Pirates Notebook: Worst Game Of the Season; Walker Takes First Swings in Cage
After the Pirates lost 12-2 to Chicago on Friday, Manager Clint Hurdle summed up the game by being honest. It stunk.
“Our worst game of the season,” Hurdle said. “We stunk tonight. There’s always a sense of pride that you take out on the field, to play your best every night that you go out there. Sometimes your best stinks. That’s where we were tonight.”
The Pirates have played well defensively for the most part this season. They entered game action ranked seventh in the National League in errors committed (85). But the defense behind A.J. Burnett and bullpen on the mound let down the club in the 12-2 loss.
The Pirates became the first team with seven errors in a game since the 2004 Atlanta Braves. Of the 12 runs the Pirates allowed, just six of them were earned. It marked the first time since September in 1985 had the Pirates committed seven errors in a game.
“Nobody had [that] on their to do list I don’t think, I know I didn’t when I woke up today,” Hurdle said. “Lets go out tonight and stink up the joint in front of 32,000 fans. Sport, it has no memory. You look at A.J.’s numbers coming in against these guys at home, where [Travis] Wood’s been, all those things. Then you’ve got to go play the game. They came out and played the game, we didn’t play the game. We didn’t play it well at all.”
The defense let the right-hander down in the first inning, which required him to throw 21 pitches. With one out, Burnett walked Luis Valbuena. His next batter, Anthony Rizzo, hit a grounder to second base, but the ball took a bad hop and bounced off the left arm of Brock Holt. The infielder couldn’t field the ball in time allowing the runner to reach. It was Holt’s first big league error. Alfonso Soriano hit a bouncer up the middle, just out of the reach of Josh Harrison’s glove at short to allow the first run (unearned) to score. Burnett was able to get back-to-back ground outs to keep it to just the one run.
Fresh off the disabled list, rookie Starling Marte had a tough time in left field in the third inning, which proved to be costly. After Burnett retired his first two batters, a string of four straight hits came off the right-hander. After Soriano connected for the second hit to left, Marte bobbled the ball and after picking it up and turning towards the infield, he attempted to throw the ball home, but lost his grip and the ball flew over the third base bag. The first error allowed both runners to advance into scoring position. Starlin Castro then followed with a base knock to drive in both runs. Marte also struggled to field the base knock from Castro, the ball bouncing off his glove and rolled away from him allowing the runner to advance to second. Steve Clevenger connected for the fourth hit to drive in the third run of the frame.
The sixth inning blew open the game for Chicago after a series of bad plays.
Brett Jackson hit an infield single to short. Josh Harrison made a diving attempt, but the ball lined off his glove for a base hit. From there, the wheels started coming off. Burnett’s wild pitch advanced the runner, and then Barney reached on a fielder’s choice. The Cubs second baseman hit a grounder to short, and Harrison attempted to get the runner at third base. Pedro Alvarez tagged the runner on the play as he slid into the base, but was called safe to put runners on the corners.
Hurdle came out to argue the call, but was ejected for the fourth time this season by third base umpire Gary Darling.
“No,” Hurdle said on if being tossed was to get the club to spark .”That really didn’t enter my thought. I thought he was out. Sometimes you just can’t go away. You get put in time out…He said he was safe. We saw it different. It wasn’t one I was willing to walk away from.”
Cubs starter Travis Wood laid down a sac bunt, but catcher Rod Barajas chose to throw to second base for the aggressive attempt, but the runner slid in safe to load the bases on the fielder’s choice and fourth error of the game. The next error came after Gaby Sanchez fielded a grounder and threw home for the force out, but his throw was wide pulling Barajas off the plate allowing the run to score.
Burnett along with Barajas were pulled from the game, and Jeff Banister double switched with Justin Wilson and Michael McKenry. The lefty rookie entered the game with bases loaded and no outs. Wilson gave up double to the gap in right center field to drive in two runs. The lefty walked his next batter to reload the bases, before he was yanked and right-hander Chris Leroux came in for relief. Leroux was finally able to end the inning after retiring his next three straight, including two punchouts.
“I’ve never been a part of a game with seven errors,” Hurdle said. “That’s a new one. You’re not proud of it. There’s nobody in there that’s not embarrassed to some degree. Don’t miss out on that. We have a very resilient team. But at the same time when you go through that, it stings. Nobody wants to go out and not play to the capabilities that you can, let alone what we did tonight. Unfortunately we talk a lot about things in this game being contagious, from the defensive side tonight it was contagious as well.”
