Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pirates Game 81 Preview - vs. New York Mets

New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates - 4:05 p.m.
Jonathon Niese (4-4, 2.78) vs. Gerrit Cole (6-3, 3.64)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 3-2)
May 26, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 3
May 27, 2014 - New York 4, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
May 28, 2014 - New York 5, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]
June 26, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 2 [Recap]
June 27, 2014 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 2 (11 inn.)


Lineups

Pittsburgh (41-39)

The Pirates lineup still hasn't been announced at the time I am writing this and it is less than an hour before the game. I would check the Pirates official Twitter account. Maybe the Pirates will have one before the game starts.

New York (36-44)
1. Granderson 9
2. Tejada 6
3. Murphy 4
4. Duda 3
5. Campbell 5
6. Nieuwenhuis 8
7. Recker 2
8. Niese 1
9. Young Jr. 7

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pirates Game 80 Preview - vs. New York Mets

New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jacob deGrom (1-4, 3.75) vs. Brandon Cumpton (3-2, 4.93)

Season Series (Tied 2-2)
May 26, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 3
May 27, 2014 - New York 4, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
May 28, 2014 - New York 5, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]
June 26, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 2 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (40-39)
1. Polanco 9
2. Snider 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. Martin 2
6. Davis 3
7. Alvarez 5
8. Mercer 6
9. Cumpton 1

New York (36-43)
1. Granderson 9
2. Murphy 4
3. Wright 5
4. Duda 3
5. Young 7
6. Lagares 8
7. Tejada 6
8. d'Arnaud 2
9. DeGrom 1

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pirates Game 79 Recap - Pirates 5, Mets 2

I am officially all-in on Vance Worley. Probably not a great idea but I don't care, this dude has just been money since coming into the rotation. Sure it has only been a few starts but tonight he was good again going seven innings, giving up seven hits, one run, and walked only two. He threw 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes and while he doesn't have overpowering stuff he is able to spot it where he wanted and the Mets couldn't do anything.

The Pirates offense got off to a slow start but finished with eight hits including three hits from Pedro Alvarez and two more from Gregory Polanco. Polanco drove in four runs including a mister three run blast to extend the Pirates lead in the fifth inning. The crazy thing about Polanco is that he can bomb a home run like that and then in his next at bat he can take a pitch on the outer half and send it to the left side of the infield for a base hit. This kid is the real deal and once he starts to figure things out he's going to be scary good. He's just getting his feet wet and that is pretty awesome as a Pirates fan.



All told this was a pretty simple Pirates win. They got out to a 5-1 lead and didn't let the Mets have too many chances. When the Mets did have a chance the Pirates shut them down. Josh Harrison was playing left field tonight (no idea why) and had an outfield assist throwing out Bobby Abreu at home and then got a pair of double plays. The Pirates defense hasn't been overly good all year but recently they have been playing some good ball and it absolutely helped them out today.

It wouldn't be a Pirates game without a mind numbing managerial decisions from Clint Hurdle. I mean holy hell was this one a doozy tonight. With runners on first and second and no outs Harrison, who was hitting second, was asked to bunt. With one out Andrew McCutchen was intentionally walked and then Neil Walker hit into an inning-ending double play. So, lets recap. Not only did the Pirates give away an out with their two hitter but they allowed their best hitter, and one of the best hitters in all of baseball, not swing the bat. Coming into the game tonight Harrison was hitting .310/.358/.460 in June and McCutchen was hitting .351/.413/.713 in June. Neither of them got the chance to swing the bat. How on Earth was this a good idea. I literally am speechless as to why Hurdle thought this was a good idea. Taking the bat out of your two best hitters of the month AND giving up an out. Why in the hell? I can't even do this anymore.

I didn't want to end this on a down note the Pirates played a nice game and took the first game of the four game set. All the Pirates need to do is keep winning series' and they took a step in the right direction tonight.

Pirates Game 79 Preview - vs. New York Mets

New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-1, 2.68) vs. Vance Worley (1-0, 1.98)

Season Series (New York leads 2-1)
May 26, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, New York 3
May 27, 2014 - New York 4, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
May 28, 2014 - New York 5, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (39-39)
1. Polanco 9
2. Harrison 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. Martin 2
6. Davis 3
7. Alvarez 5
8. Mercer 6
9. Worley 1

New York (36-42)
1. Granderson 9
2. Murphy 4
3. Wright 5
4. Duda 3
5. Abreu 7
6. Lagares 8
7. d’Arnaud 2
8. Tejada 6
9. Matsuzaka 1

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pirates Game 78 Preview - @ Tampa Bay Rays

Pittsburgh Pirates at Tampa Bay Rays - 12:10 p.m.
Charlie Morton (4-8, 3.47) vs. David Price (5-7, 3.81)

Series (Pittsburgh leads 2-0)
June 23, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Tampa Bay 1 [Recap]
June 24, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Tampa Bay 5 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (39-38)
1. Polanco 9
2. Harrison 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Sanchez 3
5. Martin DH
6. Mercer 6
7. Walker 4
8. Barmes 6
9. Stewart 2
Morton P

Tampa Bay (31-48)
1. Jennings 8
2. Zobrist 6
3. Joyce DH
4. Longoria 5
5. Loney 3
6. Guyer 7
7. Kiermaier 9
8. Forsythe 4
9. Molina 2
Price P

Penguins To Hire Mike Johnston As Head Coach



Not going to pretend to know anything about him. Seems as if everyone is jammed up about this already. Who cares who coaches the team?

What I don't get is that people would be more than happy to have a former NHL coach when another team thought he (whomever it was) was so bad that they had to fire him. So really this is a no-win no matter who the coach is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pirates Game 77 Recap - Pirates 6, Rays 5

What the Pirates needed to accomplish in these first two games was get two wins and give themselves a chance to sweep the leg on Wednesday afternoon. The Pirates did just that. Chris Archer has been pretty good all season but the Pirates touched him up for five runs and the Tampa Bay offense did nothing against Jeff Locke and the Pirates are a game above .500. So, you know, the usual.

Locke gave the Pirates yet another good start and went 7.1 innings, giving up three runs, eight hits, and two walks. He threw 69 of his 104 pitches for strikes and even though his line doesn't look that great he was in control of the Rays lineup the entire night. Locke got the help of two more double plays and allowed only one run through seven innings before giving up a two run shot to Evan Longoria in the eighth inning. I talked about it the last couple of recaps but the Pirates have had a tough time getting starters deep into games but the starting staff has done a great job of getting into the seventh inning recently and it has helped this fragile bullpen get a breath.

