August 29-30 vs. Chicago Cubs
Good baseball it was not. Tuesday night’s game featured 13 runs, 22 hits, and five errors. Wednesday’s matinee had 19, 40, and two. In the three game series, the Pirates and Cubs combined to draw 34 bases on balls. Those of you that thought the Little League World Series had ended over the weekend were mistaken. The National League’s two worst teams played sloppy defense, smacked around rookie pitchers and washed-up veterans, and ran the bases worse than Sean Casey with a pulled hamstring in the worst display of hardball since the Bucs lost three straight to the Royals in June. Nevertheless, a bright spot was easily found: Our Pirates swept the hapless Cubbies, keeping alive hope for a .500 season in 2006.
I could go into how much I love Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay and what they mean to our future; how Carlos Zambrano did himself in Tuesday night with rather embarassing errors; how Ryan Dempster is a poor excuse for a mop-up man, let alone a big league closer; how Jose Castillo and Xavier Nady are growing on me; or how Wilson, Duffy, and Doumit continue to play their way onto my trading block. I won’t though.
Instead, I’d like to talk about a few plays in particular from Tuesday’s game that I had the pleasure of attending (along with 200 dogs and my girlfriend):
- Ryan Doumit’s error after a Matt Murton single in the fifth reinforced the well known fact that he isn’t, nor will he ever be, a big league first baseman. Why he’s still starting, I don’t know. Tracy is little more than a puppet now when he walks out the lineup card to home plate each night; it’s clear that the organization is extremely interested in how Nady looks in right, Doumit looks at first and catcher, Freddy at short, Bautista at second and third, etc. and that that’s more important than fielding the most logical defensive alignment and batting order. I don’t blame them for finding out what the youth can do–I just think it’s funny that a guy who in seven career minor league seasons hit 44 HR in over 1600 AB’s with a mediocre .293 BA is such a highly touted prospect. I like his switch-hitting bat and catching skills, but only in a bench role.
- Rajai Davis’ pinch-hit double to lead off the bottom of the seventh was edge of your seat stuff from the crack of bat hitting ball until the dust settled around second base. The kid can absolutely fly on the basepaths, as his first major league hit probably would’ve been a single if anyone else outside of Ichiro or Carl Crawford had been running. I wouldn’t have a problem if Davis, full of hustle and enthusiasm, served as the fourth outfielder on the 2007 club if he perfoms well in September. I’m starting to wonder why Rajai hasn’t gotten spot starts in the same way as our other prospects.
- Dusty Baker’s decision to intentionally load the bases in order to face Jose Bautista in the bottom of the eleventh made perfect sense–set up the double play, get the righty-righty matchup, Bautista’s numbers (0-5 with four strikeouts in the game)–but he forgot who was on the hill. Dempster now has given away 32 free passes in 62 innings after Wednesday’s appearance; Hunter Wendelstedt didn’t even have to think twice about his calls in the at bat. The Bucs’ll take ‘em any way they can get ‘em, but a walk-off walk just makes you feel guilty.
The Bucs now head to the new Busch Stadium to take on the division-leading Cardinals. Zach Duke has his work cut out for him on Friday night, facing the dominant-as-ever Chris Carpenter. Saturday’s game should feature plenty of offense, with Shawn Chacon and Jeff Weaver throwing (note the diction–throwing, not pitching). Sunday’s matchup is to be determined. Another sweep will leave our Bucs a mere 25 games from .500.
It’s A New Pirates Generation, everybody shout "Let’s Go Bucs!"