Friday, May 31, 2013

Pirates Game 55 Recap - Pirates 1, Tigers 0 (11 inn.)

The Pirates just keep finding ways to do it. They struck out a ridiculous amount of times but once again got a great performance from Jeff Locke to keep the Tigers off the board until someone could play the part of hero. 

That hero was Russell Martin who crushed a ball with no outs and the bases loaded that came feet from being a grand slam. Like I said, they just found a way. 

Right now the Pirates are stacking wins. Even though they don't necessarily deserve to win some of these games, they are. Now, teams are going to take wins however they get them but people shouldn't be expecting games like this all the time. It is inevitable that the Pirates are going to go on some sort of a losing streak at some point a d by stacking wins now they are going to lighten the blow of that streak. It's a good thing to have in your back pocket. 

Now, do not take that as a "well the Pirates are goi g to collapse so win as many as you can now" because that is not what I am saying. I am saying that in a 162 game season you are going to have multiple winning and losing streaks and the way you minimize those losing streaks is by stacking wins so when the losing does happen (for however long) it won't be as bad in TV standings because there is that buffer. 

Again, this is a really fun team to watch play baseball. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pirates Game 58 Preview - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Mat Latos (5-0, 3.01) vs. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.30)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 3-2)
April 12, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, Cincinnati 5
April 13, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Cincinnati 1
April 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 10, Cincinnati 7
May 31, 2013 - Cincinnati 6, Pittsburgh 0
June 1, 2013 - Cincinnati 2, Pittsburgh 0

Lineups

Pirates (34-22)
1. Presley 9 
2. Marte 7 
3. Walker 4 
4. McCutchen 8 
5. Jones 3 
6. Martin 2 
7. Alvarez 5 
8. Mercer 6 
9. Gomez 1

Reds (35-21)
1. Choo 8 
2. Cozart 6 
3. Votto 3 
4. Bruce 9 
5. Frazier 5 
6. Paul 7 
7. Mesoraco 2 
8. Izturis 4 
9. Latos 1

Pirates Game 57 Preview - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Mike Leake (4-2, 3.02) vs. Francisco Liriano (3-1, 2.35)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 3-1)
April 12, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, Cincinnati 5
April 13, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Cincinnati 1
April 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 10, Cincinnati 7
May 31, 2013 - Cincinnati 6, Pittsburgh 0

Lineups

Pirates (34-21)
1. Presley 7 
2. Walker 4 
3. McCutchen 8 
4. Jones 3 
5. Martin 2 
6. Alvarez 5 
7. Snider 9 
8. Barmes 6 
9. Liriano 1

Reds (34-21)
1. Choo 8
2. Cozart 6
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips  4
5. Bruce 9
6. Frazier 5
7. Mesoraco 2
8. Robinson 7
9. Leake 1 

Pirates Game 56 Preview - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Johnny Cueto (2-0, 2.76) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (6-2, 3.58)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 3-0)
April 12, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, Cincinnati 5
April 13, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Cincinnati 1
April 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 10, Cincinnati 7

Lineups

Pirates (34-20)
1. Marte 
2. Walker 4 
3. McCutchen 8 
4. Jones 3 
5. Snider 9 
6. McKenry 2 
7. Alvarez 5 
8. Barmes 6 
9.Rodriguez 1

Reds (33-21)
1. Choo 8
2. Cozart 6
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips 4
5. Bruce 9
6. Frazier 5
7. Robinson 7
8. Hanigan 2
9. Cueto 1

Pirates Game 55 Preview - vs. Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Doug Fister (5-2, 3.65) vs. Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 2-1)
May 27, 2013 - Detroit 6, Pittsburgh 5
May 28, 2013 - Pittsburgh 1, Detroit 0 (11 inn.)
May 29, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 3


Lineups

Pirates (33-20)
1. Marte 7 
2. Walker 4 
3 McCutchen 8 
4. Jones 3 
5. Martin 2 
6. Snider 9 
7. Inge 5 
8. Mercer 6 
9. Locke 1

Tigers (29-22)
1. Infante 4
2. Dirks 9
3. Cabrera 5
4. Fielder 3
5. Peralta 6
6. Tuiasosopo 7
7. Pena 2
8. Garcia 8
9. Fister 1

Pirates Game 54 Recap - Pirates 5, Tigers 3

Again I wasn't able to watch the game as I was making a five hour car drive from Iowa to Wisconsin so I could only follow the game on my phone periodically but from what I saw and what I read on Twitter it was a wild game for the Pirates and they just keep winning. I watched the highlights as soon as I got home and I was probably just as pumped watching the highlights as I would have been watching the game live.

Neil Walker got the Pirates started with another home run, this one in the fourth inning for the first run of the game. I have been a little hard on Walker because I just don't think he is as good as some Pirates fans want him to be or think he is but when he is swinging the bat well you can see why people might think that. Over his last six games he is 11-for-25 with three home runs and five runs scored. He is just doing everything right now at the top of the lineup and it is good to see him coming through after really having a tough start to the season.

From what I saw and read A.J. Burnett was pretty good. He went six innings and gave up five hits but he walked four batters. You just can't do that. You can't walk multiple guys and for as good as Burnett has been this season he has been walking too many guys and while the offense was able to mask this problem tonight that isn't always going to be the case. All-in-all he was hurt in only one innings when Andy Dirks doubled with one out that scored Don Kelly who was walked to leadoff the inning. Dirks then scored on an opposite field home run by Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera has been really quiet this series so far so this was bound to happen. That was only his second hit of the series and for how amazing he has been thus far I will take that.

The Pirates got all they needed in the seventh inning. They had scuffled much of the day thanks to a really good outing from Anibal Sanchez but they were able to break through. With one out Garrett Jones singled and Russell Martin walked and then Pedro Alvarez doubled to left center on the first pitch he saw and then Travis Snider gave the Pirates the lead with a double to right field on the first pitch he saw. With the Tigers completely in control the Pirates flipped the switch. It ended with a squeeze play by Jordy Mercer after Snider moved to third with a wild pitch with Mercer reaching first base on a hit.

Just great stuff. The late inning magic and the Pirates went from being shut down by Sanchez to getting a win with a big inning. It isn't always going to work like this but you take wins however you can get them. This is going to be a tough stretch for the Pirates starting with the four game set against Detroit and tomorrow they are sending out Jeff Locke for the series win. Good time to be watching Pirates baseball.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pirates Game 54 Preview - vs. Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7.05 p.m.
Anibal Sanchez (5-4, 2.38) vs. A.J. Burnett (3-5, 2.57)

Season Series (Tied 1-1)
May 27, 2013 - Detroit 6, Pittsburgh 5
May 28, 2013 - Pittsburgh 1, Detroit 0 (11 inn.)


