Reds Shutout Bucs to End 2009 Season

I was on hand to watch the 2009 season come to a close for my hometown club and my favorite club. Jeff Karstens vs. Homer Bailey at Great American on a mostly sunny mid-60s October afternoon. It was a great day for baseball.

But I was perturbed almost from the get-go. Luis Cruz and Jason Jaramillo were carrying on a conversation with one another during the National Anthem. That is not acceptable. Not at any time. If you don’t want to observe the singing/playing of the Star Spangled Banner, then stay in the clubhouse (like what Rudy Law used to do back in the 1980s). Don’t stand on the field and converse.

Brandon Phillips continued to bash Pirate pitching. He drove in the first three Cincinnati runs with a double off the wall, a grounder and another double off the wall. After Phillips third RBI, Scott Rolen tripled past a diving Andrew McCutchen to score two more runs.

Jeff Karstens got the loss by giving up two runs in 2-1/3 IP. But it was Donnie Veal who was hit the hardest – one inning, four hits and four runs allowed.

It was 2-0 after three and 6-0 after five innings. Homer Bailey as plugging away, leaving men on base in every inning but one of his six frames of toil. Especially troubling was the fifth. Steve Pearce tripled to lead off. Andrew McCutchen walked and stole second. Two one, none out, heart of the order coming up. But, Bailey whiffed Andy LaRoche, Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge with no damage done.

The Good

Well, I hate to see the season end. But I guess I’m glad this one is over.

McCutchen had two hits, two walks and stole twice.

The weather.

The Bad

Veal’s outing put the game out of reach.

LaRoche left five men on base.

The Rest

The Reds honored the retiring Hal McCoy (Hall of Fame sportswriter from the Dayton Daily News) and George Grande, who does play by play for Fox Sports Ohio between innings. A great moment. Love Hal McCoy. George Grande has always been solid. Trivia buffs know that Grande was the first ever anchor of Sportscenter on ESPN.

Bailey won all four of his starts against the Pirates this year, accounting for half of his 8 wins.

Brandon Phillips drove in 21 runs against Pittsburgh in 2009.

Pirates were shut out for the 17th time in 2009. This was the first time they hit double digits in hits and failed to score.




Doumit Powers Pirates to Sweep

The Pirates are on a bit of a mini-roll. Three of four from the Dodgers and now two of three from the Cubs with the final game of the series tomorrow.

Ryan Doumit collected four hits and drove in four runs to back Jeff Karstens and a host of relievers. Doumit hit a two run double that broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning. He later added an RBI single and a solo homer, missing by a triple of the cycle.

Karstens needed 61 pitches to go five innings. He allowed two runs on five hits. He struck out one and whiffed none. He benefited from a couple of double plays behind him. Four relievers combined on four shutout innings of two hit ball to close out the game.

Carlos Zambrano was left with the loss. He was looking for his 10th win, but didn’t find it in the early Fall Chicago evening. He struck out six but gave up six hits and four walks in six innings.

The Good

A sweep and the Bucs have taken five of six for the first time in over a month.

Doumit’s big game.

The Bad

Donnie Veal was wild, getting just one out and walking two. He was rescued when Steven Jackson got a double ply on a line drive from Jake Fox.

The Rest

This was Doumit’s third four RBI game and his first since April of 2009. This was his fifth career four hit game and his first in over a year.

Karstens picked up a win for the first time since 6/10/09.

This was the fourth time in September that Brandon Moss drove in two runs in one game. He had just four games with two RBI heading into September.

This was the 7th time in the last 11 games that Andrew McCutchen collected two or more hits.

Pirates need to go 2-2 to avoid 100 losses.

No Joke: Bucs Beat LA

I’ll take a win, no matter how unorthodox. Jeff Karstens, coming off the DL and having not thrown more than 60 pitches in a game since his last start in June, started and was on a quick hook. He pitched three mostly effective innings (one run and three hits), but was pulled after 48 pitches. In his place came Donnie Veal at the best of times. The Bucs were up and the starter hadn’t gone five. Thanks to two scoreless innings from Veal and shutout efforts from three others – including a perfect 9th from Matt Capps – Veal picked up his first career W.

The Pirates scored three unearned runs off Jon Garland. Blake DeWitt’s error in the first led to a sac fly from Garrett Jones. James Loney’s miscue in the third set up a two run, two out single from Brandon Moss.

Garland went six, gave up three unearned runs and whiffes six. He allowed six hits – five singles and a double.

The Good

A win.

Good pitching. Pirate starters walked none!