The Pirates offense went to work tonight against a pretty good pitcher who has been pretty lights out recently. In his last seven starts (arbitrary endpoints, I know) Archer had a 0.89 ERA and that includes a game where he went only three innings, giving up six runs. He held hitters to a .192 average and a .517 OPS. He was rock solid. The Pirates offense had seven hits and five runs off him in seven innings of work. This Pirates offense is pretty damn good and they got out in front and made sure the Rays didn't have a chance from the beginning. They sent eight men to the plate in the third inning to score three runs and then added some insurance later in the game. When you are scoring runs like the Pirates are you are going to win a lot of games and that is what they are doing.

Some bigger news tonight was that Starling Marte had to leave the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. He attempted to steal second base and had the front of his face hit by a knee of the player covering the bag (not sure who was covering). At first I just through it was Marte checking his face to make sure he didn't break his nose but I think it is a little more serious than that. When Marte stood up be couldn't keep his balance and had to be helped off the field by two trainers. Not good. He left the game with concussion-like symptoms and I would be shocked if he wasn't on the DL tomorrow. I guess we know where Josh Harrison's playing time is coming from.

Besides that it was another good overall performance from the Pirates. Mark Melancon made it pretty interesting in the ninth inning but the offense got hits from all through the order and added on to the lead throughout the night. Turns out they needed those runs later in the game but again the offense and Locke won this game. That is a good thing to write and something I didn't think I would be saying at the beginning of the year.

Pirates Game 77 Preview - @ Tampa Bay Rays

Pittsburgh Pirates at Tampa Bay Rays - 7:10 p.m.
Jeff Locke (0-1, 3.76) vs. Chris Archer (4-4, 3.14)

Series (Pittsburgh leads 1-0)
June 23, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Tampa Bay 1 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (38-38)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. Martin 2
6. Davis 3
7. Harrison 5
8. Alvarez DH
9. Mercer 6
Locke P

Tampa Bay (31-47)
1. Jennings 8
2. Zobrist 9
3. Guyer 7
4. Longoria 5
5. Loney 3
6. Escobar 6
7. Rodriguez 4
8. Forsythe DH
9. Hanigan 2
Archer P

Pirates Game 76 Recap - Pirates 8, Rays 1

The Pirates really needed to win this game on Monday. They were facing Alex Cobb who hasn't been overly good this year before facing Chris Archer and David Price. Not winning this game would have put the Pirates behind the eight ball in some unfavorable pitching match ups and while the pitchers have been lights out for the Pirates you can't really count on the trio of Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke, and Vance Worley forever. Last night Edison Volquez gave them another solid start and went eight innings giving up only one run and five hits. You know, the normal.

Volquez was a huge question mark going into the season and besides a small rough patch he's been exactly what the Pirates have needed this year. Last night he only struck out one hitter but the Rays got no hard contact and induced three double plays and threw 68 of his 110 pitches for strikes. He just keeps impressing me and while the Pirates offense did more than enough Volquez made sure that the bullpen wasn't going to let this one go away and that the Pirates could cruise to victory.

The Pirates offense continued to rake as they had 10 hits to go along with four walks and they scored eight runs over four different innings. They scored two runs in the first inning and then four more in the third inning to really put this game away before anything could get interesting. Every hitter in the lineup had at least one hit except for Ike Davis who drove in a run with a groundout in the first inning. So every hitter got a piece of the pie and that is exactly what you like to see from the offense.

Pedor Alvarez homered for the first time since June 3 in the third inning with a massive three run bomb. Cobb gave up a run scoring single to Andrew McCutchen before getting a pair of outs. He then walked Josh Harrison on four straight pitches and the first pitch to Alvarez went 426 feet to center field. He tried a get-me-over fastball that ended up going middle-middle at 90 mph and Alvarez did exactly what you expect him to do to a pitch like that. Alvarez has been hitting a lot better than a lot of people have been giving him credit for but the lack of power has somewhat been confusing. If he can start putting balls into the gap and over the fence while keeping the type of approach he's had over the month of June then he's going to be scary dangerous for any pitcher to face.

Really the story of the game today was Volquez. I know I talked about him a good before earlier but getting him to go eight innings was just huge. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon were both unavailable last night and when your two best relievers can't go you need to get some innings from your starter. Volquez did that. The Pirates starters have had a really tough time getting deep into games but over the past week they have been getting through seven innings which is a sight for sore eyes if you are a Pirates fan. Just great stuff.

The Pirates go against Archer tonight and if you don't think I want the Pirates to trade for him just so I can make unlimited Archer references then you don't know anything.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pirates Game 76 Preview - @ Tampa Bay Rays

Pittsburgh Pirates at Tampa Bay Rays - 7:10 p.m.
Edinson Volquez (4-6, 4.67) vs. Alex Cobb (2-5, 3.48)


Lineups

Pittsburgh (37-38)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Harrison 4
7. Alvarez 5
8. Snider DH
9. Mercer 6
Volquez P

Tampa Bay (31-46)
1. Jennings 8
2. Zobrist 4
3. Longoria 5
4. Loney 3
5. Guyer 7
6. Joyce DH
7. Escobar 6
8. Kiermaier 9
9. Hanigan 2
Cobb P

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pirates Game 75 Preview - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 2:20 p.m.
Brandon Cumpton (2-2, 5.82) vs. Jason Hammel (6-4, 3.02)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 8-4)
March 31, 2014 - Pittsburgh 1, Chicago 0 (10 inn.) [Recap]
April 2, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 3 (16 inn.) [Recap]
April 3, 2014 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 8, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 5 [Recap]
April 9, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 10, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4 [Recap]
June 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 10, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 3 [Recap]
June 11, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 12, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 0 [Recap]
June 20, 2014 - Chicago 6, Pittsburgh 3 [Recap]
June 21, 2013 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 3 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (36-38)
1. Polanco 9
2. Harrison 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Mercer 6
6. Alvarez 5
7. Snider 7
8. Stewart 2
9. Cumpton 1

Chicago (31-41)
1. Coghlan 7
2. Sweeney 8
3. Rizzo 3
4. Castro 6
5. Valbuena 5
6. Schierholtz 9
7. Baker 2
8. Barney 4
9. Hammel 1

Pirates Game 74 Recap - Pirates 5, Cubs 3

A pretty bad storm ripped through Chicago and caused a two hour rain delay so there was a possibility of some #weirdbaseball last night. Unfortunately Travis Wood and Vance Woorley worked pretty quickly so there was no need for ice cream.

The Pirates had another nice offensive outing against Wood. He was forced to be yanked before throwing five innings and thanks to a Jordy Mercer home run and run scoring singles by Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen the Pirates held a 3-2 lead.

