Snakes Pound Bucs Bullpen

The Diamondbacks scored seven times in their final two times up to pull away 11-4. With the game knotted at four, Evan Meek couldn’t hold back Arizona. Miguel Montero broke the tie with an RBI double and Chad Tracy cracked a pinch hit three run homer later in the inning – capping a five run 7th – off of John Grabow. Donnie Veal gave up a two run homer to Justin Upton in the 8th for the final scores of the game.

The Pirates did a lot against Dan Haren. They got to him for four runs in the fifth and he wouldn’t be out for the sixth. Garrett Jones had a two run double and Ryan Doumit followed with a two run homer.

That outburst put the Pirates up 4-1, but starter Charlie Morton couldn’t hold the lead. A run scoring triple from Stephen Drew was followed by a game tying homer from Gerardo Parra. Morton was pulled for Jeff Karstens after two more batters. Karstens retired four hitters without a run and he gave way to Meek to start the seventh.

The Pirates had no more hits once Haren was out of the game. Juan Gutierrez picked up the win in relief.

The Good

Getting to Dan Haren.

Jones had three hits and two RBI. Swing for the fences, Garrett!

Steve Pearce had two hits and a double in his first action since the Adam LaRoche trade.

The Bad

The bullpen. Ugh.

The Rest

Karstens has thrown 10 stright hitless innings over four appearances.

The homer was Tracy’s fourth career as a pinch hitter and second of the month.

This was Haren’s worst outing of the year. He had previously gone at least six in every start. He allowed four earned runs or more just once and that was in a seven inning outing in which he allowed five.

Jones has nine homers, but just 13 RBI. Record for fewest RBI in a season with at least 10 HR is former Pirate Dave Ross’ 2003 season (with LA) in which he had 10 HR and just 18 knocked in.

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Braves Pounce on Pirates

Jeff Francouer delivered a two run single in the first and Casey Kotchman added another RBI knock later in the inning to put the Braves in front early against Zach Duke and the Pirates. Javier Vazquez and the Atlanta bullpen needed nothing else to hold the Pirates down.

Atlanta tagged on several more runs as Martin Prado hit a three run homer in the fourth and former Pirate David Ross added a three run blast in the 7th.

Atlanta almost made turned this series into a three straight shutouts. But, the Pirates put together a two out rally in the 9th to score a run. When Ramon Vazquez was HBP to force home a run. I’m assuming by then that most of the nearly 15,000 who turned out had departed to listen to talk about the upcoming NFL draft.

The Good

Freddy Sanchez and Nyjer Morgan both had two hits, with Sanchez smacking his NL leading 7th double of the year.

The Bad

After Joe Kerrigan was hired, the Bucco Blog did a nice study on whether or not 1st inning runs allowed is really a big deal or not. This is something that seemed to plague the Pirates last year with Duke (19), Snell (22) and Gorzelanny (24) giving up a bunch of runs in the first frame (compared to 10 by Maholm).

The Rest

David Ross came into the game hitting less than .200 in 86 PAs at PNC. He doubled in addition to his homer.

Braves reliever Jeff Bennett is best remembered (at least by me) as one of the Pittsburgh Five when five Buccos were lost in the 2003 Rule V draft in the first six picks. In addition to Bennett, the Pirates lost Chris Shelton, Rich Thompson, Frank Brooks and Jose Bautista). Check out Baseball America’s synopsis of the draft. Have to love Brian Graham’s quote: “What this shows is we have a lot of depth in our system.” Really, Brian? Where?

Who Ya Rootin’ For? The Ex-Pirates Factor

For what seems like the millionth straight season, I am relegated to rooting for either:
1. a good story in the post-season or
2. a former Pirate to do well in the post-season
With the Cubs gone and the Brewers gone, the good stories shake out like this:
1. Tampa Bay in the post-season and worst to first
2. Joe Torre’s escape from New York
3. The Phillies going for just their second World Series title ever
4. The Red Sox becoming the new version of the Evil Empire
So, let’s look at all the ex-Pirates remaining in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Jason Johnson and Joe Beimel are in the bullpen. Johnson’s ML tenure with Pittsburgh was a meager three games back in 1997 before he was taken in the expansion draft. Beimel has come back from the edge of being out of baseball to becoming a rubber armed stud in the Dodgers bullpen. Over the last two seasons, he has pitched in 154 games, tossed 116-1/3 IP and allowed just one home run. His three seasons in Pittsburgh were quite a bit less successful. He never posted a better than league average ERA for the Buccos, but has done so in each of the past three years in La-La Land.
Philadelphia Phillies
The Phils have Matt Stairs and a couple of almosts. The Pirates almost traded Kris Benson for Ryan Howard all those years ago. And the Buccos almost signed Chad Durbin this past off-season. Stairs had a solid single season in Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay Rays
Al Reyes and his 15 games pitched in 2001 are it.
Boston Red Sox
Tons of ex-Pirates here. From the brief – Sean Casey and Dave Ross – to the long ago in Tim Wakefield to the painfully, recently removed in Jason Bay.
Clearly when looking at the crop of ex-Bucs on post-season rosters, the Red Sox have a huge upper hand.
So, who am I pulling for?
1. Tampa Bay – hard not to pull for a team that blindsided me and most everyone else
2. Boston – if the Sox beat the Rays in the ALCS, I’m hoping Bay puts up MVP numbers in the WS
3. Philadelphia – I was born there
4. LA – Torre already has his and so does Manny Ramirez