Cutch lifts Pirates over Reds

A.J. Burnett Free Shirt Friday

The first of 19 games between the Pirates and Reds this season took place at PNC Park tonight, with A.J. Burnett gracing the free shirt and also taking the mound for his third start.  After last season, it’s probably safe to say that the Reds are the Bucs’ biggest rival and they’ll need to stick to to them if the plan on making a run for the NL Central.  Not only did the Bucs win the game tonight, they made a statement.

Burnett was on his game for the most part, striking out 8 batters in 6 innings.  Brandon Phillips pounced on him in the 2nd with a leadoff home run, but he mostly breezed through the Cincinnati lineup the first time around.  Once they got an AB against A.J., the Reds started to make much more contact.  Back-to-back singles followed by a groundout that worked as a bunt put runners on second and third with just one out, but Burnett was able to limit the damage to just one run.  He K’d Reds starter Mike Leake, who left 4 runners on base, to end the inning.

The offense came out swinging against Leake in support of A.J.  Starling Marte improve his streak of consecutive games with a leadoff hit to 6, and followed by stealing a base.  After Neil Walker drew a walk, the 3 and 4 hitters were retired and it seemed like this would be another wasted opportunity to score.  But Russell Martin came through with a clutch two-out RBI on just his 2nd hit as a Pirate.  The 1-0 lead was negated by Phillips’ homer in following inning, but the Pirate sticks came right back.  Two singles and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out in the 2nd inning as Neil came up to the plate.  He singled to CF as two runs came into score and Marte, coming from 1st base, tested Shin-Soo Choo‘s arm as he slid safely into third.  Walker took the extra base on the throw to complete the perfectly executed play.  Cutch kept the offensive parade going with two RBIs of his own as the Bucs went up 5-1.  Martin ended the inning with a double play, although he smoked the ball about as hard as possible to 3B, just bad placement.

That 5-1 lead held up until Devin Mesoraco knocked in a run with an RBI-groundout and then tagged Burnett for another in the 6th.  Leaving A.J. out there for the 6th was a questionable call with his high pitch count, but it ended up only costing him one run.  He gave up 3 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks – a quality start for the veteran.  With his 8 strikeouts came a lot of long drawn out at-bats that pushed his pitch count up early, so he couldn’t go any further past the 6th.

Tony Watson came out for the 7th – an understandable move with lefties due up first and third in the inning.  After retiring Choo, Watson walked a batter and got Joey Votto to line out to LF.  With everyone available and rested in the bullpen, leaving Watson in to face Phillips with a runner on was a terrible decision, and it backfired.  Despite Cutch’s leap at the wall, BP tied the game with his second bomb of the game as the crowd died completely.

Luckily, Cutch was due to lead off the next inning.  Who else would it be, really?  After fouling off a few pitches from J.J. Hoover, he turned on a curveball and sent it into the LF bleachers for a go-ahead home run.  With the crowd now very much back into the game, Garrett Jones doubled and Pedro late drew a walk, but the bottom of the order couldn’t add any insurance.  Mark Melancon cruised through the 8th inning, not needing any insurance runs, anyway.  Jason Grilli came out for the save and after getting two outs, got into some trouble as he walked Votto to put two runners on.  Of course Phillips was next up, but Grilli fanned him to get the save and a huge win over the Redlegs.

Awesome win.  Can’t wait to see them duke it out again tomorrow.

Pirates (4-6) – Reds (5-5)

Win: Watson (1-0)
Loss: Hoover (0-3)
Save: Grilli (4)

BOX SCORE

carlton-banks

Go Bucs

Will the Pirates score for A.J. Burnett tonight?

The Pirates have produced slim to no run support for A.J. Burnett at PNC Park since the end of last season. A pretty remarkable stat from Opening Day:

 

Here’s a look at those games…

August 27th vs. Cardinals
L, 4-3
BOX SCORE

Burnett pitched 5.2 innings against St. Louis, giving up four runs (three earned) and suffering the loss. The Pirates scored twice in the fourth and once in the seventh, but Burnett was chased from the game by that point.

September 7th vs. Cubs
L, 12-2
BOX SCORE

Burnett’s next home start was on the first Friday of September, and it was one of the Bucs’ worst games of 2012. He pitched five innings and got crushed for seven runs, although only three were earned. The Pirates committed a ridiculous seven errors, and didn’t score until Burnett was three innings removed from the ballgame.

September 18th vs. Brewers
L, 6-0
BOX SCORE

A.J. pitched relatively well – two runs on seven hits in six innings – but the offense couldn’t get anything going, scratching out just three hits. Milwaukee crossed the plate four times against the Bucco bullpen, going on to win the game by a score of 6-0.