Worley was pretty good for his second straight start. He nearly went seven innings (6.2) and gave up three runs on five hits. He walked only one guy and threw 68 of his 89 pitches for strikes. The thing about Worley is that he doesn't mess around. He doesn't have great stuff as he sat right around 91 but he pounds the strike zone. There is no nibbling around the zone for the perfect pitch, he is going to throw strikes and make you beat him. I think at some point this is going to hurt him but this is a good thing as he isn't going to walk a lot of hitters and he is going to let the defense play for him.

The offense last night wasn't as prolific as it has been for much of the season but they got runs when they needed them. Anthony Rizzo homered off Worley in the bottom of the fourth inning to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead and the very next half inning the Pirates sent seven men to the plate, chased Wood, and collected a pair of runs on three hits. That was huge to take back control of the game right away and that is exactly what the offense did.

Jason Grilli is no longer the Pirates closer and with that the backend of the bullpen is going to get shifted around a little bit. Jared Hughes came in to relieve Worley in the seventh inning and got a fly out which left Tony Watson to cover the eighth and Mark Melancon to close it out.

It worked out exactly how it was supposed to, but not by design. It just so happened that the Cubs top of the lineup was up in the eighth inning with Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo hitting, bot lefties. It took Watson nine pitches to get through three batters and not a single ball left the infield. Those are the guys that Watson should be facing in a game like this and even though it was pure coincidence that he faced that part of the lineup that is how it should work every time.

Melancon was just dirty last night. The scoreless inning he pitched for the save was probably the best inning he has thrown all season. He threw 12 pitches and got three strikeouts and while he usually relies on the cutter to get outs his curveball was filthy last night. He got the strikeout with that pitch each time and he made the Cubs hitters look awfully stupid.

A lot was made about how Melancon wasn't pitching well this year when he went through a little bit of a rough patch, but the dude has been good all year. Between he and Watson they can be a very good backend of the bullpen if Clint Hurdle is going to stick with set roles (he will) and they are nearly interchangeable. It's a good thing to have if you are a baseball team.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pirates Game 74 Preview - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 7:15 p.m.
Vance Worley (0-0, 0.00) vs. Travis Wood (7-5, 4.48)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 7-4)
March 31, 2014 - Pittsburgh 1, Chicago 0 (10 inn.) [Recap]
April 2, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 3 (16 inn.) [Recap]
April 3, 2014 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 8, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 5 [Recap]
April 9, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 10, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4 [Recap]
June 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 10, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 3 [Recap]
June 11, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 12, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 0 [Recap]
June 20, 2014 - Chicago 6, Pittsburgh 3 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (35-38)
1. Polanco 9
2. Harrison 5
3. McCutchen 8
4. Martin 2
5. Tabata 7
6. Sanchez 3
7. Mercer 6
8. Barmes 4
9. Worley 1

Chicago (31-40)
1. Coghlan 7
2. Ruggiano 9
3. Rizzo 3
4. Castro 6
5. Valbuena 5
6. Lake 8
7. Barney 4
8. Whiteside 2
9. Wood 1

Pirates Game 73 Recap - Chicago 6, Pittsburgh 3

This game really came down to one inning. If you were wondering who was starting this game then it would probably not surprise you that it was Charlie Morton. After dancing through some trouble in the first two innings the Cubs put up a five spot in the third inning and that was all they needed.

The Pirates actually got back into the game thanks to Edwin Jackson kind of losing it in the fifth inning with a pair of walks and then serving up a three-run bomb to Jordy Mercer and all of a sudden the Pirates were back into the game. Unfortunately Morton got dinged up with another run as Chris Coghlan went deep.

The Pirates had a chance to get back into in the seventh inning. With one out the Pirates had runners at first and second with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen coming up. If they could get a couple of runs here they could make it interesting but Marte flew out to right and McCutchen struck out swinging. That wasn't the end of the game but it was basically the end of the game.

It's not as if there wasn't chances the Pirates had. On a few occasions the Pirates hit some warning track balls that didn't make it out of the park. This really isn't anything shocking as warning track shots happen all the time but at Wrigley the wind was blowing in hardcore and off the bat both Marte and Pedro Alvarez had home runs only to have them blown in. It was funny as the camera showed a replay of the Marte ball and his reaction as he headed to the dugout with him throwing up his hands and laughing. He knew he got all of it but there was nothing he could do about it.

Hey, shit happens.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pirates Game 73 Preview - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 4:05 p.m.
Charlie Morton (4-7, 3.09) vs. Edwin Jackson (4-7, 5.11)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 7-3)
March 31, 2014 - Pittsburgh 1, Chicago 0 (10 inn.) [Recap]
April 2, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 3 (16 inn.) [Recap]
April 3, 2014 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 8, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 5 [Recap]
April 9, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 10, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4 [Recap]
June 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 10, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 3 [Recap]
June 11, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 12, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 0 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (35-37)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Harrison 4
7. Alvarez 5
8. Mercer 6
9. Morton 1

Chicago (30-40)
1. Valbuena 4
2. Coghlan 7
3. Rizzo 3
4. Castro 6
5. Sweeney 8
6. Schierholtz 9
7. Olt 5
8. Baker 2
9. Jackson 1

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Support Hockey Kicks Cancer


Hey there everyone. Stevie has been putting up announcements on Twitter about her great cause called Hockey Kicks Cancer. It is something they have been doing for the past couple of years and despite me not being able to help out I know that they do a great job raising money for a good cause. 

With that being said I wanted to try and do a little more this year so please, if you are reading this take a good look at what they are doing and help out in any way possible. You may think that a few dollars might be insignificant but anything is truly helpful and can have a great impact in someone else's life that needs that help. 

Without wasting any more of your time here is the info on Hockey Kicks Cancer from Stevie:


Back in 2012, a group of Pittsburgh hockey bloggers decided to do something to honor Hockey Fights Cancer Month while the NHL was in a lockout. We wanted to do something fun to pass the time and find a way to help others with our resources. Hockey Kicks Cancer was born.

We banded together in a 6 team kickball tournament, along with support from many other blogs across NHL team fanbases.

On July 26th, we are holding our third tournament. We have doubled the amount of teams participating and donated $21,011 to the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to date.

The tournament is held all day at the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena in Cheswick, PA. Throughout the day, teams participate in a double elimination tournament, reliving our gym class glory days, but more importantly, coming together for the common goal of helping families in our community in the fight against cancer. We all play to honor our own families and friends whom have suffered from this terrible illness.
Teams, participants, and local businesses donate gift baskets, game tickets, and autographed sports memorabilia for us to raffle off to our guests.

