Tag Archives: Zach Duke

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/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/Phillies Recap

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Pirates 2 Phillies 3

Pirates 7 Phillies 8

Pirates 2 Phillies 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pirates/Indians Recap

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Pirates 4 Indians 5

Pirates 10 Indians 6

Pirates 3 Indians 2

So two of the worst teams in Major League Baseball come together, and we get an absolute barn burner.  Go figure.  It’s also been a big week in general for the Bucs personnel wise.  Lincoln and Alvarez  move up a level which was deserved on both ends from what I understand.  Ian Snell also got demoted this afternoon.  His idiotic comments notwithstanding (if someone stuck a microphone in my face the day I get a demotion at work, I’d say stupid stuff too), it’s a great move.  He needed a mental tune-up, and that’s what the minors are there for.  They’re like a body shop when you need some minor detailing done to your game.  Going to Indy isn’t always terrible for a player.  But, anyway, I’m here for a series recap, and that’s what I shall do.

Game one was not very entertaining for 8 innings.  The Indians jumped on Snell early.  Ian held them in check for 2 innings, but as soon as trouble hit, he unraveled.  He gives up a hit to Gimenez.  Huff (in his first career at bat I believe), sac bunts him to second.  Carroll gets walked, but still no need to panic.  A ground ball ends the inning.  Then Grady Sizemore steps up and hits one into the gap in right.  Steve Pearce (who only started playing in the outfield this year) takes a horrible route to the ball, it’s gets by him and goes to the wall.  The ball was a single all the way that scores 1.  Instead, it goes for a triple and 2 runs come home.  Steve cost Ian a run.  Everyone watching knew it.  Ian got frustrated and started missing spots.  He walked the next two batters, gave up another hit that brought in two more, and was finally yanked.  Using this lead (and adding onto it by a solo shot by Peralta), the Indians were cruising behind the stellar pitching of David Huff.  He’s got an ERA of almost 6, but through 8 innings we made him look like Cy Young.  So mercifully, in the 9th, the game gets turned over to the worst bullpen in the majors.  The Pirate bats finally wake up.  Down 5-0 in the 9th, Adam LaRoche hits a seemingly meaningless home run into the Allegheny to lead off the inning.  Thanks Adam!  But something amazing happens.  We start hitting.  Everyone starts hitting.  We bat around.  Suddenly, Adam’s back up with the bases loaded, only down 5-4.  He’s got a home run already this inning.  All he needs is to shorten his swing, and push one to left to score two and take the lead.  The entire defense is playing him as a dead pull hitter.  What does Adam do?  He tries to kill another one into the river and flies out to right.  <smacks head>  That should OFFICIALLY cement him as the least clutch player on the Buccos.

Game two was almost the same thing in reverse.  Zach Duke returns to old form and throws 6 pretty good innings.  The bats wake up for 14 hits and 10 runs.  We take a 10-1 lead into the 9th.  Steven Jackson gets two quick outs.  Then the Indians start hitting, and by hitting I mean putting the ball in the direction of Andy LaRoche who kept committing errors (2 in the inning, but it was close to being 3).  The Indians put up 5 runs in the 9th to make it 10-6 before the Pirates finally put in Burnett to get the last out and end the madness.

Game three was the most exciting of all because it was close the whole way through.  Cliff Lee was on the hill for Cleveland.  He’s a terrific pitcher on an awful team.  One of those guys who  you have to look at the ERA and disregard the record.  He was as good as advertised, but we were able to get 2 runs off him.  That was enough to push it to the Indians bullpen with the game tied.  If you get to that point with the Indians, you’ve got it made.  Their bullpen didn’t disappoint.  Matt Herges allowed two quick hits.  Jack Wilson stole 3rd (he better remember that moment cuz it won’t happen often), and Andrew McCutchen gets a game winning yank to shallow left.  First walkoff of the year for the Pirates.  I’ll take it.

The Pirate bats really seemed to come alive in this one.  Adam LaRoche hit  two home runs in the series.  But most of the damage was done against Cleveland’s bullpen.  It’s night and day between their starters and bullpen.  Kansas City come into town this weekend, and is ripe for another series win.  But as for now, I’m just going to bask in the joy of beating Cleveland (even if it was a race to the bottom kind of series).

