a run at all in three starts this year and had the Pirates on the ropes for five innings before breaking out in the sixth inning for the game deciding runs. I talked in the first couple recaps about the goal being a split and after three games they have that accomplished. Once again they are playing with house money and getting a third win tomorrow would just be a massive coup.

-Nobody ever knows what they are going to get out of James McDonald and before the game I was telling a couple people that I really expected nothing out of him. He just wasn't looking good and generally looked lost on the mound but tonight he went out there and pitched a pretty good game. Granted, there were some really rough innings and at bats where he looked hopeless but he limited the damage in the bad innings and go through six innings allowing only two hits and striking out nine, which included three each in the each of the first two innings. Now, he did walk four hitters and hit another and the only run he allowed was because of a bases loaded walk but after that walk he got BJ Upton out and then just basically cruised the rest of the way. I thought if he could get through five innings giving up four runs that would be alright but he really stepped up and overcame the free base runners and got the win. He isn't going to be able to do that every start but if he can focus up like he did for stretches in this game then he can stay in this rotation. I just really don't know how to read him, at time he couldn't find the strike zone and was putting guys on base left and right and then it was like a switch was flipped where his breaking ball was filthy sick and hit fastball was exactly where it needed to be. A good sign was that velocity seemed to be back as he was sitting around 92-93 all night so maybe he still has it in there and it isn't something that is injury related. Whatever the case it was a really good start for him and he gave the team a chance to win and that is what the Pirates needed.

-I have talked about him every night this week but Russell Martin has really been an on base machine. He has reached base in 13 of his last 20 plate appearances and for a team that has been lacking guys that can get on base in the recent years this is really a huge change of pace. Tonight Martin played third base since there was a tough lefty starting and while Pedro has been pretty hot swinging the bat this is something I wouldn't mind seeing more if Martin can handle playing third base defensively. I am not talking about him playing a lot when lefties are pitching but when there is a tough lefty on the mound and Pedro needs a day off I would much rather have Martin there and McKenry behind the plate than have John McDonald at third base. If Martin can hit .230 he is going to have a .350-.360 OBP and that is huge out of the catcher position. Last season that would put him in the top ten of catchers with at least 350 plate appearances and if he can get on the field for ten or 15 more games at third base that will only help out the Pirates offense.

-Andrew McCutchen has really been kinda lying in the weeds here at the start of the season but he really had a nice night tonight with a 2-for-4 performance with two doubles and drove in the game tying RBI with one out in the sixth inning. Not that McCutchen has been bad this year but he hasn't yet had that game that made you really talk about him as the highlight of the game. I am not saying that was tonight because there were a few more story lines but he really had a nice game at the plate.

-Clint Barmes has been really bad. Like really bad. I think I am actually giving him too much credit but at the beginning of the year I said that Barmes was going to be better because it couldn't be worse but I might have sold him short on that statement. He is just as bad as last year and what might be the worst part is that the Pirates don't have any answers behind him. He plays really good defense so he is going to be in the lineup but he is so brutally bad at the plate that it is like having another pitcher up there. This has to be addressed sometime and I am afraid that he isn't going to get better.

-While the platoon system isn't ideal in the grand scheme of things it worked out in a big way tonight. Gaby Sanchez hasn't had too many plate appearances this year but with Maholm on the bump tonight he got a start and while his first two at bats didn't go as well as he wanted his third changed the game. After the McCutchen double that tied the game Sanchez took Maholm deep for a two run shot that proved to be the game winning hit in a 3-1 game. I am not saying that Garrett Jones would have done worse for the night but when Sanchez is a guy that is good against left handed pitching and he can come in and get you a pair of hits and a game winning home run then that is a win for your platoon.

-Before the Pirates started this home stand they were 3-6. All they did was sweep the Reds, split with the Cardinals and take two of the first three from the Braves so no matter what happens tomorrow this has been a really good home stand and the team has to feel really good about itself after what seemed like a brutal schedule. The Pirates offense has been really good and they have got three straight good starts. If Jonathan Sanchez can somehow give them a chance tomorrow then this could be a great home stand.

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