Pirates Notebook: Buccos win a West Coast series

The last time the Pirates were four games over .500 was early in the 2003 season. The last time the Pirates were doing this well so late in the season was in 2002, when they moved to a 13-8 record on April 26th after a 10-1 loss to the Padres.

That same season the Pirates got off to a 9-5 start before Aramis Ramirez, hitting .348 at the time, sprained his ankle charging the mound on April 17th, 2002. Ramirez didn’t return to the starting lineup until May 13th, the game the Pirates slipped to .500. Two days later would be the last time they saw a .500 record that season.

You could say that the Ramirez injury derailed a hot start. Ramirez was arguably the best hitter for the Pirates at the time, and when he went down the Pirates went 9-12 in his absence. He also hit .223 for the remainder of the season with 18 homers, evidence that he derailed his hot start to the season.

Fast forward to 2009. Today the Pirates were without two of their best young players in Ryan Doumit and Nate McLouth. They were without Jack Wilson, who was recently placed on the 15-day DL (more on that later). They were without Freddy Sanchez in today’s lineup. You could forgive the Pirates for losing today’s game, especially with Jake Peavy taking the mound.

But they didn’t lose. They won, and they won big, chasing Peavy after five innings on an Adam LaRoche three run homer, and getting to the Padres’ bullpen for three more runs. The best part about the offense was the players who stepped up.

The Pirates tied the score in the 4th inning thanks to a Robinzon Diaz single that brought in two runs. Brian Bixler broke the game open with an RBI double, bringing two runs in, and putting the Pirates up by five runs. Adam LaRoche, playing in a shallow lineup, stepped up to be the leader, hitting two home runs today.

Ross Ohlendorf also pitched a great game. The box score only shows two strikeouts, but Ohlendorf was dominating. The reason for that is simple. In his 21 outs, Ohlendorf forced 15 ground ball outs. He recorded two strikeouts, and the Pirates nailed Drew Macias at third trying to stretch a double in to a triple. That means the Padres only had three fly ball outs. Ohlendorf only allowed five hits in his seven innings, with only three extra base hits. He allowed three runs, thanks to two home runs (the second homer was a solo shot in the eighth inning).

I pointed out on Friday that the Pirates were horrible on the West Coast the last three years, with a .333 record over that time. The Pirates probably should have won the game on Friday, and left no questions on Saturday and Sunday, with a combined 18-4 score in the two victories against the Padres.

Next test for the Pirates: three games on the road against the Brewers, including one game against Yovani Gallardo.

Wilson and Hansen to the DL

I leave for one day and two Pirates are placed on the 15-day DL. Craig Hansen was placed on the DL on Saturday, and Evan Meek was brought up to replace him. Meek had a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings at AAA this season, although the 7 walks he allowed wasn’t encouraging. Meek would be a great reliever if he could get the walks under control (you could probably make that claim about anyone in the Pirates’ bullpen).

Jack Wilson was added to the 15-day DL today, with Brian Bixler brought up. I wrote on Friday that I thought the Pirates should re-sign Jack Wilson for his defense, since our starting rotation is full of ground ball pitchers. Bixler was hitting .327 in 55 at-bats at AAA, after an impressive Spring Training at the plate. Bixler’s defense isn’t as good as Wilson, so this will give us a chance to see the impact of a better bat at short. Bixler is already off to a 1 for 3 start, with a two-RBI double in today’s win.

The 25-Man roster page has been updated to reflect these moves.

The MVP Tracker

I was out of town yesterday, so here are the updates to the MVP tracker from the last two games…

Saturday:

-One point for Zach Duke for a great start Saturday night. Nice way to bounce back from his previous outing.

-One point for Andy LaRoche. 2 for 4 with two early RBIs to get the Pirates offense going.

-One point for Freddy Sanchez for his 3 for 5 day.

-One point for Craig Monroe for his 3 for 5 day with 3 RBIs.

Sunday:

-One point for Ross Ohlendorf for a great start.

-One point for Robinzon Diaz for tying the score in the fourth inning.

-One point for Adam LaRoche for his three run bomb in the 5th, and a solo shot in the 9th. LaRoche now leads the MVP tracker race.

-One point for Brian Bixler for his two-RBI double to break the game open in the 7th.

Other Stuff

-The Draft Prospects Tracker is updated with the games from Saturday and today.

-Dustin Ackley hit a homer yesterday, and went 0 for 3 today. Ackley is now hitting .384 on the season with 13 homers. He’s still my ideal pick at #4 for the Pirates, assuming he makes it that far.

-I did a rundown of the draft prospects on the 23rd, but with no games to track until Tuesday, and no afternoon games tomorrow, I plan on doing a recap of this weekend’s games tomorrow afternoon. I’d like to do these weekly rundowns on Monday, but I’ve been busy or out of town the past two Monday’s.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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