Game #48: Brewers 2, Pirates 1

Yet another loss for the Pirates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A.J. Burnett started for Pittsburgh, and pitched well: 7.0 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 6 K, 2 BB. But the Pirates provided little run support, which seems to be the norm when A.J. takes the hill. He’s getting an average of 2.45 runs of support each outing, the fourth-lowest total in Major League Baseball.

The Brewers pushed both of their runs across in the second inning, as Alex Gonzalez doubled home Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez. But that’s all they could get, and they only collected four hits on the evening.

The Pirates just couldn’t get anything going with the sticks. Marco Estrada was perfect through 4.2 innings, until Neil Walker lofted a single to left field. Walker, who entered the game on a 1-for-16 skid, got the Bucs on the board in the seventh with an RBI double that scored Russell Martin.

Milwaukee closer Jim Henderson couldn’t finish the ninth, suffering a hamstring injury with two away. Francisco Rodriguez came in to finish off the Bucs and record the final out.

Notes:

– Estrada’s final line: 7.0 IP, 1 run, 4 hits, 8 K, 0 BB. Burnett was good, Estrada was better.

– The Brewers needed four relievers to complete the final two innings.

Bryan Morris pitched a scoreless eighth inning. That, combined with A.J.’s seven inning performance, should save the bullpen a bit. Check out their recent workload HERE.

– Good to see Walker have a better day at the plate (2-for-4, double, RBI).

– Bucs and Brewers are back at it on Saturday at 4:10 pm. Jeff Locke vs. Mike Fiers.

Pirates (29-19) – Brewers (19-27)

Win: Estrada (4-2)
Loss: Burnett (3-5)
Save: Rodriguez (1)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates @ Brewers

preview MIL

Pittsburgh Pirates (29-18) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (18-27)

May 24, 2013 – 8:10 pm
May 25, 2013 – 4:10 pm
May 26, 2013 – 2:10 pm

Miller Park – Milwaukee, WI

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Resources: Pirates Depth Chart | Bullpen Workload | Statistics

The Pirates went into Miller Park at the end of April with the chance to show what they were made of. Unfortunately, they lost two of three at the House of Horrors. They redeemed themselves last week at PNC, taking three of four from the Brew Crew, and get another shot at them this weekend. Fresh off a sweep of the Cubs, the Bucs have won 11 of their last 13 games and sit 11 games over the .500 mark. Milwaukee, on the other hand, is really struggling, having won just four of 20 games this month. It’s not 2010 anymore - time for the Pirates to go win some games against the Brewers.

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Probable Starters:

Game 1 – A.J. Burnett (3-4, 2.57) vs. Marco Estrada (3-2, 5.44)

Game 2 – Jeff Locke (4-1, 2.73) vs. Mike Fiers (1-2, 5.93)

Game 3 – Wandy Rodriguez (5-2, 3.40) vs. Yovani Gallardo (3-4, 4.50)

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Batting Leaders (Among Qualifiers):

Pirates

Brewers

AVG

Starling Marte (.310)

Jean Segura (.351)

HR

Pedro Alvarez (8)

Ryan Braun (9)

RBI

G. Jones, A. McCutchen (25)

Braun (30)

SB

McCutchen (12)

Segura (14)

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Pitching Leaders (Among Qualifiers):

Pirates

Brewers

Wins

Wandy Rodriguez (5)

Three tied with 3

SO

A.J. Burnett (79)

Marco Estrada (46)

ERA

Burnett (2.57)

Kyle Lohse (3.76)

Saves

Jason Grilli (19)

Jim Henderson (9)

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Opponent Blogs: Brew Crew Ball, Reviewing the Brew, The Brewers Bar

Andrew McCutchen Wearing Evgeni Malkin Penguins Jersey
via @Pirates on Twitter

Player to Watch: Andrew McCutchen, who’s starting to put his foot on the gas pedal. Cutch has hits in five of his last six games, all of which were of the multi-hit variety. In that span, he’s hit .462 with a homer, five doubles, and a 1.251 OPS. McCutchen has hit .347 so far in May… Starting to catch fire, perhaps? He’s also a .300/.333/.600 hitter with 9 HR in 31 career games at Miller Park. Hopefully it’s a good weekend for Cutch and the Pirates.

