Game Recap: Pirates @ Giants 4/13/12

Today was Opening Day at AT&T Park in San Francisco as the Pirates took on the Giants in  the first game of the three game weekend series.  James McDonald squared off against Matt Cain, as the Bucs looked to bounce back after being swept by the Dodgers.

The offense once again got off to an ugly start, with Alex Presley and Neil Walker striking out swinging.  Andrew McCutchen popped up to shallow right field to end the inning.  Buster Posey had his first home at-bat since his season-ending injury last May, and he doubled off the center field wall to drive in Melky Cabrera.  Aubrey Huff singled in Posey to make it 2-0 Giants, but got caught in a rundown between first and second base, making the third out.  The Pirates went down 1-2-3 in the second, third, and fourth innings, while McDonald set down the Giants without giving up a run.  He did allow a walk and a hit, but almost all of the outs recorded were hit hard.

Matt Cain continued to mow down the Pirates lineup and keep his perfect game into the sixth inning, when James McDonald (yes, the pitcher), slapped a ball into left field to break it up.  

With two outs and Pablo Sandoval on second after a double, the Bucs decided to intentionally walk Aubrey Huff to set up the force and face Nate Schierholtz.  He popped up to shallow center, but McCutchen broke back instead of in, and the ball dropped for an RBI single.  3-0 Giants.  Evan Meek pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, while the Pirates continued to be one-hit through eight innings.  Joel Hanrahan came out to pitch the eighth and get some work in, and gave up a two run, two out home run to Huff into McCovey Cove.  Cain came out to finish his gem in the ninth, and set the Bucs down in order.  Giants win 5-0, and the Pirates get one hit.

Other highlights:
- Casey McGehee smoked two balls to deep center, but both were caught by Angel Pagan.
- Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones, and Neil Walker looked especially bad at the plate, combining for eight UGLY strikeouts.
- Matt Cain was obviously dominant, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.  He’s easily one of the best 15 pitchers in the game, and just got a huge contract extension.
- The offense was absolutely horrible.  This may have been the Pirates’ worst game offensively in recent history.
- We decided that we would shut down the blog and our Twitter account for a week if the Pirates got no-hit.  And two batters later, McDonald broke it up.

To quickly summarize today’s game: THE OFFENSE STINKS.

Star of the Game: Matt Cain.  Easy choice, he spun a one hit gem, and was absolutely filthy all game.  He also struck out 11 Pirates.
Goat of the Game: The starting lineup.  For the second time this season, the whole lineup is the goat of the game.  They managed one hit, and it was by the pitcher nonetheless.

Pirates (2-5) – Giants (3-4)

Win: Cain (1-0)
Loss: McDonald (0-1)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

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More Pics From Opening Day 2012

For the game recap with pictures, click HERE.

For the game video, click HERE.

Great day in the ‘Burgh for the opener:

Waiting outside the gates for the first time this season:

Maz Statue:

Clemente Statue:

Nate is back home:

A look into the new Budweiser Bowtie Bar:

The Parrot made his first appearance of the season:

First hot dog shoot of 2012:

First t-shirt toss of 2012:

Alex Presley in left field. Note the change to the home run wall in the background. It is no longer titled “Bucco Blasts” but instead “Bowser Blasts” … not a fan of the change:

The Pirates Charities sign still standing tall in right field:

The view from section 134 at PNC Park as Roy Halladay delivers to Pedro Alvarez :

Go Bucs

Baseball is Back

“You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”    –Joe DiMaggio

Welcome to the greatest day of the year, Opening Day. The offseason has come and gone. The players have all gone through a few weeks worth of spring training games. It’s time for the games to count. Last season doesn’t matter anymore. Each team and each player gets a fresh start. A new beginning. A clean slate.

Every team starts with 0 wins and 0 losses, with no team ahead of the other in the standings. It doesn’t matter if you’re a powerhouse or a cellar dweller, everyone starts at the same spot on Opening Day. Every player’s stats reset to a batting average of .000, with 0 home runs and 0 RBI. Whether you are an All-Star power hitter or a rookie utility player, everyone starts fresh today.

In a 162 game season, there are sure to be ups and downs, winning streaks and losing streaks, but that’s what makes baseball so great. The game is truly unpredictable, and it’s one of the only aspects of life where it’s acceptable to fail 70% of the time; getting a hit 3 out of 10 times is tremendous.

Failure is a part of baseball. Strikeouts, errors, and losses are all part of the game. But as a fan, you have to keep with it. Sure the Pirates haven’t been winners since 1992, but who says this can’t be our year? In Fever Pitch, a kid named Ryan asks Ben if being a fan is really worth it:
Specifically, he says, “You love the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?”

Obviously, the Sox went on to win the World Series and it was worth it for Ben to keep his tickets. However, if the Sox lost that year, how could it have been different? The same can be said about being a Pirates fan; is it really worth it? There is not a doubt in our minds that tells us that the Pirates won’t be successful in the future. In the long run, our love for the Pirates is going to pay off. Don’t give up now as a fan even though it’s been nearly two decades of losing baseball in Pittsburgh. (Click HERE for our article on why we are Pirates fans.)

