8/4-8/10 Week Recap

The McCutchen-less Pirates took on the Marlins and Padres this week at PNC Park, and struggled without Cutch and Walker.

After an off day on Monday, Tuesday saw the Pirates bullpen implode late.  After Charlie Morton tossed 7 innings of one-run ball, the bullpen took over with a 2-1 lead.  Miami sent 11 batters to the plate in the 8th and it took 4 Pirates pitchers to get through the inning.  When the dust settled, the Marlins had put up 5 runs to take a 6-2 lead, and went on to win 6-3.

Wednesday was much better for the Bucs, with the offense busting out for 7 runs.  The first four batters to face Tom Koehler reached base, including Ike Davis, who doubled home a pair of runs.  Two more runs came around to score in the 1st, and Jeff Locke made it stand up.  Locke’s success at home continued, this time with 7 punchouts in 7 innings.  Miami got a run in the 1st and Christian Yelich took Locke deep for a two-run shot, but that was his only mistake pitch of the night.  Russell Martin drove in a run in the 7th and Gaby Sanchez later doubled home two more, and the bullpen cleaned up after Locke exited to even the series.

Edinson Volquez absolutely shut down the fish on Thursday night, giving up just one hit in 7 scoreless innings.  He K’d 7, and the offense provided him with more than enough support.  Brian Flynn held the Bucs off the scoreboard until the 4th, when Russell Martin drove home the first run.  Gregory Polanco‘s hot streak continued with a two-run single, and doubled home two more in the 8th for a career-high 4 RBIs.  All 9 starters picked up a knock, with the exception of Volquez and Michael Martinez, who went 0-4.  There was a scary moment in the 7th when Jordy Mercer hit a frozen rope right back up the middle that struck Miami reliever Dan Jennings in the head.  Jennings looked like he had no idea where he was and it looked pretty bad, the next day it was reported that he *only* had a concussion, which considering the circumstances, seems like good news.  After Justin Wilson set the Marlins down in order in the 8th, Stolmy Pimentel tried to complete the shutout in the 9th, but grooved a 3-2 fastball to Giancarlo Stanton, who took him deep for a two-run shot.  Bucs went on to win 7-2.

The Padres, who have never lost a series at PNC Park, came into town for the weekend and Vance Worley welcomed them with 7 innings of one-run baseball.  San Diego’s lone run came in the top of the 1st, but the Bucs quickly got two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.  Josh Harrison led off with a triple and Polanco singled him in.  El Coffee then swiped second and advanced to third on an overthrow, and scored on an Ike Davis sac-fly.  And that would do it for the offense.  Ian Kennedy and Vance Worley put up zeroes the rest of the way, and the Bucs went on to win 2-1.

Saturday was nearly the same script, with all three runs scoring in the 1st inning.  This time, it was the Padres who won 2-1.  Eric Stults and Francisco Liriano, a pair of lefties, were both dominant and combined to give up only 4 hits in 13+ innings.

Sunday’s rubber match was not the Pirates’ best performance of the year.  Some shoddy defense and some bad breaks led to the Padres winning 8-2, with the big blow being Seth Smith‘s bases loaded triple in the 5th.

3-3 in a week in which Cutch didn’t play at all and Walker only had one at-bat doesn’t seem too bad, but against the Marlins and Padres, you would expect better.  The starting pitching was unreal this week, and will only get better when Gerrit Cole returns.  The inconsistent bullpen and offense will continue to be a problem until something is done to address it.  Pedro Alvarez is due to return to the lineup soon (at first base, apparently) and Walker is “heading in the right direction.)  Cutch’s status is still up in the air.

Up next for the Pirates are four games with the Tigers and three in DC against the Nationals.  This week actually marks the stretch of 22 straight games that the Bucs will play against the Tigers, Nationals, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds – all teams that are making a push for the postseason.  Welcome to the pennant race.

