Greinke Signs with LAD; Dominoes to Fall?

The Pirates are in dire need of a starting pitcher. In fact, the depth chart on the team website only lists four pitchers in the starting rotation. Those hurlers are A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, and Jeff Locke. Burnett and Rodriguez are the leaders of the staff; two reliable veterans who should bring a lot to the table. McDonald, despite his tremendous first half, was demoted to the bullpen down the stretch; who knows which J-Mac we’ll see in 2013. Jeff Locke hasn’t done much to prove he’s worthy of a starting spot; he’s just 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 12 career MLB games.

It was reported Saturday night that Zack Greinke would be signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who apparently have an unlimited supply of cash. The deal is reportedly worth $147 million over six seasons, which would make him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher ever. Greinke, 29, entered the offseason as the most prized pitcher on the free agent market. Typically, players wait until the top free agent inks a deal before deciding where to sign, hence why there weren’t many big moves at the Winter Meetings.

With Greinke off the market, is it time for the dominoes to fall?

Here’s a look at some of the remaining free agent starters:

Anibal Sanchez – Out of price range; Dodgers interested in him, too.

Edwin Jackson – #EJaxToBucs failed last year; worthy of a second attempt?

Ryan Dempster – Mitch Williams suggested he’d be a fit for the Bucco rotation.

Kyle Lohse – Beyond the Box Score makes a case not to sign him.

Shaun Marcum – Seems like a decent add; drawing plenty of interest from other teams.

Francisco Liriano – His name has popped up multiple times as a fit for the Pirates.

Joe Saunders – Orioles still looking to re-sign the veteran southpaw.

Kevin Correia – Doubtful that Correia and/or the Bucs want a deal.

Carl Pavano – Wouldn’t be surprised to see NH take a flyer on him.

Jeff Karstens – Should not have been non-tendered by the Pirates; unlikely to return.

Mike Pelfrey – Non-tendered by Mets; appeared in just three games in 2012 (elbow).

Jair Jurrjens – Braves non-tendered him; 2011 All-Star said to have a dead arm.

Manny Parra – Non-tendered by Brewers; no thanks.

Tom Gorzelanny – Ex-Buc non-tendered by Nats; possible long-reliever/mop-up man.

John Lannan – Another Washington non-tender; no space for him in Nats rotation.

Who knows which route Neal Huntington will take. Keep in mind that a starting pitcher could be acquired via trade – closer Joel Hanrahan may be on the move (especially if Jason Grilli re-signs in Pittsburgh).

The starting rotation let the team down at the end of both 2011 and 2012, so it’s important to bolster the staff. There is a bit of help on the way (see: Cole, Gerrit) but that won’t be until mid-season at the earliest. The rotation is up in the air at the moment, but hopefully that changes in the coming weeks with some acquisitions.

Go Bucs

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Action-packed win

Well, it wasn’t pretty, but the Bucs pulled out a victory over the Dodgers.  It was really one of the weirdest games we’ve seen all year.  Multiple ejections, Bucco blasts, and A.J. Burnett‘s epic response to Hanley Ramirez all added to the craziness of this game.

The fireworks started in the first when Garrett Jones crushed a three-run bomb to RF.  You could really feel the excitement of everyone, and it was nice to see the Bucs jump out to an early lead.  Pedro doubled later in the first, but didn’t score.  Five pitches into the second inning, Matt Kemp was ejected by the home plate umpire.  Kemp, who was tossed while still in the dugout, had struck out to end the first inning, and was barking at the umpire from the bench.  Don Mattingly came running out of the dugout as Kemp exploded at the umpires, and other Dodgers had to come out to restrain them.  Mattingly was ejected after a few minutes, and play resumed.

Kemp’s blow up was too much for this kid’s ears.

James Loney hit a solo home run later in the second, making it 3-1.  In the fourth, Pedro threw away a bunt attempt and a run scored.  Two batters later, Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run bomb to right-center.  As he rounded second, he gestured to Burnett with his “lo viste” sign, but A.J. was not impressed.

