Taking a Look at the Pirates' Offensive Offense

Dejan implied in Monday’s live chat that hitting, not pitching, has had the greater effect on the team’s failures—and successes—so far in 2007. The rankings don’t lie: A .250 team average is more significant than a 4.55 staff ERA. A number of Pirates are underachieving this year. Two, though, stand out from the crowd. This morning, a couple of analysts take a look at our should-be sluggers. Daniel Rathman...

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Indians Fall to Clippers

boxscore (photo by NancyZ)
The Indianapolis Indians left 11 base runners stranded and made two errors tonight, as they lost to the Columbus Clippers by a score of 7-5 at Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Tribe out-hit the Clippers, 12 hits to 9, but couldn’t get the runners around to score. The loss combined with a win by the Toledo Mud Hens drops the Indians to 3 games behind the Mud Hens in the International League West standings.
Columbus led off the scoring tonight, against Indians’ starter Michael Tejera. In the bottom of the 1st, with one out, 2B Brent Abernathy grounded a double into left field. Two batters later, LF Michael Restovich lifted a homer over the left field wall. Abernathy and Restovich were trouble for Tejera again in the 3rd inning, though they switched hits: Abernathy hit a solo home run, and then Restovich hit a double. Larry Broadway followed the double with a walk, putting runners on first and second with two out. Tejera then struck out RF Abraham Nunez to end the inning and leave the runners stranded.
Jose Hernandez -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians scored in the second inning, taking advantage of two Columbus errors. 3B Jose Hernandez (photo) hit a single into left field, which Clippers’ LF Restovich missed. Hernandez ran all the way to third on the two-base missed catch error. When the relay throw from SS Melvin Dorta went wide of third base, Hernandez popped up from his slide, and headed for home, scoring on the throwing error.
The Tribe added another run in the 4th inning. 3B Jose Hernandez walked, and LF Michael Ryan and 2B Luis Ordaz (photo below) hit back-to-back singles, loading the bases with one out. Pitcher Michael Tejera grounded to 2B Abernathy, forcing out Ordaz at second. When Ordaz slid into second base, he disrupted the relay by SS Dorta covering second, so that the throw to first was late. Tejera was safe at first, and he got credit for the RBI when Hernandez scored.
The Clippers put up another run in the 6th inning, when 1B Larry Broadway smashed a homer to straight-away right field. That put the Clippers up by two runs.
Luis Ordaz  -- photo by NancyZ
Starter John Lannan pitched 6 innings for the Clippers. He gave up 8 hits, and allowed two runs, only one of which was earned (Hernandez’s run in the second inning was unearned). He walked one and struck out three. Reliever Alex Morales came in to pitch the 7th inning. CF Matt Kata led off the inning by working a walk, and he stole second base. 1B Brad Eldred also walked, on four pitches. Jose Hernandez hit a long fly into right field for a double, scoring Kata. Eldred was held up at third base, as the throw in from RF Nunez was very quick and on target. That was all for Morales, though, and Edward Valdez entered in relief. C Humberto Cota grounded to Clippers’ 2B Brent Abernathy, who bobbled the ball. Cota was safe on the error, and Eldred scored to tie the game.
Michael Tejera was also relieved after 6 innings. He gave up 4 runs on 6 hits, including 3 homers, and 3 walks, while striking out 3 batters. Brian Rogers came in to start the 7th inning for the Tribe. Rogers seemed to have trouble throwing strikes. He walked SS Manny Alexander, got CF Bernadina out on a sacrifice bunt which moved Alexander to second base, and then walked Brent Abernathy. That was enough for manager Trent Jewett, and lefty Juan Perez replaced Rogers. Perez quickly got the second out of the inning by striking out 3B Kory Casto. LF Restovich grounded to Jose Hernandez at third, and the ball skipped off Hernandez’s glove for an error, allowing Alexander to score an unearned run and giving Columbus the lead again, 5-4. A ground out to first base by Larry Broadway ended the inning.

