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.

 

 

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Morton Fires Shutout at Wriglies

Turn about is fair play. At least that’s what they say. After being held to zero runs by Ryan Dempster on Tuesday night, Charlie Morton threw his first career shutout against the Cubs in the first game of a double header on Wednesday.

Morton allowed just four singles and three walks. He struck out a career best eight hitters. Ryan Theriot collected three of Chicago’s hits.

On the other side, Ted Lilly was troubled by a four run first. The Pirates collected three hits in the first and just three more thereafter. The outburst was triggered in part by Lastings Milledge aggressively breaking up a double play grounder that allowed Steve Pearce to be safe at first and scored a run. Jason Jaramillo followed with a two run, two out double for the second and third tallies. Brian Bixler’s single scored Jaramillo for the final run of the game.

Lilly struck out 8 in seven innings. He allowed five hits.

The Good

Morton’s effort.

Milledge going hard into second.

The Bad

Bucs whiffed 11 times overall.

The Rest

Morton’s previous career mark for whiffs was six, last accomplished 8/27/09 against Philadelphia. He had never pitched past the 7th inning before. He needed 119 pitches to complete the game. His previous high for pitches chucked in one game was 111, which he did in a six inning start for Atlanta last August.

This was Jaramillo’s first two RBI game since 8/31/09 against the Reds. Brian Bixler’s RBI was his first since April 26.

This was the 27th time the Pirates have struck out 10 or more times. Arizona leads the Show with 53 such games.

Milledge focuses, wins game

Jonathan Broxton toed the rubber and delivered another blazing fastball. It was thigh height, inner part of the plate, touching 97 miles per hour as it left his hand. Lastings Milledge took a powerful swing, hoping to send the hurtling sphere right back to its source. He fouled the ball off to the right, evening the count at 2-2. Milledge stepped out of the box and regrouped. Right before returning to his stance, he took two focused practice swings. The cuts were short, on a 45-degree angle toward the dirt. You could almost see Milledge telling himself, “Swing through the ball, not around it.” He returned to the box. Once again, Broxton came set. His next pitch was in the same exact location, this time registering at 98 miles per hour. Milledge took a controlled swing and lined the ball into right-center field. As Andre Ethier desperately tried to pick up the ball, Pirate players circled the bases. Garrett Jones touched home and the comeback victory was completed.

This was a fun win for the Pirates, as well as the fans who witnessed it at PNC Park. It was the type of game that could take the weight off the players’ shoulders, allowing them to relax and play with confidence. But for me, the most important moment was when Milledge stepped out of the box and regrouped. Many times, he has talked about the adjustments he has been making since joining the Pirates’ organization. Once, he briefly mentioned the work he has done on his swing plane. Watching him take a second during a pivotal situation, remind himself of the work he has been doing, and immediately deliver the big hit was very satisfying for me.

The Pirates are currently in the painful phase of the rebuilding process. If you are looking for positives right now, watch for individuals taking very small steps toward becoming successful major league players. If you look closely, you will see some progress.

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Bucs Stage Improbable Comeback in Victory

Daniel McCutchen almost got the win. The Pirates were 9 outs away, clinging to a one run lead. Luis Cruz mishandled an inning ending DP grounder in the 7th, allowing the tying run to score. No decision for McCutchen (6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs).

In the 9th, LA put their first three runners on base en route to scoring three times off of Matt Capps. At that point, whatever slight breeze that was keeping my sails half empty dissipated entirely. No hope.

But yet, there was. With Jonathan Broxton on in the 9th, the Pirates came all the way back. Andy LaRoche singled in one run. With the bases loaded, Lastings Milledge delivered what should have been a game tying single. But the ball scooted past Andre Ethier and Garrett Jones scored all the way from first with the game winning run. Woo hoo!

That made a winner of Capps and hung Broxton with the loss. Clayton Kershaw made the start for LA and was pulled after four innings as he is coming off a hiatus from pitching due to a separated shoulder.

The Good

Taking at least two of four from LA. Going for the series win tomorrow!

McCutchen pitched well.

Andrew McCutchen had three hits. LaRoche and Milledge each drove in two.

The Bad

The 7th and the 9th defensive half innings.

The Rest

LaRoche had just his fourth multi-RBI game of the second half of the year.

This was Andrew McCutchen sixth game with three or more hits.

This was the fifth time in 2009 that Capps has allowed three or more runs in a single outing. He had just four such incidents in 2007 and 2008 combined.

