Game 106 – Pirates: Hottest Team in Baseball
What a strange day this was for the Giants. They woke up at their team hotel to find the water had been shut off because of a main leak at 3 am and wasn’t back on until well after they left for the park.
Arriving in a stink from no water, some of the Giants showered at the park and then proceeded to play in high daytime heat and humidity until the game was called in the top of the 7th from a rain delay — too much water. Two hours later on a get away day to the west coast, they finally take the field to finish the game.
The game was tied 0-0 into the 8th inning when Matt Capps served up a 1-2 heater to none other than Todd Linden, the player who had been rumored to be coming to Pittsburgh in any Sean Casey trade. The score remained 1-0 until Jose Castillo led off the bottom of the ninth and hammered a home run into the left center field seats to tie the game off of Pennsylvania native Steve Kline who had purchased a luxury suite for his dad to watch the games in.
Now if all that wasn’t strange enough, the Pirates held the Giants in check the top of the 10th and then Jack Wilson led off the bottom with a single when Jim Tracy pulls a strategy move out of Jack McKeon’s book by having the National League’s best hitter sacrifice Wilson to 2B with a bunt.
With Wilson at 2B and one out, Bay lines out to LF for the second out in the inning and Joe Randa was intentionally walked by Giants manager Alou for some bizarre reason (Joe was 1-1 career against Kline). Up to the plate comes Jose Hernandez who has struck out 50% of the time (5-10) he has faced Kline but who also owns one of the best batting averages against him in the NL.
Sure enough, three pitches later Hernandez rifles a line drive down the left field line, Jack Wilson scores, and the Pirates sweep the Giants. That victory gave the Pirates their fifth straight win – the best in MLB the last 5, obviously.
When you’re hot, your hot and when you’re not, you’re not. The Pirates sent the Giants back to the Bay area on a very long flight wondering what happened to them and the local SF media decrying the Giants had ‘hit rock bottom’.
Rockies Killers. Brewer Killers. Giant killers. Braves Killers?
Duke pitched an acceptable game against an extremely flat Giants team that has had so much bad karma lately their fans are now calling them the ‘Pirates of the West’. Home plate ump Mark Carlson gave both Giants starter Matt Morris and Zach Duke a big strike zone to move the game along much like Zach saw from Carlson April 5th against the Brewers.
The Pirates just couldn’t find any offense against Matt Morris who came in with a 12+ ERA his last two outings, but a 6-0 career record at PNC. Morris scattered 6 hits and 2 walks over six innings limiting the Pirates to an 0-7 BA with a walk in runner in scoring position opportunities, albeit 4 of the 7 were from Cota and Duke.
One of the great story lines from this series that I assume won’t be talked about in any of the local papers was Jim Tracy’s outstanding managing. Not only did he out manage Giants manager Alou several times, he continually put opportunities in the players hands to win each game and the players responded every time. Yes, the players played the games and their performance dictated the wins. But when games are close, the first team to bend usually loses and it was Alou who bent first each game – not Tracy.
For instance, in the 10th inning in today’s game, Jack Wilson lead off with a single. Freddy Sanchez then came to the plate as the National League’s best hitter and few managers would have had Sanchez sacrificing Wilson to 2B even with the game begging for a bunt. But Tracy did, Freddy’s sac bunt was a success, and Jack stood at 2B to be later scored by Hernandez.
Throughout the entire series, when Tracy had a chance to make a difference from the dugout, he did. From relief pitching match ups, to runners off with the pitch, to using his bench, lineup card, and opportunities to an advantage. It paid off.
Kudos to Tracy. The players got the wins but the sweep belongs to Tracy in my book.. one of the few times this year his managing was noticeably proficient – a deflated Giants team or not.
– Tidbits –
Ok.. so stop sending the emails! I have received over 30 emails in the last two hours asking about rumors. Who knows what Littlefield will do. Get some sleep because it won’t happen until tomorrow anyway.
Here is the latest —
Hernandez is all but certain to be dealt – probably a Yankee by this time tomorrow. Some are saying now this may only happen if Proctor is moved by the Yankees. Hernandez represents the only commodity the Pirates have that anyone really wants in the hunt for October.
Craig Wilson looks to have a shot at being traded – probably to the Angels (and I still don’t understand this deal at all for the Angels). I know the Angels and Littlefield have been working on a larger deal to try and land Kotchman here but I don’t think it is going to happen because he would have to deal more than he can afford or should.
In other words, not much is happening, nor do I expect anything much to happen. I will be shocked if Casey or Wells are traded unless they are dumped, I will be surprised to see Grabow or Marte moved unless dumped, Burnitz isn’t going anywhere unless some team gets him as a tag on in a larger deal, and it is doubtful even Craig leaves. Randa probably is the second best commodity Littlefield has (ok.. maybe third to Wilson) and even Joe isn’t getting much play.
Too many teams are in the wild card and that inflated prices, which it should. But like a house being put on the market for sale, if you over price it and don’t find that perfect match ****** to do the deal immediately, in just a few short weeks you will dry your market up and, even if you lower your price later, most folks will see it as still too expensive.
BTW, a recent study that researched July trades covering 125 teams over many years found only 2% average VORP had been added with the players received. Part of that is due to two-thirds of the season being over but that still isn’t much value overall and why you rarely see blockbuster trades made in July unless they solve long-term solutions for the club as well. So all the hype about the July trade deadline is just that – hype, for the most part.
How about Cota? Whoa.. he has thrown out 4 of the last 8 base runners attempting to steal on him going back to June 7th. He is quickly closing in on Paulino’s high CS rate. It is hard to find two catchers with such a high rate nailing runners. Pretty impressive.
Brad Lincoln looks like he was lit up yesterday in Hickory but it wasn’t as bad as his 9 hits and 6 runs allowed line looks. Only one batter made it to 2B through the first 5 innings other than by stealing the base or due to an error. Thru 5 Lincoln had K’d 5 and walked nobody and the two runs that scored came from a Blair throwing error. But Lincoln was obviously tired in the 4th and sweltering in the 96 degree heat (probably more like 100+ on the field and like 110 in the uniforms) and did all he could to get through the 5th.
By the 6th he was toast and it was obvious. His pitches were off the plate and even threw one or two away, his reactions to balls hit were slow, and he shouldn’t have even been on the field, considering how many innings he has already pitched this year.
Overall he pitched a great game but Jeff Branson hung him out to dry – for no reason what so ever.
A well deserved day off for the Pirates on Monday.