image from espn.com
Pirates 7 Cardinals 1
Pirates 5 Cardinals 2
Pirates 1 Cardinals 5
Another incredibly late Pirates recap. I just can’t seem to get excited about these. Oh, well. From the hits counter on this site, it doesn’t seem like many other people are getting excited about them either, so it doesn’t really matter. So after a week long stretch without a win, the Buccos finally took a series against the first place Cardinals. Yup. The bipolar baseball team strikes again.
Game one was excellent. Albert Pujols hit a homer to deep center in the first inning and you could just hear the ‘here we go again’ groans. Then we came back to get 4 in the second and never looked back. We rocked Todd Wellemeyer for two dingers and 7 runs in 4 1/3 innings. It looked like the Pirate bats were finally coming alive again…..until the bullpen shut us down for the second half of the game and showed us that it was just crappy pitching by Wellemeyer. Zach Duke pitched a gem going 8 innings with only 4 hits and that one homer by Pujols being the only blemish. Matt Capps put a scare into everyone by loading the bases in the ninth, but eventually got control of himself and struck out two straight to set up a fly ball to right to end the game.
Game two was more of the same. We knocked around the starting pitcher, Joel Pineiro, for 5 runs in 6 innings. Ross Ohlendorf gave a quality start going 6 innings with 1 run. Neither bullpen blinked too much, and the Pirates held on.
Game three made you pull your hair out. We got 12 hits on the day, but could only turn them into 1 run. How did we manage that, you ask? By stranding 10 runners on base. That’s how. We hit into 3 double plays this game. And not just any double plays. All three were rally-killing, drop your head and swear double plays. You’d love to look at this and say it was good pitching that got you, but you can’t. We swung the bats well, we seem to have righted the ship temporarily, and we just got unlucky. That’s baseball. We’ve got 7 games against the Rockies and Nationals this week. Two of the worst teams in baseball (along with our Buccos). I think if we can take 5 of 7, we’ll be back to being in good shape. That should make up for the losing streak last week. Lets go Bucs!
image from espn.com
Pirates 2 Cardinals 4
Pirates 2 Cardinals 5
Another short 2-game series, another sweep. The Bucco season is getting ugly quick. I think we’re going to need to have to put the Pirates bats on a milk carton or something. They haven’t been seen in days. Frustrating stuff. Zach Duke again failed to make it 6 innings in game one. We haven’t had back to back quality starts in weeks. But the story was the 6-31 night the Pirate hitters had. It was disgusting. And it wasn’t a Cy Young guy that did it to us, either. The starter was Mitchell Boggs who didn’t even go 5 innings. He gave up both runs, 5 of the six hits, and sat down one out into the 5th. Then the Cardinal bullpen proceeded to just about no-hit us.
Same story in game 2. Ross Ohlendorf went 6 innings, but gave up 5 runs in the process. That’s not insurmountable, but when your hitters are going 4-30 it is. Once again, the Cardinal bullpen shut us out. Frustrating, I know. Andy Van Slyke (one of the Pirates from back in the early 90’s when we could win) once said “Every season has its peaks and valleys.
What you have to try to do is eliminate the Grand Canyon.” Well, we’re in a Grand Canyon and a half right now, and we have to get out before it’s too late.
image from espn.com
Pirates 7 Cardinals 4
Pirates 1 Cardinals 2
So I’m going with a change of format to save my sanity during the baseball season. I’m going to go with one series recap instead of a daily game recaps. That should give me a bit of spare time to do some odds and ends posts as well.
Game 3 was defined by Zach Duke having a good game. Duke went 6+ innings with 5 hits, 3 runs (1 earned), 4 K’s and 2 walks. A pretty good outing to be sure. But that would be just about average to most pitchers in this league. Everyone is praising Duke because, after last year, not sucking TOO much is a reason to celebrate. That’s a pretty sad state of a team when that kind of attitude creeps in. I think he had a decent outing. The bats really came around and gave him some breathing room, and we come out with the victory. Pretty standard. I’m more excited by how the Pirate bats are progressing more than I am by Zach Duke. We seem to be playing a lot more small ball this year that I ever remember, and that’s how you build up consistency. I think this is the way a small payroll team like the Bucs competes. A bunch of pesky hitters that find holes in the defense and get walks and just consistently prick you for runs. It’s really annoying to play against and not the most exciting to watch, but if it wins I’ll take it.
Game 4 was a different story. The bats were mainly silenced due to an absolutely outstanding performance by Chris Carpenter. Every team has games like this where you just run into a pitcher on a great day. You just gatta come back stronger against Cincinnati. Ohlendorf had a decent outing (6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs both earned, 1 walk, 1 K). I’d like to see less hits but I’ll take it (especially from this staff). That makes 3 good outings by Pirate starters out of 4 this series. If we keep that up, we’ll be in good shape. The bats got demolished for one hit all game. One friggin hit. We got our only run by a walk, a few productive outs and a throwing error (no hits). I guess the silver lining is that we can still manufacture a run without even registering a hit. I’m positive that teams of a few years couldn’t do that. Just remember all of those base running errors in years past.
