Results tagged ‘ Rockies ’

‘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. 

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

Clint Hurdle is the man for the job

 

clint1.jpgIn what Pirates President Frank Coonelly called an “exhaustive search process,” the Pittsburgh baseball club has their man.

Hurdle comes to the Steel City after being a part of two of the last three World Series. The batting coach for the Rangers, who happened to have the league’s highest team batting average is notoriously known for his tenure as manager of the Colorado Rockies. He was at the helm of the Rockies from 2002 until the beginning of 2009. In that time span he oversaw the development of young prospects such as Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki, Clint Barmes, Garett Atkins and Matt Holliday. That litany of potential is rivaled by that of the crop of youngsters the Pirates currently have now and the likes that are rising through the system.

clint2.jpg The experience and track record of Hurdle are one thing, but there are plenty more characteristics to attribute to this well rounded man.

Hurdle exudes confidence.

Even the harshest critics of the Pirates buy into the demeaner of Hurdle.

Ahem, Ron Cook.

Cook said, “He’s better than the franchise deserves.”

Hurdle has already implemented catchphrases that the Pirates marketing team needs to play on.

Describing his team as a “wolfpack,” Hurdle said he plans for everyone involved with the organization to go “all in.”

I’ve been all in 21 years of my life, Clint. I’m ready for more to join me.

Aside from his on the field duties, Hurdle is a family man.

His family of four is a tight-knit groupe for good reasons. His daughter suffers from Prader-Willi
clint3.jpg syndrome, a disease with 1 in 25,000 probability. Hurdle said a big reason why he chose the Pittsburgh job was to be close to specialized medical facilites in the city that cater especially to patients with the rare syndrome.

All in all, Hurdle took the job to meet objectives. He wante dto get back into managing and had a chance to take the Mets job. Both New York and Pittsburgh are in rebuilding situations but there is just something lucrative about bringing a forgotten team back to prominence. Hurdle sees that and wants to be the man to right the ship.

He has already began a grassroots campaign in Pittsburgh since it was announced he would be hired. Hurdle was seen Sunday at the Steelers game and Monday at the Penguins games. The Pirates play third fiddle in Pittsburgh so its good that Hurdle is petitioning for some noteriety. In the business thats called good public relations.

The Pirates really haven’t seen that in the last three, make the 18 years.

photo credits:postgazette.com, yahoo.com

 

You just can’t script something like this

You always hear of the miracles and magic associated with sports.

But how often do we truly believe it?

I admit I have been skeptical, after all my two favorite sports teams always seem to drop the ball; West Virginia football and of course the 17 straight losing season club known as the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, Saturaday night changed all of that. It took an extra inning baseball game to sell me with the iniative that sports dreams do come true, thanks to a miracle and a sprinkle of magic.

You see it all started Friday.

My brother and I had been looking forward to attending the Friday night Pirate game all season long. It was Andrew McCutchen bobblehead night, the only bobblehead night at PNC Park all year. We had plans to meet up with my best friend Andrew in Pittsburgh to share a nice night at the ballpark.

Instead we shared in what would be the last night with my ailing grandfather. Papaw Peaslee had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this summer and his timetable of life was greatly shortened. He passed away Saturday morning.

As sad and troublesome as it is to lose a loved one you must first celebrate the life and be happy that the suffering is over.

Papaw Peaslee was a hard working man all his life. He was a farmer who raised cattle for a living and he was darn good at it. As a city boy I rarely took interest in this lifestyle but still entrusted in the skills he taught me and the work ethic my father taught me through the hands of his father.

We did share the love of sports and especially Pirates baseball. He would take my dad to many games throughout the years at Forbes Field in the 60′s. I always hear the stories of how he would reach through wire fences to catch foul balls. My father and papaw witnessed the first night World Series game ever at Three Rivers Stadium in 1971. They also shared in the first Opening Day ever at PNC Park in 2001. I unfortubately was unable to attend due to the chicken pox.

When I would visit him this summer we would talk about the Pirate’s struggles and how frustrating it is to see them lose nearly night in and night out. However, through the thick and thin we always remained the most die hard of fans. Although he never got to see a winning season at PNC Park I think he had a little something to do with that Saturday’s dramatic win in Pittsburgh.

Down by two in the bottom of the tenth inning the Pirate began a little rally with Andrew McCutchen lacing a double off the center field wall. Jose Tabata drew a walk. A pair of batters later Pedro Alvarez stepped to the plate. 

He drilled a pitch into the right field bleachers. A walk off home run.

 Something inside me knew something special was about to happen. My family shared the same sentiments as the Pirate announcers as tears flew down our faces.

“That was for Papaw!” we all said. It was true, Alvarez did that for Papaw. Although we were not at the game I still think that game and that moment will go down as one of if not the most memorable sports moment in my life. After the game manager John Russell even said,

“The heavens must have looked down and said enough is enough.”

We all think Papaw had something to do with it.

Thank you Pedro for making the roughest moment in anyones life a little more tolerable. 

pedrowalkoff.jpgphoto credit: post-gazette.com

Did somebody say McDonald?

jmac1.jpgThey say first impressions mean everything.

James McDonald’s first impression with Pirates fans was as beautiful as his performance on the mound.

Pittsburgh defeated the Rockies 5-1 thanks in part to the Southern Califonia native’s stunning debut.

McDonald went six full innings allowing just four hits and one walk. The golden number for McDonald on Thursday was eight.

The newly acquired Bucco struck out the side to start the first inning. Came out firing in the second mowing down two more and at one point after facing just seven batters McDonald fanned six of them.

I was very excited to turn on FSN Pittsburgh to watch his debut. Las Angeles used him mostly as a reliever but the 25 year old has been fairly touted throughout his career as a future starter. I was proud of the Pirate’s decision to give him the starting nod and all who watched the game cheering for the black and gold were pleased as well.

jmac2.jpgWhile I was excited I was also nervous. Listening to the pre game show on TV McDonald seemed very timid and not sure of himself. He was very soft spoken and only talked in that “player speak” giving vague responses.

He let his pitching to the talking.

What is even more impressing is that his battery mate is also new to the club. It’s not like he was throwing to someone he was used to or somebody within the organization who is used to the ways and tendencies of PNC Park.

McDonald solidified himself as the Pirate’s ace with his masterful start tonight. He has earned a spot in a struggling rotation and has the potential to be the leader that trickles strong starts into other pitchers.

PHOTO CREDITS: Gene Puskar, espn.com

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