Lineups

Pirates (32-20)
1. Marte 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Martin 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Snider 9
8. Mercer 6
9. Burnett 1

Tigers (29-21)
1. Dirks 7
2. Hunter 9
3. Cabrera 5
4. Fielder 3
5. Peralta 6
6. Avila 2
7. Infante 4
8. Kelly 8
9. Sanchez 1

Penguins/Bruins ECF Schedule

Here is the schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals.

Game 1 - Saturday, June 1, 2013 - Boston at Pittsburgh - 8 p.m. (NBC)

Game 2 - Monday, June 3, 2013 - Boston at Pittsburgh - 8 p.m. (NBCSN)

Game 3 - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - Pittsburgh at Boston - 8 p.m. (NBCSN)

Game 4 - Friday, June 7, 2013 - Pittsburgh at Boston - 8 p.m. (NBCSN)

*Game 5 - Sunday, June 9, 2013 - Boston at Pittsburgh - 8 p.m. (NBCSN)

*Game 6 - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - Pittsburgh at Boston - TBD (NBCSN)

*Game 7 - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - Boston at Pittsburgh - TBD (NBCSN)

* - If necessary

Pirates Game 53 Recap - Pirates 1, Tigers 0 (11 inn.)

Thanks to some work activities I have going on I was not able to watch any of the game tonight but man, from what I saw on the live stats on my phone (that I checked every three minutes) the Pirates won a really good baseball game tonight. These are some good times to be a Pirates fan and if you are one of those people that won't take this team seriously or won't pay attention till they are playing well in August you are missing some really good times right now.

I am not going to lie to you guys, when Jeanmar Gomez was brought into the rotation I thought it was gonna be pretty bad. I was dead wrong. I don't know how he does it but tonight he went up against a really, really good Tigers lineup and held them to only three hits over seven innings where he threw only 73 pitches. Just let that sink in, he threw just a touch over ten pitches per inning. That is just freakin ridiculous. Like I said, I don't know how he does it but I am not complaining and hopes he keeps proving me wrong.

The Pirates offense hasn't always been great, but it was enough tonight. It would have been a shame to have Gomez go out there and pitch his ass off to be followed by two great innings from Justin Wilson and another stud performance by Mark Melancon only to come away with no runs and a loss. Thankfully Neil Walker capped off a three hit night with a bomb to right field. Oh baby.

Seriously though, how about Jason Grilli? The Piratse got him for nothing when the Phillies didn't want him anywhere near their bullpen and all he does is come to Pittsburgh and pitch his balls off for two years then becomes a shutdown closer. Tonight he came into the game and had to face Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder and all he did was record his 21 save in 21 chances and struck out all three hitters. He isn't going to have to go through a middle of the lineup like that many times this season but he did tonight and just flat dominated.

Great win for the Pirates. They will finish up this four game home-and-home series over the next two nights in Pittsburgh. What a win.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pirates Game 53 Preview - @ Detroit Tigers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers - 7:08 p.m.
Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.75) vs. Rick Porcello (2-2, 6.28)

Season Series (Detroit leads 1-0)
May 27, 2013 - Detroit 6, Pittsburgh 5


Lineups

Pirates (31-20)
1. Marte 7 
2. Walker 4 
3. McCutchen 8 
4. Jones DH 
5. Martin 2 
6 Alvarez 5 
7. Sanchez 3 
8. Snider 9 
9. Barmes 6 
Gomez RHP

Tigers (29-20)
1. Dirks 7 
2. Hunter 9 
3. Cabrera 5 
4. Fielder 3 
5. Martinez DH 
6. Peralta 6 
7 Avila 2 
8. Infante 4 
9. Kelly 8 
Porcello RHP

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pirates Game 52 Recap - Tigers 6, Pirates 5

To be perfectly honest this game was rather frustrating at the end. Some bad base running and questionable bullpen decision really led to a loss where the Pirates were able to somewhat take advantage of Justin Verlander and then still came up with a loss. In the grand scheme of things losses are going to happen but this would have been a great one to get. This is only the Pirates fourth loss in the last 18 games so it is still a good run but losing always sucks.

Verlander was still really good. He has struggled some this year but was able to go seven innings and struck out 13 Pirates. He had some nasty breaking pitches and looked dominant at times and then at other times the Pirates were able to get to him. They got seven hits and walked two more times and scoring three times off him so it was one of the better encounters they have had with him.

All told this came down to two different plays. The Pirates scored a pair of runs to make the score 4-3, a deficit of only one, against Verlander in the seventh inning and then in the bottom half of the inning Clint Hurdle turned to Jose Contreras. Contreras proceeded to walk four Tigers hitters and gave up a hit, only recording one out. It went from a one run deficit to a three run deficit. The Pirates were lucky to only be down three thanks to Tony Watson coming in and not giving up a run with the bases loaded and only one out.

The question I have is why was Contreras the guy out of the pen there? The Pirates had just made it a one run game and he calls on probably the worst arm in the pen to face the heart of the Tigers order that included Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. OK, so Hurdle said that he didn't want to use anyone else in the pen too often but at what point do you pull the plug? Obviously a point where Contreras only throw 11 strikes in a 30 pitch inning.

I get the idea that you don't want to burn up your pen but in a game where the Pirates were really starting to feel it offensively only to call on your worst reliever with the heart of the Tigers order up. Then you let him go out there and completely erase what your offense was able to do the half inning before. Why is Contreras on this team? Why is he on the 25 man roster? Bryan Morris was sent to Indianapolis today and Contreras was left on the roster. I am not saying that Morris has been pitching great but lets no pretend like Conreras has done anything to warrant a roster spot other than being a "clubhouse" guy that Hurdle seems to love to have on the team.

The second play that really was tough came in the eighth inning. The Pirates fought back against the Tigers pen and thanks to a Russell Martin ground ball that was played into an error by Fielder and a Gaby Sanchez double put the Pirates only down 6-5. Josh Harrison, who was just called up today thanks to Jose Tabata going to the disabled list, pinch ran for Sanchez and then was picked off second base. I have no idea what Harrison was doing. Maybe he was trying to get a good secondary lead or maybe he was trying to take third base but as the tying run already in scoring position that would have scored pretty easily on a single I am not sure what he was in a hurry for.

It was a dumb play by Harrison but it was a mistake. These kind of things happen over the course of a season and while that doesn't absolve Harrison it just sucked this happened at a horrible time. As you all probably know I am not a big Harrison fan as he really doesn't bring a lot to the team and while I am no Alex Presley fan I think he might have been a better player to come in for the spot left by Tabata. Not really sure why it was Harrison but after it was all done he was out playing left field in a one run game. Just no ideal.

That being said the Hurdle decision with Contreras cost this team more than the Harrison mistake. I can see how someone else might think otherwise but Hurdle is always doing stuff like this and it is beyond frustrating. I don't think I need to get into my feelings towards Hurdle as an in game manager.

