Pirates Notebook: McDonald Snubbed For Pitcher of the Month Award?

James McDonald - Photo by Mark Olson

Those in Pittsburgh or fans of the Pirates are well aware of James McDonald’s solid 2012 season. He posted a 2.97 ERA over five starts in April, and followed that up with an even better month of May. The right-hander posted a 1.54 ERA over five outings. He whiffed 39 batters over 35.0 innings and has not surrendered more than three runs in any of his first 10 assignments.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, beginning with his start on April 18, James McDonald’s 1.82 ERA is the lowest among all starters in the Major Leagues (minimum of eight starts).

But is McDonald starting to raise some eyes outside of the Steel City?

You could argue that McDonald got snubbed for the National League pitcher of the month for May. The Washington Nationals Gio Gonzalez got the award after posting a 2.25 ERA. A very efficient month of May for the lefty, but McDonald was even better. McDonald had a better ERA (1.54), more innings pitched (35.0), less walks (8), and better WHIP (0.89). Gonzalez had a few more punchouts, 45 to McDonald’s 39.

McDonald quietly continued his solid season by holding the Brewers to just one earned run over six innings on Sunday afternoon.

A pair of unearned runs scored off McDonald in the first inning. Clint Barmes’ costly error allowed former Bucco Nyjer Morgan to score on a 2-out double. Rickie Weeks followed with a RBI knock to plate the second unearned run. McDonald needed 23 pitches to escape the inning, but from there he was locked in.

McDonald retired 14 straight until Morgan hit a solo-homer in the 6th inning to right field. The 28-year-old followed by giving up a single and a walk, but was aggressive and was able to escape the inning. Back-to-back punchouts to Weeks and Cody Ransom, which was a called strike three, ended the inning.

That home run was the lone earned run the right-hander would allow during his 11th start of the season. Overall, McDonald allowed three runs –one earned — on four hits. He walked one and struck out eight while throwing 100 pitches, 60 strikes. McDonald dropped his ERA to 2.14 on season and has allowed just two earned runs over his last three starts (21.0 innings).


Homers Give Pirates First Series Win at Miller Park Since 2010

Miller Park has been a house of horrors for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the years, but the club was able to do something this weekend that they haven’t done since April 26-28, 2010 — win a series. After belting out double-digit hits off Milwaukee on Sunday in the 6-5 win, the Pirates took two of three from the Brewers, after going just 1-for-9 in Miller Park last season. It also marked the Bucs third straight series win of the season.

The Pirates offense doesn’t have a lot of home run power, but that didn’t stop them from hitting four on the day against the Brewers. When the Pirates belt two or more homers in a game, they are 9-2 on the season.

Back-to-back homers by Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones came off rookie right-hander Mike Fiers in the 5th. McCutchen’s  two-run shot was his ninth of year. Jones followed with his seventh of the season and his second in as many games. It marked the second time this season the Bucs have hit back-to-back jacks. The other time came on April 25 vs. Colorado when Jones and Pedro Alvarez went deep.

Rod Barajas hit his fifth long ball of the season in the next frame and Clint Barmes hit his third of the year off closer John Axford in the 9th. Barmes finished the day 2-for-4 with two RBI on the day in his second start since getting benched for nearly a week to work on his swing.

The ball was flying out of Miller Park. Not only did the Pirates connect for four homers, but the Brewers hit three of their own off the Pirates. Starter James McDonald allowed a solo-shot to Nyjer Morgan. Catcher Martin Maldonado’s came in the 7th off Juan Cruz, which snapped the bullpen’s 8.0 consecutive scoreless streak. Closer Joel Hanrahan gave up a solo bomb to Brooks Conrad in the bottom of the 9th.


Alvarez Sitting to “Clear the Deck”

Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup today against the Milwaukee Brewers, with Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle electing to get Casey McGehee the spot start. Alvarez is just 7-for his last 40 at-bats (.175), which included a home run. And since being moved up to bat fourth, Alvarez has produced just a .140 average.

According to Rob Biertempfel of the Trib, Alvarez had a closed door meeting with Hurdle before the game and will be benched for at least the next 48 hours. Alvarez was told not to swing the bat today, unless he was needed in the game late, to unplug from the game to reduce some anxiety.

The Pirates have an off day on Monday to travel to Cincinnati. Hurdle said he hasn’t decided if he will return to the lineup on Tuesday.


Lincoln’s Spot Start Pushed to Wednesday

Right-hander Brad Lincoln was previously scheduled to get the spot start for the Bucs on Tuesday in Cincinnati, but after the game Manager Clint Hurdle decided to give Lincoln an extra day off and bumped his start back to Wednesday against the Reds.

With the off day on Monday to travel, right-hander A.J. Burnett will get the nod on Tuesday and still remain on his regular five days rest. The decision to move Lincoln back a day could mean they don’t need him for a second spot start.

If there’s no issue after his fourth rehab outing on Wednesday, Karstens would be able to return from the DL to make a start on June 11. Karstens’ goal is to reach the 100 pitch mark.

Lincoln allowed two runs on four hits over 6.0 innings against Miami in his first start this season in Pittsburgh. He’s posted just an 0.45 ERA over 20.0 innings from the bullpen — third lowest-ERA in the Majors.

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Pirates Notebook: Another Rehab Start for Karstens, Lincoln Could Make Two Spot Starts

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Pirates Notebook: Struggling Bats Come Alive

  • Matt Beam

    Monday 6/11 is an off day so I assume Karstens would start on Tuesday 6/12 if everything goes well this Wednesday

  • Lee Young

    Take away Pedro’s hot streak and he is hitting .135. Sheesh….

    • Ian Rothermund

      What sense does that make to remove a guys hot streak?

      If he has three of those this season, he could end up with close to 30 HR. Thats how streaky hitters work. Personally I just think he’s destined to be a solid #5 or great #6 guy. I’ll take the inconsistency from him, as long as he’s not in a high leverage spot, like 4th in the lineup.

      There were some hypothetical rumblings about trading for Encarnacion from Toronto, and I think that would be fantastic. Cutch at 3, then Encarnacion, then interchangeably Pedro or

      • Ian Rothermund

        *interchangeably Pedro or Walker, or even “the hit collector”

        • Ian Rothermund

          Either way, it would be great to see once Marte is up, Walker dropping down, and if we have a real power threat, Pedro dropping down too.

          • Lee Young

            Folks remove bad games from a pitcher, so why not a batter. As for streaky, I’ll call him streaky, too, when he has another hot streak.

            Not as sold on Marte yet, as you are. I’m in the camp of “He needs more seasoning”.

            Don’t want Encarnacion either unless we can get him real cheap.

            • Lee Young

              Kdro has had ONE, count ‘em, ONE ‘streak’ in the last season and two months. It’s looking like it may be an outlier?

            • Ian Rothermund

              Well, like I alluded to, I think Pedro right now is stuck in what is, at least to this point, an unnatural spot in the lineup for him. I think in the long run, being in the 5 or 6 hole will be more conducive to his success. I think it will give him more pitches to see, and with his power, provide decent protection to those in front of him.

              • Lee Young

                I don’t think where he hits has any bearing on it. I just don’t think he’s a major league hitter. Way too many holes, wayyyyy too inconsistent. He appears to be on of those ‘try too hard’ guys, too.

                However, I hope he proves me wrong…BIGTIME>

            • Ian Rothermund

              Also, as far as Marte is concerned, I think he needsore time as well. But I also think that if he continues to do as he has since coming off the hand injury for the next month, that it will be his time.

              Then if he’s doing well enough, it’ll free more resources to dedicate towards trading up for a better 1B.

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