Friday, August 6, 2010

8-5-10: vs. the Rockies

Iwamura. Church. Laroche. Clement. Morton. Duke. Hart. Doumit. Lincoln.

What is the common thread here?

This year, they have all performed well below expectations. This list could easily be expanded to encompass a few other guys both at the major and minor league level, but this list of 9 names is the summation of a year that was not expected to be very good and has managed to actually be even worse. As much as I defend this team and its front office, only a fool would claim otherwise.

That being said, there have been several definite flickers of light so far this season that indicates a much brighter future lies ahead. Off the top of my head:

Tabata. Walker. Hanrahan. Meek. The Indianapolis Indians. The Altoona Curve. The Bradenton Marauders.

And now this guy:
James McDonald was recently acquired from the LA Dodgers and made his debut at PNC Park last night. In exchange, the Pirates traded Dotel, a top closer who is nevertheless 36 and by his own words only has a year left in him at most. Initially, a strange thing happened: national baseball analysts such as Keith Olbermann actually praised the front office for having made the trade. This McDonald was said to be very good, perhaps even a steal.
Needless to say, I got nervous. God knows we've heard that line before, and I have learned to temper any enthusiasm with at least an equal amount of caution. For once, however, something for this team has at least gone right from the get-go.
That arm earned 8 strikeouts on the season off of a team that, while struggling, is capable of hitting the ball. He was kept to a very strict pitch count due to having not pitched much this season, but anyone at this game got to see something very special: a Pirates starting pitcher logging a truly amazing start who isn't a pitch-to-contact guy.
This guy. What a guy, this guy. His arms and legs are like pipe cleaners that also happen to be able to throw a 75-mile-per-hour changeup with -14 inch vertical movement for a strike.
Of course, I don't expect this kind of performance from him every start. But we finally do have a guy who can get strikeouts and have it not be a fluke. As much as I like and miss Octavio Dotel, a good closer doesn't do you much good when your starting pitcher gives up five runs and your offense most likely won't score more than three.
Look at those limbs. Look at those crazy angles. If his future wife ever drops her wedding ring down the drain, he'll be able to reach right down in there and get it for her no problem.
And then we even got us some home runs from Jones and Cedeno. Once again-fireworks in the daytime.
And this is absolutely the first time I have ever seen someone show up to a Pirates game with stuff painted on them.

Colorado's pitcher Jeff Francis. To put it simply, he was not as good as McDonald.
Cedeno reacts to a called strike shortly before hitting a home run.
Cedeno goes for a high five, but Milledge knows hitters have to hug.

The 'so hot it sizzles' finger touch.
McCutchen safe at third.
Tabata grinning as he returns to the dugout. It's not every day you get to see a Pirate smiling.
Chris Snyder managed to catch two foul tips. As a means of comparison, I don't think I've seen Doumit make more than one in the last two years.
Snyder says the F word after a strikeout.
Walker continues to be the nucleus of the Pirates offense.
McCutchen talking to Tony Beasley during a Rockies pitching change.
And making this face for some reason.
One dark note to the night: Sean Gallagher was really not very good at all. He came into a low-pressure situation with a 5-0 lead and proceeded to walk the first two batters he faced. Fortunately, Russell pulled him right away and Justin Thomas managed to get out of the inning with only one of the base runners crossing home plate.

Justin Thomas heading to the dugout (and apparently Indianapolis; he was optioned earlier today).
Chris Resop, another recent acquisition, came in to pitch the top of the ninth. He gave up no hits or walks, and earned a strikeout.

And so we won one of the more decisive Pirates victories in recent memory.

Could the Colorado Rockies be our new Chicago Cubs? I'll say this-Zack Duke has to have himself another quality start at some point here, and if we manage to win two consecutive series against the Rockies, their season is as good as over. I'm all for it; there's a certain guilty pleasure to watching a team fulfill its role as spoilers and dash the hopes and dreams of their opponent.

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