I think we had a solid outing in St. Louis. We split a series with a very good Cardinal club, and it’s not because they played down to our level. The pitching staff gave me some unexpected reason for hope. The only real low notes were Ian Snell and Andy LaRoche. We’ve got a lot of help behind LaRoche at 3rd, but Snell’s can’t pitch like that all season. Other than that, however, I’m pleased. Lets see if we can keep that up. If we continue to play this well in Cincinnati, we’ll be in great shape heading into the home opener.
image from espn.com
Ah. THAT’S more like the Pirate pitching I’ve come to know and love. Check out that Ian Snell line from this game: 4 innings, 8 runs (6 earned), 3 walks and 2 K’s. That means he’s starting out with a 13.50 ERA. Nice. Now, I realize he hasn’t pitched much lately, but those are some stats only a mother could love. I think it’s going to be a real long year. Exhibit B: Andy LaRoche commits another error to add to his 2 from yesterday. At this rate, he’s ready to smash the major league record of 91 errors in a season by a 3rd baseman(set by Charlie Hickman in 1900)(stats from baseball-almanac.com). He’ll also give me plenty of pathetic pictures to accompany game recaps. Oh, well. Try try again tomorrow.
image from espn.com
Hey! The first Bucco post of the year! Plus, to top it off, we actually won! On some ninth inning heroics I might add. I think to know how good this team will be, you need to look at the pitching: and Paul Maholm had a pretty solid outing. Doumit had a day he’d like to forget, but that was the biggest low-light. Nyjer Morgan went 3 for 5 in the leadoff position. Overall, a solid game. You love to see a team hang in a game so when the opportunity presents itself (like a rookie closer), you can take advantage.
I really feel sorry for Pirate fans. Everyone jumped ship so long ago, that what’s left is one of the most intelligent fan-bases in baseball. Seriously, go on some Pirate message boards and ignore the occasional ‘we suck’ comments. You’ll find a lot of really knowledgeable people who love and understand the game. I dare say that they’re one of the most deserving fan-bases in baseball (I’m using they in that sentence because although I’m a bucco fan through and through who follows the team, I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about the sport as some of these guys). Another post tomorrow. Gotta love the daily games of baseball season.
Well, the state of the team is pretty darn good right now. The Super Bowl win has been covered to death so I’ll just lead you here, here and here and let you start to explore for yourself.
So the talk now is whether this was the greatest Supgreatest Super Bowl everer Bowl ever. I think for me personally, it is because I had a personal stake in the game. But it wasn’t the greatest Super Bowl game ever. There are at least half a dozen ahead of it. The way I see it, a game is declared exciting if it’s decided within a minute or so of the end of the game. A good game is a game that’s not only decided late, but involves a tight score throughout the game where you can never make a prediction of who is going to win. In that sense, this game wasn’t one of the greatest. Pittsburgh was ahead for 3 quarters and it sure looked to everyone watching like they were going to win. It wasn’t until the safety that got the Cards within one score that people started to take notice. Even if you want to say that a great game is one that is decided in the last minute, regardless of the rest of the game, this isn’t the best. Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl XXXIV were both decided on the final play (XXXVIII was Adam Vinatieri’s game winner over the Panthers and XXXIV was Mike Jones’ game saving tackle of Dyson at the 1 yard line to put the Rams over the Titans). And that’s just the last 10 years. Super Bowls X, XXV, and XXXVI were also decided on the last play. So if XLIII wasn’t the greatest because of it’s last minute suspense, and it wasn’t the greatest due to 4 quarters of suspense, then it isn’t the greatest ever. Sorry.
John Clayton at espn.com says the Steelers are one of a handful of teams we could see in the Super Bowl again next year. I want to see what happens with free agency first, but I have a bad feeling about this team next year. I think Clayton makes a good point with the easy schedule next year. But I think with the decent play in the Super Bowl by some free agents (I’m looking your way O-Line), we may see a lot of new faces next year. I wouldn’t expect those new faces to be upgrades, either. I think we’ll have at least 2 new offensive linemen next year. They weren’t the most talented unit in the NFL, but they were starting to gel a bit towards the end of the season. It’s a shame we won’t be able to continue that momentum. I don’t think the Steelers will be bad. I see us above .500 and competing for a division title (same old same old around here). But I sure wouldn’t pencil us in for Miami next year quite yet. Lets hope they prove me wrong.
Just a quick note on something I’ve been looking at here. It’s no secret that the Cardinals are playing much better in the playoffs. Most of the credit has been going to their defense, and there’s a good argument for it. In the regular season, the Cards gave up an average of 27 points per game. Now it’s about 22. They also have a ridiculous turnover margin of +9 in the playoffs (it was even in the regular season). But there’s a flip side to this where the stats aren’t so drastic. The total yards given up per game is pretty even: 331.5 in the regular season, 324.3 in the post season. The number of first downs given up per game is also pretty even: 19.5 regular season, 19.3 post season. It looks a lot like the Cards defensive stats in the post season have been the result of a few big plays rather than sustained improvement. Their stats are a ‘house of cards’, if you will (insert rim shot and groan here).
I’d argue that the Cardinal offense has seen a bigger turnaround in the playoffs. They’re scoring an average of 5 more points a game (32 vs. 27). The yardage is pretty similar (366 ypg regular season 362 ypg post season), but the big difference is time of possession. Arizona had the ball an average of 30:10 minutes a game in the regular season: for all intents an purposes, exactly half the game. In the post season, they’ve had the ball an average of 33:15. That doesn’t sound like much, but that creates a gap of more than 6 minutes of possession between them and their opponents. The cause of this is obvious: more balance with the rushing game. Arizona averaged 74 ypg on the ground in the regular season. That’s gone up to 111 ypg in the post season. The balance is also evident in play calling. In the regular season, the Cardinals were 65% passing plays 35% running plays. In the post season, they’re 48% pass and 52% run.
The best receiving corps in the league just found a running game to ballance them out? That’s got me a little nervous.
Stats from nfl.com and espn.com