Jeff Karstens pitched a side session in St. Louis on Monday –throwing about 20-25 pitches–. “It was amazing,” Karstens said with a smile. He could be available to pitch on Wednesday.
Karstens threw a 50-pitch session on Friday.
He hasn’t started since August 31st, Karstens hopes to get in an appearance or two before the season ends.
The last home game is always a bittersweet feeling. As much as I love baseball and love watching the Pirates, I am looking forward to a new season and a fresh start. Here are a few pictures I took to highlight the “lasts” of the 2010 season.
The Pirates with the morning warm-ups on the field.
The Pirates starting lineup on the final home game of the season.
The starters stretching on the field and the Bullpen guys taking their last walk to the pen.
The Pirates celebrating the final win at home during the 2010 season.
The lineup card on the last home game this season.
The Pirates continued to play good baseball on the last game of the 2010 season at PNC Park in front of 23,208 fans –beating the Astros 9-2 and finishing the final home stand 7-2.
Picking up the 40th victory of the season, the Pirates finished the season just one game below .500 at home.
“As long as our season was, Pirate fans are phenomenal,” manager John Russell said. “They are great to us. They appreciate what we do. They want a winner here. The city has really stuck behind us.”
A few of the players felt the same way.
“It was a great way to finish the season at home,” Andy LaRoche said. “It’s a great way to keep the fans excited about next season and about what we’re capable of.”
“Through the thick and thin, they’ve always been there,” Walker added.
A 1-0 game through six, the Pirates finally broke through the Astros’ J.A. Happ and put some runs on the board. Garrett Jones was issued a four-pitch walk and Pedro Alvarez’s single advanced him to third. Cedeno hit a short chopper to third base, fielded by Johnson. Jones was caught in the run-down, but scored when the throw to Castro was late and dropped.
The Pirates caught a break and took advantage of it. LaRoche hit a Sac Fly, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Seven more runs were put on the board in the final two at-bats.
“They battled throughout the game and finally broke through,” Maholm said. “That’s huge.”
Neil Walker contributed to three RBI’s and Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run double. Ryan Doumit had a pinch-hit RBI single. Jose Tabata hustled out an infield hit. Even Alex Presley’s speed couldn’t be stopped as he ran out to third, the Astros throw not in time.
All Good signs from the Pirates young core.
“When we started this home stand, we really emphasized finishing strong at home, not only for ourselves but for our city,” Russell said. “They put a lot of focus into this home stand. I’m really proud of the way they played here.”
Paul Maholm picked up his second straight victory. He pitched seven innings allowing just one run and matched his season high– seven strikeouts.
“I think I’ve gotten back into a rhythm with my mechanics and am throwing all my pitches to where the confidence is there,” Maholm said. “The last few outings have been what I need to pitch like. That’s what I expect.”
Evan Meek gave up a two-run home run to Hunter Pence. But that didn’t rain on the Pirates parade. They took two-of-three from the Astros and won the finale game of the season at home, 9-3.
“We tried to make people remember that we’re still playing hard around here and moving in the right direction,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “There’s still something to play for. We’re trying to get a nice head of momentum going into the off-season and going into next year.”
The Pirates have seven games remaining of the 2010 season, all on the road. It’s been rough for the Buccos going 15-59.
“To continue to finish strong, I think, is meaningful,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “It’s important for these young men out there to finish on a good note heading into the off-season.”
After receiving treatment on his right knee on Sunday morning, John Bowker said his knee “feels much better”.
“It’s been sore,” Bowker said. “It just got to the point where it affected how I was able to move.”
Bowker was pulled in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game against the Astros.
He is listed as day-to-day. And will not be in the lineup on Sunday –missing his 11th straight start.
- Today is the final home game of the 2010 season.
- In the past 19 games, the Pirates starting rotation have posted a 4.03 ERA.
- The Pirates are 6-2 so far during this nine game homestand. If the Pirates defeat the Astros, they will end the season one game under .500 at home.
LHP J.A. Happ (6-2, 2.99 ERA)
LHP Paul Maholm (8-15, 5.25 ERA)
Happ is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in one start at PNC Park. He received a no-decision his last start after pitching six scoreless innings against the Nationals, striking out six.
Maholm is 5-1 with a 2.10 ERA in seven career starts against the Astros at PNC Park. He picked up the win his last start against the Cardinals. Maholm allowed two runs on seven hits through seven innings of work, striking out four.
Garrett Jones is swinging the bat well again. In his past 10 games, Jones is batting .324 despite not having a homerun since August 31st. Jones entered August batting .274, which dipped down to .247 by the end of the month.
“Something I feel like I’ve been doing the best all year this past two weeks is being able to drive the ball the other way,” Jones said. “And just hitting line drives, not thinking home runs, just hitting line drives and being more productive at the plate.”
Jones tried altering his batting stance during his rough stretch, which actually made things worse.
“It was a domino effect there and it got to the point where I was just screwed up,” Jones said.
