Saturday, April 30, 2011

Meek to DL

The Pirates win thanks to great pitching from Kevin Correia. McCutchen hit a dinger and Alvarez got a hit. Snyder remains hot. A good start to the road trip.

Evan Meek is on the DL. Arm tiredness. Resop will handle the 8th as he did last night. I am betting Ascino gets the call up. He had a scoreless outing the other day.

Keep your eye on Robbie Grossman. He is hitting .300 with 11 RBIs as a leadoff guy.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Errors, Errors, and even some more errors

The Pirates had an excellent chance to sweep the defending champion Giants. They blew the first game in extra innings thanks to errors. The won the second game, and then blew the third game thanks to more errors.

The first game was a well pitched game by Charlie Morton. Joel Hanrahan blew the game when he himself committed an error on a throw to first. That led to a runner on third with one out and a ground ball to a drawn in infield. Walker looked at the runner at third, who was not going and then soft tossed to first. The runner went and Ovebay could not get the runner at home.

McDonald pitched his first good game of the season and it led to a Pirate win. He needs to pitch like this more often. He was not the dominate strike out guy that I think PIrate fans expected, but he got the job done.

The third game was a return to errors as Jeff Karstens went 6 2/3 innings of 1 ER baseball. However, that 1 ER run was surrounded by a catching error at first base and an awful throw to catch Sandobal stealing. It went into center. Sandobal should have been thrown out and I am pretty positive he was running in order to attempt the steal of home by the other base runner, but Doumit made it all moot when he one hopped Walker and it went into centerfield. Karstens himself would commit another error in the 7th to give the Giants a 5th run. 4 were unearned. Unbelievable.

Walker is the only player who is playing well right now, with Tabata playing pretty good. McCutchen and Alvarez have officially reached panic time. They need to turn it around soon. I guess our new third baseman / short stop got some hits, and so maybe that is a good thing.

One word needs to be said about Daniel McCutchen as well. He still has a perfect 0.00 ERA. I know he has given up an inherited runner or two, but I think that he is very good out of the pen. He could be next year's Jeff Karstens. I hope he gets more chances.

It does not get any easier for the Pirates, who are now struggling to stay afloat in the division. We could sure use a few series against the Diamondback and the Mets.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Not great, but I will take it

The Pirates won their first series at home this year by taking two of three from the Nats. Karstens got a win by going 6 strong innings giving up only 2 runs. He left people on base in the third, but a nice outing by the bullpen put an end to that with no runs scoring. The Pirate offense was unbelievable in that game. Correia was not as good, and he struggled through his innings and a three run blast after an RBI ground out was more than enough runs to end the day for the Pirates in Game 2. Game 3 was shaky at the start with Malholm looking weak, but he got stronger as the game went, and much better after the short rain delay. Both teams choose to leave their pitcher in. The Nats pitcher had just given up a Walker base hit that allowed Tabata to score on an error on the throw (I thought it should have been on the catch). Walker was now at third with two out. The delay was for the Pirate benefit as they pilled three more runs on in that inning and hung on to win 4 to 2. A good day for Brandon Wood starting at third as he hit the ball hard several times and got a hit. Walker had a multi hit game, which was nice to see. Hanrahan had a little trouble as he brought the winning run to the plate, but got him to strike out.

Meek pitched in both wins. He was not good in either one, although he did not give up any runs. In the first game he was throwing okay. Fastball sitting about 95 and a majority of them going in the strike zone although his slider had no idea where it was going. It managed a ground out and a strike out off of this, but then he lost the last bit of his command. He walked the next guy on four straight fastballs of 95 that were no where close. The next batter got a first pitch fastball strike, but Meek clearly backed off. It clocked at 91 MPH. He went back to his hard fast ball at 95 and again, no where close. He went back down to the 91 and it was a strike again. A slider that skipped to the back stop and then a 93 MPH fastball got a strikeout somehow. Not encouraging. Meek was not much better tonight as he did not get any strike outs. He threw 8 pitches 5 for strikes and 3 for balls and was not making people miss. Not normal Evan Meek stuff.