Neither of us have seen a winning season in our lifetimes. The Bucs gave us a sample of what winning baseball is like last summer. Sitting in first place in mid-July was unreal; the Pirates were the talk of the town. Although the Buccos went into a downward spiral in August, it was certainly refreshing to see “Pittsburgh” at the top of the NL Central standings for a few weeks in July. After years of watching guys like Tike Redman, Abraham Nunez, and Daryle Ward take the field at PNC Park, it felt like everything was finally falling into place. We feel even better now about the outlook of the organization. Andrew McCutchen has been locked up for 6 more years. Starling Marte looks like a star in the making. Top picks Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are a just a few years away. Youngsters Josh Bell and Luis Heredia are top prospects as well.

There’s a million reasons why the Pirates don’t have a chance to contend in 2012. However, the last 19 seasons shouldn’t mean anything anymore, and there’s no sense in looking at projections for this season. No one knows how the season will play out until it’s all said and done. The Pirates are going to win 54 games and they’re going to lose 54 games. But it’s what they do with the other 54 that matter the most. It’s a new Pirate generation in Buctown.

Baseball is back in the ‘Burgh.

Go Bucs

2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview

Baseball is back in Pittsburgh, but this year is different.  Maybe not to your casual fan who only likes the Steelers and Penguins, but to the diehard Bucco fans, this year isn’t like the last 19.  Sure we’ve gone into every Pirates season hoping for the best, but let’s be honest, that was all just wishful thinking.  We saw what this team is capable of from early to mid summer last season, and it captivated the entire city.  Yeah the Bucs were pretty awful from August on, but that stretch of six weeks was the best we’ve seen the team play in a while.  So going into this season, fans have something to look forward to.  The Pirates aren’t that horrible team that every other team expects to stomp on every time they play.  This team has an identity now, and has earned respect around the league.  And with that, we’ll take a look at YOUR 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates.


Pitchers
Erik Bedard
Kevin Correia
Juan Cruz
Jason Grilli
Joel Hanrahan
Jared Hughes
Jeff Karstens

Chris Leroux
James McDonald
Evan Meek
Chris Resop
Tony Watson

Disabled List
A.J. Burnett
Chris Leroux
Charlie Morton

Starting Rotation – The Pirates starting rotation was a bright spot for the Pirates in 2011. Although there wasn’t a “staff ace”, each and every guy was able to piece together some decent starts. The consistency of the rotation in the first half was what kept the Bucs in the race for so long. Long-time Pirate Paul Maholm left the club and signed with the Cubs, but he was replaced with southpaw Erik Bedard. Bedard brings experience and a lengthy list of injuries with him to Pittsburgh. He pitched pretty well in spring training and will get the start on Opening Day. James McDonald looks to emerge as a top starter after plenty of inconsistency in 2011. J-Mac shows signs of promise at times, but then soon reverts back to being unable to locate his pitches. He struggled to get past the 6th inning last season, which is something he needs to avoid in 2012 to be successful. Jeff Karstens was arguably the most impressive pitcher for the Pirates last season. Karstens went 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA, and should be consistent again this season. Kevin Correia will be in the rotation to start the season. He was an All-Star last year but wasn’t good at home and was horrible in the second half before being shut down for the season. He could be booted from the rotation when newcomer A.J. Burnett comes off the DL. Burnett, who was hurt in a freak bunting accident, comes to Pittsburgh from the Yankees, where he didn’t pitch very well. However, many believe that he will do well for the Bucs now that he is out of the spotlight of New York. Charlie Morton will also start on the DL but will be back by mid-April. Morton had some great starts in 2011, but also some very bad ones. Hopefully he can be more consistent this season. Nonetheless, Charlie should be solid for the Pirates this summer.

Bullpen – The bullpen is anchored by All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan is coming off his best season, in which he had 40 saves and an ERA of 1.83. The Hammer looks to continue his success in 2012. The setup men for Hanrahan will mostly consist of Evan Meek, Jason Grilli, and Juan Cruz. Meek missed last season due to injury, but will hopefully return to his All-Star form from 2010. Grilli came over in the middle of last season and pitched well for the Bucs. Cruz was a non-roster invitee but impressed the coaching staff in spring training. The well-traveled Cruz has played 11 MLB seasons, and seems to be this year’s version of Jose Veras. Chris Resop appeared in 76 games last season, as Hurdle put him in many tough situations. Tony Watson is the lone lefty in the ‘pen. Jared Hughes was the last man in, after Chris Leroux went to the 60-day DL.
Catchers
Rod Barajas
Michael McKenry

Rod Barajas comes to Pittsburgh after signing a one-year deal in November. Barajas replaces the injury-prone Ryan Doumit. Throughout his career, Barajas has been pretty consistent offensively; he hits for some power (11, 19, 17, and 16 home runs each of the last four seasons) but doesn’t get on-base very much. However, he is a much better defender than Doumit was. One concern about Barajas is his age, as he is now 36 which is pretty old for a starting catcher. Backing him up is fan-favorite Michael McKenry. “The Fort” is a solid defender but not much of a hitter. The 27 year-old hit .222 last season with 2 HR and 11 RBI. There isn’t much in the system in terms of catching. Tony Sanchez endured a wasted season last year, and will have to repeat Double-A. He is starting the year in Altoona with hopes of reaching Triple-A Indianapolis by mid-season. Eric Fryer, who appeared in 10 games for the Pirates last season, could see some time in Pittsburgh again this season.


