The Pirates are in Miami for the final four games of the season –a scary territory considering the Bucs are just 16-61 away from PNC Park this season.
How is it a team who finished 40-41 –nearly .500– could play so horrendous on the road?
“We’ve looked at youth,” manager John Russell said. “We’ve looked at travel. We’ve looked at change in lifestyle, change in food. It’s pretty much the same. We’ve played some really bad games on the road; I’m not going to lie. But we’ve also played some very good games on the road that we’ve either lost late or couldn’t quite finish off. I think that has something to do with a young team — learning how to win those games on the road. We’re very close a lot of times.”
To realize just how bad the Pirates have been on the road this season consider this: they have only five road wins since the All-Star break. They have also had a 14-game losing streak and a 17-game losing streak away from PNC Park this season. The Pirates have been outscored by their opponents by 204 runs.
The Pirates must win at least one of the four remaining games in order to avoid becoming the first team in major league history with fewer than 17 games in an 81-away game schedule.
“We play great ball at home and we can’t on the road. There’s no excuse for that,” Garrett Jones said. “It could be just coincidence. Or at home, maybe, when we have a crowd behind us, it gives us that little extra push. It’s tough to say.”
Thankfully, the Pirates will avoid the worst Pirates road record in franchise history –The Pittsburgh Allegheny’s in 1890 who went 9-88 on the road.
“We’ve got to find a way to play better baseball on the road and put ourselves in position to win more games,” General Manager Neal Huntington said.
The Pirates can only hope to see improvements next season from the Bucs and figure out what went wrong.
“I’m sure there will be 10,000 studies on it and everybody’s opinion will come out,” Russell said. “Until you turn it around, it really doesn’t matter what you say about it. Until we start winning more games on the road, it’s always going to be a question. Once we do start winning games on the road, they’ll say it was a great learning experience for us. It’s kind of a catch-22. The best way to change things is win.”
The Pirates play their final four games of the season against the Marlins starting Thursday night. They were 1-2 at Sun Life Stadium last year and have lost four of six in Miami.
In 26 games this month, Andrew McCutchen is hitting .341 with eight doubles, four home runs, 15 RBI and 22 runs scored.
In the last two games, the Pirates pitching staff has allowed three earned runs in 17 innings pitched. The team ERA is at 5.03 and has not been below 5.00 since 7/30.
The Pirates have homered in two of their last three games and in nine of their last 14.
Since the All-Star break Neil Walker is tied for third in the league with 53 RBI, trailing the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki (61) and Carlos Gonzalez (57). Albert Pujols is tied with Walker at 53.
The Pirates are 12-14 in September and if they take three-of-four from the Fish they can finish the final month of September with a winning record –the first .500 month all season.
I have yet to see any of the Pirates rookie hazing photos surface. Here are some good ones though curtsey of Babes love Baseball:
LHP Zach Duke (8-14, 5.63 ERA)
RHP Chris Volstad (11-9, 4.63 ERA)
Duke is making his 29th and final start of the season –and possibly in a Pirates uniform. He got the W against the Astros his last start allowing three runs on seven hits through six plus innings. Duke has pitched into the seventh inning in his last two starts after not pitching past the fourth in his previous two. In one start this season against the Fish, Duke is 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA.
Volstad is making his 30th start of the season. He averages 5.2 innings per start and has produced quality starts in 14 of his 29 starts this year. Volstad beat the Brewers 4-0 –his second shutout in a row– and allowed six hits through 6.2 innings. His other shutout –which was a complete game– came on 9/20 against the Cardinals.
Andrew McCutchen is back.
After hitting .226 in the month of August, McCutchen’s back to be an on base machine in September. He is batting .330 with a .466 on-base percentage and 21 runs scored in 88 at-bats.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing anything any different right now,” McCutchen said. “You swing, and the ball finds a hole. That’s it. That’s the game of baseball. I’m just trying to finish up these next few games strong and get ready for next year.”
McCutchen currently has a streak of 24 games reaching base safely –the longest such streak from a player this season. He also leads the National League center fielders in on-base percentage.
“Where I hit in the order, that’s what you have to do: Get on base and score,” McCutchen said. “I’ll do everything I’ve got to do to get on base, and I’ve been doing that. I’m happy with it.”