I did think that this was a big series. We need to beat teams like the Nats, especially at home. If we want to be even a .500 team, a series win was a must. There are signs Alvarez is coming out of his slump, and McCutchen too. This was another game that the Pirates did not hit well, and the line up was lacking its big bats. We still won, and that is a great thing. We can keep hope alive for a little longer.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A moment of reflection

So far this year has not gotten off to a great start. While our starting pitching has been better than hoped for, the hitting has been less than good. Strikeouts abound and McCutchen has yet to really get going and Alvarez has yet to play decent for more than his last game. Add to that Ohlendorf's early injury, and Snyder taking a while to get off the DL and the expected poor short stop play, and Pirate fans ought to be happy.

An 8-11 is not good and points toward another losing season, but we are really only 2.5 games out. Coming up on the end of April, and we are still in contention. Add to that we have a 7-5 record versus the division with all but two of those games coming on the road. The problem is we have played the West Division leading Rockies and the second place East Division Marlins. And we have yet to play the Astros, who have an even worse record than we do.

In other words, I think the Pirates have a real shot at contending this year. The Brewers are not as good as advertised. Admittedly they have not had Zack Grienke yet, but the Royals traded him for a reason, and it was not just mal-content. His best days are over and I think that trade will be a really bad one for the Brewers. The Cards and Reds are beatable. The Cubs are average, and the Astros ought to be canon fodder. When we start to play some of the other divisions losers, like the Mets and Dodgers, we ought to improve our overall standing.

This series starting tonight is a big one. The Nationals are 9-9 and basically in the same boat we are. Medicore, although they are in a tougher division and have even less of a playoff hope than we do. We need to win this series. It is the first series that I think has profound implications for how the rest of our season will go.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Got swept, no game, sign Wood

The Pirates showed some offense last night with a big night from long dormant Pedro Alvarez including a deep blast. Josh Rodriguiez also got his first Pirate hit, and then added an RBI by taking a pitch off his backside, and then was let go. Nice way to spend the evening for him. McDonald is showing why the Dodgers got rid of him. 8 runs in 3 innings is not good.

Tonight's game is off and will be made up on Monday, which might be bad since Alvarez had just come off his best night of the season.

The big news is that Rodriguiz is gone. Pedro Ciriaco is called up to replace him. Not a bad move, but then the Pirates claimed Brandon Wood. Wood played 81 games last year and was awful for the angels, but once was the 3rd overall prospect in the majors in 06. BucsDugout guys had a good reason to think all that power he showed was a joke. I tend to agree. But, I also am not going to complain about this move. Cedano is not the answer, clearly. Rodriguiz looked shaky. The Pirates just need a plug until next year, maybe only until September when they might could call up D'Arnaud. At worst until mid next year when they could bring D'Arnaud up safely. The guys you have are not working, try something new. It is not like Wood's .146 average is much worse than Cedano's .179 average.

Who will go down has been the big question. Most people seem to be assuming that it will be Ciriaco, but I believe it will be Steven Pearce. Pearce has an option left and Wood can play third, so that covers the back up 3rd problem. They just called up Ciriaco. Look for him to stay, and Cedano to lose lots of time at short. Ciriaco can play third to if need be.

Worth watching to see what happens.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another ugly one

Just when I was starting to think Morton was going to be better, he has another break down in an inning. Tabata played soccer with a grounder that didn't help, but Morton admitted after the game he never recovered from a walk and that the inning steamrolled him. Let's hope he can shake that off in the next outing. His mental toughness has always been the problem. It bit the Pirates today. Andrew McCutchen left the team for personal reasons, which is not good. And the Pirates lack of a bench is exposed. I wish Bowker would get a shot to start, but he did not come up with a hit when he pinch hit either. The only good thing to come out of this game is that Meek had a decent 9th. No walks, one hit, no runs. I'll take it.

The minors looked a little better than their big league brethren. Altoona won. Holt had a hit and a run. Mercer had a hit to raise his average to .179. His hit was a homer, his third on the year. Mercer was sent down to lower strikeouts and regain power. It is starting to look as if his power stroke may have returned. Let's hope his average gets caught up. Jeff Locke pitched 6 great innings, but left with men on base in the 7th. Those guys scored costing Locke a win.

Indy won with only six hits. D'Arnaud and Presley each had one, but the big hit was from Marte who left the park. Justin Wilson stole the show with 6 shut out innings, 4 K's. Moskos struggled, but Time Wood got a 4 out save. Apparently throwing in upper 90's. Good sign.

Bradenton put up 5 runs, but still lost because the pitchers were awful. They all gave up at least one run. Moreno and Lorin both looked bad. Calvin Anderson had multiple hits as did Rubenstein and Benji Gonzalez. A forgettable day for this group.

