Pirates success a complete team effort

pirates

In what has not been reported as much as it should, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the top teams in all of major league baseball this season. Maybe the fact that they struggled so immensely in the second halves of the 2011 and 2012 seasons have forced many in baseball to take their success with a grain of salt. Perhaps some believe the team is cursed, as they have not had a winning season since 1992. Those people may have a “I will believe it when I see it” approach in regards to whether Clint Hurdle’s team will have a winning season.
I wrote an article last season which labeled the Pirates a team that were riding the success of two players, CF Andrew McCutchen and RHP AJ Burnett. Based on the construction of their team, those two players were essentially carrying the team. I feel different about the team this season. The Pirates currently sit in 2nd place in the NL Central and have a 47-30 record. From what I see, it could be considered more of a team effort. But the truth is, the Pirates are just a deeper, better team than they were last season. They have a much deeper rotation and a stronger lineup. The bullpen, though it may not be very different for the exception of flipping last year’s closer Joel Hanrahan for setup man Mark Melancon, has simply performed at a different level than it did last season.
The Pirates currently sit at 47-30, 17 games over .500. Their high point during the 2012 season was 16 games over .500, on August 8, when they were 62-46. Of course, their late season collapse was well documented, as they finished the season 20-39 for their last 59 games (7-21 in September). For their first 77 games last season, the Pirates were 42-35, a ten game improvement this season. They are currently only one game behind the division leading Cardinals, who own the best record in all of MLB. No team other than the Cardinals has a better record than the Pirates.
The biggest strength for the Pirates has been their starting pitching. Burnett has pitched well (4-6, 3.12) after winning 16 games for the Pirates last season. However, he has been on the disabled list for the past week and will miss another start or two. Jeff Locke (7-1, 2.06) looks like he should be an All Star. Francisco Liriano (6-3, 2.30) has pitched like a completely different pitcher since he has joined the Pirates rotation. Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 3.59) should return in about a week or so as well. Charlie Morton (1-1, 2.81 in 3 starts) has returned as well, making this a potentially deep rotation. 2011 number one overall pick Gerritt Cole has won his 3 MLB starts, giving the team another option is needed. A major surprise has been Jeanmar Gomez, who was gone 2-0, 3.07 in 12 games, 7 starts and will remain an asset when he returns to the bullpen. James McDonald, who won 12 games in 2012 and was one of the most consistent Pirates starters last season, may not even have a job due to all this depth. The Pirates have a starting rotation that should be able to compete with anybody in baseball.
The bullpen has been better than last season with the emergence of Jason Grilli (0-1, 1.82, 26 saves, 58 Ks in 34 2/3 IP) as their closer and Mark Melancon (2-1, 0.96) as the primary setup man. Justin Wilson (5-1, 2.08) has emerged as a second lefty to help out Tony Watson. Add in Gomez as well as guys like Brian Morris (4-2, 2.91) and Vin Mazzaro (3-2, 3.06), a case can be made for this being one of the top bullpens in all of baseball. However, unlike the proven starters such as Burnett, Rodriguez and Liriano, the Pirates are counting on relievers with small or non-existent track records, including Grilli, who is in his first season as a closer.
McCutchen had an MVP type season in 2012 (.327, 32, 96) while leading the league in hits with 196. Pedro Alvarez (.244, 30, 85) was really the only support McCutchen got last season. While McCutchen (.291, 8, 38) has not had as dominant a season, he has certainly gotten more support. Alvarez has 19 HRs to this point and Starling Marte (.283, 8, 24, 22 SB) has established himself. Russell Martin (.256, 8, 26) has given production which they were lacking last season from the catcher as well as helping the pitching staff with his game calling. Yes, the offense does not stand out as dominant, but more members of the order are contributing than last season. Plus, they have a bench led by veterans Gaby Sanchez and Brandon Inge as well as Jose Tabata, Alex Presley and Jordy Mercer (when he is not starting over SS Clint Barmes).
I think it is time to start considering the Pirates a legitimate playoff contending team this season. They are better and deeper than they were last season and seem to need less in regards to reinforcements this time around. Perhaps they could be interested in a shortstop and maybe a right hand hitting outfielder to play with Garrett Jones and Travis Snider. I am confident that not only will this team finish with an over .500 record for the first time since 1992, but could take this division if the Cardinals and Reds are not paying attention.

