As opposed to Thursday's "during hockey" game, in which every flip to the game revealed a bigger lead for the Pirates, this one was a "holy crap, I can't believe it's still 1-0" game. At least until the Pirates added that insurance run in the eighth. First, Brian Burres tossed seven scoreless innings on Thursday. Then, Jeff Karstens did it for six tonight. What, exactly, is going on here?
The last two days, between Lastings Milledge's "home run" and Andy LaRoche's baserunning foibles, have been rather embarrassing for the Bucs. What can a team do after two incidents like that in such close order? Straighten up, and try harder. That's all anyone can do.
Tonight, Jeff Karstens goes against Jaime Garcia, who's been excellent in the early going this season. He's got a 3-1 record and a 1.13 ERA. That ERA is significantly better than both his FIP (2.95) and xFIP (3.72), so maybe he'll come back to earth a bit.
First pitch is 7:05. Clemente/Cangelosi is after the jump. For real today.
It's true: some nights on the baseball field you beat yourself, some nights the other team beats you, and some nights neither one really happens, but you lose anyways. This was certainly one of those nights that the Pirates beat themselves. The main focus will be on Andy LaRoche for not knowing that third base belonged to him as the lead runner and as a result turning what was shaping up to be a huge inning for the Pirates into a one-run fizzle. It's true; LaRoche should know the rule, especially as a infielder. But the thing is, I'm positive LaRoche does know the rule. Sometimes, players get lost in the play and even though they "know" the base is theirs, they feel the catcher touch them, hear the umpire call a runner out, and don't even process that there's another runner there. I'm not apologizing for LaRoche because it was a terrible play, but it does happen a few times a year and most of the time it happens, it doesn't happen to the Pirates. We just don't notice those other times.
The problem tonight was that it wasn't just LaRoche's huge base running gaffe that cost the team. Ronny Cedeno's first inning error cost Zach Duke two runs during an otherwise sparkling start. Evan Meek and Ryan Doumit executed a pitch-out to perfection, only to have Akinori Iwamura somehow miss the tag because the runner moved his hand. That cost the Pirates another run. Making one mistake, mental, physical, or otherwise, is something any team can do and still win. Making three of them? Not easy to overcome.
The Pirates are on a three on, three off, three on rotation right now which sadly lines them up for a down swing just in time to play the Cardinals. The Cardinals seem to more or less put up ownership signs every time they roll into PNC, so it should be interesting to see how the semi-rolling Bucs handle the team that's been the best in the National League through the season's first month.
The first pitching matchup is not really a great one for the Pirates. Zach Duke gets to try to bust out of his slump against Chris Carpenter, who's been excellent in the early going this year. Also in town: Albert Pujols and his career .389/.465/.731 line at PNC Park that includes 23 homers in just 71 games.
First pitch is 7:05, Clemente/Cangelosi is after the jump.
I've recently been approached by two different book publishers looking to get some publicity for upcoming/recently published books that I think would be of some real interest to WHYGAVS readers. They've both provided me with a copy of their book to give away to my readership, which means this is the one time that you guys all get to benefit from me going Hollywood.
First up is John Moody's Kiss It Goodbye, which looks at the inner-workings of the 1960 World Champion Pirates, especially that year's Cy Young winner Vern Law. I'm always interested in Pirate history and for people my age, I think a guy like Law can kind of be lost in the mix of the Clementes and Mazeroskis and Stargells of that era and the '60 team can be over-simplified by "big underdogs, Maz's homer," so I'm happy to have a chance to give it a closer look.
Second is Josh Wilker's Cardboard Gods, which is also the name of his most excellent baseball blog. I've seriously lost countless hours on his website reading his posts like this one about this blog's namesake and I really can't recommend it highly enough and so I can only assume his book is of the same quality. He'll also be at Joseph Beth Booksellers on the Southside on May 12th at 7 PM to do a reading and signing of the book, if you're interested in checking that out.
I have one copy of both books to give away to lucky readers, so if you're interested please e-mail me with the e-mail title "WHYGAVS Book Giveaway Spectacular" and indicate in the body of the e-mail if you're interested in being entered for one or both drawings. I'll assign numbers to each entry and draw separate winner for each book using random.org to generate a number. Entries are due by 7 PM on Tuesday, May 11th and the drawings will take place shortly after. Below is the fine print, for the FCC and other legalities.
