Tag: pirates

Pirates Trade Nate McLouth to Braves

Now we know why the Braves dumped Tom Glavine — to clear payroll.

In the second surprising move of the day involving Atlanta, the Braves acquired centerfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates in exchange for Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke.

Morton and Locke were among the Braves’ better pitching prospects, and Hernandez a top outfield prospect. Hernandez compares in skills to former Met Carlos Gomez.

Though McLouth has been mired in a season-long slump, he was showing signs of breaking out recently, and he no doubt will benefit from being surrounded in the lineup by the Braves’ legit MLB hitters. With the Pirates, opposing pitchers had the option to pitch around McLouth and instead deal with the LaRoche brothers — who are nice hitters but hardly middle-of-the-order talents right now.

Have to say I’m stunned by this move, from the Pirates’ perspective. You would think a 27-year-old centerfielder with McLouth’s skillset, and about to enter his prime, is the type of player you use as a building block. Pittsburgh’s pitching staff would seem to be a year or two away from maturing, so why cut bait on McLouth now? Basically what the Bucs are saying is, “we don’t plan to compete this year, next year, nor the year after”. Wow, and I thought it was tough to be a Mets fan!

What makes this deal more mind-boggling is that the Pirates bought out McLouth’s arbitration years only a few months ago, signing him to a 3-year, $15.75M extension in February — which is pretty cheap for an All-Star centerfielder. Apparently the Pirates a) believe last year was a fluke for McLouth and trading him while he still as value; b) are broke; and/or c) are focused on always being a AAA team in the midst of “rebuilding”, and not really interested in fielding an MLB-caliber ballclub.

The Braves, on the other hand, get a solid centerfielder entering his prime and under control for the next four years to replace Jordan Schaefer, who has shown a great glove but has been overmatched at the plate. They dealt from surplus, and likely won’t miss any of the three youngsters they’ve sent to Pittsburgh.

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Mets Game 51: Loss to Pirates

Pirates 3 Mets 1

For the second time in three days, the Mets engaged in a pitchers’ duel, but unlike Sunday’s win over the Marlins, were on the short end of the sword.

Johan Santana pitched poorly for Santana, but good for a mere mortal, and unfortunately not good enough for a win. He scattered seven hits through six innings, allowing three runs. I believe that qualifies as a “quality start”. Quality starts, though, don’t guarantee wins.

Pittsburgh pitcher Zach Duke was just a little better, holding the Mets to one run on eight hits and a walk. The only run allowed came on a sacrifice fly by Luis Castillo that scored Ramon Martinez.

Buccos catcher Jason Jaramillo blasted his first MLB homerun off Santana in the fifth, a “no doubter” deep into the left field stands. The Pirates’ went ahead in the sixth inning, when Freddy Sanchez led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a Nate McLouth double. Moments later Adam LaRoche hit another double to score McLouth with the insurance run.

The Mets staged a two-out rally in the top of the seventh but Duke extinguished it without damage.

Notes

Martinez dislocated his pinky while scoring the Mets’ only run. He beat the throw easily but seemed to be caught between sliding and staying up. For those who have never played baseball before, he should have received direction from the on-deck hitter (Fernando Martinez) as to whether he needed to slide or run in standing up.This is a basic fundamental which is taught to American and Japanese children during little league. It is absolutely implausible and embarrassing that the Mets, an organization competing at the highest level of the game in the world, did not instill such a basic fundamental during F-Mart’s 3+ years in their system. I learned it as a 10-year-old in a league that played a 15-game season. *** EDITED — see isuzudude’s correction in comments *** Shame on the Mets, who by the day become exposed as a Mickey Mouse operation. (I won’t edit the final comment, because the Mets do belong in Disneyworld, for a hundred other reasons.)

While we’re on the subject of plays at the plate, Jeremy Reed was thrown out by several feet in the third inning after a Castillo single. Watching the replay, third-base coach Razor Shines was giving Reed the green light by circling his left arm as Reed approached third base. However, as Reed was rounding third (with his head down, something you do as a runner to make sure you touch the bag), Shines put up a stop sign with that same left arm, which Reed ran right through. Keith Hernandez commented that Reed “had plenty of time to stop”. I disagree.

A third base coach has to decide whether or not to send the runner BEFORE the runner hits the 3B bag. If he’s going to wait longer, then the coach has to position himself further down the third-base line, toward home plate, at an angle where both he can see the ball being handled by the outfielder and the runner can see him clearly as he rounds the bag. If Shines were in the proper position, then he can put up the stop sign “late”. But, Shines was at the edge of the 3B coaching box, and not in a good position to put up a late stop sign. What compounded the issue was that he used his same left hand to give the “stop” sign, which could have been construed as a continuance of the “go” sign. When as a coach you want the runner to put the brakes on, you put BOTH hands up, high over your head, using forceful, obvious body language. Again, fundamentals.