Analyzing the top 5 of the MLB draft for the past several seasons

Tomorrow, of course, is the first part of the 2013 MLB draft. I will be hosting a show discussing several different topics with insight on the draft tomorrow (Thursday June 6) from 5-9 pm eastern on www.mtrradio.com. Joining me will be a couple baseball prospectus writers as well as other radio hosts discussing all things MLB draft. During the past couple seasons, several top five picks have made an impact already at the major league level, including David Price, Buster Posey, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and of course, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Here is a recap of the past six top fives in the MLB draft, with equally as many players who have not made an impact at the MLB level yet.
Very seldom do players who are drafted in the previous year make it up to the majors so fast. Last year, the Astros took SS Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico with the 1st pick. The Twins picked 2nd and took OF Byron Buxton from high school. The Mariners took catcher Mike Zunino out of the University of Florida and he is currently playing in AAA. RHP Kevin Gausman from LSU went 4th to the Orioles and he is currently pitching in the majors for Baltimore. The Royals picked 5th and took RHP Kyle Zimmer from the University of San Francisco.
2011 saw college pitchers go 1-3 in the draft. The Pirates took RHP Gerrit Cole from the University of California Los Angeles with the number one pick. The Mariners took LHP Danny Hultzen from the University of Virginia with the Diamondbacks taking RHP Trevor Bauer, Cole’s teammate at UCLA, with the number 3 pick. RHP Dylan Bundy was taken with the 4th pick by the Orioles out of high school with the Royals taking OF Bubba Starling, from high school, with the number 5 pick. Bundy made his debut last season with the Orioles, while Bauer pitched last season with the Diamondbacks before being traded to the Indians, where he is pitching this season.
The number one pick in the 2010 draft was obviously OF Bryce Harper, the second of consecutive number one overall picks taken by the Washington Nationals. RHP Jameson Tallion went #2 to the Pirates, followed by SS Manny Machado by the Orioles. Harper was taken out of junior college, while Taillon and Machado were taken out of high school. SS Christian Colon was taken by the Royals at #4 out of Cal State Fullerton, with LHP Drew Pomeranz going number 5 to the Rockies out of Mississippi. In addition to Harper, who gets all the attention, Machado is becoming one of the top young stars in the game. Pomeranz has pitched in the major leagues, both with Colorado and with Cleveland, who has now traded for two top five pick pitchers in the past three drafts.
Stephen Strasburg dominated the 2009 draft, going #1 to the Nationals out of San Diego State. OF Dustin Ackley went 2nd to the Mariners out of North Carolina. Ackley has struggled this season in Seattle and is now in the minors. The Padres took CF Donovan Tate out of high school with the 3 pick, while the Pirates took catcher Tony Sanchez out of BC with the 4th pick. RHP Matthew Hobgood went to the Orioles at number 5 out of high school. Interestingly enough, there was a very interesting 6-10 in this draft class. Zack Wheeler was taken 6 by the Giants out of high school, followed by LHP Mike Minor (Braves), Mike Leake (Reds), RHP Jacob Turner (Tigers) and RHP Drew Storen (Nationals). The last 4 are all in the major leagues with Wheeler on the way in the Mets organization. Turner is pitching in Miami after being traded last season from Detroit.
2008 saw an interesting class with SS Tim Beckham going number 1 to the Rays. Though Beckham was drafted out of high school, he is the only one of the top 5 picks not currently in the major leagues. 3B Pedro Alvarez went #2 to the Pirates out of Vanderbilt. 1B Eric Hosmer went #3 to the Royals out of high school. LHP Brian Matusz went #4 to the Orioles out of San Diego. Two time World Series Champion, 2010 NL Rookie of the Year and 2012 NL MVP Buster Posey went to the Giants at number five out of Florida State.
The Tampa Bay Rays took 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price with the #1 overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Vanderbilt, where he was teammates with Alvarez. SS Mike Moustakas was taken #2 overall by the Royals out of high school. While Moustakas has taken over as the team’s starting 3B, like Hosmer, he has struggled this season. 3B Josh Vitters went #3 overall to the Cubs also out of high school, and he made his MLB debut last season. LHP Daniel Moskos went forth to the Pirates out of Clemson. Even though he pitched in 31 games for the Pirates in 2011, he has not been back in the majors since. The Orioles took C Matt Wieters number five from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The Orioles had top five picks in all six of the past drafts. Both the Pirates and Royals had top five picks in five of the last six draft. In fact, with the Royals taking RHP Luke Hochevar #1 overall and the Pirates taking RHP Brad Lincoln #4 in the 2006 draft, that gave the Royals and Pirates six top five picks in the past seven seasons. None of the three have top five picks in this year’s draft. The top 5 this season will be #1 Astros (1 top 5 in past 7 seasons), #2 Cubs (1), #3 Rockies (1), #4 Twins (1) and #5 Indians (1).
For the record, after the Orioles, Royals and Pirates (6), the Mariners and Rays have had 3 top 5 picks in the past 7 years. Outside of the Nationals 2 #1 overall picks in 2010 and 2011, no other team has had any more than 1 top 5 pick over the past 7 seasons. Of course, the Astros, Cubs, Rockies, Twins and Indians will all be having their second top 5 pick in the past 8 seasons tomorrow.

The Phils drops their third straight game to the Pirates as they lose 6-4.

Ryan HowardThe Phils’ pitching staff has another late inning meltdown as the team loses their third straight game to the Pirates, 6-4.

