Tag Archives: Pirates

Huge Recap

image from sspreowned.com

Well well.  My computer picked an awful bad week to just decide to crap out.  Every team I talk about had at least one game.  So I’m just going to run down my current thoughts on each, and then I can move forward like nothing happened.  Sound good?  Alright.  Let’s go.

Steelers

I’ll lead off with ‘dem Stillers cuz I know that’s what yinz guys like to hear about.  Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that the world is ending for the Steelers.  We’ve lost 3 in a row for the first time in years.  We’ve got our quarterback and star receiver arguing.  We’re on the verge of missing out on the playoffs.  There is no doubt that the world is going to end tomorrow.  So.  Now that you’re caught up, how do we save the world (or just the Steelers)?  Well, first things first.  How do we get everyone to just get along?  I mean its bad enough that the Bengals took our division lead…did they have to give us their drama on the way?  C’mon!  For those that aren’t in Pittsburgh and/or haven’t been paying attention, Hines Ward said in an interview that he’s played hurt and insinuated that Ben should too.  Ben allegedly went through the locker room saying ‘good luck without me guys’ in a sarcastic tone.  That’s a very high level recap, but the actual details don’t matter.  What matters is  what happens on the field.  How do we cut this beef between Ben and Hines up, grill it up and eat it so that we can play better?  Well, the short answer is win.  There is no drama in a winning locker room because there is no blame in a winning locker room.  The long answer is that Ben and Hines need to sit down and talk about this.  It was an obvious misunderstanding.  Both were frustrated at the time of their incidents.  In fact, I’m fairly sure that they’ve already talked (being that they’re grown men and this is an obvious step to take for two people striving towards a common goal).  So, in short, I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be either.  So with that cleared up, what is wrong with this team on the field?  Well, besides the obvious injuries I mean.  The defense seems to be giving up a lot more ground (especially in the fourth quarter) than they ever have before.  I’m just stumped as to why.  It could be because they’re getting old and tired at the end of games.  It could be because we really miss Troy.  My personal guess is that it’s the cornerbacks.  These have been come from behind fourth quarter wins in the past 3 weeks.    That means the other team has been throwing a lot.  If a team is most successful coming back in the 4th because they’re throwing, and we usually step up our blitz when we’re ahead, the only thing left is the corners that need to step up.  Maybe if they just jam their receivers a bit more at the line to buy some time it would help.  But I really don’t know.  That’s just a guess.  The special teams has also been awful.  If it’s not a kickoff being returned for a touchdown, it was awful punt coverage against Baltimore.  We just can’t win.  But, unfortunately, you can’t do much with special teams beside get guys in who really want to be there.  The one thing you can’t say much about is the offense.  They’ve been fine.  The loss of Ben hurt last week, but hey, it happens.  We’re much more balanced lately which I love.  So, in conclusion, the secondary will hopefully improve with Troy coming back soon which I hope will shore up the defense, the offense looks good already, and we just have to cross our fingers and hope the special teams don’t cost us too many games.  Oakland comes into town next week, so that should be a great opportunity to get back on track (though I said the same thing about Kansas City a couple of weeks ago.  Gulp).

Pitt Football

Hmmm……well that was a fairly depressing recap I just finished, and it isn’t going to get much better here.  The loss to WVU was ugly.  We didn’t just play poorly.  WVU played poorly and we played even worse.  I hate to say it, but this one goes on Billy Stull.  Now, as Mike Tomlin would say: ‘he’s got some money in my emotional bank account’, so I’m going to dismiss this as one bad game and not get on him too bad.  However, he played awful and he’d admit it.  He was overthrowing and underthrowing everybody.  It makes me wonder if he just gets tired at the end of a season (remember: he was alright leading up to the Rutgers game last year, though not as good as this season).  His inability to pass made us completely one-dimensional.  That will lose you a game every time.  Now, usually, when a quarterback is struggling, he’ll go with a lot of dump-offs.  Just to get back in a rhythm.  I saw a couple of passes to Dickerson (which he dropped.  He also had a terrible game).  But I only saw 2 passes to Dion Lewis.  You’ve got to dump off to him a bit more in that situation just to get some completions.  It seemed like he was chucking it to Baldwin every time.  I understand that Baldwin probably had a mismatch, but you can’t keep trying something that doesn’t work (well, it finally did in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t worth the total effort and wasted downs).  But, lucky for us, this game didn’t matter.  We still win the Big East with a win on Saturday.  And no matter what people will tell you, there was no way the Gator Bowl was taking us even if we won.  Especially with Bowden crying for one last gasp of attention (he wants to play his last bowl game in Florida and furthermore against WVU if he can because he used to coach there).  This loss probably just dropped us from Charlotte to Birmingham/Toronto if we lose on Saturday.  So crappy bowl to crappier bowl.  Hmmm…..  Not that big of a loss.  But this is still a huge game on Saturday.  Who would have thought that the River City Rivalry would ever mean anything?