The final line on Burnett was seven runs (three earned) on eight hits over five-plus innings. He walked one and struck out four while throwing 92 pitches, 65 strikes.
“What we’ve got to do is just attack the game tomorrow,” Hurdle said. “And that’s one thing we’ve been able to do throughout the season.”
Karstens Likely Out Another Turn; Rotation Still Undecided
Jeff Karstens threw long toss today, and will throw a bullpen tomorrow at PNC Park. The right-hander is progressing back from a rip hip flexor injury, which has forced him to miss a start in the rotation. According to Manager Clint Hurdle, Karstens will likely miss a second start, but how the rotation is set after the Chicago series has not yet been decided.
“He’s got work to do still,” Hurdle said. “We haven’t decided. He’s been playing catch and been doing all his treatments and exercises…I don’t anticipate him getting back in. Was it one missed start? Yes. It very well is going to be more than one.”
Kevin Correia started in place of Karstens on Wednesday and allowed one run over six frames.
Injury Updates — Marte Returns; Walker Takes Swings
— Starling Marte was activated off the disabled list on Friday after suffering a right oblique strain. The outfielder made three rehab appearances, one with State College and two with Triple-A Indianapolis. Last night with Indy, Marte went 1-for-4 with three runs, a walk and an RBI.
“There weren’t any limitations,” Hurdle said. “All the reports we got [were good], the people that had seen him in the last three days. Obviously the first was rusty, the second day, not quite as rust[y]. Could he play more? Sure he could play more, but you’re talking about maybe only one more game. We hope Indy wins tonight and continues to play.”
“That being said, he’s physically fit and ready to go. The athleticism that he brings is very unique, and to have that in the lineup, whether it be on the defensive side on the ball, whether it be when he gets on base, or at the plate, I think it’s an added weapon that we need to take advantage of.”
— Chad Qualls (left big toe) threw a simulated batting practice session at PNC Park on Friday. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday, and Hurdle said is on track to do so.
“Excellent,” Hurdle said on Qualls BP session. “It went very well today. He’s in a very good place. I anticipate him coming off on top and being activated on time.”
— Travis Snider said before the game that he’s feeling a lot better today. The outfielder was out of the lineup on Wednesday, and said that the extra day off on Thursday helped. Snider isn’t sure on a return and is taking the injury day by day. He was removed from the game on Tuesday due to discomfort in his right hamstring.
“We needed to get him some time down,” Hurdle said. “They were looking for at least three days of non baseball activity. And we’re closing in on that. Then see what he may be capable of…Obviously I don’t think we probably gave it enough time down last time or maybe it wouldn’t have re-occurred. I think he could pinch-hit possible tonight, but I think were going to be careful. Again, with at least another 24 hour period as well.”
— Jose Tabata was scratched from the game on Wednesday due to a bruised foot he suffered after taking a foul ball on Tuesday.
“[He] got more treatment [today],” Hurdle said. “He had much more comfort hitting Wednesday, than he did moving around in the outfield. That was the challenging part for him. He’s useable and playable off the bench.”
— Neil Walker continues to progress back from low back tightness, which has sidelined him for the past nine games.
Walker was however, able to swing in the cage for the first time today.
“Walker worked out yesterday,” Hurdle said. “That’s the biggest challenge in front of us, is taking swings in the cage. And then hopefully adding velocity in a couple different ways to see how much he can handle, and how quickly he can handle it without setting him back.”
“I’m close,” Walker said. “The last two days have been encouraging. I was able to swing the bat right-handed today, which is good. I’m working to do some other things. We’re getting close…Just some soreness. The inflammation is pretty much all out of there. That’s the most important thing. The baseball activities, it’s been a week since I’ve picked up a bat. I was able to swing today, which is good, and take all my ground balls. The moving up and down, left and right hasn’t been an issue. The biggest hurdle is going to be swinging.”
A big test for Walker will be how he feels tomorrow after swinging for the first time today. Walker only swung from the right side, and will progress to the left side for the final step before being fully healthy.
“I feel very confident that I’m going to recover pretty well,” Walker said. “It was encouraging. I took about 30 swings today. We’ll see how my body reacts tomorrow, but that was good.”
“That finishing of a swing is what’s going to be the biggest thing. That will be the next few days here. The twerking is what we’re working [through] today and tomorrow. We kind of tested it with the ground balls up and down a little bit, left and right, and I’m going to do more of that today. That’s gong to be the final thing, the twerking with the swing.”