Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’

Pirates nab Cole at No. 1

The chants of fans approval and criticisms were not heard at MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Save that for the NFL draft.

Ping pong balls did not determine the draft order.

Save that for the NBA draft.

Nor were there green rooms, specialized draft hats or tricked out Armani suits. Rather, this draft, the MLB draft, was headlined by some of the game’s greatest legends and a new class of potential major league ballplayers.

The Pirates have faith that Gerrit Cole will lead that new generation.

Cole, a right handed pitcher from UCLA, went first overall to Pittsburgh. Cole is said to have the best “natural stuff” in this draft class. It took more than that generic term to take Cole, though.

He stands at 6-4 and weighs in at 220 pounds. That large and powerful frame may have been the biggest drawing factor in the selection. It surely wasn’t his 6-8 record and 3.31 ERA from his last year as a Bruin. But, his 376 strikeouts in 322.1 innings through a 3-year career opened eyes. Add a mid 90s fastball and strong breaking pitches and Cole could be a unique pitcher in a few years.

Obviously Cole doesn’t have the flair of name recognition of the two No. 1 picks that preceded him (Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper). He will, however, be forever grouped with three other pitchers chosen directly after him. Danny Hultzen (Mariners), Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks) and Dylan Bundy (Orioles) all are unique pitchers in their own way and have the distinction of being the only four pitcher chosen in a row to start the MLB Draft.

A decade from now, one of these pitchers will have at least one Cy Young trophy sitting on a shelf of their five story mansion.

I sure hope Gerrit Cole gets a space cleared off soon.

photo credits: pirateprospects.com

Phillies go home begrudingly

Thank you, Phillies.

Because of your help a grand total of 108, 807 fans came through the PNC Park gates, this weekend. In fact, you jump-started  a record breaking crowd of 39, 441 on Saturday night to set the highest number of people ever at a baseball game at the 10 year old stadium.

You also helped pumped some large numbers of cash into the economy of Western Pennsylvania through merchandise purchases, food and drinks, hotel rooms and ticket sales.

More importantly, thank you for some great memories from two of the best wins in the history of PNC Park.

Friday and Saturday were big momentum gainers for the Bucs earning a pair of hard fought wins. The play of both teams ignited the crowd, which was indeed more Philly oriented, but showed Pittsburgh that baseball could indeed be fun to watch.

The atmosphere prior to Sunday was “better than any baseball game I have ever been too, playoffs included,” one person on twitter said.

People were pumped.

Brooms were out in full force and the Pirates were just one win away from being four out in the NL Central. Oh, and a game from standing at 29-29, the immaculate .500.

While the door wasn’t slammed, this weekend proved to many people that the Pirates mean business and have the potential to play any team toe-to-toe on any given night.

For that, we have the Phillies to thank.

photo credit: getty images

Catcher injuries top the rest

“Chin music” has long been the appropriate term for a high and inside fastball running in on a batter.

In 1989, Don Slaught heard it loud and clear.

A fastball from Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd drilled Slaught in the face causing a rush of blood and resulted in several broken facial bones. Within a few weeks he was back in the Yankees lineup. For other players, gruesome injuries take a bit longer to heel. Now, there have been many worse injuries to have occurred over just a split second in a big league game. In 1976, Phillies left fielder Todd Stamps ran into the outfield bullpen, ran into a metal pipe and ruptured brain cells. Jermaine Dye splattered his shin after fouling off a pitch in 2004.

While the aforementioned ailments are indeed troubling, they were a matter of timing and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. More often than not, its a catcher that sees the most live action in a ball game with a heightened risk or traumatic problems. I bring this up because it stung to see Giants catcher, Buster Posey go down against the Marlins on Wednesday. A catcher is an unsung hero on a team. They are the protectors of home plate, the pitcher and runs against. That barrier needs to be strong, and it is. Injuries to the catcher have always been difficult to watch. These three, including Posey’s, have given a greater appreciation to old position number two.

