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

Pirates-Dodgers Series Recap

Great weekend for the Bucs in Los Angeles.  You’ll take three out of four from any team, but leaving LA with three wins against the most talented team in all of baseball is quite an accomplishment.

The series opened up with Gerrit Cole facing Dan Haren on Thursday night, and Cole came away the victor.  The teams traded runs before the Bucs put up three in the 7th to make the score 6-3, which ended up being the final.  Cole allowed three runs in 6+ innings and only struck out three batters, but was still effective through the middle innings.  Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin paced the offense with solo homers, while Gaby Sanchez and Neil Walker each picked up an RBI.  Josh Harrison stayed hot with two runs batted in, including the game-winner.


Francisco Liriano picked up his first win of the year on Friday night as the Bucs were able to guarantee at least a split of the series.  Frankie out-dueled Josh Beckett, who was making his first start since no-hitting the Phillies.  Neil Walker drove home a run to make it 1-0 and Ike Davis crushed a solo homer to CF to put the Bucs up 2-0.  Liriano kept the Dodgers off the board through his 5.2 innings, and the bullpen picked up right where he left off.  LA picked up a run late off but Jason Grilli slammed the door with a 1-2-3 9th to close out the 2-1 win.


Saturday’s contest was unlike the first two, with the Dodgers cruising to a 12-2 win.  Brandon Cumpton was rocked, allowing 11 runs in less than 4 innings.  Hanley Ramirez left the yard twice to lead the way on offense, and Hyun-Jin Ryu tossed 6 innings to earn a win.


The Bucs bounced back from the beating they took on Saturday night to put on an impressive display on the national stage Sunday night.  Cutch put on a clinic, doubling twice and taking Zack Greinke deep for his first home run since late April.  He also made a slick sliding catch in shallow centerfield, so he was certainly backing up his MVP and Gold Glove awards on the big stage.  Josh Harrison also went deep, and Pedro drove in three runs, two of which came with two outs.  Edinson Volquez went 5 innings and probably could have gone longer, but you’ll take two runs in 5 innings from your #5 starter every time.  Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon breezed through the 6th, 7th, and 8th to set up Jason Grilli.  He had a slight hiccup but was able to record his third save in four days.

Without dwelling too much on the shellacking the Bucs took on Saturday, this weekend was just what they needed.  They’re not setting the world on fire by any means, but three of four against the Dodgers in LA is no small feat.  They’ll need to carry the momentum into San Diego win at least two against the Padres, which is a team that they *should* beat.  The absolute worst thing that could happen now is that they roll into San Diego, lay an egg, and go back to square one.

Also, it’s officially June and a couple of top prospects have already been called up, so let Polanco Watch begin.

Go Bucs

Pirates-Yankees Series Recap

The Bucs made their first trip to the “new” Yankee Stadium this weekend in need of a couple big wins.  It was a frustrating series, but ended on a high note that hopefully will spark them as they come home next week.

After Friday night’s game was rained out, Saturday afternoon became the series opener.  Edinson Volquez took the hill and was absolutely pounded.  The Yanks connected on 5 home runs – good for 7 runs.  David Phelps tossed 5 scoreless innings, but Starling Marte greeted the first reliever out of the bullpen with a solo shot on the first pitch he saw.  All 8 runs between the two teams came on home runs.


Sunday became a double header for the teams, with each taking a game.  Neil Walker got the Bucs out to an early lead with an absolute bomb in the 1st inning off of Hiroki Kuroda.  That lead didn’t last long though, as the Yankees loaded the bases without a ball leaving the infield and were able to put up a 3-spot on Charlie Morton.  They got another run in the 2nd, but Morton really settled down after that.  He lasted 7 innings, but was done in by those early runs.  Kuroda surrendered a leadoff home run to Tony Sanchez in the 5th and Walker picked up another RBI, but he was able to fight off a comeback and the 4-3 lead held.  David Robertson came in for a four-out save, and his first victim was Starling Marte, who struck out 4 times to earn the golden sombrero.