The Phils took the lead in the bottom of the fourth as, with one man on, and with two men out, Dom Brown hits an RBI double, knocking in Chase Utley, who had started the inning off with a walk, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead. The Pirates tied the game up at one-all in the top of the sixth as Gaby Sanchez hits a lead-off home run, his third home run of the year. The Phils retook the lead in their half of the sixth as, with two men on, and with nobody out, Ryan Howard hits an RBI single, knocking in Kevin Frandsen, who had started the inning off with a walk, then went to third on Utley’s single, giving the Phils a 2-1 lead, while sending Utley, who earlier singled, then stole second base, on to third base. Two batters later, after Utley is thrown out at the plate, 5-2, on John Mayberry, Jr.’s fielder’s choice grounder to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, for the inning’s first out, as Howard’s moved up to second base on the play, and Mayberry reaches first base, and a wild pitch by Justin Wilson sends Howard to third base, and Mayberry to second, the Phils added to their lead as, with two men on, and with one man out, Brown hits a sacrifice fly, knocking in Howard, giving the Phils a 3-1 lead. The Pirates got a run back in the top of the seventh as, with two men on, and with one man out, Sanchez hits an RBI single, knocking in Starling Marte, who had earlier walked, then moved up to second base on Andrew McCutchen’s single, making it a 3-2 Phils’ lead, while sending McCutchen, who had just singled, over to third base. One batter later, the Pirates tied the game up at three-all as Michael McKenry hits an RBI single, knocking in McCutchen, while sending Sanchez over to third base. The Pirates took the lead in the top of the eighth as, with the bases loaded, via Clint Barmes bring hit by a pitch, a single by Travis Snider, moving Barmes up to second base, and a single by Marte, moving both runners up a base, and with no one out, pinch-hitter Garrett Jones hits a two-run double, scoring Barmes and Snider, making it a 5-3 Pirates’ lead, while sending Marte up to third base. Two batters later, after McCutchen is intentionally walked, reloading the bases, and with still nobody out, Sanchez hits a sacrifice fly, scoring Marte, making it a 6-3 Pirates’ lead, while sending Jones up to third base. The Phils would get a run back in their half of the eighth as, with a man on third, and with one man out, Howard hits an RBI ground out, 6-3, knocking in Frandsen, who had started the inning off with a double, then moved up to third base on Utley’s ground out, 2-3, making it a 6-4 Pirates’ lead. That would be the final score as Tony Watson collected his first save of the season by throwing a scoreless ninth.

Cliff Lee received a no-decision as he pitched seven innings, giving up three runs on ten hits, a walk and a hit batter, while he struck out seven. Philippe Aumont (1-3 4.05) took the lost as he lasted only a third of an inning, giving up three runs on three hits, striking out a batter. Chad Durbin pitched two-thirds of an inning, walking two. Raul Valdes pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit, while striking out a batter. James McDonald also received a no-decision as he pitched five innings, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks, while striking out four. Justin Wilson (2-0, 1.29) got the win as he pitched two 1-2-3 innings, striking out two. Tony Watson recorded his first save of the year as he pitched two innings, giving up a run on two hits, while striking out a batter.

The Phils had seven hits in the game, with Ryan Howard (Single, Double, 2 RBIs) and Dom Brown (Doubles, 2 RBIs) both leading the team with two hits each. Kevin Frandsen (Double), Chase Utley (Single) and Cliff Lee (Single) had the other three Phils’ hits, as the ballclub is once again held down by opposing pitching. The Phils also had three walks (Jimmy Rollins, Frandsen, Utley) and a stolen base (Utley (4)) in the game.

The Phils (9-14, 4th) will start a three-game series with the Mets (10-10, 3rd) with a ballgame tonight. The game will be played at Citi Field and will start at 7:10 pm EDT. The Phils will send to the mound Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 3.28) who is coming off a no-decision against the Cardinals on April 21, as he threw six strong innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out six, in the Phils’ 7-3 win. He will be trying for his second win of the season, hoping that the offense will finally wake up and start being more consistent. The Mets will counter with Dillon Gee (1-3, 5.95), who is coming off a win against the Nationals on April 21, as he went five and two-thirds innings, giving up just three hits and three walks, while striking out six, in the Mets’ 2-0 win. He’ll also be trying for his second win, hoping that he’ll have better luck this time against the Phils. The Phils will be trying to end their present three game losing streak, before things can get any worst.

The Phils’ bullpen let one get away, wasting a good start by Roy Halladay, as the Phils fall to the Pirates, 5-3.

Roy HalladayRoy Halladay’s third straight strong start is wasted by the bullpen as the Phils lose late to the Pirates, 5-3.