The deadline to register is June 30th. If you don't have a team to play on, pick "Rogue" on the registration form and we'll find you a spot! Spectators are welcome. We have a bar on site, are running a corn hole tournament all day, and are raffling off huge prizes every hour.

T-shirts are available to order through our registration page, all proceeds benefitting LLS.
If you'd like to participate or make a donation, visit our registration page.
Thank you for your support! We cannot do this without you!

Registration

Facebook

Email: hockeykickscancer@gmail.com




Game 72 Recap - Pirates 4, Reds 3 (12 inn.)

The Pirates had a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth inning. With Jeff Locke going six strong innings and Tony Watson and Mark Melancon pitching scoreless innings that really meant one thing for the ninth inning:






That run came on a 387 foot BOMB by Devin Mesoraco. I have no idea what it is going to take for Clint Hurdle to understand that Jason Grilli probably doesn't have it anymore, but that should have happened two outings ago. Grilli probably isn't a top-three option in the pen right now and yet he is out there in huge situations. Who would have thought that a 37 year old reliever would have his performance drastically decline. Evidently not Hurdle.

This game was on Hurdle. Sure the Pirates still won but it is utter inexcusable for Hurdle to think using Grilli was a good idea in that situation. He has been pretty bad all year and to continue to trot him out there is negligence. It's just so utterly frustrating to watch and think about that I am start to foam at the mouth as we speak.

This should be about it from Grilli. I would be really surprised if he isn't designated for assignment soon but at the same time I wouldn't be surprised that he is still the closer. Who knows anymore.

Thankfully the Reds were almost as woefully incompetent as Hurdle was today. They balked twice on the day, with one of them resulting in a run, and in the 12th inning Tony Cingrani worked the bases loaded before serving up a walk to Russell Martin to force in the walk-off winning run. That is right, shrimp time!



Lost in this game is going to be a 4-for-5 day from Clint Barmes and having him almost walk it off earlier in extra innings. Don't look now but Barmes is hitting .263/.341/.313 on the season. That is useful. On another positive note backup catcher Chris Stewart is hitting .269/.351/.284 and while he only has one extra base hit (a double) it is good to see guys like that being productive and not being a total black hole in the lineup.

The Pirates won on a shrimp and to be honest that takes some of the sting on what was another wildly frustrating game.

Pirates Game 72 Preview - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 12:35 p.m.
Homer Bailey (7-3, 4.68) vs. Jeff Locke (0-1, 3.98)

Season Series (Reds lead 7-2)
April 14, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Cincinnati 7 [Recap]
April 15, 2014 - Cincinnati 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 16, 2014 - Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]
April 21, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Cincinnati 5 [Recap]
April 22, 2014 - Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]
April 23, 2014 - Cincinnati 5, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 24, 2014 - Cincinnati 2, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]
June 17, 2014 - Cincinnati 6, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
June 18, 2014 - Cincinnati 11, Pittsburgh 4 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (34-37)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Sanchez 3
5. Harrison 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Stewart 2
9. Locke 1

Cincinnati (35-35)
1. Hamilton 8
2. Frazier 5
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips 4
5. Bruce 9
6. Ludwick 7
7. Mesoraco 2
8. Cozart 6
9. Bailey 1

Pirates Game 71 Recap - Reds: A lot, Pirates: Travis Snider Pitched

The headline should give you a good idea of how things went last night. It was 1-0 Reds before the third inning. This was the top half of the third inning:





About the only thing that was cool about the game was that Travis Snider got to pitch.





Small miracles?




That game called for two Archer references.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pirates Game 71 Preview - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Alfredo Simon (9-3, 2.95) vs. Edinson Volquez (4-5, 3.89)

Season Series (Reds lead 6-2)
April 14, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Cincinnati 7 [Recap]
April 15, 2014 - Cincinnati 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 16, 2014 - Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]
April 21, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Cincinnati 5 [Recap]
April 22, 2014 - Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]
April 23, 2014 - Cincinnati 5, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 24, 2014 - Cincinnati 2, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]
June 17, 2014 - Cincinnati 6, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (34-36)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Harrison 4
7. Alvarez 5
8. Mercer 6
9. Volquez 1

Cincinnati (34-35)
1. Hamilton 8
2. Frazier 5
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips 4
5. Bruce 9
6. Mesoraco 2
7. Schumaker 7
8. Cozart 6
9. Simon 1

Pirates Game 70 Recap - Reds 6, Pirates 5

Sometimes I have no idea how the Pirates win games, or are even games. Last night was another one of those games only this time they didn't win it. They had chances to and despite getting hit around Brandon Cumpton gave them a six inning, three run start but the Pirates bullpen continues to be pretty awful and really put them behind the eight ball.

Josh Harrison continues to play some great baseball and when the Pirates needed a big hit, he got it. It started in the second inning when he doubled in the game tying run off Johnny Cueto and then with the Pirates down a run in the seventh and two outs he singled home Ike Davis. All told Harrison went 4-for-5 and has been one of the best offensive players on the team for some time now. Overall I don't think that Harrison is the answer but he needs to be on the field every day. It will be interesting to see what happens when Neil Walker comes back.

Cumpton is really hard to pinpoint. I had semi high expectations for him when he came back into the rotation after Wandy Rodriguez was let go but since that time Cumpton hasn't been very good, at all. Tonight he was hit around a good bit but when he needed to get tough outs he was able to get them. The fourth inning is where it almost got away from him as the Reds as they scored a pair of runs on four hits and left the bases loaded. Cumpton was just good enough to give the Pirates a chance and even though he was one pitch away from busting at the seams he didn't let that happen.

The difference in the game, as I said earlier, was the bullpen. After Cumpton exited the game the ball was turned over to Justin Wilson who gave up a pair of runs. Then after the Harrison single to tie the game in a three run bottom of the seventh inning the game was looking like it would need extras. That is when Clint Hurdle turned to Jason Grilli to face the 2-3-4 hitters, the heart of the Reds order. This is about how things went:



That is exactly what happened. The two hitter, Todd Frazier, hit a bomb off Grilli and that was the ballgame.

Now the Grilli inning wasn't all that killed the Pirates. There was some horrendous base running (Jose Tabata throw out trying to steal second with Gregory Polanco at the plate, Harrison trying to go from first to third on a ball hit right at the shortstop) and leaving 13 guys on base, especially late when they had a chance to take the lead.

