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Pirates beat 8/28

August 28, 2010 Comments off

Karstens not likely to miss another start

MILWAUKEE — The Pirates got some good news on Friday. It appears right-handed starter Jeff Karstens’ right arm fatigue is not likely to cost him another start.

After missing his last start on Wednesday, Karstens now looks to be on pace to make his scheduled start on Tuesday in Chicago. Karstens threw at Miller Park on Friday before the Pirates’ series opener with the Brewers.

“He had a light side today,” said Pirates manager John Russell. “It went good.”

LaRoche gets start against Brewers

MILWAUKEE — With the Brewers sending a left-handed starter to the mound on Friday against the Pirates, manager John Russell thought it would be a good time to give Pedro Alvarez the night off.

More importantly, though, Russell saw it as a good chance to get Andy LaRoche a start.

“Andy hasn’t played much,” Russell said. “We’ve been pinch-hitting him quite a bit — and I’d like to get him some at-bats so he feels a little more comfortable at the plate. We’ve been looking at it over the last four or five days moving into this week what would be a good day.

“With [Chris] Narveson pitching today, we thought it would be a good day to get Andy in there and get Pedro a day off.”

While Russell hopes the start will help LaRoche, he sees plenty of benefits in it for Alvarez as well.

“It’s not so much [that] Pedro needs the rest, it was more about getting Andy in the game,” Russell said. “[But] letting Pedro watch again, those young guys when they sit, they can learn a lot.”

This month, LaRoche has started just two games, once at first base and another time at third base. His last start came Aug. 10 at first base against the Padres in San Diego. Since then, he’s pinch-hit 10 times — going 1-for-10 with a single and two strikeouts.

As a pinch-hitter this season, LaRoche has gone 4-for-28 with two doubles and two RBIs along with six strikeouts and two walks. In 55 starts, LaRoche is batting .228 (45-for-197) with three homers, 12 RBIs, six doubles and 16 walks against 29 strikeouts.

“It’s tough for anybody when you’re used to playing a lot and you go to the bench — and you don’t get to play,” Russell said. “We’ve tried all year as much as we can to keep those guys in the game as much as we can and get them some starts here and there.

“It will help them when they pinch-hit. That’s a tough enough job without having any time. Giving them four at-bats every once in a while will help.”

McCutchen’s recent work impresses Russell

MILWAUKEE — Getting a spot start in place of Jeff Karstens on Wednesday, right-hander Daniel McCutchen impressed as he tossed six shutout innings in the Pirates’ 5-2 victory over the Cardinals at PNC Park.

His manager was equally impressed by McCutchen’s performance in relief leading up to the starting opportunity.

“I think he showed a lot more confidence out of the bullpen,” Russell said. “I thought he threw the ball pretty well. I think it kind of helped set up his start.”

McCutchen’s start was his first since July 31, also against the Cardinals. In that start, which was in St. Louis, McCutchen went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits. McCutchen struck out just one batter while walking six as he took the loss.

In eight starts this season, McCutchen owns a 6.92 ERA — giving up 30 earned runs over 39 innings of work on his way to a 2-5 record with 20 walks and 20 strikeouts. As a reliever, McCutchen has an impressive 1.74 ERA — allowing just two runs on 11 hits over 10 1/3 innings of work in nine appearances.

“He was more aggressive. He was hitting his spots. I don’t think he was worried how deep he was going to go in the game,” Russell said. “I think he was just out there one hitter at a time, one inning at a time. I think that’s a good lesson that he learned from the bullpen — and if he does start again, it’s something he can draw onto.

“It is one pitch at a time. Execute this pitch, go to the next pitch.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bucs blow lead, lose on walk-off in 10th

July 10, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Even All-Stars have an off night once in a while.

If there was one thing Pirates manager John Russell thought he could count on, it was the performance of relievers Joel Hanrahan, Octavio Dotel and Evan Meek.

Unfortunately for Russell and the Pirates, those three were the ones that surrendered the lead over the final three innings on Friday night as the Pirates lost, 5-4, to the Brewers at Miller Park.

“The three guys that we bring in in the eighth, ninth and 10th are guys that have done that job for us all year long and each one of them gave up runs,” Russell said. “It’s not something we see very often. Unfortunately, it happened. It’s a shame.”

With a 4-2 lead in the eighth, Hanrahan came on in relief of left-handed starter Paul Maholm, carrying an 11-inning scoreless streak with him. Brewers slugger Prince Fielder ended that streak with one swing of the bat, crushing a 1-2 slider deep into the second deck in right field.

In the ninth, closer Octavio Dotel came on looking to end it and snap the Pirates’ four-game losing skid. Dotel had converted seven consecutive saves since June 13, but he struggled after starting the inning with a groundout to third base.

Despite a bunt single, stolen base, throwing error, triple and wild pitch — all with one out — Dotel escaped with the game tied, leaving the contest in the hands of Meek, who entered the game with just a 0.94 ERA.

Meek (4-3) battled for two outs through the first three hitters, including an impressive strikeout of fellow All-Star Corey Hart. With that, it looked like Meek would escape unscathed.

But Meek was bested by fellow All-Star Ryan Braun, who drove a first-pitch slider to the wall in right, plating Rickie Weeks and giving the Brewers the walk-off win.

“To put it simply, the No. 1 priority with Braun was just to keep the ball down, and it was a bad pitch,” Meek said. “It was a breaking ball and it was up right where he was looking to hit it, and that’s really it.

“It was just a poor pitch. You’ve got to keep the ball down with all these guys, especially Braun, and the ball was up. And he did what he should’ve done to it.”

Braun got the opportunity to deliver the game-winning hit after the Pirates chose to walk Fielder with first base open.

“Of course, you always want to make the team pay when they walk Prince,” Braun said. “I’m just glad to contribute.”

Perhaps most disappointing about the bullpen’s performance on the night were the good performances that it wasted.

Before Friday’s game, Russell talked about the need for good pitching and extra-base hits to change the Pirates’ fortunes on the road.

They got some of each in the series opener against the Brewers, but unfortunately, the hitting faltered after the fifth as did the pitching following the seventh.

Maholm overcame early struggles to toss seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on three hits while giving up two walks, hitting three batters and recording four strikeouts.

After walking Weeks to lead off the game, Maholm surrendered a two-run opposite-field blast to Corey Hart, his 20th of the season. Aside from some issues with hit batters, Maholm effectively limited the Brewers the rest of the way, giving up just two hits.

“I just got [upset] and started throwing, that’s what it boils down to,” Maholm said. “It wasn’t any mechanical change. I’ve had a couple bad outings, but I just told myself that was going to be it. It was going to stop there and I was going to get deep into the game.”

Maholm had plenty of support early, as the Pirates picked up five extra-base hits — three doubles and two home runs — the first four of which contributed to the club’s four runs on the night.

They couldn’t score after the fifth inning, though, as the Brewers’ bullpen combined to toss five scoreless innings to pick up lefty starter Doug Davis, who struggled in his return from a nearly two-month stay on the disabled list.

The Brewers may have caught a break in the eighth inning, when Lastings Milledge’s single struck second-base umpire Chris Guccione in the foot on its way to center field. Garrett Jones might have tried to score from second on the play had it not struck the ump and been moving fast enough to elude second baseman Weeks, but Jones instead had to return to his base and was stranded there.

Brewers closer John Axford (4-1) picked up the win, throwing a scoreless 10th.

As the home team walked off to victory, snapping a five-game losing streak, the Pirates added a fourth game to their losing skid, and Pittsburgh came out on the losing end for the 22nd time in its last 24 road games.

“It’s just frustrating to play well and not be able to close it out,” Maholm said. “But you give those guys the ball every night and they’re going to have an off night. But you come back tomorrow and expect them to do well.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs

Pirates beat 7/9

July 9, 2010 Comments off

Pirates continue to struggle away from home

MILWAUKEE — After being swept in Houston, the road woes have continued this week for the Pirates, who have lost 21 of their last 23 away from PNC Park.

For manager John Russell, the trend is hard to figure out.

“It’s tough. I’ve never really seen much like it,” Russell said. “We can’t win on the road. I think it’s got to become a mentality at some point for these guys that they need to rise to the occasion on the road more.”

One thing Russell pointed out was a struggle in two key areas of the game: getting good pitching and scoring runs on the road.

Aside from that, Russell sees more mistakes away from home as well.

“I think on the road, we’ve found ways to kind of beat ourselves more than we do at home,” Russell said. “Especially the road trip when we lost a couple games in Detroit, if we make a couple plays we win. The same way in Oakland.

“Things that we need to do better as a team we don’t do. Part of that is youth, part of it is not making the play.”

Over the last 23 road games, the Pirates’ only wins have come in Chicago, when they took two of three from the Cubs from June 28-30. The club also took two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley Field in May.

Along with the two road series victories in Chicago, the Pirates have won just one other road series this season, April 19-21 in Milwaukee. The series victory snapped a 22-game losing skid for the Pirates at Miller Park.

Outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge have both enjoyed plenty of success against the Brewers in their careers.

Entering Friday’s game, McCutchen had hit safely in 15 of his 17 career games against Milwaukee, going 26-for-75 (.347) with seven doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIs. At Miller Park, McCutchen’s average was even better as he owned a 12-for-31 (.387) mark.

Milledge had been even better in Milwaukee, going 20-for-45 (.444) in his last 11 games at Miller Park after going hitless in six at-bats in his first game in Milwaukee.

With that in mind, the Pirates will be looking to add a fourth road series win this weekend.

“We do it in Chicago, we play well there,” Russell said. “So we talked about that. We talked to the players a little bit about that, of the intensity and focus we have when we play in Chicago and trying to get that same focus.”

Reliever Gallagher expected to fill many roles

MILWAUKEE — After joining the club on Thursday in Houston, reliever Sean Gallagher was expected by manager John Russell to be available if needed Friday.

He’ll pitch in a middle-relief role for the club in the short term, though Russell expressed an interest Friday in stretching the right-hander out.

“We’d like to because he has that capability,” Russell said. “He’s got four pitches, he has started before. I think he’s going to be a guy that we could use in that multi-inning role.”

Gallagher was acquired by the Pirates on Wednesday, as they sent cash to the Padres in exchange for the right-hander, who had been designated for assignment by San Diego.

With the move to Pittsburgh comes a bit of familiarity for Gallagher, who began his Major League career with the National League Central rival Chicago Cubs.

Additionally, Gallagher pitched for Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League this past offseason, where Pirates first-base coach Carlos Garcia also was the manager. Garcia’s pitching coach on that Magallanes club was Pirates assistant pitching coach Ray Searage.

With that familiarity, Russell and his coaching staff likes the flexibility of Gallagher and what that could bring to the pitching staff.

“At some point, he is going to get stretched out,” Russell said. “That’ll be kind of the value that he brings as a guy that can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen.

“We’ll see how it goes, he could work his way toward the back side a little bit or he gives us an option as a spot starter.”

D’Arnaud added to Eastern League ASG roster

MILWAUKEE — With a spot opening on the roster, the Harrisburg Senators and the Eastern League announced Friday that Double-A Altoona Curve shortstop Chase D’Arnaud was added to the Western Division roster for the Eastern League All-Star Game.

D’Arnaud replaces Richmond infielder Brandon Crawford, who is unable to play and will not be attending the game on July 14 at Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, Pa.

With D’Arnaud marking the sixth Curve player selected to the All-Star Game, the Curve have tied the franchise mark for most players chosen in a single year. During the 2006 and ’07 seasons, the Curve also had six representatives.

Along with Harrisburg, the Curve have now tied for the most representatives on the Western Division roster. With seven selections, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern Division led all Eastern league teams.

D’Arnaud, the Pirates’ fourth-round pick out of Pepperdine in 2008, joins teammates Derek Hankins, Rudy Owens, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison and Hector Gimenez as the club’s representatives in the All-Star Game.

Worth noting

The Pirates announced Friday the signing of three more players from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, all right-handed pitchers: 27th-round pick Kevin Kiels, out of Grossmont College; 41st-round pick Bryton Trepagnier, from East St. John High School; and 49th-round selection Logan Pevny of West Milford High School. … Friday marked the seven-year anniversary of the “Randall Simon incident” during the Sausage Race at Miller Park.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers-Pirates recap 4/27

April 28, 2010 Comments off

Hoffman implodes in ninth vs. Pirates

By Jordan Schelling, MLB.com