Infielders
Pedro Alvarez
Clint Barmes
Matt Hague
Josh Harrison
Garrett Jones
Casey McGehee
Yamaico Navarro
Neil Walker

In terms of offensive production, the infielders are the biggest question mark heading into the season, led by Pedro Alvarez. Can Pedro hit above the Mendoza line and provide some power for the middle of the lineup? Will Casey McGehee bounce back and hit like he did in 2010 with Milwaukee? Can Garrett Jones step up and provide consistent production, instead of being the streaky hitter we have seen in the past few years? How will Clint Barmes hit in a much bigger PNC Park? Obviously, the Pirates need better offense throughout the entire lineup than what they received. However, the guys in the middle of the order, such as Alvarez, Jones, McGehee, etc., really need to step up if the Pirates want to win some ballgames. Neil Walker was a pretty clutch hitter for the Bucs last season, but still lacks some power and average. He dropped 23 points in batting average from 2010 to 2011 (.296 to .273) and hit the same amount of homers (12) both season despite having 193 more plate appearances in 2011. Matt Hague led the Grapefruit League with 7 HR, which was the most ST homers for the Pirates since Craig Wilson hit 8 in 2005. Yamaico Navarro and Josh Harrison are both unproven hitters that have a lot of defensive versatility. On defense, the Pirates should be pretty steady in the infield. Although they aren’t Gold Glovers, they should get the job done for a mostly pitch-to-contact staff. Barmes has been sure-handed and slick throughout his career. Walker can be an above-average fielder over at 2B. Alvarez is more athletic than you think and should be able to hold down the hot corner.


Outfielders
Andrew McCutchen
Nate McLouth
Alex Presley
Jose Tabata

The Pirates stabilized their outfield for the next six years when they signed centerfielder Andrew McCutchen to an extension just a few weeks ago. Cutch is coming off a solid year in which he was selected to his first All-Star Game. He hit well in the first half but struggled in the 2nd part of the season, especially in September. Due to his lackluster second half, he ended up hitting just .259. Still, he was able to put up 23 homers, 89 RBI, and 23 stolen bases, becoming the first Pirate since Nate McLouth to join the 20-20 club. Speaking of McLouth, Nate is back with the Pirates after a few years in Atlanta. Although McLouth won’t put up the numbers he did when he was an All-Star in ’08, he should still be a decent 4th outfielder that can play all three positions. Jose Tabata, fresh off an extension he signed in August, will be the Opening Day rightfielder for the Pirates. He still has yet to find his power stroke in the big leagues, but has the ability to hit for average. The same can be said of Alex Presley, starting in LF for the Bucs. Presley hit .298 in 52 games last season. Unless he endures a sophomore slump or was a one-year wonder, Presley should be able to stick around .300 but without much power. Although there isn’t much power in the Pirates OF, they all have tons of speed. Each of the 4 outfield can run well and should make up for the power outage by stealing plenty of bases. In the field, they all seem to be above-average fielders. McLouth won a Gold Glove with the Pirates in 2008 and McCutchen has made a number of fantastic catches. Tabata has a strong arm from right field and Presley has the speed to cover lots of ground in the spacious left field at PNC Park. Top prospect Starling Marte is waiting to make his MLB debut, as he’ll start the year at AAA Indy. Marte had a great season for Altoona last year (won the batting title) and also tore it up for a few weeks in spring training (3 HR, .520 avg in 12 games). If Presley struggles or anyone suffers an injury, Marte could get the call very soon. Gorkys Hernandez is waiting in AAA as well. Although he isn’t much of a hitter, Hernandez is one of the best defenders in the organization.

hurdle
Coaching Staff
Clint Hurdle, Manager
Gregg Ritchie, Hitting Coach
Ray Searage, Pitching Coach
Luis Silverio, First Base Coach
Nick Leyva, Third Base Coach
Jeff Banister, Bench Coach

Front Office
Bob Nutting, Chairman of the Board
Frank Coonelly, President
Neal Huntington, General Manager

It’s hard to look at this roster and not be optimistic about what could happen this season.  Despite improvements made in the offseason, this team just isn’t quite ready become a winning team.  Our projected record for the 2012 Bucs is 78-84.  Of course, there are a few scenarios that you have to take into consideration this year.  Will anyone get hurt?  What moves, if any, will the team make at the trade dealine?  But just looking at what the team has going into Opening Day, it looks like the Bucs will improve on their 2011 season, but not enough to reach .500.  But hey, if the Pirates went out there and completely proved us wrong, no one would mind.

Go Bucs