Bucs Swoon Continues as Astros Pull Away

The Astros broke open a close game with six runs in the seventh inning as Pittsburgh’s conclusion to the baseball season gets uglier.

Charlie Morton pitched well enough – three earned runs in six innings.  But the offense struggled against rookie Bud Norris. He allowed just one run on six hits and seven whiffs in six innings.

The Astros big inning came at the expense of Joel Hanrahan and Jesse Chavez. The largest damage was a two out three run tater from Carlos Lee, which came on the heels of an error from Ryan Doumit during a rundown.

The Bucs lone run was a solo dinger from Andy LaRoche.

The Good

The season is almost over.

The Bad

All the losing.

The Rest

Is it possble that Jesse Chavez is out of gas? All three runs he let up were unearned, but his second half ERA is 6.00 in 21 IP after a 3.19 ERA in 36-2/3 IP in the first half.

This was Norris’ first career appearance against Houston.

This was Morton’s best appearance in his career against the Astros. Previously he allowed 11 earned runs over 10 innings in two starts. Morton posted an ERA way too close to 7.00 over his previous eight starts.

Advertisements

Bucs Rally to Avoid 82nd Loss

It looked bleak for the Smoky City Nine heading into the bottom of the 9th. Rick Ankiel homered off of Jesse Chavez in the top of the 9th to give St. Louis a 5-4 lead. The Cards trotted closer Ryan Franklin out to the mound to close the deal and not only give the Pirates a losing record but also mathematically eliminate them from the playoffs.

But the Pirates came up with four singles and two runs. The final tally came on a single from Garrett Jones. That made a winner of Chavez and a loser of Franklin.

The Cardinals scored in the first when Jason Jaramillo’s toss back to the mound sailed over the head of Paul Maholm and scored Julio Lugo from third. Hopefully he won’t get Mackey Sasser disease.

The Cardinals took a 4-1 lead before the Pirates scored three times in the sixth off of Joel Pineiro. Ronny Cedeno had a two run single and Jaramillo – who had three hits – struck the game tying blow.

That’s how it stayed until the 9th, staving off historical infamy for at least one more contest.

Maholm allowed four runs in six innings. He gave up six hits and whiffed seven. Pineiro also went six and gave up four tallies. He allowed eight safeties and struck out three.

The Good

13 hits.

A win.

Pirate pitchers combined for 10 whiffs.

The Bad

Jaramillo’s throw.

The Rest

Neil Walker gathered his first ML hit and first ML run.

Chavez recorded his first ML win.

Lastings Milledge has hits in 9 of his last 10 games. So has Jones.

The Pirates had not scored off of Franklin in his last 11 appearances covering 9-2/3 IP.

 

 

 

Bucs Drop Pair to Redlegs, Fall Deeper into the Cellar

It was an ugly day-night double header in Cincinnati. Making up a rained out game, the Pirates were beaten in front of a sparse crowd in the afternoon. They returned for the eveing game and were beaten again.

In the opener, the ML debut of Pirates starter Daniel McCutchen was pretty solid. He gave up four singles and a homer (to Drew Stubbs) in six innings, allowing three runs and whiffing five. He was matchd up against Kip Wells, who was also good – six innings and just two runs allowed. But, Jason Jaramillo singled in the 7th off of Carlos Fisher, tying the contest and causing neither starter to get a decision.

But Jesse Chavez allowed two singles and a fly ball to right that moved Darnell McDonald to third. Then Chavez uncorked a wild pitch allowing McDonald to score with the game ending run.

The second game started out rough. Paul Maholm was tagged for three runs in the first. The Reds used five hits and left the bases loaded while batting around. Past the first inning, other than a homer from Brandon Phillips in the third, Maholm was okay. Drew Stubbs added a homer in the night cap in the 8th off of Chavez.

Andrew McCutchen’s solo homer was the highlight of a three run sixth inning, but the Pirates could do little else against Johnny Cueto. He struck out five and allowed one run in 5+ innings. Nick Masset won the opener for Cincy.

The Good

Danny Bautista tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Maholm. He is unscored upon in 2009.

In addition to a good outing, Daniel McCutchen collected his first ML hit and his first ML RBI.

The Bad

Getting swept by a fifth place team.

Being in the cellar.

Being five losses away from securing yet another losing season. It is and has been a foregone conclusion.

The Rest

Last Bucco pitcher to get a hit in his ML debut was Maholm way back on 8/30/05.

You have to go way way back to 6-24-96 and Elmer Dessens to find the last Pirate pitcher to get a hit and an RBI in their first appearance in the Show.

Cueto now has four wins against the Pirates, his most against any team.

Maholm had not lost to Cincy since April 2007 when the Reds beat him twice.

This was the fourth time that Wells started against the Pirates and he was 3-1 in those outings coming into this afternoon’s game.

Schumakers PH Dinger Keys Card Comeback, Sweep

Matt Capps entered early – with one out in the 8th – and promptly lost the game. He allowed a pinch hit homer to the first batter he faced – Skip Schumaker – as St. Louis scored five runs in the 8th to win 7-3 and sweep the series.

