Virgil Vasquez and JA Happ take the mound in about five minutes. Don't forget about the Futures Game, which starts at 2:00 on ESPN2. That game should feature both Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez on the US team, and it promises to be 100x less maddening than whatever the Pirates do this afternoon.
Talk about it? Do I want to talk about it? Talk about what? Wasting TEN EXTRA BASE HITS? Wasting THREE HOME RUNS? SEVEN RUNS SCORED? An AMAZING play by Jack Wilson? Do I want to talk about Matt Stairs hitting Matt Capps' fifth pitch of the inning way over the right field fence and Capps still somehow being out there TWENTY-EIGHT PITCHES LATER TO BLOW THE GAME, despite only recording one out in that span?
I do not want to talk about it.
I've got a little more here to talk about than just last night's game, but we can start with the recap. That's not to indicate there's a lot to say; Zach Duke pitched very well, we hit poorly, and we lose. Garrett Jones hit a Brad Eldred length home run in the first, but combined with Andrew McCutchen to boot balls in the outfield in what turned out to be the decisive third inning last night. I'm going to do a PitchFX study on Duke next week, but you should all read what he told DK after last night's game about his late strikeout of Ryan Howard. I can quantify how much better his slider is, but I can't capture an improved approach, which Duke certainly has this year.
I also wanted to note Brandon Moss's home run off of Lidge. He CRUSHED a foul ball, worked the count a bit and fouled off a two-strike slider, then crushed another ball, this time in fair territory. It was a great at-bat against a good pitcher in a huge situation for Moss, and it's exactly why people like me haven't given up on him being a late-bloomer. He's hitting .306/.359/.470 since May 12th. We certainly don't have any other great options at this point.
Final point from the game last night; check out the pitch sequence from Delwyn Young's game-ending pinch-hit strikeout (clipped from MLB's GameDay of last night's game):
Keeping in mind that pitches four (a fastball, so basically the same pitch as 3 slightly less outside) and five (a slider) were called strikes, this is a great illustration of how an umpire working with a pitcher's reputation in mind can affect the outcome of an at-bat.
OK, that recap took longer than I wanted it to, but I do want to end with a word about Jonathan Sanchez. Everyone had fun joking last night about how the Pirates had reportedly turned down a straight up Sanchez for Sanchez trade earlier this week, only to see Jonathan Sanchez go out and throw a no-hitter, but seriously, one great game against a crappy team doesn't really change Sanchez's inherent value. How many times in 2005 or 2006 did Oliver Perez seem close to "getting" it again? I'm not trying to knock Sanchez's performance last night; he was spectacular (he struck out 11 and only a Juan Uribe error in the eighth inning kept it from being a perfect game), the game was exciting (Aaron Rowand crashed into the center field fence to make a great catch for the second out of the ninth), and it was touching (his dad had made his first trip from Puerto Rico to see him pitch and was practically in tears after the last strikeout; Sanchez himself was so emotional that I'm fairly sure he gave half of his post-game interview in Spanish). That being said, he's got to do a little more before it can be said that it's "clicked" for him, I think.
And as a final note, any chance that might possibly inflict Rob Dibble or Bob Costas on me at any moment in time is just too big of a risk to flip on, no matter how good the rest of its programming might be.
Right now, Pittsburgh can call itself home to both the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Champions, while Philadelphia holds the World Series. The Pirates will not win the World Series this year, but if they beat the Phillies this weekend, I'm claiming the trophy for Pittsburgh, heavyweight boxing style.
As previously mentioned, Ryan Doumit is back tonight and it's Robinzon Diaz who's been asked to pack his bags for Indy for the time being. Freddy Sanchez is also back in the lineup, so we actually sort of resemble a Major League ballclub tonight (though Garrett Jones is still batting third). Zach Duke takes the mound against Joe Blanton, so I'm going to jinx the crap out of us and say if we're going to win one game in this series, it's going to be tonight.
Jen Langosch just wrote on her blog that Ryan Doumit will re-join the Pirates a little early, making his return against Philadelphia tonight. She seems to think either Diaz or Jaramillo will be demoted to make room, though it could probably be Jeff Salazar or Luis Cruz just as easily.
Meanwhile, DK has a writeup of six Latin American signings the Pirates announced today. I don't know anything about any of these guys; I think they're pretty under the radar names. I mean, one is from Honduras, which sports Gerald Young as their only big leaguer. And no, no word on Sano yet.
Both DK and Ed Price at FanHouse are reporting that nothing is imminent on the Freddy Sanchez front. That doesn't mean the Pirates aren't pushing hard; it's seems reasonable that the announcement that Luis Cruz would be joining the Pirates from Indy was held until late last night just in case the Pirates had more roster holes to deal with.
Heading in the direction of the minor leagues, DK's look at the international composition of the GCL Pirates is a must read. The part about Chris Aure's tattoo had me laughing out loud last night.
Tim at B.U.C.C.O. Fans has a great look at last year's State College debacle, what may have caused it, and how those pitchers are faring this year.
Speaking of State College, comp pick Victor Black made a very nice start for them last night and has looked good in two outings so far. I just got an e-mail from a reader telling me his fastball topped out at 96 last night.
Moving up a level, can anyone remember the last time a Pirate minor league affiliate had as many interesting and legitimate prospects as the West Virginia Power? They've got Rudy Owens (10-1, 1.79 ERA, hasn't allowed a run since June 6th), Tony Sanchez (10 hits in his first 26 at-bats with three doubles, three walks, and two strikeouts), Starling Marte (one of Rene Gayo's signings, 20 years old, 18-for-47 in his first 12 games), Quinton Miller (one of last year's above-slot signings who's held his own in two starts, especially considering he won't be 20 until November), and Robbie Grossman (I'm still quite impressed with his .371 OBP and 40(!) walks in about 220 PAs, especially for a 19-year-old), plus guys like Calvin Anderson and Quincy Latimore (who are at least intersting, if not legitimate prospects at this point). It's like they're a real minor league affiliate of a well-run baseball team!
DK is reporting today that the Pirates are 'pushing' a trade of Freddy Sanchez, with either Colorado or San Francisco. I don't have time for much speculation on return right now, but I'd encourage you guys to engage in it on your own. If he goes to San Francisco, I feel pretty certain that another Sanchez, Jonathon, would headline the trade back in our direction. I don't know much about Colorado's minor league system, but Eric Young Jr. (meh) has been mentioned and the Pirates may shoot for a buy-low, Andy LaRoche style grab of Ian Stewart.
While listening to the early parts of this game, I had hoped that Andrew McCutchen grabbing Lance Berkman's double off of the Astros' stupid hill in center field and getting a throw to Jack Wilson who relayed it to the plate to nail the glacier-esque Miguel Tejada and keep the Astros lead at 1-0 would be enough to light a spark under a team that seemed listless in the early going. I was wrong. Charlie Morton kept getting hit hard (10 hits and all five runs in three innings) and for the third time in four games, our offense was completely shut down, pairing 11 strikeouts with only five hits. There's nothing else to say; so long as we don't hit, we won't win.
After the game, Steven Jackson and Steve Pearce were optioned to Indy. Jackson's going down to make room for Donnie Veal, who has to be recalled or offered back to the Cubs, but there's no immediately apparently replacement for Pearce. Ryan Doumit's not due back soon and there aren't any other outfielders deserving a call in Indy. It could be an infielder coming back up (Bixler or Cruz to provide depth with Freddy's back problems, perhaps), or maybe Lastings Milledge's rehab is going to be shorter than we all expected. Well, that or someone's traded. But it's probably one of the first two.