Snider had a nice game as he had three hits while Walker, Garrett Jones, and Sanchez all had two hits.

Francisco Liriano wasn't very good today. He again wasn't able to go six innings and today he just didn't have it. At times he looked really good and he got through three innings clean but the control just wasn't there for him today. It happens. I think he has been pretty good so far this season and hopefully he can bounce back.

Nothing more to say. This is a four game set against the Tigers so this is playing the way the other four games series have gone: lose the first game and win the next three. Hopefully that continues.

Pirates Game 51 Preview - @ Detroit Tigers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers - 1:08 p.m.
Francisco Liriano (3-0, 1.00) vs. Justin Verlander (5-4, 3.66)


Lineups

Pirates (31-19)
1. Marte 7 
2. Walker 4 
3. McCutchen 8 
4. Jones DH 
5. Martin 2 
6. Alvarez 5 
7. Sanchez 3 
8. Snider 9 
9. Barmes 6 
Liriano 1

Tigers (28-20)
1. Infante 4
2. Hunter 9
3. Cabrera 5
4. Fielder 3
5. Martinez DH
6. Peralta 6
7. Tuiasosopo 7
8. Pena 2
9. Garcia 8
Verlander 1

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pirates Game 50 Recap - Pirates 5, Brewers 4

-The Pirates came in to the series against Milwaukee this weekend with a 7-46 record against the Brewers in Miller Park since 2007 and in one weekend came away with two wins and a series win for the first time in almost a year at Miller Park as they held on with a 5-4 win. I was at both of the wins and let me tell you it felt really good to go to a game and know the team had a better than average chance of picking up wins. Really awesome stuff after watching almost automatic losses the past few years when I would go to Miller Park. Yes.

-I talked about how the Pirates offense has been struggling a little bit and that it really needed to find some sort of groove to help out the Pirates pitchers and in the two wins that is exactly what happened. On Saturday the Pirates had nine hits and three home runs in a win and today they had ten hits and scored five runs against the Brewers. Wandy Rodriguez didn't have his best stuff and was knocked out after five innings with a high pitch count but the pen and the offense picked him up.

-Pedro Alvarez had a really nice series. Today he smacked a two run double in the third inning to make a 2-0 lead a 4-0 lead, a lead that the Pirates never gave up. Alvarez smacked a pair of home runs on Saturday and today he had the big hit that just nicked the right field line to drive home a couple of runs. He has struggled for much of the season but he has been winning this team some games with his bat and when he is doing that you can't really complain. Well, you could, but I am not going to.

-Jordy Mercer is proving why having John McDonald on the roster instead of him is dumb. He got the start at short and all he did was go 3-for-4 with a run driven in and a triple that he would then score on for the Pirates fifth run that would turn out to be the game winner. I know the Pirates are trying to spin this like he needs to get some every day at bats down in AAA but there are plenty of at bats for him to get if he sticks with the big club. Rich from This is Getting Old was talking after the game about it and what he said is exactly how I feel:







Absolutely agree with everything there. If Clint Hurdle wanted to find Mercer an acceptable amount of at bats he could. I just don't think he wants to. Hopefully Mercer can force his hand.

-I have no idea what the rest of the year holds for Vin Mazzaro but he has been pretty damn good so far this year. He isn't really that great of a pitcher but he has been getting some big outs and filling in nicely for some long relief. After Rodriguez went out of the game Mazzaro was called on to go two innings and all he did was hold the lead and not give up a run. It was a little tense when he came up with Ryan Braun at the plate and runners on first and third with two outs and he got him to ground out to second base. Just a really nice outing by Mazzaro.

-Andrew McCutchen is starting to get hot. He had two more hits today and over his last ten games he is 17-for-42 with seven multi-hit games and only one game where he didn't record a hit. The Pirates have been winning with McCutchen playing just decent baseball and if he gets hot then he can carry this entire team. He doesn't necessarily have to carry the team but having him hitting like this takes the offense to another level. It's fun to watch.

-Mark Melancon gave up his third run of the year in the eighth inning but with a two run lead that was OK. He and Jason Grilli shut it down. Again. Ho hum.

-I think what impressed me most today was the way the Pirates were able to bounce back after the Brewers looked like they were getting momentum. With a 4-0 lead the Pirates were cruising. They knocked out Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo after only four innings and with a below average pen the Pirates could chip away for some more runs. Well Milwaukee made a game of it. Rodriguez had a really tough inning as he loaded the bases for Braun who smoked a double that scored three runs in the fifth inning and things got really tight really fast. The Pirates bounced right back and with the help of Mercer's triple and a sacrifice fly from Starling Marte they got a run back the very next half inning. Any sort of momentum the Brewers had was taken away as the Pirates answered the bell. Sure they didn't get multiple runs but they got something. Previous Pirates teams would have folded and lost and this year there is a significant talent upgrade and they have guys throughout the lineup who can make plays. Bouncing back like that shows a lot about this team and it wins games. It did today.

-It is still way too early in the year to think about anything but the next game but the Pirates are now 12 games over .500 and getting wins in a lot of different ways from different people every night. This is a fun baseball team to watch and this is no longer a team that clubs like the Brewers can just laugh at and roll over. Enjoy watching this people.

-Verlander tomorrow. Buckle up.

Penguins/Senators Game Five NHL '94 Replay

The guys over at Benstonium come through in a big way again with a highlight/replay of the Penguins clincher over Ottawa in vintage NHL 1994 Sega style. It's a must watch.


Pirates Game 50 Preview - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers - 2:10 p.m.
Wandy Rodriguez (5-2 3.40) vs. 
Yovani Gallardo (3-4, 4.50)


Season Series (Pirates lead 5-4)

April 29, 2013 - Milwaukee 10, Pittsburgh 4
April 30, 2013 - Milwaukee 12, Pittsburgh 8
May 1, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, Milwaukee 4
May 13, 2013 - Milwaukee 5, Pittsburgh 1
May 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Milwaukee 3 (12 inn.)
May 15, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Milwaukee 1
May 16, 2013 - Pittsburgh 7, Milwaukee 1
May 24, 2013 - Milwaukee 2, Pittsburgh 1
May 25, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Milwaukee 2


Lineups 

Pirates (30-19)
1. Marte LF
2. Walker 2B
3. McCutchen CF
4. Jones RF
5. Sanchez 1B
6. Alvarez 3B
7. McKenry C
8. Mercer SS
9. Rodriguez P

Brewers (19-28)
1. Aoki 9
2. Segura 6
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Lucroy 2
6. Gomez 8
7. Weeks 4
8. Betancourt 3
9. Gallardo 1

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pirates Game 49 Preview - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers - 4:10 p.m.
Jeff Locke (4-1, 2.73) vs. Mike Fiers (1-2, 5.93)


Season Series (Tied 4-4)