The Phils took the lead in the bottom of the first as, with one man out, Chase Utley hits a solo home run, his fourth home run of the season, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead. The Pirates tied the game up at one-all in the top of the fourth as, with two men on, and with two men out, Pedro Alvarez hits an RBI single, scoring Garrett Jones, who had earlier walked, then moved up to second base when Neil Walker was hit by the pitch, while sending Walker, who had just been hit by a pitch, up to second base. The Phils retook the lead in their half of the fourth as, with one man out, Ryan Howard hits a solo home run, his second home run of the season, giving the Phils a 2-1 lead. The Phils increased their lead in the sixth as, with runners on the corners, and with two men out, pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen hits an RBI single, knocking in Ben Revere, who had earlier singled, then went to third base on Humberto Quintero’s single, giving the Phils a 3-1 lead, while sending Quintero, who had just singled, up to second base. The Pirates got a run back in the seventh as, with one man out, Alvarez hits a solo home run, his fourth home run of the season, making it a 3-2 Phils’ lead. The Pirates tied the game up at three-all in the eighth as, with two men on, and with nobody out, Travis Snider hits an RBI single, scoring pinch-hitter Jose Tabata, who had started the inning off with a walk, then moved up to second base on Starling Marte’s single, while sending Marte’s who had just singled, on to third base. Two batters later, with the bases now loaded, as Andrew McCutchen walks, moving Snider to second base, and with still nobody out, the Pirates took the lead as pinch-hitter Brandon Inge hits an RBI single, knocking in Marte, giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead, while moving both Snider and McCutchen up a base. The Pirates added to their lead in the ninth as, with a man on first, and with two men out, Marte hits an RBI triple on a pop ball that second baseman Utley was unable to catch, scoring Clint Barmes, who had earlier singled, giving the Pirates a 5-3 lead. That would end up being the final score as Jason Grilli collected his ninth save of the season by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth.

Roy Halladay received a no-decision as he pitched six strong innings, giving up a run on a hit, two walks and a hit batter, while striking out eight. Antonio Bastardo received his second hold of the season as he pitched an inning, giving up a run on a hit. Mike Adams received his first blown save of the season before taking the lost (1-2, 4.00) as he pitched to four batters, getting none of them out, as he gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. Jeremy Horst pitched two innings, giving up a run on three hits. Wandy Rodriguez also received a no-decision as he went five and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and two walks, while striking out five. Vin Mazzaro (1-0, 0.00) got the win as pitched a scoreless inning and a third. Mark Melancon collected his eighth hold of the year as he threw a scoreless inning, giving up a hit. Jason Grilli collected his ninth save of the year as he threw a 1-2-3 inning, striking out a batter.

The Phils collected ten hits in the game, with Jimmy Rollins (Single, Double), Chase Utley (Single, Home Run, RBI) and Dom Brown (Singles) all leading the ballclub with two hits each. Ryan Howard (Home Run, RBI), Ben Revere (Single), Humberto Quintero (Single) and pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen (Single, RBI) had the other four Phils’ hits. The Phils also had two walks (John Mayberry, Jr., Humberto Quintero (Intentional)) in the game.

The Phils (9-13, 4th East) conclude their series with the Pirates (12-9, 3rd Central) with a game already in progress.

The Phils increased their winning streak to two games as they hold on to defeat the Pirates, 3-2.

jimmyrollinsThe Phils’ offense supported rookie starter Jonathan Pettibone’s major league debut by scoring enough runs to defeat the Bucos, 3-2.

The Pirates took the lead in the top of the second as, with one man out, Pedro Alvarez hits a solo home run, his third home run of the season, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. The Phils would come back to tie the game up at one-all in the bottom of the third as, with runners on the corners, and with one man out, Jonathan Pettibone, who had started the inning off with a walk, moved up to second base on Jimmy Rollin’s single, and then stopped at third base on John Mayberry, Jr.’s force out, 6-4, as Rollins is wiped out at second base for the inning’s first out, would score on A.J. Burnett’s wild pitch, while Mayberry, who had been safe at first on the force out, would move up to second base. The Phils would take the lead in the bottom of the third as, with the bases loaded, via a single by Michael Young, a walk by Dom Brown, moving Young up to second base, and a single by Ben Revere, moving both runners up a base, and with two men out, Rollins would force in a run as he is hit by a pitch, forcing in Young, giving the Phils a 2-1 lead, while both Brown and Revere would move up a base, leaving the bases loaded. The Pirates would tie the game up at two-all in the top of the fifth as Russell Martin hits a lead-off home run, his second home run of the season. The Phils took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth as, with two men on, and with two men out, Rollins hits an RBI single, knocking in Erik Kratz, who had earlier walked, then stopped at second base on pinch-hitter Ezequiel Carrera’s single, giving the Phils a 3-2 lead, while sending Carrera on to third base, before moving up to second base on the late throw to third, as the Pirates tried to catch Carrera going too far from third base, as he thought about going home as Rollins almost got caught heading towards second base, as the throw to the plate was cut off. That would end up being the final score as Jonathan Papelbon recorded his fourth save of the year as he pitched a scoreless ninth.

Jonathan Pettibone received a no-decision as he made his major league debut, taking the place of the injured John Lannan, as he pitched five and a third innings, giving up two runs on six hits, as he struck out six Bucos. Raul Valdes (1-0, 10.24) got the win as he pitched two-thirds of an inning, striking out both men wh0m he would face. Antonio Bastardo and Mike Adams both collected their first hold of the season as they combined for two scoreless innings, giving up a hit (Bastardo) between them, as they struck out two batters (one batter each). Jonathan Papelbon collected his fourth save of the season as he threw a scoreless inning, giving up a hit, while he struck out a batter. A.J. Burnett also received a no-decision as he pitched five innings, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks, a wild pitch and a hit batter, as he struck out seven. Jared Hughes (1-2, 5.79) took the lost as he pitched an inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, while he struck out a batter. Vin Mazzaro pitched two scoreless innings, giving up a hit, while striking out a batter.