Scott Cousins was only trying to give his team the lead. The last thing he wanted to do was send the reigning Rookie of the Year to the hospital.

As you can see from the above pictured, Posey’s legs buckled and he laid motionless on the ground for a good 20 minutes. Reports say he will likely miss the rest of the season as a result from the horrific snap play. There is no way that Cousins tried to make the play dirty. If no injury took place, he would be heralded for his hustle and toughness on such a difficult play, tagging up on a shallow fly ball to center field.

Hustle was the name of the game for Pete Rose.

Ray Fosse found that out firsthand.

In an eerily similar play to the Posey-Cousins showdown, Rose was attempting to score the winning run for his team—in an All-Star game. He’s received a bulk of criticism for the over-aggressive lunge. It was a de-facto exhibition game, but there were no fake games in Rose’s eyes. Fosse didn’t let this set him back, though. He was back in late August of 1970, the collision happened in July of that year, and performed well. He would make another All Star game in his career while earning a Gold Glove award and winning a pair of World Series titles.

Posey has an accomplished list of accolades already in his young career. Fosse is a perfect example of success following a detrimental injury.

Jason Kendall is not.

After twisting his ankle in highly unorthodox fashion on July 4, 1999, he was out for the rest of the season. Kendall was always an overrated player, but he was reliable. Behind the plate, he was a force. Kendall holds the record for most games caught in a Pirate uniform.  His notorious injury is not exactly like the previous two, as you can see. However, it did hamper a solid career. He went on to have the lowest slugging percentage in the majors for three years with no further All-Star selections since 2000. Nagging injuries would continue to plaque his run as a major leaguer.

Historic Pittsburgh vendor Kenny Geidel passes away

0717nacho2-a.jpgThere’s nothing quite like the sights and sounds of the ballpark on a hot summer night. The game itself is one thing, but add thousands of fans, activities and concessions into the stadium and grand memories are bound to be made.

Kenny Geidel helped make many of those memories.

From Three Rivers Stadium and Mellon Arena to PNC Park, Heinz Field and Consol Energy Center the famed vendor put a smile on many customers and kept them coming back for more. 

As a Pepsi, Cotton Candy and Hot Chocoalte at PNC Park since its christening in 2001, Geidel helped usher in a new generation of fans. He will most notably be remembered as the lemonade man who always knew how to draw attention.

Geidel passed away Tuesday at the age of 62.

It’s not that he did anything spectacular in the stands, he just was always a charming character that made any trip to a Pittsburgh sporting event special. His routine consisted of the same blank stare, swift movements up the steps and the most recognizable voice at PNC Park. Shouts of “lemonaaaaaadeeeee here, lemonaaaaaadeeeee here!” were distinct and echoed throughout the stadium. To some, it wasn’t a Pirate game unless you saw Ken walking through your section. His forearms bulged with the look of an 18 year old top hitting prospect, he was considered one of the hardest working individuals in the city.

As simple as he was, Geidel was more than just another vendor, he was a relaible sight that gave fans assurance that a baseball game meant more than just the on field action. Now without Ken in the stands and concourse, PNC Park may not seem quite right. After every purchase he showed gratitude toward the customer to “take it easy.”

Ken, its your turn.

Take it easy up there in heaven and enjoy a cold lemonade while you watch down on us.

photo credit: pittsburgh tribune review

Just like the chance of rain in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are threatening

By a show of hands, how many people check the weather reports first thing in the morning? 

