Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Thoughts: Time to take Pirates seriously
By David Schoenfield
Quick reactions off Tuesday's games ...
- Andrew McCutchen did this in the 12th inning to give the Pirates a big win over the Brewers. The Pirates are 22-17 -- the same record as the Braves, a team that has received much more attention than Pittsburgh. How have they done it? The offense is middle of the pack (although better than that when you adjust for park effects) but they're tied for fourth in runs allowed per game -- 3.77 per game, the same as the vaunted Nationals. They've prevented runs despite leading the NL in walks (and giving four starts to Jonathan Sanchez!) and the Mark Melancon/Jason Grilli duo at the end has locked down leads as the Pirates haven't lost a game they've led in the seventh or later. (For more on Melancon's turnaround from 2012, read Jason Collette's report here.) Another key has been the play of catchers Russell Martin and Michael McKenry, who have combined to give the third-best OPS from the catcher position in the majors, behind Cleveland and Atlanta. We know the Pirates have done this the past two seasons, but one of these years ...
- Jim Johnson and the Orioles finally blew a ninth-inning lead; he had converted 35 save opportunities in a row in the regular season. The bigger news was the Orioles placed Wei-Yen Chen on the DL with an oblique strain and suddenly the rotation includes Freddy Garcia and Jair Jurrjens, who will start Saturday. It's not a good time to have rotation issues as their next five series are against the Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, Nationals and Tigers.
- I wrote about the Mariners last night and how it's time for them to make some decisions on Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero. I'd like to throw in that they should make a decision on manager Eric Wedge (but won't). The Mariners had two on and nobody out in the eighth against Yankees reliever David Robertson, down by a run. Robertson had walked Dustin Ackley on four straight pitches, and then Brendan Ryan reached on a bunt (after Robertson had thrown two balls) when catcher Austin Romine tried to get Ackley at second. That brought up leadoff hitter Saunders, who has been the team's best hitter along with Kyle Seager. So you have a pitcher struggling to throw strikes and maybe your best hitter up. It's not the worst bunt call there but I'd let Saunders hit away. The on-deck was pinch-hitter Justin Smoak, meaning I'd like to give Saunders the chance to deliver a big hit. Anyway, Saunders messed things up by squaring around on the first pitch and taking a strike, putting himself in a hole. It looked like the bunt sign was then removed and he took strike two and then swung over a curveball. But maybe he has a better at-bat if he's swinging on the first pitch. There was some bad luck: Smoak hit a hard liner but right to shortstop Jayson Nix, who doubled Ackley off second. Ahh, the little things.
- Mark DeRosa batted cleanup for the Blue Jays. They won.
- Mitch Moreland is quietly putting up some nice numbers for the Rangers. He hit two home runs in an extra-inning win over the A's, giving him nine for the season and a .296/.347/.578 batting line. He followed Adrian Beltre's home run in the 10th with his own off Chris Resop, which proved key when Joe Nathan gave up a run in the bottom of the frame. (Nathan escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Daric Barton and getting Eric Sogard to ground out.) For the talk in the offseason that the Rangers should maybe dump Moreland and move Ian Kinsler to first base to clear space for Jurickson Profar, it appears the Rangers made the right decision. Like they usually do.
- Neat stat from ESPN Stats & Info: Clayton Kershaw is the fifth pitcher in the past 40 years to have an ERA under 2.75 through his first 1,000 career innings, joining Dwight Gooden, Frank Tanana, Vida Blue and Ron Guidry. The bad news: Gooden, Tanana and Blue all peaked before age 25.
- Josh Hamilton is still strong.
- Have a day, Carlos Gonzalez.