Pirates Notebook: Lincoln Struggles, But Will Remain In Rotation
Brad Lincoln was given the opportunity to make his third spot start of the season on Tuesday night in Baltimore against the Orioles. The right-hander hasn’t had a defined role this season since being recalled on April 18 when Jeff Karstens was placed on the disabled list. Lincoln has made 13 appearances from the bullpen where he’s also been used in long relief and in the late innings. The 27-year-old struggled in his second straight start allowing four runs over 4.1 innings.
After escaping a jam in the first, Lincoln went on to give up a run in each of his next two innings.
Adam Jones ripped a 2-1 fastball down the left field line for a leadoff double to start the second inning. Lincoln got a ground out and whiffed Wilson Betemit on his curveball, but slugging first baseman Mark Reynolds crushed a two-run homer to left field to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
Lincoln retired his first two batters in the third, but then quickly gave up back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. Jones picked up his second hit off Lincoln with a blooper into shallow left field to plate the third run of the game. The right-hander walked his next batter to load the bases, but got out of it after Betemit took the 27-year-old’s 27th pitch of the inning for a called strike to end the frame.
For his fourth straight inning, Lincoln was unable to retire the side. He did, however, escape the inning without allowing a run to score. The Orioles’ chased Lincoln from the game in the next inning. Jones connected for his 3rd hit off Lincoln — a solo-bomb on a 2-0 fastball. Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle then yanked him from the game. Overall, Lincoln allowed four runs on nine hits over 4.1 innings. He walked one, struck out three while throwing 87 pitches, 56 for strikes.
Over his three starts overall, Lincoln has allowed 11 earned runs over 14.1 innings, good for a 7.02 ERA. Lincoln has posted just a 0.45 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 13 relief appearances (20.0 IP) this year, which ranks second in the Majors.
After the game on Tuesday, Hurdle said Lincoln is scheduled to make the start on Sunday in Cleveland, but if he struggles for his third straight outing, will return back into the ‘pen, a role he’s thrived in this season.
“We need him to pitch better and he knows that,” said Hurdle to Rob Biertempfel of the Trib. “We have to make sure he’s not just out there trying to pace himself. He was so good when he was very aggressive. We haven’t seen the velocity the last couple times. We need to get him back on track — and we’re going to keep him in the rotation.”
Offense 10 Hits Not Enough Against O’s
Despite combining for six runs on 10 hits, the club was unable to rally back off the Orioles. For the first time in 2012, the Pirates lost after tailing 10 hits or more in a game (13-1 record).
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first, but trailed the remainder of the game. Andrew McCutchen hit an infield single and swiped his 12th bag of the season. The Pirates have combined to swipe eight bases over their last four games. After Casey McGehee drew a walk, rookie Matt Hague, in his first Major League at-bat as a designated hitter, took the first pitch for a RBI base knock up the middle. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones’ throw home resulted in an error, allowing both base runners to move up a bag.
First baseman Casey McGehee didn’t hit a homer over his first 170 at-bats, but over his last 14 has connected for two long balls. His second of the season came as a lead off home run in the 6th inning off the Orioles lefty Wei-Yen Chen.
The Pirates tacked on two runs in both the 7th and 9th innings, but came up short in the 8-6 loss. Clint Barmes picked up his first hit of the night with a leadoff single to start the seventh inning. He scored after Neil Walker grounded out to short. McCutchen drove in the second run of the inning with a sac fly to right field to score Alex Presley, who doubled. The Buccos attempted to rally back in the top of the 9th inning. Neil Walker launched his fourth long ball of the season off reliever Kevin Gregg to bring the game within two runs.
Pittsburgh entered the game tied for first in the National League Central along with the Cincinnati Reds. It was the first time the Pirates have been in first place since July 25, 2011. After the 8-6 loss, the Pirates fell 1.0 game back in the division with the Reds beating the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.
Defense and Bullpen’s Struggle Result in Rough 6th
The Pirates defense and bullpen have been strong for the club this season, but both combined to result in a four run inning for the Orioles in the 8-6 loss. Pittsburgh had been charged with nine errors in its last 24 games prior to game action. The team’s .990 fielding percentage in that time ranked third in the Majors. The Pirates entered today’s action with the second-best bullpen ERA (2.39) in the Major Leagues.
Back-to-back errors allowed two runs to score in the bottom of the 6th inning. Clint Barmes’ miscue on a ground ball to short was off the first base bag. Casey McGehee made a nice pick, but had to come off the bag for the error. Reliever Chris Resop committed the second error in the next at-bat. Chavez hit a sac bunt, but Resop’s throw to first sailed into right field allowing the runners to advance to second and third base.
The Orioles’ took advantage of the blunders and tacked on four runs in the frame. Brian Roberts hit a sac fly to right and J.J. Hardy hit a base knock off the end of his bat into shallow right field to plate the first two runs. Chris Davis followed by hitting the third home run of the game, a two-run shot to right-center field.
Karstens Not Expected to Lose Much Time with New Injury
Right-hander Jeff Karstens will be resting his injured hip flexor for five to seven days, Manager Clint Hurdle said on Saturday. While resting, the Pirates plan is for Karstens to continue to throw.
“The injury is such that it wasn’t a significant injury that is going to impact his ability to throw,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “It would impact his ability to pitch and to field his position more than anything else. He’s continuing to play catch so that as we get 100 percent, he will be able to throw a bullpen. We’re not looking at loosing significant days of throwing or even pitching.”
Karstens was originally placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. During his final rehab start with Triple-A on Friday, Karstens injured his hip flexor after throwing a pitch. The right-hander’s rehab clock has stopped and will started back up again with a new injury.
“As long as he’s down for x number of days, which he believe he’s going to be down for that, you can start a rehab all over again because it’s a different injury,” Huntington said. “It’s the hip flexor [now] so it’s a different injury all together. We’re certainly not expecting to use the full rehab for Jeff coming off the hip flexor because his shoulder was so close. Had he had gotten through that start, he’s back on our Major League team. We’re just hoping it’s a few days. Its one of those situations that every day that he’s down, it’s a day longer to get him back.”