Sometimes I really don't understand how this team still hangs around. Aside from bullpen issues the Pirates did a lot of things right against Miami and looked like a really good team in doing so. Then they play Cincinnati and come damn close to beating them in a game where their stud throws only to toss away the game because they can't do fundamental things. It is wildly frustrating to watch sometimes and the end of the game continued that trend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pirates Game 70 Preview - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Johnny Cueto (6-5, 1.85) vs. Brandon Cumpton (2-2, 6.06)

Season Series (Reds lead 5-2)
April 14, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Cincinnati 7 [Recap]
April 15, 2014 - Cincinnati 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 16, 2014 - Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 0 [Recap]
April 21, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Cincinnati 5 [Recap]
April 22, 2014 - Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]
April 23, 2014 - Cincinnati 5, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 24, 2014 - Cincinnati 2, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (34-35)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Harrison 4
8. Mercer 6
9. Cumpton 1

Cincinnati (33-35)
1. Hamilton 8
2. Frazier 5
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips 4
5. Bruce 9
6. Ludwick 7
7. Pena 2
8. Cozart 6
9. Cueto 1

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pirates Game 69 Preview - @ Miami Marlins

Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins - 1:10 p.m.
Vance Worley (0-0, 0.00) vs. Henderson Alvarez (3-3, 2.56)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 2-0)
June 13, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Miami 6 (13 inn.) [Recap]
June 14, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Miami 6


Lineups

Pittsburgh (34-34)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Harrison 4
8. Mercer 6
9. Worley 1

Miami (34-33)
1. Furcal 4
2. Johnson 7
3. Stanton 9
4. McGehee 5
5. Jones 3
6. Ozuna 8
7. Hechavarria 6
8. Mathis 2
9. Alvarez 1

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pirates Game 68 Preview - @ Miami Marlins

Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins - 4:10 p.m.
Charlie Morton (3-7, 3.14) vs. Randy Wolf (1-2, 4.15)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 1-0)
June 13, 2014 - Pittsburgh 8, Miami 6 (13 inn.) [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (33-34)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Sanchez 3
5. Harrison 4
6. Mercer 6
7. Alvarez 5
8. Stewart 2
9. Morton 1

Miami (34-32)
1. Furcal 4
2. Johnson 7
3. Stanton 9
4. McGehee 5
5. Jones 3
6. Ozone 8
7. Realmuto 2
8. Hechavarria 6
9. Wolf 1

The Pirates Offense Is Pretty Good

Last night I declined to go out and partake in extracurricular activities so it gave me some time to sit back, watch the Pirates, and think about how the season has gone so far. I think it has become pretty clear where the Pirates are going from here, they don't have a very good pitching staff and unless they fix that up it is going to be really hard for them to be true contenders.

Before the season started I think that most people knew that the starting rotation was going to struggle to some degree. Instead of a more solid commodity like A.J. Burnett there was Edison Volquez. I think most weren't expecting to get anything in the first half like Jeff Locke gave them last year and while I was a little more optimistic about Wandy Rodriguez than most I still didn't think he was going to be more than a decent number four. Gerrit Cole seemed like the guy that was going to anchor the rotation but after that you had no idea what you were going to get.

I think what also was a huge problem in the minds of most Pirates fans was the offense. Last season the offsense got off to a pretty horrible start and while they did alright down the stretch they still weren't overly good. They had Andrew McCutchen, the home runs from Pedro Alvarez, and a bunch of question marks from game-to-game in 2013.

To start 2014 the Pirates figured to be dreadful at first base and right field and not much better at shortstop with Jordy Mercer being more of an unknown than someone you could count on. I mean it wasn't going to be tough to be better than Clint Barmes, but being better than Barmes doesn't necessarily mean you are 'good' offensively.

As we enter the third week of June I think we are starting to see that this Pirates offense is much, much better than people thought it was going to be and as we sit here today the Pirates offense is one of the best in the National League and respectable among the top offenses in baseball.

As of baseball played through June 13 here are where the Pirates rank in Major League Baseball in some of the bigger offensive categories. It must be noted that these numbers do not include pitchers hitting since you can't compare AL and NL teams batting with those included since one side has a designated hitter and the other doesn't.

Average: .263 (7th)
On Base: .338 (2nd)
Slugging: .406 (12th)
wRC+: 111 (4th)
wOBA: .330 (4th)
BB%: 8.7% (t-10th)
K%: 19.5% (t-13th)

That is a pretty good offense. The Pirates aren't scoring a lot of runs as they rank 17th in the league with 271 runs but they are getting on base and giving themselves a chance to score runs. A few years ago I talked a lot about how the Pirates really struggled to get guys on base and they were striking out way too much. Last season they improved in that area and this year they are right around the middle of the pack in strikeout rate and they rank second in the league in team OBP.

I am not going to lie, I am a little surprised that the Pirates were that good at getting on base but when you look at the Pirates hitters they have four regulars with a .350 or better OBP and they have six regulars with a .330 or better OBP. That is how you get the offense started. Five different players that have at least 100 plate appearances have better than a 10% walk rate (McCutchen, Alvarez, Russell Martin, Ike Davis, Travis Snider) after only having three guys in that situation last season (McCutchen, Martin, Gaby Sanchez).

The Pirates offense has their struggles. They are a below average team with runners in scoring position (96 wRC+) but they are more of a middle of the pack offense in that regard. That is a little better than I thought they would be as for many games I seem to remember them leaving a small country on the bases.

The Pirates also haven't been getting a lot of extra base hits. After last night they have the third fewest doubles in the league (100) and rank near the middle of the pack in both triples and home runs. All hits are not created equal and I would sure love for the Pirates to find the gap a little more often but I would rather have singles than no hits at all. If you are putting guys on base then you are doing something right and in my opinion it is only a matter of time before you are going to start to score those runs.

The Pirates have been helped out by much better pinch hitting this season than they have had in the past. Over the last three years here are the slash lines for the Pirates pinch hitters:

2014: .267/.355/.417
2013: .206/.288/.356
2012: .176/.284/.229

Pinch hitting happens a lot more in the National League than the American League so for an AL team the numbers of your pinch hitters might not be overly important but in the NL it is pretty significant. Last season the Pirates led the league with 287 pinch hit plate appearances so raising your average by over 100 points over a few years is significant in that number of at bats. The Pirates bench has gotten better and when you are able to add players like Gregory Polanco that will push guys like Josh Harrison back to the bench where they can be a very good guy to come off the bench late in games to pinch hit.