Go Bucs




7/28-8/3 Week Recap

The West Coast trip continued this week with three games in San Francisco and four in Arizona.  Things were looking good when the Bucs opened the week by shutting out the fellow Wild Card-chasing Giants, but everything seemed to spiral out of control over the weekend after a terrible loss on Sunday and news that Andrew McCutchen is likely heading to the DL.

Vance Worley took the hill Monday against Madison Bumgarner, and the Vanimal spun quite a gem against one of the best lefties in the league.  He needed just 100 pitches to toss a complete game shutout, and allowed only 4 hits.  The offense exploded for 4 runs in the first inning, and Josh Harrison went yard an inning later for the fifth run.

Francisco Liriano punched out 11 Giants on Tuesday on his way to his third win of the season.  J-Hay added to his legendary status with a leadoff homer against Tim Hudson.  Travis Snider‘s two-run shot accounted for the other two runs as the Bucs rolled 3-1.

Wednesday’s rubber match saw one of the worst baserunning mistakes in MLB history, and it very well may have cost the Pirates the game.  Chris Stewart drew a walk with runners on second and third, and the play somehow ended with both of the runners being tagged out.  The Giants won 7-5 thanks a late rally against Justin Wilson.  Both starters were knocked around a bit, with Tim Lincecum lasting just 3.1 innings and Charlie Morton tossing just 5.

The road trip moved to Phoenix as the Bucs concluded the month of July with a very “blah” game.  The Diamondbacks won 7-4 on the strength of three home runs.  A throwing error by Pedro Alvarez also lead to a run, and it was clearly just one of “those” games.

Through 5 innings on Friday, the Dbacks led 4-0.  Gaby Sanchez chipped away at the lead with an RBI in the 6th, and the offense went off in the 8th.  Josh Harrison just missed a home run, but settled for a triple.  Later in the inning, Cutch doubled home a run and Pedro Alvarez came through with a two-run pinch-hit double.  5 more runs came around to score in the 9th as the Bucs cruised to a 9-4 victory in what was a thrilling comeback win.  In the bottom of the 9th, Paul Goldschmidt, who had the night off, got an AB and was plunked on the hand.  Later it was announced that he’ll likely be out for the year.  More on that to come.

Saturday night followed nearly the same script, with the Pirates besting the Diamondbacks late in the game.  Vance Worley and Chase Anderson matched each other with just one run in 6 innings. Four runs came home in the 8th: Cutch and Brent Morel each drove in a run, and two scored on an Arizona error.  Cutch came up again in the 9th, this time with runners on second and third.  The first pitch from Randall Delgado was inside at Cutch’s knees.  The second was a slider that missed.  The third was a 95 MPH fastball that plunked Cutch right between the 2’s on the back of his jersey.  Delgado was thrown out immediately and Cutch furiously took his base.  It seemed  pretty obvious that he was drilled in retaliation for Goldy being hit the night before, but we did some investigating and found that Miguel Montero called for the pitch that hit McCutchen.  The Bucs got the last laugh with the 8-3 win, but you can bet this this won’t be the last you hear of the beanball incident.

Sunday’s affair saw Francisco Liriano and Trevor Cahill both pitch extremely well.  Liriano was lifted after just 76 pitches because he was due up with the potential tying-run on second base.  That run didn’t score, but Cutch was able to tie the game an inning later with a sacrifice fly.  The MVP actually left the game in the 8th due to an oblique injury which he now know may cost him three weeks.  The game stayed tied at 2 into the 10th inning, where it looked like Mark Melancon was going to induce an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners.  Take a look at the play here:


The turn was made by new Pirate Jayson Nix, but the throw never made it to first.  The winning run scored and the Dbacks walked off on one of the craziest walkoffs you’ll ever see.  The umpires never reviewed the play to see if the runner interfered, although it certainly looks like he threw his arm up to block the throw.  At the end of the day, the only opinions that matter are those of the umpires, and they decided the game was over.  Brutal.

