Tag: Pittsburgh

Giants vs. Pirates: Date, Time, TV Info, Live Stream, NL Wild Card Game Preview

What does slogging through a brutal 162-game schedule that spans the entirety of an American summer (and then some) earn you in MLB‘s expanded-playoff era?

If you’re a wild-card team, it earns you the right to play at least one more game. The San Francisco Giants will take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game to decide which team moves on to the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.

This may not be the fairest way to determine who takes another step toward a World Series crown, but it just might be the most exciting. Consider it a bonus for all the hard work as a fan of watching three-run, four-hour ballgames in the middle of an August heatwave. 

Here is all the relevant media information one needs to catch the NL Wild Card Game, followed by a quick preview.


2014 NL Wild Card Game Info: San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Date: October 1

Location: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Time (ET): 8 p.m.


Live Stream: WatchESPN



The Pirates have been in true swashbuckling form as of late, winning 19 of their last 25 games and coming within two games of upending the St. Louis Cardinals and capturing the NL Central crown. They are 4-2 against the Giants this year, and although the slate is wiped clean come playoff time, the Pirates carry a mental, home-field—and perhaps a starting pitching—edge.

Per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Bucs will send out Edinson Volquez, one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, to the mound Wednesday night. He’s 5-0 since the start of August and posted a 1.08 ERA with a .990 WHIP in the month of September.

“If he does indeed get the ball on Wednesday it’s well-deserved and I think everybody in this room has the utmost confidence that he’s the right guy to get the ball,” said teammate Gerrit Cole, via Brink. Volquez struggled in 2013 with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, but he’s shown no signs of relapsing into bad habits.

The Giants got a nice end-of-the-season jolt from star catcher Buster Posey, who went 1-for-2 with a two-run homer in the team’s final regular-season game. He was the main source of offense for the team, crushing 22 home runs and knocking in 89 RBI.

“I was, to be honest, a little concerned with if he was healthy,” Bochy said, via Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News. “But he showed it with that swing.”

Supplementing Posey will be players like outfielder Hunter Pence, who was second to Posey on the team with 20 home runs and 74 RBI, and Mike Morse, who posted an .811 OPS (on-base plus slugging) and notched 32 doubles.

A healthy Posey will certainly solidify the Giants lineup, but as Pavlovic notes, they may need to dip into their depth if they want to make this a long postseason:

With Angel Pagan and Michael Morse hurt, the Giants will need a deep attack Wednesday and beyond, and they got contributions up and down the roster. Brandon Belt reached base twice and scored a run, continuing his stellar play over the past week. Rookies Joe Panik, Andrew Susac and Matt Duffy are all likely to see postseason action, and they combined for four hits and two RBIs.

The new faces in the lineup and the lack of reams of data on their preferences may affect the Pirates, who have utilized shifts nearly 300 more times this season than the other NL playoff teams, according to ESPN Insider (subscription required) Scott Spratt.

It will be interesting to see if the team can pick its spots behind Volquez and save a run or two in this contest, but with one game deciding its playoff fate, it could opt for a more conservative and balanced approach.

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who finished the season with an 18-10 record and 2.98 ERA, will do his best to limit the Bucs in this contest, per a report from ESPN.com. 

The Pirates are in remarkable shape for this late in the season and the health of their squad, especially their star trio in the outfield, may prove to be the difference in this contest. Josh Harrison, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen have caused pitchers plenty of fits on the year with their all-around hitting acumen.

Bumgarner is a fine pitcher and will be a worthy test for the Bucs, but things seem to be going in the Pirates direction. Then again, it’s just one game, and anything can happen.


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Pittsburgh Pirates: Are They World Series Contenders in 2014?

Behold a pale horse, the Pittsburgh Pirates are serious contenders for the World Series in 2014.

After 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates reversed their fortunes with a 94-win season in 2013. The pitch-framing prowess of Russell Martin, leadership of Andrew McCutchen, might of Pedro Alvarez and unforeseen success of the pitching staff led the Steel City exodus out of baseball purgatory once and for all.

Star center fielder McCutchen was quoted as saying, via JockBio.com, “We won’t let history define our future. Our actions will do the talking. Our determination will turn doubters into believers.” And the rest is almost history.

I say almost because the Pirates organization is rooted in a history rich with stars and World Series victories. From Honus Wagner to Roberto Clemente to Dave Parker, the Pirates have tallied five World Series championships.

The current makeup of the clubhouse is reaching the apex of greatness, but they aren’t quite there yet. McCutchen and Co. know a World Series victory, their first since 1979, is the only thing that will make them great.

