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Pirates/Brewers Recap

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Pirates 8 Brewers 5

Pirates 0 Brewers 2

Pirates 8 Brewers 7

Well, that was interesting.  Little bit of every aspect of the game in this one: a pitcher’s duel, a home run derby and even an ugly brawl.  But, the bottom line is we pick up another series win and end a very ugly streak in the process.  So you can’t be unhappy with that.

Game one was the brawl portion of the series.  The Bucs jumped out to an early 6-1 lead behind Ross Ohlendorf.  Garrett Jones went yard.  Again.  Just about everyone got a hit.  It was a very nice showing, and a well deserved win.  The real fireworks, however, started in the 8th inning.  With the game at 7-2 Pirates and out of hand, the Brewers took the opportunity to get some payback.  From way back in April.  April!  It all started when Ryan Braun hit a home run and Jeff Karstens hit him his next time up.  This is one of those things that I hate about baseball.  If a pitcher feels shown up, he plunks the hitter.  If you don’t want the hitter to show you up, don’t hang a curve.  Period.  I can understand protecting your hitter, though.  If a pitcher on the other team throws at one of your hitters, you have to retaliate to establish some consequences and hopefully prevent it from happening in the first place.  The Brewers had a chance to throw at Karstens in that game.  They didn’t.  It started a bit of a tiff in the locker room.  They threw at our guy the next night.  The Pirates took it.  We’re even.  Or not.  Karstens came up to bat during long relief on Monday, and he got plunked.  I realize that revenge is a dish best served cold, but c’mon, that was April.  That revenge is frozen by now.  Plus, you already got your retribution.  I don’t get it.  Expect it to turn into some more fireworks in the future, though.  They come back in mid-August.  The Pirates aren’t dumb.  The umps issued warning before each of the last two games.  No use getting someone suspended.  If the Brewers can wait 3 months, we can wait 1, right?

Game two was the pitchers duel.  Virgil Vasquez and Braden Looper were all but unhitable.  Vasquez gave up 2 runs in about 7 innings, which I’ll take every time.  Especially from a 5th man in the rotation.  I think Vasquez is a fine 5th pitcher.  He shows flashes of brilliance and occasionally throws a stinker (which is what makes him a 5th starter instead of an ace).  I’ll take that.  Unfortunately, Looper also pitched 7 brilliant innings.  I’d love to shower him with praise, but I can’t.  We couldn’t hit anything off of the next 3 pitchers that entered the game, either.  That’s a surefire sign of a bad offensive night, not a great pitching night.  We managed 4 measly hits all night.  That will never ever get it done.  On the bright side, however, we only struck out once.  So, I guess that’s actually good defense by the Brewers.  I can respect that.

Game three was a slugfest.  Paul Maholm and Jeff Suppan were on the hill, so I wasn’t prepared for it, either.  Maholm’s been one of our best pitchers (which is almost saying something this year), and Suppan has been hit and miss all year.  Well, Maholm looked very mortal out there compared to the heavy Milwaukee bats, and Suppan was definitely in ‘miss’ mode.  Neither one made it to the 5th to register a decision.  There were 7 home runs in this game.  Doumit blasted two (and almost had a third), making it known he’s back from injury.  Garrett freaking Jones hit ANOTHER one.  That makes 9 already.  I wonder how much longer he can keep this up?  An interesting stat, though: all 9 home runs have been solo jacks.  A testament to the horrible OBP for the Pirates.  The biggest homer of the day, however, belonged to Brandon Moss.  His dinger in the bottom of the 9th untied the score and gave us our first series win against Milwaukee since I believe the Taft administration.

This is definitely turning into a bit of a rivalry.  I have no idea why, but any team that gets our anger up enough to hit 5 homers in a game is okay by me.  Don’t look now, but the Pirates haven’t lost a series since before the All-Star break (last week, I know, but I’m grasping at straws here).  We’re heading out to Phoenix tomorrow to start another series on the road this time.  Let hope we can keep this going.


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Pirates/Giants Recap

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Pirates 2 Giants 1

Pirates 2 Giants 0

Pirates 3 Giants 4

Alright.  When we last left the Pirates, they were on desperate times.  They had an awful series in Philadelphia where nothing went right.  They had an offense on life support.  They had made some major trades that severely downgraded their outfield, and their closer had just blown an awful game.  Coming out of the All Star break, we get Tim Lincecum and the Giants coming into town.  Just what the doctor ordered for an aching offense: a Cy Young contending pitcher.  Lets see how it went, shall we?