5-5 doesn’t seem like a terrible roadtrip but when you end it on a play like that and lose the reigning MVP for what looks to be significant time, it’s a pretty disappointing stretch.  In the time that Cutch is expected to miss (nothing is official yet, but three weeks has been the number thrown around,) the Pirates will play the Marlins, who are tough, the Tigers, who just added a Cy Young winner to an already lights-out rotation, as well as the Braves and Nationals, who will be competing against each other for the NL East and against the Bucs for the Wild Card.  You hate to say the season is over when August just started, but these next couple weeks could very well make or break the 2014 campaign for the Pirates.

GIF of the week goes to the TOOTBLAN in San Francisco.  You really have to see it to believe it actually happened:


WTF indeed.

Go Bucs

Recapping the Bucs since the All-Star Break

The Pirates began the second half of the 2014 season just a game and a half behind the Brewers for first place in the NL Central.  By opening the second half against the Rockies, the Pirates entered a stretch in which they play 16 straight games against NL West teams and 32 straight games against teams not in the NL Central.

In all three games against the Rockies at PNC Park, the Pirates trailed in the 6th inning or later and managed to come back in all three and open the second half with a sweep.  Travis Snider came through with a pinch-hit two-run double past the diving right fielder in the 8th to tie the game, and Josh Harrison‘s sacrifice fly brought home the eventual winning-run.  Jordy Mercer was the hero on Saturday night with an 11th inning walkoff hit.  And after falling behind 3-0 early because of a couple of home runs, Jeff Locke settled in to toss 6 solid innings.  Chris Stewart doubled twice, with the second bringing home the tying-run in the 6th.  Cutch’s frozen rope single to center in the 7th put the Bucs on top, and Neil Walker‘s solo shot to dead center padded the lead in the 5-3 sweep.

The Dodgers came to town for three games and after easily taking the first matchup, lost the next two.  The Pirates were able to catch a break by avoiding facing Kershaw or Greinke, and also not having to worry about Ramirez or Puig in the lineup.  On Tuesday, the Bucs scored 8 runs after the 6th inning in what turned out to be a high-scoring affair.  Neil Walker and Gregory Polanco each drove in three runs, and Vance Worley earned the win despite giving up three earned runs and falling victim to some poor defense.  Francisco Liriano spun a gem as the Bucs jumped out to an early 5-0 lead and never looked back on Wednesday.  Harrison doubled home a couple runs and Travis Snider sent one into the last row of the right field seats to knock Dan Haren out of the game early.  Sweep and then taking two out of three from a team that spends a bajillion dollars – not a bad homestand.

A long West Coast roadtrip began on Friday with a series in Colorado to face the same Rockies team that the Bucs swept just a week earlier.  Colorado pitchers held the Bucs scoreless until the 9th on both Friday and Saturday, with the Rockies taking both games by the score of 8-1.  Sunday’s contest took 4 hours, but the Pirates were able to salvage a game with a 7-5 victory.  Colorado held the lead for much of the game until Travis Snider launched a two-run bomb that tied the game.  Ike Davis doubled home the go-ahead run, which was negated by a Nolan Arenado home run.  In the 8th, back-to-back homers by Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco made it 7-5.

GIF of the week goes to J-Hay miraculously getting out of another rundown, exactly a month after he escaped the Mets’ rundown at PNC Park.


Pic of the week also goes to Harrison, who silenced some haters behind the dugout after his go-ahead home run.


Coming up this week, the Pirates will stay out west to play the Giants and Diamondbacks.  The trade deadline is also this week, so we’ll see what Neal Huntington has up his sleeve this time.

Go Bucs

7/7-7/13 Week Recap

Yuck.  Huge roadtrip for the Bucs this week – 4 in St. Louis and 3 in Cincinnati before heading into the All-Star break.  Not too many positives to talk about this week.


