Bax’s Bucco Blog: Two Series Victories
First of all, I apologize after the Blog went on a one week hiatus last week. It wasn’t planned that way. However, I couldn’t bear the idea of writing a major entry which could be summed up in two sentences: “The Pirates went 0-7 last week thanks to the fact that they couldn’t hit and their bullpen couldn’t get anyone out. Needless to say, Pirate fans are furious.”
Now that we’ve summed up the missing week, I’m happy to report that things were much better last week in Piratedom. The Buccos went 4-2 and won both 3 game sets that they played, upping their record to 16-21. More importantly, the bullpen seems to be getting back on track and the offense seems to have awoken.
There was other news outside of the results of the games. Reliever Tyler Yates was placed on the disabled list and embattled starter Tom Gorzelanny was recalled to take his place in the bullpen. The Pirates were also very lucky to return shortstop Jack Wilson to the field, which also resulted in the demotion of Brian Bixler back to AAA. There is no coincidence that the Pirates losing streak ended when Jack returned to action.Another note: While the Pirates struggled last week, I believe that this team is going to be in the hunt for a .500 season down to the wire all year. Why? Because the Pirates have continued to receive great starting pitching. This young staff is finally putting it together and if Ian Snell can find his form, the Pirates are going to be a tough team. Nothing is a better harbinger for success than great starting pitching and it has been long enough into the season to say that the Pirates are going to get it all year.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Monday: OFF DAY
Tuesday: Pittsburgh 7, St. Louis 1______ The Pirates finally broke their 8 game losing streak behind an excellent starting performance from Zach Duke, who pitched 8 innings and only allowed 4 hits and 1 run. The previously dormant offense woke up with home runs from Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss.
Wednesday: Pittsburgh 5, St. Louis 2___ The Pirates continued their winning ways behind another great start by Ross Ohlendorf, who pitched 6 innings and allowed only 1 run. Brandon Moss continued his hot streak with a 2 for 4 effort and Jack Wilson added a 3 for 4 effort. Matt Capps closed out his 6 th game of the season to preserve the win.
Thursday: St. Louis 5, Pittsburgh 1_____ The Cardinals avoided the series sweep as the Pirates stranded ten runners in the loss. Jeff Karstens pitched one of his best games of the season, allowing only 3 runs in 6 innings of work but the Pirates couldn’t muster any offense behind him. Brandon Moss had another 2 for 4 effort in the loss.
Friday: Colorado 3, Pittsburgh 1_______ Perhaps one of the most frustrating losses of the season saw Matt Capps allow 3 runs in the 9 th inning to waste a masterful effort by Paul Maholm, who threw 7 innings of 5 hit shutout baseball. Capps’ 2 nd blown save of the season rose his ERA to an unfathomable 8.18. Craig Monroe drove in the Pirates’ only run, his 10 th RBI in only 6 starts this season.
Saturday: Pittsburgh 7, Colorado 4____ The Pirates ended their 2 game losing streak by winning a game interrupted by an hour and 45 minute rain delay. Ian Snell allowed 3 runs in 2 innings before the rain hit and the Bucco bullpen rose magnificently to the challenge by allowing only 1 run in 7 innings of work. Sean Burnett got the win thanks to 3 innings of 1 run baseball and Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche had big days. Nate McLouth also homered on his own bobblehead night and Matt Capps rebounded from blowing the previous night’s save to close out the Rockies in the 9 th.
Sunday: Pittsburgh 11, Colorado 4____ _Zach Duke might have allowed 4 runs in his 7 innings of work but only a troublesome 4 th inning marred an otherwise excellent start. While the Rockies’ big inning gave them an early lead, the Pirates’ monumental 7 th gave them the win. The Pirates scored 10 runs, 9 before any outs were recorded, to breeze to an 11-4 decision. Five Pirates had multi-hit games, led by Nate McLouth’s 3 for 5 performance, highlighted by his 7 th home run of the season and 4 RBIs to lead the Pirates to the series victory.
