It’s a moment baseball players dream of and John Bowker lived it during Tuesday’s night’s victory over the Cardinals. Bases loaded, two outs and a close 4-2 ball game. Bowker layed off the first pitch fastball by MacDougal.
“I just wanted to see what he had,” Bowker said. “I had never faced him before.”
He took the next pitch (fastball) and hit it into the left center gap, a bases clearing double, giving the Pirates a 7-2 lead.
“I’ll tell you what: When he hits the ball hard, he hits it really hard,” Russell said. “It was a great sign.”
Is John Bowker trying to make an impression on the Pirates staff?
“Yeah, I think everyone’s trying to make an impression. Whatever role that is. Tonight coming off the bench, definitely trying to.”
Garrett Jones is hitting well again after slumping horribly in August. Jones went 3-for-5 with three RBI and a monster home run he hit in the first inning –his 21st of the season–
“It was up,” Suppan said of the 1-0 changeup. “He’s a type of guy that can get his hands extended. I was trying to have some depth on the changeup and it just stayed up.”
“He feels a lot more comfortable at the plate and you can see it,” Russell said. “He’s getting to some balls that he wasn’t a few weeks ago.”
Brian Burres picked up his fourth win of the season after pitching 5.2 innings. He allowed two runs –one earned– on four hits, walked three and struck out zero. With Burres’ last start of the season he finishes (4-4) the only Pirates starter to finish at the .500 mark.
“When he keeps the ball down, he can be tough,” Russell said. “He got through some jams. We made some plays behind him on a couple really hard hit balls. He hung in there.”
A decent outing from Burres who was pulled after just two innings of work his last start.
“Last time, I got into a little bit of trouble and couldn’t get out of it,” Burres said, insisting that his game plan didn’t change. “This time, I made some better pitches and the defense made some good plays behind me.”
- With the 7-2 Victory the Pirates snapped a five-game losing streak on the road as well as eight straight losses at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
- Andrew McCutchen reached safely for his 23rd straight game.
- Ronny Cedeno’s error in the third inning was his fourth straight game with an error.
- Chris Resop made his first appearance since September 16th (right elbow) pitching a 1/3 of an inning, striking out one.
- Evan Meek pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out the side which included Pujols and Holliday.
- Alex Presley picked up his first Major League steal.
- The Pirates have won two of their last three games and seven of their last 10.
- The Pirates have homered in eight of their last 12 games and have out-homered their opponent, 36-26, since August 18.
- In Chan Ho Park’s last 19 appearances (19.1 IP) he has been scored upon five times while posting a 2.33 ERA.
- Since the All-Star break, Jose Tabata, ranks second in the National League with hits (88) behind the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez (93). Since Tabata’s Major League debut on June 9, he is tied with Cardinals’ Matt Holliday for second in the N.L. with hits (116).
- The Pirates are 2-22 in their past 24 road games. Their last win was on July 28th against Colorado.
- Baseball America put three Pirates prospects on it’s New York Penn League Top 20 list: RHP Zack Von Rosenberg (No. 6), LHP Colton Cain (10), and LHP Zack Dodson (17).
Brian Burres (3-4, 5.29 ERA)
RHP Jeff Suppan (2-7, 5.40 ERA)
Burres is making his 100th career appearence tonight. He lasted just 2.1 innings his last start against the Cardinals allowing four runs on six hits. Burres is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his last four starts.
Suppan is 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA over his last three starts. He won his last start against the Pirates allowing one run on four hits through five innings, walking two and striking out two.
Joel Hanrahan doesn’t need to trick the batters when he is on the mound. His fastball is regularly clocked in the 95-98 MPH range. –He has reportably hit 99 on several occasions this season.– Hitters be aware, because the heat is coming.
“Basically I just throw it as hard as I can and if I hit my spots I know I’m going to be successful,” said Hanrahan. ” I’ve tried throwing a sinker before, but I never really threw it for strikes. So I keep it pretty simple with a four-seamer and a slider. I have two pitches and they’ve been pretty successful for me.”
In the 33 appearences Hanrahan had with the Pirates in ’09, he posted a 1.72 ERA. In Joel’s first 62 outings this year, he is 3-1 with four saves and a 3.56 ERA. The most impressive stat, however, is that he struck out 86 batters in 60.2 innings while walking just 19.