April 29, 2013 - Milwaukee 10, Pittsburgh 4
April 30, 2013 - Milwaukee 12, Pittsburgh 8
May 1, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, Milwaukee 4
May 13, 2013 - Milwaukee 5, Pittsburgh 1
May 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Milwaukee 3 (12 inn.)
May 15, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Milwaukee 1
May 16, 2013 - Pittsburgh 7, Milwaukee 1
May 24, 2013 - Milwaukee 2, Pittsburgh 1


Lineups

Pirates (29-19)
1. Marte 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Martin 2
6. Walker 4
7. Alvarez 5
8. Barmes 6
9. Locke 1

Brewers (19-27)
1. Aoki 9
2. Segura 6
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Lucroy 2
6. Gomez 8
7. Weeks 4
8. Gonzalez 3
9. Fiers 1

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pirates Game 48 Recap - Brewers 2, Pirates 1

-It wasn't really a typical game in Milwaukee for the Pirates. OK, well, maybe it was. The Pirates still loss and then still go beat by Marco Estrada who is pretty bad against anyone else but the Pirates but in the same respect this wasn't a slugfest that usually takes place in Miller Park. There were a combined nine hits (five by the Pirates) and three runs scored (one for the Pirates) so that is what I mean when I say this wasn't typical for the Pirates in Milwaukee.

-Estrada really had another nice outing against the Pirates. I have no idea what it is about this guy but the Pirates just can't figure him out no matter what they do. It is wildly frustrating. He got through the first four innings without allowing a base runner and finished up going seven innings, allowing four hits, one run, and striking out eight. Ugh.

-On the other side A.J. Burnett was just as good. He went seven innings (again), gave up three hits, two runs, and struck out six while walking two. He really only had one rough inning and that came in the second inning. He walked Aramis Ramirez to leadoff the inning and then gave up a double to Carlos Gomez to put runners at second and third with nobody out. He then got Martin Maldonado to strike out and give a glimmer of hope that he could somehow get out of the inning. Unfortnately he gave up a double to Alex Gonzalez to plate both runs in what turned out to be the only runs the Brewers would get and the only runs they would need. The offense just didn't show up tonight. This isn't new for Burnett as you can see here:



Not good.


-Neil Walker had a pair of hits tonight in four at bats with the only run batted while Starling Marte (triple), Andrew McCutchen, and Gaby Sanchez had the only other hits. The Pirates only walked once and as I touched on before they just struck out a bunch tonight against Estrada and while they put some pressure on in the final three innings they just couldn't get that one big hit they have been getting.

-Bottom line is that the Pirates offense has really been struggling the last 10+ days. The starters and pen are getting the job done and have enabled the Pirates to pick up some wins they probably shouldn't have got but that is the way it works. The offense is going to go through ups and downs and right now they are going through some down time. It sometimes only takes one game to really get it going again and here is hoping that happens tomorrow against Mike Fiers.

-I know people are a little more worked up about this loss because of the Pirates history in Milwaukee but to be honest I don't think the Pirates played good tonight nor did they play bad, they just lost a game. We have seen the Pirates get beat in some brutal ways in Miller Park but this was just your run of the mill loss. Nothing crazy about it the Pirates just lost. Just like any other of the previous 18 losses. It might mean more to you because you hate the Brewers (if you are like me at least) but it isn't like the Pirates offense was rolling and they came in and laid an egg. If this was an isolated bad game where everything that has been going right went wrong them I might entertain the idea of this stuff about Miller Park but that wasn't the case. Build a wall around the loss and come back tomorrow and get a win.

Penguins ECSF Game 5 Recap - Penguins 6, Senators 2

 

-Things didn't really change much as the Penguins came out early and often to dominate Ottawa again and now they have a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals to face off against either the Boston Bruins (probably) or New York Rangers (probably not). -The feel of this game at the onset was that Ottawa didn't really have "it" and the Penguins took advantage by scoring a goal 6:25 into the game and then followed that up with a power play goal 7:38 into the second period. The Senators actually carried play for about a six minute stretch in the second period but all-in-all the Penguins were in complete control. It really left a lot to be desired for someone watch that might have wanted to see a more competitive game and while that would have been nice I think I can wait for that for another series.

 -Kris Letang really had a strong overall game. After a really putrid first period of game four Letang turned it around in a big way. Tonight he netted the Penguins third goal on a really nice play on 4-on-4 and sniped Craig Anderson high glove side. That pretty much ended the game even though Ottawa made it a two goal game a little later I really don't think the result was in doubt. Many people are going to point to Letang being paired with Mark Eaton as a sign of when Letang settles it down and I can't really argue with that. Letang did take some chances that could have cost the Penguins but he is a high right, high reward player and tonight he was high reward.

 -He might not show up in the scoresheet but Matt Cooke has had one hell of a series. In the first period everything the Penguins were doing well Cooke was right in the middle of it. There has been much talk about the type of player Cooke is and while most think he is just some goon that can't hack it he showed tonight why he isn't a good and why he is a guy that every team needs if they are going to make a run at the Stanley Cup. He was all over the ice and wreaking havoc as he consistently was beating Ottawa defensemen to the puck in their own zone. While Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said Cooke should be playing in the CHL and guys like him should be out of the league I would suggest he takes a look on his own bench at Chris Neil who was a complete embarrassment tonight.

 -Come to think of it that whole entire third line was really good tonight. It was probably one of their best performances in the postseason so far and while I talked about Brandon Sutter not playing up to snuff he had a really nice overall game tonight. Tyler Kennedy continues to be outstanding and the depth of the Penguins was on display and it was dominating.

 -James Neal might have been sparked by the first goal he got of the series and if that is the case for the rest of the playoffs then you better watch out. He netted a hat trick tonight was was filthy sick every single time he was on the ice. On his second he took a puck about five feet away from Anderson and used his unreal quick hands to beat him for the fifth goal of the game and then he scored the sixth goal of the game on a toe drag that left Erik Karlsson looking for his jock on the ice. That is what a great goal scorer does.

 -Anderson got roasted again. This time for a six spot and while he didn't have even good defense in front of him he was bad in four of the five games of the season. He was probably the best goaltender in the league during the regular season but this series he was just flat out bad. Again, the defense didn't help him in the least bit but he never came up with any big saves in a game other than game three.

 -The Penguins scored 47 goals through the first 11 playoff games. Whoa.

 -The Penguins struggled a good bit with faceoffs at times in this series but today they totally dominated. They won 40-of-69 total and Sidney Crosby won 21-of-31 chances. That is what we call dominating.

-All told this was exactly what you probably should have expected. It is extremely hard to sweep and team but what we saw this entire series was the Penguins on one level and Ottawa on a significantly lower level. Really great to see the Penguins come out and dominate a team they should have.