Adam Wainwright vs. Charlie Morton played out pretty much the way you would expect it; the two starters combined to throw 14 scoreless innings and neither factored into the decision.  Waino was his normal dominant self, but the Bucs actually had a few chances to get to him.  They left two men on in the 1st, then the first two batters reached in the 2nd, only for Jordy Mercer to ground into a double play.  Jordy left runners on second and third to end the 4th, and Starling Marte‘s two-out triple in the 5th meant nothing after Wainwright retired Cutch.

As good as Wainwright was, Chuck went out there and absolutely carved up the Cardinal lineup. He surrendered only one hit, and had the nasty curve working for 5 K’s.  He was lifted after 7 innings because his spot was due up with the bases loaded and two outs.  Gregory Polanco pinch-hit for him and struck out on 4 pitches.  Real tough call there.  Morton had thrown just 84 pitches so he easily could have pitched the 8th and probably into the 9th.  But in a scoreless game like that, especially with someone like Polanco on the bench, you have to try to get a run home.

The game remained 0-0 into the bottom of the 9th, when Matt Adams sent everyone home with a two-run walkoff bomb.  Of course.

The Pirates went 0-10 with runners in scoring position.  No way can you blame the loss on anyone/anything other than the bats.


Roughly 24 hours after Matt Adams walked off, Kolten Wong did the exact same thing.

Vance Worley got knocked around for the first time as a Pirate, giving up 4 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings.  Fortunately, Carlos Martinez had nearly an identical line, also giving up 4 runs.  A couple of two-run blasts, one by Pedro and one by Cutch, supplied the offense for the Bucs.

The game, once again, was tied heading into the bottom half of the 9th.  Ernesto Frieri retired the first two batters easily.  Wong worked a full count before sending the payoff pitch into the bullpen to walk off for the second straight night.

Clint Hurdle took a ton of heat for not using Mark Melancon in the tie game.  Again, it’s really a tough call.  St. Louis did have the bottom of the order due up, but Peralta, Taveras, and Wong aren’t exactly easy outs.  Probably should’ve used Melancon there, especially after not using him on Monday.


Brandon Cumpton really didn’t have anything on Wednesday night as the Cardinals rolled to a 5-2 win and moved into a tie for 1st place in the NL Central.  The two Pirate runs came on a Neil Walker solo homer and a Jordy Mercer RBI-single.


A four-game sweep seemed imminent after the way the first three games of the series went, but Edinson Volquez filled the role as the stopper, tossing a complete game.

The Bucs were able to go to work against Shelby Miller early, with Russell Martin driving in a run to make it 1-0 in the 1st.  Cutch chased home a run and Walker doubled home a couple in the 5th, which was Miller’s last inning.  4 runs came around to score in the 6th, which really put the game out of reach.  Russ went yard in the 9th to make the score 9-1, which was really the cherry on top.

Volquez was at the top of his game and was able to scatter 6 hits and 2 walks across his 9 innings of work.  Just what the Bucs needed after three atrocious losses.


It looked like finishing the St. Louis series with a win would translate into success in Cincy, and through 6 innings it did.  After a bunt single and Zack Cozart double that made it 1-0 Reds before an out was even recorded, Jeff Locke settled in and the offense gave him 5 runs to work with.  Cutch and Pedro both took Mat Latos deep.  Martin drove in a run to make it 5-1.  Latos lasted just 5.1 innings and only gave up 3 hits, but the Bucs made them count with a couple of homers.

Locke ran into some trouble in the 7th and was charged with two unearned runs because of Pedro’s throwing error that should have been the first out of the inning.  Tony Watson, who’d been lights out all season and really since 2012, came in for the 8th with the Pirates up 5-3.  After two quick outs, Devin Mesoraco took Watson deep to make it a one-run game.  Four straight singles followed, completing the bullpen implosion and putting the Reds on top.  Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the 9th.