Two great stories that I suggest you guys read:
- Mets Knuckleballer: R.A. Dickey and Wife wait for baseball to finally return the love
- Ex-Bucco and current Twins Closer Matt Capps: Late father remains inspiration for Capps
On Wednesday night the Pirates told Double-A Altoona Manager Matt Walbeck that he would not return for next season.
Walbeck, the Eastern League’s Manager of the Year, led the Curve to the Championships where they defeated the Yankees Double-A Team Trenton Thunder.
The Pirates have not announced the reason behind the decision to release Walbeck from his duties, but Kyle Stark (Director of Player Development) said that it was best to allow him to peruse other opportunities.
“We appreciate Matt’s efforts and wish him the best in his future endeavors but felt that it was best that we allow him to pursue other opportunities,” General Manager Neal Huntington said.
Walbeck told the Altoona Mirror that the Pirates did not give him an explanation for the move.
“No, not really,” Walbeck said. “Just that it wasn’t going to be a good fit. There were some things about how I have some aspirations and am highly driven and words like that, but, apparently, it wasn’t going to work out.”
“I am surprised,” Walbeck said by phone. “After having gone through a pretty solid year … to have made improvements and helped develop players get to Pittsburgh, certainly I’m surprised. Of course. I did everything, I felt like, to help the club and the organization and was good for the community.”
Joel Hanrahan has been nasty in 2010 for the Pirates. He boasts a 3.72 ERA with six saves. The most dominating stat, however, is his 96 strikeouts in 67.2 innings pitched.
I sometimes forget that Hanrahan hasn’t always been a reliever. Before he was called up to the majors he was almost exclusively a starter. In 189 appearances in the minors, 182 of them were starts. Compiling a 67-49 records over eight seasons with the Nationals’ minor league teams he is glad he is a reliever now.
“As a starter sometimes I would try to sink the ball and I would try to throw change-ups, sliders, and fastballs –and just really try to mix it up,” Hanrahan said. “Sometimes I’d be thinking about a guy’s next at bat when he came up instead of worrying about the next pitch. I was really playing the game out too far in my head.”
“And a lot of times if I got a first pitch strike I was going to go for the strikeout, and as a starter that gets you in trouble. You do that and you throw a lot of pitches. The manager hated me because I threw a hundred pitches in five innings every time. I might go out there and give up two hits and no runs but still throw a hundred pitches in five innings, and so he had to go to the bullpen. I wasn’t pitch efficient.”
“As a reliever, I just go out there and I’m like, ‘Alright, you’ve got three outs to get and you’re probably done. Let’s go out there with everything you’ve got, leave it all out there today, and you’ve got 23 hours to be back and ready to pitch.’ That’s what I like.”
Hanrahan is sitting on 96 strikeouts this season –his career high is 93– third most in the National League behind Carlos Marmol (134) and Tyler Clippard (108). He has only walked 25 batters in his 67.2 innings pitched this year. Hanrahan hits 95-98 MPH regularly on the gun and it has been reported that he hit 99 on several occasions this season.
I’d say being a reliever is working out pretty well for him.
“I’ve always been a guy that has pretty good strikeout numbers, even in the minor leagues,” Hanrahan said. “I don’t get too many double play balls. I don’t have a sinker and I don’t get a lot of ground balls. So I find myself in situations where I need to get a strikeout and fortunately I’ve been able to get them.”
“You know how they say hitters get the home runs, and chicks dig the home runs? Well, I like the strikeouts. I figure if guys aren’t putting the ball in play you have a better chance. You never know what can happen when the ball gets put in play. That attitude can get me in trouble sometimes, but especially if I have two outs I’m going to try and strike him out for that third out. I really enjoy strikeouts.”
I think that if Hanrahan continues to put up the numbers he has, “Chick dig the strikeouts” shirts will be the new rage.
After having a disastrous month of August (.144/.196/.327) Garrett Jones is back on track after making some adjustments to his swing with hitting coach Don Long.
“My hands were getting real high, and I had some extra movement in there, which was causing my timing to be off,” Jones said. “I’ve lowered my hands to try and be more direct to the ball. It’s helping. I’m just trying to finish strong and end on a positive note.”
The month of September, Jones is batting .276 and in his past seven games he is hitting .370 with four doubles and nine RBI.
The Pirates lost 4-1 to the Cardinals and the road woes continue as they drop to 16-60 away from Pittsburgh on the season. Despite the loss, J-Mac shined on the mound.
If James McDonald is not inked in the Pirates starting rotation for the 2011 season, his final start this year on Wednesday afternoon may have just crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s.
