Jeff Clement underwent successful surgery on his left knee on Wednesday and his recovery time is expected to be about six months.
The Pirates are hopeful that Clement will be ready for Spring Training in 2011, but with that timetable his limitations might cost him a chance for a first-base starting job.
- The Pirates are looking for their first six-game win streak since May of 2008.
- It would also be the first time the Pirates swept back-to-back series since 2004.
Jeff Suppan (1-7, 5.61 ERA)
Brian Burres (3-3, 4.93 ERA)
Suppan will be making his third start for the Cardinals since coming off the DL on 9/18. He received a No-decision his last start through five inning’s allowing one run on five hits in a 8-4 loss.
Burres allowed three runs (two earned) through seven innings but received a no-decision in the Pirates 4-3 walk-off win against the Dbacks. Burres is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last three starts.
On Pirates Pre-game on Thursday, Rob King chatted with Starter Charlie Morton –who in his last three starts has been pitching pretty well–
Sept. 11th: 6.1 innings, six hits, three earned runs, one walk, two strikeouts -N/D
Sept 16th: 5.0 innings, five hits two earned runs, four walks, one strikeout -N/D
Sept 22nd: 6.0 innings, four hits, two earned runs, one walk, five strikeouts -W
Rob King: Charlie, your performance last night [was] as good as we’ve seen you. How did it feel last night?
Charlie Morton: It felt good. Results wise I was happy with it. I feel like I went out there and executed my pitches and got some outs.
RK: This has been a tale of two seasons for you. You’ve been able to rally here towards the end of the season. What was the process like at the beginning of the season?
CM: The first month I think was just unbelievably bad. It was a struggle everyday. Coming to the field, everything was uphill. It just seemed like everything I was doing wasn’t the right thing to do.
RK: Have you been doing anything differently? Has your approach been different?
CM: I think the biggest thing was a mechanical adjustment that we made. I started trying to stay closed a little bit longer. I’m throwing my sinker now. I think that has helped me get more ground balls. Be aggressive with my fastball in the zone in fastball counts –which is big. I still have had trouble in two strike counts, especially 0-2 [counts] putting guys away. I’ve left a few pitches up and got hit and you can’t let that happen. I’ve had the success with the same stuff I’ve had. I think it’s just how I throw it and the mentality I have with being aggressive and going after hitters. I can’t put it on one thing but with the stuff and ability I have, I can get outs.
How did Charlie Morton pitch to Albert Pujols during Wednesday’s game? –Who by the way, he struck out
“With a hitter like that, you either back off a bit and you avoid pitching to him,” Morton said. “In his first at-bat I was trying really hard to stay down and away, be accurate and not miss. His second at-bat, even with a guy on second, I was trying to be aggressive. I think when I’m aggressive I go after whoever’s in the box. And I’ll be okay as long as I’m going after him with confidence and conviction. “
Morton has a few more starts this season with the Pirates but has decided to get some more work in during the off-season by going down to the Dominican Republic. A long season for Charlie, but is he eager to continue to build upon what he’s been able to do?
“In a lot of ways I’m ready for a break, mentally,” Morton. “At the same time I want to keep going. I feel like this season has been so much of a challenge and so difficult. To just go home with a few good starts at the end would be nice but I want to finish my season. I want to go down there and get some innings and go into next season with some more starts that I would have gotten.”
Brad Lincoln’s last start came on September 6th for the Triple-A Indians. He has had 15-days of rest –10 of those days was spent working on his mechanics with pitching coach Ray Searage.
With a nine run lead during Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals, Lincoln was called upon from the ‘pen. He needed 29 pitches to finish the inning in which he allowed three runs (two earned) on two hits.
“When you see stuff like that, it’s because he hasn’t been out there for a while,” manager John Russell said. “He was a little off, though he wasn’t all over the place. He didn’t really have his feel. He threw some fastballs down that were just off, which was good to see. He misfired some up, though that’s what happens when you’re throwing harder.”
Lincoln is still expected to pitch from the bullpen the remainder of the season.
Charlie Morton has talked openly about his confidence issues on the mound due to a rough season. On Wednesday night, Morton pitched a gem that was sure to boost his confidence (as well as the Pirates) as they defeated the Cardinals 11-6.
Charlie picked up his first win since May 5, allowing two runs on four hits and struck out five through six innings.
“It really clicked for him tonight,” manager John Russell said. “Everything was working for him. When he’s on, he’s very tough to hit. He put it all together tonight. This is a good one for him to build off.”
Added Jones: “To see Charlie pitch like the way he did, that’s what he’s capable of doing.”
Morton’s ERA dropped to 8.11 and even got praise by one of the Cardinals best hitters.
“He’s one of those guys that has better stuff than his ERA,” Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said. “I think he did a pretty good job with locating his pitches. He’s got a good curveball to put you away, if you don’t [hit] a fastball early in the count.”
The Bucs bats came alive and put 11 runs on the board –the most runs they have scored in a single game in September.
“It’s a huge morale booster, and it just shows what we can do,” Garrett Jones said. “We’re playing good baseball as a team.”
With the 11-6 victory over the Cardinals, the Pirates won their fifth straight –something that have not done since August of 2009.
“We know we can’t control having the worst record anymore,” Ronny Cedeno said. “We can just play the best we can. We’ve played real good baseball these last five days. We’re fighting. We’re pulling everything together.”
Kyle Lohse was pulled after pitching three innings and allowing six runs. With the five run lead the Pirates had, Morton was able to comfortable on the mound and work well with Chris Snyder.
