Tag Archives: Jeff Karstens

Pirates/Nationals Recap

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image from espn.com

Pirates 5 Nationals 4

Pirates 11 Nationals 6

Pirates 3 Nationals 5

Pirates 4 Nationals 8

Andrew McCutchen…..power hitter?  Seems like it.  4 home runs in the series.  3 in one game.  What the heck got into him?  I’d love to know.  But I guess that’s just the one good note Pirate fans get on the otherwise disappointing series.  The new look Pirates looked good out of the gates on Friday.  They hit their stride on Saturday.  They took and early lead on Sunday and blew it.  Then decided that blowing leads was so much fun they do it again on Sunday.

But, alas, back to the beginning on Friday.  Ross Ohlendorf had his usual outing, by which I mean he went about 6 innings and then just totally ran out of gas with no warning.  If he’s going to be a starter with low stamina, the least he could do is gradually let off so that Russell knows when to warm someone up.  Oh, well.  Chavez cleaned up his mess, so no harm no foul, I guess.  We rolled out 5 pitchers in this game.  Taxing your bullpen like that is okay as long as it’s not a habit.  Steve Pearce got a home run.  Lets hope that’s a sign of the power we’ve been looking for out of him for the past, oh, I don’t know, few years or so.  Ryan Doumit had an awful game all around, but since he was the exception on the offense instead of the rule (like usual), we get the W.  I’ll take it.

Game two was the Andrew McCutchen show.  3 home runs and a single to go 4 for 5.  How long until he’s traded again?  Oh, well.  I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.  Everyone was hitting the ball hard.  Except for Garrett Jones that is.  The one proven power hitter in the lineup.  He looked like he was swinging for Ohio, and got under a ball to right field twice.  I have a sinking suspicion that pitchers are starting to get a book on him, and those home runs will dry up.  But once again: oh, well.  I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.  Virgil Vasquez pitched, and surprisingly was only half bad.  He made it through 5, and was relieved by his co-5th starter: Jeff Karstens.  I think when Virgil’s up, Jeff knows to get warmed up really well.  I can’t remember the last time Vasquez started and didn’t have to hand the ball off to Karstens for some long relief.  You might as well just start Jeff.  I don’t get it.  Sigh.

Game three was miserable.  Paul Maholm was on the mound, and wasn’t getting great run-support, but was taking a 2-1 lead into the 7th inning when the wheels came off and he gives up 3 runs.  We lose 5-3.  Crap.  It’s a shame because Paul’s shown good stuff this year.  But this isn’t the first outing this season where he’s run out of gas.  Ronny Cedeno flashed some leather in this one (well, all series actually) so he’s at least a serviceable shortstop…..defensively.  Offensively, he was known as “rally killin’ Ronny'” in Seattle.  I see why after watching him for a weekend.  He’s not a strong guy, so all he can do is push out into the short short outfield and hope it finds a hole.  He’ll ground into a lot of double plays.  Just the facts of life.  But at least you know he’s not juicing, right?

Game four was more of the same.  McCutchen started the game off with a home run.  We put two more across in the 1st inning.  Then we couldn’t get out of our own way for the next 7 innings.  Ryan Doumit singled in Garrett Jones in the bottom of the 9th, but by then it was already 8-3 with two outs and all but a lost cause.  Charlie Morton pitched 6 innings and was throwing extremely well for the first 5, but then gave up 4 runs in the 6th.  That seems to be a theme for Pirate starters.  Get to about the 6th somewhere and call it a day.  I’m not sure if its the training they’re doing that isn’t getting the stamina up enough or what, but this is a staff-wide problem.  It’s not just one guy with a quirk.  I’m getting worried.

So there you have it.  A fantastic AAA series in Pittsburgh ends in a draw.  But, on the bright side, the Pirates were able to bring in Jo Dee Messina for a concert on Saturday and give the fans SOMETHING to cheer about.  She was very good, by the way.  She mentioned Bob Nutting and seemed pretty shocked by the boos.  I think she realized pretty quick that she touched on a very sore spot and the best course of action was to not talk baseball.  Smart lady.  The Diamondbacks are in town for a 3 game series now.  Another beatable team.  Lets hope we can get a ray of sunshine before the Cards come in over the weekend and clean our clocks.  Ugh.

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Pirates/Brewers Recap

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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/Braves Recap

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Pirates 6 Braves 7 (15 innings)

Pirates 3 Braves 4

Pirates 3 Braves 2

Pirates 3 Braves 1

Hey, remember when I recapped the Astros series and I said this was a frustrating team to follow?  Well, I didn’t know the half of it.  Let’s set the stage first.  The Braves are struggling.  They have a pretty decent rotation, but they can’t seem to score runs.  Their extreme desperation is the reason the Nate McLouth trade took place weeks before the trade deadline.