Obviously I can’t see the response, but I’m certain a grand majority of you readers do. On any given night in the Pittsburgh area, rain is a common theme. I have to be sure to check, re-check and for good measure, check yet again on nights I anticipate going to PNC Park. Nearly every night has been at least a 40-60 percent chance of precipitation. In fact, two games I was all set to go to were rained out. 
My luck changed Saturday.
With a 60 percent chance of rain, 32,298 other people joined me in the stands to witness a  6-1 Pirates victory. 
It was my first win at PNC Park this season. 
The Pirates have taken notice as it jump started a three game winning streak, at home nonetheless. Each game has been relatively equivalent to each other with strong starting pitching, quick defense and clutch hitting late in the game. 
Charlie Morton went 7.2 innings with five strikeouts giving up just one run on Saturday.
James McDonald earned a career high eight strikeouts and let up three hits in 6 innings in a 5-4 win on Sunday.
Jeff Karstens continued the trend going 5.2 solid innings allowing just one run to set up a 4-1 victory on Monday. 
While Saturday was the only sure fire contest, Sunday and Monday were come from behind affairs. Ryan Doumit’s three-run blast set the Pirates ahead in the eighth inning in honor of Mothers Day. On Monday, also in the eighth, Neil Walker began a hit parade scoring Xavier Paul on an RBI double. Lyle Overbay followed suit with a RBI double of his own. To conclude the scoring, Doumit came through again. He ripped a double down the right field line scoring Overbay. 
The win put Pittsburgh at 18-17.
Yes, that is indeed a game over .500. 

‘Road Warriors’ return home looking for imperative wins

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For the past two years Ryan Doumit has been asking for his ticket to be punched out of Pittsburgh. 
A majority of fans would have gladly done it for him. 
Behind the plate his fielding stats have been dismal. His arm, even worse. With a bat in his hands, he’s averaged 12 home runs and a .250 batting average. When Chris Snyder was brought in at the trade deadline, Doumit backfired. He was outspokenly against the acquisition and his numbers declined more so. 
Despite the past, 2011 is a new year. Instead of making his way out of Pittsburgh, Doumit has embraced a platoon role with Snyder. It’s been beneficial to himself and the Buccos. 
His grand slam in the 3rd inning gave the Pirates a 7-0 lead en route to a 7-4 victory. Their 11th road win of the year. 
After tallying just 17 road wins in all of 2010…
Hold on, let me repeat that, 17 measly road wins a year ago, Pittsburgh now leads the majors away from its home park. 
The Bucs have won five road series, one more that 2010. They haven’t come against slouches, either. The Pirates took two out of three from the Cardinals (currently 17-14 and leading the NL Central), three out of four from the Reds (Central champs from a year ago and now in 2nd place in the division), and some more two out of threes from the Cubs, Rockies and Padres. 
In this span, the pitching has continued to dominate with Kevin Correia winning all five of his road starts. 
There’s no doubt this resurgence is surprising. The Pirates are just six road wins away from matching their total from a year ago. They can accomplish this in the second month of the season. The offense has been relatively dormant averaging 4.2 runs per game outside of PNC Park. At home, however, only 2.6 runs are coming across the plate. That has equated to a 3-9 record at home.
With a home stand of seven games coming up between the Astros and Dodgers, the Bucs not only have to improve on their home series, but also in an attempt to move up in the Central. 
They’re two games out.
Coming to town are two struggling teams. Each are sub-.500 and at least  4.5 games out of their respective divisions. The road wins need to turnover to the home battles for this team to remain competitive. There is no better time than now. 

The future’s open wide

When I was 18 years old I was in a high school play. To conclude my senior year a few friends and I thought it would be a change of pace to finish off four years. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a blast, I was the camel. 

At 18 Bryce Harper is making $10 million and living every kid’s dream of playing professional baseball. 
Harper and his Hagerstown Suns visited Charleston, West Virginia this week to take on the Power, class-A affiliate of the Pirates. Of course, I had to see the phenom for myself. 
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Appalachia Power Park is an intimate place to watch a game with just a single level of seats wrapping around home plate and down the lines. Situated just off of downtown, the park is fairly new and modern. 
It was my first time here and really one of my first times spending an extended day in the WV capital. I had a job interview down there and made a day out of it touring my potential new home. I could think of no better way to cap off a productive day than at a ball game. 
I was coming to the game regardless, so having the chance to see Bryce Harper live was just an added incentive. I was not alone. About 20 people were waiting near the clubhouse for Harper, specifically. I was worried he would bypass the autograph seekers as I heard stories that he was a jerk and already at 18 he carried himself with the arrogance of Barry Bonds. 
He exemplified a bit of cockiness but was still cordial as he stopped to sign for everybody.
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I got him to sign a Baseball America cover from March in which he leads a listing of baseball’s top 100 prospects. After the game he stopped to sign again and I had him sign my scorebook.
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In the game, Harper looked like the kid he is. 

