Offense crushes McDonald early

September 3, 2012

POSTGAME

> You could tell from the early innings on that today was going to be a slugfest, and that’s exactly what happened. Thankfully, it came out in favor of the Brewers, who downed the Pirates, 12-8. It was home runs galore, as a grand total of eight of them were hit between the two teams.

The Brewers absolutely murdered James McDonald, tagging him for eight runs (seven earned) in just 2 2/3 innings. Ryan Braun hit a mammoth three-run blast off him in the first inning, then Jeff Bianchi and Rickie Weeks each hit bombs off him in the second (all three were tape-measure shots). Carlos Gomez added one in the third inning, which spelled the end of the day for McDonald.

But the offense wasn’t done after that. Aramis Ramirez added two RBi singles before it was all said and done, and even Yovani Gallardo- the starter- hit a solo blast.

CUTCH DOESN’T DESERVE THE MVP- AT THE MOMENT

> So recently I’ve been preaching that, if the National League MVP award was handed out today, I would not give it to Andrew McCutchen. Today I finally put something on Twitter regarding that, saying that I laugh at the people who were handing him the award two months ago.

Naturally, I received gas for voicing my opinion that, more often than not, differs from others. My main point was that you shouldn’t assume whoever is having the best season in freaking June is going to win the MVP award. But I also wanted to state that McCutchen has been in a bit of a tailspin lately. He was hitting roughly .370 last month, but dropped all the way to the .340 range in August. Like I said, .340 is still great, but people seem to be forgetting that it’s still a drop of .3 in average points, which itself is horrible.

And, not surprisingly, during McCutchen’s drop in average, the Pirates have dropped in the standings. They’re 11 games back of the Reds in the National League Central, and let the Cardinals pass them in both the division and Wild Card standings (obviously). Yes, the Pirates are still just 1.5 games out of a WC spot, but that’s courtesy of some sheepish play on the Cardinals’ part.

I stated this in an article a few days ago, but I don’t see the Pirates being relevant come October. If they can’t beat teams like the Brewers and Padres, then they don’t belong in the postseason. And it’s pretty much a given that, if the Pirates don’t make it, McCutchen won’t take home the award. That’s just the way the voting works nowadays. Say the Cardinals and/or Giants make it. Then someone like Matt Holliday or Buster Posey will win it because of the value they had on their team’s postseason run.

There were some false assumptions on Twitter today; I did NOT say McCutchen is having a bad season by any means. Even after his slump (by his standards), he’s up there among league leaders in most offensive categories, and his defense is spectacular in center field. But, if the Pirates don’t make it, there’s plenty of reason to doubt he’ll still win the MVP award.

MY TAKE

> Today proved that Ron Roenicke has no idea how to manage a pitching staff. He left in Gallardo to get the crap beaten out of him for 4 2/3 innings, forcing him to throw 119 pitches. But would he ever be allowed to throw a 119-pitch complete game? No, because that’s too many innings.

Makes sense, right?

> Manny Parra continues to state his case for not being on the team next year. He came on to start the ninth with a four-run lead, but allowed a hit and a walk. RRR decided not take any chances and put in John Axford, who managed to bail out Parra and record the save.

But what caught me was the way Parra reacted to being removed. He whipped the ball back at Martin Maldonado before leaving the field, then appeared to be angry with Roenicke. But honestly, what is Parra expecting? Going out and throwing like crap every other outing isn’t going to win your manager’s confidence (no matter how mindless that manager may be). He’s become strangely cocky about himself this year, despite the fact this is arguably his worst year in the Majors. His attitude and performance definitely don’t match.

THE NEWS

> Pirates manager Clint Hurdle claims that the Brewers are still dangerous in the pennant race.

“Toughest thing to do in sports is repeat. I know that going in. They’ve had a lot of injuries, and some pitching challenges, which never bodes well for a club. They’re a very dangerous club right now, very dangerous. Offensively, they can beat you a number of different ways. One of the best dynamics to have offensively is speed and power, and they have that. The speed shows up every day.”