-Like I said before now the Penguins wait for the end of the other Eastern Conference Semifinal game. I don't think it really matters which team they play as I think each presents its own problems and matchup advantages but I wouldn't mind if the Rangers won a game or two more and they could beat each other up some. I am past picking teams I would rather play because it seems like every time I do that it turns out bad. I will say that whomever the Penguins play in the conference finals it will be a much more emotional investment from me, and from other Penguins fans in general.

Pirates Game 48 Preview - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers - 8:10 p.m.
A.J. Burnett (3-4, 2.57) vs. Marco Estrada (3-2, 5.44)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 4-3)

April 29, 2013 - Milwaukee 10, Pittsburgh 4
April 30, 2013 - Milwaukee 12, Pittsburgh 8
May 1, 2013 - Pittsburgh 6, Milwaukee 4
May 13, 2013 - Milwaukee 5, Pittsburgh 1
May 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Milwaukee 3 (12 inn.)
May 15, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Milwaukee 1
May 16, 2013 - Pittsburgh 7, Milwaukee 1


Lineups

Pirates (29-18)
1. Marte 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Sanchez 3
5. Martin 2
6. Walker 4
7. Inge 5
8. Barmes 6
9. Burnett 1

Brewers (18-27)
1. Aoki 9
2. Segura 6
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Gomez 8
6. Maldonado 2
7. Gonzalez 3
8. Bianchi 4
9. Estrada 1

Penguins Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 5 Preview - vs. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

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

The Penguins broke the door down in Ottawa on Wednesday night and really put a lot of doubt in the series with a 7-3 win. It was a close game in the first period with Craig Anderson stealing the show but that show was off the air for the final two periods as they chased him from the net for the second time in the series and forced the Senators to now win the next three games if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Going into this one it seems as if the Penguins are going to stay true to form with the same lineup. A good call as they might have played their most complete game of the playoffs on Wednesday night. The only tweak I could see happening is if Brenden Morrow comes back from what is being speculated as a bad shoulder/arm but if he decided to sit out and rest up another game and let Beau Bennett go out there and play then I don't think there would be anyone that would complain.

On the Ottawa side they are making some pretty sweeping changes in terms of line combinations. They are going big and loading up the top like with Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. I am not really sure what that is going to bring since Spezza is not himself and hasn't been good in the games he has come back so while they are going to get a lot of fluff from the name recognition but this doesn't really worry me all that much.

Colin Greening has had a really nice series and the second line with Kyle Turris and Erik Condra might be their best if the Penguins are going to take away that top line but all told I just don't think they have enough talent to carry this team. The Penguins have the top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis and when they are held down (like they have been at times this series) then you can roll out a second line with Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Jarome Iginla. So, yea, not a bad second line there.

Really this is going to have to be the Craig Anderson show. The Ottawa defense is starting to have a really tough time with the Penguins forwards and while that isn't a huge surprise they aren't doing a very good job of limiting the Penguins chances and when they aren't doing that then Anderson needs to be nearly perfect for them to have a chance in this game. Anderson has really only been good in one of the first four games of this series and it is not a coincidence as to when the Ottawa win came from. Anderson is good but he can't keep bailing this defense out.

The Penguins haven't closed out a series on home ice in some time. While I don't think that means anything and it will have zero to do with what happens tonight it will be the talk of the town the entire game. The Penguins give up an early goal and people will scream from the rooftop that there is some sort of curse at the CONSOL Energy Center which will be amazingly frustrating. That being said it would be great if the Penguins could wrap this up tonight. This would be the first series to end in this round and while I don't think an extended rest is mandatory it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a longer break before the conference finals.

Ottawa is going to come out strong. They have to. Despite what Alfredsson said after game four they are going to be playing like their career depends on it. The Penguins just need to play their game because they have proven that Ottawa can't hang with them and they know it.



Probables

Pittsburgh (7-3 in playoffs) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jarome Iginla - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Beau Bennett - Jussi Jokinen - Craig Adams

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Kris Letang - Matt Niskanen
Mark Eaton - Douglas Murray

Goaltender
Tomas Vokoun


Ottawa (5-4 in playoffs) (via Penguins website)

Forwards
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Erik Condra
Zack Smith - Mika Zibanejad - Jakob Silvferberg
Matt Kassian - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Chris Neil

Defense
Marc Méthot - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Andre Benoit
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar

Goaltender
Craig Anderson



The Series (Pittsburgh leads 3-1)

May 22, 2013 - Pittsburgh 7, Ottawa 3

May 19, 2013 - Ottawa 2, Pittsburgh 1 (2 OT) May 17, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 3 May 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 1 The Stats:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pirates Game 47 Recap - Pirates 4, Cubs 2

-Bottom line from this ten game winning streak is that the Pirates are awfully fun to watch right now and while the Reds went 8-2 on their most recent road trip the Pirates matched with an 8-2 home stand after a 4-2 win over the Cubs to sweep them. It hasn't always been pretty but the Pirates just somehow keep winning.



Yea, not pretty at all but they won eight games and the starting pitching has been fabulous in picking up the hitters. Man this has been a ton of fun to watch.

-The game was much like yesterdays as the Pirates scored runs early and leaned on the bullpen after a 1:45ish rain delay that knocked out Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez was actually good again and while most of his starts have been against below average offensive competition that is something that the Pirates weren't getting from Jonathan Sanchez. Gomez went 3.2 innings and gave up three hits and a run but was really getting the job done. His start was cut short but it is really encouraging to see him continually give solid innings despite usually only going five or so innings.

-The bullpen picked up the slack. Vin Mazzaro worked 2.1 innings and allowed only two hits which was then followed by Jose Contreras who had a tough outing and gave up a run before Justin Wilson and Jason Grilli shut the door down. I have been pretty down on the pen as a whole beside Grilli and Mark Malancon but Wilson has really pitched well so far in this young season. He typically serves as the long man but he can come in and throw a mid to upper 90s fastball from the left side which a lot of lefty relievers in the league just can't do.

-Anyways, the Pirates got a pair of runs in the first inning and two more in the second inning and those four runs are all they needed. Andrew McCutchen (3-for-4) and Starling Marte (2-for-3) were the highlights of the offense who got things started early. McCutchen is really seeing the ball well and with most other struggling he can really keep the team afloat if he is going to get hot and stay hot. Marte's hits were both on infield singles and while the Pirates were horrible in the leadoff spot last season it is good to see someone up there who can put pressure on the defense and set up McCutchen.

-The schedule was kind to the Pirates over the home stand but it gets much tougher going forward. The Pirates will spend the next three days in Milwaukee (if you are at the game let me know, I will be there Saturday, maybe Sunday) before having a weird home-and-home with Detroit in a four game series then follows by hosting Cincinnati and then traveling to Atlanta. That is a brutally tough schedule and it is pretty good that the Pirates stacked some wins in the process. Who knows what they will do but they have surprised me to an extent so far so nothing would really shock me. Most important to me is getting a few wins in Milwaukee. They took 3-of-4 from the Brewers when they were at PNC but playing at Miller Park is a whole different animal and it would be a significant mental hurdle to clear if they could win a few there.