Somehow, someway, the Bucs were able to pull out the second game of the twin bill and salvage a game in the series.  Chis Stewart came through with a clutch two-out RBI-knock in the 2nd, but once again, that lead evaporated almost immediately when the Yankees score twice in the bottom of the inning.  In the 6th, Starling Marte gave the Bucs back the lead with a two-run shot off Vidal Nuno.  What happened next?  You guessed it, Yangervis Solarte sent a Gerrit Cole offering into the seats to tie the game back up.

Josh Harrison decided he was done with this and stepped up as the game’s hero.  He reclaimed the lead with a solo home run in the 7th, and, just as importantly, made an unreal diving catch with a runner on first and no outs in the 8th to save a run.  Tony Watson closed out the inning and Stewart picked up another run for insurance to set up Mark Melancon, who set the Bronx Bombers down in order to secure the win.



It definitely wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win and closing out the series on a high note is about all you can ask for considering how poorly they played this series.  We’ve been saying it for weeks now, but it’s time for this team to get some momentum and start stringing some wins together.  With the O’s, who can mash, and the Nationals, who have a nasty pitching staff, coming up, it will take the pitching and hitting clicking together to start making the climb back to .500.

Go Bucs



Pirates-Brewers Series Recap

Considering each MLB team plays 162 games in a season, it’s tough to place  much importance on a three-game set in the middle of May, but the Pirates went into Miller Park on Tuesday looking to put some of the pieces together in this 2014 campaign.  After grinding out nearly a month’s worth of games against divisional opponents, the Bucs were able to gain some momentum by taking series against the Giants and Blue Jays, followed by taking two of three from the Cardinals.  They looked to carry that into Milwaukee, and man did they hit a wall.

After Neil Walker clubbed a solo shot in the 1st inning of Tuesday’s affair, the Brewers dominated.  They took the lead on a two-run single to right that probably would’ve been played better had a real outfielder been out there.  Another run scored in the 6th, and two more in the 7th.  Gerrit Cole wasn’t bad at all, but fell victim to some bad breaks in his 5.2 innings.  His counterpart, Marco Estrada, cruised through 6 strong innings after the homer int the 1st.  The Pirates struck out 10 times and went 1-9 with runners in scoring position.


The Bucs were in 2013-form on Wednesday night.  Francisco Liriano was masterful in 6 innings, striking out 7 and giving up just one run.  Unfortunately, Willy Peralta was just as good and also allowed just one run.  With the score tied at a run a piece, Francisco Rodriguez, arguably the best closer so far in 2014, came in for the 9th.  After two singles, Chris Stewart, who hadn’t made solid contact at all this season, laced a single up the middle to bring the go-ahead run around.  Starling Marte, who’d been battling a back injury, crushed double to dead center to bring home two more for some insurance.  Mark Melancon slammed the door in the 9th to even the series.

Dominant starting pitching.  Shut-down bullpen.  Timely hitting.  That’s how it’s done.

Thursday’s series finale was your typical Pirates-Brewers contest at Miller Park.  All that was missing was Randall Simon whacking a sausage with a bat.

Wandy Rodriguez made his return from the DL with 5 strong innings of work.  He allowed two solo home runs, but looked good otherwise.  The Bucs followed each of those homers with ones of their own – Tony Sanchez took Yovani Gallardo oppo for a two-run shot and Gaby Sanchez reclaimed the lead with a solo blast.

Wandy was in line for the win after Justin Wilson needed just 21 pitches to retire all 6 batters he faced (4 strikeouts) and Tony Watson got through the 8th to set up Mark Melancon.  The closer came in and the wheels promptly came off.  Ryan Braun‘s single was followed by two walks, and Khris Davis put the icing on top with a two-run walk-off single.

Most fans seem to be past the point of disgust.  It’s laughable, really, that the Pirates can’t close out these games.  They’ve now lost 4 games when leading after 8 innings, which is already more than all of 2013 (just 3 losses when leading after the 8th.)

I definitely don’t have any answers for what the Bucs should be doing differently, but they need to turn it around ASAP or else they will quickly find themselves in a massive hole in the division and we could be looking at another “June Swoon” in the Burgh.  With three games at Yankee Stadium this weekend, maybe they can pick up a few cheap home runs and at least get the offense going.

Go Bucs