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He went 0-for-3 with a walk and was caught stealing. In the walk, he showed bunt on every single pitch and was walked in four. It was a move my little league coach had me do to draw the pitcher off and get on baseball easily. Harper’s trick paid off for him, too. He did make a nice sliding catch in right field to rob a for sure double, maybe triple.
The Suns were victorious 3-0. Offense was hard to come by for the Power. 
It was a fun time just being at a minor league game. The crowd, as a whole, was sparse but I still had a great time. The quirkiness of of games like this are the real draw for families and casual fans. The quality of baseball is still high, but many miscues were made across the diamond. That’s what minor league is for. Some of these prospects will never sniff the big leagues and in all honesty will flash out very soon. But players, like Harper, have a legitimate shot to be major league stars. 
The Power also had a future big leaguer on their roster in pitcher Jameson Taillon. He was chosen just one pick after Harper in last year’s draft. He made his debut two nights after I was down there and walked Harper in a rain shortened game. Taillon is just 19 years old but consistently was clocked at 100 mph in his 2 innings of work. 
I’m a good four years older than these guys, and I would give anything to be in their shoes. 

With cool and electric stuff, two pitchers lead Bucs rotation

Last season, the Pirates pitching staff compiled a 5.00 team earned run average.

A mark that was last in the National League. 
With just one complete game, coming from Paul Maholm, a team whip of 1.491 and only 32 wins coming from starting pitchers the outlook for this year’s pitching staff was equally as dismal.
1567 hits and 784 earned runs later, the Bucs have the 9th best pitching staff in the NL. 
The starters have opened some eyes, especially a rag-tag pair of blooming hurlers.
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     Charlie   
     Morton
      and
Kevin Correia 
Many thought Charlie Morton had overstayed his welcome.
The 27 year old came to Pittsburgh by way of the vastly criticized Nate McLouth to the Braves trade. The pundits felt it was a lot to give up, the Pirates best hitter and past All-Star, for an unproven pitcher who was starting to faze out in the Atlanta organization. He added fuel to that fire with a highly subpar debut in Pittsburgh. It was a wretched start that extended through a handful of seasons. In 2010 he tabulated a 2-12 record and an astronomical 7.57 ERA. 
Today, Ken Rosenthal has called him a Roy Halladay clone. 
What’s the reason for the complete metamorphosis? Well, a tinkering to his windup, now Halladay-esque, has allowed Morton to attack the strike zone with a slower approach. Furthermore, his “stuff” isn’t exactly overwhelming. He doesn’t get a lot of movement on the ball but guides his pitches strategically. It’s been what the fans call “electric.”
Also no stranger to public outcry, Kevin Correia has denounced those heavily critiquing his signing. 
Myself included.
I didn’t feel that a guy ostracized from the Padres rotation could have a positive impact as a Pirates starter. Well, I have enjoyed being proven wrong. 
A 2.48 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 12 strikeouts in four starts are highly positive in my eyes. Heck, I’d say those numbers are dazzling, especially with what Pittsburgh has been used to, in the recent past. 
Saying Correia has been a pleasant surprise would also be an understatement. In Monday’s statement-making 9-3 win over the Reds, Correia carried a one hitter into the 7th and a two hitter into the 9th. He has been demanding on the mound with great control, an issue he has suffered from in the past. When a pitcher can master control of himself and stay cool, he can then focus on his opponent at hand. 
In their last two starts Morton and Corriea picked up complete games, already more than the Pirates’ staff last season. 
Is it too early to say these two starters are the complete package? With at least 20 more starts to come between them, we will find out if their “stuff” will last. 
photocredits: hyzduhq.blogspot.com, linkpittsburgh.com

On the offensive

I’ve been to three Pirate games thus far, this season. The young season has not treated me well, personally, as I am 0-3 when seeing live games.

Pittsburgh has been outscored 19-5 in those games.
The offense was looked at as an emerging force in the preseason as a young group of hitters were polishing off solid seasons in 2010. While players such as Jose Tabata (.310 BA, .420 OBP) and Neil Walker (11 RBI, .517 SLG) have anchored the top of the lineup, shortcomings from Pedro Alvarez (20 Ks, .197 BA) and a slump from Andrew McCutchen (2-for-30 in at-bats entering Sunday) hindered the team from getting proper production. 
Most of it has changed this series against the Reds. 
On Friday the Pirates scored six runs en route to a 6-1 victory. 
Sunday, Pittsburgh notched seven runs to sneak by with a 7-6 win. 
Players, other than those aforementioned, have stepped up and delivered to put these bigger numbers on the board.
Of course, they would do it on the road, when I’m not there.
Chris Snyder has gone 3-for-7 in these two wins. 

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After starting the season on the disabled list, Snyder was penciled in behind the plate, right away, moving Ryan Doumit to a bench spot. His production has been consistent to open his season which should keep him in the starting lineup for a majority of games from here on out. His biggest asset is not at the plate, though, it’s behind it. Pitchers rave about his quality of calling games and he played a big part in Charlie Morton’s complete game against the Reds on Friday.
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In a platoon with Matt Diaz in right field, Garrett Jones has had his back against the wall. His decline in power had the front office concerned, but now he is beginning his comeback campaign. Jones has it two homers in the series and brought his average up to a respectable .282. Diaz has struggled to sustain a presence at the plate. So, it may play to Jones’ advantage is he continues to produce consistently. He may just get that starting job back.
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If Jones and Diaz both falter another viable option is waiting in the wings. John Bowker is trying to find his identity on the Bucs. He hasn’t been the first used pinch hitter of the bench, so far, but that decision may change quickly. He brought in the winning run in the top of the 8th inning, Sunday. Bowker drilled a 2-out pitch to deep center field that could have been a home run in other ballparks, while adding further insurance with just that one swing of the bat. 
Prior to the Reds series, manager Clint Hurdle tinkered with the lineup to make a change.
It was needed.
As I said before, the offense was dormant to open the season at home. My three games were pitiful and beyond that, the funk at the plate scorned the early optimism that many fans accumulated. Hurdle moved McCutchen up to the leadoff spot from the three hole. Tabata will bat second, with Lyle Overbay third. Walker is now the cleanup hitter dropping from the two hole. 
These moves paid off as more runs were produced, save for Saturday’s 11-2 beat down. As Tabata has proved he is the best hitter on the team, the second spot is the perfect fit for him. He is 5-for-14 in the new spot. McCutchen began his new role with an 0-for-5 performance, but has since proved that his natural position is where he wants to be. He led off Sunday’s game with a home run. Walker isn’t the most natural cleanup hitter. He doesn’t have the most power on the team, although he does have three dingers. But, No. 2 wasn’t ideal for him, either. He strikes out too much and that is not the best liability to have in a two hitter. 
The Pirates will stay in Cincinnati for a Monday game to close out the series. A win would pit them back at the .500 mark going to Florida to do battle with the Marlins on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Then it’s back home to host the Nationals over Easter weekend. I will be in attendance for one of those games ready to be entertained with some offensive action. 
photo credits: postgazette.com, bleacherreport.com, daylife.com

Home Sweet Home


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There may not be a more refreshing sight that will grace the PNC Park jumbo tron, this year.

Aside from a playoff picture, of course. 
Thursday brought opening day to PIttsburgh and along with it came an enthusiasm that has rarely been replicated in the ten years of PNC Park. People were excited.
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The energy outside the stadium was almost like a college football tailgate party. Upon my arrival to Pittsburgh around 10 am, Thursday, parking spaces were scarce. There were lawn chairs spread out, corn hole bean bags flying and cold beers being drank. A wonderful sight as many people chose to take an old fashioned sick day and mosey on over to the ballpark. It is a tradition unlike any other.
I was excited to connect with many people I have met through the glory of Pirates baseball and set aside much time just to take it all in. Opening Day is unlike any other in the season. Obviously, no matter who are primary team is, this day is special. But for the Pirates, there aren’t many more games like it. Without a legitimate playoff hope in the past decade, it is hard to sustain the optimism over the course of the grueling schedule. 
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The above picture signifies the feeling of the torment that is winter, the despair that the bleak weather will never subside and we won’t be able to experience the glory that is baseball season. I am here to testify that we truly can be at peace again.
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The glory can be felt throughout the field of green and even more so by the members of each club that often go under appreciated. Opening Day is the only time during the year that the head trainers, clubhouse managers and even massage therapists get their recognition in front of a sold out crowd. In Pittsburgh, it was the second largest in park history, 39,290. 
Erin and I were debuting in our new seats for the year, a pair of 20 game plans in section 322, row B, seats 1 and 2. Now, in most other ballparks that section may roll some eyes. For us, it was perfect. At just $140 we are secured for a fun-filled summer at the Best Ballpark in America. Indeed it is. 
While spirits were high and Pittsburgh was joined together in baseball unity, the team could not feed off the energy and fell 7-1 behind an un-spirited pitching performance from starter Paul Maholm and the bullpen. After back-to-back hits from Jose Tabata and Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen tallied a RBI. Even though things seemed to be looking up, six straight innings without a hit dug the offensive hole for the Pirates.
Friday night erased all negative thoughts of the day before.
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The smiling faces and happy thoughts seemed to have exploded from the gallows of uncertainty. The pitching shortcomings of the night before far exceeded themselves against the Rockies on Friday. Ross Ohlendorf did give up a 3-run homer to Jason Giambi, but those were the only runs to cross the plate for Colorado. It took 14 innings but a double from Jose Tabata scored Josh Rodriguez to give the Buccos their first win at their own digs in 2011.
It still remains the only one as they dropped the next two games against the Rockies.

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Saturday night was WVU day at the park, a project I helped organize with other members of the graduating Public Relations class interested in sports communications. It was a great opportunity to get our foot in the door and was a rewarding endeavor. 
It was also fireworks night. While they entertained in the night sky above beautiful downtown Pittsburgh, the real explosions came in the left field bleachers.  
Saturday nights are a time when PNC Park is usually packed, packed with idiots who don’t know how to understand baseball and were never taught how to behave in public. A large group of fans in the bleachers began chanting “USA, USA, USA,” to what I believed was a mocking response to Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt, a native of Venezuela. 
In fact, it was an unruly fan who was escorted out of the stadium not before resisting arrest and assaulting a stadium usher. Why the patriotic cheers? Well, he was wearing a very outlandish red, white and blue jumpsuit that had USA stitched on the chest. Not exactly what I deem to be proper ballpark attire, anyway. Videos of the event can be seen on youtube, including one shot by fellow MLBlogger, Erik Jabs.http://countingbaseballs.mlblogs.com 
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National media outlets have picked up on the event. Sportscenter and the New York Daily News have featured it. The fan was reluctant to obey the orders instructed to him by the Pittsburgh cops. A taser was induced with no effect as he wasn’t going to the ground. This forced police to draw nightsticks and mercilessly beat the man to the ground. People are calling this excessive force and police brutality, I call it making an example of a goon. You listen to the police, no matter who you are or what you may have did or didn’t do, you act with respect when confronted by cops. This guy did the far opposite and had this embarrassment coming.  
With a fresh seri
es against the Brewers coming up this week, I plan on returning to my summer home to catch some more baseball. We all have a special place where we need to go to take time off, relax and be entertained. For ten years, PNC Park has been my spot. With 78 more home games to go I plan on enjoying every single one I get to go to, win or lose. 
photo credits: pirates.com, nydailynews.com
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