Humberto Cota -- photo by NancyZ
The bottom of the 8th saw the Clippers adding two insurance runs. With one out and Juan Perez still pitching, C Brandon Harper doubled into left field. Brandon Watson, who returned to the Clippers during the game from a stint with the Washington Nationals, reached first when Tribe SS Brian Bixler fielded his grounder but threw wide to first base. The throw sailed into the Clippers’ dugout, and Harper scored, and Watson moved to second base. Manny Alexander doubled, scoring Watson. Alexander was caught stealing third and Bernadina was called out on strikes, but the Clippers were ahead 7-4.
The Indians rallied in the top of the 9th inning, but fell short. Yurendell de Caster singled into center field, and went to second base on defensive indifference. Humberto Cota (photo) hit a liner to right-center field that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double, scoring de Caster. But that was all the Tribe could get, as Russ Johnson pinch hit for Juan Perez but struck out to end the game.
Juan Perez pitched 1.2 innings, giving up 2 runs (only 1 was earned) on 3 hits, with 2 strikeouts. Brian Rogers, who was responsible for one unearned run in the 7th inning, was charged with the loss, his first of the season. Edward Valdez, who pitched 1.1 scoreless innings for the Clippers, was credited with a blown save, but also got the win, his second of the season. Chris Booker (who named to the International League All-Star team), who pitched the final inning for the Clippers, got the save, his 21st of the season.
Luis Ordaz went 3 for 4 with a double. Jose Hernandez got 2 hits, including a double and an RBI, and Yurendell de Caster also had 2 hits. “I feel great at the plate”, said de Caster after the game. “I’ve been putting in a lot of extra work this year, and I think that’s helped. I’m swinging at better pitches, and I’m trying to use the entire field.”
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Jose Hernandez, who went 2 for 4, scored twice, and had an RBI. But the best part was the run he scored in the second inning, when he singled, ran to third on a catching error, slid into third, then had to get up and run home when the Clippers made another error. That’s like an inside-the-park home run with a slide in the middle of it.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Rogearvin Bernadina bunted, and the ball went toward first base. Brad Eldred charged to field the bunt, turned and made a perfect throw to first base. Michael Tejera is a very good fielder, and he covered first base, in perfect position at exactly the right time to take the throw for the out.
Roster Moves:
Reliever Jonah Bayliss reported to the Indians today. He was available to pitch, and even started warming up at one point, though did not get into the game.
Reliever Kevin Gryboski, who was just taken off the DL two days ago, was put back onto the DL today, to make room for Bayliss.
Injury Report:
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that Nyjer Morgan had the cast removed from his hand/thumb yesterday. He has gone to Bradenton, where he will begin rehab, and according to the P-G, he could be ready to return to the Indians in about 2 weeks. (Isn’t that kind of quick?)
OF Luis Matos was out of the game tonight, because his neck is bothering him.
Yurendell de Caster, who missed a few games due to back pain, was back in the line-up, but that doesn’t mean the back pain is gone. He’s still got it, but he’s trying to play through it.
All-Star Comments:
The three Tribe players who will be going to Albuquerque for the AAA All-Star game in two weeks: Bryan Bullington, Yurendell de Caster, and Brian Bixler.
Brian Bixler’s comments when he heard he was named to the All-Star team in his first season at the AAA level:
“I was really happy. It’s a great honor. But it’s not the end of the season yet… I need to keep working and stay strong.”
Was he surprised to be named to the team?
“A little bit. There are so many good players… any time I’m mentioned along with these guys, it’s an honor.”
This is Bixler’s second time on a league All-Star team. Last year he was named to the High-A Carolina League All-Star team, and the night of the game, after the game was over, he was promoted to AA Altoona.
This is Yurendell de Caster’s first time to be named to an All-Star team. His versatility on the field surely contributed to his being on the team. “I’ll do whatever is needed to help my team win”, he said. “I’m fine with anywhere (manager) Trent (Jewett) puts me. I can play first, second, third, or the outfield. I can hit at different spots in the batting order. That’s my game — I try to be as versatile as possible.”
It is Bryan Bullington’s second time on as an All-Star. He was an All-Star on the Eastern League team when he was playing for Altoona in 2004.
Michael Ryan extended his hitting streak to 8 games with a hit in the 4th inning.
Brian Bixler doesn’t have a streak, but he has hit in 10 of his last 12 games.
Go Tribe!

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Our Indians All-Stars

The International League today announced the roster for the 2007 All-Star Team.
Three of our Indianapolis Indians are on the roster!
Brian Bixler — starting Shortstop for the All-Star Team
Yurendell de Caster — infielder
Bryan Bullington — right handed pitcher
It has not yet been announced which pitcher will be starting the game for the IL team.
(* designates a starter)
The rest of the team:
Pitchers –

Manny Acosta, Richmond
Chris Booker, Columbus
Craig Breslow, Pawtucket
Jim Brower (former Indian), Scranton/WB
Bryan Bullington, Indianapolis
Cory Doyne, Norfolk
Phil Dumatrait, Louisville
Floyd Gavin, Charlotte
Matt Garza, Rochester
Travis Hughes, Pawtucket
Bobby Korecky, Rochester
Jeff Niemann, Durham
*J.R. House, Norfolk
Jason Jaramillo, Ottawa
Jose Morales, Rochester
Yurendell de Caster -- photo by NancyZ
*Brian Bixler, Indianapolis
Yurendell de Caster, Indianapolis
*Mike Hessman, Toledo
Jeff Keppinger, Louisville
Ryan Mulhern, Buffalo
Luis Rivas, Buffalo
*Matt Tolbert, Rochester
*Joey Votto, Louisville
Outfielders –
Shelley Duncan, Scranton/WB — will start as DH
John-Ford Griffin, Syracuse
*Brandon Moss, Pawtucket
*Timo Perez, Toledo
*Ryan Raburn, Toledo
Managing the team — John Russell, Ottawa
Torey Lovullo, Buffalo
Stan Cliburn, Rochester
The AAA All-Star Game, between this International League team and the Pacific Coast League Team (which will be announced tomorrow), will take place on Wednesday July 11th, at 7:30 pm ET, in Albuquerque. It will be shown on ESPN2.
Go Tribe!