“[I'm] not dwelling on the negatives, and [I'm] building from the positives and building from the bad things that have happened,” Morton said. “Knowing that I can pitch better than I was, that’s leading me to pitch better.”
Jose Tabata’s triple scored McCutchen for the first run, Bowker hit his second home run as a Pirate and finished 3-for-3 with two RBI on the night.
Alvarez also did some damage against the Red Birds driving in four runs with a double and a homerun.
“[Alvarez is] that kind of player, Russell said. “He can do some damage quickly. He’s had his struggles, but he’s still grown and matured a lot this year.”
The Pirates starting lineup 1-8 (excluding Charlie Morton) all contributed to at least one hit.
“It was kind of our game from the first few innings on,” Russell said. “It was good to see the energy and the life that players had. They’re really battling right now, and want to finish strong.”
- The Pirates are on a four-game win streak –the first time since August 2009– and are 7-7 in their last 14 games. If the Bucs can extend the streak to five games it would be the first time since August 17-22 in 2009.
- Since the All-Star break Jose Tabata ranks second in the National League with hits (81) behind Carlos Gonzalez who has 84. Since Tabata made his Major League debut, he tied with Joey Votto for third in the National League in hits with 109.
- Since September 5th the Pirates starters have a 3.27 ERA in eight home games and 4.02 ERA in seven games on the road. During this span the Pirates have produced a 3.48 ERA –the fourth best in the National league and seventh in the Majors.
Kyle Lohse (4-7, 6.75 ERA)
Charlie Morton (1-11, 8.61 ERA)
Lohse is coming off back-to-back wins for the first time since 2009. He went five innings allowing three runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out four during his last outing against the Padres. Lohse is 5-0 with a 2.26 ERA lifetime against the Pirates.
Morton is making his 15th start of the season, his fourth since being re-called on September 28th. Progress has been slow for Charlie but things are looking better for the righty. His last start against the Mets he went five innings giving up two runs on five hits, walked four and struck out one. In Morton’s last two starts he is 0-0 with a 3.97 ERA.
Andrew McCutchen is the first player in Pirates organization to hit at least 15 home runs and have at least 30 stolen bases in a season since 1996 by Al Martin. (McCutchen has 16 HR and 31 SB in 147 games this season).
This feat was achieved by Barry Bonds six times (1986-87, 89-92), Andy Van Slyke twice during 1987-88 and Phil Garner in 1977.
“Hopefully I can just continue to keep making a word for myself,” McCutchen said. “Set different goals, get different records and who knows what can happen. It’s good, especially since the season isn’t over yet. We’ll see what I’ll be able to accomplish in a full year and where it goes from there.”
Despite having a horrible season –the Bucs are one pace to lose more than 100 games, the first time to lose that many since 2001– the Pirates still remain positive. They even have a team goal in mind.
After defeating the Cardinals 5-2 on Tuesday, the Pirates home record is 37-39. The goal the Pirates players want to achieve? Finish the season .500 at home.
“It’s been a tough year. Our record is not good,” manager John Russell said. “But to have the opportunity to play .500 or above .500 at home after what we’ve gone through as a team and the struggles we’ve had on the road, it would be a tremendous feather in our team’s hat. I think it would be a great feeling heading into the offseason.”
With five games remaining at PNC Park the Bucs can only lose one more. The Pirates have not had a home winning record since 2006.
“It’s something we’re really focused on,” Russell said. “We’ve been playing pretty well as of late, and if we can make that push and finish up strong this homestand, it gives us something to reflect on.”
Jeff Karstens is throwing again.
Karstens threw 20 pitches on flat ground on Tuesday and said afterward that his shoulder is feeling fine. He remains positive that after a few more sessions he will be able to throw out of the bullpen toward the end of the season.
Manager John Russell, however, isn’t trying to rush him back out there.
“He’s progressing, but you don’t want to push it just to get him an inning,” Russell said. “We’re getting to the point to where if he doesn’t crank it up pretty soon, he probably isn’t going to crank it up.”
Garrett Jones was back in the lineup on Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals.
Jones missed two starts with right shoulder soreness he sustained from a diving attempt at first-base.
“He said he feels pretty normal,” reported manager John Russell. “We’re lucky that it probably was just a bruise more than anything. We don’t have to worry about him diving awkwardly.”
Russell said he would scatter a few days off for Garrett the remainder of the season to keep his shoulder healthy. Jones is batting just .181 in his past 46 games.
“I want to get back in there and help the team finish strong,” Jones said.
In the eighth inning on Tuesday’s victory over the Cardinals, Joel Hanrahan struck out Colby Rasmus tying his career high strikeouts –93 set in 2008–.
Hanrahan’s 93 strikeout’s rank third in all relied pitchers in the Majors behind Carlos Marmol (124) and Tyler Clippard (100).
With 10 games left in the season it is possible for Hanrahan to reach 100 strikeouts. If he does achieve this feat, he would be the first Pirates reliever to strike out 100 since Don Robinson in 1984.
“I think it would be cool,” Hanrahan said. “I’ve been known for being a strikeout pitcher over a groundball pitcher and if I was to get to that number, I would feel pretty good about it. I’m just trying to go out there and compete. It just so happens that a lot of them are strikeouts.”
“You try not to change your approach, but if I get close to 100, I’m going to try and get it,” Hanrahan said. “It’s not something that I’m going to put pressure on myself to get to 100. But if it happens, it will be pretty cool.”