Dodgers Walk to Victory

It looked okay for a brief period. The Pirates rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Randy Wolf had held the Pirates to just a solo homer from Andy LaRoche through six. But Andrew McCutchen’s two run single put the Pirates up 4-3 with just six outs to play.

But the Pirates bullpen came undone. LA scored four runs in the 8th inning, due in large part to four walks issued by three different Pirate relievers. Jim Thome’s first two RBI as a Dodger came via a pinch hit single in that fateful 8th inning. Two other runs were forced home due to bases on balls. Denny Bautista started it, couldn’t finish it and was tabbed the loser. That made a winner of George Sherrill who had gotten the last out for the Dodgers in the 7th.

Wolf – 6-1/3 IP, 2 earned runs on four hits with five walks – and Bucs starter Paul Maholm were left without a decision. Maholm lasted seven and gave up the first three Dodger runs. He gave up seven hits and struck out only one.

The Good

A comeback – almost.

The Bad

All the walks.

The leaky bullpen.

And all the losing in general.

The Rest

Buc pitchers surrendered a total of 8 walks. This was the 7th time all year the club has put that many men on base via free pass. The offense has received that many walks or more just three times this year.

In case you didn’t know, the Pirates have scored the fewest runs in the NL this season. What the second half have looked like without Garrett Jones?

Luis Cruz had his second two hit game of 2009 and drove in his second run on the year.

Since acquring Thome from Chicago, Joe Torre has deployed the slugger only as a pinch hitter. He has been spelling James Loney with Mark Loretta. Thome came into the game hitting just .211 for his career as a pinch hitter. Manny Mota he is not.

Randy Wolf is 7-1 career vs. Pittsburgh. His last loss to the Smoky City Nine was June 30, 2000. Wolf is 3rd all-time in wins among pitchers born in 1976. He is behind Javier Vazquez and Ted Lilly. He is tied with Kelvim Escobar. Also born that year include three members of the Pirate family – Jimmy Anderson, Victor Santos and Brandon Duckworth (Spring Training only for Duckworth).

Bucs most go 6-3 to avoid 100 losses.

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Cards Clobber Hart, Bucs Bullpen in a Laugher

The losing streak has reached 8 games. Kevin Hart was torched as the Pirates fell behind 5-0 early on. The offense put up a six spot in the fifth frame off of Adam Wainwright. The final three runs scored on a two run bloop triple from Brandon Moss that turned into a little league homer as an error from Skip Schumaker allowed Moss to score.

The lead didn’t last. Hart was pulled with two gone in the sixth and Denny Bautista allowed a three run homer to Albert Pujols. St. Louis tacked on six more runs over the next two innings to pull away easily.

Ryan Ludwick had a career night. He was 5-5 with two homers, two doubles and five runs driven in. Matt Holliday, whose BA is approaching .400 with the Cards, also homered.

Wainwright allowed six earned runs in five innings. Hart gave up five earned runs and seven overall in 5-2/3.

The Good

Well, there was some offense. Lastings Milledge batted clean up and continuest to rake – he had two more hits. Ryan Doumit had three singles.

The Bad

The pitching. Only Chris Bootcheck looked decent. Phil Dumatrait gave up four runs in 1/3 of an IP.

Eight straight losses with two more games against the Cardinals this weekend.

The Rest

Bautista came into the game unscored upon in 2009 over six innings and four outings.

This was just the second time this year that Wainwright allowed six runs or more. He held on enough and got enough support to get the win tonight.

Millege was hitting .396 over his last sixteen games before tonight.

The five RBI tied Ludwick’s career high, as did the two homers. Five hits and 13 total bases established single game marks for his career.

Hart’s ERA with the Wriglies was 2.60. With Pittsburgh it is on the ugly side of 6.00.

This was the 9th time in 2009 that opponents had reached double digits in runs against the Pirates. It was the 10th time that opponents had tallied 15 or more knocks. Those stats for 2008? 23 times giving up 10 or more runs and 20 times giving up 15 or more hits.

 

Jones Beats Happ, Phils with 8th Inning Dinger

The Pirates took two of three from Philadelphia thanks to some late game heroics from Garret Jones. Trailing 2-1 in the 8th, the Pirates had been manhandled by Philadelphia rookie J.A. Happ. Pinch hitter Ronny Cedeno singled leading off, but Happ retired the next two hitters without incident. Jones followed with a two run homer to put the Pirates up 3-2. Matt Capps closed the victory.

Through the first seven innings, Happ had allowed just five hits. One of those was Andrew McCutchen’s solo homer in the first inning. Cutch’s drive tied the score at one each as Bucs starter Charlie Morton loaded the bases with none out in the first, but managed to escape with only one run allowed.

Morton yielded a solo homer to Paul Bako in the second and the score stayed that way until the 8th. Happ tossed a complete game in a losing effort and gave up all three Pirate runs. Morton went six and gave up both Phillie runs on five hits. He struck out six. Denny Bautista tossed two perfect innings and got the win in relief.

The Good

Taking two of three from the division leaders.

Happy with Morton’s outing.

Jones

The Bad

The team continues to struggle to draw walks, picking up just two.