West Virginia lost as Rojas continues to get hits. Matt Curry had multiple hits as well including three RBIs. Kevin Mort went 3 for 4. He is not a prospect, but at this low A level, he can compete and help his team have a chance to win. Dan Grovatt had another 2 walk night. Unbelievable. This guy has an eye. Eric Avilia had two errors tonight and still is not hitting with an average dipping under .200 right now. It is actually a little hard to evaluate Zack Dodson's performance. He gave up 6 hits and 5 earned runs in 4 innings, but he struck out 7 guys. Kevin Decker went 3 innings, but the one unearned run he gave up made him swallow the loss. Jason Townsend still has a goose egg ERA giving up a hit and gaining a strike out in the last inning.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not a good day

The Pirates got beat around and managed only a couple of hits. Ugly from start to finish. Really not much more one can say than that.

The Minors saw two losses and two rain outs. Bradenton got blanked and lost 1-0. A good game for Quentin Miller who took the loss because of a first inning RBI ground out. But last year's West Virginia team is now up a level and still unable to hit. Anderson is a huge disappointment, Cunningham and Chambers are not much better. Aaron Baker is okay, but one man does not an offense make.

West Virginia put up 7 but still lost 7-11 as Crumpton got shelled again. A five run inning was not enough to keep Brandon going. He returned all the runs and then one more to make sure he took the loss. Fuesser was pretty good as was Foster in relief. Grovat continues to impress me both with big hits and walks. Kawami-Pai also continued his great hitting in limited playing time. A 3 for 4 day puts his average above .450. Is it time to start talking about this guy as a prospect? At least more playing time I hope. He also held on to an outfield throw and got the guy out at home. Not something to sneeze at.

Tomorrow is Charlie Morton. I am now optimistic enough to predict a good game from Charlie. I think his sinker will hold out a few more starts. What I want to see is what happens when Charlie pitches against a team for the second and third time. I think then he will get pounded. Probably not as bad as he did last year, but enough that he will have real trouble winning games. But this is time number 1 for the Marlins so there is hope.

An Ace!!!

That is what you want. I understand Kevin Correia is not a number 1, but currently he is our number 1. And this is what you want from a number 1 pitcher. He is 3-1 overall, and his loss was fairly well pitched. But he came out with the series on the line and dominated. He had seen Morton pitch a great game, and he matched it. No one should out pitch the ace.

It was a great game at the plate as well. Everyone got a hit except the pitcher. In fact, everyone got two hits except McCutchen. But McCutchen's was a laser two run double over the head of the left fielder.

The Pirates minor league system looked pretty good today too. Indy won, which is kind of rare these days. Lambo looked good at the plate. Altoona was beat with only two positives coming out of that game. Mercer hit a homer and Tim Alderson had two fine innings. He may be a viable bullpen guy in the not too distant future. Bradenton won big. West Virginia had some good news with Rojas continuing to hit. Dan Grovatt continues to walk at an alarming rate. Twice this game.

The Pirates are heading to Florida for the Marlins. I am looking forward to see how they do. Alvarez is the big concern right now if you are a Pirate fan.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Series win over the Reds

These are the games that good teams win. Games where they are outplayed, on the road, against division rivals. Good teams find ways to win these type games. Great teams find ways not to have these type of games very often, but right now I will settle for the hope of being a good team.

The Pirates were out hit 15 to 9. The Pirates blew a lead and committed two costly errors. Yet, the Pirates ended up on top 7 to 6. That is really the extent of the good news except Andrew McCutchen had a hit every time to the plate including a lead off homer. It was a nice game for him, the first real nice game for him all year. The rest was shaky.

Karstens got the start and did what you should expect from him now. Give up a run or two as he goes into the fifth. He collapsed in that fifth inning, but unlike JR last year, Hurdle gave him the quick pull. The Pirates battled back thanks to homers by Garrett Jones and then again thanks to John Bowker's pinch hit double. Hurdle gave Meek a quick yank as well after getting one out and then giving up a hit and a walk. Hanrahan came in and got a double play. Hanrahan then got a couple of outs in the ninth before he exploded throwing a wild pitch and walking a guy after giving up a base hit. The bases were loaded, but the Pirate closer got the big out and thus another save.