The Phils had eight hits in the game, with Jimmy Rollins (Singles, 2 RBIs) and Chase Utley (Singles), both leading the ballclub with two hits each. Ryan Howard, Michael Young, Ben Revere and pinch-hitter Ezequiel Carrera had the other four Phils’ hits, all singles. The final Phil run came in on a wild pitch. The Phils also had four walks (Young, Dom Brown, Erik Kratz and Jonathan Pettibone) and a hit batter (Rollins), in the game.

The Phils (9-11, 4th East) continue their four game series with the Pirates (10-9, 4th Central) with a night game tonight, already in progress.

30-1 MLB countdown previews: #13 Pirates

pirates logo

To continue my journey into belief of the sleeper team, I am going with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a team I think can finally get over that hump this season. Ever since Barry Bonds left after the 1992 season to sign with the Giants, the Pirates have yet to have a winning season. It seemed like it would finally happen in 2012 when they were 58-42 after July 28th. Unfortunately, for the second consecutive year, they ran out of gas finishing the season 21-41 for a 79-83 record. However, that was their best finish since they were 79-83 in 1997 under Gene Lamont.
The biggest strength will be the team’s outfield, though their lineup is fairly strong all around. Andrew McCutchen (.327, 31, 96) was their best player by a mile and was a NL MVP candidate. 24 year old Starling Marte will be the starting LF, after hitting .257, 5, 17 in 47 games last season. Marte profiles to be a player that should hit .300 with 20 HR and 20 SBs. That would be more than OFs Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, who played in a combined 207 games last season and hit a combined 13 HR, 41 RBI and 17 SB. The starting RF will be a guy who is ready to have a breakout season, Travis Snider. The 25 year old came over in a trade with Toronto last season after hitting .335 with 56 RBI in 56 games with AAA Las Vegas. Though he hit just .250 last year in 60 MLB games, his track record coming up in the minors shows he will be a .300 hitter with potential 20 HR power. Write this down, the combination of McCutchen, Marte and Snider will hit 70+ HR this season.
The infield gets some boost with the signing of catcher Russell Martin (.211, 21, 53). However, the tandem of Rod Barajas and Michael McKendry combined to hit 23 HRs for the Pirates last season. Having McKendry should allow Martin to get a little more rest this season, keeping him fresh. Martin is certainly an upgrade over Barajas and 2011 catcher Chris Snyder. Garrett Jones (.2474, 27, 86) and Pedro Alvarez (.244, 30, 85) give the team power at the corners, with Neil Walker (.280, 14, 69) at 2B. Clint Barmes (.229, 8,45) struggled last season at SS. Gaby Sanchez, Jerry Sands, Brandon Inge and Josh Harrison lead a strong bench. My line up would look like this: Marte LF, Walker 2B, McCutchen CF, Alvarez 3B, Snider RF, Jones 1B, Martin C, Barmes SS. Perhaps to off-shift the three left hand batters, manager Clint Hurdle can go with Marte LF, Walker 2B, Alvarez 3B, McCutchen CF, Jones 1B, Martin C, Snider RF, Barmes SS.
The pitching staff last season was led by AJ Burnett (16-10, 3.51 in 31 starts). James McDonald (12-8, 4.21) and Wandy Rodriguez (12-13, 3.76) give the team three solid starters. Charlie Morton is likely to miss the entire 2013 season. Jeff Karstens (5-4, 3.97 in 19 games, 15 starts) has looked decent but has had difficulty staying healthy. 25 year old LHP Jeff Locke went 10-5, 2.48 in AAA Indianapolis last season and is the favorite to win the 5th starter spot. Jonathan Sanchez and Vin Mazzaro are long shots to make the team, as they wait for top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole.
The closer position in MLB is overrated, so I do not think the loss of Joel Hanrahan will devastate the Pirates. Jason Grilli, who had called it a career in 2009, had 90 Ks in 58 2/3 IP last season. He is expected to be the closer with Jose Contreras and Mark Melancon (0-2, 6.40 in 41 games for Boston last season) hoping to set up. Melancon had a rough time in the AL, after going 8-4, 2.78, 20 saves for the Astros in 2011. Jared Hughes (2-2, 2.85 in 66 games) and LHP Tony Watson (5-2, 3.38 in 68 games) will round out the bullpen. If Grilli can repeat his 2012 season, the team will have a good closer.
Vegas put the Pirates over/ under right at the teams win total from 2012, at 79. I see them getting the over at 84-78, 3rd place in the NL Central division.

