Get out your candlesticks.
The Bucs should consider pausing games with transformer explosions when they're losing, especially on SkyBlast.
The only red flag here is that Derrek Lee has not laid down a bunt since 2004, and has only 2 in nearly 8000 plate appearances. As long as D-Lee is willing to work within the new system and work on his bunting game, this is a huge win for the Bucs and their playoff roster.
Friday at seven: Carpenter and Maholm.
Pirates are six games up, and they should be getting some players back over the weekend.
I am curious to see how anticipated whipping-boy Pedro Alvarez would fare if promoted to the Show to work on that 587 OPS. Any talk about bringing him up should be grounded in the fact that his 2011 season has been a huge bust to date. It's not Ryan Braun we'd be getting back.
That said, I was looking around at various pre-season projections and whatever he did in 2010, was clearly promising for a man his age. ZIPS suggested a 116 OPS+ and 116 RBI with 28 HRs in a near-full season. Alvarez looks like the kind of player a budget-minded team would trade for--the next Andy Laroche, maybe.
The Pirates should give him another shot with that in mind. Some of these guys will be for real, and the opportunity to be the team that finds out, is a valuable one that is not to be squandered, especially when Ronny Cedeno might be the third or fourth best hitter on the active roster. He's up to a 924 OPS at AAA. I'd like to see him recalled when hot and then, if he does not hit much in a week, sent down again. I'm not sure if that is practical in terms of minor-league options etc., but this team does not hit so well that they can afford to keep Alvarez down there, destroying minor-league pitching.
Willis and McDonald at seven.
Pirates are 49-44, and a half-game back of the Cardinals.
The simulations give the Reds a greater chance (~81%) at the playoffs. The Reds are a little more worthy than the hapless Astros, making this series an important test.
It will help answer the question, never far from my mind: "Will the Pirates squeak into the playoffs, or will they win 105 games, like they did last year?"
Karstens and Myers at eight. The Bucs are one game back.
Now that the burgeoning baseball market in Pittsburgh could support two MLB franchises, why not move the hapless 30-62 Astros to the AL, as the Pittsburgh Astros? We wouldn't cover them here, of course, but at least they'd have fans show up to make noise.
Last nights' loss mucked up my Skyblast. Hall & Oates tape would not play, and the sparklers burnt holes in both the carpet and the leather sofa. Not entertained.
Nevermind. More than 24 hours to prepare for the next game.
Friday at seven: Lopez and McDonald as the Pirates gun for their 46th win.
Coasting into the middle point of the season, the Pirates are on pace for 98 wins.
They take their big, powerful-looking big bats into Washington, where our starters will stand tall against the slouchy National pitchers.
One of the Charlie Mortons and Tom Gorzelanny at seven.
The winning Pirates take on the hapless Astros again.
Game starts in about half an hour. McDonald and Lyles are the starters.
Time to start brainstorming about who the Pirates will add, at the trade deadline, for the defense of their national championship.
Those Mets had a pretty good-looking catcher who might be available, given the pathetic down-on-their-luck condition of that scandal-plagued franchise.
Maholm and Pelfrey at seven.
In other news, all hail new Trib columnist Dejan Kovacevic, who now has a free blog, reports Bucs have signed a new catcher, thinks Huntington should be extended, and like me, cried* outside after Bream's slide (* very briefly in our case).
The World Champion Bucs came in first place in the draft today, and selected UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole. Despite the big, powerful Cole not being the best bunter on his college team, we are penciling him in to start Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.
On Pittsburgh, Cole aptly notes the "...fans are unbelievable." We raise our glass to young Gerrit, who sorely needs a nickname. Stone Cole?
Pirates continue to play possum, bobbing along just under .500. And the Cubs are making it tough for them to continue to lay low. The difference between the two teams is just that striking.
Karstens and Dempster will start. Game on at 2:20pm.
Look for Iowa Pirate in the crowd. No description necessary -- you'll know him when you see him.
McDonald and Chacin starting soon.
The Bucs might not be able to afford Manny Ramirez or Dodger killer Larry Walker to intimidate Jim Tracy in the on-deck circle. If so, they could sign Jose Hernandez to stand in the circle to flex and pose, causing Tracy to pay zero attention to the game.
Reynolds and Morton at seven.
Regarding McCutchen's appearance in the on-deck circle late last night -- as described here by MLB.com writer Thomas Harding --
Behind Tabata was the pitcher's spot, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had no choice but to go with Olson, 1-for-6 in nine career at-bats. The last Bucs reliever remaining, Evan Meek, was not available to throw, Hurdle revealed after the game.
Hurdle sent Andrew McCutchen, who was due to hit two batters after Tabata, to the on-deck circle. Rather than say he did it to keep the Rockies from noticing the next turn was going to be taken by Olson, who hasn't batted since 2009, Hurdle explained the move creatively.
"We put him up there just to help with a play at the plate," Hurdle said. "He has more experience, rather than have Garrett try to figure that out. Garrett -- we wanted to keep him as far away from the plate as we could until he had to hit."
Tracy said there was risk in walking Tabata.
"To walk him into scoring position -- you know something, I know they have somebody over there that maybe takes a swing and not have to hit the ball very far at all to end up winning the game," Tracy said.
It really speaks to what Hurdle adds to this team. Tracy is no fool. He knows the Pirates would have Garrett ready to bunt -- ready "to not have to hit the ball very far at all to end up winning the game."
Bucs are just a half game back, and wide awake as the light turns green, ready to accelerate. Since I'm not driving, I'll drink to that.
If the Bucs are going to run the table in the playoffs again, all strategical possibilities, such as this Straight-Outta-Iowa trick, should be considered.
The awesomeness of Jenifer Langosch's spot-on game recap deserves some quotation for further internet immortality purposes:
CHICAGO -- Neil Walker was running all the way -- just as manager Clint Hurdle would have wanted him to.
Walker's sprint from second to home on Pedro Alvarez's infield hit capped a two-run ninth for the Pirates, who stunned the Cubs with some unconventional strategies to steal a 5-4 victory in the finale of a three-game series at Wrigley Field on Sunday. The inning was advanced by cleanup hitter Lyle Overbay, who bunted with runners on first and second base.
"There's going to be a lot of things that happen with this ballclub that I don't think are going to be traditional this year," said Hurdle, who has emphasized aggressive baserunning for weeks. "We're going to play to win. That's why those guys work on that all spring."
But asking the cleanup hitter lay down a bunt? And attempting to score two runs on a squibber that never made it to the infield dirt?
Sure, and without hesitation, actually.
It is wonderful to see that people outside the advanced blogs are starting to just plain get it.
It's time. Please prognosticate in the comments.
1. How many Bucco wins?
2. Who gets traded first?
3. 2011 Whipping Boy?
4. Most bunts?
5. Other predictions?
1. Experts are predicting the Bucs will win 71.5% (116) of their games this year. Honestly, that seems way too high. I'll take the under and conservatively predict 75 wins.
4. Last year's bunting leader, Zach Duke with 8, is gone. This year the 2010 runner-up, HomeRon Cedeno, wins this contest hands down.
5. Continuing the trend of willingness of top Bucco brass to engage loyal fans for interviews, Spike makes a mint off Nutting family biography.
Can Clint Hurdle impersonate Jim Tracy? Yes, reports the P-G.
"Can he drive a ball out of the park? Yes," Hurdle said. "Can he drive in runs? Yes. Has he got a slow heartbeat when he plays in the field and [is] at the plate? Yes. Those are the things we were looking for."