The Minor Leagues dropped a couple of 13 inning affairs and won the rest.
The Indianapolis team put up four in the top of the 9th to tie the game after giving up 4 in the bottom of the eighth. Moskos was unable to strand guys on base in the 8th, and allowed another run after an error. Brian Burres had pitched pretty well before that. The Presley got on via and walk Hague tripled, Lambo singled, Harrison singled, Dusty Brown doubled scoring two and was pinch run for by Wimberly with no outs. A sac bunt pushed Wimberly to third. But Jarmillo and Hernandez could not bring him home. Tony Watson gave up a two out homer in the 13th to lose the game.

Bradenton also lost in 13 after leading 4-0 after three. McPhearson went 7 allowing 2 runs. A good night for the youngster. Robbie Grossman had a multi-hit night. Calvin Anderson went deep. Moreno allowed the tying run to score as the bullpen blew it. Jhonathon Ramos pitched well again in relief, but when he was pulled in the 12th the bullpen was done. They gave up the game ending run in the 13th.

West Virginia continues to be a hot bed of greatness as Colton Cain still has yet to give up a run. He pitched great. 6 innings, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk. Kevin Decker pitched a nice 2 innings, and then it was closed out by Beckman. The hit parade included about everyone except Howard oddly enough. Curry was great. Rojas Jr., is back on track with a three hit day. Grovatt had a hit and a couple of walks as he shows good plate discipline. Even Kevin Mort had a multi-hit game. Big 7-0 win.

Altoona put the boots Richmond as Aaron Pribonic overcame a first inning run to get the win and pitch rather well. Brock Holt looks like the second baseman of the future. He had two hits as did Sanchez. Both look good. Dubee fanned two in his inning of work.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Charlie Morton . . . a winner?!?

I am not yet ready to start liking Charlie Morton, but after today's complete game against the 1st place Reds, I am ready to stop being pessimistic about everyone of his starts. I have seen enough to say now that Charlie Morton is a transformed pitcher. His strike outs are low (and I hope they go up some), but he is consistently getting ground balls. Except for one mistake pitch in 9th that was blasted out of the ball park, Morton was great. 5 hits. 2 walks. 1 error. That is all the Reds could muster.

The Pirates got out early thanks to a long ball by Jones. Snyder followed in the next inning with an RBI single. Welcome back Snyder. Walker hit a 2 run homer in the following inning and the Pirates would get another later. The offense looked good except for McCutchen who went 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts. No kidding. Tabata tore the ball up and even Alvarez got a hit.

The lead allowed Morton to pound the strike zone. The 8th inning was a picture of the whole night. Morton had to face the top of the order. He struck out Stubbs on three straight pitches (one of only 2 Ks on the night). The next Red took only two pitches to get him to ground out. Then Joey Votto saw three pitches before he grounded out. 8 pitches, 3 outs. No balls the whole inning. In fact, Morton threw about 110 pitches and less than 30 balls. Pretty good.

The Minor League guys got swept. Some okay news in there though. Brad Lincoln pitched okay. He had one trouble spot where he gave up a homer, struck the next guy out, and then gave up three doubles in a row before getting out of the inning. 3 runs in five innings. No matter what it appears the old Brad Lincoln is back. His inability to get strikeouts appears to be gone. Whatever they messed up last year seems to be fixed again. Indy lost 0-3.

Zack Dodson had a similar night. He had one bad inning. Gave up 4 runs in 4 innings, but all his runs were together and an error added to that problem. He was unable to pitch around it. Brooks Pounders came in for the fifth inning and gave up a quick run, but had an easy 6th and 7th showing ground ball and strike out ability. Pounders just might be a good bullpen option in the future. The other good news coming out of West Virginia was a multi-hit night for Mel Rojas Jr. He had done nothing all year, but showed up tonight. Swiped a bag as well.

No real good news in Bradenton, and Altoona saw a few scattered hits from Mercer and Sanchez. Nothing to get real excited about as both teams lost.

P.S. Joe Biemel is back and they sent down Garret Olsen to make room. Glad to see Biemel, but surprised by sending down Olsen. He had pitched well and I thought they might send down Daniel McCutchen, or perhaps even Crotta. McCutchen was going to be in the rotation in Indy and Biemel would have allowed him to get back to that. When Ohlendorf returns they could have sent Olsen down then. I guess Clint thinks he can do just fine with only one lefty in the pen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Brewers stink

The Pirates just dropped two in a row to the Brew Crew at home. Not good. Oddly enough the pitchers were pretty good except one inning a piece. Not so odd the Pirates bats were dead.

