I suppose that my opinion that these Pirates are a better team than the teams that have taken the field in the past couple years isn't really enough to keep them out of last place. Despite "only" being seven games out of first place, the Pirates are three games behind the Astros for fifth place. With the way the team is playing right now, it certainly feels like they have some more room to slip.
Tonight, the Pirates take their two game losing skid up against Mike Hampton, who's entire "revitalization" this year has depended on his three starts (and subsequent wins) against the Pirates. Remove the 20 innings in which he's only given up two runs and 12 hits to us and his numbers this year look substantially worse. Virgil Vasquez gets the start for the Pirates. I strongly suspect that the pitcher Vasquez will end up being for the Pirates will be much more like the one that struggled mightily against the Cubs last week, as opposed to the one that dominated the Royals, but I suppose it's still early enough in his stint with the Bucs to hope that anything is possible, even if most of the evidence suggests otherwise.
I didn't see even a split second of Saturday's loss and while I saw plenty of Sunday's game, there's very little to say about a three-hit shutout in which the opponent strikes you out 13 times. Instead of wasting space on recaps that would've be useful, let's go over some other things.
DK focuses his game story on Ross Ohlendorf's loss of velocity this year. Ohlendorf has really fascinated me this year because I can't ever remember a pitcher making such a huge transformation in terms of pitching style. His fastball is completely gone and he's relying almost entirely on his sinker, which from what I can tell has basically replaced his fastball. Some nights, he mixes a slider and changeup in very well with the sinker and on those nights, he's very effective. Other nights, the off-speed stuff isn't nearly as effective and he gets pounded. He still gets strikeouts, as we saw against the Cubs early last week, but mostly because his arm action varies very little from pitch to pitch and the differences in speed between his fastball, change, and breaking pitch can be devastating. He's really more of a junkballer than anything though, which makes it crazy that he's actually exceeded most expectations to this point in the season. It's really pretty unique for a pitcher to make such a drastic change in approach at Ohlendorf's age and potentially wind up a better pitcher for it.
Still no word on the Sano situation, though from various Twitter updates (I can't find any other news about the guy that I can access freely), the Orioles are the front runners, the Twins are out of the running, his bonus may be lower than people expect, and no one really knows what's going to happen. Then again, this says the Twins made an offer for Sano contingent on the investigation (which I'd assume the Pirates' offer is as well, which would explain the conflicting reports), so, uh, yeah. I dunno either. Whatever the case is, nothing's going to happen before the MLB investigation into his age concludes.
Freddy Sanchez is the Pirates' All-Star. I think Zach Duke has a great case, but Sanchez is having a great year, too. He's just three extra base hits shy of last year's total at the half-way point and his defense is much better now that his shoulder has healed up. As good as Duke's been, I'd imagine most people want to see more than a half-season out of him before declaring him an All-Star.
Ross Ohlendorf and Ricky Nolasco go at 1:10 today. The Pirates are without Freddy Sanchez again, the Marlins are without Hanley Ramirez. Nolasco has really settled in in the last month and looked a lot like the young ace the Marlins expect him to be. Ohlendorf has made two good starts in a row since his debacle against Colorado and he turned a great start in against Florida in April, tossing seven shut-out innings and striking out five. If he can mix and match his breaking pitches with his fastball like he did against the Cubs, he could have a lot of success against the Marlins lineup without Ramirez.no comments
Zach Duke and Andrew Miller take the mound at 6:10.no comments
Quick thoughts on last night's game: Charlie Morton looked good. His fastball was 92-93 most of the night and his breaking stuff was nasty. Three of his four walks came in the fifth and sixth innings in which he clearly looked tired. That's more than understandable since he came back out after a 45 minute rain delay.
I also though Joel Hanrahan's outing was interesting. He started off on the right foot by getting two quick outs, then allowed a succession of hits that brought in two Marlins runs. At that point, Joe Kerrigan came out with what seemed like rather pointed advice for a mound conference. Kerrigan looked right at Hanrahan, kept pointing at him, and Hanrahan kept nodding. Once Kerrigan walked off the mound, Hanrahan struck out Emilo Bonifacio to escape the jam and end the inning. I mention this because one of the things the Pirates said about Hanrahan when he was acquired was that they thought there was something he was doing that Kerrigan could help him fix. It should be interesting to monitor his progress in his first month or so here.
Finally, hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth. Games at 6:10 again tonight, so look for the gamethread around 5.
The Pirates' game this afternoon was a pretty wild, but I feel like I'm obliged to start this recap off by mentioning the incredible blast from the past that is the Charlotte Knights. The White Sox affilliate was playing in Durham tonight. Starting at shortstop; Brent Lillibridge. Starting in left field; Michael Restovich. Staring at first base; Daryle Ward. I don't need to tell you that this team lost to the Bulls tonight.
The Pirates' game today featured one thing in common with the Bulls game tonight. There was a rain delay. Actually, there were two in the Pirates' game, and the fact that there were two may have cost them the game. After the first rain delay, the Pirates went out, Paul Maholm got warmed up, pitched to two batters, and the tarp went back on for the second rain delay. After the second rain delay, Maholm came back out and completely hit the wall in the fourth inning, blowing the Pirates' 5-0 lead and putting them in an 8-5 hole.
There were some good things about the game. Obviously there was Adam LaRoche's huge homer and Garrett Jones' near cyle (how is that big dude so fast?), but it's also good to see Andrew McCutchen pick up a hit for the third game in a row. Hopefully he's coming out of the first slump of his big league career. That said, it would've been really nice to steal a win today.
The Pirates and Mets revisit their silly feud from earlier this season where Carlos Beltran whined about getting thumped by the Pirates, Adam LaRoche took offense, and Beltran laughed at him. Today at 12:35, they make up the game rained out in that series in a one-shot series before the Pirates jet to Miami for a weekend series with the Marlins.
Paul Maholm gets the start for the Bucs and Brandon Moss and Freddy Sanchez are getting their regularly prescribed JR off-day, which means Ramon Vasquez, Garrett Jones, and Delwyn Young are all in the lineup. This lineup probably offends Gene Collier so deeply that I imagine he's off screaming at someone who probably doesn't deserve it.
UPDATE: Lotsa rain, but I'm sure they'll play this one eventually. Until then, enjoy this video of at least two of the Pirates' three Taiwanese signings today.