And remember, Hanrahan missed some spring training and the begining of the season with an elbow injury. (He was activated on April 12th)
“When they said I didn’t need any surgery and just to rest, I really wanted to try and make it back for Opening Day and I felt like I could have done that,” Hanrahan said. “But luckily the trainers and the (coaching) staff told me to take my time. That was probally a good idea. If you try to come back too fast you never know what could happen.”
Before the 2010 season started, Hanrahan believed he would be the Pirates new closer. However, they ended up signing Octavio Dotel who took that role.
“We didn’t make any moves in the bullpen until later on in the off-season, so yeah, I felt like I had a chance to be the eigth or ninth inning guy,” Hanrahan said. “That was the position that I wanted to be in and I felt like I had done enough to earn that spot until they signed Dotel and Brendan Donnelly.”
During the trade deadline, Dotel was traded to the Dodgers and it was annouced by Manager John Russell that both Hanrahan and Evan Meek would have oppurtunities to close.
“After the trades, we were both throwing the ball really well and they said, “We don’t have one closer. We’re going to use them both,” Hanrahan said. “That was good for us because one or the other might have gotten upset. We both felt like we had been throwing the ball well and deserved a chance to close. Now they’re using both of us, so that’s good. We just have to be prepared for whatever.”
But is it possible for Hanrahan and Meek –who went 4-2 with a pair of saves and a 2.05 ERA in his first 60 appearences this season– to be friends even when they are both fighting for the same job?
“Yeah, you have to be buddies with the guy,” Hanrahan said. “We’re in this as a team and we’re doing everything we can to win games as a team, and that takes 25 guys, not just one or two. Evan and I know that we both need each other in order to be successful. We feed off each other, and obviously the year he’s had has been outstanding. Donnelly ad Dotel told him to go out there and be more aggressive. ‘You have 96-97 with cut. That’s hard to hit, so go out there and throw strikes and be agressive.’ He really took that to heart and he’s had a great year.”
Hanrahan –who has already surpassed his career high 93 strikeouts– is currently sitting on 96 and with six games left in the season, has a good change to hit number 100.
“That would be pretty cool,” Hanrahan said.
Ronny Cedeno in in his first full season with the Pittsburgh Pirates and looks to be the everyday shortstop for 2011. The 27-year-old Venezuelan native talked about his 2010 season.
How would you evaluate your 2010 season offensively and defensively?
“I think defensively I’ve been doing okay, but I would like to get better,” Cedeno said. “Defensively I feel good. I’ve been able to concentrate every ground ball, take care of it and make the play. Don’t try to do too much. Just go out there, have fun and do the best you can.
Since Cedeno has been the starting shortstop this season, there has been three starting second baseman –Delwyn Young, Aki Iwamura and Neil Walker. Has it been difficult for Ronny to adjust?
“No. I think it is fun to play different second baseman. The most important thing is to communicate with each other. Every one of them is little bit different so you nee to communicate to do your job.”
Cedeno plays next to a few members of the Pirates “young core” –Pedro Alvarez ad Neil Walker. What are his thoughts on the second and third basemen?
“Those two guys have a lot of talent. They can both be really good players. Neil has had a chance to play a lot of second base this year and he’s becoming consistent over there. And Pedro, he has unbelievable pop. He has to learn a little it more because he’s so young, but when he gets more experience I think he’s going to be a great third baseman for the Pirates.”
When Cedeno was traded from Seattle last season, he said he was happy to be back in the National League.
“Yeah. I still feel that way. The American League is very tough. They don’t throw you as many pitches close to the plate, It’s a lot of off-speed stuff. In the National League, they throw you more fastballs. You just have to make them throw it in the strike one. If you do that you’re going to get fastballs to hit.”
Pirates: First Pitch
James McDonald will start on Wednesday against the Cardinals, but he will be monitored throughout the game. The Pirates said they will be watching J-Mac’s pitch efficiency –not a specific pitch count.
Wednesday’s start will be his final of the season. McDonald has already logged 41.1 more innings this season (134.2 IP) compared to 2009.
“He’s got one more start and he really, really wants to make it,” Russell said. “I respect that. I think his next start he should be much more efficient.”
There is still a chance that Lastings Milledge will make an appearance before the 2010 season ends. Milledge has begun to hit in the cage and will take part in batting practice later this week. If everything goes well, Milledge could play this weekend in Florida.