For what it’s worth, the 2013 season will never be forgotten among the Pittsburgh faithful. The fervor in which fans raised the Jolly Roger at PNC Park in 2013 is also leading to increased expectations for 2014. With the current roster, the Pirates have enough juice to exceed those expectations and bring the Steel City its first World Series championship in 35 years.

In many ways, the 2014 Pirates mirror the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Alvarez is similar to Ryan Howard in power. Martin provides stability behind the plate much like Carlos Ruiz. Neil Walker is cut from the same cloth as Chase Utley. Starling Marte provides electricity akin to Shane Victorino. Finally, McCutchen is playing the role of Jimmy Rollins via superstar talent and leadership.

Like the 2008 Phillies, the 2014 Pirates pitching staff lacks billowing luster on paper.

Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Brett Myers and Kyle Kendrick rounded out a Philly rotation that many considered mediocre. Closer Brad Lidge was lights out, tallying 41 saves in 41 opportunities, though. Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey and others filled out the bullpen.

In order for the Pirates to live up to and surpass expectations, they will need their pitching staff to outdistance their production from a year ago. Last season, Pittsburgh’s team earned run average (ERA) was third best in Major League Baseball. According to FanGraphs, their fielder independent pitching (FIP) was third best as well. 

A major provocateur of their 2013 success, A.J. Burnett, is currently a free agent. Over the winter, the Pirates let Burnett walk after figuring they would not be able to fit his $14 million option into their budgetTherefore, the rotation will have a slightly different look in 2014.

According to MLB Depth Charts, Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Wandy Rodriguez, Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez are projected to round out the rotation. The projected bullpen consists of Vin Mazzaro, Stolmy Pimentel, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and closer Jason Grilli.

While Cole has the pedigree to be one of the best arms in baseball for some time, a lot of question marks surround the rest of the staff. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, it has depth with Jeff Locke, Jeanmar Gomez, Brandon Cumpton and elite prospect Jameson Taillon.

To consider the pitching staff ho-hum is dismissing the position the team is in. The Pirates have a plethora of proficient arms to lean on if necessary.

The energy surrounding the lineup is another source of pride for this roster. With Marte leading off, the Pirates are constantly in a position to score runs early on. Shortstop Jordy Mercer is expected to bat second. While he may not be the long-term solution at the position for Pittsburgh, his .285 batting average last season was respectable.

The meat of the lineup consists of McCutchen, Alvarez and Walker. Martin is projected to bat sixth followed up by two platoon situations in the seven and eight holes. 

At first base, the Pirates are likely to split at-bats between Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo. In right field, the platoon of Jose Tabata, Travis Snider and Lambo is expected to loom large.

On the plus side, the Pirates have a farm system affluent with talent. Taillon is the only pitcher who is close to being MLB-ready, though. As for position players, shortstop Alen Hanson and outfielder Gregory Polanco are nearing their turns in the majors. Should some pitching, Mercer or any outfielder not named Marte or McCutchen fail to suffice through June, the Pirates will be able to lean on one of their young and talented prospects to fill the void. 

Baseball is budding once again in Pittsburgh.

The last time the Pirates sustained a run of consecutive winning seasons was from 1990 through 1992. The last time they were a serious threat to reach and win the World Series ended on October 14, 1992. Atlanta Braves first baseman and Carlisle, Pa., native Sid Bream crossed the plate, and the Pirates became irrelevant for the next two decades.

Vegas Insider has the Pittsburgh Pirates at 25-1 odds to win the World Series in 2014. With dark-horse odds, many won’t expect them to be as successful as they were a year ago. To win the National League pennant, the Pirates have the seventh-best odds at 12-1. Those odds are just slightly better than the woeful Phillies. 

Inside Pirates’ fandom, expectations are huge. Understanding the consequences of seeing Burnett walk into free agency are met with realistic assumptions about the rest of the roster. But to suggest a 37-year-old pitcher will make or break a baseball team is asinine. His loss is not that big of a deal for Pittsburgh.

The truth is that an organization no longer has to spend an abundance of dollars in order to field a championship-caliber club. No, it has to develop talent in-house and play matchmaker with the rest of the pieces to the puzzle.

So far, it looks as if general manager Neal Huntington and skipper Clint Hurdle are doing a great job with that task.

With one of the better farm systems in baseball, the Pirates have turned themselves into the Tampa Bay Rays of the NL. With a roster loaded with potential and following a year where they had better-than-expected success in the postseason, Pittsburgh is priming itself for a serious run at the World Series in 2014.