Pirates riding McCutchen, Burnett

 

    Due to all the surprise teams this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates may not even fit in that catagory. Last year they showed some life and they have made strides to get better. Manager Clint Hundle, though, has done a great job getting this team to win in spite of limited star power. Andrew McCutchen is their best player and may be the MVP of the National League. His .369, 23, 69 numbers are up there with anybody in the game. What stands out though, is the very limited offensive production from most others on the team.
    3B Pedro Alvarez has 21 HR and 58 RBI, but is hitting .229. Garrett Jones (.273, 16, 52) and 2B Neil Walker (.291, 13, 65) are the only other offensive players that are putting up any numbers whatsoever. Assuming Jones is the firstbaseman, the Pirates are getting no production from their corner OFs, SS and C. Considering they have a good chance of making the playoffs, this should be a concern. They have brought up 23 year old OF Starling Marte, who has 4 HR in 57 ABs since joining the team. 
    One of the most underrated stories has been RHP AJ Burnett. Most of the clamor has been from Yankees fans, who expected Burnett to pitch well after leaving NY. He has done more than pitched well. He should be in the NL Cy Young discussion with his 14-3, 3.19 season. He has been the ace of this staff, who outside of James McDonald (10-5, 3.42) has had nobody stand out. 
    The Pirates are clearly making a run for it this season. They are trying to avoid their 20th straight losing season dating back to 1993. That streak will likely end. The Pirates have made deadline moves for LHP Wandy Rodriguez, 1B Gaby Sanchez and RHP Chad Qualls in an effort to sure up the team. In spite of their success, I still think any chances they have to 1. make the postseason and 2. advance in the postseason will rely solely on the performance of McCutchen and Burnett. Just like up to this point, where they go, so will the Pirates.

The Phils are unable to overcome a five-run first as they drop one to the Pirates, 5-4.

The Phils are unable to overcome a five-run first inning as they end up splitting the series with the Pirates, losing 5-4.

The Pirates took the lead in the first as, with runners on the corners, and with one man out, Garrett Jones hits an RBI single, knocking in Drew Sutton, who had started the game off with a single, moved up to second base on Neil Walker’s walk, then went to third on Andrew McCuthen’s fly out to right, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead, while sending Walker, who had earlier walked, up to second base. The Pirates then took a 4-0 lead as Casey McGehee hits a three-run home run, his fifth home run of the year, knocking in both Walker and Sutton. The Pirates then made it a 5-o lead as Pedro Alvarez followed with a solo home run, his fourteenth home run of the season. Phils’ starter Kyle Kendrick would then settle down, and keep the Pirates off the scoreboard for the next six and two-thirds innings, while the Phils tried to chip away at the Pirates’ lead. The Phils made it a 5-2 Pirates’ lead in the second as, with one man on, and with two men out, Erik Kratz hits a two-run home run, his second home run of the season, knocking in Ty Wigginton, who had earlier singled. The Phils then cut the Pirates’ lead down to 5-3 in the sixth as, with runners on the corners, and with one man out, Placido Polanco hits into an RBI force out, 5-4, scoring Shane Victorino, who had earlier singled, then went to third base on Hunter Pence’s single, as Pence, who had just singled, is forced out at second base for the inning’s second out. The Phils then made it a 5-4 Pirates’ lead in the eighth as Pence hits a lead-off home run, his fourteenth home run of the season. That would end up being the final score as Joel Hanrahan collected his twentieth save of the season by pitching a scoreless ninth.

Kyle Kendrick (2-8, 5.35) took the lost as he pitched seven innings, giving up five runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out six. Brian Sanches and Jeremy Horst combined for two scoreless innings, giving up a hit (Sanches) and three walks (Sanches (1), Horst (2)) between them, while striking out two batters (one batter each). A.J. Burnett (9-2, 3.31) got the win as he pitched six and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs on six hits and two walks, while striking out seven. Juan Cruz collected his thirteenth hold of the season as he threw a third of an inning, walking a batter. Jason Grilli received his eighteenth hold of the year as he pitched an inning, giving up a run on two hits, striking out two batters. Joel Hanrahan recorded his twentieth save of the year as he pitched a scoreless ninth, giving up a hit, while striking out a batter.

The Phils had nine hits in the game, with Shane Victorino (Singles) and Hunter Pence (Single, Home Run, RBI) leading the ballclub with two hits each. Jimmy Rollins (Single), Juan Pierre (Single), Ty Wigginton (Single), Mike Fontenot (Single) and Erik Kratz (Home Run, 2 RBIs) had the other nine hits, as the offense was unable to get the key hit to either tie or win the game. The Phils also had three walks and two stolen bases (Pierre (18), Rollins (13)) in the game.

The Phils (36-42, 5th) will go on the road to start a series with the Marlins (35-40, 4th), starting with a night game tonight. The game will be played at Marlins Park and will start at 7:10 pm EDT. The Phils will send to the mound Cliff Lee (0-4, 3.72), who is coming off a lost against the Rays on June 24, as he went seven innings, giving up five runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out nine, in the Phils’ 7-3 lost. Lee will be out to finally end his long winless streak. The Marlins will counter with Josh Johnson (4-5, 3.96), who is coming off a no-decision against the Blue Jays on June 23, where he went seven innings, giving up a run on two hits and two walks, while striking out seven, in the Marlins’ 7-1 lost. He’s be trying to even up his record. The Phils will be out to win their first game since Chase Utley’s return to the line-up.