Correia had a good run going until he was unable to get an out on a bunt. He was apparently supposed to go to third. One out later, three run homer.

Tonight, Malholm had trouble in the first. Diaz misplayed a catchable (but tough) sinking liner and it led to runs. Two in fact, and that was more than enough. The Pirates did not cross the plate until the bottom of the ninth. By then a Neil Walker throwing error had let more Brewer runs cross the plate. Malholm ended up with a quality start going 7 strong innings. Chris Synder played his first game and came up empty. Pearce started at third for the first time and gave one a ride, but it was caught on the run at the track.

The Pirate minor leagues went 2 and 2 on the night.
D'Arnaud did get a base hit and Lambo hit a double to finally show signs of life. Wilson was pretty good, but collapsed in the 6th giving up multiple homers. Indy lost.
West Virginia surprisingly lost too. This team has been amazing. Cain and Von Rosenburg have looked great as did Waldron and Dodson on the mound. And the first base problem looks like the solution is in West Virginia with Matt Curry and Justin Howard both knocking the ball around. Tonight, Dan Grovatt had a big day with a triple and a double. He is having a good season so far. I am liking that pick more and more. Sadly Rojas, Avilia, and Maggia have yet to show up at bat.
Bradenton had another great offensive night to make up for Miller's so-so night. Welker and Moreno struggled in the pen making a blow out look close. Jhonathon Ramos did have a clean 8th. Robbie Grossmann went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored. Aaron Baker went 2 for 3 with a walk and a homer. Good night for the High A squad.
Altoona had a great night with Aaron Thomson throwing scoreless innings. Marte got a hit as did Sanchez. But perhaps even better news is Jordy Mercer hit a homer. Mercer needs to show some improvement in his strike out rate, walk rate, and show his power is not gone after having a dip in that last year. The big blast is a good sign. Dubee and Krol pitched well in relief. A shut out victory is always reason to celebrate.

Monday, April 11, 2011

5-5 and Frustration builds

The Pirates lost and are off today. Frustration is already building. This also apparently happened at the game.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another loss in another Morton start

Charlie Morton is not my favorite pitcher. He did well last time and actually did okay again. He was hit with another early run, which has always been his problem, but he kept it together again. Two games in a row. He got lots of ground balls, so it looks as if his new sinker is really working. But he is not striking guys out like he used to do. That first run was on an RBI ground out (a double play if I remember correctly). It would have been a real nice place to fan someone. He walks way too many hitters. He already has 10 walks on the year in two starts. Morton is living on the edge. I guess he could still go either way this season. If he found some way to avoid the walks and start getting a few more swings and misses, then he could have a nice season. Or he could have a game or two where his sinker does not sink and get lit up for major runs.

Jose Veras had his first bad outing. He gave up the three run inning and absorbed the loss. Daniel McCutchen is up and will be in the pen. I like this. He had success in the pen last year, and it is his only real option in the majors. I think he will do fine. Jose Tabata continues to amaze. Nine game hitting streak now, that is a hit in every game. Also he has a two game homer streak. That is a nice bonus.

On another positive note, I think we have seen enough of Hurdle as manager now to get excited. He used the pen nicely tonight after using everyone in the pen last night except Meek. He did not break his personal rule about not using a reliever on three straight nights, and he did not have to go back to anyone who pitched multiple innings last night. He went and got Kevin Correia to throw his side session during the game. Correia logged a nice shut out inning. It was a nice piece of managing. He has also shown a good use of the bunt, the steal, and even the platoon. He is making sure his players play, and his team is competitive. I like it. The Pirates are above .500 and only 1.5 games out of first. Hurdle is doing good things, and if we can get Alvarez to hit, the Pirates could be the surprise team this year.

As for the minors, West Virginia rained out again. This time a double dip is washed out. I am ready for the Power, so this is not good for me. Sterling Marte had a great night and Jordy Mercer was okay as well. Alex Presley in AAA continues to argue for a place on the big league roster or as a trade option. Justin Wilson had an impressive start to his season, but Indy lost anyway.

Friday, April 8, 2011

That is how you do it!