Clint Barmes tied the game at four with his first triple since 2009.  Even more impressive than the actual hit was Rod Barajas scoring all the way from first, and chugging down the line to beat the throw.  With two on and no out in the fifth, GI Jones blasted his second three-run homer of the day.  The ball was estimated to travel 424 feet.  Two batters later, Pedro took Joe Blanton deep for his 22nd bomb of the year.  That knocked Blanton from the game, and he actually got tossed for arguing with the umpire on his way to the dugout.

In the bottom of the sixth, Hanley struck out swinging to end the inning.  He had some words for the HP umpire, and so did Burnett had some words for him.  As he walked off the field, he yelled “Sit the F*** down!”  Here’s a GIF courtesy of SB Nation.

A.J. took the 8-4 lead into the seventh, where he got into trouble.  With two on and two out, Burnett plunked Shane Victorino to load the bases.  An infield hit that deflected off of A.J. scored a run, and he hit another batter to make it 8-6.  Tony Watson, who has struggled as of late, came in and got a huge groundout to end the inning and keep the lead intact.

The Bucs loaded the bases in the seventh, and Barmes came through again with a clutch two-run single.  That made it 10-6, and set the stage for the back end of the Pirates bullpen.  There was a 1-4-3 fielder’s choice in the middle of Jason Grilli pitching the eighth, so this game had officially seen it all.  Joel Hanrahan closed out the game, and the losing streak finally came to an end.

It wasn’t perfect, but a win is a win.  This is definitely one of those wins that can turn a team around for the better, which is exactly what the Pirates need right now.  Heading into St. Louis, every loss is costly.

Pirates (65-53) – Dodgers (65-54)

Win: Burnett (15-4)
Loss: Blanton (8-11)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Bucs lose, Walker hurt

It’s late, and it was a brutal game, so this will just be a quick recap.

The Bucs dropped their third straight game, 9-3 to the Dodgers.  Wandy Rodriguez, making his fourth start since being traded over, took the loss.  He went just 5.2 innings and got pounded for ten hits and five runs.  LA got four more runs off of Chris Resop, and hammered out fifteen hits total.  Matt Kemp had drove in three runs, and even Los Angeles pitcher Clayton Kershaw collected two hits.

On the mound, Kershaw went eight innings and struck out eight.  Garrett Jones and Clint Barmes drove in runs, and Cutch hit a bomb to CF.  His 24th of the year landed in the “P” in Pirates.  Gaby Sanchez had a nice day at the plate, picking up two doubles and scoring a run.  Obviously, the Bucs didn’t look good at the plate, but it’s also important to remember that Kershaw is one of the top five or six pitchers in all of baseball.  He makes lefties look terrible at the plate, and does this to just about every team he faces.

The biggest news coming out of the game was Neil Walker‘s injury.  He left the game in the first inning with a dislocated finger (later learned it was pinky) on his throwing hand.  While trying to turn a double play, he took a hard slide and flipped to the ground, landing on his hand.  We really don’t know much about the injury, but he’ll be evaluated tomorrow morning.  In context, this isn’t a huge injury.  Better his finger than an ankle or something bigger, but who really knows.  Losing Neil for any extended period of time would probably end any hope of a playoff run, which would be devastating.  The Pirates just don’t have any depth in the middle of the infield.  From what we’ve seen out of Walker, he would probably play hurt if it’s not a serious injury.  Let’s just hope for the best.

Reds won, and the Pirates are now tied for second in the division and in the wild card with St. Louis.

Pirates (64-53) – Dodgers (65-53)

Win: Kershaw (11-6)
Loss: Rodriguez (7-12)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Bucs take a beating

Welp, the Pirates lost 11-0 to the Dodgers tonight.

The rain started to come down at about 6:45, and first pitch was delayed until 8:00.  It started off really well.  Kevin Correia was perfect through two innings, but it was straight downhill from there.  LA got a run in the third, and three more in the fourth.  They actually loaded the bases in the fourth without hitting the ball out of the infield.  Matt Kemp singled on a line drive that popped out of Pedro’s glove, Andre Ethier reached on a BS call that was ruled an error when Walker tried to tag out Kemp, but dropped the ball.  He clearly tagged him, and the ball came out on contact.  After a swinging bunt loaded the bases, James Loney drove in a run and Luis Cruz drove in two.

