The Pirates managed to scratch out some wins in the first 3 games of the series against the abysmal Astros, but today they weren’t so lucky. James McDonald had another rough start, Kevin Correia’s first appearance out of the bullpen wasn’t pretty, and of course #PearceFactor played a part in it.
I don’t really want to drag you through JMac’s painful experience again, for his sake, your sake, and my sake. However, he walked 7, gave up 6 hits including a homerun, and gave up 5 earned runs. He threw 110 pitches over just 5 innings, only 59 of them for strikes. “Not enough first-pitch strikes, not enough fastball command,” Clint Hurdle said after the game. JMac’s last start wasn’t great either, but he said he felt better afterwards, like he was improving. We’re all wondering what happened to our dominant first-half pitcher. Is it mental? Mechanics? He talked to AJ Burnett in the dugout between innings, and then he came out for the next inning without improvement. We could say it’s because Rod Barajas didn’t catch him today, but that shouldn’t have this much of an effect, and he’s had a few rough starts at this point. Some suggested skipping JMac’s next start; it could help. Bedard’s done better since the Pirates gave him a longer than normal break between starts. It would give him some time to figure out what’s going on, talk to AJ, talk to Rod, talk to Ray Searage and Clint Hurdle. Hurdle looks forward to helping JMac figure out what’s going on and get him back on track and called it “one of the great things about coaching. You have really good athletes, good skill sets up here. How can you help him?” When asked about skipping JMac’s next start, Hurdle replied, “It could be talked about, [but] you don’t throw him a lifesaver every time he runs into turbulence. We’re trying to grow up men here as well.” JMac said he’s run into situations like this before and his plan is to “keep pushing, keep competing, play for the guys behind you playing.”
“When you’re not doing the thing that the game asks you to do, you’re asking for trouble,” Hurdle said.
Kevin Correia pitched the 6th and 7th innings and gave up 4 earned runs on 5 hits and a walk. I know I defend Kevin Correia to the death; I also know today wasn’t good. He’s been accused of having a bad attitude about his demotion to the bullpen. I’m pretty sure we watched the same interview, and although it was clear he wasn’t happy, he was, as Clint Hurdle has said several times, “professional” about it. It’s being said that today’s performance hurt Kevin’s chances of being in the rotation; maybe it really showed that he shouldn’t be in the bullpen. His chances of being in the rotation again are slim to none; we all know that. For Kevin’s own sake, trade him somewhere he can start. Yes it hurts to say that. Jared Hughes pitched a scoreless 8th, so that was nice.
On the other side, if we ignore the 9 runs given up, the offense DID score 5 runs. Houston manager Brad Mills showed how much he wanted this win, using 7 different pitchers to get out of jams and keep the Pirates to just 11 hits and 5 runs. Of course, to keep tradition, the Buccos scored a run on a wild pitch. Garrett Jones’ 2-run bomb made it 2-1 in the top of the 4th, the only Pirates’ lead of the day. Neil Walker also had 2 RBIs on an RBI double in the 7th and a sacrifice fly in the 9th inning. There were some wasted opportunities, but it wasn’t an easy day to score “1 more run than the opponent.” Andrew McCutchen didn’t play today aside from pinch hitting and popping out. The offense wasn’t awful, even without him. Not everyone had a hit, but most did, and the Buccos pushed 5 runs across regardless.
Tomorrow the Pirates head to Chicago for a 3-game series against the Cubs. It should be another easy series. Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32 ERA) will pitch for the Buccos. The Cubs have not announced a starter yet.