“They’re playing with a lot of pride, playing together. And whether you like it or not, sometimes you get in situations where your best opportunity is to finish strong, and wreck other people’s seasons.”

> Chris Narveson began a throwing program today.

> Randy Wolf made his debut for the Orioles today, against the Yankees. He came on in relief of the injured Chris Tillman, and threw 3 1/3 innings while giving up a run and notching the win.

THE NUMBERS

> Every starter in the lineup- except Maldonado- had a hit.

> The Brewers have gone on an 11-2 run in which they went from 12.5 games back in the WC standings to 6.5. But, according to CoolStandings.com, they still have only a 0.6 chance at making the postseason.

> Braun tied his career-high in homers (37), and we still have a month to go. It’s also worth mentioning he’s two away from 200 dingers for his career.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Marlins:

Mike Fiers (8-6, 2.85 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (10-12, 4.78 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.35 ERA) vs. Jacob Turner (1-3, 7.33 ERA)

??? vs. Nathan Eovaldi (4-10, 4.48 ERA)

Marco Estrada (2-5, 3.85 ERA) vs. Josh Johnson (7-11, 3.86 ERA)

The ??? will probably be Wily Peralta, since Mark Rogers has been shut down for the year.

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The 2011 Pirates could be a signal…

December 4, 2011

> A signal that they may be coming back from the dead.

The Pirates had a typical Pirates season in 2011, typical meaning what we’ve come to expect of them ever since 1992. They went 72-90, which was at least an improvement from their 57-105 season in 2010. But, it was still nowhere near contention, as they finished 24 games back of the first place Brewers.

The Pirates can say the finished ahead of the Cubs and Astros for the first time in a few years, but each of those two teams had excuses- the Cubs were managed by Mike Quade, and, by the end of the season, the Astros didn’t have one household name (AKA star player) on their team.

But, it appeared at the All-Star break that the Pirates weren’t going to finish the season like they usually do. Around that time, they were actually in first place for awhile. The terms “first place” and “Pirates” hadn’t been associated with each other since 1992.

By the All-Star break, the Pirates were just one game out of first place. And they had rode pitching all the way there. At the time, their starters- Paul Maholm (6-9, 2.96 ERA), Kevin Correia (11-7, 4.01 ERA), James McDonald (5-4, 4.42 ERA), Charlie Morton (7-5, 3.80 ERA), and Jeff Karstens (7-4, 2.55 ERA)- were all giving the Pirates a chance to win. And their bullpen was solidified by All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, who, at the time, had yet to blow a save all year.

On one fateful night, however, everything fell apart.

It was July 26th, and the Pirates record at the time was 53-48- good for third in the NL Central and still in the heat of the pennant race (the Cardinals and Brewers were tied for first). The Pirates were in the final game of a three-game series with the Braves in Atlanta, and looking for a series win. Little did they know that when the game started, they’d have to wait around seven hours for a result- a very frustrating result.

The game ended up going 19 innings. The starter that night, Karstens, had turned in just five innings, forcing the Pirates to use nearly every pitcher in their bullpen.

In the bottom of the 19th inning, the game tied 3-3, reliever Daniel McCutchen was in his sixth inning of work (and he was supposed to have a night off). Scott Proctor, the relief pitcher for the Braves, was at the plate, while Julio Lugo stood at third base. McCutchen threw a slider, and Proctor tapped a grounder to third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez threw it home to catcher Michael McKenry, who caught the ball and tagged out Lugo.

But home plate umpire Jerry Meals had other ideas.

The Pirates playoff hopes were crushed by an umpire in the 19th inning of a game in Atlanta.

After McKenry obviously tagged Lugo, Meals called Lugo safe, and the Braves won, 4-3, in 19 innings. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle came bustling out of the dugout to join an argument that McCutchen and McKenry were already having with Meals. But there was no changing it- the wrong call had been made, and it stood.