Major League Baseball is officially on alert.

All statistics provided courtesy of FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com.

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2012 National League Central Division Preview from Dugout Central

Continuing in Dugout Central’s annual pre-season ritual, I am going to present my predictions for the National League Heartland – er – Central Division in 2012. Last year saw an early-season surge by the generally hapless Pittsburgh Pirates, only to see them fall right back in the race where they’ve been for the better part of 20 seasons. July 17 saw Milwaukee Brewers pick-up Zack Greinke out-duel then-Cub Carlos Zambrano 2-0 to put the Brewers up half a game on the St. Louis Cardinals and 1.5 on Pittsburgh. The Brewers didn’t look back, going 41-17 from that game to win their first division title in 29 years. However, the last laugh was had by the Cardinals, who snuck into the wild card spot and defeated the Brewers in the NLCS en route to their NL-best 11th World Championship.


There were some major shake-ups both in the front office and on the field, ensuring that 2012 would be an exciting new year for the division.


Chicago Cubs

2011: 71-91, 5th Place, 25 GB, Scored 4.04 R/G (8th in NL), Allowed 4.67 R/G (14th in NL)

Key Losses: Aramis Ramirez (3B), Carlos Pena (1B), Carlos Zambrano (SP)

Key Additions: David Dejesus (OF), Ian Stewart (3B), Paul Maholm (SP)

Why they could win it all: The bright spot on the Chicago Cubs last year was the left side of the infield. While Aramis Ramirez packed his bags and moved up north, the Cubs feature one of the bright young stars in the game in Starlin Castro. Just 21 years old, Castro led the National League in hits last year with 207. A little more patience on both sides of the ball (he had almost as many errors as walks) will result in him being one of the players that the Cubs can build around moving forward.

Why they could fail: The Cubs completely revamped their front office by bringing in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, both of whom have been successful executives at the big league level. However, the damage from the Hendry regime has been done. Alfonso Soriano is eating a tremendous amount of payroll to play poorly (just 2.0 WAR total since 2009), as is Carlos Zambrano (to play for Miami). A 1-year turn-around just won’t be possible with the mess left-over. However, a big payroll and smart people to manage it may mean good things for the Cubs in the future as it did for the Red Sox.

What to watch: Alfonso Soriano needs to go, as he is deadweight in most aspects of his game. His .289 OBP and lackluster outfield defense have made his 136 million dollar contract one of the worst in history. Look for the Cubs to exploit a possible fast start by Soriano and turn it into a trade to an AL team, where he could potentially serve as a platoon DH. The key won’t be the player acquired, but rather the amount of salary his new team will be willing to eat.

2012 Prediction: 66-96, 5th place

Cincinnati Reds

2011: 79-83, 3rd Place, Scored 4.54 R/G (2nd in NL), Allowed 4.44 R/G (12th in NL)

Key Losses: Francisco Cordero (RP)Edgar Renteria (SS), Edinson Volquez (SP), Travis Wood (SP), Yonder Alonso (1B/OF)

Key Additions: Mat Latos (SP), Sean Marshall (RP), Ryan Madson (RP)

Why they could win it all: Remember that the Reds did win the division in 2010, posting over 90 wins before falling to Roy Halladay and the Phillies in the NLDS. The Reds did out-score their opponents on the year, and made a couple of nice pick-ups in Ryan Madson and Mat Latos. The offense is as potent as ever, with Joey Votto leading the charge as the best 1B in the division with Fielder and Pujols gone (though some may argue he had already reached that plateau).

Why they could fail: The Reds continue to employ Dusty Baker as their manager, so it’s hard to be shocked when they underperform their expected win-loss (not that a manager is necessarily responsible for that, but he can be). The rotation is a mess; Bronson Arroyo’s over the hill, and yet, he was the only Reds starter to make 30 starts last season, besides Mat Latos, recently acquired from the Padres. Latos has had good numbers in his first couple seasons, but he’s going from pitching half his games at the most pitcher-friendly park in the game to starting those games at one of the most hitter-friendly.

What to watch: Drew Stubbs was the leadoff hitter for most of the year. His league-worst 205 strikeouts wouldn’t be so alarming if he followed them up with actual on-base ability…which he does not (just a .321 OBP last year). Here’s a guy with some good tools, but he’s depriving Votto and Bruce of RBI opportunities by reaching so sparingly. Not saying he should be replaced on the team – his center field defense alone makes him worthwhile – but he shouldn’t lead-off.