Brandon Moss reminds me of Ryan Klesko. Zach Duke reminds me of Tom Glavine. But the Pirates do not remind me of the Braves of the 1990s.

Losing to the Pirates twice in a row doesn’t concern me, since half the team is on the disabled list or in the infirmary with flu symptoms. The shame is that the Mets aren’t able to take advantage of playing a poor team by beating up on them.

Danny Murphy had a pinch-hit single in the seventh off Duke, a lefthander. Murphy is now hitting .423 in his career as a pinch-hitter, and I truly believe he may be able to carve a career serving in such a role — particularly since he is unfazed by the lefty-lefty matchup. Kind of like Gates Brown, Manny Mota, or Lenny Harris. Obviously there’s something about his approach that makes him so effective as a pinch-hitter, and a man can make a long and financially fruitful career exploiting such a talent.

Keith Hernandez suggested that Santana might be tipping pitches, as evidenced by the Bucs looking very comfortable swinging the bat in that fateful sixth frame. There may be something to that theory.

Santana was removed after 85 pitches. Probably a good thing, since he threw 120 in his last start (and 118 in the start before) and the Mets offense wasn’t doing anything anyway.

Why was Ramon Martinez starting at shortstop after Wilson Valdez hit like Barry Larkin on Sunday afternoon? The explanation was that Jerry Manuel wanted to get a look at Martinez before making a personnel decision. Are you kidding me? Believe me, I’m not on the bandwagon for Valdez, but it’s plain as day that he is head and shoulders above Martinez in every aspect of the game (which isn’t necessarily saying much). He has a stronger arm, better range, better speed, and a slightly stronger bat. He had me at hello. To give a guy a start as a tryout is unacceptable at this point in the season — the games are too important, and the lineup is already devoid of legit MLB talent.

Next Mets Game

The Mets attempt to avert a series loss on Wednesday evening by sending Mike Pelfrey to the mound against former Yankee Ross Ohlendorf. Game time is 7:05 PM.

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Mets Game 50: Loss to Pirates

Pirates 8 Mets 5

Early on, it looked like it was going to be a laugher, as the Mets put up five quick runs in the first three innings off starter Ian Snell, who was getting no relief from the Pittsburgh bullpen at that point of the ballgame. But, in the end, it was the Pirates laughing last.

Snell settled down to pitch three scoreless innings, and the Bucs scored three times in the fourth to begin their crawl back, then plated another five in the eighth against Pedro Feliciano and J.J. Putz to take the lead.

Four members of the Bucco bullpen shut out the Mets over the final three innings.

Livan Hernandez pitched five and two-thirds innings before running out of gas, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out five.

Offensively, the bottom of the lineup did the bulk of the damage for the Mets, led by Jeremy Reed and Wilson Valdez in the #6 and #7 spots, who combined for four extra-base hits, three runs, and three RBI.

Notes

The Pirates sent 10 batters to the plate in that fateful eighth. Feliciano was charged with one, Putz the other four. Putz did not retire a batter in his 12-pitch performance.

Putz had a special bullpen session around 3pm prior to the game, supposedly to work on a glitch in his delivery that caused him to tip his pitches.

Prior to the game, Angel Pagan was put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained groin. No word on who would replace him, though Alex Cora is scheduled to come off the DL on Tuesday.

Carlos Beltran was a late scratch due to a stomach virus.

Gary Sheffield is definitely suffering from some kind of leg injury, because he’s running about one-quarter speed on the bases.

I realize the Mets are shorthanded and playing a makeshift lineup, but it’s hard to use that as an excuse in this contest. The Mets were cruising early, and the 100% healthy bullpen blew the game.

Bobby Parnell came in during the bottom of the sixth and struck out slugger Ramon Vazquez with the bases loaded to end the inning and preserve the Mets’ two-run lead. At the time it was a huge out. Oh well.

Two of the Pirates’ hits were deflected off the gloves of Mets pitchers.

I noticed that Wilson Valdez wears a Wilson glove. Coincidence?

Valdez failed to run on a chopper off the plate in the 8th, presumably because he thought the ball was foul. As it was, the ball was fair, and he was thrown out by 88 feet. But hey, he didn’t know where it was, and that’s a fine enough excuse for Omar Minaya’s dog pound known as the New York Mets. (Note to youngsters: run immediately, and keep running until the umpire makes a call.)

Nate McLouth, who is arguably the best young centerfielder in the National League, looked terrible, striking out three times.

PNC Park was looking empty; I would guess there were less than 10,000 people at the game — it was reminiscent of a 21st-century Montreal Expos game. And it should be noted that ticket prices are the same regardless of what team the Pirates are hosting (what a novel concept!).