The next day (actually the same day, as the game ended early the next morning), Meals did what only an idiot umpire would do- come out and admit that the call was wrong after the game is over. I hate it when umpires do that, because they’re simply enraging the team they screwed over more, because now that team knows that they actually had a shot at continuing the game and possibly winning.

Anyway, in some Pirates’ fans minds, that was probably the end of the season for them. You can’t blame them for not recuperating in time after a game like that because of the exhausted bullpen (and everyone else was probably exhausted as well).

Remember the numbers I listed for the Pirates’ starters earlier? Yeah, they looked a little different by the end of the season. Maholm finished didn’t win another start all year, finishing 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA. Correia,  who had already started his decline before the numbers I showed, faltered even more before he went on the DL to finish the year, going 12-11 with a 4.79 ERA. McDonald actually pitched decent, finished 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA. Morton couldn’t continue what appeared to be a great comeback season for him, going 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA. Lastly, Karstens finished 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA, a significant increase in ERA from 2.55.

But, I have a feeling the Pirates aren’t going to be pushovers in the Central for much longer. They have loads of talent, such as Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and so on. If they can get a little more pitching and just put everything together over the next few years, they could be a force in the Central.

But first, they need to find a way to beat the Brewers, who have flat-out punished them over the past few years. Since 2009, the Pirates have a total of nine wins against the Brewers. Personally, I hope that continues, though.

> Rumor has it that the Brewers may have already made an offer to free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez. I’ve heard that it’s a three-year deal with a mutual option for a fourth, but it’s nowhere near confirmed- it may have not even happened yet.

Still, I kind of hope the Brewers sign him. That would at least help fill the void that Prince Fielder is going to leave in the offense.

> I’ve also heard from various sources that Doug Melvin has spoken with free agent shortstop Jose Reyes‘ agents. A few weeks ago, it was supposedly “guaranteed” that Reyes was going to sign with the Marlins, but I haven’t heard anything between the two teams since

Now, Brewers might sign one of them (meaning Reyes or Ramirez, but I kind of doubt they’ll sign either. But imagine if they signed both. The payroll simply won’t permit (and that new salary cap isn’t helping either), but those two on the Brewers would make up for Fielder’s absence.

UPDATE: The Marlins and Reyes have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $106 million deal, which officially puts the Brewers out of the mix for him.

> Unless Fielder can’t find a job with another team. It doesn’t appear anyone wants him, and same goes for Albert Pujols. Who would have thought that the two most coveted free agents on the market might be forced to sign with their former team if they want to keep playing in the MLB?

> Former pitcher Pedro Martinez officially announced his retirement last night, after not pitching in the Majors since 2009 with the Phillies.

Say what you will, but he’s going to the Hall of Fame.

> A minor trade happened yesterday, as the Blue Jays sent lefty starter Brad Mills to the Angels in exchange for catcher Jeff Mathis.

> It’s still early in the day, and nothing’s really happened yet. But, if something does happen, I’ll update ASAP. Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Recap of all major awards

November 23, 2011

> Yesterday, the NL MVP was handed out. This marked the last major award of the offseason. And I’m proud to say that, for the first time ever, I got all of my predictions right. Not that I agreed with all of them, but they were probably the most logical choice fore each award.

> Anyway, here are the top finishers for each award (courtesy of Baseball Reference):

