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An unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates blog

Updated: 2017-04-24T23:39:26-04:00


Pirates snowed under early in 14-3 loss



The park was cold and mostly empty when this one started. An avalanche of Cubs hits and Pirates defensive mistakes led to ten runs in the first three innings. In the fifth, the Pirates made wholesale substitutions and surrendered. It was a miserable night, an ugly game and it's all best forgotten. The final score was 14-3.

Chad Kuhl retired the first two outs of the game before walking Anthony Rizzo.  With Ben Zobrist batting, Rizzo stole second after starting his jump while Kuhl was still in the set position. It was yet the latest example of Pirates pitchers doing a poor job controlling the running game.

"14 different people yelled from the dugout and the infield," Clint Hurdle said. "It's not the first time it's happened to us. it's something we're well aware of and need to improve upon off the mound. We haven't figured that one out yet."

With Rizzo on second, Kuhl walked Zobrist. Addison Russell knocked a single and Rizzo came around to score. It was close play at the plate, but Francisco Cervelli dropped the ball while making the tag. Jason Heyward followed with a three-run homer and the Cubs were out to a quick 4-0 lead.

In the second, the Cubs peppered right field with four hits, including one that went right off Jose Osuna's glove, as he chased a fly ball to the wall. When all was said and done, the Cubs had posted five more runs.

"Chad [Kuhl] didn't have his best stuff tonight," Hurdle said. "There's a catchable ball in right field that we didn't catch with the bases loaded that complicated things."

Kuhl only made it through 1.2 innings and allowed eight hits and nine runs. He walked four and struck out one.

"You have to look at tonight as one of those things that happens in baseball," Kuhl said. "Can't be a slave to the numbers and ERA, because this is just going to skew it for a while. It's just about going out there and being the pitcher I can be for my teammates."

The Cubs scored another run in the third after Cervelli dropped another throw to the plate. They tacked on four more runs the rest of the way.

Antonio Bastardo pitched 1.1 innings after the game was out of reach and allowed a run, two walks and three hits. He was, once again, very inefficient, throwing 39 pitches in his short stint. Over his last two outings he's thrown a combined 76 pitches in 2.2 innings pitched.

In total, there were four poor defensive plays in the first three innings. Although the blame for this one can't all be laid at the feet of the defense, as the Cubs hit Kuhl early and often, it was yet another terribly sloppy effort from the Pirates defenders. The team now leads the league in both errors (19) and stolen bases allowed (20). With the offense the Pirates are throwing out there every night, there is no way this club competes without an elite, shutdown defense, and that is nowhere to be seen.

On a positive note, Osuna went 3-for-4 and came a home run short of a cycle.

Dovydas Neverauskas became the first Lithuanian to pitch in a major league game tonight. He went two innings, allowed a run and struck out one.

"It was awesome," Neverauskas said of the experience. "It's the moment I've waited for. It happened, and I was really excited."

Cannonballs coming: Trae Arbet hits fourth HR



Indianapolis and Bradenton were both off.

— Altoona (10-7) topped Erie, 3-1, in 12 innings. Starter Alex McRae gave up one run, on a solo HR, over six innings. He allowed six hits and didn’t walk or strike out anybody. The outing lowered his ERA to 1.99 in four starts. The Curve continued to struggle on offense, generating little for seven innings. They finally got on the board without a hit in the eighth, thanks to a walk and two errors, but also got runners thrown out stealing in the eighth and ninth, and botched a sacrifice attempt in the 12th. The Curve were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position until Pablo Reyes hit a two-out, two-run single in the top of the 12th. Reyes also scored Altoona’s other run. Miguel Rosario and Tate Scioneaux each threw three scoreless innings in relief. Scioneaux fanned four and got the win. Kevin Newman went 0-5 and is in a 4-for-24 slide.