“In the beginning of the season they were pitching me down and away, down and away, down and away,” he said. “I was getting anxious trying to pull the ball, thinking about hitting a home run, and not just taking what the pitcher was giving me.”
Since then, Jones has been taking a more simplier approach to the plate, and focoused on hitting the pitch wherever he can.
Evan Meek seems to back to his All-Star self after having a rough month of August. Meek had a 7.20 ERA and allowed eight runs and eight walks in 10 innings pitched.
So far in the month of September, he is boasting a 1.17 ERA.
“He hasn’t changed. He’s the same guy,” Russell said. “He’s the same aggressive pitcher with the same stuff.
“I don’t see him doing anything really different. Evan’s Evan.”
Since losing his starting job to Pedro Alvarez in June, Andy LaRoche has been struggling as the pinch-hitter role. In his 34 pinch-hit at-bats LaRoche has only four hits.
During Friday’s game against the Astros, LaRoche finally ended his 0-for-21 skid with a home run, giving himself a boost on confidence.
“I feel bad for Andy,” manager John Russell said. “I know he’s a good player, but he never really got on track. Then Pedro came and put Andy on the bench. But I would still like I us to maximize Andy at some point. He is a good player. That was frustrating and discouraging for me because I know how hard the kid wants to play and how dedicated he is.”
LaRoche is spending his off-season playing winter ball, getting some much needed at-bats. He will be getting some playing time at shortstop (Andy can already play third, second and first base). If he does remain with the Pirates, his future with the organization is more likely as a utility infield option.
John Bowker was pulled after the fourth inning during Saturday night’s game against the Astros due to Right knee soreness.
Manager John Russell said that the soreness was the byproduct of Bowker fouling a ball off his right knee earlier in the week. His knee unexpectedly tightened up after a few innings of play on Saturday.
Bowker went 0-1, reaching on an error against Astros’ Bud Norris. It was his 10th straight start and his 14th start since being re-called on September 1st.
Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan are the only two relievers guaranteed to be a part of the Pirates bullpen next season.
The Pirates decided to end the season with a 13 man bullpen in order to evaluate each pitcher and his future with the team. It also allows Manager John Russell enough arms to get through the final month of the season.
“I am liking the fact that it doesn’t look like we’re going to have to bring in a multitude of arms like we have in the past,” he said. “I think internally, we have some guys with us now — [injured pitchers Kevin] Hart and [Jose] Ascanio will be in the mix as well — that we’ve got some pretty good options to put together a pretty strong bullpen.
“We’ve got a lot of good arms. That will be up to us over this off-season period to start piecing that together. The internal options are the ones that we’re excited about going into next year because we have not had that these last couple of years.”
Chris Resop has emerged as a possible lock-up for next season as well. The Club likes what they see from Resop as a middle reliever, working well in the 7th inning.
Some long relief options for the 2011 season could come from Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens and Joe Martinez.
General Manager Neal Huntington did a great job piecing together the Bullpen for the 2010 season (through free-agency) and could consider some more choices during the winter months.
Despite losing number 100 on Friday night and the chance to finish the season .500 at home, the Pirates still showed their pride with a 6-4 win over the Astros.
“It’s important for us to finish strong,” Alvarez said. “We can help it carry over to next year and start where we left off.”
Finishing strong, they are. The Pirates are 6-2 with one game remaining on the final home stand at PNC Park this season.
Zach Duke allowed three runs on seven hits through six plus innings. Two back-to-back good outings by Duke, who before those was considered to lose his spot in the rotation.
“Fastball command was a little erratic at times, but the curveball was there for me,” Duke said. “[It was] making big pitches when I need to, really. [It's] just being able to execute a pitch in a big situation. That’s really all it was.”
It was Duke’s final start on the season and perhaps in a Bucco uniform at PNC Park –he is arbitration eligible for the third time. He is 31-31 career at home.
“I don’t know what the future holds, obviously, but time will tell,” Duke said. “The fans have been great to me here, ever since I first came up in 2005, they really embraced me, and I’m very thankful for that.”
“Yeah, I still enjoy it here,” Duke said. “I do. I’ve spent my entire professional career as a Pirate, and I’d like to continue. But it’s not my decision to make at this point.”
Things didn’t go so well for the Astros starter, Bud Norris who struck out 14 during his last start against the Pirates.
Alvarez –who was 0-for-5 against Norris– hit the 2-1 slider over the Clemente wall for his 13th homerun of the season.
“That was a huge home run for us,” manager John Russell said. “We weren’t doing much early, and that really picked us up. That made the game really turn in our favor.”
The Pirates came up big in the fifth, a tie game at three. McCutchen hit a double, Tabata followed with a RBI-single. Doumit hit a two out RBI single.
“They made some adjustments to me as well, and that’s what big league hitters do,” Norris said. “They did a good job executing their game plan.”
The Bullpen allowed one run and closed the game out giving Duke his eighth win this season.