2012 Prediction: 86-76, 3rd place

Houston Astros

2011: 56-106, 6th place, 40 GB, Scored 3.80 R/G (13th in NL), Allowed 4.91 R/G (16th in NL)

Key Losses: Jeff Keppinger (IF) Michael Bourn (OF), Hunter Pence (OF) [all mid-season last year]

Key Additions: Like, 100 prospects (including Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart).

 Why they could win it all: Wandy Rodriguez was solid yet again last year; over the past three years, he has a very nice 118 ERA+ and 1.279 WHIP. Unfortunately, he’s no Old Hoss Radbourn, and as such, can’t start every game for the Astros next year. Also, he has about as much chance of being an Astro come the trading deadline as I do.

Why they could fail: They were 56-106, added nothing at the big league level, and will now be without Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn for the entire 2012 season, as opposed to just half of it. The team that once owned this division like nobody’s business in the Killer-B years is now poised to leave it for the American League West, where, on a brighter note, they will have the luxury of facing the Mariners 18 or so times a year. I’ll be nice and give them 55 wins…and I’m thinking that’s probably optimistic.  

What to watch: Carlos Lee is in the final year of a 6-year, 100 million dollar deal that I still don’t understand. Let’s see if he plays well enough to eek out another deal before hanging up his spikes or if El Caballo is happy being a rich guy with 350 career home runs.

2012 Prediction: 55-107, Last Place.

Milwaukee Brewers

2011: 96-66, 1st Place,  Scored 4.45 R/G (5th in NL), Allowed 3.94 R/G (6th in NL)

Key Losses: Prince Fielder (1B), Casey McGehee (3B), Yuniesky Betancourt (SS), Takashi Saito (RP), LaTroy Hawkins (RP)

Key Additions: Aramis Ramirez (3B), Alex Gonzalez (SS), Jose Veras (RP), Norichika Aoki (OF)

Why they could win: The Brewers won the NL Central last season, and while they lost their superstar first baseman Prince Fielder, they patched up their two biggest holes – the left side of the infield. Despite winning 96 games last year, the Brewers featured the absolute worst third baseman and shortstop in the game. Aramis Ramirez has been a fixture in the division for the last decade with both the Pirates and Cubs, making two all-star teams. He won his first silver slugger last season, after hitting .306/.361/.510 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI for the hapless Cubs in 2011. Meanwhile Alex Gonzalez will take over at shortstop; he has roughly the same plate presence as Yuni Betancourt (horrific), but is a well-regarded fielder at the position and will certainly represent an upgrade. Finally, the Brewers have just received a major shot in the arm as their team leader and reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun has been cleared of all charges regarding a failed drug test last October.

Why they could fail: Losing Prince changes the landscape of this offense – Aramis Ramirez just isn’t going to be able to spell the same level of protection for Braun. Furthermore, there are just too many question marks. Will Mat Gamel be the hitter he was always projected to be, or will he be the hitter he has been in parts of 4 big league seasons? Will Randy Wolf continue to defy his peripherals? Will Greinke ever perform even close to the level he did in 2009? And what’s with this Aoki guy? He’s won 3 batting titles in Japan, but can we expect that to even remotely resemble what he does in the Majors? Lastly – does anyone think the Brewers will go 30-18 in 1-run games next season?

What to watch: Corey Hart is obviously going to be playing every day. That leaves two positions – either CF and RF or 1B and CF up for grabs. I say that because Hart can play 1st and it isn’t clear that Mat Gamel can perform at the big league level. The Brewers have a solid center field platoon lined up with Nyjer Morgan (who hit over .300 last year) and Carlos Gomez (one of the best defenders in the game). But what about the Japanese batting champion, Aoki? Will Morgan show he can replicate his 2011 performance? All we know for sure is that Hart is playing every day and Gomez is only starting against southpaws and finding his ways into other games as a pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement. All told, this makes for an incredible log-jam – and that’s before you start including all of Morgan’s alter-ego’s.

2012 Prediction: 87-75, 2nd place

Pittsburgh Pirates

2011: 72-90, 4th place, 24 GB, Scored 3.77 R/G (14th in NL), Allowed 4.40 R/G (11th in NL)

Key Losses: Paul Maholm (SP), Ryan Ludwick (OF), Derrek Lee (1B), Jose Veras (RP)

Key Gains: AJ Burnett (SP), Erik Bedard (SP), Casey McGehee (3B), Rod Barajas (C), Clint Barmes (SS)

Why they could win: Gotta hand it to the Pirates – they made quite the turn-around last year. After winning just 57 games in 2010 (while placing last in both runs scored and runs allowed), the Pirates jumped out as contenders early-on and were in first place as late as July 25th. They went just 19-43 from that point on, however, all while tacking on a pair of has-been veterans in an effort to put them over the top. There exists a fine young group of talented players on this team, however, led by Andrew McCutchen – who had a break-out first half and is one of the best players in the National League.

Why they might fail: Their first half made for a great story but it can be chalked up to flukiness. A lot of players came back down to Earth in a hurry, most of which were to be expected. All-star Kevin Correia struggled mightily in the 2nd half, failing to qualify for the ERA title, not that his 4.79 mark would have gotten the job done. No Pittsburgh starter made it to 175 innings, and it’s highly unlikely that AJ Burnett will turn that around. No regular hit over .275 or OPS’d over .830 and only McCutchen was a measurable force of any kind. They’ve got a major talent on their hands in center field, but given the Pirates’ history, he’ll be fulfilling that potential in some place besides Pittsburgh.  

Things to watch: Joel Hanrahan emerged out of nowhere last season to be one of the National League’s premier relievers. However, like most closers, he was criminally mis-managed, as Clint Hurdle saved him only for save situations – including an 18-inning affair against the Braves that ended on a blown call. Has Hurdle learned his lesson? The fans at PNC better hope so.

2012 Prediction: 73-89, 4th Place


St. Louis Cardinals

2011: World Series Champs, 90-72, 2nd place, 6 GB, Scored 4.70 R/G (1st in NL), Allowed 4.27  R/G (9th in NL)

Key Losses: Albert Pujols (1B), Edwin Jackson (SP), Octavio Dotel (RP)

Key Gains: Carlos Beltran (OF), Adam Wainwright (SP)

Why they could win: The departure of one of the greatest players to ever play the game certainly could spell doom, but GM John Mozeliak did a fantastic job of overcoming that loss by signing future hall-of-famer Carlos Beltran to an affordable 2-year deal, locking up Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter for 2 years before the season even ended, and bringing back spark-plug Rafael Furcal. They would be better off for 2012 with Albert Pujols, but 10 years at 24 million per season was just too much – and I think Mozeliak made the right call by thinking beyond 2012 (apparently, he doesn’t take Mayans too seriously). Holliday-Berkman-Beltran spell the best heart of the order in this division and the return of Adam Wainwright to the rotation means that the Cardinals have the pitching necessary to take them back to the post-season. They are my pick to win the division.

Why they could fail: They did undergo some changes, that’s for sure. Mike Matheny will take over for Tony LaRussa and the great pitching coach Dave Duncan will not be around for 2012, as he is helping his wife, Jeanine during her bout with cancer. And of course, Albert Pujols is no longer a Cardinal. This could have far-reaching effects beyond the .328/.420/.617, 42 HR, 126 RBI line he averaged in eleven years as a Cardinal. Losing Pujols means everyone gets pitched to differently, it means teams can approach situations differently, and it means that lesser players have to take up the slack. That’s not to hate on Berkman, Holliday, Beltran, or NLCS & World Series MVP David Freese – but there’s excellent ballplayers, and then there are transcendent ballplayers. Pujols was the latter.

What to watch: All eyes will be on Adam Wainwright, who returns this season after losing 2011 to Tommy John surgery. Wainwright placed top-3 in the last two Cy Young ballots, posting 11.9 WAR in that time span. He pitched over 230 innings in both years but is unlikely to reach 200 this season in his recovery. We’ll see how his new arm ligaments hold up.

2011 Prediction: 92-70, 1st Place



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Phantom Double Play: Umpires Get it Right in Reds-Pirates Game

Umpire Lance Barrett worked his first MLB regular season game in 2010, joining the likes of fellow umps Vic Carapazza, Cory Blaser, John Tumpane, Alan Porter, Mark Ripperger, Manny Gonzalez and David Rackley as the so-called Class of 2010, now into their second season of big league games.

Like all AAA call-up umpires, Barrett is trying to set himself apart so he can get a full-time job at the MLB level.

Sometimes, proving yourself to the MLB brass involves making a big-time call in a potentially confusing situation. Last season, the Class of 2009’s Dan Bellino won over many Umpire Ejection Fantasy Leaguers as well as MLB Supervisors with an ejection following a confident and correct obstruction call in Washington. Bellino was hired by MLB prior to the 2011 season.

Barrett’s Bellino moment may have come in Pittsburgh tonight. In the top of the fifth inning of the RedsPirates game, with one out, runners on first and second, and the possibility of an infield fly fresh in all of our minds, Reds batter Drew Stubbs lined a Jeff Locke fastball to Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

While Cedeno fielded the ball on a short-hop, baserunner R2 (and pitcher by trade) Edinson Volquez, mistakingly believing the ball had been caught, stepped back onto second base as Cedeno threw to second baseman Neil Walker. Walker caught the ball and stepped on the second base bag, resulting in an out call from Barrett.

Walker subsequently tagged Volquez, who was standing on second base. This resulted in a safe call from Barrett.

Fairly straightforward: R1 Brandon Phillips was forced out on the tag of second base, which took the force off of R2 Volquez, who now legally and safely occupied second base. Batter Stubbs safely arrived at first base. One out, two on.

Not so fast… Phillips, as confused as anyone, and perhaps adding to the confusion himself, began running frantically between first and second base, drawing a throw from Walker. The bewildered Pirates infield quickly trapped the already-retired R1 Phillips in a rundown between first and second before unnecessarily tagging out Phillips for a second time.

Either way, Barrett once again gave the out call so there would be no confusion this time. Unfortunately, there was confusion – lots of it, for everyone except perhaps Barrett, crew chief Mike Winters, and umpires Mike Everitt and Chris Guccione… or maybe for them as well.

For you see, the umpires determined that Phillips was out, as expected. Batter Drew Stubbs would be placed on first base, also as expected. But Volquez, who had taken off for third base in the pandemonium which ensued while Phillips was in a rundown between first and second, was sent back to second base.

To understand why Barrett, Winters and the other umpires ruled the way they did requires an analysis of MLB Rules 7.09(e) and 9.01(c).

Rule 7.09(e) states, in part, it is interference when “any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner.” Rule 7.09(e) Comment additionally states, “If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.”

Rule 9.01(c), as all umpires know, is the so-called elastic clause, which gives an umpire the “authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.”

Putting the two together allows for an explanation of why the umpires ruled the way they did. Phillips’ post-put out actions were not enough on their own to be considered interference. This is clearly specified in Rule 7.09(e) Comment. However, the Phillips rundown clearly did confuse the fielders and allow Volquez to advance toward third base.

In the end, Winters correctly invoked Rule 9.01(c) to deliver a fair and just judgment: Phillips was out, Stubbs was safe at first, and Volquez would also be ruled safe, but fairly returned to second base.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Injury Report: Andrew McCutchen To Play, Derrek Lee Activated

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is back in the lineup Saturday after being struck on his left hand on Friday by Cubs hurler Ryan Dempster in the first inning of Friday’s game in Chicago.

McCutchen winced as the ball deflected off of the back of his left knuckles and grimaced as he trotted toward first base. He was met by a trainer on the way up the first-base line and the pain showed on his face as pressure was applied to the area.

McCutchen continued to first base to run, but he was removed from the game once the Pirates were retired.

X-rays showed there was no break, and McCutchen was diagnosed with a bone bruise.

McCutchen was replaced in the game by Jose Tabata, who was intended to be rested for the same game due to a sore hand of his own. Tabata had a hit and an RBI in the Pirates’ 3-1 victory.

Alex Presley had two triples and scored twice and pitcher Brian Burres, making his first MLB start since the end of the 2010 season, held the Cubs to just one run.

Lee Activated from Injury List

First baseman Derrek Lee has been activated by the Pirates and will play in today’s game in Chicago. Lee has recovered from a broken hand suffered in his fourth game after being acquired by the Pirates at the trade deadline.


Other Injury News

Pitcher Jeff Karstens, who skipped his scheduled start yesterday, is still feeling some shoulder discomfort and will likely miss his next scheduled start as well.

Outfielder Ryan Ludwick is 100 percent ready to go after being placed on the disabled list for back spasms. He is eligible to rejoin the team as of next Wednesday.

Reliever Evan Meek will likely be rejoining the Pirates at the end of the Indianapolis Indians season on Monday. Meek has been rehabbing from a shoulder injury in Triple-A and will be a welcomed addition to a tired Pirates bullpen.


This article has been edited to reflect Lee’s activation. McCutchen and Lee are both in Saturday’s starting lineup.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: 4 Runs or Fewer Equals Success for Pirates Pitching

Success in baseball generally comes from solid pitching. This is especially the case for the Pirates this season.

When the Pirates hold opponents to four runs or fewer they are 7-2. When they give up five runs or more they are 1-9.The Pirates team ERA is 4.24, which is good for 19th in Major League Baseball.

They aren’t striking many batters out (118) and are walking too many (73).