Kevin Kramer: 2-5, 3 K
Connor Joe: 1-3, 2 BB

— West Virginia (8-11) lost to Charleston, 6-5. Blake Cederlind (pictured) made his first start of the season. He was last year’s fifth round draft pick out of junior college, but his debut was cut short by forearm tightness. He was still on a limited pitch count, probably of about 65, and likely will be limited all year. Cederlind pitched well for two innings, but started losing the strike zone in the third. He ended up going three and two-thirds, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. He fanned three and threw 36 of 64 pitches for strikes. Trae Arbet hit his fourth HR, which led to some ridiculous behavior, especially at that level. The opposing pitcher, who wasn’t even the one who allowed the HR, threw at Arbet twice his next time up, hitting him the second time and getting himself and his manager ejected. The Power ultimately failed to hold an early lead as reliever Matt Eckelman ran into control problems.

Stephen Alemais: 0-3
Ty Moore: 2-4 (batting .411 in 13 games since being activated due to Victor Fernandez’ injury)

Pirates DL Adam Frazier, promote Dovydas Neverauskas



The Pirates have placed utility man Adam Frazier on the ten-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. They replaced him on the active roster with right-handed reliever Dovydas Neverauskas.

Despite his struggles on defense, Frazier’s loss is yet another blow to the team’s anemic offense, which ranks near the bottom of MLB in nearly everything. Frazier is batting 306/370/449, making him second on the team in OPS, unless you count Chris Stewart’s 11 plate appearances. The move also leaves the team with a short bench, something it seems to play with at every opportunity. Of course, production off the bench has been so horrific so far this year, apart from Frazier, that you could argue that it makes no difference.

On the plus side, if/when he appears in a game, Neverauskas will be the first native of Lithuania to play in the majors. He’s been pitching well in AAA, allowing no runs, four hits and three walks in eight and a third innings, with seven strikeouts. With Antonio Bastardo off-limits in any game that’s still in doubt, and Trevor Williams slotted for long relief, the Pirates could probably use another option in short relief. Of course, they could just rid themselves of Bastardo, but that’s another issue.

Game thread: Chad Kuhl faces Cubs



Here are the lineups for tonight’s 7:05 game.

Kyle Schwarber LF
Kris Bryant 3B
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Ben Zobrist RF
Addison Russell SS
Jason Heyward CF
Miguel Montero C
Brett Anderson P
Javier Baez 2B

Jordy Mercer SS
Josh Harrison 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Gregory Polanco LF
David Freese 3B
Francisco Cervelli C
Jose Osuna RF
Josh Bell 1B
Chad Kuhl P