The Bad

Continued offensive woes.

The Rest

Last time the Pirates won a game in which the starter didn’t pitch five innings was 7-22-09 when Paul Maholm left after 4-2/3 in an 8-7 win over Milwaukee.

There are only four players in the Majors right now under the age of 30 with more than 100 career wins. Jon Garland is one of them. The others are Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia and Carlos Zambrano.

Moss has had three different two RBI games in September – his most of any month this year.

Last time the Pirates walked zero hitters in a game was August 22nd against Cincinnati.

Rajai Davis was in Sports Illustrated this week. Got me thinking – I hadn’t looked up his numbers in a while. So, how is the Rajai Davis Phenomenon doing? Let’s just say he is clearly having a better season than Moss is. Not really even close.

10 games left. Pirates need to go 6-4 to avoid 100 losses.


Pirates, Duke Implode in the 5th and Clinch Last

Through four innings, Zach Duke had allowed three hits and no runs. The Pirates had given him a 2-0 cushion, thanks in part to a solo homer from Andrew McCutchen. The Reds scored five times in the fifth, with two runs coming after two were gone. An error from Ryan Doumit on a bases loaded grounder contributed to the misery. Brandon Phillips drove in two runs with a single in the inning.

Duke was lifted for a pinch hitter. But the Reds scored more (three off of Donnie Veal in the 7th and two off of Eric Hacker in the 8th) off the Pirates bullpen to pull away. Scott Rolen contributed RBI hits in each of the Reds rallies.

Johnny Cueto picked up his 10th win with five innings. He missed his last turn with the flu. He struck out two and gave up nine hits. Duke also gave up nine hits in his five innings, but the Reds turned those knocks into five runs.

The Good

14 hits for the offense.

The Bad

Only 4 runs for the offense

The Rest

Duke falls to 3-5 in his career against Cincy. Cueto is now 5-2 against the Pirates.

Garrett Jones had his sixth three hit game of the year. Lastings Milledge had his third such game and his second in a week.

Welcome Eric Hacker. He made his ML debut. He was acquired earlier in the year from the Bombers for Romulo Sanchez.

Bucs collected double digits in hits for the first time since 8/9-11 when they did it off of St. Louis, had an off day and then did it against Colorado

Pirates need to go 7-6 the rest of the way to avoid 100 losses.


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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.

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.

Pirate Prospect #16 – Donald Veal

I am counting down my personal list of the top 25 Pirate prospects. You can follow the countdown here, or by clicking on the “Top 25 Prospects” link in the site header.

Date of Birth: 9/18/1984

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 215 pounds

Bats/Throws: L/L

Position: P

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2005 – Cubs (Pima CC – Arizona)

Two years ago, Donald Veal was a top prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization. Despite a high walk rate, Veal dominated A-ball in 2006. He struck out 174, posted a 2.15 ERA and allowed only 91 hits in 155 innings. However, he also walked 82 on the season. In 2007, his control worsened, his strikeouts decreased slightly, and his overall numbers took a hit as a result. He still struck out an impressive 131 in his 130.1 innings, but he allowed 81 runners to reach base via walk. He repeated Double-A this past season, and his numbers were even worse. With a similarly poor walk rate, his strikeout numbers dropped considerably. Now 24, Veal seems to have hit a wall at the Double-A level.

The electric stuff that Veal possessed a couple years ago has reportedly deserted him. His stamina seems to have dropped, which contributed to his move to the bullpen. Baseball America had the following to say about Veal in their 2009 Prospect Handbook:

Two years later, he looks like an entirely different pitcher. He’ll still touch 94 mph with his heater, but he usually works at 89-90 and doesn’t maintain his velocity for more than a couple of innings. His curveball is usually a sweepy pitch with little power and only occasional spin, and he has trouble repeating his changeup.

Despite his issues, the Pirates selected Veal in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2008 in hopes he could rebound. He will have to remain on the major league roster for the entire 2009 season, a tall task for a pitcher with serious control issues. The lack of experience above Double-A does not help either. However, if he does figure things out, he would be a great addition to the organization. New pitching coach Joe Kerrigan will undoubtedly be working closely with Veal during the season, which could be very beneficial to the young left-hander. He has gone through some personal issues in the past couple years, which have unquestionably been a distraction. It’s possible that has contributed to his poor showing. This year will be huge for Veal. With another poor season, he will likely fall off most top prospect lists.

Expected arrival in Pittsburgh: 2009

Here is a video of Veal warming up before a game in May 2007.