“The next step is to get him out there for batting practice,” manager John Russell said. “If we can get it to that point, there could be a possibility he could play before the season’s over.”
Lastings Milledge has been sidelined since 9/13 with a left oblique strain.
Ross Ohlendorf may be pitching in an instructional league as part of his off-season routine.
“We’ve got to see how he progresses,” Russell said. “He will need some down time before he gets back to work.”
Ohlendorf (upper back) has not pitched since 8/23.
With six games remaining of the season why would the Pirates be concerned with a few of the injured players playing time?
“Then you go into the off-season knowing [you're OK],” manager John Russell said. “I think it’s more of a mental thing than anything. If you go into the off-season knowing you didn’t get into a game, you’re going to have that on your mind until you get on the mound or start full-go.”
After winning 7-of-9 in the Pirates final home stand of the season, you hope some of that momentum carries through onto the final road games of the year. And it did as the Buccos battled the Red Birds but a few mistakes ended up being costly in the 6-4 loss to the Cardinals.
A mistake -an unfortunate act, an incorrect act or decision, an error, a misunderstanding
Unfortunately for the Bucs, the mistakes made during Monday night’s game ending up costing the Pirates their eighth win in the past 10 games.
An unfortunate act; Charlie Morton was pitching a pretty good game until the sixth inning got a little rocky. After intentionally walking Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday took Morton’s one bad pitch –a changeup– into the stands for a two-run home run that tied the game at four.
“I wanted it to go a little more inside,” Morton said afterward. “It just didn’t do anything. It stayed there for him, and he did what he does.”
An incorrect act or decision;The Pirates had the bases loaded in the seventh inning, one out, and John Bowker was up next. Manager John Russell pulled Bowker and replaced him with righty- Andy LaRoche. Two problems with this scenario. The first, LaRoche is a horrible pinch hitter and he has just one hit in his last 22 at-bats. The second, Reyes was allowing lefties to bat .307 against him. To replace Bowker (lefty) with LaRoche (righty) is mind boggling. Andy LaRoche hit into an inning ending double-play.
What was Russell’s reasoning for this move? Or what didn’t he use Young or Doumit’s bat from the bench instead?
“Ryan and Delwyn aren’t as efficient versus left-handed pitchers,” Russell explained. “Andy got a big sac fly for us [on Sunday], and he’s feeling better at the plate. We tried to match up the best way he could.”
“It would have been nice to push a run across there — at least one, maybe more,” Russell said. “We couldn’t do it.”
An error; In the seventh inning, a routine grounder was hit to shortstop Ronny Cedeno. His throw sailed way over the head of 6’4″ Garrett Jones and the Cardinals scored the go-ahead run.
“I’ve got to make that play,” said Cedeno, who has committed an error in three straight games. “It cost us the game. I have to be better than that.”
“I didn’t get a good route or get in a good position to field the ball,” he said. “I was coming in, and the guy can run. I’m trying to make the play, but it was bad.”
The Cardinals scored an insurance run in the eighth inning when Chan Ho Park’s pitch hit off Jay’s foot and flew to the backstop. Doumit tried to argue with the ump, but it was ruled as a wild-pitch. Re-plays clearly showed it was fouled off his foot. (Why didn’t John Russell argue that call, by the way?)
The crucial mistakes allowed the Cardinals to win the game, 6-4 –keeping them one game from being eliminated from the post-season. The mistakes also overshadowed some good performances on the night as well.
Pedro Alvarez –who was the N.L. Player of the Week– had yet another monstrous game. He went 3-for-3 with two RBI, a walk, and a homerun that was estimated to go 427 feet.
“I’m just glad I’ve been putting some good pieces on some good balls,” Alvarez said. “This game has slowed down a lot more. I’m just learning how to play this game at this next level.”
Charlie Morton –despite allowing the two-run homerun to Holliday– pitched a decent outing. Four runs on 10 hits, struck out four through six innings pitched.
“I feel like instead of finishing a game and being confused by what happened — and frustrated in general — well, now I know,” Morton said. “I made a stupid pitch. I didn’t execute.”
The Pirates have only four road wins since the All-Star break and need to finish the season 3-6 in order to match the worst road record set in 1963 by the Mets.
Rookie Pedro Alvarez was named the National League Player of the Week –the first Pirate player to win POW since Ryan Doumit in 2008.
