Tag Archives: Paul Maholm

Pirates/Nationals Recap

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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/Giants Recap

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Pirates 2 Giants 4

Pirates 2 Giants 3

Pirates 0 Giants 1

Man, this is an depressing interesting team to follow around the trading deadline.  Two (three?) more quality players said sayanora since the Arizona series concluded.  Jack Wilson and Ian Snell are now Mariners, and (this just in) Freddy Sanchez will stay behind in San Francisco (if you don’t believe it, there’s a picture of Sanchez in a Giant uniform up top.  Just let it sink in).  In return for Wilson and Snell we get Ronny Cedeno, AAA first baseman Jeff Clement, and 3 A-ball pitchers.  So, the way I see it, we trade Snell for Clement (both are borderline MLB talent), we downgrade from Wilson to Cedeno (a journeyman, but major leaguer) and we make up for it with the young arms.  That’s fair.  Plus it gives us another shortstop for the short term.  My only concern is Clement.  He’s the supposed keystone of the trade.  The report on him is that he can hit for power, but he’s got a hole in his swing (he can’t hit curve balls.  Think Pedro Cerrano, the guy who practices voodoo in the movie ‘Major League’).  We traded Sanchez straight up for AA prospect Tim Alderson.  So let me get this straight: we traded an established major league second baseman who still has a lot of production left in him for a kid with a heck of a lot of promise, but zero major league experience.  How did we not get hosed in this deal?  It’s a gamble.  I get it.  It’s a known commodity (Freddy’s remaining production) for something that could be greater than that or less than that.  But usually a GM will add in another prospect to kind of hedge the bet a little bit.  Now, this was a quality kid.  No doubt about it.  He was #4 in their system and he’s only 20 years old.  But for him to make this trade a success, he has to be a multi-time all-star.  That’s a heck of a lot of expectations for a kid in AA.  I sure hope we know what we’re doing.  Oh, and one more thing: we’ve been stocking the minor leagues forever.  We should be kicking butt down on the farm even if we’re struggling up in the ‘burgh, right?  Well, lets look at the standings and get a whiff of good news, shall we?

AAA International League West Division

Louisville (Reds) 59-44

Indianapolis (Pirates) 50-53

Toledo (Tigers) 48-56

Columbus (Indians) 45-57

2nd place.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  2nd place by a mile and still not above .500, but it’s decent.  Nobody’s perfect.  We were in last place last year.  So improvement at least.  Let’s continue:

AA Eastern League Southern Division

Akron (Indians) 63-41

Erie (Tigers) 57-45

Reading (Phillies) 56-46

Bowie (Orioles) 56-47

Harrisburg (Nationals) 46-55

Altoona (Pirates) 41-63

Ouch.  That smarts.  Especially since this is supposedly where all the major talent like Pedro Alvarez, Gorkys Hernandez and Jose Tabata are.  I’m not going to lie, that’s embarrassing.  But one team does not a system make, so onward:

A Carolina League Northern Division

Potomac (Nationals) 58-41

Lynchburg (Pirates) 56-45

Wilmington (Royals) 56-45

Fredrick (Orioles) 48-53

Ok.  Another solid middle of the pack showing.  Not too bad.  This team is actually above .500 unlike the other two.  That’s encouraging.  One more team:

A South Atlantic League Northern Division

Kannapolis (White Sox) 19-13

Hickory (Rangers) 18-14

West Virginia (Pirates) 17-13

Lakewood (Phillies) 18-15

There are others in the division, but no one cares.  The point is that we’re seeing a bunch of middle of the pack minor league teams in our system right now.  We’ve traded away every arguable major league player in Pittsburgh.  These minor league teams are now the future of the Pirates and they aren’t getting much better without years of drafting.  The revitalizing through trades is almost done (there are one or two more trades left, but none that should bring much of a return).  If we’re not dominating or at least playing .500 ball down there, what makes you think it will change when they’re playing the same guys in the bigs in a few years?  Just a depressing thought for the future.  Anyway, that turned into another post by itself.  I have a series to recap.  So here’s the short run-down.

Game one was a disaster.  Tim Lincecum pitched a complete game and struck out 15.  The kids good.  And he was on his game on Monday.  But jeez.  That’s embarrassing.  4 hits for the Pirates.  4 hits.  That will never win you a game.  That will almost never get you 2 runs, but we at least pulled that one off.  Waste of a decent game by Maholm

Game two was the same story.  We faced a good pitcher (Barry Zito).  We had a decent pitcher on the mound (Charlie Morton).  We got a good game from our guy, and blew it by getting absolutely no run support.  We managed 10 hits this time, but still only turned them into 2 runs.  I didn’t realize that was possible.  This game will mostly be remembered for Garrett Jones bobbling a ball in the outfield, and the amazing catch (or not) by Delwyn Young that ensued.  In case you missed it, here it is:

Cue the circus music.  Man.  Only the Pirates.  The sad part is that blown call cost us a run and consequently a shot at extra innings.  Not like we would have won there, anyway.

Game three was the worst offensive showing yet.  A shutout.  The third time we’ve been shut out in a week.  Pitiful.  Matt Cain threw a gem for San Francisco.  No doubt about it.  But this is more on us.  We managed 3 hits.  In 10 innings!  That’s right.  Due to an equally impressive 7 innings of shutout ball by Zach Duke, we  brought the game to extra innings scoreless and we STILL couldn’t do anything!  That’s the worst part.  All we needed was one run.  One stinking piece of luck or anything, and we couldn’t muster it.  Makes you want to smack your head into a wall.  But to be fair, lets look at our lineup from this afternoon and where they were last year.

Player Team @ end of ’08 Class

Andrew McCutchen                  Indianapolis                                         AAA

Andy LaRoche                            Pittsburgh                                              MLB

Delwyn Young                            Los Angeles (NL)                                 MLB

Garrett Jones                              Rochester                                               AAA

Steve Pearce                               Indianapolis                                          AAA

Brandon Moss                            Pittsburgh                                               MLB

Ramon Vazquez                        Texas                                                         MLB

Jason Jaramillo                         Lehigh Valley                                        AAA

So there you have it.  Half of our 8 position players were in AAA at the end of last year.  Add on to that by qualifying that Andy LaRoche was in AAA last year before coming to Pittsburgh, and none of the other 3 were regular starters, and you’ve got quite the lineup.  When people joke about Pittsburgh being a AAA team, they’re only half joking.  Remember that.  It’s going to be a loooooong rest of the season.


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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/Giants Recap

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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/Astros Recap

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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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Pirates/Twins Recap

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Pirates 2 Twins 8

Pirates 8 Twins 2

Pirates 1 Twins 5

So the Pirates just finished an inter-league series with the Twins.  Going into the series, I wasn’t sure quite what to make of this one.  The Twins are in second place in the AL Central, but that’s not a terrific division to begin with.  The games are in the Metrodome, which offers one of the larger home field advantages in the bigs.  I guess winning 1 of 3 is probably what I would have guessed going in, but I wouldn’t have been surprised either way.

Game one is being blamed by most people on Paul Maholm.  He gave up 8 runs, and had without a doubt his worst game of the season and possibly his career.  He only walked 1, but his control was off.  He was going really deep into every count.  He also gave up all 8 runs in only 5 plus innings, which is off the charts bad.  But, before you put him through the wringer, remember 2 things: 1)he’s the best pitcher we’ve got, and frankly one of the only ones that consistently looks like a major leaguer.  He deserves one bad day excuse  and 2)Adam LaRoche deserves a lot of blame, too.  Lets look back at the
5th, shall we?  The Bucs trailed 4-2, but they had the bases loaded with 1 out.  This was the Buccos chance to get back in the game, if not take the lead, and LaRoche grounds into the double play.  Yet again cementing himself as the Pirate’s resident choke artist.  This guy has rolled out more crushing double play balls this year than anyone in the league.  And this one was especially bad.  It totally knocked the wind out the Pirate sails (and wind in the sails is important when you’re pirates).  Maholm melts down the next inning, and you can kiss it goodbye.

Game two saw a resurgence of power from the Pirates.  I have no idea what happened (maybe the air conditioning was pointed out towards center field), but it would be great to see more of it.  Both LaRoche brothers went yard and were joined by Andrew McCutchen getting his first big league knock.  Ian Snell had another good start which means he’s on a bit of a roll.  Maybe he was threatened with a demotion and/or trade and woke up.  Who knows.  But man, oh, man.  The Twins just ran into a rare buzzsaw and there’s nothing you can do about it .

They got their revenge in game three, though.  The Twins got two dingers of their own, but all they needed was pitcher Nick Blackburn.  He pitched a gem, going the distance while only giving up 6 hits.  He would have gotten a shutout, too, if it wasn’t for a cheap run in the 9th.  Guy’s a quality pitcher.  He’s 6-2 on the year with a WHIP of 1.25.  It’s ok to get bested by the best, but I’m not sure he’s good enough to get a shutout on us.  Whatever.  I’m already sounding like a broken record about the Pirate batting.  I won’t pound the inconsistency topic any more.

So that about raps it up.  It was just what you would have expected from this series.  The Twins have some terrific young bats and a couple of ok arms.  They just don’t have the depth of the lineup that a team like the Yankees has.  Problem is, the Pirates don’t have any depth at all in their lineup, so they made them look like the Yankees, anyway.  Oh, well.  We go to Coors Field for 3 games this weekend.  If we don’t see any more of that power we saw in game two, it doesn’t exist.

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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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