I started talking about the offense a little more in depth on Twitter last night and a sense I got from people was that guys like McCutchen, Martin, and Davis were really carrying the load. I actually don't think that is very true. Sure, McCutchen has been nothing less of a monster this season and Davis has been way better than I expected in taking over the big portion of the platoon but guys like Gaby Sanchez (121 wRC+), Neil Walker (130 wRC+), and Harrison (125 wRC+) have been more than carrying their weight for this offense. Obviously Walker is out for a few weeks but when he comes out you are going to have a really good base for an offense when you include Martin (134 wRC+) into that offense. Add on to that Alvarez who despite having some rough patches can change the game on one swing of the bat and has drastically cut down his strikeout rate (23%) and has actually been hitting pretty well in June (.302/.400/.465). Even Jordy Mercer (.311/.333/.467) has turned it up in June.

So far this season the Pirates have 28 games where they have double digit hits (42% of games) after having 58 such games last year (36%). Turned into 162 game season the Pirates are on pace to have around 68 games with double digit hits.

You can say what you want about this team and where you think it is going but one thing you can't say about the Pirates this year is that the offense is holding them back, because that would be a lie. When Walker comes back you can say that this team is better than last year's team. If the Pirates get their pitching figured out and get some consistency there they are going to be a true contender in the NL Central and in the National League. The offense is fun to watch and that is something you haven't been able to say in Pittsburgh for some time.

Pirates Game 67 Recap - Pirates 8, Marlins 6 (13 inn.)

This game went from sunshine and rainbows to utter frustration to relief in about five innings. I don't know how to describe what happened in the bottom of the ninth inning but the Marlins were able to erase a four run deficit thanks to the Pirates bullpen imploding and some questionable managerial decisions but at the end of the day the top of the lineup cleaned up the mess and Gregory Polanco showed us why he was so highly anticipated.

This all starts from a great outing by Jeff Locke. He went eight innings, scattering seven hits, not walking a batter, and striking out seven. The big problem for much of Locke's career has been his control and not being able to throw strikes. Tonight he threw 67 of his 101 pitches for strikes and really had his way with a good Marlins lineup. That is back-to-back really strong starts from Locke and while I don't think he is the answer in the long term it is really nice to be able to get some good starts from guys not named Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton.

The offense did work last night. Namely the top of the lineup did work last night. The outfield trio of Polanco, Starling Marte, and Andrew McCutchen took hold of the top three spots in the lineup for the second night in a row and last night they combined to go 11-for-21 with six runs scored and five runs driven in. They were all over the bases and were a huge driving force in the Pirates chasing Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi after only 4.2 innings.

Polanco did a bulk of the work late. During a span of extra innings the Pirates had struck out six times but after a Clint Barmes single to leadoff the 13th inning Polanco did this:



Good stuff. Polanco did it all last night. He was going with the pitch and taking it to left field and then he was pulling the ball when pitchers tried to come inside. He hit that laser beam into the stands for his first extra base hit of his career and boy did it come at a good time. Maybe the coolest part of this entire thing is that the fan that caught the ball threw it back onto the field when Polanco came back out for the bottom of the 13th inning. Most times a team official will have to go and bargain with the person to get the ball back but it was just thrown back in exchange for another ball. Really cool stuff.

Now the bad stuff. The Pirates entered the ninth inning up 6-2. Perfect, this was shaping up to be a pretty easy win with the starter going eight innings and the offense really clicking. Justin Wilson was brought in to finish things off since it wasn't a "save situation". Wilson started the inning with a walk before striking out Garrett Jones, and then walking the next hitter. Wilson for sure didn't have his stuff so immediately after the second walk Hurdle was out and brought in Jason Grilli. Maybe the only reason he was out so fast was that it was now a "save situation."

Grilli comes in walks three batters and records only one out. One of those walks was intentional but he walked three guys before Hurdle pulled him with the bases loaded for Mark Melancon to face Casey McGehee. Melancon promptly walked McGehee to tie the game. Up four in the ninth inning four relievers combined to walk six hitters and the Marlins tied the game with only one hit. Just brutally bad.

The whole idea of the "closer" is pretty silly and if you have followed me for any time you know that. Grilli hasn't been the same since his injury last year and if you are going to use your best deliver in the closers role then you better use your best reliever. Grilli isn't even the team's second best reliever. I don't think I have much of a problem for them pulling Wilson but thinking it automatically has to be Grilli when it's a save situation is silly. This is absolutely more about the players on the field than the decision to put Grilli in but unless Tony Watson literally wasn't alive there is no reason he shouldn't have pitched. Maybe he was unavailable but nobody has told me that and considering I asked about a billion times last night it seems as if he was.

The other decision was when it came to that intentional walk I talked about. With runners on first and third and the Pirates up one run Hurdle decided to have Grilli intentionally walk Giancarlo Stanton to load the bases in order to face McGehee. Now this is important because you walked the winning run to second base and you are giving yourself zero margin for error for Melancon to face McGehee. I think we see what happened when you don't have that margin for error, but I am not really sure I would have done something different. Stanton had been teeing off on Pirates pitching all night and is easily one of the best hitters in the league. McGehee is not. This goes against everything I believe in baseball-wise but I probably put Stanton on there too. Melancon was way ahead in the count and has to throw a strike. He typically does not walk a lot of people and I will take my chance letting McGehee hit over Stanton.

This was a wild game. I was so frustrated watching that ninth inning and I thought for sure the Pirates were going to lose this game. Losing this game would have been a crushing loss after how it started, but they were able to get it done. A win is a win and even though it was wildly frustrating they can hopefully put this behind them and go out and win the series tonight.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pirates Game 67 Preview - @ Miami Marlins

Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins - 7:10 p.m.
Jeff Locke (0-1, 5.11) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.27)


Lineups

Pittsburgh (32-34)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Mercer 6
8. Martinez 4
9. Locke 1

Miami (34-31)
1. Furcal 4
2. Yelich 7
3. Stanton 9
4. McGehee 5
5. Ozuna 8
6. Baker 3
7. Hechavarria 6
8. Mathis 2
9. Eovaldi 1

Pirates Game 66 Recap - Pirates 4, Cubs 0

Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen.

OK, sorry, I was just getting that out of the way. McCutchen had two doubles last night and went 2-for-4 and scored another run to pretty much beat the Cubs, and Jeff Samardzija, to win the series and take three games of the four they played. That was huge for the Pirates as Samardzija is not an easy guy to get the best of but they were able to chip away for four runs on nine hits off the Cubs ace.

I don't really need to beat this drum every single night but what Andrew McCutchen is doing right now is almost unbelievable. Heading into Friday's games McCutchen had a slugging percentage of 1.071 in June. In the entire league there are only 16 players that have a higher OPS than McCutchen's slugging percentage through this month. Let that sink in. In June McCutchen has a wRC+ of 328. THREE HUNDRED TWENTY EIGHT. That is truly sickening. I honestly think it would probably be a better idea if teams just walked him every at bat.