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Pirates play again on Tuesday evening at 7:05 PM in Pittsburgh. Johan Santana faces Zach Duke.

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Link Roundup

MetsPolice has a big list of Citi Field seats with obstructed views. But hey, we’re all just a bunch of whiners who don’t appreciate what the Wilpons gave us, right?

Speaking of the stadium, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Gazette discusses the influence of PNC Park on Citi Field. And the similarities only being with bank sponsorship.

Hat tip to Matthew Artus of Always Amazin’ for the previous link. Matthew also examines the catching situation once Brian Schneider comes off the DL.

Disgruntled Mets Fan has a blog name that engages my heart. DMF spotlights reliever Sean Greenenweis, and he also posted the below video:

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Mets Game 30: Win Over Pirates

Mets 8 Pirates 4

For the seventh consecutive game, the Mets were the victor.

Livan Hernandez had a rough start to the game, but eventually settled down to pitch six strong innings, allowing just two runs on four walks and seven hits. However, Pirates starter Ian Snell was unusually efficient, and held the Mets scoreless in five of the six innings he threw. In that one inning (the fourth), though, the Mets plated three, and tacked on five more against the Bucs bullpen. As with the first two games of this series, the Pirates were simply overwhelmed, and Mets completed the sweep.

Notes

Livan Hernandez has now pitched into the sixth inning four times in six starts. You can’t ask much more from a #5 starter.

Jose Reyes has 7 hits in his last 13 at-bats, and is finally heating up after a lengthy slump that saw his average drop to a woeful .246. Just as important, his OBP is back over .350 and climbing.

Luis Castillo’s mini-slump also appears to be over, as he’s 4-for-9 in his last two games. His OPB, by the way, is .402. Add Castillo and Reyes to Beltran’s .467 OBP and it’s a near guarantee that the Mets have a baserunner in the initial inning.

J.J. Putz and Sean Green combined for 45 pitches in the final two frames, and Green threw more balls (13) than strikes (12).

Strangely enough — especially with Livan on the hill — there was not one double play, for either side, the entire game. At least, I didn’t see one (?).

From Kevin Burkhardt’s description of her playing catch with her son until he was 15 years old, it sounds like Danny Murphy’s mom means business.

Next Mets Game

The Mets host the Braves on Monday evening at 7:10 PM to start a three-game series. Johan Santana goes against Derek Lowe. I’m liking the Mets chances to extend their winning streak to eight. The TV broadcast will be carried by ESPN.

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Mets Game 29: Win Over Pirates

Mets 10 Pirates 1

Even without the managerial genius of their fearless leader, the Mets were able to paste a AAA club.

With the suspended gangsta Jerry Manuel enjoying cocktails with fellow playa Omar Minaya in a fly suite behind home plate, Sandy Alomar Sr. directed the Mets to hit, hit, hit, and hit some more. And hit they did, pummeling the Pirates for 17 hits and 10 runs. The biggest blow came off the bat of Carlos Beltran, who blasted his sixth homer of the season.

John Maine cruised through six easy innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. The only run he gave up came on a solo homer by opposing pitcher Paul Maholm, who probably should have switched places with first baseman Adam LaRoche prior to the fourth inning. After all, Maholm looked better at the plate than LaRoche, and LaRoche couldn’t have done any worse tossing the “La Lob” his dad taught him.

Notes

Seven of the Mets’ eight starting position players collected at least two hits. The long-swinging Ramon Castro was the only starter to go hitless, though his short-stroking replacement Omir Santos came in late and drilled a double. Castro left the game with a tight quad. Uh oh, where’s Robinson Cancel?

The Buccos made it easy on Maine, swinging through his high fastballs all day. Maine’s command looked a little better compared to his last start, but I still believe he will struggle against a more disciplined lineup. Of course, it’s possible that such a lineup does not exist in the National League, in which case I should shut the hell up and enjoy watching Maine without passing judgment. Who cares if his shoulder blows out again? That’s what surgeons are for!

Brian Stokes finally made an appearance, his first since April 28th. Apparently he CAN be trusted with a nine-run lead.

The Mets have won six games in a row and seven of their last ten.

Next Game

The Mets finish destroying the collective confidence of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 PM. Livan Hernandez faces Ian Snell.

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Mets Game 28: Win Over Pirates

Mets 7 Pirates 3

The game was much closer than the final score indicates.

As usual, the Mets got on the board first with a two-run initial inning, but rookie Jonathan Niese allowed the Bucs to battle back with two in the third. The game remained deadlocked until the eighth inning, as the Mets played down to their competition with sloppy baseball and head-scratching at-bats.