AL MVP

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

3. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

4. Curtis Granderson, Yankees

5. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

6. Robinson Cano, Yankees

7. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

8. Michael Young, Rangers

9. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

10. Evan Longoria, Rays

NL MVP

1. Ryan Braun, Brewers

2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers

3. Prince Fielder, Brewers

4. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

5. Albert Pujols, Cardinals

6. Joey Votto, Reds

7. Lance Berkman, Cardinals

8. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

9. Roy Halladay, Phillies

10. Ryan Howard Phillies

AL Cy Young Award

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers

2. Jered Weaver, Angels

3. James Shields, Rays

4. CC Sabathia, Yankees

5. Jose Valverde, Tigers

6. C.J. Wilson, Rangers

7. Dan Haren, Angels

8. Mariano Rivera, Yankees

9. Josh Beckett, Red Sox

10. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays

NL Cy Young Award

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

2. Roy Halladay, Phillies

3. Cliff Lee, Phillies

4. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks

5. Cole Hamels, Phillies

6. Tim Lincecum, Giants

7. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

8. Matt Cain, Giants

9. John Axford, Brewers

9. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

2. Mark Trumbo, Angels

3. Eric Hosmer, Royals

4. Ivan Nova, Yankees

5. Michael Pineda, Mariners

6. Dustin Ackley, Mariners

7. Desmond Jennings, Rays

7. Jordan Walden, Angels

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

2. Freddie Freeman, Braves

3. Vance Worley, Phillies

4. Wilson Ramos, Nationals

5. Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks

6. Danny Espinosa, Nationals

7. Darwin Barney, Cubs

7. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

AL Manager of the Year

1. Joe Maddon, Rays

2. Jim Leyland, Tigers

3. Ron Washington, Rangers

4. Manny Acta, Indians

5. Joe Girardi, Yankees

6. Mike Scioscia, Angels

NL Manager of the Year

1. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks

2. Ron Roenicke, Brewers

3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals

4. Charlie Manuel, Phillies

5. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves

6. Bruce Bochy, Giants

6. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

8. Terry Collins, Mets

8. Don Mattingly, Dodgers

> Most of them seemed deserving enough. Although I was surprised to see Longoria even on the AL MVP ballot.

> Anyway, onto some Brewers news. They’ve offered arbitration to free agents Prince Fielder and Francisco Rodriguez. Assuming both decline it (which they probably both will), the Brewers will get four premium picks in next year’s First-Year Player Draft.

> Which brings me to my next point. I didn’t pay much attention to the small print of the labor agreement reached between MLB and the players’ union because I was celebrating Braun’s MVP award, but apparently this new agreement is creating a salary cap on how much teams can pay players to sign with them after being drafted. This will probably effect how some teams draft for the next five years, especially teams that rely on the draft in order to contend, such as the Rays.

But hey, it’s what we’ve grown to expect from Bud Selig.

> The biggest news of today was the Indians bringing back the injury-prone Grady Sizemore on a one-year deal worth around $5 million. I guess they aren’t giving up on the center fielder yet, despite the fact he’s had five different surgeries over the past three years, and has averaged below 100 games played per season during that span.

> Bruce Chen has decided to go back to the Royals for the third straight year, but this time signed a two-year deal. Chen really came out of nowhere as a solid pitcher for the Royals in 2010, and had an even better 2011. But I’m surprised Chen’s “chencision” was to return to the Royals instead of play for a contending team. (In case you haven’t noticed, I occasionally use @TrippingOlney jokes on here.)

> Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts. I’ll update again if any other big news comes out tonight.


Morgan, Brewers find way to win against Pirates

August 14, 2011

4:38p At this point, the Pirates might as well stop trying when they’re at Miller Park.

Pirates-Brewers Wrap-Up

The Brewers, despite being shut out for the first seven innings of the game, found yet another way to take out the Pirates, with the final score being 2-1. The final blow was Nyjer Morgan’s sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, which kept the Brewers undefeated (8-0) against the Pirates this season.

The Pirates actually got on the scoreboard first, as the jumped on Brewers starter Shaun Marcum early. He was hanging a few pitches early on, and Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen took advantage of that by hitting back-back doubles in the first inning.

After that, however, Marcum was lights out. He ended up going 7 2/3 innings, his second longest outing of the season, while giving up one run on five hits. He walked two and struck out five. Unfortunately, the Brewers offense didn’t arrive in time, and Marcum had to settle for his third consecutive no-decision. But, he kept the Brewers in the game, and that would prove big, because of the Pirates starter on the other side.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton pretty much knocked out the Brewers for the first seven innings. He ended up going 7 1/3 innings while giving up a run on four hits. He walked two and struck out five. But, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made a decision that pretty much cost him the game in the eighth inning. With a runner on second, Hurdle pulled Morton for reliever Jose Veras. Veras came in and got the second out of the eighth, but then Hurdle made another change to bring in his All-Star closer, Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan came in and did his job: he struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the inning. Or, that’s what should have happened.