Penguins

The Pens have been the most busy of any team.  Since I last left you, they’ve gone 3-1 including a home and home sweep of the Rangers.  Now that we’ve got some guys returning from injury we’re really playing at a high level.  Sid really seems to be on a role, but I think that may have more to do with the Rangers opening the ice to the coast to coast game that he really excels at.  The power play is still my biggest concern, by far.  I have no idea why this team struggles so much, except to say that we look for the perfect shot way to much.  The power play is a time for decent shots, not great shots.  But, overall, you have to be pleased with the play of this team.  Overlooking a hickup on Long Island, we’ve really been controlling the puck well and doing an excellent job being physical and checking teams.  It’s a return to that great play we started the season off with, and I’m going to run out of ways to say ‘we’re awesome’ before too long.  But Colorado will be a tough test on Thursday.

Pitt Basketball

Pitt only had one game over the long weekend: a fairly easy one against Youngstown State.  The game story was that it was a close game for the first 30 minutes before Pitt finally out-lasted them in the final 10.  I think the general assumption is that we had superior depth compared to YSU, and that’s what eventually won us the game.  I noticed something, but I haven’t read it in any recaps yet, so here it goes: we finally figured out their zone with about 10 minutes left and that’s what lead to the turnaround.  YSU played a classic 2-3 zone from start to finish.  It was fairly obvious that Coach Dixon thought it was very slow on the rotation.  He was having the team do a lot of perimeter passing trying to pass the ball faster than the defense could react.  Either it will open up an open 3-point shot or it will open up a lane to pass the ball into the post.  Well, the defense was slow to rotate alright, but when we saw the open space we didn’t take the jumper, our eyes light up and we drove the lane…..right into the teeth of the defense.  We had a ton of turnovers that way.  The only reason we stayed in the game was that Youngstown had a horrible offense and absolutely no frontcourt presence.  We also crushed them on the glass which didn’t hurt.  With about 10 minutes left, we finally started to attack the zone the right way and take what the defense gave us.  It was like the light bulb finally went on that ‘Hey!  Coach Dixon might know what he’s talking about.  Maybe we should try his advice’.  And, what do you know?  It worked.  I hope that’s the last of our struggles against the 2-3 zone, because as I said before, that’s something we’ll see a lot this year.  Duquesne is up next in the city game and the last college b-ball game in the Mellon Civic Arena.  I think this will be a really hard test for Pitt.  Much harder than most people think.  I wouldn’t even be surprised to come out with a loss in this one.  But I sure hope I’m wrong.

Pirates

….still suck.  Actually, they signed some guys this week, but no one of consequence.  We’re going to trot out a AAA team again next year.

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Pitt Update 8/11/09

image from postgazette.com

image from postgazette.com

First and foremost, I’m sorry for failing to update in forever.  It’s been an extremely busy week for me, and I just couldn’t put in the time.  I’ll be better in the future.  As for the Buccos, I’ve missed two straight series recaps, but judging by the hits to the site when I put up Pirate posts, no one really cares about the Pirate recaps anyway.  The quick rundown of the Diamondbacks/Cardinals series are that we stunk.  A lot.  We were swept in both.  The offense stunk.  The pitching stunk.  Matt Capps plunked Albert Pujols out of what I’m sure was frustration.  It was bad.  So, now that that’s out of the way, I figured I’d put up a post about something else.  Usually Tuesday is the new ‘My Two Cents’ segment, but I felt like that was a rut.  I kept saying over and over again that if rules are set ahead of time, they have to be followed.  They can be changed, but they have to be lived with in the present.  People want to complain when the rules that are set up aren’t always ideal or fair.  Well, tough.  Learn from it.  Change them moving forward and live with what happened in the past.  Anyway, I figure I’ll take a week off to see if I can find a different tangent to take.  In the meantime, Pitt’s been in the news a lot lately, and I figured I’d give a quick update of their goings-on.  I’ll probably do likewise for the Steelers this week sometime.  I know that’s probably eagerly anticipated.  I’m pumped to write about something besides the Pirates.  So, without further adieu, here we go:

Uni Change

In case you haven’t heard, Pitt switched their sponsor from Adidas to Nike.  The new football uniforms are above.  They look pretty nice.  Classic and plain.  Just the way I like it.  I’m always in the camp that you can only do harm by putting a bunch of crap on a football uniform.  Isn’t that right, Oregon?

image from faniq.com

image from faniq.com

But, alas, I am no fashion expert.  You can make your own judgement.  Enjoy the future swoosh clothes, Panther fans.