Outside of McCutchen destroying baseballs the Pirates got a fabulous start out of Edison Volquez. A few starts ago I was thinking that Volquez might be very close to get bounced out of the rotation but he's been pretty good. Last night he went seven innings, striking out five, and scattering seven hits. He walked two and got into trouble but every time he got into trouble he was able to get a big strikeout to end the inning. I was not high on Volquez coming into the season but if the Pirates can get healthy and rely on him to be the number four guy then I think he's done pretty well in that role this year. Last night was a big time performance from him.

Is there anyone better at throwing a baseball on this Pirates team than Tony Watson? He pitched eighth inning last night and threw 15 pitches and almost all of those pitches were disgusting. The last pitch of his outing got Luis Valbuena to strike out looking on a slider. It was so filthy that MLB should probably not ask him to throw that pitch ever again. It was that good. I was not very high on Watson three or four years ago. I was dead wrong. He has been dominant this entire season and what he brings to the table nightly can't be replicated by anyone in the pen.

Russell Martin continues to be hot as he is playing for a contract next year. He had two hits and drove in a run with a double in the fourth inning. He's really been playing well since coming back from an injury that kept him out and while I am not overly high on him offensively he's getting on base at better than a 40% clip and he's been a doubles machine recently.

The Pirates are keeping themselves in it and now it is on to Miami where the Marlins have been pretty good this season.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pirates Game 66 Preview - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 2.54) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-5, 4.27)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 6-3)
March 31, 2014 - Pittsburgh 1, Chicago 0 (10 inn.) [Recap]
April 2, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 3 (16 inn.) [Recap]
April 3, 2014 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 8, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 5 [Recap]
April 9, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 10, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4 [Recap]
June 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 10, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 3 [Recap]
June 11, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 2 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (31-34)
1. Polanco 9
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Mercer 6
8. Barmes 4
9. Volquez 1


Chicago (26-37)
1. Bonifacio 8
2. Lake 7
3. Rizzo 3
4. Castro 6
5. Valbuena 5
6. Schierholtz 9
7. Baker 2
8. Barney 4
9. Samardzija 1

Pirates Game 65 Recap - Pirates 4, Cubs 2

Andrew McCutchen is really good at playing baseball. Last night he carried the Pirates offense, again, with a home run in his third straight game and went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks. He just keeps getting better and right now he is hot. Getting him out seems to be a monumental task at the moment and when McCutchen is playing like this he might be one of the most exciting players in the game to watch.

Starling Marte continues to hit better after a brutal slump. He had two more hits last night but with the good (the hits) came the bad (the base running). Marte was part of a weird set of plays that caused him to get thrown out at third base on a foul pop out by Travis Snider. With Marte on third and Jordy Mercer on first with one out Snider popped out to the catcher and for some reason Mercer tagged up and tried to get into a rundown to score Marte. Marte seemed to be confused as to what the hell Mercer was doing (as was I) and got caught in no mans land to end the inning.

Now I know people are going to be all over Marte and Mercer for this (as they should be) but I think the real problem is that Mercer thought this was OK because Clint Hurdle thinks it's OK. I know Clint Barmes was on the on deck circle but if you think that you will have a better chance to score by running a little league play then letting one of your position players swing the bat then there is a serious problem.

Brandon Cumpton got the start last night as one of the other guys that is going to be in the rotation thanks to the injuries. He went five innings and gave up a pair of runs but wasn't overly good. He got in trouble a good bit in the third and fifth innings but was able to get key outs with runners in scoring position to salvage the win and give a lead to the bullpen. He has had a problem with the second time through the lineup but last night he had some problem the first time through but when push came to shove he was able to get some key outs in big situations. It would be great if he could get deeper into games but all I can ask for is that he gives the team a chance to win, and he did that last night.

The injury bug hit the Pirates again last night. Josh Harrison had to leave the game in the third inning after he banged up his ankle in the first inning. I would doubt that he is back in the lineup tonight considering how he couldn't put a lot of weight on it last night but it is pretty disheartening for another guy to go down. Pretty soon there aren't going to be guys to call up.

The Pirates offense did a pretty nice job of getting runners on base but they once again did a terrible job of getting them in. They had 11 hits on the night coupled with four walks and a hit by pitch and you have a lot of opportunities. They went only 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 10 guys on base. One of these times they are going to break out and they got the win, but this is a pretty frustrating thing to watch.

Getting the win secures at least a split series but tonight they have a chance to get the series win. They will be facing Jeff Samardzija so it is going to be no easy task to get the win but at least they have the chance to win it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pirates Game 65 Preview - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jason Hammel (6-3, 2.53) vs. Brandon Cumpton (1-2, 6.51)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 5-3)
March 31, 2014 - Pittsburgh 1, Chicago 0 (10 inn.) [Recap]
April 2, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 3 (16 inn.) [Recap]
April 3, 2014 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 8, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 5 [Recap]
April 9, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 10, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4 [Recap]
June 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 2 [Recap]
June 10, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 3 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (30-34)
1. Harrison 4
2. Polanco 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Davis 3
5. Martin 2
6. Alvarez 5
7. Marte 7
8. Mercer 6
9. Cumpton 1

Chicago (26-36)
1. Coghlan 7
2. Ruggiano 8
3. Rizzo 3
4. Castro 6
5. Valbuena 5
6. Schierholtz 9
7. Baker 2
8. Barney 4
9. Hammel 1

Pirates Game 64 Recap - Cubs 7, Pirates 3

This game was really all about Gregory Polanco. I think the Pirates went in with a decent chance to get all over Travis Wood but after tying the game fourth inning Wood and almost every reliever to ever pitch for the Cubs shut the Pirates down and the Cubs were able to even the series.

First, lets touch on Polanco. There were some big time expectations on him coming up. I mean I bought a ticket just to go watch him last night and I am sure some of the other 31,000+ at the game did the same thing. I don't think I had high expectations for him in terms of what I thought he was going to do last night, but things could have gone better for him. They also could have gone worse so it wasn't necessarily a bad night. He ended up going 1-for-5 with four of those at bats coming against the left hander, Wood, and that single came against him when he laced a ball to left field a batter before Andrew McCutchen hit a home run.