These statistics may not matter if the defense was one of good quality. Too bad the Pirates are nowhere near “good quality.”  They have the third most errors in the MLB (17). Their fielding percentage is sitting around 98 percent, which is 28th in baseball.

Kevin Correia has been the best and most consistent Pirates pitchers. He is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA.

Paul Maholm is 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in a year that he desperately needs to show more consistency. This isn’t the start he was looking for. Charlie Morton was great in his first three starts but struggled in his last start against the Florida Marlins. He is 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA, but has more walks (15) than strikeouts (12).

Ross Ohlendorf is injured but didn’t show too much anyway. James McDonald has struggled from start number one. He is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA. He has already given up 21 earned runs in four starts.

The bullpen has been a downfall for the most part. Only Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop and Daniel McCutchen have been consistent. Michael Crotta hasn’t been too bad, either.

The Pirates need to do a better job at holding teams down early in games. Once a young team gets down early they tend to press and be more aggressive. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, and lately it has been the latter.

If the Pirates want get to back to .500, the pitching must show up during this upcoming home stand. They play the Nationals and the Giants for a combined six games at PNC Park starting Friday.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching Has Been Good, but Will It Stay That Way?

It’s difficult to imagine things having gone any better for the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff through first eight games in 2011. The offense has hit for a team on-base percentage of just .312 and a stunningly bad (but not league-worst) .295 weighted on-base average. But the pitching has kept the team in every game it has played.

And they’re winning.  

The Pirates are 5-3 almost entirely behind their starting pitching and bullpen, with some cameo appearances from outfielders Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen, second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Lyle Overbay.  Third basemen Pedro Alvarez has been terrible.  The offense has, really, gotten contributions from four people.  

And they’re still winning.  Yes, it’s the pitching.  But have the pitchers really been all that good?  

The staff ERA is a sleek 2.76, which is unattainable for any team.  No club can keep the opposition under three earned runs per game for an entire season.  There will be a regression to the mean.

The question at hand is just how hard the crashing down to Earth will be when it happens. 

The guess on this end is that it will be pretty destructive.  Their K/BB ratio is third worst in the league at 1.52 and they’re only striking out two batters every three innings.  Those numbers are even worse for the starting pitching, which has itself covered a bit by the extraordinarily K-prone closer Joel Hanrahan.

The ERA is 2.76, but the fielding independent pitching (FIP) is 3.62, and the xFIP (fielding independent pitching with an expectation of home run rates rising to league average) is a lousy 4.62.  Translation: The Pirates are getting lucky. Lucky to have had so many balls hit to stoppable spots and lucky to have given up just three home runs in eight games despite having the 11th highest flyball rate in the league (39.3 percent).  

The team defense has been okay in spurts so far this year, but in reality, the only members of the starting lineup with above average defensive pedigrees are Tabata, McCutchen, Overbay and injured catcher Chris Snyder.  With a pitch-to-contact staff, it seems unlikely that its pitches will keep being hit right at fielders.  

Pittsburgh’s rotation is far from the worst in the league, as some anticipated it would be before the year. There’s a good shot that they can be at least respectable this season, and the bullpen should be above average if Hanrahan, Jose Veras, Evan Meek, Mike Crotta and Chris Resop stay healthy.

A playoff rotation, however, they are not.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, Major League Baseball’s Next Superstar

When people around the Pittsburgh area heard that Andrew McCutchen was going to be batting third in the Pirates batting order, some people were skeptical. He is by far the Pirates fastest player and possibly the fastest man in Major League Baseball.

Wouldn’t a guy like this be better if he were batting leadoff?

The best and most talented hitter should be batting third, in my mind. McCutchen batted .286 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI last year. Expect those numbers to rise to 25 HR and 100 RBI this season, barring injury.

If the lineup changes for some reason and McCutchen moves to leadoff spot, then his overall HR and RBI totals will drop slightly. But if Jose Tabata and Neil Walker can consistently get on base, expect McCutchen to have an outstanding season batting third.

He is on the brink of being a household name, if he isn’t already. Watching him fly around the bases on TV doesn’t compare to watching him live at the ballpark. It is special watching him chase down fly balls, but he is dynamic when he hits the ball into the gap. That is the most exciting part to McCutchen’s game.

He just missed out on making the NL All-Star team last season, as he struggled in the weeks leading up to it. Evan Meek got the vote and McCutchen was left off. Not this season—McCutchen will be a surefire All-Star and will be able to showcase his talents on the national stage.

His 5’10”, 175-pound frame doesn’t scream power, but he has loads of it. He can spray it to all parts of the field. McCutchen could potentially be a 30-HR and 30-SB type of player this season. He stole 33 bases a year ago in his first full season as a Pirate.