Hanrahan’s pitch to Morgan was a slider in the dirt, and Morgan swung over it. But, catcher Michael McKenry couldn’t handle it, and bounced away from him. Morgan ended up reaching first, and Jonathan Lucroy, who was on second, advanced to third. That set the stage for Ryan Braun.

Braun tied the game with a RBI single back up the middle, and, from there, the Pirates knew that it was happening all over again.

Hanrahan got out of that inning, then pitched a scoreless ninth. He handed the ball over to Chris Resop for the 10th inning, and he would be the victim of the Brewers walk-off.

George Kottaras hit a one-out single in the 10th, and Casey McGehee followed with a double to put runners on second and third. That set the stage for Morgan’s walk-off sacrifice fly.

Miller Park continues to be house of horrors for Pirates

If I were the Pirates, I would never want to come to Milwaukee. Since the beginning of 2007, the Pirates are 3-36 against the Brewers at Miller Park, which includes an 0-6 mark this year. Obviously, it’s a mental thing for them at this point, but that’s their problem if they can’t get over it.

Up next for the Crew…

The Brewers start a three-game set at home against the Dodgers tomorrow. Randy Wolf (9-8, 3.48 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and is coming off a great outing in St. Louis his last time out. He gave up one run in eight innings against the Cardinals. Wolf, the former Dodger, is 3-4 with a 3.66 ERA against his former team. He has already taken a loss against the Dodgers earlier this year.

The Dodgers will counter with the former Cub, Ted Lilly (7-12, 4.71 ERA). Lilly is having somewhat of a down season, as his record and ERA show, but he’s doing well in August. Lilly is 5-2 with a 3.54 ERA against the Brewers in his career, most of those numbers from his days with the Cubs.

Box Score

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 1
Milwaukee Brewers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 7 2

Milwaukee Brewers

Player AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Felipe Lopez, 3B 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .210
b-Casey McGehee, PH-3B 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 .239
Nyjer Morgan, CF 3 0 0 1 1 2 0 .317
Ryan Braun, LF 3 0 2 1 1 1 0 .326
Prince Fielder, 1B 4 0 0 0 0 0 5 .305
Mark Kotsay, RF 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 .258
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS 4 0 1 0 0 1 1 .270
Craig Counsell, 2B 3 0 0 0 0 3 0 .151
Jonathan Lucroy, C 3 0 1 0 0 0 2 .285
1-Jerry Hairston, PR 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .255
c-Corey Hart, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .272
Shaun Marcum, P 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .156
a-Josh Wilson, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .266
George Kottaras, C 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 .232
Total 33 2 7 2 2 8 9

a-Hit a sacrifice bunt for Hawkins in the 8th.

b-Flied out for Lopez in the 8th.

c-Flied out for Saito in the 10th.

1-Ran for Lucroy in the 8th.

BATTING

2B: McGehee (19).

RBI: Braun (77), Morgan (28).

Team RISP: 1-for-6.

Team LOB: 7.

BASERUNNING

CS: Betancourt (4).

FIELDING

E: Fielder (12), McGehee (16).

Milwaukee Brewers

Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Shaun Marcum 7.2 5 1 1 2 5 0 3.50
LaTroy Hawkins 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.67
John Axford 1.0 1 0 0 0 3 0 2.40
Takashi Saito (W, 3-1) 1.0 0 0 0 2 1 0 2.35

Pitches-strikes: Marcum 116-76, Hawkins 1-1, Axford 22-14, Saito 23-11.

Groundouts-flyouts: Marcum 7-8, Hawkins 1-0, Axford 1-0, Saito 3-0.

Batters faced: Marcum 30, Hawkins 1, Axford 5, Saito 6.

Inherited runners-scored: Hawkins 2-0.