Pirates drop high-scoring affair, 12-10

A bizarre contest took place between the Pirates and Baltimore Orioles this afternoon at McKechnie Field. Jeff Karstens was slated to make his first Grapefruit League start, but was scratched from the lineup due to “lingering shoulder discomfort.” This setback will force Karstens to start the season on the DL, opening up yet another spot in the rotation.

Chris Leroux started in Karstens’ place; he was scheduled to pitch two innings, but couldn’t even get out of the first. Two errors certainly didn’t help his cause, but five hits and two walks contributed to eight runs. Chris Dickerson‘s grand slam ended Leroux’s day after just one-third of an inning.

Russell Martin‘s day also came to an abrupt end, as he was ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. Martin wasn’t pleased with Fairchild’s strike zone; the ump confronted the Bucs’ new catcher, prompting a yelling match. Clint Hurdle came out to discuss, but Fairchild gave Martin the boot – a rarity for a spring training game. This isn’t the first time Russell Martin has had issues with umpires.

Lucas May joined the action to replace Martin, and set the table for Andrew McCutchen in the bottom of the first. Cutch drilled a titanic blast over the left field bleachers to cut the lead to 8-2. May went 3 for 5 on the day with a pair of RBI, and McCutchen tacked on a double in addition to his homer. Gaby Sanchez was also impressive for Pittsburgh, going 3 for 4 with a double and two RBI.

The Bucs kept chipping away at Baltimore’s lead, and struck for five runs in the bottom of the sixth. Pedro Alvarez tied the game at 10 with a two-run double – a remarkable feat after the Orioles had eight runs before the Pirates had a chance to bat.

However, former Bucco Steve Pearce launched a solo home run in the seventh to give the O’s the lead for good. Zech Zinicola notched to save, downing the Bucs by a score of 12-10.

There isn’t much time left for players to prove themselves; it sounds like the 25-man roster will be set before the club heads north. They’ll play the Rays tomorrow night in Port Charlotte, 7:05 pm start.

Go Bucs

Bucs beat O’s in walk-off fashion

Jeff Locke started with the ball against the Orioles today at McKechnie. Locke faced 18 batters over 3.1 innings, and allowed a whopping eight hits. Baltimore only crossed the plate twice against him, keeping the score close. Phil Irwin also saw plenty of action this afternoon, surrendering one run over 3.2 innings. “Philthy Phil” was filthy once again, striking out seven and walking none. Here’s a look at his ridiculous curveball from last week’s game vs. Boston (via FanGraphs):

Bryan Morris and Kris Johnson tacked on scoreless innings for the Bucs.

At the plate, the Pirates struggled to get much going through the first six innings of play. However, they scored runs in consecutive innings to mount a comeback; they trailed 3-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Alex Presley singled with one out to put men on first and third. The next batter, Josh Harrison, converted a perfect hit-and-run to tie the game and keep runners on the corners. Minor league catcher Carlos Paulino rolled a grounder to second, but it was enough to get Presley home and secure a 4-3 walk-off victory.

After a three-game losing skid, the Bucs won twice on Sunday and pieced together a nice comeback victory today. No game tomorrow, but they’ll be back in action on Wednesday vs. Toronto. Clint Hurdle & Co. will be meeting to decide upon the first round of cuts; you can expect those to come either tomorrow or Wednesday.

Go Bucs

Orioles take down McPherson, Pirates

The Pirates faced the Orioles under the lights at McKechnie Field tonight. Kyle McPherson, who’s vying for a spot in the rotation, got the start. Alexi Casilla opened the game with a line drive base hit on the very first pitch, and Ryan Flaherty followed by scorching a double. But “McFear” was able to escape the first after allowing a run, and settled in nicely during the second. He ran into trouble in the third frame, however, and the O’s put up a three-spot. McPherson’s day was over after that; he allowed four runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out three.

Mike Zagurski, Kris Johnson, Bryan Morris, and Ryan Reid threw scoreless innings. Lew Ford hit a home run off Vic Black in the seventh inning. Erik Cordier struggled mightily; he tossed a pick-off attempt into the stands, threw two wild pitches, walked three, and allowed two hits before being pulled from the ballgame after two-thirds of an inning. Despite his issues on the mound, Cordier somehow managed to only give up one run.