Pirates need to go 5-3 to avoid a 100 loss season.

Reds Sweep Pirates Behind Arroyo, Votto

It was one bad inning that did in Charlie Morton. That inning was the third and the Red scored four times and collected four of their seven hits for the game. Joey Votto’s two run double did the most damage.

Morton allowed just two other hits in his seven innings of toil. But the Pirates managed only a solo jack from Lastings Milledge off of Bronson Arroyo. The ex-Bucco also lasted seven, scattering five hits and whiffing four.

The Pirates put three runners on against Francisco Cordero in the 9th, but were unable to score.

The Good

Nothing. Maybe Morton wasn’t so bad other than that one inning.

Three double plays from the defense, including an OF assist from Brandon Moss.

The Bad

The continuing saga of the pathetic offense.

The Rest

Welcome G20 summit attendees and protesters!

Arroyo moves to 4-3 in his career against Pittsburgh. He picked up his second win of 2009 with no defeats against the Pirates. This was Arroyo’s 76th win since being let go by the Pirates.

Only four pitchers have logged 200 or more innings in each of the past five years – Arroyo, Mark Buehrle, Danny Haren and Javier Vazquez. As it stand right now, the Pirates have amassed just four such pitcher seasons over the same period. I don’t want to go out on a limb, but I think it was officiallly a mistake to let him walk.

After hitting 14 homers in 587 ABs in 2008, Milledge has just three in 179 ABs in 2009.

 

 

 

 

Ohlendorf’s Mistakes Prove Costly

Frustrated tonight. Missed the Notre Dame game due to travel. Caught the bulk of it on the radio. I’m of the opinion that a Lou Holtz defense wouldn’t have buckled with the game on the line. Listened to OSU/USC and now home in time to watch the finish.

And, of course, checking on my beloved, pathetic Buccos. Poor Ross Ohlendorf. He gave up only four hits in 6-1/3. Two of them were dingers. Both came with a man on. Four runs against. And he got just two runs of support. So, he took the loss.

Brian Moehler gave up both Pirate runs over six innings. But, he didn’t get the decision. Jeff Fulchino tossed a scoreless seventh and was the winner since Miguel Tejada’s tie-breaking dinger came in the home half of the 7th (Carlos Lee hit the other homer). Jose Valverde closed things out.

The Good

Ohlendorf – here’s hoping he keeps it up next year, too.

Ronny Cedeno and Lastings Milledge each had two hits.

The Bad

The losing. The lack of an offense.

Notre Dame gagging.

The Rest

Fulchino has two wins and has allowed no runs in 5-1/3 innings over four appearances against Pittsburgh in 2009.

Over his last 15 starts, Ohlendorf is just 5-5 despite an ERA around 3.50. He has allowed more than three earned runs in a start just twice since July.

Lee needs six more RBI to reach 100 for the fifth straight year.

And now the Buckeyes have lost…

Bucs Make Nary a Whimper in Record Setting 82nd Loss

Outlined against a blue-gray September sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Poor Player Development, Weak Amateur Scouting, Lopsided Trades and Ill-Advised Free Agent Signings.

Apologies to Grantland Rice…

If it wasn’t already officially football season in Pittsburgh, it is now. I think football season begins in the Steel City as soon as the Steelers start training camp.

It was an ugly gray day in Pittsburgh. I kept hoping that the skies would open up and the 82nd loss would come not as the result of a 27th out, but rather by the hands of the umpiring crew deeming the field to be unplayable. But not even that indignity could be spared. Let the record show that the final out was a routine fly ball off the bat of Lastings Milledge that found itself easily captured by Kosuke Fukudome. Is it irony that when the Pirates losing season streak started, only one player of Japanese decent had ever appeared in the Show, yet the player who recorded the last putout came from that island nation?

Ted Lilly and three Cub relievers combined on a 2 hitter as the Pirates were beaten for the 82nd time this season. Derrek Lee drove in three runs with a pair of homers. Both Pirate hits went for extra bases (solo homer from Andy LaRoche and an RBI double from Brandon Moss). Daniel McCutchen was serviceable – giving up nine hits and four runs in seven innings.

The Good

LaRoche homered.

The Bad

82 losses. Officially.

Getting two-hit.

The Rest

By the numbers – LaRoche and Moss have 15 homers and 83 RBI in 762 ABs. Jason Bay has 31/98 in 452 at bats.

Ted Lilly is now 4-1 against the Pirates all-time.

In just seven games in 2009, Lee has 12 RBI against the Pirates.