Penguins Game 47 Preview - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 12:35 p.m.
Edwin Jackson (1-6, 5.76) vs. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.78)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 3-2)
April 1, 2013 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 1
April 3, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Chicago 0
April 4, 2013 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2
May 21, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4
May 22, 2013 - Pittsburgh 1, Chicago 0


Lineups

Pirates (28-18)
1. Marte 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. McKenry 2
7. Alvarez 5
8. Barmes 6
9. Gomez 1

Cubs (18-27)
1. DeJesus 8
2. Castro 6
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Schierholtz 9
6. Castillo 2
7. Valbuena 5
8. Barney 4
9. Jackson 1

Mike Lange ECSF Game Four Goal Calls

Here are the goal calls from last nights game against Ottawa that the Penguins won 7-3 thanks to the work of Benstonium.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Andrew McCutchen Interviews Anthony Bourdain

Just saw a link for this on Twitter and I think this was shown on Inside Pirates Baseball but for those of you that live out of town or missed it here is the Andrew McCutchen interview with famed TV Chef Anthony Bourdain. They talk about a few things such as what Bourdain would do if he was in charge of concessions at a ballpark and how McCutchen loves Eggo Waffles.

Penguins ECSF Game 4 Recap - Penguins 7, Senators 3

 

-This game was close for the first period as the Senators took advantage of some Penguins mistakes to take a 2-1 lead after one period. Craig Anderson was outstanding and made some ten bell saves almost every other shot and nothing was going right outside of a snipe goal from James Neal. You might have thought that the Senators played a pretty good first period but they really didn't. The Penguins dominated nearly the entire game and while they were getting robbed by Anderson in the first period you knew that if they kept getting the same chances they were getting in the first period that they would break through and win. That is exactly what happened. In a big way.

 -Coming in Ottawa had outscored its opponents 14-1 in the third period of games. Tonight they got outscored 4-1 in the third period with their goal coming after the game was already 7-2 in favor of the Penguins with five minutes left. The Penguins held a one goal advantage after two periods and they really put it away in the third with all four goals coming in the first 9:53 of the period. They scored a power play goal just two minutes in to give them a two goal advantage and then scored a pair of goals 40 seconds apart at about the eight minute mark. You could tell they had enough and wanted this game over and that is exactly how they treated it.

 -The best player on the ice tonight for the Penguins was James Neal. He has played a pretty good series but really hasn't been able to find the back of the net but tonight he scored a pair of goals and racked up nine shots on goal. Moreover he was great on the forecheck and was a little more physical than he usually is and you can tell that he is in the zone and it is great to see.

-Second best player on the ice tonight was Paul Martin. He didn't do anything flashy and you might not have noticed him but the little things he does in the defensive end just shuts down possible scoring chances and he is quietly good on the point of the power play. Despite his outstanding season he is still wildly underrated.

 -Jarome Iginla hasn't been very good in the playoffs so far despite his point total but tonight he was all over the ice. He scored a pair of goals and just looked good overall.

 -To be honest the whole second line was great. The only guy seemingly on the team who didn't record a point was Evgeni Malkin but he played another strong game and was the motor for that line that was the best on the ice.

 -The Penguins specialty units were good. I know that people are going to think that is a ridiculous statement as they gave up a shorthanded goal to give the Senators a 1-0 lead early but after that they were really good. The power play was good as they connected on 2-of-5 attempts and while they didn't score on three of those attempts it wasn't for a lack of chances. The second power play of the game was probably their best of the night but it didn't result in a goal. They had about five prime scoring chances but Anderson was there to stop them all and they probably would have scored on all five of those chances on most goaltenders. Pascal Dupuis scored a shorthanded goal thanks to some great work from Matt Cooke and the PK overall killed three of the Ottawa four power play chances.

 -Kris Letang was a roller coaster tonight. He played one of his worst periods of the season in the first but I think he gave himself a stern talking to at the intermission and came out worlds better in the second and third. He ended up with four points on the game and played decent defensive hockey so I am going to chalk this one up as just having a bad period. There are plenty who are going to suggest that they bench him or trade him or whatever but you can't match his talent on the blue line and he is going to be good more often than he is going to be what he was in the first period today.

 -Coming into the games in Ottawa the Penguins had a 2-0 series lead and I think most people thought a split would have been perfect going back to Pittsburgh. They lost a heart breaker in double overtime on Sunday and it got a lot of people down for some reason. They got a win tonight that really makes that loss a moot point and have the Penguins right where they thought they should be. Close it out on home ice on Friday.

 -To be honest with you the Penguins have dominated nearly this entire series. Sure Ottawa has a win but if I had to put a time stamp on it I would say Ottawa has been the better team for maybe 5-10 minutes this entire series.

 -Want to know how they feel about this in Ottawa? Check out what Daniel Alfredsson had to say:
Yikes.

Pirates Game 46 Recap - Pirates 1, Cubs 0

-This game was all about Francisco Liriano. When the Pirates signed him I liked the signing and thought he could be pretty good for a rotation that was looking to be pretty mediocre. I never thought that Liriano would come out and be as good as he has so far this season. Tonight he went seven innings, gave up two hits and no runs. With the pen being used a lot this season any time you can get seven from your starter then you can consider it a successful start. Add to that the Pirates got a run in the first inning and nothing after that and you can be really impressed with what Liriano did. In his first three starts Liriano has thrown 18 innings, given up only two runs, 14 hits, struck out 25, and only walked six. I can deal with that.

-The lone run of the game game in the first inning. After things started off slowly with the first two hitters getting out Andrew McCutchen doubled down the left field line and then Garrett Jones singled up the middle to plate McCutchen. That is pretty much all the offense the Pirates got and all they would need. Good enough for me.

-Jeff Samardzija was on the bump for the Cubs and he has owned the Pirates over his career. I don't usually like to use career stats because team change from year-to-year but he has been nothing short of great every time he has started over the last two years against the Pirates. Getting a win when he was on the rubber was going to be a tough task but the Pirates did it. Samardzija was very good tonight has he went seven innings and gave up only three hits but two of those hits led to a run. His team didn't hit the ball, at all, but he didn't deserve a loss.

-McCutchen is really good. He went 2-for-4 as he had half of the teams hits on the day and he doubled twice. He was on base a third time when he reached on a rare strikeout. He was just all over the place and while he hasn't been rewarded for a lot of hard hit balls but when he is driving the ball to the opposite field like he did on his second double today then you know he is feeling it.

-I honestly thought the Pirates were going to have trouble with this series. I somewhat expected them to lose this series, especially with the Cubs throwing some of their top arms and getting Matt Garza back but the Pirates have quietly took the fist two games. While they haven't played well in either game it doesn't matter how you win as long as you win. With a tough slate coming up getting a sweep tomorrow would be huge.