September 28th vs. Reds
L, 1-0
BOX SCORE

Burnett was good against Cincinnati on September 28th, allowing just one run in eight innings of work. But his mound opponent was better: Homer Bailey threw the first no-hitter in PNC Park history. Other than Clint Barmes reaching on an error and Andrew McCutchen drawing a walk, the Bucs were completely blanked by Bailey.

October 3rd vs. Braves
L, 4-0
BOX SCORE

A.J. took the hill in the regular season finale and wasn’t too sharp – four runs in 5.2 innings. But the Bucco offense mustered just four measly hits, struck out 11 times, and didn’t walk once. Eight different Atlanta pitchers shut them down, ending the Bucs’ season on a sour note.

April 1st vs. Cubs
L, 3-1
BOX SCORE

Burnett got the Opening Day nod for Pittsburgh, and his biggest mistake was serving Anthony Rizzo a first-pitch fastball that was crushed for a homer. He kept the game close and the bullpen was perfect, but the bats started the season on a cold spell. Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez collected the only three Pirate hits, and their first run of 2013 didn’t come until the ninth inning.

The Bucs haven’t crossed the plate at PNC while Burnett was still in the ballgame since last August; hopefully that streak ends tonight. Mike Leake will be on the mound for Cincinnati; here’s how he’s performed against the Pirates in his career:

I Split W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9
Pittsburgh Pirates 2 3 3.20 11 70.1 64 32 25 8 23 45 1.237 5.8

At PNC Park, Leake is 0-3 with a 2.68 ERA in six outings.

It should also be noted that Burnett is 10 strikeouts away from 2,000 in his career. He’s struck out 10 and 9 batters in his first two outings, respectively. If A.J. doesn’t get there tonight, he should hit 2K in his next start.

Go Bucs

Dissecting the Schedule: April

We’ll spend time this week breaking down the Pirates’ 2013 schedule, month by month.

Schedule April
(Click to enlarge)

Notes:

– The Pirates have just two off days in April, the least of any month this season.

– The Bucs open against the Chicago Cubs; you may remember they started the 2011 season against them, though they played at Wrigley Field.

– They start the season at the friendly confines of PNC Park for the second consecutive year.

– The club will once again travel to the west coast in early April. They’ll stop in Los Angeles and Arizona before coming home for an extended homestand.

– That homestand, consisting of 10 games, will feature three 2012 playoff teams: the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, and Atlanta Braves.

– April is definitely a tough month for the Bucs:

 

 

– The Pirates will travel to the east side of the state for a four-game series against the Phillies. The Phils will be without their starting catcher, Carlos Ruiz. Chooch is suspended 25 games for amphetamine use.

– The team they’ll play the most in April: St. Louis – three at home, three on the road.

– Some cool promotional items will be given away at PNC in April, including an awesome A.J. Burnett free shirt and Andrew McCutchen bobblehead.

Tickets to any 2013 Pirates game can be purchased HERE.

Sneak Peek at Pirates Promotions

We had the opportunity to head down to the season ticket holder batting practice at PNC Park tonight. After taking a few cuts in the cages, we headed to the Hall of Fame Club for a light dinner. In the Club, they were playing a video on loop of the 2013 promotions.

There were four in particular that really stood out:

– A.J. Burnett Free Shirt Friday
Friday, April 12th vs. Cincinnati

2013 Promotions - A.J. Shirt

– Andrew McCutchen Bobblehead
Saturday, April 20th vs. Atlanta

2013 Promotions - Cutch bobblehead

– A.J. Burnett Bobblehead
Saturday, May 18th vs. Houston

2013 Promotions - A.J. bobblehead

– Replica Sunday Alternate Hat
Sunday, June 16th vs. Los Angeles

2013 Promotions - Sunday alternate hat

The introduction of the new Sunday alternate jersey has been highly anticipated. There is a replica alternate jersey giveaway on August 4th, but they unfortunately did not have a picture of it on the slide show. That hat obviously looks nothing like this possible mock-up we found a few weeks back.

The yellow crown with black bill would certainly be an interesting look. Based on the picture, we assume it’s similar to the hat worn in the early ’70s:

The Pirates wore a comparable uniform back in 2011 when they celebrated the 1971 World Series:

However, this leaves us unsure of how the jerseys will turn out. They could be similar to the ones above, but who knows if they will to go back to that style.

Anyway, more of the promotions should be on display at PirateFest this weekend. Hopefully they reveal the Sunday alternate jersey as well.

Go Bucs