By: Big Rygg
The Brewers are finally back at home after starting the
season by playing 12 of their first 18 games on the road. Perhaps a little
surprisingly, the Brewers are 6-6 in those 12 games but only 2-4 at home during
that same stretch.
There is no way that anyone can deny that the Brewers
started playing their best baseball of the season on this road trip so
hopefully the first six (unfortunately all against NL Central competition) will
be the aberration.
Well, the Brewers are looking to prove that to be the case
and got off on the right foot toward that effort last night. The visiting
Pittsburgh Pirates came into Miller
Park sporting the best
staff ERA in all of baseball at a nifty 2.97 (which helps explain the 11-7
record they brought to town with them). By the time the first night of the
three-game series was over, however, that team ERA had jumped to 3.36 courtesy
of the 10 runs the Brewers put on the board over 8 innings (an 11.25 game ERA,
for those of you keeping score at home).
Braden Looper (2-0, 2.45 ERA) didn’t get the win in this one, but pitches well enough to have. While he didn’t produce another quality start in this one, his 101-pitch effort over 5.0 innings saw him leave with a 5-3 lead in the ball game. Only two of those runs against him were earned as well. Tough luck on the no-decision, but another solid if not spectacular outing from Loop.
Pittsburgh starter Jeff Karstens (1-0, 5.40 ERA) was spared
the blemish in his Loss column when his team rallied for two runs in the top of
the 8th inning off of Milwaukee reliever Carlos Villanueva, but his
personal ERA absorbed a 9.00 for the game which sent his figure up nearly a
full point from 4.50 to the resultant 5.40.
Something that won’t show up in his box score has the hit
that Karstens threw in the 3rd inning. That hit came when the first
pitch of an at-bat drilled Ryan Braun squarely in his back. When asked later if
he thought Karstens threw at him intentionally, Braun admitted that Karstens
probably had. The umpires immediately warned both benches after the HBP which
naturally drew the ire of Brewer Manager Ken Macha. I think the umpires
realized that there was a full three-game set to get through still so he was
trying to nip it in the bud because it was Game 1. As Braun alluded to,
however, even if another ball isn’t thrown inside the batter’s box all series,
the teams do play 11 more times this year after Pittsburgh leaves town on Wednesday
afternoon. This isn’t the type of thing that gets forgotten about, even if the
revenge isn’t immediate.
Otherwise, at the dish, the Brewers performed very well all
night long. They were consistently taking balls the other way, and the results
showed on the scoreboard. Rickie Weeks produced a lot of offense despite only getting one hit in the game. That one hit was a three-run home run, but Rickie drove in a total of four and scored twice.
Yes, the team hit three home runs in the game (all coming
with two outs in their respective innings, which is a good sign) that resulted
in five of their runs, but all five of the runs in the key 8th inning
came via alternative methods. It also showed the resiliency of the team to not
get down on itself after Freddy Sanchez’ two-out two-RBI two-bagger tied the ballgame.
The team came right back in the bottom of the frame to put the game out of
reach and allow for…
TREVOR TIME AT MILLER
For the first time all year, Trevor Hoffman entered Miller Park
as a member of the 25-man active roster. He began warming up in the 8th
and, according to Macha, would have pitched the 9th inning whether the
Brewers had taken the lead or not.
(SIDE NOTE: In a classy move, Fox Sports Network stayed with
the game during Hoffman’s entrance and subsequent warm up tosses from the
mound. Very nice that they realized the significance of that moment for fans
that weren’t able to make it to the game last night. Whoever produced that game
(SIDE SIDE NOTE: What the hell do we call our station? It
used to be FSN North, and I totally supported and understood the change to FSN
Wisconsin. Then it became FS Wisconsin and now, during Brewer games, it is
displayed on screen as FSBrewers. Anybody have any thoughts on that one?)
Anyway, in what was a non-save situation since the Brewers
opened the lead up to five runs the previous inning; Hoffman entered and shut
down the Pirates with a perfect 9th inning. The first of many games
that end in a victory for the Brewers with Hoffman on the mound is in the
books. It not only extended the Brewers winning streak against the Pirates to
13, but also increased the streak of Pirate futility at Miller Park
to 16 losses in a row.
Here’s hoping we add 14 and 15 (and thereby 17 and 18) to
the ledger this week.