In the eighth, though, the Mets finally woke up and realized they were playing a bad AAA team, and were in danger of looking foolish in front of their home fans. So, they started paying attention and exerting themselves. The result was a five-run bombardment of singles, walks, and extra-base hits that resembled the blitzkrieg — it was an inning that seemed it might never end. Finally, though, Luis Castillo saw that the flogging was getting embarrassing so he kindly popped out to right to end the frame and allow the Pirates an ounce of pride.

Minutes later, J.J. Putz disposed of the first two Bucs batters, but then, like Castillo, felt kinda bad for his brethren, and allowed them a score before inducing a flyout from Nate McLouth to end the evening.

Notes

Jon Niese, with his “drop and drive” motion and big overhand curve, reminds me of a tall Jerry Koosman. For those too young to remember, Kooz is the best lefthanded pitcher in Mets history, Johan Santana included. Though, if Santana strings together a few more seasons like this one and the last one, that could change.

With a four-run lead in the ninth with two outs and J.J. Putz struggling to throw strikes on the mound, Pedro Feliciano was warming up in the Mets bullpen. I sort of understood why someone was getting ready behind Putz, but didn’t get the choice of Feliciano, who had thrown 38 pitches over the previous two days. Is Brian Stokes injured? Suffering from flu symptoms? Not good enough to shut down the bottom of the Pirates order with a 2- or 3-run lead?

For those who think that frequency of use might be marginally related to performance, Putz has thrown 144 pitches in 7 games over the last 12 days. But who’s counting?

I was lucky enough to attend the game as a guest of Francis Ford Coppola’s winery, watching from an Empire Suite. I’ll be posting pictures here on MetsToday later this weekend and wine tasting notes at WineWeekly in due course. No, Francis wasn’t there, but I did see Rusty Staub, who stopped by for a few innings and a glass of wine.

coppola-empire-suite

Next Mets Game

John Maine looks to extend his winning streak to three games in an afternoon contest that begins at 1:10 PM. The Pirates will send ace Paul Maholm to the mound.

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Mets – Pirates Quick Preview

pirates-logoThe Pirates shove into Flushing for a three-game set with the Metropolitans … though I doubt they’ll arrive by ship. They do, however, come battle-scarred.

After a surprising 11-7 start, the Bucs have lost their sixth consecutive game and nine out of their last ten, and now sit just above the lowly Astros in second-to-last place in the NL Central with a 12-16 record. In those last ten contests, they’re hitting .188 with three home runs, averaging just a hair above three runs a game. Their pitching hasn’t been much better — they’ve allowed 56 runs over the last ten.

As if all that weren’t enough stacked against the Pirates, their closer Matt Capps is battling a sore right elbow and likely won’t be able to pitch until Sunday. Backup closer Craig Hansen is stuck on the DL.

Bottom line? This is a gift for the Mets, who should feast this weekend. Pittsburgh is a bad team going through a tough time — an ideal opportunity for the Mets to take control of their destiny.

Game One: Jonathan Niese (0-0) vs. Jeff Karstens (1-1, 5.85 ERA)
Niese had an unsightly 7+ ERA through his first four starts in Buffalo, but put together six shutout innings last Friday against Louisville, earning him a spot start this evening. (Louisville is second in the league in HRs and has a .255 team batting average, for what it’s worth.) Karstens has made it to the 6th inning only once in four starts this year. He has walked 13 and struck out 9.

Game Two: John Maine (2-2, 5.20 ERA ) vs. Paul Maholm (3-0, 2.97 ERA)
After two straight losses and a no-decision to start the season, Maine has won his last two starts. However, he’s walked 18 batters in 27 innings and his command has been nonexistent. Against the free-swinging Bucs, though, he should be fine. Maholm is the Pirates’ ace and could give the Mets problems, particularly the lefties, who are hitting .133 against him this year.

Game Three: Livan Hernandez vs. Ian Snell (1-4, 4.50 ERA)
This will be an educational game to watch in that we should experience a stark constrast in efficiencies. Livan, if he’s on, will pitch to contact, induce ground balls, and get through innings with ten pitches or less. Snell, regardless of whether he’s on or not, will expend pitches like there’s no tomorrow in an effort to strike out every hitter he faces. It’s entirely possible that Snell will throw more pitches in one inning than Livan throws through four. Snell has walked 23 and struck out 22 in 34 innings.

Closing Thoughts

If the Mets batters are willing to take a strike in games 1 and 3, they are virtually guaranteed a series win. The Pirates’ lineup is slumping, young, undisciplined, and missing the bats of Jack Wilson and Ryan Doumit, and are ideal fodder for Maine and Hernandez. Friday night’s opener is something of a crapshoot, but I like Niese’s chances against Pittsburgh’s lefty-heavy lineup. A sweep is not out of the question, and could catapult the Mets into first place with the Braves and Phillies locking horns this weekend.

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