Pittsburgh Pirates BDR: Drown ’em In a Bottle of Rum


Finally, we’re back to where we left off in 2014.

If the playoffs started today, the Pittsburgh Pirates would host the San Francisco Giants in the wild card game (to be meticulously disassembled by Madison Bumgarner again, probably). The St. Louis Cardinals are perched atop the NL Central (surprise, surprise) with a 38-19 record. Although the Bucs aren’t exactly nipping on their talons, they are the team closest behind, with a 31-25 record.  6.5 games separate them. The talented but raw Cubs have fallen to third — their rightful place — trailed by two crap teams this writer despises.

The combustible panic that pervaded the first quarter of the season has subsided.  The planets are back in alignment, dogs and cats are again at odds, and the circle of life is no longer a square. (I won’t mention that the Pirates have lost in walk-off fashion eight times. Nope. Won’t even mention it.) Of course, 151 games remain in the season. That’s. So. Many. Games.

Another barometer of the Pirates surge in the standings is the sudden emergence of Jolly Rogers in my neighborhood. They’re popping up like dandelion weeds after a rainy day. My son Uriah says “Pirates flag” when he spies a Jolly Roger. Now, when we walk to Rialtos Pizza, or Bud Hammer Playground, or wherever, it’s “Pirates flag, Pirates flag, Pirates flag, Pira”…you get the point.

One of the aforementioned crap teams, the Milwaukee Brewers (that was fun to write) drag the dead weight of the league’s worst record into PNC Park for a three-game set . Teams like the Brewers are the types of teams (crappy ones) the Pirates need to flatten like Silly Putty to keep pace with the Redbirds. Or better yet, drown ’em in a bottle of rum.

Yo Ho Ho.

Game 1:

Bucs 0, Brew Crew 2

They say that the offense goes as Andrew McCutchen goes. McCutchen didn’t go last night – as in, he didn’t play — and neither did the offense go, in any sense of the word.

These off-and-on rain delay games are for the birds. Two rains delays – the first was 28 minutes, and the second was 48 minutes – are not conducive to one’s prolonged devoted attention, especially on a week night. I can only be entertained by “Clubhouse Confidential” so many times (one…kinda’), in which players are asked “Who is the best dressed Pirate?” Tony Watson thinks Cutch is the best dressed. And Cutch thinks Tony Watson is the best dressed. I don’t know about the best dressed, but I imagine Charlie Morton spends more time in sweatpants than a tie.

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Retro footage of Pirates glory long gone, and countdowns such as the 10 best plays at the plate, are typically dope – especially home plate collisions – but not so much when they’re rain delay reruns from the pre-game broadcast footage two hours before.

Following the action was a tall task. The game was like a shadow amid a partly cloudy day – it’s there, then it’s not, then it’s there, then it’s not. I don’t have the patience. I was digging dirt in the front yard (really, I was digging dirt in the front yard) and listening on the radio until the storm clouds cracked open like eggs. The same happened later in the game. The threat of an early conclusion loomed.

I thought Clint Hurdle might manage with a five-inning game in mind. I wish he would’ve in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Bucs trailed by one run with runners at the corners and one out after Jung Ho Kang‘s walk and Francisco Cervelli‘s single. But rain reigned, and puddles were quickly amassing between second and third. In other words, the bottom of the fifth might well have been the bottom of the ninth. AJ Burnett, who’d been pitching extremely well, stepped into the soggy batter’s box. He struck out after three futile bunt attempts.

I thought Hurdle may pinch hit in that situation, gambling on the weather forcing a shortened game. A sac fly or a grounder to the right side off a pinch hitter’s bat would’ve at least tied the score and possibly extended the game. I wonder if Hurdle’s decision to bat Burnett was based on an up-to-the-minute weather report that led him to conclude that the game would march onward and Burnett had more innings to pitch.

Of course, Jordy Mercer whiffed before Burnett’s at-bat. Let’s all boo Mercer.

Burnett was stellar again without run support, especially considering the dance between the rain drops. The 28 minute delay seemed to affect his command, however. He tossed 15 balls in the fifth inning, opposed to only eight to that point. Batman’s record stands at 6-2, with a 2.11 ERA.

Some dude named Jimmy Nelson handed the Bucs their first loss at PNC Park in seven games. A small army of Pirates were left on base. And Brewer’s closer Francisco Rodriguez punctuated the victory with his 359th career save. He is ninth on the all-time saves list. (For those who know the save stat is fool’s gold, Rodriguez is ninth on the fool’s gold list. Congratulations.)

Game 2:

Bucs 1, Brew Crew 4

Ugh! Beginner’s luck.

Tayor Jungman, owner of a 2-3 record and a 6.37 ERA in Triple-A Colorado Springs, muted Pirates bats in a three-hit, one-run seven inning display of début dominance.

I wrote that the Brewers were a crap team. I stand by the “crap team” shot, but two games into the series I’m beginning to feel like the pot calling the kettle a cliché.

The game started while I was making an offer on a house, and signing reams of paperwork with our real estate agent. My attention ping-ponged between the Pirates’ streak of offensive futility, and super-major life choices. Just thinking about the impending task of both purchasing a house and selling our current one makes me as nauseous as watching Francisco Liriano hurl a solid outing to the background music of a solo home run by Starling Marte. By “solo”, I don’t just mean a home run with no runners on base, but the solo run the Pirates scored.

Speaking of beginner’s luck, Brewers third basemen Jason Rogers began his impotent career as a big-time major league slugger by hitting his second home run of the season in the second. Liriano retired the next 14 batters. However, he surrendered another two runs in the second.

We needed a perfect game Liriano! Come on!

Back to the lone bright offensive stat: Starling Marte‘s 400-ft home run to left field in the second. The dinger was Marte’s twelve of the season; he didn’t whack twelve until mid-September the prior two seasons. Moreover, 42% of his hits have gone for extra bases.

The Pirates are drowning in their own rum.

Bucs 2, Brewers 0

Baseball, meet ground. Ground…baseball.

The PNC Park infield is littered with pockmarks after Charlie Morton induced nine ground ball outs, opposed to three fly ball outs.  After four good to excellent starts, and zero poor ones, Ground Chuck boasts a 69% ground ball rate.  Last night was a start under the “excellent” column. Morton threw 7.1 innings, and allowed zero runs. In three of his four wins/starts this season he’s surrendered two or less runs.

If Morton can continue at this pace (he very likely won’t), and the Liriano-Cole-Burnett trifecta can continue at their pace (they very likely won’t), then the Cardinals may have to continue their pace (they very likely will…they’re the Cardinals) to remain atop the NL Central.

The offense is another animal altogether…a wounded animal with fender impressions on his spine, writhing on the parkway shoulder. Okay, that’s an excessive metaphor, but the Bucs only scored two runs, despite 11 hits, against Brewers starter Kyle Lohse. Pedro Alavrez turned heads toward the Allegheny River, where his 438 foot home run hit the River Walk like a meteorite. His dinger was the difference.

Give the shark tank a polite golf clap, as Tony Watson played the role of Charlie Morton by inducing a double play to smother the fire in the eighth. Mark Melancon pitched the easiest ninth of his career, fielding two weak grounders himself.

Bucs salvage a game against the crap Brewers.

Sad Footnote — I may be losing my back deck. My wife and I are now under contract to purchase a new home, sans back deck. I’ll miss my back deck immensely once it’s sold. So, assuming the move comes to fruition, stay tuned for the Front Porch Report.

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