If he does hit 30 HR and steal 30 bases this year, who knows what he will have in store for next season. He could hit 40 and steal 40 before his career is over.

The Pirates organization hasn’t seen a guy of this caliber since Barry Bonds.

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NL Central: Which Team Will Win the Division in 2011? You’ll Be Surprised!

At first glance the N.L. Central would seem to be a two-team race between the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers. Some people add the St. Louis Cardinals to the mix because, well, they’re the St. Louis Cardinals. But most analysts seem to agree that it’s between the Reds with their combination of speed, power and pitching, and the Brewers, who have one of the top offenses in baseball.

But hold on!

If you take a closer look you’ll see that each team in the division has significant weaknesses as well as some hidden strengths, making this a five-team race (sorry, Houston) that could come down to the wire and be one of the most exciting in baseball for the 2011 season.

So now, a look at each team and why they can win and why they won’t…

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Wave The White Jolly Roger: Lament Of The Pittsburgh Pirates

The crack of the bat. The smell of freshly cut grass. Wishing you were in Florida or Arizona. These are the sweet memories and wishes all baseball fans start to have right around this time of the year.

Regardless of what popular opinion may say, baseball is still the American pastime. It’s why their athletes get paid more than any other sport and the Yankees are the No. 1 sports brand name in the world.

But unfortunately, in all sports there must be team that loses while one wins. For Pittsburgh Pirates fan like myself, this is the natural order of things. Natural order also states that the Pirates cannot win more than 80 games each year for the past 18 seasons.

That’s right, I have yet to live through a Bucs winning season.

So then throwing the obvious question of “why am I a Pirates fan?” aside, the next question is, will the Pirates break this streak in the 2011 season?

The answer is no.

The Pirates lineup includes Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and and Jose Tabata, who are all young players who have proven that .290, 25 HRs and 75 RBI are possible when given playing time.

The problem is that when you have a young lineup, there needs to be veterans who can not only teach, but be the consistent rock during slumps with these young potential stars. I’m not saying you need former MVPs, just players like Xavier Nady or late-years Brian Giles: not necessarily fantastic, but consistent and dugout leaders.

The Pirates don’t have that as of now. Possibly Ronnie Cedeño or Lyle Overbay, but history has taught us that when these players come to Pittsburgh, expect their production to drop off the Mount Washington overlook (ex. Jeromy Burnitz and Randall Simon).

Furthermore, teams who succeed with young, potential-laden lineups succeed due to solid and consistent pitching.

Pardon me if you think Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, Daniel McCutchen, Brad Lincoln and Charlie Morton make up a consistent pitching staff. Ohlendorf went from 11 wins to just one this past season and will more than likely be the Opening Day starter.

I would have hope in the Pirates’ pitching scouting abilities, but the ghosts of Kris Benson, Jimmy Anderson and Ryan Voglesong haunt me.

So then the natural follow up becomes: How does this happen for 18 consecutive years? An optimist will say it is the curse of Andy Van Slyke (or Barry Bonds, your choice) upon which the Pirates pick the wrong players to hold on to and let go.

Keep Kevin Young and dump Jason Kendall is one example that still burns me.

Another is to dump Todd Richie and keep Jimmy Anderson. Some will say Brain Giles, Jason Bay (who was part of the Giles deal) and Freddy Sanchez may have left regardless of midseason loyalty, but that doesn’t mean trading them for future and permanent Double-A players is smarter.

More recent moronic Pirate trading includes dumping promising prospects for a multitude of younger prospects with less potential. Dumping Jose Bautista (the same who just hit 50 HRs) and Nate McClouth (I know, injured and did little, but still an All-Star, gold-glove player) for players to be lost in the Pirates farm system puzzles everyone.

Now, I truly lament because the management does not care. Recent reports show the Pirates still make a good deal of money off of this Triple-A team due to eternal optimism by baseball junkies like myself.

Ouch. That kind of manipulation of the system should be illegal.

Unfortunately, it isn’t. The Yankees may manipulate revenue sharing at one end, but the Pirates management is just as bad at the opposite end.

So, to all Pirates fans, I say let us all wallow in eternal misery. Until Mark Cuban breaks down Bud Selig and buys his hometown Bucs, we will be subject to a perversion of what Pittsburgh baseball should be. I cry at the thought of Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente could have been forced to watch their former champion Pirates now.

While some may be excited for this glimpse of summer’s glory, we all look at the dreary Pittsburgh sky and realize that this may actually be better than actually watching the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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