Pirates Game 46 Preview - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 3.49) vs. Francisco Liriano (2-0, 1.64)

Season Series (Tied 2-2)
April 1, 2013 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 1
April 3, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Chicago 0
April 4, 2013 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2
May 21, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4


Lineups

Pirates (27-18)
1. Marte 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Martin 2
7. Alvarez 5
8. Mercer 6
9. Liriano 1

Cubs (18-26)
1. Borbon 8
2. Castro 6
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Hairston 9
6. Castillo 2
7. Ransom 5
8. Barney 4
9. Samardzija 1

Penguins Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 4 Preview - @ Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:30 p.m., Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, Ontario

The Penguins had a chance to really put this series away on Sunday night and with a minute left it looked like they were going to do so. They were up 1-0 and had just gone on the power play. They were a man up with less than two minutes to go so you assume to just play keep away and not let anyone get behind you and you were goign to be up 3-0 in the series and really put Ottawa away. Well, the Penguins couldn't keep the puck and someone did get behind him and the Penguins are only up 2-1 in the series rather than 3-0. It was a double overtime game that was lost and while it sucked that is playoff hockey for you. You never know what is going to happen.

Tonight the Penguins can accomplish their goal, I assume, which would be to split in Ottawa after winning both games in Pittsburgh and go back to the CONSOL Energy Center up 3-1. I talked about how rare sweeps were in the last preview (14 since the last lockout) so to think the Penguins were going to sweep this series would have been a little optimistic.

Ottawa needed their goaltender to come out and steal a game and he did. He made 49 saves and only a second period goal from Tyler Kennedy found the back of the net. I don't think that Anderson will be that good for too many games but he most certainly will be better than his first two games in this series, one of which he was pulled in.

Not too many changes expected in the lineup. Jussi Jokinen looks to be the only new face in the lineup as he will center the fourth line in place of Joe Vitale. The Penguins were worked in two of the three periods on Sunday in the faceoff circle and Jokinen came come in and make an immediate impact in that aspect. The Penguins lost a ton of defensive zone faceoffs on Sunday and when you are playing a tight checking close game every chance you have to get an extra possession could mean the difference between a win and a loss. If Jokinen can come in and win a few of those that would be pretty huge, epecially if they have a lead late.

Ottawa was much more physical in game three and I would only assume that they will try and do the exact same thing this game. The Penguins are the more talented team and I don't think you would find many that would even begin to challenge that notion but one way you can take them off their game is to get in their face as much as possile. While talented there are some players (Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang) that are easy to get off their games and that will take a dumb penalty. If the Senators can continue to throw the body it will only help them but they have to first make sure to keep the game close or they won't be able to do that.

A guy that really needs to step up is Brandon Sutter. He was pretty outstanding during the regular season but so far this playoffs he has been somewhat invisible. There are some that are saying he might be hurt and nursing an injury but since we don't hear much about stuff like this until after the fact you can only assume he is healthy and he needs to be better. If the Penguins want to make a charge at the cup they need to have four solid lines and that success of that third line really falls on the shoulders of Sutter.


Probables

Pittsburgh (6-3 in playoffs) (via Empty Netters)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jarome Iginla - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Brenden Morrow - Jussi Jokinen - Craig Adams

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Kris Letang - Matt Niskanen
Mark Eaton - Douglas Murray

Goaltender
Tomas Vokoun


Ottawa (5-3 in playoffs) (via Empty Netters)

Forwards
Jakob Silvferberg - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Mark Stone
Zack Smith - Mika Zibanejad - Chris Neil
Colin Greening - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Erik Condra

Defense
Marc Méthot - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Andre Benoit
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar

Goaltender
Craig Anderson


The Series (Pittsburgh leads 2-1)

May 19, 2013 - Ottawa 2, Pittsburgh 1 (2 OT)

May 17, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 3 May 14, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 1 The Stats:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pirates Game 45 Recap - Pirates 5, Cubs 4

-For five innings the Pirates offense was getting dominated by Matt Garza. He had them off balance and while they were able to work his pitch count up they just weren't making any good contact and things looked pretty bad. It was Garza's first game of the season so his pitch count was held in check so you knew the Pirate were going to get to the pen. When they did it was all good.

-The Pirates sent 11 men to the plate in the sixth inning and scored five runs which was topped by a pinch hit grand slam by Travis Snider and that was all the Pirates needed. The Cubs had to use three relievers in that inning and they made all of them pay. The offense wasn't good anywhere outside of that but sometimes all you need is one good inning of hitting to get a win and that is what happened.

-Wandy Rodriguez pitch pretty well except for one inning and was able to earn the win. He threw six innings, gave up six hits, and struck out five but all the damage against him came in the top of the second inning. In that inning he gave up all three runs thanks to a Darwin Barney two out single and then a Garza double right after. After that he really got things in check and while he did give up six hits he didn't walk a single hitter and managed the game really well.

-The Pirates only had eight hits on the night but they made the ones they got count. Jordy Mercer had two hits and was the only player with more than one even though he came in as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning. Probably the best hitter for the Pirates was Neil Walker. He went 1-for-2 with a double but also walked three times. Walker hasn't been hitting well all season but today he was the only guy who was consistently getting on base.

-The Pirates really needed this win. They get to go against three really tough starters from the Cubs and while a sweep would be nice I think almost everyone would be more than happy with just winning the series. Tomorrow they go against Jeff Samardzija who has always pitched the Pirates tough and is probably one of the most underrated starters in the league. They then go against Edwin Jackson on Thursday afternoon where you could get a great Jackson or one that has n't been great this year.

-I rail against Clint Hurdle a lot, and for good reason, but tonight he made a really nice move that paid off in a big way. With two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning Clint Barmes was coming up to bat but instead of sending Barmes up he decided to go with Snider. It turned out to be a good call as Snider went deep and gave the Pirates the game winning run. Barmes has been swinging the bat really well over the last month so it wouldn't have shocked me to see him bat but Hurdle went with the platoon option and it paid off. Nice move by Hurdle. One I didn't think he would make.

