There are two things that immediately stand out to me from today's disappointing loss in Houston. One is that the bullpen was well overdue for a bad outing. We expected the 'pen to be the worst part of a bad team when 2009 began, but they're really been pretty good, especially since Matt Capps has gotten himself together. Jesse Chavez and Steven Jackson gave up three runs (well, Jackson gave up all of them, but Chavez let all the inheriteds score) and that was the main difference in the Pirates' loss today. But I can't blame them for it, because once again (this is the second thing), we were shut down by Russ Ortiz.
When Russ Ortiz pitches 4 1/3 innings in relief, you should score runs off of him. The Pirates didn't and lost as a result. Besides the problems with Ortiz, Andrew McCutchen looked good with three singles, including an infield hit that came on what was basically a slow roller to second base. He hasn't really gotten a hold of a ball and sent it screaming into a gap yet, but through four games he certainly doesn't looked overwhelmed and that's a very good thing.
Ian Snell also turned in a pretty decent effort, holding Houston to three runs over six innings. He gave up eight hits, but his control seemed pretty good and he had some more life on his fastball. I definitely noticed the FSN gun popping at 94-96 several times and the Pitch FX has him down for an average of 93, which is better than the 91-92 he was averaging early this year. Hopefully the acquisition of Morton will scare some life into him, because the rotation has the potential to be much better if Karstens is the one being replaced and not Snell.
Regardless of Snell's good effort and McCutchen's three hits, the Pirates still lost two of three to a bad Houston team. Next up: a reunion with Nate McLouth and the Braves in Atlanta. And the draft! I've got a nice, long, two-part draft piece that's going to run Monday and Tuesday.