a 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates: Opening week recap
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Bax’s Bucco Blog: A Solid Start to the Season

 

The Pirates had a solid but unspectacular start to the season. The Buccos played better than some anticipated, thanks especially to receiving quality starts in five out of six games. The quality of their starting pitching is definitely a positive sign for the season. However, when the Pirates lose two of those games where they received quality starts because their offense couldn’t muster any offense then it is disappointing.

Looking at the Buccos’ first week, it seems obvious that their offense has to be more consistent. When your pitching staff only allows the opposing team to score more than 4 runs once in an entire week, you NEED to have more than 3 wins. Still, the first week was a good start for the Pittsburgh baseball club.

THE WEEK THAT WAS

Monday: Pittsburgh 6, St. Louis 4______ The Pirates got a great start from Paul Maholm but fell behind 4-2 going into the 9 th. However, Jack Wilson played the hero and hit a bases clearing double with 2 outs in the 9 th to give the Buccos a 6-4 lead and Matt Capps nailed down the first win of the season.

Tuesday: St. Louis 9, Pittsburgh 3______ The Cardinals got to starter Ian Snell early and jumped out to an 8-1 lead after 4 innings. Albert Pujols, Chris Duncan, and Yadier Molina all hit home runs for the Cards.

Wednesday: Pittsburgh 7, St. Louis 4___ The Pirates got a great start from Zach Duke and held an early 5-1 lead before the Cards fought back late. Matt Capps closed down St. Louis for the save in the 9 th for the 2 nd win of the season.

Thursday: St. Louis 2, Pittsburgh 1______ The Pirates only managed one lousy hit and an unearned run against the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter, wasting a solid outing from Russ Ohlendorf. St. Louis took the lead in the 7 th and held on to prevent the Buccos from taking 3 out of 4 to open the season.

Friday: RAIN POSTPONEMENT (TO BE RESCHEDULED LATER IN THE YEAR)

Saturday: Pittsburgh 10, Cincinnati 2__ The Pirates jumped all over the Reds, carrying a 5-1 lead into the 9 th inning before putting up 5 more to put the game well out of reach. Paul Maholm pitched another excellent game and was rewarded with the win. Ryan Doumit also had 4 RBIs for the Bucs.

Sunday: Cincinnati 2, Pittsburgh 0 ___ _The Pirates wasted another solid start, this time from Ian Snell (2 runs in 6 innings), as Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang held them to a mere 3 hits, two by Nyjer Morgan, finishing the opening week of the season with a 3-3 record.

 


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THE HIGHLIGHTS

1) PAUL MAHOLM: Maholm’s statistics from his first two starts: 13 2/3 Innings Pitched, 2 Earned Runs, 1.32 ERA. Maholm had two quality starts and looks like a bonafide ace in the early going. Even better, the Pirates record in his starts was 2-0.

2) NYJER MORGAN: Remember how I said that Morgan could be the best leadoff hitter in a very long time in Pittsburgh? Well, here are the stats from his first week: a .423 Batting Average, a .481 On Base Percentage, 3 Stolen Bases and 5 RBI. Nyjer was on base constantly, annoyed plenty of pitchers as a consistent threat to steal, and also came through in the clutch to drive in runs. Morgan has led the season off in spectacular fashion.

3) JACK WILSON: There was no bigger at-bat or hit for the Pirates than Jack Wilson’s bases-clearing double in the bottom of the 9 th inning on opening day in St. Louis to give the Buccos the winning margin. The Pirates went from what would have been a tough opening day loss to a rousing come from behind opening day victory thanks to Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Wilson followed up that big hit by finishing the week with a .318 Batting Average, 6 RBI and the first Pirate triple play in 16 years on Sunday in Cincinnati. As a matter of perspective, Jack didn’t have 6 RBIs last season until JUNE so his production is heartening.

Honorable Mention: Freddy Sanchez, Matt Capps, The Starting Rotation

THE NEGATIVES

1) THE BROTHERS LAROCHE: Well, it looks like forgetting to hit in April is a LaRoche family tradition. After an excellent spring, Andy LaRoche began the year with a .000 average at the plate in 14 tries and 3 errors in the field. Adam was slightly better, playing flawless defense with a homer and 2 RBI but he still only had 3 hits in the first week of the season. Overall, the LaRoches combined for a .083 Batting Average and 10 Strikeouts this week. That’s really bad but par for the course for this family it seems. I’m only partly kidding when I say to send ‘em down to the minor leagues until May.

2) TYLER YATES: Three Games, 2 Innings Pitched, 3 Earned Runs and a 13.50 ERA. That’s not very good for the Pirates’ top right-handed set up option. Were it not for the Pirates’ huge rally on opening day, Yates would have been the guy who blew the game. He has to be better this year.

3) CONSISTENCY AT THE PLATE: The Pirates scored 27 runs in 6 games, which works out to 4.5 runs per game. That’s not terrible but the Pirates’ three wins featured outputs of 10, 7 and 6 runs while their losses produced three, one, and zero runs scored. With the quality of pitching that the Pirates had this week, they should have won 4 or 5 games. Their offense has to score with more consistency if they want to win more games than they lose this year.

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THE WEEK AHEAD

Monday , 1:35 PM EST vs. Houston, Zach Duke (1-0, 1.42 ERA) vs. Blake Moehler (0-1, 37.80 ERA)

Tuesday , OFF DAY

Wednesday : 7:05 PM EST vs. Houston, Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. Mike Hampton (0-1, 5.40 ERA)

Thursday : 12:35 PM EST vs. Houston, Jeff Karstens (0-0) vs. Russ Ortiz (0-0, 9.00 ERA)

Friday : 7:05 PM EST vs. Atlanta, Maholm (1-0, 1.32 ERA) vs. Tom Glavine (0-0)

Saturday : 12:35 PM EST vs. Atlanta, Snell (0-2, 7.20 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (2-0, 2.45 ERA)

Sunday : 1:35 PM EST vs. Atlanta, Duke (1-0,1.42 ERA) vs. Javier Vazquez (0-0, 4.50 ERA)

The Pirates have the home opener on Monday against struggling Houston. The Pirates will need to sustain their momentum against the Astros before welcoming a solid Atlanta team to town. Home cooking might do the Buccos good against a weak Houston pitching staff. Hopefully, the Pirates will score runs with more consistency and continue to get solid starting pitching. If the Pirates take 4 out of six this week at home, it will continue their solid start.

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 matt.baxendell@gmail.com

 

By: Matt Baxendell
MLBcenter.com Pittsburgh Pirates Correspondent


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