Just like the first two games of the St. Louis series ended with the Cardinals hitting walkoff home runs, it looked like the first two games in Cincinnati would end with the Reds coming all the way back to win.  With the Bucs up 4-0, Charlie Morton gave up a two-run shot to Chris Heisey and three-run bomb to Todd Frazier before even recording an out.  With two swings of the bat, the game went from 4-0 to 5-4.  That remained the score until the 9th, when Cutch led off the inning by taking Jonathan Broxton deep for a game-tying homer to centerfield.

With the game now tied, Tony Watson came in and almost had a repeat of the night before.  He was able to strand two runners, but it looked like the bullpen would blow it again in the 10th.  Ernesto Frieri faced two batters and retired neither.  Justin Wilson came in to face Jay Bruce, who singled to right field.  Ramon Santiago tried to score, but Gregory Polanco was having none of it and gunned him down at the plate.  Wilson intentionally walked the next batter to set up the force at any base, and proceeded to strike out the next two batters.

Cutch’s heroics continued in the 11th, when he sent the first pitch he saw into the seats for the go-ahead homer.  Jeanmar Gomez retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to even the series.  What a game.



Francisco Liriano made his first start since the night that Polanco debuted and looked to send the Bucs to the break with a win.  Kristopher Negron was having none of that, and put the Reds up 3-0 with his first career homer in the 2nd. Getting out of that hole would be tough against Johnny Cueto, who was able to make it hold up.  The Bucs got within a run, but Mesoraco doubled home a run to pad the lead a bit more.  Neil Walker led off the 6th with a solo shot to get that run right back, but Todd Frazier answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer that barely got out and really put the game out of reach.  Chapman once again struck out the side in order to finish off the 6-3 win

Tough stretch heading into the All-Star break.  A couple close games that could have gone either way, which makes it even worse.  If there’s one positive to look at, it has to be the offense.  Cutch is still putting up MVP numbers and actually has better numbers than he did at last year’s ASG break.  Walker seems to have found his stroke again now that he’s healthy and is fitting into the cleanup spot well.  Pedro hit a couple of bombs this week, which is encouraging for the second half of the season. The bullpen clearly needs some work.  Plenty of names have been thrown around as potential trade targets, so we’ll have to see how that plays out with the trade deadline now about two weeks away. Here are the division and Wild Card standings as we head into the All-Star break:



Bucs are still very much in both races.  The Wild Card could get very complicated with all three divisions being so close.  The division is obviously the main goal, and the Pirates will have every opportunity to make up those 3.5 games.

 This week’s pic/GIF of the week is a Vine.  Check out Jordy Mercer going nuts after Cutch’s go-ahead homer on Saturday night:

Go Bucs

6/30-7/6 Week Recap

Man what a week for the Bucs.  The long homestand continued and eventually concluded with three games against the Diamondbacks and three against the Phillies over the 4th of July weekend.


Tuesday’s win looked like something out of 2013.  Jeff Locke ate up 8 innings and gave up just 2 runs, but Arizona starter Wade Miley was nearly perfect through 8 innings himself.  Miley came out for the 9th having given up just one hit – an infield single – and looked for the complete game shutout.  Neil Walker, batting lefty off the left-hander, led off with a single to centerfield.  Gregory Polanco followed with a pinch-hit single himself, bringing the potential-tying run to the plate and chasing Miley from the game.  Dbacks closer Addison Reed entered and after getting the first out, nearly gave up a walkoff homer to Starling Marte.  Instead, Marte settled with a game-tying double and advanced to third on the throw.  After Cutch was intentionally walked, Ike Davis lined a game-winning single to RF, completing the come-from-behind win.  Boom.  2013 magic.


Wednesday night was The Dream Outfield’s night to shine.  Polanco led off the game with a double and advanced to third on the throw, and Marte followed with an RBI-groundout.  Just like that, 1-0 Bucs.  Polanco later clubbed his second homer of the homestand.  Marte and Cutch each drove in runs in the 8th to add some insurance for the 5-1 victory.  Charlie Morton turned in an effective start, going 6 innings and giving up just 1 run on 5 hits.  He was far from perfect, but got some huge outs with runners on and kept the Dbacks off the board for the most part.  Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon pitched the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings for the all-around solid W.