Alvarez had a monster of a week hitting .407 with four doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs. He also boasted a .833 SLG.
“I’m still trying to learn as much as I can for next year,” Alvarez said. “Then I’ll keep learning next year and start off strong.”
“It’s a great honor,” Alvarez said before Pittsburgh’s game on Monday. “Some of the guys that are hot right now in the league are doing unbelievable. To be privileged enough to get an award like this means a lot to me, and hopefully there are a lot more coming my way. It’s definitely very honoring because of all the hard work I’ve put in and will continue to put in.”
“That’s a great accolade for Pedro,” said manager John Russell. “I think the good thing is, some of our young players are starting to get noticed. People are talking about [Jose] Tabata, [Neil] Walker, and [Andrew] McCutchen — and now Pedro is getting into the mix, as well. I’m very proud of him. That’s a nice accomplishment.”
- Monday starts the final road trip of the season for the Pirates, seven games to end the 2010 season.
- The Pirates have won two straight and seven of their last nine.
- The Pirates are just 2-21 in their past 23 road games.
- Jose Tabata (.302) and Neil Walker (.301) are attempting to become the first set of Pittsburgh Rookies to end the season .300 or better since Jimmy Williams (.355) and Ginger Beaumont (.352) did so in 1899. –According to the Elias Sports Bureau
- Andrew McCutchen has reached safely in 21 straight games. During this span he is batting .423 with two homers, six RBI and 13 runs scored. McCutchen currently ranks first among Center Fielders in the National League with OBP (.360).
- The Pirates and Cardinals are meeting for the fourth time in the past seven days. The Pirates took two-of-three from St. Louis and are 5-4 against them at PNC Park this season. The Buccos are 0-3 at Busch stadium this year.
- If the Pirates defeat the Cardinals tonight, the Red Birds will be eliminated from the NL Central allowing the Reds to clinch.
- Evan Meek ranks third among relief pitchers with most innings pitched in the 7th with 28.1. Gregerson (36) from the Padres’ is the only reliever to pitch more than Meek. Colorado’s Belisle (27.2), Phillies’ Durbin (24), Angels Jepsen (22.2) and Rangers’ Oliver (22.2) are behind Meek.
RHP Charlie Morton (2-11, 8.10 ERA)
RHP Kyle Lohse (4-8, 7.18 ERA)
Morton picked up his first win –since May 5th– against Lohse and the Cardinals his last start. He pitched six innings allowing two runs on four hits, walked one and struck out five. Morton is 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA in his last three starts.
Lohse lost his last start against the Pirates allowing six runs on seven hits through three innings. He is 2-0 with a 2.35 ERA at home this season.
Andrew McCutchen 8
Jose Tabata 7
Neil Walker 4
Garrett Jones 3
Pedro Alvarez 5
John Bowker 9 *returning to the lineup since suffering a sore right knee on Saturday
Ronny Cedeno 6
Chris Snyder 2
Charlie Morton 1
Skip Schumaker 4
Allen Craig 9
Albert Pujols 3
Matt Holliday 7
Colby Rasmus 8
Daniel Descalso 5
Brendan Ryan 6
Matt Pagnozzi 2
Kyle Loshe 1
Chris Resop has tenderness in his right elbow and is listed as day-to-day.
The elbow injury is the reason he has not been used from the bullpen since September 16th.
MRI results showed no structural damage and the Pirates expect him to fully recover with rest.
“We want to be smart about it,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Yes, we want to win every game we play in September, but we also want to make sure our guys finish the year healthy.”
Before the final home game on Sunday afternoon, I noticed Chris Resop throwing a side session in the bullpen. From what I saw, he seemed to have thrown about 20-25 pitches.
Resop’s side session was “pain-free” and has been cleared to pitch on Tuesday.
Despite the Pirates record not improving in the past two years, the attendance at PNC Park has. Could the young core of players such as Avarez, Walker, Tabata, McCutchen have something to do with it?
After winning the final home game at PNC Park this season, the attendance totaled 1,613,399 fans, more than 2008 (1,609,076), and 2009 (1,575,853).
The Pirates average of 19,919 fans ranks 27th of the major league ballparks, only behind Florida, Cleveland and Oakland.
“The fans have been terrific,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “The fans deserve a big thank you from us because they’re passionate. They still care about this team. That’s why we work every single day to return a winning team to Pittsburgh and reward them for their patience.”