The Phils’ bullpen ruin Chase Utley’s return, as the Phils lose to the Pirates, 11-7.

The Phils’ bullpen spoil Chase Utley’s return to the club as they can not hold down the Pirates, as the Phils lose to the Bucos, 11-7.

The Phils took the lead in the first as, with two men out, Chase Utley hits a dramatic solo home run, his first home run of the season, as well as his first hit of the year, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead. The Phils then took a 2-0 lead as Carlos Ruiz followed with a solo home run of his own, his eleventh home run of the year. The Pirates took the lead in the second as, with two men on, and with two men out, Michael McKenry hits a three-run home run, knocking in Neil Walker, who had earlier walked, then moved up to second base on Jose Tabata’s single, and Tabata, who had just singled, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead. The Pirates added to their lead in the fourth as Casey McGehee hits a lead-off home run, his fourth home run of the season, giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead. The Pirates then took a 5-2 lead as, with runners on the corners, and with two men out, James McDonald hits an RBI single, scoring Walker, who had earlier doubled, then reached third base on Pedro Alvarez’s ground out, 4-3, while moving McKenry, who had just been intentionally walked, on to third base. The Pirates increased their lead in the fifth as, with two men on, and with one man out, Walker hits an RBI single, knocking in Drew Sutton, who had lead-off the inning with a walk, then moved up to second base on Andrew McCutchen’s single, giving the Pirates a 6-2 lead, while sending McCutchen, who had earlier singled, up to third base. The Pirates then made a 7-2 lead as Tabata hits an RBI single, scoring McCutchen, while sending Walker on to third base. The Pirates then took an 8-2 lead as McKendry hits an RBI single, scoring Walker, while sending Tabata up to third base. The Phils started a comeback in the sixth as, with one man on, and with one man out, Hunter Pence hits an RBI double, knocking in Ruiz, who had been safe at first as Utley, who had reached first base on an infield single, is wiped out at second base on a 6-4 force out, cutting the Pirates’ lead down to 8-3. The Phils then made it an 8-4 Pirates’ lead as Shane Victorino hits an RBI single, knocking in Pence. The Phils cut the Pirates’ lead down to 8-5 in the seventh as, with a man on first, and with nobody out, Jimmy Rollins hits an RBI triple, knocking in Hector Luna, who had started the inning off by reaching base on third baseman’s Alvarez’s fielding error. The Phils then made it an 8-6 Pirates’ lead as Juan Pierre hits an RBI single, scoring Rollins. Two batters later, with runners on the corners, as Utley send Pierre to third base with a single to right, and with still nobody out, Ruiz hits an RBI single, scoring Pierre, cutting the Pirates’ lead down to 8-7, while sending Utley up to second base. The Pirates then increased their lead in the eighth as, with one man on, and with one man out, Sutton hits an RBI double, scoring pinch hitter Alex Presley, who had started the inning off with a walk, giving the Pirates a 9-7 lead. The Pirates then made it an 11-7 lead as McCutchen hits a two-run home run, his fourteenth home run of the year, knocking in Sutton. That would end up being the final score as Joel Hanrahan pitched a scoreless ninth.

Raul Valdes (2-1, 3.24) took the lost as he only pitched two innings, giving up three runs on two hits and two walks, while striking out two. Joe Savery pitched two and two-thirds innings, giving up five runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out two. Michael Schwimer pitched an inning and a third, giving up four hits, while striking out three. Jake Diekman pitched a 1-2-3 inning, striking out two. Chad Qualls pitched an inning, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk. Antonio Bastardo pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk. James McDonald (7-3, 2.44) got the win as he pitched five and two-thirds innings, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks, while striking out three. Jared Hughes pitched a third of an inning, plus two batters, giving up two runs, one of which was earned, on a hit and a walk. Tony Watson pitched to three batters, getting none of them out, as he gave up a run on three hits. Brad Lincoln collected his first hold of the year as he threw a scoreless inning. Jason Grilli pitched a 1-2-3 inning, striking out a batter. Joel Hanrahan pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk.

The Phils had ten hits in the game, with Chase Utley (2 Singles, Home Run, RBI), leading the team as he played in his first game after coming off the dl, followed by Jimmy Rollins (Single, Triple, RBI) and Carlos Ruiz (Single, Home Run, 2 RBIs) with two hits each. Juan Pierre (Single, RBI), Hunter Pence (Double, RBI) and Shane Victorino (Single, RBI) had the other three Phils’ hits. The Phils also had four walks and two stolen bases (Pierre (17), Victorino (19)) in the ballgame.

The Phils (36-41, 4th East) conclude their series with the Pirates (39-35, 2nd Central) with an afternoon game at Citizens Bank Park, already in progress.

The Phils increase their winning streak to two games as they hold on in a close game to defeat the Pirates, 5-4.

The Phils hold on to win a close game with the Pirates as they increase their winning streak to two game, winning 5-4.