The Pirates are continuing to impress. They came home with a 4-2 record after only winning 17 games on the road all last year. They did disappointingly drop the home opener, but avoided losing their first series of the year to the Rockies after a Jose Tabata double that scored Josh Rodriguiz in the bottom of the 14th inning. The first extra inning game of the year and the Pirates came up big. There are a lot of good signs to start this season and winning the first extra inning game is one of them.

The Pirates battled back with a run in the 6th to tie the game at three and the bullpens shut everything else down until the 14th. The Rockies had a real chance to win. They had the bases loaded with two outs and they pulled out their ace in the hole pinch hitting Todd Helton. However Helton grounded out and the Pirates lived to play on. The Pirates then went quietly for the first two outs. Rodriguiz walked and then Tabata took a 3-1 pitch into the right field gap. Pirates win! Pirates win!

The bad news is that Ohlendorf looked bad and then left in the 3rd with shoulder pain. Karstens did great in relief. Then Crotta, Veras, and Hanrahan added an inning each of scoreless activity. Resop then went three big innings and Olsen went 2 including inducing that ground ball from Helton. All three Rockies runs belonged to Ohlendorf.

The minor leagues provided some more good news for the Pirates. Chris Synder hit a two run home run in his first at-bat at Bradenton. He added a single, a double, and a walk before being pinch hit for because Bradenton was killing their opponent. They won 13-0. McSwain got the win and the Maurders look good with a line up that can put up runs.

Other future Pirates had less good days. No hits for Sanchez, Mercer had one hit and a walk, and Holt had a double as Jeff Locke lost, but pitched okay. One bad inning cost him the game as Altoona lost 2-1. West Virginia was rained out in its anticipated game. And who knows what people were thinking in Indianapolis. Andrew Lambo did not start nor did Josh Harrison. Both made pinch appearances in the ninth when Indy failed to convert a real opportunity to win the game or at least tie it. The intentionally walked Lambo. D'Arnaud did get an RBI triple and Alex Presley looked good. Sean Gallagher took the loss as he pitched awful. Why did they not start Owens? I know that Lincoln is hurt, but still, Gallagher?

Overall a pretty good day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

3-1 is not a bad start

The Pirates won an ugly game in Chicago to close out that series. Pedro Alvarez came through in the clutch with a stinging single to win the game . . . well by stinging I mean a little hit that was not going to make it to the infield dirt. If Carlos Marmol does not fall of the mound to the first base side, he probably makes that play and gets an out at first or at home. But instead the shortstop tries to flip it to first. Even if it was on target, Alvarez was probably safe. What happened was that it was way off and up the line. Carlos Pena did a nice diving stop to keep it in the infield, but he ended up on all fours, so Neil Walker went from second to home for the winning run following Jones who easily scored from third. The Pirates showed a lot of scrap in that game. They gave up a 2-0 lead and the 3-2 lead and were trailing 4-3 in the 8th when Tabata lifted a sac fly that should have been deep enough to score anyone from third. But, Jason Jarmillo was running and he was nailed by a good throw. Right in the kisser in fact. The Pirates still managed the rally in the bottom of the ninth not just to tie, but to win. Crotta and Karstens both pitched great with Karstens getting the win and Hanrahan the save.

Today's game was even more satisfying. Morton gave up a second inning run, but held it together. That was probably the most encouraging thing. He did not blow up when he gave up an early run. He went six strong innings and the Pirates rewarded him with a 4 run sixth to grab a lead. Meek struggled and gave up two runs and did not get anyone out, although in fairness, it looked a little like they were pitching around Pujols. I'd rather walk him than have him homer. Hanrahan got a four out save and Crotta got two outs. Veras pitched an inning as well.

Now I doubt that this outing means Morton is good to go finally. Just like it is too early to throw in the towel on Meek. He won't be this bad all season and Morton won't be that good. Still, it is encouraging for Morton to look good. It is very encouraging to see Crotta look good in two straight games. Veras has pitched well, which means he maybe a nice trade piece before the year is over.

Overall what I like the most is the Pirates really playing to win. These games have all been on the road. Hurdle has coached to win. Whether it is sending Jarmillo on a sac fly attempt which did not work out or sending Walker from second on an infield hit which did work out or even lifting Meek after just three batters something we never saw with JR last year. Hurdle is not playing games. He is out to win not build for the future. I like that attitude.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Not so Good

The Pirates blew a 3-0 lead in the 8th to go down in flames 5-3 to the Cubs. This was a great opportunity to get everyone rolling the right direction, open up a two game lead on a division opponent, and start out great on the road, which has been a real sore spot the last couple of years. Instead, the Pirates should just feel sick.