Zach Duke had pitched effectively for the first 7-1/3 inning. After hitting for himself in the bottom of the 7th, Duke was pulled one out and one on in the 8th. After Capps gave up the go ahead dinger, he plunked Albert Pujols and was ejected from the game. Pujols was visibly angry and in some pain as the result of taking one off his torso. Jesse Chavez relieved and threw some gas on the fire as St. Louis scored three more times.

The Pirates collected seven hits in the 2nd and 3rd innings combined to take a 3-0 lead off of Joel Pineiro. The big blow was a two run homer from Steve Pearce in the second. But Pineiro settled in and pitched seven innings. The Pirates would get just two more hits off him after the third – both by Ramon Vazquez.

The Pirates put two on with no one out in the 8th off the St. Louis bullpen, but could not draw closer.

Duke went 7-1/3 and gave up two earned runs to get the no decision. Capps was the loser. Pineiro won and Kyle McClellan retired the final five hitters for a long save.

The Good

Duke was good again. One of these games, he’ll get some run support.

Vazquez, Lastings Milledge and Delwyn Young each had two hits.

In the 4th Jason Jaramillo’s snap throw to first picked off Bengie Molina to end the inning.

The Bad

The bullpen.

The Pirates drew no walks.

The defense faltered. Each of St. Louis first two runs came on errant pick off attempts. Duke tossed one into left in the fourth inning. That allowed Julio Lugo to move to third and he scored on a sac fly. In the 7th, Duke picked off Matt Holliday, who broke for second. But Pearce’s throw went into left field. Holliday went to third as a very weak throw from Milledge – and I was surprised at how bad a throw it was – was late. He also scored on a sacrifice fly.

Bucs hit into three double plays.

The Rest

Tony LaRussa will pick a spot to retaliate against the Pirates for Pujols getting plunked. The Cards are back in town in early September. The question is who does he hit? Andrew McCutchen is liable to steal. Garrett Jones isn’t a big enough name. That would leave either Ryan Doumit or Lastings Milledge.

Pineiro came into the game with a 5.66 ERA against Pittsburgh. He picked up his 10th win of the season. This is the first time he hit double digits in wins since 2003.

Bizarre jersey of the weekend winner was a teenage guy wearing a ketchup Jeff Andrews jersey. Didn’t see that one coming at all. I figured that he must’ve won it as part of some promotional give away. I can’t imagine someone buying it. On the St. Louis side, someone had a Fernando Tatis jersey. I also saw someone wearing a Pat Neshek jersey t-shirt. But that doesn’t count because the Tigers weren’t in town. Plus he hasn’t pitched in over a year.

On the discount rack in the clubhouse store were an array of Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson and Adam LaRoche jersey t-shirts. Also some Zach Duke ketchup jersey tees. If the very poorly run Pirates marketing department would make jersey tees for the 1970s era Pirates (and even some guys from the 1980s), there would be another benefit, as my brother noted: they’d never have to discount the shirts as the result of a trade.  

I’m often critical of the Pirates marketing department, but I have to praise them for the free spin on the prize wheel promo. It isn’t too often that teams give something away for free. It’d be a good deal if it cost $1. But out of the four spins between my brother and I over the weekend, we collected two bobble heads and a hat (plus a coupon for discount tickets, which I pitched).

A new casino opened in Pittsburgh at noon. Attendance was 24,000 – not too shabby.

 

Cards Continue Mastery Over Pirates

Chris Bootcheck’s first career appearance as a Pirates didn’t go well. He started the sixth in relief of starter Charlie Morton. He gave up a single and three walks to force in one run. With two outs, he gave up a bases clearing double to Albert Pujols that pushed the game wide open. Pujols had failed twice earlier with runners on base before connecting in the fateful sixth.

Adam Wainwright was effective for St. Louis. He was perfect through three innings. He went 6-2/3, giving up seven hits, one run and no walks. He struck out six. He tossed 83 of his 112 pitches for strikes.

The Pirates made a ‘too little, too late’ bid with a two run homer from Ronny Cedeno in the 9th. Ultimately, Ryan Franklin had to be summoned to get the last out.

Morton was okay. He was in trouble a lot, giving up seven hits in five innings. But they got just one run off him.

The Good

Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones had two hits each. Cedeno singled in addition to his dinger.

‘White Flag’ Joel Hanrahan struck out four in two innings of work.

Lastings Milledge ran hard all night.

The Bad

Umm. The bullpen?

The Rest

This is day one of my annual trek to Pittsburgh. Across Ohio and up I-79. My brother and I stopped off at the Mall at Robinson before coming downtown. I was not surprised to find that most of the stores that carried sports stuff were emphasizing the Steelers and Penguins over the Pirates. The Dick’s store at the mall had jersey t-shirts of Garrett Jones. We both laughed at that.