Speaking of Nate, he wasted no time getting a shot in against Pirate management where it counts.  He went 3 for 7 with a home run in game one.  Funniest scene of the year was Zach Duke’s reaction to the homer.  It just smacked of ‘how the heck could you do that to me, man?’.  The game turned out to be a marathon.  We had a ton of chances in late innings to score a run or two and end the thing, but failed to come up with clutch hitting each time.  There were for times in the 8th inning and beyond (when one run would have pretty much won it) where we had a man in scoring position and failed to get him home.  We came back from a 5-1 deficit to tie it.  We had the momentum and a desperate team on the ropes.  We had our bullpen throwing the best I’ve ever seen them throw, and we blew it.  Again.  The most odd ball thing about this game, though, was the decision to put Jeff Karstens on the mound in the 15th inning.  We had used up every one of our relievers by that time except for Matt Capps.  Now, I know using your closer for a late game relief appearance is not desirable, but why not put him out there for an inning or two before throwing a starter out there?  Karstens of course throws up on himself and walks the first batter.  A sac bunt and two hits later and the game is over.  I’m not a baseball genius, but maybe Jeff didn’t pitch so well because, I don’t know, he hasn’t had to quickly warm up and throw in  relief since he was a Yankee?  I honestly have no idea what John Russell was thinking.  To make things worse, the Braves were in worse shape pitching wise.  Kris Medlen was pitching for Atlanta in the 15th.  He also threw the 14th and was the last relief pitcher Atlanta had.  Plus, they didn’t have a AAA pitcher in need of a quick call-up like Charlie Morton to make up for  using a starter.  If the Pirates don’t give up a run in the 15th, the Braves have to either screw up their rotation or use a position player.  Neither is desirable.  It was an awful game to watch because we had the game won, and lost it with bad strategy and hitting.  The one bright spot, however, was the continued hot streak of Andrew McCutchen with 2 triples.  This soon changed, however, as you’ll read later.

Game two was equally frustrating.  We built up an early 3-1 lead after 4, and just let the Braves slowly eat into it.  Ross Ohlendorf took the hill for the Pirates and gave them 6 innings.  He gets charged with 3 earned runs, but I only credit him with 2.  He gave up a single to the first batter in the 7th before getting the hook, and Sean Burnett let him in.  Having a man on first with no outs is not a hard jam to get out of.  The bullpen definitely let the team down in this one, but I can’t believe how the bats disappeared in the second half of the game.  We were lucky to get one man on per inning after the 4th.  It was pathetic.  We’re a small ball team.  We’ve got some speed, and we’ve got some players who can slap a ball the opposite way for a hit.  We don’t have any home run hitters (especially with Doumit on the bench).  That’s fine.  You can win with small ball (look at Tampa), but you need consistency if you’re going to do that, and we have none.

Game three was a close game we finally won.  Once again, we jump out to a quick 2 run lead, but this time we’re able to tack on another run in the 7th to seal it.  That extra insurance makes all the difference, and it especially did in this game because Matt Capps came up with a 2 run lead in the 9th and gives up a solo shot.  Still not a great day for the Pirate bats.  We got absolutely no production from the bottom half of the order.  The 5-9 spots were a combined 1 for 15.  That’s right.  1 for 15.  How terrible can you get?  We also didn’t get a great outing from McCutchen who went 0 for 5.  So, basically, Sanchez and Morgan won us this game.  Thanks guys!  The big news from the game, however, was Charlie Morton’s debut.  He went all of 1 inning before being yanked with a sore hamstring.  McLouth dings us for a homer.  The guy we get in return gives us one solid inning of work.  <smacks head against desk>  Crap.

Game four was the afternoon closer.   This was a pitchers duel from the start.  Paul Maholm and Javier Vazquez both pitched outstanding.  Vazquez struck out 12 in 8 innings.  Maholm struck out 8 in 7.  The Braves struck first in the 4th inning, capitalizing on a rare fielding error by Jack Wilson (he didn’t have his best game overall).  We got it right back in the 5th off a solo shot by Delwyn Young.  That’s his first as a Succo, I mean Bucco.  Andrew McCutchen continued his mini slump, going 1-4.  But that one hit was a key one that started off a game-winning 2-run 9th inning.  I’m starting to wonder if maybe pitchers are starting to figure him out?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

So a most frustrating series against Atlanta, but at least we get the sweep.  I feel like we definitely could have taken 3.  This is the not the Braves team that won all those division titles.  This is a team even the Pirates have a shot at.  Detroit is coming to town starting tomorrow evening.  That should be an interesting fan atmosphere on Saturday no matter what happens in game 7 tomorrow.  Lets go Bucs!

