Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Pittsburgh Pirates Five Minutes of Failure Video

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the second consecutive Five Minutes of Failure video. Had I thought of doing these a week ago, this could be the fourth in five games. That's right: the Pittsburgh Pirates are 1 and 5 on this, their first home stand of the season. The good will that surrounded this team last Thursday is long gone, and it has indeed become difficult to believe that it was ever here in the first place.

The Pirates' only home win so far has come in the extra-extra-innings win this past Friday, and that was anything but a decisive victory. However, this team has managed to have several decisive losses, and the latest one just ended. The Brewers got themselves six runs, in comparison to the Pirates' zero runs. Much like a cavity or an ingrown hair, the surface appearance of this loss belies how grisly it truly was.

As failures go, however, this was a pretty educational one. The respective performances of the Brewers and the Pirates this evening provide some clues as to what the Pirates need to do in order to start winning some ball games.

Both teams went four full innings without a hit until their respective starting pitchers got themselves in a little trouble.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Brewers pitcher Shaun Marcum gave up a leadoff single to Pirates first baseman Lyle Overbay. Matt Diaz, who after tonight is still hitting only .263, immediately followed with a single to put runners on first and second with zero outs. At this point, it is not unreasonable to expect that you might see some RBIs before the end of said inning. However, neither Alvarez, Doumit nor Cedeno were even able to so much as advance the runners, and Marcum exited the inning unscathed.

In the very next inning, Pirates pitcher Kevin Correia ran into a similar kind of trouble and was not nearly so lucky as Shaun Marcum. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy hit a leadoff double, which also happened to be his first hit of the season. Shaun Marcum was next up, and managed to get on first with a bunt bobbled by Correia. Now the Pirates are screwed; Correia is facing the top of the Brewers batting order with two runners on base and no outs. The Brewers batting order is a force to be reckoned with, and sure enough, he got thumped for four runs.

Having two on and no outs with the top of the batting order at the plate is of course more of a threat than two on and no outs with your sixth batter at the plate. However, if you cannot manage to get at least one run in that situation, you will not deserve to win the ball game, even in the unlikely event that you somehow manage to do so. If one could assign errors to the offense, this would certainly earn one.

The lesson to be learned from contrasting these two innings really has nothing to do with quantity of runs, nor with the respective offensive abilities of the next three batters. A bunt and a sacrifice fly should be pretty much expected, especially when going against a team that will knock you out in the blink of an eye.

What this loss indicates is a team that has yet to coalesce into a productive unit. The losing atmosphere that Hurdle promised to erase seems to have crept back into the hearts and minds of the Pittsburgh Pirates in a big way, and all of Clint Hurdle's charisma isn't going to get consistently good at-bats. Shaun Marcum's single is the kind of thing a winning team does: he knew that Correia was on a roll, and that they had to maximize their opportunity. Pitcher or no, he did just that.

Where do we go now? I don't know about you, but tomorrow I'm going to Altoona to see the Curve season opener at Blair County Ballpark. Tony Sanchez and Starling Marte: the future that can't come a moment too soon.

The Video!

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