1) BRANDON MOSS: The biggest disappointment in the early going finally had a great week, reeling off 5 consecutive multi-hit games and raising his average nearly 40 points. Moss even homered for the first time in 2009. In the last 7 days, his average is an incredible .600! Continuing anything near this level of production would be enormous for the Pirates.
2) ZACH DUKE: Two starts, 15 innings, 5 runs, 2 wins. Duke had 1 bad inning all week and both of his starts led to Pirate victories. His streak-busting win on Tuesday set the tone for a winning week and Duke appears to be challenging Paul Maholm as the staff ace. As both pitched gret this week, that’s a wonderful sign for the Pirates.
3) THE RETURN OF JACK WILSON: Jack hit .357 in his past 7 games, drove in 6 runs and probably saved as many with his absolutely incredible defense. How Wilson hasn’t won a gold glove is beyond me but the Pirates need him healthy.
4) DELWYN YOUNG: Young was pressed into leadoff duty when Nyjer Morgan tweaked his hamstring and performed admirably, hitting .353 in the process and driving in 5 runs, a solid week by an increasingly important player. How did the Pirates get him for nothing?
Honorable Mention: Paul Maholm, Andy LaRoche, Sean Burnett
1) MATT CAPPS’ STRUGGLES: Capps had two saves and pitched in a team-high five games. However, a blown save and other struggles gave the Pirates’ most important reliever a 7.71 ERA for the week. He has to be better.
2) 10 STRANDED RUNNERS: The Pirates would have gone 6-1 this week had they had any clutch hitting in the series finale against the Cardinals. 10 stranded runners really hurts, though the Pirates’ offense made up for it later in the week.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday : Pittsburgh 12 - Washington 7. Normally, I’ll preview a game but as I was traveling on Monday, the Blog comes out on a Tuesday and I can happily add that the Pirates continued their offensive explosion in the nation’s capital for their 3 rd consecutive win. The Pirates are now 17-21.
Tuesday : 7:05 PM EST @ Washington, Jeff Karstens (1-2, 5.06 ERA) vs. Shairon Martis (5-0, 4.10 ERA)
Wednesday : 7:05 PM EST @ Washington, Paul Maholm (3-1, 3.51 ERA) vs. John Lannan (2-3, 4.00 ERA)
Thursday : 7:05 PM EST @ Washington, Ian Snell (1-5, 4.93 ERA) vs. Daniel Cabrera (0-5, 5.95 ERA)
Friday : 8:11 EST @ Chicago White Sox, Zach Duke (5-3, 2.84 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (2-4, 7.71 ERA)
Saturday : 7:05 PM EST @ Chicago White Sox, Ross Ohlendorf (5-3, 4.31 ERA) vs. Clayton Richard (0-0, 4.33 ERA)
Sunday : 2:05 PM EST @ Chicago White Sox, Karstens (1-3, 5.06 ERA) vs. Mark Buehrle (5-1, 3.00 ERA)
The Pirates have a huge opportunity ahead of them this week. Washington is one of the worst teams in the league and usually only wins by outslugging the opposition. With the excellent Bucco pitching and a hot offense, the Pirates need to win at least 3 out of 4 in the Nation’s capital.
Interleague play begins the series in Chicago against the White Sox. The Pirates also seem primed to have another series win with the pitching matchups in their favor in two of three games. It would not be shocking to see the Pirates have a 5-2 week, especially with their 1-0 start.
A few things to watch: Nyjer Morgan should be back soon after missing a few days with hamstring tightness. Morgan has been dynamic early and the Pirates need him healthy, though Delwyn Young has performed admirably in his absence. Also, Jeff Karstens has two starts remaining this week. After an encouraging effort against St. Louis in a losing effort, the Pirates will be hoping for at least one win out of him this week.
Expect Bax’s Bucco Blog to be a weekly feature every Monday. If you have any comments, questions, grievances, Bucco sob stories or general insults, feel free to email me at email@example.com
By: Matt Baxendell
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