Each book was furnished to me by the book publisher, in exchange for publicity for their book. That's all I received from them and was not otherwise compensated by either in any way shape or form. I was not asked to write anything positive or otherwise about either book in exchange for a promotional copy. Each participant is only eligible for one entry per each drawing and family members of WHYGAVS bloggers are not eligible. No purchase is necessary and purchase does not improve odds of winning. This contest is subject to all local, state, and federal laws, and void where prohibited. By submitting an entry, contestants agree to the rules of the contest and state that they are legally allowed to enter the contest. Contest rules are subject to change at any time, though they will be announced in a post on the blog.
It's kind of a surreal feeling when every flip of the channel from the Penguins game to the Pirates game somehow produces more runs for the Pirates.
"5-0? Holy crap! Pull up the Gamecast! Wait, two more guys on! Fair ball for Jones! 7-0!"
"Wait, it was 8-0 when I flipped away and now it's 11-0! ELEVEN! Take that ridiculous and possibly non-representative run differential! WOOOOOOOOO!"
Seriously, it feels good to beat the crap out of someone. Especially if that someone is the Cubs. Another nice start for Burres, a slew of hits, and somehow, the Pirates are 6-3 since snapping out of that awful funk a couple weeks back. Hard to complain about that.
PS- If I ever seen Andrew McCutchen sacrifice bunting in **ANY** situation again, much less **TWO ON AND NO OUTS** I might organize a boycott or hunger strike or something similarly ludicrous, just to point out how absurd it is. Ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking, JR.
Sorry for the late gamethread; busy this afternoon in lab. Brian Burres starts against Randy Wells. Burres was great in his last start, but he was also pretty lucky a la Jeff Karstens in his first good start. Wells, meanwhile, has been excellent in his first five starts.
First pitch is 7:05, Clemente/Cangelosi is after the jump.
How does July 2nd against the Phillies sound to everyone? I know some people have expressed a pretty strong desire to do it at some point on the weekend of June 18-20th against the Indians, but I'll be in town the weekend of the Fourth for a wedding and I just can't make two trips back home from NC in such a short period of time. If I make it home in August, it'll be to sneak in for the Walkoff Walk Heist. So, what do people think about the second?
The main story out of this one is of course going to be Charlie Morton's great outing and it well should be. He went six innings and held the Cubs to just five hits and two runs with four of those hits and both runs coming in a rocky fourth inning. He struck out three, walked zero, and got 10 groundouts and just five flyouts. The exact kind of start that we all knew he was capable of and a second straight big stride forward for him.
The question I had going in, though, was whether or not he was tipping his fastballs out of the stretch. I was having trouble distinguishing the glove movement Matt mentioned prior to the game on MLB.tv, but what I thought was obvious was that his fastball didn't fool anyone in the fourth inning once Derrek Lee's single put a runner on base. In the approximately five innings that he threw with the bases empty, his fastball got seven called strikes, one swinging strike, four foul balls, and just five were put into play. In that fourth inning? Four balls were put in play, four balls were fouled off, and the only other strikes were two called strikes against Aramis Ramirez who was ahead in the count and clearly looking for a pitch to crush, which neither called strike was.
*These numbers are not perfect because I cribbed them from GameDay on a notecard while I was watching the game, but they do reflect what I saw when I was watching, which was that hitters were fouling the fastball off when they couldn't put it in play in the fourth and that that was the only inning I saw something like that happen.
Conclusive evidence of tipping? Certainly not. The singles weren't hit that hard and he did get out of the inning without much of an incident. Still, there's something going on there. Whatever it is, though, was greatly diminished tonight and the guy the Pirates traded Nate McLouth for was on full display. He threw a hard, dropping fastball between 93 and 95 all night to get ground balls and he used his curve like a hammer to finish hitters off. He really was a pleasure to watch. Hopefully he can put those ugly early season blowouts behind him like the rest of the team and nights like tonight become less of an exception when he's on the mound.