“That escalated quickly” was the theme of Thursday’s contest.  Vance Worley held the Diamondbacks hitless until the 6th, but once they got going, the runs came in bunches.  Up until that point, the Bucs held a 2-0 lead thanks to Ike Davis and Gregory Polanco RBIs.  An RBI-single and two-run homer by Ender Inciarte gave Arizona the lead in the 6th, turning the direction of the game around 180 degrees.  They later went on to tee off on the Pirates bullpen for 7 runs in the 9th, making it a 10-2 blowout and avoiding the sweep.


For the second straight year, the Bucs and Phillies squared off at PNC Park on the 4th of July and this time, it was the Pirates busting out the lumber.  After Gerrit Cole pitched a quick top of the 1st, the Bucs went to work against Roberto Hernandez.  Russell Martin and Josh Harrison each single home runs with two down, and Jordy Mercer‘s single brought home two.  4-0 Bucs early.  Jordy doubled home two more later in the game, setting a career-high for RBIs in a game with 4.  Cutch picked up the other two RBIs with doubles, the second of which came about 12 feet short of being a home run, which would have completed the cycle.  Cole was pitching well until he left after 5 innings due to a shoulder injury, which apparently wasn’t the same injury that put him on the DL.  Stolmy Pimentel was shaky, giving up two runs, but the Phillies were held hitless in the last three innings to close out the 8-2 win.


Cutch homered in his first at-bat of Saturday’s contest, just a day late for the cycle.  That gave the Bucs an early 2-0 lead, and Edinson Volquez grounded out with the bases loaded in the 3rd to make it 3-0.  That would be all Volquez needed, as he went 7 innings and allowed just one solo homer on his way to a win.  He did walk 4, but was able to dance around the big innings.  Mark Melancon gave up a leadoff homer to Marlon Byrd in the 9th to make things interesting, but retired the next three in order to earn yet another series win.


A.J. Burnett made his return to PNC Park on Sunday, sharing the mound with his old buddy Jeff Locke.  “Robin” got the best of “Batman” this time, although both had very nice outings.  The Phillies got a run in the 1st inning because of Pedro Alvarez airmailing what would have been the third out.  Jimmy Rollins, who was awarded second base on the throw, came around to score when Byrd singled him in.  That was one of just the 3 hits that Locke allowed in his 8 innings.  Byrd took him deep in the 8th, which actually put the Phillies within a run at the time.

As for the Bucs, Cutch and Walker each singled with two down in the 1st, and Russ Martin won the battle with his old battery mate with a huge two-run double.  Burnett was real sharp other than a few big hits that the Pirates got, including a Josh Harrison triple that opened the 3rd inning.  J-Hay raced home when Walker flew out to shallow CF.  Burnett finished the day with 7 strikeouts in 7 innings.  He gave up 3 runs on 5 hits, which was just too much as the Phillies couldn’t get anything going against Locke.

The 8th inning was a big one for the Bucs.  Cutch tripled home a run, and Marte and Mercer each picked up RBIs to make it a 6-2 game.  That meant Melancon wasn’t needed for the 9th, and Jared Hughes did a fine job finishing up the game and completing the Bucs’ first series sweep of the season.

Unreal homestand for the Pirates.  8-2, including sweeping the Phils.  Just what they needed heading out on the road for 4 games against the Cardinals and 3 against the Reds.  Gotta keep it rolling against some tough division foes.

Pic of the week has to go to A.J. Burnett, who got a nice ovation from the PNC Park crowd before taking the mound in the 1st inning of Sunday’s game.  As he walked out of the dugout, a highlight video was played on the scoreboard.  Burnett stopped, watched the video, and tipped his cap to the fans and the home dugout.  There was some controversy surrounding his departure, but it’s hard not to like the guy after that scene.  ROOT caught it here.


Photo via AP

A.J. tweeted after the game:

Go Bucs