Postgame: Neal Huntington willing to look externally for outfield help


Huntington willing to add to roster During his weekly Sunday meeting with the press, Neal Huntington said the organization is open to looking at external outfield options but, at least for now, Austin Meadows will not be promoted. "We love Austin Meadows," Huntington said. "Austin Meadows is not the answer right now. Our hope is that he will be ready to be an answer for us at some point this season." Externally, the Pirates are prepared to make "realistic" and "practical" moves to improve the team. To date, however, Huntington said they "haven't found any" upgrades. He noted that, historically, impactful trades don't happen until late May. "We get the angst," Huntington said. "We get the concern. Unfortunately, in a small market there is going to be angst and concern about a number of things. It is up to us to put people in a position to be successful." Of course, the source of all the angst and concern is the loss of Starling Marte for half of the season. Huntington said the organization was "blindsided" by the news and had no prior knowledge of the suspension. By union contract, only the player is told of a failed test and the organization is not notified until after the appeals process. The Pirates continue to work through the "timing and dates" for Marte to head down to Pirate City in Bradenton to work out and play in extended spring training games. In Marte's absence, Andrew McCutchen has made no secret of his enthusiasm at returning to center field. After a fine catch in St. Louis, he pounded his chest and yelled "This is my spot." McCutchen's demonstrative displays are welcomed by Huntington: "[We] Support it," Huntington said. "We moved him because we felt like we had a guy that would make our outfield better. Not because we didn't think Andrew could play center field. The narrative contrary to that is wrong. We believe Marte was our best center fielder and Andrew was our best right fielder, given that construct. ... He is playing with energy. He is playing with passion. And that is a great thing. Nova bails out offense The Pirates starting rotation is quickly evolving into an area of great strength and, boy, does this team need it. Although the offense was more unopportuntistic than it was dormant Sunday afternoon, it was still only able to manage two runs. The problem is slugging, where the Pirates rank last in the National League, and that doesn't figure to improve much. The team has managed only 15 home runs through 18 games. Ivan Nova was rock solid again. He was only dinged for a solo home run over seven very efficient innings (87 pitches, 58 strikes). It is Nova's fourth quality start in as many games. Combined, Chad Kuhl, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Nova have now accumulated 12 quality starts over 15 games. "We have a really good group of guys," Nova said of the Pirates staff. "They are really smart. They know what they need to do. Those are really good guys." After the game, the New York media was front and center in media scrum around Nova. They asked the right-hander if he thought the Yankees had given up on him too early. "What can I tell you about it, man?" Nova said. "It's business. I always say, I'm not a GM. Whatever happens, happens, man." Nova threw 18 first pitch strikes on his way to accumulating seven strike outs. He walked one (his first of the season) and allowed four hits. "I don't know if it's the best [command we've seen from him]," Clint Hurdle said. "It's really good. He's done some good work here." The one walk Nova allowed was to Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery. Ninth inning tension The Pirates squandered opportunities early, leaving men at third in both the first and second innings. On the day, they loaded the bases twice and only scored one run. Hanging on to a one-run lead in the ninth, Tony Watson allowed a one out single and then a walk. Ronald Torreyes followed with a routine grounder to second that Josh Harrison bobbled and, suddenly, the bases were [...]

Cannonballs coming: Farm teams win a pair of blowouts


— Drew Hutchison recovered from a rough start to throw five innings as Indianapolis (5-12) won for just the third time in their last 15 games, 4-2, over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Struggling with his control — he ultimately needed 98 pitches to go five — Hutchison gave up two runs in the first. After the first two batters reached in the second, one of them on an error, he recovered to strike out the side. He then retired the side in order the next three innings. In all, he gave up two hits and two walks, and fanned five. Cody Dickson, Johnny Barbato and Edgar Santana then combined for four perfect innings in relief. The offense managed seven hits, with Chris Bostick, who’s been about the only decent hitter on the team so far, went 2-4. Max Moroff: 0-2, 2 BBAustin Meadows: 1-4Elias Diaz: 1-4Gift Ngoepe: 1-3, BB — Some of the stats from Altoona’s (9-7) game with Akron would make you think surely the Curve won. They outhit Akron, 9-3. They also drew four walks, while their pitchers fanned 15. But an inability to plate runners (sound familiar?) and a fourth-inning control meltdown by Yeudy Garcia led to a 6-1 loss. Garcia started off looking like he’d turned things around. After walking the leadoff hitter, he retired nine straight, fanning seven of them. And he got two strikeouts after the first two batters reached in the fourth. But then he walked two, forcing in one run, and served up a grand slam. That ended his day after three and two-thirds innings, with five runs allowed on just two hits. He walked four and fanned nine. The offense, meanwhile, went about stranding runners, scoring only when Kevin Newman and Michael Suchy hit back-to-back doubles. Buddy Borden and Sean Keselica fanned another six in four and a third innings of relief. Newman: 1-5Kevin Kramer: 2-5Jordan Luplow: 1-4Wyatt Mathisen: 1-3, 2B, BB — Bradenton (10-8) pounded Jupiter, 11-2. Every player in the lineup had a hit. Logan Hill was 3-5 with a double and three RBIs. Casey Hughston (pictured) hit a three-run HR, his first longball of the year. Trace Tam Sing went 2-4 with a double and his first HR. Pedro Vasquez threw six shutout innings, allowing five hits and a walk, with two strikeouts. Mitchell Tolman: 1-5Christian Kelley: 1-3, BBKe’Bryan Hayes: 2-5, 2B — West Virginia (8-10) dropped the first game of a doubleheader with Lakewood, 2-1. James Marvel had a good start allowing just one run in five and a third innings. He gave up five hits and a walk, and fanned five. The offense managed just four hits, two by Alexis Bastardo. Stephen Alemais: 1-3, BB The Power bounced back with a 12-1 rout in the second game. Oddy Nunez had his second straight strong start. His pitch limit appears to be 65, due to his very limited experience, but he allowed just a run on three hits and a walk over four innings. He fanned six. Nunez’ first two starts went badly, but the second one was entirely the product of horrible defense. He’s worth watching. Carlos Munoz and Trae Arbet each went 2-3 with three RBIs. Munoz had his third HR and a walk, Arbet a double. Chris Harvey also drove in three. Ty Moore: 1-2, 2 BBHunter Owen: 2-3, 3 R [...]