Agnes Goes Overseas

Women’s basketball coach Agnes Berenato was selected to go overseas and speak to the troops with a few other college basketball coaches.  I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Coach B a few times, and I can say that she’s one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met.  I always leave encounters with her more motivated than when I came.  I have no idea why.  But I know that hearing a personality like that can only do positive things for our men and women overseas.  Agnes is keeping a diary on the post gazette online if you want to keep up.

Couple of Basketball Commits

Chase Adams from Centenary College and Cameron Wright from outside Cleveland both committed to Pitt.  Adams will join the team this year as a point guard and be immediately able to start.  Centenary was a Division I school last year, but is dropping all the way to Division III.  That means all their kids can transfer penalty free.  The book on Adams is that he’s had decent production against good BCS teams (as he should being the centerpiece of the team) and he’s a defense first guy (defensive player of the year in the summit league last year).  He’s only available for one more season, so he better make the most of this year.  I’ve heard some rumblings that this is a sign that Coach Dixon is not impressed with his current stable of guards.  I disagree.  I think this is just a gamble free hedging of his bet.  Travon Woodall would be my next choice for starting PG (I know about Ashton Gibbs and how he’s been doing ok at the point, but he’s still a natural shooting guard).  Travon got hurt and sat out 90% of last year.  The plan was to have him play behind Levance last year and take over this year.  When that didn’t go as planned, Dixon brought in an insurance policy that doesn’t cost more than a one year scholarship we had in our back pocket anyway.  I think it’s brilliant and worked out quite nicely.  A team doesn’t move down in class with an experienced PG we can grab every year.

Wright is the more inconsequential of the two right now because he doesn’t come until next year.  He’s a solid recruit, but not outstanding.  Seems to be a typical Dixon guy.  Not a prolific scorer in high school.  Someone who will buy into the defense/unselfishness that Pitt preaches.  We’ll see how he  pans out next year.

Football Starts Practicing

The Pitt football team started practicing on the South Side again today.  It’s way too early to get a read on anything, but there are a few question marks that will be fun to watch.  Quarterback play first and foremost.  Pat Bostick, Tino Sunseri and Bill Stull will all compete for the job with it apparently being Stull’s to loose.  From what I’ve heard, Bostick had another terrific summer, so who knows what will happen with him.  Maybe this is the year he blossoms into a great QB.  I doubt it, though.  He’s not mobile enough to  be a star in the college game.  However, if there ever was a year for him, this is it.  He needs time to throw, and this is supposedly one of the best line’s Pitt’s seen in a while.  Sunseri is a wild card because he hasn’t played a down, and hasn’t really competed for a starting job yet.  Stull is the known entity.  Sorta.  He had a terrible second half to the season (which most Pitt fans remember and why this is even an issue).  But what most people fail to remember is that Stull had a concussion against Rutgers.  I noticed a drop in production after that.  Maybe a summer to (literally) clear his head will do him good.  Also, a change of system might help him as well.  Matt Cavanaugh’s offense was basically put the ball in Shady’s hands or wing it to Baldwin.  That meant most of Stull’s throws were screen passes or 40 yard bombs.  Well, Stull didn’t have much of an arm, so the over the top plays didn’t work so well unless Baldwin outran his opponent by so much he had time to run under the ball (which happened).  He also just couldn’t make a screen pass to save his life.  I have no idea why.  But he was pretty good on the few routes over the middle he threw.  His strength is definitely his decision making.  Frank Cignetti Jr. said he will open up the offense a little more.  That could mean asking Stull to make more passes that fit his skill set.  Just food for thought.

The other main concern is special teams.  We have to replace a kicker, a punter and a long snapper.  The long snapper is someone who no one will know once he starts playing, so why start now?  I know how important that job is (just ask the Steelers), but I think as long as you do it every day and with the same holder, you’ll be fine.  It’s a consistency issue.  I’m not worried.  The punter seems to be decided: Dan Hutchins.  The kicker will either be him or Kevin Harper.  Not sure about Hutchins’ kicking pedigree, but Harper was recruited as a kicker and had some impressive boots in high school.  We’ll have to just see if he can handle the pressure of NCAA football.