The Dodgers scored two more in the sixth, which was Correia’s last inning.  He gave up six runs on seven hits, and struck out three.  Jeff Locke came in for two innings, and looked great.  He didn’t strike anyone out, but he was getting the Dodgers to make weak contact, and only gave up one hit.  After Locke exited, Chad Qualls came in and absolutely imploded.  He only got one out and gave up three runs, but was charged with two more when Chris Resop came in for the final two outs.

Chad Billingsley held the Bucs to just five hits.  One was a leadoff double to Garrett Jones in the second – couldn’t score.  Another was a two-out double to Travis Snider with Starling Marte on first – couldn’t score.  They also got a leadoff single, and couldn’t score.  The main point is that they had a few chances, but no one couldn’t cash in.

We’d never give up on the Bucs, especially this group, but it sure is hard to stay positive after a game like this.  It’s getting to the point in the season where every loss could turn out costly, especially to teams that are right behind you in the standings.  The Pirates are now six games behind the rest in the division, but still lead the second wild card spot by a half game over the Dodgers.  Every team goes through a rough streak, but this needs to end.  Quick.

Pirates (64-52) – Dodgers (64-53)

Win: Billingsley (9-9)
Loss: Correia (9-7)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

LA takes game one

The Bucs started a huge four-game series with the Dodgers, who came into the series right behind them in the wild card race.  As if this series wasn’t important enough, the Reds were idle tonight, and the Pirates had a chance to pick up a half game on them.  But once again, they couldn’t come through, and lost 5-4 to LA.

Jeff Karstens got through the first inning unscathed, despite a misplayed flyball by Garrett Jones.  Karstens didn’t look bad, but got touched up in the third.  After a leadoff double and sac-bunt, Shane Victorino doubled in the first run of the game.  Matt Kemp drove him in for the second, and Jeff wasn’t out of it quite yet.  Andre Ethier stroked a deep flyball to RF, and Jones made a beautiful leaping catch at the wall.  He got it back into the infield for a double play, and the Dodgers managed just two runs.

That was just the start of Jones’ big day.  He followed the catch with a two-run double in the bottom frame, tying the game.  Shane Victorino struck again in the fifth with a two-run bomb, making it 4-2.  Karstens ended up going seven innings, and gave up four runs on seven hits.  By no means a bad outing, but he was getting hit pretty hard.

For the Dodgers, Aaron Harang was sharp in six innings of work.  He only allowed five hits, and although he walked three, the Pirates just couldn’t get anything going against him.

In the bottom of the seventh, Josh Harrison drew a rare walk and Marte reached on an error with two outs.  Neil Walker squared up a ball as well as humanly possible, right back up the middle.  Somehow, Randy Choate was able to stab at it, making the catch to prevent a run and probably save his own life.  After seven, LA still had the Bucs doubled up, and they added on in the eighth.  Juan Cruz  came in, and after getting the first out, walked a hitter and plunked one.  He walked the bases loaded, and was pulled for Tony Watson.  Not the ideal pitcher you’d want in this situation, but OK.  Juan Rivera lined a single up the middle, but it only scored one run.  Watson got out of the inning with a force out and strikeout, leaving the bases loaded.

Jones (who went on to go 4-4 with 3 RBI) got the Bucs back within two runs with a double in the eighth.  With two outs, Michael McKenry came up clutch again with a base knock, and made it a one-run game.  For some unexplainable reason, Watson came back out for the ninth.  There’s absolutely no reason for Jason Grilli to not start the inning, and that point was proved.  Watson gave up a leadoff double to former Bucco Luis Cruz, and he was sacrificed over to third.  Thankfully Hurdle brought in Grilli, and he showed why he should have been in there from the start.  He struck out Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp swinging, and followed it up with one of his unreal fist pumps.  Somehow, the runner at third didn’t score, and we headed to the bottom of the ninth with a one-run game.

But of course, the Pirates went down 1-2-3 on three poor at-bats against Kenley Jansen, and lost 5-4.  This one hurts.  For the Pirates to keep up in the pennant race and keep their wild card spot, they have to get it together ASAP.

Pirates (64-51) – Dodgers (63-53)

Win: Harang (8-7)
Loss: Karstens (4-3)
Save: Kenley Jansen (24)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs