Pirates Need a Winning Streak

I believe the Pirates look at the next six five games as very winnable.  I tend to agree.  Rumbunter looks at this stretch and we see some favorable matchups.   And I just found out the game might  has been  called due to rain.

The Pirates and Cincinnati Reds got to know one another quite well this spring.  They met six times with the Bucs taking four of those games.  As we discussed earlier this year, the Pirates need victories against the Reds (1-2) and their shaky pitching staff.  The Pirates will send two one question mark pitchers themselves to the mound this weekend.  Jeff Karstens goes tonight to the bullpen and Ian Snell will pitch Sunday each trying to get their stuff right.  Tomorrow’s starter Paul Maholm hasn’t exactly been a world killer in Great American Ballpark.

Doesn’t matter to me.  We will win. 

Then we welcome the Astros.  Their staff has been questionable (5.46ERA) and surely won’t get much better against the Cards hitters in their weekend series.  Mike Hampton is throwing tonight.

One thing to remember about Houston (1-2) is that something appears to be wrong.   Remember in Spring Training how Cecil Cooper had a closed-door meeting after starting the spring 1-7-1?  (It was less than 12 hours after the Astros were shut out for the second time in the spring in a game that had a little bit of everything, and not in a good way.) The result was grim, and everyone — pitchers, hitters, fielders — had a hand in the 13-0, four-error, two-hit loss to the Braves.  They followed that up with a 5-1 loss to the Cardinals.  The Astros eventually ended ST with a 12-20-3 record. 

Here is the way I see it.  It is a six five game stretch that will firmly establish the ballclub this year. 

KARSTENS GOES TONIGHT-TO THE BULLPEN

Jeff Karstens is our 26 year old righthander who makes his first start of the season tonight on Thursday against the Astros.  He pitched 5 innings and threw 63 pitches last Sunday in Pirate City, he didn’t travel to St. Louis with the team as it was his day to pitch.  The Grapefruit League wasn’t especially kind to Karstens as he was 0-2 in seven games with a 6.17ERA. 

Karstens is on a six-game skid.  He flirted with a perfect game against Arizona last August.  Karstens took it into the 8th inning.  He faced just two batters over the minimum in tossing a two hitter.   He walked one batter and struck out four. 

He apparently sold his soul to the devil that day.  After the game, he must have come to his senses or something, because since that amazing night……  It has been over.  He has gone 0-6 with a 5.70ERA.  

The Pirates have a new pitching coach.  Maybe you heard about him.  Karstens and Joe Kerrigan have been working the past several months on delivery adjustments.   While we were in Bradenton it appeared that he was lowering his delivery slot.

Today, news comes that he will be going back to an over the head slot.  One thing is comforting to me in all of this.  They are trying to improve.  I love that fact.  Yes, Karstens has struggled.  Yes, he has been blasted.  Yes, he looks like he works harder than any pitcher on the bump.  But, he is working on it.

And after tonight’s rainout, Karstens will continue to work in the bullpen. Should one of the starters get into a little trouble, he can come into the game and help.  Did you ever get the feeling that this might be a nice role the next few days for Karstens?  Thank you Mother Nature.  Don’t call us kid, we will call you.  Happy Easter Pirate fans the number five has been bumped.

THE ACE RETURNS

Saturday’s starter will be Paul Maholm.  Boy that sounds good doesn’t it?  Well, it should.  But check out this stat, he has gone 0-2 with a 5.36ERA in seven career starts at Great American Ball Park.  What is that?  It is strange for certain.  In his career against the Reds he is 3-3 with a 4.08ERA in 13 career starts.  He was 1-0 (at PNC Park) with a tiny ERA of 1.77 in three starts last season against the Reds.  

Micah Owens now will pitch from the bullpen and Johnny Cueto will go against Maholm.  Woooooo Whooo!  Let’s hit gentlemen.

ON SUNDAY WE ALL FIND THE EASTER EGGS AND PRAY SNELL FINDS HIS STUFF TOO

Ian Snell struggled in his first start.  He also had a bout of bad luck (the foul pole), four strikes against Albert Pujols, and some rough defense.  His quote of  ‘I had nothing’ was very professional.  The word is he was sicker than he has ever been in his life.  Perhaps he didn’t, but many of us are really quick to jump on our pitching staff.  I admit I am guilty.  

Snell has a 4-6 record against the Reds in his career.  In eleven games he has pitched 65.2 innings and allowed 38 earned runs.  Yeh, 5.21ERA.    Gulp.

The Reds pitcher Aaron Harang handled the Mets well in his first start of the season.  He also handled the Bucs last time out in spring training.  Say a prayer on Easter Sunday.  We need Snell badly to find his stuff and our offense to find their stroke against Harang.

PIRATES OFFENSE vs REDS:

Pirates who hit the Reds well, Fred Sanchez .329 75-for-228 and Jack Wilson .300 132-for-440.

Wow, it’s scary the Pirates who don’t hit well against the Reds.  Let’s change that this weekend.

THE ASTROS OVERVIEW:

I would be thrilled to see the Pirates to continue with an impressive home stretch against the always exciting Houston Astros.  The Astros are currently 1-2 after the Cubs series.  Did you know that Lyle Lovett sang on opening day in that series?  Huh? 

The Astros will be facing that impressive Cardinals club this weekend with  Hampton, Roy Oswalt, and Wandy Rodriguez on the bump.  Which means Zach Duke should face Brian Moehler and his 37.80ERA in the opener.  Moehler won 11 games last season.  He was originally was a fill-in for the injured Rodriguez, but he pitched so well that he maintained his starting job even after Rodriguez returned. The Astros were 16-10 in his 26 starts last year, and he allowed four runs or fewer in 20 of them.

It then appears that on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, Hampton (debut tonight vs Cards) will pitch against Ross Ohlendorf  (0-1, 3.00ERA) followed by Russ Ortiz (0-0, 9.00ERA) vs Karstens (making his starting debut tonight of course) on Thursday afternoon.

I anticipate a solid stretch, would 5-1  4-1 be out of the question?

Topics: Albert Pujols, Fred Sanchez, Ian Snell, Jack Wilson, Jeff Karstens, Lyle Lovett, Mike Hampton, Paul Maholm, Roy Oswalt, Zach Duke

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