The Rest

The Pirates have drawn the third fewest walks in the NL, leading only Houston and San Fran.

Jones has five homers in August after hitting 10 in July.

Happ beat the Pirates in his only other start against them on July 12.

Morton’s only other appearance against Philadelphia was a debacle. He lasted two innings in a loss while pitching for Atlanta 7/1/08.

Andy LaRoche hit cleanup for the 7th time in August. He is just 4-25 out of that spot with one XBH and two RBI.

The most impressive number of the day was the 85 that Ross Van Burkleo posted in the slop at the Oak Brook Park Marriott Resort golf course.

Rick Vaughn’s of the bullpen

The Pirates have plenty of projects on the pitching staff, enough to keep Joe Kerrigan on his toes. This is particularly true about the bullpen. There are several relievers with live arms and suspect control who could appear in Pittsburgh this season. Let’s take a quick look at how they have performed thus far in spring training.

Name     IP      H      R    HR    BB      K
Craig Hansen 4 0 0 0 2 5
Evan Meek 4 1 0 0 0 4
Donald Veal 3 1 0 0 1 1
Tyler Yates 3 3 0 0 2 2
Denny Bautista 2 3 2 0 1 2
TOTAL 16 8 2 0 6 14

Keeping in mind that spring stats are mostly meaningless, those are some decent looking numbers. I’m particularly interested in Hansen, Meek and Veal, as they probably have the most upside. Those three have combined to throw 11 innings, striking out ten and walking just three. They have not allowed a run, while giving up just two hits. It is still extremely early, but Kerrigan’s initial results with these pitchers have been positive.

Is Adam LaRoche less valuable because of his dramatic splits?

The Pirates offered arbitration to seven players before last night’s deadline, retaining their rights. Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Doumit, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, John Grabow and Tyler Yates will each remain under team control. Reliever Denny Bautista was not offered a contract, making him a free agent.

In this morning’s post on the PBC Blog, Dejan discusses LaRoche’s future. He questions whether the team can afford to pay him up to $8 million in arbitration when he does not produce in the first half of the season.

Consider that he made $5 million last season and, yet again, failed to perform to his peak capability — or even close to it — until June. On a contender, that might actually be a pretty neat trait to have. In Pittsburgh, it is virtually worthless, as the meaningful games tend to be over right at that point.

That final sentence is a sentiment that I have never really understood. Why is the first half of the season more significant than the second is, and why is that exclusive to Pittsburgh? Would it be better if the Pirates were to win 45 of the first 81 games, and only win 22 in the second half?

The problem is not that LaRoche struggles early in the year. The problem is that the Pirates are not very good in general. Before the 2008 All-Star break, the Bucs scored 460 runs, tied for eighth in baseball. But they allowed 528 runs, 29th overall. Thus, they were 44-50 at that point. The problem was not the offense; it was the pitching and defense. The team was not going to win baseball games, regardless of whether LaRoche was mediocre or useless at the plate. In fact, the rest of the lineup did a fine job of carrying LaRoche while he struggled, which is what a team needs when dealing with a streaky hitter.

The issue here seems to be a greater focus on keeping fans interested in the team as opposed to simply winning games. If we are going to assume that games in August will not matter, we might as well assume that April games are insignificant as well. We generally know from the beginning of the season that the Pirates are not going to compete anyway. The only difference is that the fans are still fresh in April, and by August they are beat down and paying less attention to the team. But the Pirates cannot make decisions based on keeping fans interested. They need to focus only on winning games.

It is extremely frustrating to watch LaRoche flailing at the plate in the spring. But we cannot make decisions based purely on that emotion.

Posted in Adam LaRoche, Denny Bautista, John Grabow, Nate McLouth, Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, Transactions, Tyler Yates, Zach Duke. Comments Off on Is Adam LaRoche less valuable because of his dramatic splits?

Pirates finalize deal with Vazquez

The Pirates officially signed utility infielder Ramon Vazquez today. The deal is worth $4 million over two years.  This is a nice signing for the Pirates, as it gives them a cheap bench option that can play adequate defense all over the infield.  Vazquez likely won’t match the solid offensive numbers he posted last year in Texas, but he should produce enough to be worth the $2 million per year.

The team’s 40-man roster is now full. Denny Bautista is expected to be non-tendered by tonight’s deadline.

40-Man Roster

Posted in Denny Bautista, Pirates News and Notes, Ramon Vazquez. Comments Off on Pirates finalize deal with Vazquez

Pirates finalize deal with Vazquez

The Pirates officially signed utility infielder Ramon Vazquez today. The deal is worth $4 million over two years.  This is a nice signing for the Pirates, as it gives them a cheap bench option that can play adequate defense all over the infield.  Vazquez likely won’t match the solid offensive numbers he posted last year in Texas, but he should produce enough to be worth the $2 million per year.

The team’s 40-man roster is now full. Denny Bautista is expected to be non-tendered by tonight’s deadline.

40-Man Roster

Posted in Denny Bautista, Pirates News and Notes, Ramon Vazquez. Comments Off on Pirates finalize deal with Vazquez