A lot of people mocked the Pirates for keeping Polanco down when they said he had things to work on. Some of that might have been truth as Polanco misplayed a ball in right field that led to a run. I am not saying that he wasn't ready to be up but he didn't look overly good in right field, but again it was his first professional game and I must say that if it was me I would probably misplay a ball or two. In a few of his at bats he got under the ball and had a few sky high infield pop-ups but that stuff happens. The coolest thing might have been his first at bat as nearly everyone in PNC Park gave him a nice, loud, ovation. Must have been really cool for the kid. The athleticism was there. On a routine ground ball to the middle infield he nearly beat out. It looked like it took him only four strikes to get down to first base. I knew he was a big kid (6-4, 222) but you don't really see how big he is until you see him in person. To be as athletic he is at that size is pretty remarkable. The crazy thing is that you can still see room for him to put on weight.

Polanco is going to be just fine. Tonight he could go out and got 4-for-4 and that wouldn't surprise me at all. The fact of the matter is that he is hopefully going to turn into a cornerstone player for the team and just like Andrew McCutchen help carry this team to playoff appearances. Time will tell but it was really fun to watch him play last night, for the first time.

Speaking of McCutchen, wow, this guy just keeps getting better. I wasn't sure that McCutchen could top last year and maybe we would see him tread water (not that it would be a bad season if he did that) but he is still, somehow, getting better. Right now he's hitting at a .312/.426/.521 line and in the month of June he is hitting .389/.450/.972. That is just sickening. He is striking out just as much as he is walking and when he is getting pitches to hit he is hammering them. If Polanco is half the player McCutchen is then we are all in for a good next couple of years.

Back to the game. Francisco Liriano got the start and promptly gave up a pair of runs on an Anthony Rizzo two run home run that hasn't landed yet and I was ready for a long game. Thing is, Lirano really settled in after the bad first inning. Heading into the fourth inning he had struck out four and not walked a guy and while he was already 52 pitches through three innings he looked like he turned that corner. Then with a 2-1 count on Rizzo he called the trainer out and left the game with some left side pain. Not good. Looks like Liriano is going to be headed to the DL and the Pirates pitching staff that was already paper thin is most likely going to be patched together by a bunch of AAA guys.

The Pirates kept things together. McCutchen destroyed a baseball in the third inning and then after the Cubs retook the lead in the fourth the Pirates answered right back. Problem is that the Pirates didn't have an answer all night. The Cubs scored a pair of runs in each the sixth and seventh innings and that was all she wrote.

The Pirates offense was able to get guys on base throughout the night but thanks in part to the double play and some really shoddy base running by Starling Marte they all went for not.

Stealing a win last night would have been huge as the Pirates continue to face tough pitching from the Cubs, but the offense just couldn't get that clutch hit. I mean it isn't completely their fault but they left nine guys on base and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. One hit could have put a little more pressure on the Cubs and they weren't able to do it. That was unfortunate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pirates Game 64 Preview - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Travis Wood (5-5, 5.04) vs. Francisco Liriano (1-6, 4.54)

Season Series (Pittsburgh leads 5-2)
March 31, 2014 - Pittsburgh 1, Chicago 0 (10 inn.) [Recap]
April 2, 2014 - Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 3 (16 inn.) [Recap]
April 3, 2014 - Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2 [Recap]
April 8, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 5 [Recap]
April 9, 2014 - Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 5 [Recap]
April 10, 2014 - Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 4 [Recap]
June 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Chicago 2 [Recap]


Lineups

Pittsburgh (30-33)
1. Harrison 5
2. Polanco 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Sanchez 3
5. Martin 2
6. Marte 7
7. Mercer 6
8. Barmes 4
9. Liriano 1

Chicago (25-36)
1. Bonifacio 8
2. Lake 7
3. Rizzo 3
4. Castro 6
5. Ruggiano 9
6. Olt 5
7. Barney 4
8. Whiteside 2
9. Wood 1

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gregory Polanco Called Up. For Real.



Pirates Game 63 Recap - Pirates 6, Cubs 2

This was an outstanding game by the Pirates. The pitching was there, the hitting was there, and they were playing a team that wasn't very good. I mean the Cubs are not a good baseball team. I am not sure how much of today was the Pirates, Charlie Morton, et al being really good, if it was the Cubs being bad, or some combination of both but this was a pretty complete game for the Pirates.

Charlie Morton was on today. He has been wildly inconsistent this entire year and even though he has shown flashes of the guy he can be he really hasn't put it all together. Tonight he had one of his best starts of the night. He threw seven innings, giving up one run and not walking or hitting a batter. For a guy that puts a lot of guys on base for free Morton really buckled down today and had his stuff working. Last start it was a case of Morton not having any idea where his two seam fastball was going but tonight he had it under control and was painting corners on the Cubs hitters. He threw 59 of his 82 pitches for strikes and struck out seven batters. 18 of his 27 first pitches went for strikes and he was in total control in almost every single situation. The Cubs got a run thanks to Travis Snider looking like he'd never played outfield before and two other hits were thanks to the Cubs hitting the ball a combined 40 feet to beat the shift.

Morton had a lot of success with his curveball tonight as he got eight swings and misses on it that included six swings and misses on the curve from left handed hitters. This is the guy I thought the Pirates were going to get all season. It hasn't happened yet but over his last few starts he has cut down on his walks and if he can do that and control is two seam fastball and the sinker then this could possibly be a turning point for him. The Pirates need that to happen.

For as good as Morton was tonight it was incredibly perplexing that Clint Hurdle decided to lift him after only 82 pitches. I didn't listen to his post game but I have to imagine that Hurdle saw the three run lead and immediately played for the save stat. Sure, Morton was due up in the bottom of the seventh inning but why not run him back out? The Cubs did next to nothing against him and for a vast majority of the season the Pirates have struggled in a big way to get their starters deep in the game. It all worked out in the end but why throw guys into the game out of the bullpen when your starter most likely can go the complete game? I truly hope it wasn't just for the save stat because that is a silly reason to yank your stater that was cruising.

The offense got to Edwin Jackson early and often. The Pirates have done a pretty good job against Jackson all season and the middle of the lineup did work tonight. Snider, Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez each had two hits and Starling Marte had three hits to break out of his horrid slump. So the Pirates 2-6 hitters went 10-for-18 (Ike Davis had a home run) and that was every single hit the Pirates had.

The offense got a run in the second inning thanks to a Starling Marte double and then McCutchen decided to take over as he blasted a two run home run to right field in the third inning before doubling home a run in the fifth inning to give the Pirates all the offense they needed. They got some insurance thanks to the Davis home run and back-to-back doubles by Marte and Alvarez in the eighth inning and that was all she wrote.

The Pirates need to do this to teams like the Cubs. They can be really up and down but in a four game set you would hope the Pirates could win three of those and try to close the gap a little more in the NL Central after they had a couple of tough losses to the Brewers the last two days. Hopefully Francisco Liriano can replicate the starts from Jeff Locke and Morton the last two days.