Evan Meek did not have a great day, but three of those runs were Overbay's fault. His error cost the Pirates the game. Meek did miss a lot of Spring Training, so I am going to give him a pass. However, JR did overuse him last year and this might be the beginning of a bad season for the kid.

I am still worried about the middle of the order. They missed a chance to hang a big number on the board in the third. Tabata got an infield single. Walker doubled him home, and then McCutchen walked. So the middle of the order comes up with no outs and a runner in scoring position. Overbay whiffed. Alvarez grounded into a double play. Not what you want from your RBI guys. They were drawing a blank yesterday as well. Alvarez did get the run home in the first, so maybe I am over reacting. It is something to keep your eyes on. Walker as the RBI guy is not going to bring a championship to Pittsburgh.

An interesting manager decision in the 5th. Tabata bunting with no outs and Malholm on first. It worked as a sacrifice, but Malholm stayed on second. Lots of second guessing on this one, but I don't have a problem with it. Tabata has speed, and if he could have caught the defense unaware, he could have turned it into another infield hit. Plus, McCutchen and Walker are usually great with a runner in scoring position. They failed today, but it is still a defensible call.

Jones did hit a bomb. Malholm pitched great. Sometimes you lose.

Friday, April 1, 2011

5 Opening Day wins in a row

The Pirates beat the Cubs 6-3 to start 2011 off right. This was thanks to Neil Walker's Grand Slam and a later 2 run shot by McCutchen. Correia was good enough allowing 3 runs (2 earned) in 6+ innings of work. He got better as the game went on and was very good after getting a lead. Meek and Hanrahan were excellent and Olsen and Veras got out of the 7th allowing only one run which was credited to Correia.

The Pirates need to work on some things. You know the Pirates are not going to be able to bomb their way to a win every night. Alvarez and Overbay each wasted a chance with runners in scoring position. Your 4 and 5 guys cannot be that bad with runners in position to score. Alvarez also started off the season with a shaky defensive game with an error that lead to a first inning run.

But there were good things. I mean other than McCutchen's multiple hit game, Hanrahan getting a save, and Walker pounding a grand slam. Ryan Doumit threw out a base runner. No kidding. He actually nailed him. Doumit also caught a throw from the outfield to home, but it was too late for the out. Alvarez stole a base. That is right the first steal of the season belongs to Pedro. Hurdle is going to run. I like it. Correia also laid down a perfect bunt, which is a good sign that fundamentals are going to be better this year. Ryan Dempster for the Cubs missed one showing that the bunt is not as automatic as it used to be.

You cannot read too much into an Opening Day, but the Cubs did not look very good, and the Pirates did. The Astros blew a multi run lead in the 9th to the Phillies, and thus the NL Central is looking like a place that the Pirates might actually compete in.

Opening Day - Season Predictions

Predictions are always tough. How to separate my routing interest from the facts. I am not always very good at it. But another thing that makes it difficult is that the Pirates of post July are going to look a lot different from the Opening Day roster. So, here is my stab at the Pirates.

Overall record: 81-81.
Yep, I think the Pirates are going to break even. My main reason for thinking such a good season are the impending trades and promotions. The end of the season Pirates are going to be very different and featuring at least Rudy Owens, which will upgrade the bad pitching staff. I also expect at least two big trades that might bring more major league talent. But it is not just the Pirates that will look different. I think the Brewers will sale off most of their team, but most especially Prince Fielder. This will ruin their season. I think the distraction of Albert Pujols will hurt the Cards and those things will gain the Pirates a few wins.

Names traded: Doumit, Malholm, Hanrahan, Diaz, and Biemel
I do think the Pirates will listen to offers for everyone, and will get big returns from Malholm and Hanrahan. Doumit will be a net loss trade, but it will free the Pirates a roster spot. Diaz and Biemel will be for minor league hopes, but that is good enough for me. I don't think the Pirates are going to be able to jettison Cedano.

NL Central Champ: Reds
They won last year and return all the major parts. No reason to doubt a repeat.

World Series Champs: Twins
This team has won the AL Central without their best player two years in a row. If Morneo can actual play in the playoffs this team will win a lot more than they have. Plus, they upgraded second base in the off season. I think they take down the Phils in the WS.

Those are the season predictions. Now it is time to sit back and enjoy the show.