Thursday, August 5, 2010

4-3-10 vs the Reds: The Win That Was

Frank Coonelly knows that good times are in fact on their way, even if you don't. Mark my words: one day, you will love this man.
The Reds practice beneath foreboding skies.
Did you know Ronny Cedeno is 5th in the national league for fielding percentage and 4th in the national league for assists?
Mike Leake, star pitcher of the Cincinnati Reds, looks every bit as young as you would expect of a 22-year-old kid who completely bypassed the minors. He has a 3.86 ERA for the season, but has struggled as of late with two consecutive losses. Terrifyingly, he almost managed to get a no-decision on a game in which he gave up six runs in an inning, but we managed to stave off the Reds offense to earn yet another one-run victory.

Thank God we managed not to lose this game. What began like something out of a movie-celebrated star player gets hit by a pitch in the neck, losing team retaliates with six runs from out of nowhere-began to look more like a nightmare as the Reds steadily scored run after run off of Paul Maholm and a seriously-flummoxed Evan Meek.
Mike Leake looks on as Andrew McCutchen lies motionless following a brush-off pitch that worked a little too well.

Andrew McCutchen slowly makes his way off of the field.
Maholm gave up 9 hits, 4 earned runs and two walks. From the first inning it was apparent that he did not have his good stuff tonight, but following the McCutchen injury he grew visibly sharper. This ebbed and flowed throughout the next three innings before he was pulled in the sixth. Maholm is a pitcher who seems to perform better when he is somewhat angry as he was tonight, but the Reds know how to hit the ball. This always spells trouble for a pitch-to-contact guy like Maholm, especially when his offense only scores about three runs a game.
Following the six run inning, Mike Leake was left visibly shaken. As a result, this happened.
Tabata reacts to a strikeout. Despite the burst of offense, this was not a fun game for the players. McCutchen looked like he was headed for the DL with a concussion, and we were clearly outmatched by the Reds. Although an emotional roller coaster for the fans, this game was still very much a grind.
Relief Pitcher Jordan Smith reacts to giving up three hits through 1.2 innings, apparently not realizing that our chances of driving in said base runners was very slim.
Chris Snyder post-strikeout.
Cedeno out at second.
The other big story aside from the second inning was Evan Meek's epic two innings of work tonight. Tonight, the sudden depletion of the bullpen was sorely felt by players, coaches and fans alike. One imagines that the Pirates' general mentality hangs by a very thin thread as a result of protracted losing streak after protracted losing streak, and losing a game in which we scored six runs in the second just might have been too much for a bruised and battered hive mind to handle.
Maholm gave every indication that he wasn't going to make it through seven innings, but as of very recently the Pirates are extremely limited in terms of reliable relief pitchers. Karstens is a de facto fifth starter, and guys like Daniel McCutchen have fared poorly against teams far worse than the Reds. Maholm walked the first two batters he faced in the seventh, and John Russell was compelled to take him out of the game. Evan Meek has been used for two consecutive innings periodically throughout the season, and although concerns of overuse are undeniably justified, one cannot count on guys like Gallagher, Ledezma, Thomas or the recently-designated Jackson to shut the door. And thus, Evan Meek's epic night from hell began.
Evan Meek pitched as well as he ever does in his first inning of work and came to bat, fully expecting to strike out and return to the dugout. Amazingly, he got a hit up the right foul line.
One doesn't like to see a pitcher stuck on base for too long; it has been said to negatively impact their ability to pitch in the next inning for reasons that should be obvious. Meek made it to third base in the 7th, however. One at least hopes to get a run out of such a situation, but Garrett Jones hit an easily-caught pop-up and it was all for naught.
This was clearly not lost on Garrett Jones.
This is a mistake.
Another broken bat shot! The barrel of the bat came very close to Meek's head, further shaking him up. Following the out at first, Meek made his way back to the pitching mound.
On the way, he missed a simple toss from the catcher. No one in the audience seemed to pick up on it, but this was a major "uh oh" moment for me.
And for Evan.

Hernandez strikes out.
Atypically, Meek began to suffer serious control problems as his pitch count rose.
He was tired.
He was unhappy.
He was worried.
Ultimately he got out of the inning, but not before giving up three runs to leave the Pirates with only a one-run lead.
Fortunately, Hanrahan kicks as much ass as he ever did and we got ourselves a mirage of a victory.

As I write this, recently-acquired pitcher James McDonald is due to get his first start with the Pirates this evening (8-5-10). Incredulously, Jeff Clement is not starting despite having gone 3 for 4 with two home runs since being up here; this raises some concern, but Jones has apparently been placed on waivers now and it makes sense to showcase him despite the fact that he has been slumping in a very big way. Nevertheless, I still hold out hope that the Pirates will show some kind of small improvement in this quickly-passing second half. Is this a pipe dream? It very well could be, but one way or the other I'll be at the games.

1 comment:

  1. If the Rays can go from horrible to good, no reason why the Bucs can't go it as well. Pirates will be back one day! I believe.