Ivan Nova throttles his old team in 2-1 win



Ivan Nova continued to look another in a line of remarkable Yankee gifts to the Pirates, dominating his old team in a 2-1 nail-biting win.

Nova allowed just one run, on a seventh-inning HR by Jacoby Ellsbury, over seven innings. He gave up just four hits and a walk, his first walk of the season, oddly to the opposing pitcher. Nova fanned seven, even beginning the game by striking out the side in the first, and he contributed a nice defensive play in snaring a liner by Greg Bird. The Yankees never got a runner to third against Nova and the one time they got two on base, he got a double play grounder to end the inning.

The Pirates’ offense, meanwhile, continued its hair-pulling inability to get runners across the plate. They managed to take an early lead in typically disappointing fashion after loading the bases with nobody out in the first. Gregory Polanco fanned, David Freese hit a sacrifice fly, and Jose Osuna popped up. Chris Stewart improbably hit his first career triple in the second with one out, but Nova was easily victimized for a strikeout and Jordy Mercer stranded the runner. The offense got another brief respite from futility in the third when Gregory Polanco ripped a double into the right-field corner, scoring Andrew McCutchen, who’d walked and who showed his speed isn’t yet a thing of the past. Polanco for his part was 2-4, which is a good sign from a crucial player who’s done very little all year.

From there, the Pirates went about their standard procedure of missing chances, finishing 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Singles in the fourth, fifth and sixth, two of them leading off, just led to double plays. A single and two walks in the seventh loaded the bases with none out for a second time, but the Pirates got nothing.

With the offense again in sleep mode, the bullpen once again had to be perfect to preserve a win. They didn’t make it easy, nor did the defense. In the eighth, Daniel Hudson gave up a single and a walk with one out, then after a pop up he wild pitched them up. He rescued the situation, though, by fanning Starlin Castro with a high, hard one. Things got even hairier in the ninth. Tony Watson — whose advanced stats are, to put it mildly, very ugly — managed to get a line out to start the inning, but like Hudson then gave up a single and a walk, the latter after getting ahead 0-2 on Matt Holliday. A Josh Harrison error on a force play then loaded the bases, but Watson fanned Aaron Hicks on three pitches. Thankfully, that brought up the weak-hitting Pete Kozma, who’d entered the game as a pinch runner. Watson still managed to fall behind, 2-0, but Kozma helpfully chased the next pitch and grounded out to give Watson his sixth in a series of shaky saves.

So for the first time a Pirates series didn’t end in a sweep, but at least they won a series from the Evil Empire. Tomorrow they host the Cubs.

Game thread: Ivan Nova faces Yankees



Here are the lineups for today’s 1:35 game.

Brett Gardner LF
Chase Headley 3B
Starlin Castro 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Aaron Judge RF
Greg Bird 1B
Ronald Torreyes SS
Kyle Higashioka C
Jordan Montgomery P

Jordy Mercer SS
Josh Harrison 3B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Gregory Polanco LF
David Freese 1B
Jose Osuna RF
Phil Gosselin 2B
Chris Stewart C
Ivan Nova P