After that we did the yearly routine. Check in at the Renaissance (three wedding events at the hotel today – I always feel underdressed coming into the hotel in a t-shirt and shorts). Down a couple of doors for some slices from Giovanni’s Pizza (still outstanding and something we look forward to every year). Then onto the PNC.

The banners hanging up around the outside of the stadium are surely different than what they were in April. Garrett Jones, Jesse Chavez, Charlie Morton and Jason Jaramillo all have banners.  

I guess I’m no longer amazed at how poorly the the team markets itself. I’m a diehard and I’m armed with money and I’m eager to buy something. Yet the only thing that strikes my fancy is a $49 t-shirt (http://www.redjacketshop.com/products/RJ623PIP.htm). I’m not that eager to pay so much for a t-shirt. So, for now, I have nothing in my hands.

My brother and I were talking about all the jersey t-shirt opportunities that the team misses out on. They limit themselves to Clemente, Stargell and Maz. I’d buy shirts with John Candelaria, Al Oliver, Jim Bibby, Richie Hebner, et al without thinking twice about it if they were $20 to $25.

Ken the Lemonade Vendor (www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEpQhGajjeU) was in full voice. That’s always a treat.

A woman with the last name of Coonelly sung the National Anthem. Not sure if she is related to Frank Coonelly. She did a nice job. Though my brother noted – very Simon like – that she appeared to scream it in some parts.

I enjoy some of the ways they introduce players on the big board. I especially like the baseball card introduction this year. It is fantastic to hear the hot dog shooting jingle “…so catch yourself some meat.” Cracks me up every year.

Delwyn Young became an instant favorite of my brothers as he was introduced before his at bats by the Biz Markie song “Just a Friend”.

It was a sellout crowd and 7th largest in PNC history. The post-game fireworks and OAR concert are certainly the reasons. We skipped both. Though we can hear and see the fireworks from our room. I think the music has already started, but the fireworks have been intermittent over the past 30 minutes. It is 11:45 right now.  So, not sure how they are dealing with playing with the sound of fireworks booming in the background.

Speaking of music to be introduced by, this was my first visit to PNC Park that didn’t involve hearing Jack Wilson and his signature song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Kind of sad. I also lament the loss of the between inning ‘mullet cam’ from earlier years at PNC.

Snakes Go Extra to Sweep

The Pirates bullpen faltered again. Leading 6-3 heading into the 7th, Jeff Karstens and Jesse Chavez were unable to preserve the win for Bucco newcomer Kevin Hart. Arizona tied it with a solo homer in the 8th from Trent Oeltjen, who was making his ML debut.

After that it stayed knotted 12th when Arizona pounded Steven Jackson for five runs. Alex Romero hit a game breaking two run double in the 12th.

The Pirates got to Max Scherzer with a four run sixth that drove him from the game. He gave up five runs in 5-1/3. He was long gone before it was decided. Hart wasn’t great, but he left with the lead. He allowed nine hits and three runs in six innings before giving way to Karstens.

The Pirates offense managed just three hits after the sixth inning. Ronny Cedeno drove in a pair of runs in the sixth.

Jon Rauch pitched a scoreless 11th for the win. Jackson dropped his second decision of the year.

The Good

It is early, but Cedeno has hit the ball.

The Bad

The bullpen has struggled recently.

The Rest

Oeltjen is a native of Australia and is the first Aussie born player to homer in his first ML game. He is now tied for sixth among all Australian players in career homers.

Jackson had not been scored on in his previous 10-1/3 innings of work.

In the 4th Andy LaRoche was nabbed trying to swipe home as Hart whiffed.

 

Bucs Losing Streak Reaches Four

The Pirates offense continued to struggle as Barry Zito was knocked around for nine hits in 5-2/3 innings, but continually pitched out of trouble as he allowed just one run. With two on and no one out in the sixth, Zito got Luis Cruz and Charlie Morton out. With Andrew McCutchen due up, he was pulled for Sergio Romo. McCutchen, who had doubled and scored in the first, whiffed to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Morton surrendered an RBI double to Eugenio Velez, who had knotted the score earlier in the contest with a solo dinger.

Jesse Chavez yielded and RBI to Pablo Sandoval in the 7th. The Pirates scored off Jeremy Affeldt in the 8th on a sac fly from Cruz. But Brian Wilson closed out the game in the 9th for the save.

Romo was the winner, going 1/3 of an inning. Morton was the loser despite allowing just two earned runs in six innings.

The Good

Bucs collected 10 hits after getting just nine in the previous two games

I’ll take that outing from Morton all season long.

Ryan Doumit stayed hot with two more hits.

The Bad

4th straight loss.

Bucs have scored just four runs in those four losses.

The Rest

This was the 12th time this year the Pirates managed 10 hits in a losing effort.

Velez came into the game just 3-18 in his career against the Pirates.

Despite a career 3.63 ERA, Zito was 0-3 in three career starts against Pittsburgh before tonight.

Newly acquired Ryan Garko was 0-4 in his San Fran debut.

Steve Pearce was the only Pirate non-pitcher without a hit.