Offensively, Starling Marte was impressive. He looked confident at the plate, stroking two singles and collecting two runs, two stolen bases, and a walk. Jose Tabata knocked him in with a sacrifice fly in the first, and Pedro Alvarez drove him in with a single two innings later. The third and final run for the Bucs came via a passed ball. The team as a whole was far from stellar at the plate, as they combined for nine strikeouts. Even though Baltimore helped them with three errors, the Pirates could only push three runs across the plate.

Final score: Baltimore 6, Pittsburgh 3. Another loss for the Pirates; they’re now 4-9 in Grapefruit League play. They’ll be back at it tomorrow afternoon at McKechnie, and the game will once again be televised on ROOT Sports.

Andrew McCutchen didn’t play, but had some fun on ROOT. Introducing the Cutch Cam:

Go Bucs

Bucs Bits: Pirates News and Notes 2/26/13

An abbreviated collection of links on this final Tuesday of February…

– The Pirates were slated to take on the Orioles today at 1:05, but the game was postponed.

– The Bradenton skies actually cleared up shortly after the game was called off (via Rob Biertempfel):

bradenton 2-26

– Although they didn’t play, Russell Martin was scratched from the lineup this morning due to “upper body soreness.”

– They’ll turn around and play the Rays tomorrow; A.J. Burnett will start on the hill. Wandy Rodriguez, who was scheduled to pitch this afternoon, will relieve him. Top prospect Gerrit Cole will get into the game as well.

Brandon Inge sees parallels between the Bucs and the 2006 Detroit Tigers, who reached the World Series.

– Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects wonders if Tyler Glasnow, who stands 6’8″ tall, can be as good as Cole or Jameson Taillon.

– R.J. White of CBS Sports weighs in on the Pirates’ farm system.

– The Altoona Curve will have some cool promotions this season:

– The Lancaster Barnstormers signed former Pirate pitcher Yoslan Herrera.

– Just added to our Shop – A.J. Burnett “Preparation for Domination” – available for only $14.99.

Preparation for Domination Shirt

Only 34 days until Opening Day.

Go Bucs

ESPN: Do you need stars to make the playoffs?

David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote a solid piece on the relationship between star players and qualifying for the playoffs.

The main statistic Schoenfield uses in crafting his argument is wins above replacement (WAR). Here are some WAR basics, straight from the article:

“Baseball-Reference suggests a rough guideline that a 5-win player is an All-Star and an 8-win player is MVP-level. An average starter is about a 2-win player.”

Two teams that made the postseason in 2012 without much star power: the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics. For the O’s, Adam Jones possessed the highest WAR at 3.4. Josh Reddick had the highest for the A’s at 4.5. Neither team was built with true superstars. Both teams were feel-good stories throughout the season, and any Bucco fan wishes the Pirates could have been in Baltimore’s or Oakland’s position.

That being said, how did the Bucs compare to those two ball clubs in terms of WAR? Here’s a look:

Pirates Orioles Athletics
Andrew McCutchen (7.0) Adam Jones (3.4) Josh Reddick (4.5)
Pedro Alvarez (2.6) Matt Wieters (3.2) Jarrod Parker (3.8)
Neil Walker (2.5) J.J. Hardy (3.0) Yoenis Cespedes (3.4)
A.J. Burnett (1.9) Miguel Gonzalez (2.9) Coco Crisp (2.7)
Michael McKenry (1.7) Jason Hammel (2.8) Bartolo Colon (2.6)

While Andrew McCutchen was way ahead of the pack, the Bucs had a huge drop-off after their star center fielder. The Orioles and A’s both had a consistent three-WAR players that led them to October. Here is Schoenfield’s conclusion:

[quote_box author=”” profession=””]Bottom line: Yes, stars are nice, but they can also be expensive. So while most of the offseason attention in the AL West went to Josh Hamilton leaving the Rangers and signing with the Angels, the most important moves of the winter may have been Billy Beane trading for Chris Young and Jed Lowrie and signing Hiroyuki Nakajima. Because sometimes three 2-win players can be more important than one 5-win player.[/quote_box]

This should give Pirates fans some hope. Although a playoff berth or .500 season are far from guaranteed, the Orioles and A’s are proof that anything can happen. Even though it’s difficult for the Bucs to acquire great talent and match up with huge payrolls, they can still compete with a few solid players in the mix. If McCutchen can produce another MVP-caliber season and a couple of players breakthrough with convincing campaigns, the Pirates can easily hang with the best in the league.

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons