Welcome to the Pittsburgh Pirates Wake-Up Call, a daily feature here at RumBunter.com. Every morning at 9 AM, one of us will give you our random thoughts on the goings-on around the Pirates’ organization, and we’ll throw out a few links to some good articles from around the web concerning our baseball team as well.
I tell you guys, I’m really trying not to be negative when I think about the recent games the Pirates have played. After all, the team is now a season-high 22 games over .500 and they sit six games up in a playoff spot in the National League. They’re now 5-0 against the Mets this season, but the real test will come later today when they face Matt Harvey.
But the reason I have mixed emotions about last night’s game is because a win didn’t necessarily have to take 14 innings. It could have been had in nine. No, it’s not guaranteed that a win would have happened if Charlie Morton had been pulled earlier for a bullpen arm, but the odds were in the Pirates’ favor at that point. But let’s break this situation down.
So Morton had tossed six great innings that made us remember the great start he had had to his season. But while watching last night’s game, part of me was always thinking, “when is he going to come back down to earth?” Morton typically starts to fall apart the later he pitches into games. I mean, most pitchers do worse the later they pitch in games, but it always seems to be amplified with Morton. Alas, it happened again, as Morton gave up two home runs in the seventh inning and a 3-0 Pirate lead quickly evaporated. It’s hard to say that Clint Hurdle was in the wrong by leaving Morton in the game, considering he only had 74 pitches entering the seventh inning and he had thrown a season-high eight strikeouts before that inning. But knowing Morton’s history and knowing the importance of winning games that he and Jeff Locke start, especially considering Locke’s last start against the Cardinals and that your team is still fighting for the NL Central, one can definitely question the decision to tempt fate and leave Morton in, despite how great he had pitched up until that point.
Other than that, however, it’s good to see the Pirates smack the Mets around this year. They’re now 5-0 against them this season and are set to stay undefeated against them in the series’ finale.
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Polanco crushes first pitches
Gregory Polanco has gone beast mode these past two months. Heading into last night’s game, Polanco was coming off a month of July in which he batted .273/.363/.424 and is already crushing those numbers in August with a line of .378/.462/.556. What’s remarkable about this run is that he’s been able to both strike early in the count and have long at-bats that end with him getting on base. Before last night, Polanco was batting .429/.429/.619 on first pitches. In his first four at-bats on Saturday night, Polanco saw four pitches. For those doing the math, that’s one pitch per at-bat. Those at-bats ended in two singles, a monster home run to right field, and reaching on an error. And those pitches weren’t all fastballs; the home run came on an off-speed pitch. We saw him hit a home run off of Clayton Kershaw recently in the first pitch of an at-bat to end Kershaw’s scoreless streak. Polanco has certainly been surging as of late and is making everyone forget about the recently-DFA’d Travis Snider.
Joe Blanton – best deadline pickup
Neal Huntington made four pickups before the July 31st trade deadline: Aramis Ramirez, Joakim Soria, Michael Morse, and Joe Blanton. Blanton was the only player that came without giving a player up; he was acquired from the Royals for cash considerations. At first, many people thought that Blanton would just be another Vance Worley: a so-so long relief guy. But it was a low-risk pickup that couldn’t hurt the team. And Blanton hasn’t hurt this team in the slightest. In fact, he’s probably been Huntington’s best deadline pickup.
Ramirez has had his offensive moments with the Pirates, but he’s been horrid defensively. Morse has only had a few at-bats, and while Soria’s been very good, he seems shaky outside of his usual closer role. Blanton, however, has seen a decent number of innings, and he shined last night, pitching three innings of shutout ball in relief while striking out six batters. It’s another solid under-the-radar move by Neal Huntington.
Around the Net
One story that caught my attention yesterday that I don’t feel has gotten the attention it deserves yet is one that comes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. Milwaukee Brewers’ minor leaguer David Denson just became the first openly gay active baseball player in an MLB-affiliated league. This is huge news and a big step for major league baseball. You can read the full story here. And definitely do give it a read.
I’m a stat guy, and I love random stats, especially from @ESPNStatsInfo on twitter. They sent out a tweet last night about how formidable the Bucco bullpen has been as of late.
Here’s a fun fact. This streak of 15 straight decisions won by the Pirate bullpen is the longest such streak by a major league bullpen since the 1909 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Woah. You can read the full breakdown with more stats from ESPN here.
Brink also notes that controlling the opponent’s running game has become a top priority for the Pirates. I say that’s long overdue. Check out his piece on this here.
And Travis Sawchik points to a delivery adjustment as a key to J.A. Happ‘s quick turn around from his debut start with the Pirates to his second, more effective start. This is classic Ray Searage, making simple fixes, turning projects into aces. Check out his piece here.
Thanks for tuning into our daily Pittsburgh Pirates Wake-Up Call! Here’s hoping the Pirates stay undefeated against the Mets this season and finish the sweep on Sunday afternoon.