Bax’s Bucco Blog: Still Searching for Consistency
The Pirates didn’t have a terrible week, going 3-3 at home against Houston and Atlanta, but they continued to show their very Jekyll and Hyde personality at the plate. In their three wins, they scored 20 runs. In their three losses, they scored 4. There is an obvious direct correlation between those numbers, especially considering how good the Pirates’ pitching has been. Before Sunday’s 11- shellacking, the Pirates had the best staff ERA in baseball! Before that 11 run disaster, the Pirates had only allowed ten runs ALL WEEK, including 3 shutout wins! Even after an 11 run outing, the Buccos still have a staff ERA of 3.34! So, if the Pirates want to cure what ails them, they need to start scoring runs a lot more consistently because early indications seem to show that the Buccos are going to get good starting pitching in 2009.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Monday: Pittsburgh 7, Houston 0______ The Pirates rolled over the Astros in the sold-out Home Opener behind a complete game, 4 hit shutout from Zach Duke. Duke’s effort was backed by a 14 hit attack, including home runs from Adam LaRoche and Ryan Doumit.
Tuesday: OFF DAY
Wednesday: Houston 4, Pittsburgh 1______ The Pirates could only muster one run in the ninth inning as Houston’s Mike Hampton gave up only 4 hits in six innings to keep the Buccos off the board. Ross Ohlendorf gave up 4 runs in 5 innings of work and the Pirates couldn’t make up the deficit. Adam LaRoche homered for the second consecutive game for the Bucs.
Thursday: Houston 6, Pittsburgh 3______ The Pirates scored three runs in the first two innings but starter Jeff Karstens let the Astros back in the game, giving up 3 runs in only 4 innings of work. The decisive blow for Houston came against reliever Sean Burnett, who gave up a 3 run homer to Lance Berkman, which proved to be the difference in the game. Adam LaRoche continued his solid week with a 2 for 4 day at the plate.
Friday: Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 0__ The Pirates got their 3 rd consecutive quality start from ace Paul Maholm, who pitched 7 scoreless innings for his second win of the year, lowering his ERA to a miniscule 0.87 and raising the Pirates’ record in his starts to 3-0. Nate McLouth broke open a close game in the 8 th with a two run home run and Matt Capps nailed down the save in the ninth to open the series with a win.
Saturday: Pittsburgh 10, Atlanta 0__ The Pirates played their best game of the young season as they walloped the Braves behind Ian Snell’s 7 shutout innings, giving the Pirates their 3 rd quality start of the week. Reserve outfielder Craig Monroe had a huge day as well, hitting two home runs and driving in 6, the highest Pirate single game tally since 2006. Ryan Doumit reached base 4 times as well for the Pirates, who finished with 13 hits.
Sunday: Atlanta 11, Pittsburgh 1___ _The Pirates followed their best game of the young season with their worst, as the Braves emphatically prevented the series sweep. Zach Duke struggled for the first time this season, allowing 12 hits and 6 runs in six innings of work. Reliever Craig Hansen also had his first bad outing, allowing 4 runs in the 7 th inning.
1) NATE MCLOUTH: After hitting below the Mendoza line in the first week (though his OBP was very good), McLouth blew up this week, batting .333 with a homer, a steal, a team high 5 runs scored and 4 RBIs. Along with his excellent defense (he had a few gems in the field), McLouth proved why he is a hitter that opponents have to game plan for every single game.
2) THE BROTHERS LAROCHE: Well, after complaining that they should both be sent to the minors until May last week, I think it is only fair to recognize both brothers for their solid showings. Adam was excellent all week, batting .318 with 2 Homers and 4 RBI with a .400 OBP this week while little brother Andy broke his slump late this week with authority, finishing with 5 hits in the last 3 days, giving him a .357 average in the last 7 days. If both brothers continue to hit, the Pirates’ offense will definitely be more dangerous.
3) FREDDY SANCHEZ: Freddy had three doubles and two triples this week while consistently forcing pitchers to work to beat him. In the ultimate definition of a tough out, Sanchez had a SEVENTEEN pitch at bat against Houston before hitting a sacrifice fly ball. Remember the guy who won the 2006 NL Batting title? He’s back……….
Honorable Mention: Jesse Chavez, Paul Maholm, Craig Monroe
1) JEFF KARSTENS: Despite Russ Ohlendorf’s so-so outing this week, he’s pitched fairly well this year in his two starts and most fans are pretty optimistic about his 2009 prospects. The same doesn’t apply to Karstens. In a year where the Buccos look to have 4 solid starting pitchers, Karsten’s debut of 4 innings, 3 runs and a lot of trouble isn’t promising after he won the 5 th spot almost by default this spring. Expect the Pirates to skip him in the rotation whenever possible until he gets his mechanics worked out.
2) SEAN BURNETT: Burnett has only allowed one hit to drive in runs this season in 5 appearances, which makes his inclusion on this list a little tough. However, that hit broke a 3-3 tie against Houston on Thursday and cost the Pirates a game which could have given them a winning mark for the week. It is also the only loss of the season thus far from a Pirate reliever.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday , 7:05 PM EST vs. Florida, Ross Ohlendorf (0-2, 4.91 ERA) vs. Andrew Miller (0-1, 6.43 ERA)
Tuesday , 7:05 PM EST vs. Florida, Jeff Karstens (0-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 1.64 ERA)
Wednesday : 12:35 PM EST vs. Florida, Paul Maholm (2-0, 0.87 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 6.60 ERA)
Thursday : OFF DAY
Friday : 10:05 PM EST @ San Diego, Ian Snell (1-2, 4.24 ERA) vs. Shawn Hill (1-0, 3.60 ERA)
Saturday : 10:05 PM EST @ San Diego, Zach Duke (2-1, 2.95 ERA) vs. Josh Geer (0-0, 1.29 ERA)
Sunday : 4:05 PM EST @ San Diego, Ohlendorf (0-2, 4.91 ERA) vs. Kevin Correia (0-1, 4. 09 ERA)
The Pirates look to have a tough week ahead. The Florida Marlins have the best record in baseball at 11-1, including a current 7 game winning streak, and the Buccos’ number 4 and 5 starters are set to face their dangerous offense. Luckily for the Pirates, the Marlins only start one of their top three pitchers as well, meaning the Pirates avoid Josh Johnson (2-0, 2.91 ERA) and Carl Volstad (2-0, 2.76 ERA) in the series. That’s a good thing as those two have been the biggest contributors to the Marlins’ league best 3.24 staff ERA. If the Buccos can take 2 of 3 at home, it will be a very solid showing.
Next up is a six game road trip, beginning in San Diego. The Padres have surprised a lot of people by jumping out to a 9-3 start but the Pirates will have the advantage in starting pitching as they manage to avoid both Jake Peavy and Chris Young, the Pads’ top two hurlers. Furthermore, the Pirates will throw Snell, Duke and Ohlendorf and should expect good starting pitching in one of baseball’s most notorious pitchers’ parks. Expect few runs in this series as the Pirates and Padres rank 3 rd and 5 th, respectively, in the National League in ERA.
If the Pirates can manage another 3-3 week or even finish with a 4-2 mark, it will have been a solid week of play for the Pittsburgh baseball club. Let’s hope the Pirates can continue their solid pitching but they really need to start scoring runs with more consistency.
Expect Bax’s Bucco Blog to be a weekly feature every Sunday or Monday. If you have any comments, questions, grievances, Bucco sob stories or general insults, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Matt Baxendell
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