Well, we were lucky.  Lincecum pitched the game you would expect him to pitch.  He struck out 10 and gave up only 1 run and 5 hits in 7 innings of work.  Not too shabby.  We countered with Paul Maholm who pitched a gem of his own going 8 innings while giving up 1 run and 4 hits and striking out 7.  Everyone came to see a pitchers duel on Friday, and that’s exactly what they got.  Fantastic.  The game went to 14 innings before Garrett Jones hit a walk-off solo jack to win it.  Drama abound.  This after Jones hit another one in the beginning of the game to score the Pirates only other run.  I haven’t talked much about Jones even though he’s been on the radar for awhile, so I’ll formally introduce you to him.  He’s been in the Twins organization for a while, and after becoming a free agent this off-season, we picked him up.  He came up when we traded Eric Hinske, and has been doing nothing but hitting home runs since.  Seriously.  He has 7 home runs so far this year.  In 14 games which is a very impressive rate.  However, he only has an average of .286 and an OBP of .333.  That means if it doesn’t leave the park, he’s in trouble.  Not much of a singles hitter, this one (he’s got 16 hits including the 7 home runs).  When I said it’s all or nothing, I wasn’t kidding.  So, to recap, Jones and Maholm carry the rest of the team to a win.

Game two saw another decent pitching matchup (for a Bucco game): Charlie Morton vs. Barry Zito.  Morton is pitching decently since moving over in the McLouth trade.  Zito, umm, used to be good at some point.  Morton did very well while out-pitching Zito.  He puts up a line of 7 innings, 0 runs and 3 hits.  Very solid.  So solid, I’m wondering whether this is San Francisco’s lack of offense that’s making our staff look unhitable.  But, I digress.  We eek out 2 runs on 6 measly hits and once again do juuuuuuust enough to win.  Oh, and Matt Capps picked up the save (after allowing 2 hits), and gives a huge fist pump.  Whatever builds his confidence.

Game three matches Matt Cain against Zach Duke.  I know I’m making a huge deal about pitching in this series, but these are two teams that rely heavily on their staffs to get it done.  These were three good matchups, and they didn’t disappoint.  Anyway, Duke does ok, giving up 4 runs in 7 innings.  That’s usually enough to at least keep you in the game if not let your team get a lead.  But Matt Cain is having a heck of a year, and against our lineup he did very well.  We were down 4-1 when he left after 7, got two back in the 8th, and come up just short of the sweep.  Brandon Moss hit a homer.  That’s his 4th of the year.  That number was expected to be much much higher by now.  Our buddy Garrett Jones goes 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.  Ouch.

So that’s your series.  The pitching staff couldn’t have carried this team any more if there were handles installed.  Garrett Jones continues to be Mr. Fire and Ice.  If he gets some consistency and patience, he’ll be something.  Otherwise he’ll be a very frustrating player.  We’ve got enough of those.  Jack and Freddy were offered ‘contract extensions’.  Most of the fans saw right through that ploy.  The news just came out tonight that both players rejected the contracts that were roughly half of what they were to make next year.  I guess it was a smart move, though.  Offer pitifully low contracts.  If they sign them, great.  If not, you can blame them when you trade them.  That would have worked, would this not have been the most skeptical, pessimistic fan base in baseball (and with good reason).  So you can count the days until our team becomes even worse.  We have no one in the minors to replace them.  Remember Brian Bixler’s time in the bigs earlier this year?  Remember how he struck out more times than the AV club president on ladies night?  Think about that being permanent for the rest of the year.  *shudder*

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Pirates/Phillies Recap

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Pirates 2 Phillies 3

Pirates 7 Phillies 8

Pirates 2 Phillies 5

What can you say about this series?  It was a disaster in every sense of the word.  It was embarrassing to be a Pittsburgh fan.  Just awful.  We found new ways to lose.  I even had to take an extra day to calm down so I can write this.

How bad is the impression of the Pirates around baseball?  How about this one.  Jonathan Sanchez (a pitcher for the Giants) was rumored to be part of a deal for Freddy Sanchez.  He responded by going out on Saturday and tossing a no hitter.  Seriously.  Now, there’s two ways to interpret this news.  First is to realize the lengths players will go to to avoid being a Pirate.   Second is to realize that this is one more  instance where the Pirates have rotten luck.  We pull the trigger on a trade for him last week and maybe that no-no goes for us.  Nah.  You still need to score runs to win.  Even during a no hitter.  I forgot.

Anyway, game one was an odd-ball.   Zach Duke pitched a complete game (which literally probably made him an All Star).  He gave up 3, but over 8 innings I’ll take that in a heartbeat.  We were down 3-1 in the 9th, got a solo shot from Brandon Moss to pull within 1, and weren’t able to do anything else.  The case of the missing bats continues.  6 hits and 8 K’s.  Once again we see that reoccurring theme of striking out more than we’re getting hits.  We blew a gem by Duke.  Simple as that.  Poor guy would have had 10 wins by now on any other team in the bigs.