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Pirates/Astros Recap

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Pirates 1 Astros 9

Pirates 6 Astros 4

Pirates 4 Astros 6

Ok.  So we follow up a sweep of the first place Mets with….losing 2 of 3 to the last place Astros.  The bipolar ball club strikes again!  Following the Pirates is getting depressing.  Every time they show a glimpse that they can play, they pull the rug out from under you and remind you how much they suck.  I realize that most of you reading this are too swept up in the Pens to care what the Buccos are doing.  It’s so frustrating, I can’t put it into words.  So I’ll just make a soundtrack for you to listen to while you read to try to set the mood.  Of course the mood is blues.  Take it away, Mr. King:

So, game one was characterized by…you guessed it…the bats disappearing again.  This time we managed only a depressing 6 hits.  We made Mike Hampton look like an all-star.  No extra base hits all day.  Just depressing.  I guess the one redeeming thing was that we picked the right day to fall flat in the batters box since the pitchers had a rough outing themselves.  Jeff Karstens got knocked around 6 runs and 9 hits in a little over 5 innings.  The baffling thing about it, though, was the walks and strikeouts.  He walked 4 and struck out 2.  Not that unusual until you see that he threw a first pitch strike to 21 of the 28 batters he faced.  To start out ahead so much and have that kind of final results is very troubling.  It’s something to definitely keep an eye on.

Game two was a rare example of the Pirates jumping on a team early and slamming the door.  I think when we start seeing more wins like this, we’ll see the Pirates turning the corner.  We jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the 3rd and wouldn’t let them come back.  The Astros scored a single run in the 3rd and 4th, but that was it.  Paul Maholm went 7 and gave his usual quality start.  Grabow and Capps then shut it down.  We’re a small ball team this year.  Small ball teams can win, but they have to learn to keep leads when they get ’em.  That’s why I like this win so much.

Game three was just maddening.  So we go into the 7th down by 2.  We get a little bit of a rally going and tie the game at 3.  We’ve got the bases loaded and 1 out.  The Astros have their second pitcher of the inning on the mound.  The Pirates can smell blood.  Up steps Adam LaRoche to hit into an inning ending double play.  That’s another strong claim by Adam for the ‘player you would LEAST like to have up in a critical situation’ award.  This is followed up by the bottom of the 7th when the Astros have men on first and second with 2 outs.  Tejada steps up and hits a grounder to short.  Ramon Vazquez makes a diving stop and proceeds to throw a wounded duck 3 feet away from second base.  This despite the fact that he was 2 feet from the bag when he caught it.  A run scores on the play, and the Buccos pack it in.

That was our season in a nutshell.  We keep making enough plays to get us in contention.  To be right where we need to be.  Then we get to crunch time and proceed to choke.  Every time.  I can’t believe how bad we are with runners in scoring position.  That’s the thing that drives you nuts with this ball club.  Everyone on the team has a lot of talent.  No one on this team is consistent with that talent at all.  Next up is a four game set with Atlanta that should be fun because of you know who.  It’s yet another wounded team we can steal a series from.  Lets hope for better results.

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Pirates/Astros Recap

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image from espn.com

Pirates 1 Astros 6

Pirates 7 Astros 4

Pirates 1 Astros 2

So, while you were preoccupied with the Pens, the Pirates lost another series.  Who saw that one coming?  At least this year is more of a slow death, as opposed to the usual 12 game losing streak that eliminates all possible hope of a winning season before May.

The Astros were coming in on a 7 game losing streak.  This is the second series in a row where we’ve had a good but vulnerable team across the diamond and we lost 2 of 3.  Can’t happen.  In game one, we stranded 7 batters and only managed 7 hits.  The “here today gone tomorrow” offense we’ve got is the biggest story of the year.  It’s getting to be maddening.  Brian Moehler pitched a complete game and was the big story of the day.  But it wasn’t Moehler, it was the anemic Pirate offense that won the game for Houston.

In game two, the Pirate bats decided to show up again.  There were a couple of nice rallies against Wandy Rodriguez (I love that name), and Jeff Karstens did just enough for the win.  Gorzelanny came in to try to close the game out (no save opportunity), and hiccuped in the 9th despite a decent 8th inning.  Matt Capps came in to save the day, and didn’t even go through the adventure that he normally gives Pirate fans.  It was also a skyblast, so some fans actually got to see a decent Bucco game.

Game three saw the Bucco bats go back into hibernation, going 4-30.  4 hits!  That’s it!  That’s a .133 team batting average.  The worst part of it is that we wasted a really good start by Paul Maholm.  He’s been doing some quality work this year, and we can’t seem to give him any help.  Mike Hampton went 7 and gave up 3 of the 4 hits, but once again, it wasn’t the Astros pitching, it was the Pirate batting.

Frustration with this team is growing.  People are howling for Snell’s head, but there’s no one below to take his place.  The Pirates show flashes of good hitting, and then seemingly take nights off.  I’m going to do a study comparing and contrasting the bipolar bucs bats later (once hockey season ends).  You’ll be amazed.

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