Thank you, Chicago

Just when everything looked as hopeless as it has ever looked this season, the Pirates got a chance to go to the well versus the only team they’ve found any success against this year: The Cubs.

Ended: Six game losing streak. 17 game road losing streak. A Pirates starting pitcher recorded an out in the 8th inning for the first time this year.

Continued: Domination versus the Cubs (8-2). Losing a second baseman to a concussion from a collision with the right fielder in consecutive series.

Milledge has to call off Crosby for that ball. I like how he’s hitting but the mental errors are killing me and costing the team runs every game. I was very surprised to see Delwyn Young brought in to play second; it seemed like the perfect time to get Andy LaRoche into a game at 2B to get his feet wet.

Just a reminder: If you don’t already follow me on twitter @TheRealDavidK, I have an account that I use just to post updates to the blog: @643Putout.

Pedro Alvarez news and lineup chaos.

Big news from last night’s post-game show with Rocco DeMaro: GM Neal Huntington confirmed that when Pedro Alvarez is called up he will play third base and Andy LaRoche will go to a bench/utility role. This is not entirely surprising as NH has always said that he didn’t want to devalue Pedro by moving him to another position unless he had to but this is the first confirmation I’ve heard or read.

I fully expect Alvarez to be recalled for the next home stand starting Tuesday.  The everyday lineup should then look like this:

Behold my awesome MS paint skills

Not too bad. One more power hitter at 1B/RF and it would look a lot better. Now given that lineup potential, why would John Russell do this tonight:

McCutchen CF
Walker 3B
Doumit 1B
Jones RF
Church DH
Milledge LF
Iwamura 2B
Cedeno SS
Jaramillo C

No Tabata? Church DHing? Doumit NOT DHing? Iwamura playing? Let’s tackle these individually.

Jose Tabata is a 21 and has been in the bigs for three days. Word from the Pirates (via Rocco) is that Tabata is just getting a day off. He’s played two games! More truthful would be saying “Justin Verlander is starting and we don’t think Jose’s ready to face someone that nasty.”

Ryan Church doesn’t need to be in the game at DH. He had one week last month where he was the only one who was hitting and now JR is in love with him. My guess is that he’s still regaining his strength after a nasty stomach flu and this is JR’s way to get his bat in there while taking it easy on him. But there’s no excuse for that when…

…You have your good bat/no glove catcher playing out of position at first base. If Doumit’s not going to catch he should be DHing. Barring that, Delwyn Young – who is as mobile as a road cone – who be a better choice at DH.

Finally there is Iwamura. I posted about his struggles last month and nothing improved after that. Luckily Walker was promoted and has hit well and been very athletic at second. I expect Aki is in because he’s more familiar with Verlander. Also, Andy LaRoche’s back has been a problem and he hasn’t hit at all lately either.

That’s the end of my lineup rant. If you’re still with me then thanks for reading. For all I know these guys could go hit six homeruns tonight and run away with the game. It isn’t likely but anything is possible in a single game.

Trust your eyes

I hope you all had a good extended weekend and spent the time happily with family and friends. I was able to squeeze in the Pirates/Braves game on Sunday between going camping for the first time in 25 years and regular Memorial Day and birthday celebrations yesterday. Since the game happened two days ago and details are readily available elsewhere, I’ll stick to my impressions of what I saw in the team.

  • Aki Iwamura is slow. From my vantage point his first step was nearly non-existent, meaning he had trouble getting to anything not hit within 6 feet on either side of where he sets up. Bucs Dugout has some video and discussion of pre-injury Aki vs. post-injury Aki here and here. Late in the game John Russell made a double switch, taking Iwamura out, sliding Neil Walker to 2B and bringing in Andy LaRoche. Yesterday the Pirates made the move official saying Walker would be the starting 2B for the foreseeable future. I applaud this decision heartily.
  • I was a little disappointed to see Delwyn Young starting, but just confused to see him in right field with Garrett Jones moving to left. I have yet to read any explanation for this anywhere online. DY made some nice diving catches, but I feel a more fleet-footed outfielder could have gotten under the batted balls earlier – turning them into routine plays.
  • Nice to see Jeff Clement hit a game-tying homer. He’s been hitting the ball better lately in limited opportunities. I was again confused (note the theme) why Russell would bring in Bobby Crosby to pinch-hit in the ninth. Clement had been the only offense so far in the game, hits better vs. lefties (Billy Wagner was pitching), and I’d bet has better bat speed than Crosby. It probably didn’t matter because Wagner was lights out but I say you should let Clement hit there. Give him a chance to face one of the best closers of the past fifteen years.
  • Paul Maholm had a good/bad outing. He was never overpowering and got into a lot of trouble (6 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 5 K) but he fought through some very tough spots – including a bases loaded, no outs situation – and only gave up 2 runs. At the risk of slipping into further cliche’s, it was a gutty if unimpressive performance.
  • Joel Hanrahan pitched a dominant seventh. I was surprised to see him come back out to pitch the 8th and even more surprised the Russell let him pitch to Chipper Jones. Jones’ 2-RBI single was the result of the ball falling in the only open spot between Garrett Jones and Ronny Cedeno. The pitch itself was inside and had lots of movement breaking towards Chipper’s knees. Chipper did a good job fighting it off.
  • Jason Jaramillo caught instead of Ryan Doumit. If only there was someway to combine these two we’d have a heck of a catcher. Dewey’s bat was missed but it was nice seeing strong, on target throws to second and no passed balls.

The Pirate’s loss on Sunday meant being swept by the Braves so I’m probably happier having not gone to all three games.

The week ahead: Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate the Indianapolis Indians are playing in nearby Gwinnett this week. Early plans have me going to games on Wednesday and Thursday. I’m looking forward to adding first hand glimpses of Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata to the accounts above. As always you can follow me on Twitter for in game comments and the occasional picture.

Also, Georgia Tech was awarded the #8 national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament. They’ll be hosting regional games this weekend, starting Friday night at 7pm vs. Mercer. The winner will face the winner of Alabama and Elon. I plan on hitting a game on either Saturday or Sunday and, again, will post pictures and comments to twitter.

Weekend Wrapup, Odds and Ends

I had an awesome weekend.  First, I spent Friday night playing poker and hanging out with friends. Saturday evening we celebrated my Dad’s birthday with barbecue and baseball. Dad was happy to see Miami win, I was happy that Georgia Tech won the other two games of the series to move into second place in the ACC. Yes, I sang “Dead Skunk” with pride and the awesome girlfriend sang along with me. Sunday I made an impromptu trip to see some AAA ball. Nothing of note happened in the game and Braves’ top prospect 1B Freddie Freeman got the day off, but its still always great to sit out in the sun at a ballgame.

Following up on Friday’s post, Aki Iwamura now has a “sore hamstring.” He’s not expected to need to go on the DL, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him held out for a few days, then placed on the DL May 20 with Neil Walker being recalled. Delwyn Young is starting at 2B and batting leadoff tonight. Check my twitter account on the left, along with Extra Innings host Rocco DeMaro and Pittsburgh Lumber Co.’s Matt Bandi for a short discussion on lineup construction.

The Pirates came within 2 innings of sweeping the Cubs. They are currently 16-21 and in third place. The Cubs are a half game back in fourth, meaning that this season is the best shot I’ve had in years to win my annual bet with my friend Keith, noted Cubs fan and closet mime.

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