J-Mac pitched six strong innings allowing one run on five hits, struck out seven and walked none. He needed just 80 pitches through the six innings but was tagged with the loss due to lack of run support.
“That drive he has, you can see it when he’s on the mound,” manager John Russell said. “When he’s in the zone, he can be dominating. When he goes out there, he really is a competitor.”
“I think he took the challenge and threw the ball really well,” Russell said. “He really wanted to finish strong.”
The only run McDonald allowed was a solo-homer to Allen Craig in the fourth inning.
“He took a good at-bat,” McDonald said. “I tip my cap to him. He took a good swing.”
Since being acquired from the Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel trade, J-Mac has made 11 starts and is 4-5. But don’t let his win/loss record fool you. In his Pirates debut, he struck out a career high eight batters. McDonald also had a 20 inning streak in which he didn’t allow a singe run. Although he has had problems with efficiency, he has the potential to be a great asset to the Pirates rotation.
“I’m a better pitcher, but there is still a lot of work to be done to be satisfied with what I did this year,” McDonald said. “When next year comes, I have to compete, so I can still be a starting pitcher. I never have a peace of mind when it comes to competing. I really hate losing.”
The Pirates were not able to put any runs on the board to give J-Mac the win he deserved. In fact, they only managed to get five hits the entire game.
Cardinals start B.J. Walters pitched seven scoreless innings allowing just three hits and struck out four.
“We swung the bat terrible today,” Russell said. “He made some good pitches, but we didn’t do a very good job.”
“We didn’t have very good at-bats,” Russell added. “That’s the bottom line.”
The Pirates head to Florida to take on the Fish for the final four games of the season.
Pirates prospect Chase D’Arnaud was a late addition to the Team USA Roster. D’Arnaud replaced Angels’ Andrew Romine, who was called up to the bigs last Friday.
D’Arnaud along with Catcher Erik Kratz are the two Pirates represenatives on the 24-man roster.
- The Pirates have won three of their last four games and eight of the past 11. If the Pirates defeat the Cardinals Wednesday afternoon it will be their fourth straight series win.
- In the last seven games the Pirates are batting a combined .304 going 72-for-237 with 18 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 46 runs scored.
RHP James McDonald (4-5, 4.25 ERA)
RHP P.J. Walters (1-0, 7.83 ERA)
McDonald is making his 11th start with the Pirates and his last of the 2010 season. J-Mac was not very efficient his last start throwing 80 pitches through four innings of work. He allowed three runs to score on five hits walked two and struck out four.
Walters is making his second appearance in September. Walters allowed five runs on seven hits through four innings against the Pirates. In his last 10 innings pitched he has a 9.90 ERA.
The Seattle Mariners defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 Tuesday evening, to clinch the Pirates will have the Number one overall draft pick in 2011.
This marks the first time the Pirates have had the first overall draft pick since 2002.
The top talent in the draft is third baseman Anthony Rendon from Rice University.
“Really, we look forward to the day we start picking 28th and 30th,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We’ve had two No. 2s already and, in our minds, it’s no different except that we’re able to pick out the guy we want a little earlier than usual. We’ve got to get the right pick, whether it’s that round or the 32nd round.”
“I’ll be able to give a lot more information about who we take No. 1 in the country after we take him,” he said. “There’s a good list of guys available, some college arms, and there could be some college bats. Prior to the injury, Rendon’s a very interesting player. We’ve got to see where he is post-injury.”
The injury Huntington is referring to is an ankle injury that required surgery on July 14th. He is expected to recover fully but the Pirates will continue to monitor him.
If drafted, Pedro Alvarez is expected to move to first base and Rendon will be the new third baseman.
Get your Jersey’s soon. If the Pirates select him, he will sure be a stud in a great lineup.
The Pirates are holding a series of mini camps during the off-season to keep the players on their conditioning programs.
This year, however, the Bucs are adjusting the conditioning programs.
Pitchers will start their throwing programs later than normal, and the mini camp that takes place in Bradenton, Florida in January will be more toward conditioning than baseball activities. (The past three off seasons, the pitchers would begin throwing off the mound)
Manager John Russell said the pitchers will ramp up their throwing programs after that camp and in the final month before Spring Training.
The Pirates plan to hold a few of additional conditioning camps throughout the fall, including one here in Pittsburgh.
Conditioning coordinator Frank Velasquez will also be making visits to the players to ensure they are still on their programs.