Go Bucs

Pirates seek pinch-hitting improvement

Team management has a few decisions to make about the state of the Pirates’ bench before they travel north for the regular season. Regardless of who claims the final bench jobs, one area the Bucs need to improve upon in 2013 is pinch-hitting.

Their final 2012 pinch-hitting stats:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 135 268 227 22 40 6 0 2 24 32 65 .176 .284 .229 .513

Their .176 PH batting average was the second-lowest in the National League, only ahead of the Atlanta Braves.

Here’s how the rest of the NL Central fared when pinch-hitting…

Cincinnati:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 128 201 175 15 47 14 4 2 21 19 44 .269 .337 .429 .765

 

Chicago:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 139 273 250 27 61 13 0 6 35 16 71 .244 .300 .368 .668

 

Houston:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 140 260 231 23 56 12 1 6 26 26 76 .242 .323 .381 .704

 

Milwaukee:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 149 315 282 24 63 12 4 4 42 25 89 .223 .290 .337 .627

 

St. Louis:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 143 279 242 25 46 13 0 1 29 29 80 .190 .275 .256 .532

 

Notes:

– The Bucs actually drew the most pinch-hit walks in the division (32), but hit for the lowest average (.176) and OPS (.513), among other categories.

– The division champion Cincinnati Reds posted the highest PH batting average at .269 and OPS at .765.

– Pirates’ pinch-hitters had a ridiculously low slugging percentage (.229). They had the least amount of extra-base hits by far, with only one homer, six doubles, and no triples. St. Louis had the second lowest total of XBH, with one home run and 13 doubles.

– In general, the Cardinals were pretty weak in the pinch-hitting department, but they made up for it with one of the most potent lineups in the National League. The loss of Albert Pujols did not slow them down, as they hit .271/.338/.421 as a team. Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, and Jon Jay all hit higher than .300, while Carlos Beltran knocked 32 homers and drove in 97 runs.

– They are no longer in the division, but even the 55-win Houston Astros had more productive pinch-hitting than the Pirates in 2012.

Michael McKenry and Gaby Sanchez seem to be locks for the Pirates bench. McKenry shouldn’t see too many pinch-hit opportunities since you don’t want to waste your backup catcher in case the game goes into extra frames. Sanchez, however, should be a go-to option when a right-handed bat is needed, and he’ll often replace Garrett Jones at first base for defensive purposes.

Sanchez, 29, had a poor year in 2012 after a couple productive seasons in Miami. Dejan Kovacevic writes that Gaby is feeling like his old self again:

[quote_box author=”Gaby Sanchez” profession=”Pirates’ First Baseman”]“I’m healthy. I’m healthier than I’ve been in two years… All I was trying to do all year was get to the point where my knee wasn’t hurting. That was it. After the season, I was able to get back to my old routine, heavier squats, power lifting. I feel really good.” [/quote_box]

Although it doesn’t mean much, he has five hits in nine at-bats this spring, including two home runs. The Bucs will need Sanchez and others to step up with clutch, timely at-bats in pinch-hitting situations.

Top Ten Pirates of the PNC Park Era: #4 Jason Kendall

Kendall

Year Age G R H HR RBI BA OPS
1996 22 130 54 124 3 42 .300 .773
1997 23 144 71 143 8 49 .294 .825
1998 24 149 95 175 12 75 .327 .884
1999 25 78 61 93 8 41 .332 .939
2000 26 152 112 185 14 58 .320 .882
2001 27 157 84 161 10 53 .266 .693
2002 28 145 59 154 3 44 .283 .706
2003 29 150 84 191 6 58 .325 .815
2004 30 147 86 183 3 51 .319 .789
PIT (9 yrs) 1252 706 1409 67 471 .306 .805

Jason Kendall is known as one of the best Pirates catchers in the past half century, and put up some of his best numbers while behind the plate at PNC Park.  He only hit below .280 once in his time with the Bucs, and was usually at the top of the order because of his knack for getting on base.  Kendall was one of the best defensive catchers in the game with the Bucs.  He consistently had a high CS% and had a great arm, while other defensive sabermetric stats put him right up there with Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, and other great catchers of the era.  Overall, Kendall was known as a gritty player who was great behind the plate, never wore batting gloves, had a goofy stance, and got beaned a ton.  He had limited success after he left the Pirates, but his time here in Pittsburgh was certainly memorable, especially at PNC Park.

Photo: Steve Paluch/Creative Commons