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Pirates/Tigers Recap

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Pirates 1 Tigers 3

Pirates 9 Tigers 3

Pirates 6 Tigers 3

I think those scores are a microcosm of the Pirates season right there.  You never know what you’re going to get on a given day.  No matter how consistent the opponent is (like scoring the same number of runs 3 straight days), we’re all over the map.  Anyway, I digress.  You’ve still got to be happy with taking a series from a first place team like the Tigers.

Game one was just a mediocre showing with the bats.  We had 8 hits (we’ve done worse, but not much), and stranded 5.  Ian Snell was his usual wild self, but managed to scatter his 10 hits over 7 innings so that he only gave up 2 runs.  That was all the Tigers needed, unfortunately.  I’d love to point to individual batters who streak and are inconsistent, but I can’t.  It’s everyone.  The annoying thing is that they all seem to streak together.  I’m not sure if that’s a psychological thing or not, but if someone starts out well, they all start hitting.  We can rally like noone’s business, but we can also go through 4 or 5 straight 1-2-3 innings.

Game two was just a great outing by Zach Duke.  He gave up 6 hits and 3 runs, but lasted 8 innings.  I’m sure the bullpen owes him dinner for that one.  You’ve got to love when a starter can give your bullpen the day off.  It really makes you all the more dangerous the next day.  Game one had only two position players get multiple hits (both had 2), but everyone had at least one hit in game two with 5 players getting multiple hits.  The bi-polar bucs strike again!  The final tally was 16 hits (5 for extra bases), and 2 home runs.  We managed 9 runs despite grounding into 3 double plays.  When a team is hitting like that there’s not much you can do.

Game three was a throwback night.  Both teams were wearing uniforms from 1909 (when the Pirates defeated the Tigers in the World Series.  You can see the bucco uni’s up top.  Complete with Pittsburgh Baseball Club stitching on the arm.  I like it).  The marketing department went all out for making it seem like 1909…by which I mean totally removing itself from the game.  They turned off all scoreboards around the stadium.  They didn’t have any marketing stuff in-between innings (and the fans lived without the pierogie race.  I was so proud), and the jumbotron had an old time scoreboard projected on it that they left up the whole time (no replays, no nothing).  So, basically, the marketing guys gave themselves a day off and called it a promotion.  <stands and claps> Brilliant!  I love it!  I can just see the meeting now: “hey!  We should give ourselves a day off and call it ‘marketing free day’.  We could sit back and drink a beer and watch the game for once.”  “Yeah.  Marketing-free day.  Like the old times.”  <slowly looking at each other>  Yep.  That’s how it went.  I’m continuously amazed by the Pirate Promotions Department.  But, anyway, back to the game.  We didn’t have to worry about the bi-polar bucs this time, because Dontrelle Willis just walked everyone before they could get the chance to hit.  He issued 8 free passes is 3 and 2/3 innings.  That’s crazy bad.  Jeez.  Remember when he was on the Marlins and the best thing since sliced bread?  My, how the mighty have fallen.  Ross Ohlendorf was his usual self: solid to start out but fading in the 5th/6th inning.  He lasted 6 and handed the bullpen a 6-1 lead.  The bullpen then did what they do best: try their darndest to blow it.  Steven Jackson came in in the 7th and promptly gave back 2 of the runs before failing to finish the inning.  Sean Burnett had to come in and clean up the mess.  Grabow and Capps both walked the leadoff man, but finished their innings without a run.  And that was pretty much it.  Thank the D-Train for this one.

So that completes a weekend where you want to crawl into a hole if you’re from Detroit.  The city economy is in the tank, you’re football and basketball teams offer no hope, you’re hockey team loses in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and to top it all off your first place ball club drops 2 of 3 to one of the worst teams in the league…that happen to be from the city that just beat you for the cup.  Ouch.  Interleague play continues tomorrow with a series in Minneapolis.  I hope management goes up and sees how a small market team really works.

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