Pitt’s #1

Pitt was ranked as #1 in the Big East by the media.  Most people reacted to this with laughter.  Which I’m a little insulted by.  What’s wrong with us being #1?  We have some issues (see above), but we also have one of the best defenses in the country last year mostly in tact.  I don’t get it.  But I digress.  If you really want to laugh, you’re not looking at the total picture.  The first 5 teams were separated by only 35 points.  #6 was 52 points behind #5.  The #3 team had just as many first place votes as #1.  The voters are clearly telling us there’s 5 teams that could win and Pitt is one of them.  But, unfortunately, most people were too lazy to look at any number besides the one to the left of the team.

So that’s about it for Pitt about now.  I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to the first game.

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Pirates/Nationals Recap

image from espn.com

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/Diamondbacks Recap

image from espn.com

image from espn.com

Pirates 4 Diamondbacks 11

Pirates 10 Diamondbacks 3

Pirates 0 Diamondbacks 7

Pirates 0 Diamondbacks 9

Life is not good for Pirate fans right now.  I realize that’s par for the course around here, but it’s especially bad right now.  We just dropped 3 of 4 to a fairly bad Arizona team, and we were shut out twice by some mediocre pitching in the process.  In addition, two of the only guys on the team who actually belong on a major league roster (or at least  have an argument to be on one) are involved in some heavy trade rumors.  Yeah, it’s gettin’ pretty bad around here.  But that’s our Bucs.  Win a couple of series’ to get our hopes up, then collapse.

Game one started out innocently enough.  We were tied going into the 8th, and the bullpen just puked on itself, giving up 5 runs.  We were never going to come back from that.  Disappointing for sure, but on a bad team like the Pirates collapses like that are going to happen.  The one thing that stung a little bit was that John Grabow was involved in the melee.  He’s been pretty steady.  Garrett Jones and Steve Pearce both had decent days which was nice to see.  This one was kind of a bitter pill to swallow, though.  Especially because we took a 4-1 lead in the 5th only to see it immediately disappear into a tie game again.  But these are the breaks in baseball.  Not every lead is safe.

Game two was the lone bright spot in the series.  There was a promotion where for every run scored in the last three games of the Arizona series, tickets for select seats for Friday’s game would be reduced by $1.  Not a bad idea.  And the Bucs looked like they really wanted to make up for their past poor performances by giving the fans free seats.  Garrett Jones hit another home run (what else is new), but I’m waiting for pitchers to figure him out.  I think most of his success has a lot to do with his new car smell.  Once pitchers get a book on him, he won’t last (though I hope I’m wrong).  We strung together some hits, and managed to get a 10 spot on the board!  Arizona doesn’t have the fire-power to match that.  $10 off tickets with 2 games to go: the fans were sitting pretty on Friday night.

But, unfortunately, it didn’t last.  In game three, we spread out 8 hits, and were shut out.  I will say that it was kind of a cheap shut out, though.  A timely hit in one of a number of places would have put an end to that.  Doug Davis was throwing a 5 hit shutout through 6 and was still yanked.  That’ll tell you everything you need to know about him.  But the bottom line is that we definitely didn’t deserve to win that game.  Also, Evan Meek had another disastrous outing.  He better get things together pretty soon.

Game four was deja vu all over again.  Another shut out.  It’s amazing how bi-polar this offense can be.  This time the pitching culprit was Max Scherzer.  7 innings and 5  hits.  We went 3 up 3 down in the 8th and 9th, so those were also our only hits of the game, too.  I’ve said it before this season, but that’s an embarrassment.  I don’t care who you are, getting shut out in back to back nights against a team like Arizona can’t happen.  Virgil Vasquez pitched horribly.  I know I kind of came to his defense last series, but that’s now 2 or 3 really bad outings in a row.  Maybe I was too quick with the praise.  Freddy Sanchez capped off his awful series by going 0 for 4.  Maybe he’s subconsciously trying to destroy his trade value so he can stay.  I don’t know.

So that’s where we stand.  In a heap of trouble.  On the bright side, however, Steelers training camp opens this week.  It won’t be long before we can have something else to watch around here.  Plus, there’s $10 off some tickets to Friday’s game.  Too bad it’s the Nats in town.  Oh, well.  AAA baseball is still baseball (and I’m only half kidding about that).  Yipee!

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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/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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