By: Big Rygg
2007 Record: 68-94
Last place in the NL Central
In their defense, the Pittsburgh Pirates did improve on their 2006 record. However, they didn’t improve a whole heckuva lot. They finished one game better. At that rate they’ll break the 90-win barrier in 2029……..that’s a long way off.
The Pirates’ longest losing streak (though they had streaks of 8 and 7 games as well) was a lengthy 9-gamer in September. They lost three games to the Cubs during the stretch which didn’t help the Brewers at all. Save for back-to-back wins against the Diamondbacks on September 25th and 26th, they would’ve lost 15 straight to end the year.
Their best winning streak was a mere 5 games which they only accomplished once. Between April 22nd and April 27th, they beat the Dodgers once, swept Houston in a three game series and beat Cincinnati in the first game of a weekend set. They did have a handful of four-game winning streaks, but the fiver was their best in ’07.
Comings and Goings
Last year I wrote about the Pirates’ biggest off-season acquisition who was in the form of 1B Adam LaRoche. This year? Well, when your biggest-name acquisition is…um…Doug Mientkiewicz, maybe…yeah, let’s just move on.
There were a couple of notable departures, however. Salomon Torres, the over-worked relief pitcher that actually began 2007 as the Pirates’ closer, was traded to Milwaukee for some minor league players. Thanks, Pittsburgh!
The Rest of the Additions…
Hector Carrasco – RP
Elmer Dessens – RP
Casey Fossum – RP
Chris Gomez – SS
Byung-Hyun Kim – SP
Luis Rivas – 2B
Jorge Velandia – IF
Jaret Wright – SP
Those that left:
Tony Armas – SP
Jose Castillo – 3B
Shaun Chacon – SP
Humberto Cota – C
Brad Eldred – 1B
Cesar Izturis – SS
Matt Kata – RP
Don Kelly – UTIL
Dan Kolb – RP
Marty McLeary – RP
Josh Phelps – 1B
John Wasdin – RP
25 Man Roster
Click here to see the Pirates’ 25 Man Roster. This will save space and reading time if you don’t care.
Here’s the way I see the starting eight and five-man rotation as of opening day this season. This is not in batting order by any means.
C – Ronny Paulino
1B – Adam LaRoche
2B – Freddy Sanchez
3B – Jose Bautista
SS – Jack Wilson
LF – Jason Bay
CF – Nate McLouth
RF – Xavier Nady
P – Ian Snell
P – Tom Gorzelanny
P – Paul Maholm
P – Matt Morris
P – Zach Duke
Extras on Players
The only two differences between this list and last year’s list (other than a reordering of the rotation) are that Tony Armas is gone from the team (having been replaced by Matt Morris whom the Pirates traded for during 2007) and that Freddy Sanchez is listed as the starting 2B. Castillo started 2B last year because Sanchez was hurt to start the year.
Therein lies my biggest concern with this team…they barely did anything to try to improve on a division-worst 68 wins.
Is there one? If anything this team’s successes and failures will come down to their ability to produce runs. They’ve got a decent enough top of their rotation in Snell, Gorzelanny and Malholm. Morris is basically over the hill. If Zach Duke could regain part of the form he showed in 2005, this team would look a lot better still.
Having said all that, they’ll need to produce runs to compete with anyone on most nights. Former All-Star Jason Bay had a down year and I think the team’s performance as a whole reflected those struggles. If he rebounds, maybe the Pirates have a shot at 70 wins.
As I mentioned before, the Pittsburgh Pirates did nothing in the offseason to attempt to improve their ballclub. So why the fall back to becoming MLB’s first 100-game losing ballclub since 2006? Well, the other teams in the division all improved themselves in certain areas, as did most other teams in baseball. Pittsburgh did not. If your opponents, you know those pesky teams that directly influence how many games you win, all get better and you don’t…how would it be safe to assume that you’d do the same let alone better?
It wouldn’t be.
It was my opinion last year, and it holds true today…the Bucs aren’t close yet. In all fairness, they’ve probably regressed. Their young pitching is starting to come of age a bit more, and a lot of their limited success will ride on the arms of Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny. Unfortunately, those two (and maybe Paul Maholm), can’t pitch complete games every other day…and even if they could, Pittsburgh still needs to find offense.
I’m still glad that the Pirates play in the Central.
Agree/Disagree? As always, feel encouraged to leave comments.