After beginning the 9 game home stand 5-1, the Bucs welcomed the defending World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies into town. I for one was happy with the 5-1 start, but really wanted to see how the young Bucs would fare against a better team.
What I was treated to was 3 great games and 3 great finishes, 2 going our Bucco's way. What could possibly have been more exciting than Tuesday's finish. Matt Capps blows another. Andrew McCutchen's misplay in center. Three batters later it was all forgotten, after Cutch hit his first walk-off homer off Brad Lidge.
Wednesday, the Bucs bats were silenced by Cole Hamels through 8, but a Brandon Moss pinch hit 9th inning bomb sent the game to extras, only to see Ryan Howard launch one and spoil the Bucs comeback.
Finally, last night. Aside from Cutch's lead off homer, fellow rookie J.A. Happ silenced the Bucs bats once again. Only to see Ronny Cedeno go the other way with a pinch hit single, followed by Garrett Jones 2 out homer to center. Capps didn't blow this one and the crowd went crazy again. Three straight lively crowds. Many Phillies fans, but still, an exciting baseball environment. The Phillies and Pirates should be in the same division, but I will save that for a later post. No reason a cross state rival should come to town only once a season.
I really enjoy watching this bunch. They have an energy and enthusiasm about them that simply just hasn't been there in years. I love the emotion they have been showing. Part of the reason is they have been winning during this home stand, but another part is that they are realizing that it's now their team. They have started to realize that they are the Pirates of the future and are starting to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. It's been fun to watch and I hope it continues. A couple added pieces and they can start to be competitive. They still need a run producer in the middle of the order. Not only for now, but to pair with Pedro Alvarez in the near future.
Why have they been playing well lately? It's certainly not entirely due to the fact that they seem like a fun bunch out there. They still have to get it done between the lines as well. First let's look at the starting pitching the last 3 games. Ross Ohlendorf, 6.1 ip, 5 h 2er 6k 3 bb in a 6-4 win. Paul Maholm, 7ip, 5h, 1er, 4k, 2bb in a 4-1 loss and last night Charlie Morton 6ip, 5 h, 2er, 6k, 4bb in a 3-2 win.
The trend is that every guy has put the team in position to win each night. I'd like to see Ohlendorf and Morton pitch into the seventh, but all three were effective enough to get wins. Even when it looked like Morton was going to struggle last night, he kept pitching his way out of trouble. It's a sign of a young guy growing up in the big leagues.
The bullpen for the most part was effective as well. Take out the Capps ninth on Tuesday and the tenth on Wednesday and the Bucs young relievers got some big outs. That's what they need to do. Jessie Chavez striking out Jason Werth in a tough spot on Tuesday was huge, as was the performance by Denny Bautista last night. Even Joel Hanrahan impressed me getting out of a 0 out 2nd & 3rd jam on Wednesday. The thing I want to see from both the starters and the pen the rest of the season is simple- consistency.
The bats were quiet for the most part during the whole Phillies series, but they battled. That's what I have been wanting to see. The pitching kept them in the games and they were able to get some timely, late hits. I'd like to see the approach for the guys stay the same. Keep thinking opposite field.
Home stand is over, time to head to Milwaukee, where the Bucs have lost 18 in a row. Time to keep ridding the franchise of the losing culture an go up there and win. This young team must learn to win on the road and I can't think of a better place than Miller Park.
- The defense impressed all home stand. Give Luis Cruz some credit filling in for Cedeno. The team didn't miss a beat in the field.
-Great job by the bench, Moss in particular. Moss, Cedeno and Bixler did good things off the bench. It's not just the fact that Moss had two pinch hits, including the homer. Give him credit for being a pro. It could be easy for this guy to be down on himself, losing a lot of playing time, but he went to the plate and did good things for the team.
-Andy Laroche has been a bit snake bitten of late. He's been hitting the ball hard, but no results. Keep the same approach Andy. They will start falling in.
-No-Mitt (doumit) is still driving me crazy behind the plate.
-Steve Pearce is becoming a nice first baseman defensively. The bat is coming around a bit, but I still don't see him playing everyday.
-One thought about Wednesday's loss. I would like to see JR play the numbers more, Pitch to Howard, who granted has been struggling against the Bucs. When it was happening, I was shocked he wasn't being walked to load the bases for Werth. Werth before the at bat was 1-11 in the series and a double play candidate. Just a thought.
- I also have not been disappointed in the play of Lastings Milledge. The homers will come, as we saw 2 this home stand. That has something to so with him batting 6th. I just always thought he was faster, but he has slowly gotten better in the outfield.
-Only disappointing part of the last series was the performance with runners in scoring position. A feeble 1-24, with the only hit being McCutchen's walk-off, Tuesday night.
-For all of you payroll guys out there. How about the Mets have more than twice the salary on the DL today (88 mil) than the Pirates total payroll (35mil ish).
-Zach Duke vs Manny Parra tonight. Let's Go Bucs.