Game two was a heart-breaker.  The bats kind of showed up, and we got 10 hits and 3 home runs.  That never happens.  We have to take advantage of that, right?  We finally get one, right?  …..Please?  Nope.  We built up a 7-3 lead going into the 9th, and we have our closer coming in.  Usually a game over situation.  But not this time.  Capps proceeds to totally throw up on himself and give up 5 runs and 6 hits while only getting 1 out.  So now if you hear Pittsburgh fans talk, we don’t have a closer.  All of a sudden all of those times he’s put men on and made us sweat before getting the outs he needed matter.  I realize he’s not a great closer, but c’mon he plays for the Pirates.  We get about 1 save opportunity a week (maybe less after the trades).  If there’s one position we can save money and get a sub-par player, it’s closer.  The fact that he’s not Mariano Rivera is not news.  But I digress.  Capps had a bad day.  An especially bad day.  Which is alright.  Everyone’s entitled to one.  What I can’t understand is why he was allowed to stay out there for 5 runs and 6 hits while only getting 1 out.  Where’s Russell realizing that ‘gee.  My closer just gave up 2 home runs.  Maybe it’s time to stick a fork in him’?  You have to know your team better than that.  Just a killer loss.

Game three saw the Bucs obviously reeling from the loss the night before.  The Phils jumped out to a quick 5 run lead in the first inning and cruised.  Virgil Vasquez was horrible to start, and got no run support.  We scattered 7 hits, and had only managed 1 run going into the 9th (where we added another).  I think we saw the All Star Break looming and packed it in a game early.  That’s probably the most disappointing loss.  The one where we stopped trying.  Not bad luck.  Bad effort.

So with that, we’ve officially entered the dark period of the Pirates schedule.  This should only last until, oh, late September or so.  Get used to it.  I’m starting to get numb to the Pirates.  After the Saturday loss, I kind of packed in the season, too.  I was kind of hoping that this team might gel, and (although a very long shot), come back to challenge .500.  I’m not looking for playoffs this year.  I know better than that.  I was just looking for something (anything) to make me care about a game in September.  Or August for that matter.  It kills me that I’ve lowered my standards that much, and we still can’t meet them.  Welcome to Pirate fandom, I guess.  Where you pay your dues for the Steeler/Penguin seasons.  I’ll see you on the other side of the midsummer classic.

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Pirates/Astros Recap

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Pirates 1 Astros 4

Pirates 6 Astros 3

Pirates 0 Astros 5

Wow.  The Bucs had quite the week while I was gone.  A couple of trades (Nyjer Morgan?  Wouldn’t have been my first guess of who was to go next).  So, as a result, what we saw go out in Game one was quite literally a AAA team.  We had 6 players in the starting lineup (including the pitcher) who were in AAA last year.  How you expect to win with a lineup like that is beyond me.  Seriously.  I almost decided to stop covering the Bucs in this blog because I only cover professional baseball.  But, I guess I have to work with what I got.  So here goes.

In that first game, the AAA Pirates couldn’t get going at all.  They managed only 4 hits for a team batting average of .138.  Ladies and gentlemen, the future of your Pittsburgh Pirates!  Man, I sure hope these guys are still in the middle of the growing process.  5 position players went hitless, and Steve Pearce narrowly avoided the golden sombrero (strike out 4 times in a game), but only because he only got 3 at bats to strike out in.  Just a game that made you want to stick your head in the sand and wait for Steelers training camp to start.

Game two was defined by 1 inning.  Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss rejoined the lineup to decrease the number of AAA players by 2.  It looked like the same old Pirates, though.  Our offense was in serious condition at the beginning of the season, and this week its been downgraded to critical condition.  The Pirates got 3 hits in the 7th inning and (aided by some very wild pitching) were able to put up 4 runs.  Now if we can just find a pitcher who can’t find the strike zone every game, we’ll be fine.  Dropping the 7th inning, however, we had 4 hits and 5 strike outs.  Not a good ratio at all.  Paul Maholm was on a bit of a skid and had an OK outing.  Not great.  Just OK.  Hopefully he can build on it, though.  We got away with one here.

Game three was just sad.  Wandy Rodriguez pitched a complete game 5 hit shutout against us.  Wandy.  Rodriguez.  Not a bad pitcher, but far from Cy Young.  Just embarrassing.  We struck out 11 times.  11 times!  Charlie Morton showed flashes of brilliance and flashes of stupidity.  He pitched a first pitch strike 8 times to 22 batters.  That number has to go up.  But he’s young.  Just overall not a good day for your International League All Stars Pirates.

So, for those playing at home, that means this series we had a grand total of 16 hits and 22 strike outs.  You read that stat right.  We had a combined average of .172.  I’ve seen a ton of bad baseball.  It comes with the territory of living in Pittsburgh.  But this series has got to be the absolute worst display of hitting I have ever seen.  The numbers are laughable.  Now, I realize that we’re EXTREMELY young after all of the trades (I was only half kidding about that International League All Stars crack), but an average of 5 hits per game is embarrassing.  I’m real frustrated right now, and it doesn’t look like its going to end soon.  On the contrary, the rest of the season looks like the longest 3 months of baseball we’ve ever seen around here…….and that’s saying something.

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