-The Pirates probably had no reason winning this game. The offense has been in a funk recently and if it weren't for Garza just coming off the DL I would assume he might have pitched another inning or two. While they didn't play their best baseball they still go the win and that is good enough for me. All wins count the same and with a tough schedule coming up you have to stack wins any way you can. This is a fun baseball team to watch right now and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Pirates Game 45 Preview - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Matt Garza (0-0, 0.00) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25)

Season Series (Chicago leads 2-1)
April 1, 2013 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 1
April 3, 2013 - Pittsburgh 3, Chicago 0
April 4, 2013 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2


Lineup

Pirates (26-18)
1. Tabata 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Martin 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Sanchez 3
8. Barmes 6
9. Rodriguez 1

Cubs (18-25)
1. Borbon 8
2. Castro 6
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Hairston 9
6. Castillo 2
7. Ransom 5
8. Barney 4
9. Garza 1

Monday, May 20, 2013

Penguins ECSF Game 3 Recap - Senators 2, Penguins 1



[Quick recap today after the late night]

-Well, that was not really ideal. Overtime games can be pretty tense and despite the success that the Penguins have had in overtimes in the playoffs, and during the 2013 regular seasons, this shouldn't have been a huge problem but it ended up being one. First was getting to overtime as Ottawa scored a shorthanded game tying goal with around 30 seconds left and then won the game in the second overtime after Mark Eaton's broken stick really caused somewhat of a scramble. The Penguins went from a 3-0 series lead and practically winning this series to the series being 2-1 in favor of the Penguins and having another game in Ottawa. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

-All told, the loss aside, this was the best hockey game to watch in the playoffs so far for the Penguins, and maybe the league. There weren't a ton of goals scored but both the Penguins and Senators played a really good hockey game and both goaltenders were locked in. There were some mistakes and power plays but it didn't nearly take away from the viewing pleasure of the game. While I want the Penguins to win every game I know that is not possible. Going into game three I actually expected the Penguins to lose and while I expected the win with just minutes left in the game I can walk away saying that was an outstanding game to watch on TV.

-Tomas Vokoun was really good. This was his best game of the playoffs so far and the Penguins needed it. He gave up the goal in the second overtime but when your offense only puts one in the back of the net you probably played a pretty good game in order to even get to a second overtime. He made 46 saves and generally was great. Really good to see.

-On the other side before the series I talked about how Craig Anderson needed to steal a few games for Ottawa to have a chance and he stole the first of those last night. He was pretty average/bad in games one and two but he was on the top of his game in game three. Ottawa needed him to be great and he was better than great.

-Despite a lot of people railing on Malkin for the end of the regulation play on the tying goal but he was probably the best player on the ice on the night. He did everything but score a goal and it is realy nice to see him stepping up as he has been really great in this series thusfar. People continually rip Malkin for no reason. I really don't understand it.

-The Ottawa penalty kill is playing like it has in the regular season. The Penguins were on the power play six times, including a full minute of 5-on-3, and didn't find the back of the net one time. The power play wasn't exactly bad it was just Ottawa, and Anderson, did a great job of limited the Penguins and giving themselves a chance to win the game.

-The big talk of the game is the final minute. Erik Karlsson took a penalty with the Senators down one with just over a minute and a half left and that should have just about done it. Instead the Penguins kind of sat back and took their foot off the gas and Daniel Alfredsson darted through the defense from the blue line right behind Malkin and got a pass that went by Kris Letang to beat Vokoun. A lot of people are railing Dan Bylsma for having Malkin on the ice when you are essentially killing a penalty but at the same time he is one of your best players and if he is on the ice he needs to make the play. THe Penguins should have probably pushed the play a little more and played keep away but if you want that then Malkin has to be on the ice as his puck possession was on another level last night. I had somewhat of a problem with Malkin being on the ice at the time last night but as I thought about it I realy don't have as much problem with it. Ideally you might want to have Pascal Dupuis on the ice if you want to play a certain way but there is a possibility that they weren't able to get him on the ice. I really have no idea. People are going to talk about this series of events as to why the Penguins lost but that would be wrong. There were 59 other regulation minuts where they could have added one more goal to make this a moot point and they didn't. That is just as big of a problem.

-The Penguins played a really good hockey game. Maybe the best of the post season so far. It sucks they lost but the goaltender got hot and stole his team a game. It was the first time this postseason the Penguins have scored less than three goals so I expect a better offensive performance on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Penguins Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 3 Preview - @ Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

7:30 p.m., Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, Ontario

The Penguins got off on the right foot with a two game sweep of the Senators to hold serve on home ice and now really put themselves in a really good spot now that the series shifts to Canada for game three and four of the series. Realistically if the Penguins come out of these two games with a split then they will be in a spot that they probably want to be in and give themselves a chance to close out the series in Pittsburgh on Friday. I don't think you can expect a sweep in this series after just two games because it is extremely hard to sweep a series in the NHL. Since the last NHL lockout there have only been 14 sweeps in the playoffs in seven season with no season having more than three sweeps in all of the series. While it is possible it is just something that doesn't happen very often.

Ottawa is going to come out guns blazing today. If there was ever a time that the Penguins were going to have to weather the storm it is going to be in this game. Scotiabank Place is going to be loud and the Senators are going to want to jump on the Penguins right off the bat and try to take their first lead of the series. The Penguins have got off to fast starts in both of the games so far in this series and while they are talented enough to do that again I would be a little surprised if they had such an easy time at the beginning of the game like they had this year.

The big news in Ottawa today is that they will be welcoming back Jason Spezza to the lineup. Spezza is the teams top line center who has been out almost the entire season with a back problem and is now just getting back into the lineup. Spezza is a superior talent in the NHL but I would be pretty surprised if he came in and had the effect that some are thinking he might. He has been skating with the team and on his own for a little while now but on Saturday he finally took off the no contact jersey and had his normal top line jersey on for the first time. So theoretically he has had one practice with his line and now he is jumping in to a game three in the second round of the NHL Playoffs. I can't imagine that Spezza is anywhere near ready to compete at the highest level and this move just smells of desperation from the Ottawa perspective. They are a desperate team so I guess it fits the mold. I guess it wouldn't shock me to see him have a significant game but I am really thinking he is going to be a non-factor tonight.

A couple of lineup changes for the Penguins as Mark Eaton is going to be in the lineup in place of Deryk Engelland. This really isn't a shocker as Engelland has been pretty bad in the first two games and Eaton has been pretty solid all season. Eaton didn't play a ton in the New York series as he was a little out of place with the speed of the Islanders but he should have an easier time against Ottawa. Also looks as if Tanner Glass will be in the lineup as Joe Vitale was absent from the Penguins morning skate with an injury. Nothing for sure on what the injury may be and you know that Dan Bylsma isn't going to give out too much information in that respect but Glass will be in.


Probables

Pittsburgh (6-2 in playoffs)

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
James Neal - Evgeni Malkin - Jarome Iginla
Brenden Morrow - Brandon Sutter - Matt Cooke
Tanner Glass - Craig Adams - Tyler Kennedy

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Kris Letang - Matt Niskanen
Mark Eaton - Douglas Murray

Goaltender
Tomas Vokoun


Ottawa (4-3 in playoffs)

Forwards
Cory Conacher - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Jakob Silfverberg - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Zack Smith - Mika Zibanejad - Chris Neil
Colin Greening - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Erik Condra

Defense
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Andre Benoit

Goaltender
Craig Anderson


The Series (Pittsburgh leads 2-0)

May 13, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 1

May 16, 2013 - Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 3 The Stats: