Results tagged ‘ Reds ’

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.

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

Building to the model

baseball-salary-cap.jpgI remember seeing a sign at PNC Park in 2002 that read “Small Market Domination.”
The Pirates started out 5-2 that year so obviously that sentiment was a bit premature. It got people excited, though. A winner was in Pittsburgh and to get off on the right foot like that fueled some excitement that has long lacked in the Western Pennsylvania baseball community.
It is still not there today.

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Other small market areas, however, have found their their happy place with baseball. Minnesota, Tampa Bay and this past year, Cincinnati were successful despite the economic restraints placed upon them. Minnesota has one of the best run organizations in the game with their knack for competing year in and year out. It remains to be seen if Tampa Bay will remain with its head above water as key

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 departures this past season such as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena have left to bigger areas. Cincinnati has a nice core in place with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce bolstering the line up. It should see the same post season strides like the Twins and Rays before it. 
These three teams have something in common. Their use of the draft.

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With lineups predominately filled with players homegrown through the farm system, the Twins, Rays and Reds have all took their rime with a unique path towards the top. All three teams made the playoffs last year thanks to these young players that have risen through the system, but it wasn’t just those players that got the respective teams to prominence. They had to go out and spend some money.
The Twins added Carl Pavano to their pitching staff. He not only got the job done on the mound, he won over the fan base with his phenomenal mustache. Jim Thome also helped in garnering attention. For the Rays it was Pat Burrell and Cliff Floyd that helped anchor a potent offensive threat. Cincinnati, on the other hand remained fairly quiet. Alrodis Chapman was their big money investment, though. It was his stellar pitching that ultimately positioned the Reds for a spot in the 2010 playoffs. 
For the past three years Neil Huntington has been the general manager of the Pirates. During these three tumultuous seasons he has cited the aforementioned teams as being a model for Pittsburgh to build off. 
They have.
With aggressive spending in the draft the Pirates have acquired top talent and could be seen as having some of the youngest players with the most potential compared to any low farm system across the majors. 
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Keeping with the plan that once the upper level prospects reach the major league level and show signs of success, then the free agent market will be attacked with the few missing pieces the team needs to contend. The Reds, Twins and Rays have all utilized their money properly with sufficient going to free agents, but still remaining loyal to their own homegrown players. The Pirates are taking this route, too with Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez all taking great strides at the major league level last year.
One team this off-season has taken a different approach.
The Orioles have one of the best young pitching staffs in the BO.jpg
game, today. As of late, they now have a lineup that mirrors a classic Yankees roster. With its aggressive stance in the Free Agent pool the Orioles have added Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. hardy and Derek Lee to accompany their own Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. While this hungry spending spree may pay off, it will be tough to compete, as always in the American League East. While some may argue that they are at least a year from reaching its competitive potential, the Orioles set out to silence the critics by going against the grain and landing some of the hottest free agents this off-season. 
They spent money. 
It is not exactly the plan the Pirates are heading on. As they finished with near identical records last year, the Orioles feel now is their time. It’s different strokes for different folks because Pittsburgh is still premature in its development. 
I applaud the Orioles for their plan, but Huntington will still laud to the Twins, Rays and Reds as the Pirates blueprint towards success.
I don’t blame him. 
photo credits: yublog.com, nodaktwinsfan.com, sportsblog.projo.com, cobf.mlblogs.com, piratesprospects.com, sportslogos.com

Happy Halladays to start the postseason

In a somewhat sarcastic way I proclaimed on October 5th that the Reds would not get a hit throughthe NLDS against the Philies.

 

halladay.jpgSo far so good huh.

There was not a better way to script the opening day of the postseason than the first playoff no hitter since Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1962.

So close to a perfect game too. Unbelievable. And to do it twice in one year simply baffles me. Just imagine if Roy Halladay happened to be out of Toronto for more of his career. He could possibly be one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history. He still has a lot of gas in the tank and judging by this season alone he has punched his ticket to Cooperstown. A first ballot hall of famer in my book.

One game that may hold him out could very well be May 18, 2010.

He lost to the Pirates.

Zach Duke went toe-to-toe with the Philadelphia ace in a 2-1 ballgame where both pitchers
halladay1.jpg went the complete game. It was one of the most precise games the Pirates put together in 2010 and the best contest of Duke’s wretched year.

As I type this the game in Minnesota is going swimmingly well for the Twins. Something to say that I am pleased to see. Francisco Liriano is pitching masterfully.

Pitching has been a common theme when discussing the highs of the 2010 MLB season. So far it looks like the playoffs are going to be no exception. Cliff Lee shut down the Rays this afternoon. Halladay had a freaking no hitter. Liriano is coasting right now.

Tomorrow presents a new day with two similiar teams pinned against each other. It is sure to be anothers pitchers duel as Tim Lincecum faces Derek Lowe.

When it comes to picking a team to root for in the postseason, it hasn’t been the easiest thing. Last year I chose the Dodgers because of my good blogging friends Emma and Cat were so very kind to me. This season is a bit trickier, but not really. I am sticking with the NL West theme and will be adorning the orange and black.

 

sf.jpgI’ve always liked the logo and color scheme. The city is one of a kind. The ballpark blew me away. Besides those intangibles the Giants also offer something special for the playoff run, one of my favorite players of all time.

FREDDY.jpgFreddy Sanchez.

His time in Pittsburgh was headlined by a batting title in 2006 but what may have been overshadowed was his hospitality. Sanchez is a class act and was always a fan favorite. His work ethic and gritty glove work is topped only by his consistent bat. He is finally overcoming injuries that have haunted his whole career and he is showing he belongs in an everday lineup, especially on a contending team.

Nobody deserves the honor of winning games in the post season than Freddy Sanchez.

Go Giants!

photos: ap, yahoo.com

The brooms are out in Pittsburgh…and Morgantown

broom-1.jpgRaise the jolly roger and sweep PNC Park clean. The Pirates are on a roll and not looking back.

Saturday and Sunday were two games that could make any baseball fan happy. The Pirates came from behind for a walkoff win on Saturday. On Sunday the Bucs got out on top early and sustained the lead until the end.

Raise your hand if your team is .500!

ClassroomGirlHandRaised.jpgThat little girl must be a Pirate fan because we are 7-5. Yes, its April and yes there are 150 games to be played but I will jump at any chance to get excited and the Pirates are giving me that chance right now.

 

gfj walkoff.jpgIt was like deja vu all over again. Thanks for the line Yogi Berra!

The Buccos were destined for a loss on Saturday. Being down 43 in the bottom of the ninth with Francisco Cordero called upon for the save.

I thought we were done for.

Cordero is 4-for-4 in saves opportunities this year and is listed 27th on the all-time closers list.

Can’t you see why I thought we were done for?

But Cordero was erratic. Ryan Church laced a single to left, Ronny Cedeno walked and Lastings Milledge Walked. Garrett Jones stepped to the plate, battling a slump. Jones has been dissapointing fantasy owners everywhere with his lack of power which was expected after his monstrous opening day. He did come through with a hit off the wall to win the ballgame.

 I was not able to watch the Pirate game on Sunday as I was covering the West Virginia baseball game. The 12th ranked Louisville Cardinals brought their own brooms to Morgantown and beat the Mountaineers up and down.

jedd2.jpgU of L beat WVU in the three game series. It was a sweep that the Mountaineers knew was probable coming into the weekend.

Louisville has one of the best pitching staffs in the country. On Sunday I had the pleasure of watching Gabriel Shaw mow down the Mountaineers. In seven innings he struck out six batters allowing just five hits.

Jedd Gyorko, pictured left, drove in the only run for West Virginia. Gyorko is a Morgantown native and high on many experts draft lists. He is a shortstop who will be picked up in the June draft, more than likely in the first few rounds.

Even though I was not watching the Pirates game, 13,860 at PNC Park did. The Buccos jumped out early and produced hits throughout the ballgame. Paul Maholm had a no hitter through four innings and looked the best he has all season. Octavio Dotel picked up the save even after surrendering a homerun to Jay Bruce, who hit two.

Backup catcher Jason Jaramillo brought in three runs with a double in the fifth inning. Jones struggled again, not reaching base in the game.

The Pirates remain at home to face the Brewers this week. Standing just a half game out of first place in the NL Central. This is a big series if the Pirates hope to keep their heads over water in the division and to sustain .500.

photo credit: freeclipartnow.com, nordinho.net, postgazette.com, msnsportsnet.com

A little Buccos magic to beat the Reds

 

reds game 016.jpgThe Pirates may be at .500, but I have yet to lose. In my second trip to PNC Park this Spring the Bucs have not dissapointed winning the pair of games. Not only did the Pirates treat my friends and I to a gem of a ballgame, the city of Pittsburgh did as well.

reds game 003.jpgFrom Morgantown we arrived in Pittsburgh around 4 o’clock. The drive up to the city was probably the worst conditions I have ever had the displeasure of driving through. The winds combined with rain, combined with debris flying from cars was absolutely horrendous. I was legit scared but kept my cool and we made it.

It has been a plan of ours to check out the Andy Warhol Museum sometime before a Pirate game. We got the opportunity on Friday for only 4 bucks. The museum is just a two minute walk from PNC Park right on the North Shore. After paying and walking to the first exhibit I
balloons.jpg realized this was not my scene.

Now I did appreciate the artwork, I guess just not enough. It was trippy, weird and sometimes disturbing. I wouldn’t pay more than four dollars for the experience again. The coolest part was the room with floating metallic ballons. I could have stayed in there for hours.

When we walked through the gates of PNC Park the song “Centerfield” by John Fogerty was playing. The same song that was played in the same exact moment Opening Day. I love this song and really puts me in the mood for baseball!

From the concourse we were greeted with this albatross.

 

reds game 007.jpgThe tarp covered the field as it was lightly drizzling. The clouds parted and it was actually sunny for a good half hour.

 

reds game 017.jpgThe rain eventually picked up to torrential downpour form, we would have to wait out a 70 minute rain delay.

In the meantime the “Milledge People” were setting up shop before the hard rains came.

reds game 004.jpgLast year some buddies and I made a sign for leftfielder Nyjer Morgan. “Morgantown” it read. When Lastings Milledge was acquired we had speculated about doing the same in the form of a “Milledge People” sign. Well, these guys beat us to the punch and sure did pull it off well.

Speaking of Lastings, here is rocking the number 42 jersey.

reds game 011.jpgEven though Jackie Robinson Day was technically yesterday, the Pirates had the day off. I was glad to see the whole team, even the Reds, wearing the number 42. This was my first Jackie Robinson Day I have ever attended. It was also a Lastings Milledge Day.

 

First off, Zach Duke pitched fantastic. Seven innings of not allowing a run and surrendering just six hits, it was a gem. After a leadoff walk in the 7th, he was pulled and the Pirates releievers collectively gave up three runs. It was sad for Zach because he was shooting for his third wn of the season. The win was given to Octavio Dotel after Milledge’s walk off hit to score Andrew McCutchen in the bottom of the 9th.

I as too excited to snap a picture but here is one from the Associated Press and Pittsburgh Post Gazeette showing the team’s jubilation.

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