The Pirates tried to take the lead in the first as, with runners on second and third, and with one man out, Vance Worley, after catching Garrett Jones’ grounder back to the mound, threw the ball home for a fielder’s choice out, as Jose Tabata, who had started the game by being hit by a pitch, then moved up to second base on Neil Walker’s walk, before going to third on Andrew McCutchen’s ground out, 6-3, is tagged out by Carlos Ruiz for the inning’s second out, while Walker, who had earlier walked, and went to second base on McCutchen’s ground out, would move up to third, while Jones would be safe at first on the play. Worley then got out of trouble by getting Casey McGehee to hit into a force out, 6-4, wiping out Jones at first base. The Phils then took the lead in their half of the first as, with a man on third, and with two men out, Ruiz hits an RBI single, scoring Hunter Pence, who had just tripled, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead. The Pirates would tie the game up at one-all in the second as, with a man on third, and with one man out, Michael McKenry hits a sacrifice fly, knocking in Pedro Alvarez, who had started the inning off with a double, then moved up to third on Clint Barmes’ ground out, 6-3. The Phils retook the lead in their half of the second as, with two men on, and with two men out, Placido Polanco hits an RBI single, knocking in Mike Fontenot, who had earlier singled, then moved up to second base on Worley’s sacrifice bunt, 1-4, giving the Phils a 2-1 lead, before Jimmy Rollins, who had just walked, is thrown out trying to go to third base, 7-5-3, for the inning’s final out. The Phils added to their lead in the third as, with one man on, and with two men out, Ty Wigginton hits a two-run home run, his eighth home run of the season, knocking in Ruiz, who had earlier singled, giving the Phils a 4-1 lead. The Pirates would get a run back in the sixth as, with a man on third, and with two men out, McGehee hits an RBI single, knocking in McCutchen, who had earlier doubled, then moved up to third on Jones’ ground out, 3-unassisted, making it a 4-2 Phils’ lead. The Pirates then cut the Phils’ lead down to 4-3 in the seventh as, with two men on, and with nobody out, pinch hitter Drew Sutton hits an RBI double, knocking in Barmes, who had started the inning off with a walk, then stopped at second base on McKenry’s single, while McKenry, who had just singled, would stop at third base. After Michael Schwimer replaces Worley on the mound, the Phils would get out of further trouble as Tabata grounds out to the pitcher,  1-3, after Schwimer looks McKenry back to third, for the inning’s first out, then Walker flies out to left for the inning’s second out, before John Mayberry, Jr. throws a strike to home plate, as McKenry tries to score on the fly out, but is tagged out by Ruiz for the inning’s third out on a fly out-doubleplay, keeping the score 4-3 Phils. The Phils added to their lead in the eighth as Ruiz hits a lead-off home run, his tenth home run of the season, a career high, as he gives the Phils a 5-3 lead. The Pirates would get a run back in the ninth as, with one man out, McHenry hits a solo home run, his fourth home run of the year, making it a 5-4 Phils’ lead. But that would be the final score as Jonathan Papelbon would record his eighteenth save of the season by getting out the next two batter, as he got Tabata to end the game by striking out, swinging.

Vance Worley (4-4, 2.92) gets the win as he pitched six inning, plus three batters, as he gives up three runs on six hits and two walks, while striking out five. Michael Schwimer collected his first hold of the season as he pitched a scoreless inning, getting out the two men that he would face, thanks to a fly out-doubleplay. Antonio Bastardo collected his fifteenth hold of the season as he threw a scoreless inning, giving up a hit, while striking out a batter. Jonathan Papelbon received his eighteen save of the season as he pitched an inning, giving up a run on a hit, while striking out two. Erik Bedard (4-8, 4.27) took the lost as he went six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out three. Juan Cruz pitched an inning, plus three batters, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, while striking out a batter. Tony Watson pitched an inning, getting out all three men whom he would face, striking out one.

The Phils had ten hits in the game, with Carlos Ruiz (2 Singles, Home Run, 2 RBIs) leading the team with three hits, followed by Placido Polanco (Singles, RBI) and Ty Wigginton (Single, Home Run, 2 RBIs) with two hits apiece. Hunter Pence (Triple), Shane Victorino (Single) and Mike Fontenot (Single) had the other three Phils’ hits. The Phils also had three walks and a stolen base (Victorino (18)) in the ballgame.

The Phils (36-40, 4th East) will continue their series with the Pirates (38-35, 3rd Central) with a night game tonight. The game will be played at Citizens Bank Park and is to start at 7:05 pm. The Phils will send to the mound Raul Valdes (2-0, 1.84) who will be making a spot start, as the Phils plan to use the bullpen tonight. Valdes last pitched on June 23, throwing two innings in relief against the Rays, giving up no runs on a hit, while striking out four. Valdes hopes to keep the Phils in the game. The Pirates will counter with James McDonald (6-3, 2.19), who is coming off a complete game win against the Twins on June 21, as he gave up a run on six hits, while striking out five, in the Pirates’ 9-1 blow out. He will be trying to stop the Pirates’ present losing streak. The Phils will be going for the series win, while hoping that Chase Utley will be ready to go both on the field and at the plate.

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our FeedVisit Us On Google Plus