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Game #77 at Florida

Dolphin Stadium | 7:05 | Van Benschoten vs. Sergio Mitre | Box Jim Tracy stresses the importance of throwing strikes. It’s clear that skipper believes that the ticket to a pitcher’s success lies in his ability to hammer the zone. Tonight, John Van Benschoten threw 81 pitches. Only 39 were strikes! Terrible, absolutely horrible. He walked five batters in four innings. In three starts, he’s walked 10 and struck out...

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Tribe Sink Clippers, Ending Losing Streak

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
The Indianapolis Indians were tired of being on the losing end of things, and 5 straight losses were enough. So they took it out on the Columbus Clippers tonight, beating the Clippers by a score of 5-1 at Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Shane Youman was again the pitcher who ended a losing streak, as he got his 4th win of the season, and his 4th road win.
“Everyone knew we were in the midst of a five-game losing streak — that was no secret”, said Youman in an interview after the game. “We have a good team, and I knew it was just a matter of time until we bounced back.”
The Indians got right into it in the top of the first inning. RF Don Kelly led things off with his first hit as an Indian, a single to center field. SS Brian Bixler followed with a liner into right field for a triple, scoring Kelly. Bixler scored on CF Matt Kata’s sacrifice fly. 1B Brad Eldred singled, but was caught stealing on the second half of a strike out/throw out double play with LF Michael Ryan, ending the inning.
Brad Eldred -- photo by NancyZ
The Clippers’ starter, Emiliano Fruto, held the Indians to just a single and a walk over the next four innings. The Tribe got to Fruto in the 6th inning, though. Brian Bixler led off with a single up the middle. Matt Kata flied out for one out. Then the Indians hit three consecutive hits: Brad Eldred (photo) doubled, scoring Bixler; Michael Ryan singled, moving Eldred to third base; 3B Russ Johnson doubled, scoring Eldred and moving Ryan to third base. That was the end of the evening for Fruto, and right-hander Levale Speigner entered the game. He first faced 2B Luis Ordaz, whose sacrifice fly scored Ryan. Einar Diaz walked, and when the fourth ball was a wild pitch, Russ Johnson attempted to score — but he was thrown out at the plate on the throw from Clippers’ C Juan Brito to pitcher Speigner.
Shane Youman, the starter for the Indians, pitched 6.2 scoreless innings. He gave up 3 hits and 5 walks, while striking out 4 batters. In the first inning, the Clippers’ lead off man CF Rogearvin Bernadina walked, but was picked off first base by Youman. 2B Kory Casto also walked, but was stranded on base. 1B Brent Abernathy singled in the second inning, but he was caught attempting to steal second base.
“Tonight was all about bearing down and throwing good pitches”, said Youman. “I’m throwing more strikes and beginning to trust my stuff. My teammates also made some great plays behind me. I just wanted to help us get a win, and that’s what I did.”
Getting the pick off in the first inning was key for Youman. “I’ve been working with (manager) Trent (Jewett) on my pick-off move. Runners were catching on because my move to first was different than my delivery to the plate. I’ve been trying to make those moves look the same. It was just a matter of trusting t he concepts that I’ve been working on before each game.”

Shane Youman -- photo by NancyZ
Youman (photo) allowed the lead off batter to reach base, either by a single or a walk, in each of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings. In each case, though, Youman promptly retired the next three batters in order. He also put the side down in order in the 6th inning. Youman again started the 7th inning by walking the first batter, and getting the next two batters out. At that point, Youman had thrown 108 pitches (64 strikes), and manager Trent Jewett elected to bring in Mark Corey to relieve Youman. Corey quickly retired pinch hitter Melvin Dorta to end the inning.
Corey remained in the game to pitch the 8th inning. This was the first inning in which the Clippers managed to get more than one runner on base, and finally to score. The lead off batter again got on base, this time a walk to Bernadina, and in this inning the lead off walk came back to haunt the Tribe. Bernie Castro grounded to 3B Russ Johnson, who got Bernadina out at second base, but the relay to first base was not in time to get Castro. Back-to-back singles by Kory Casto and Michael Restovich scored Castro, and another single by Abraham Nunez loaded the bases. Pinch hitter Larry Broadway came to the plate to face the new Indians’ pitcher, Franquelis Osoria. Broadway grounded the 1-1 pitch right to 2B Luis Ordaz, to start a double play: Ordaz to SS Brian Bixler to 1B Brad Eldred. That ended the inning, allowing only one run to score. Osoria then set the side down in order in the 9th inning.
After Columbus starter Fruto gave up 5 runs in his 5.1 innings, the Clippers’ relievers were able to hold the Indians’ batters scoreless. Speigner pitched 1.2 innings, and did allow one of the runners he inherited from Fruto to score, but then set the Tribe batters down in order in the 7th inning. Winston Abreu came on to pitch the last two innings for Columbus. In the 8th, he struck out the side in order. In the top of the 9th, he struck out four Tribe batters. A wild pitch on the third strike to Luis Ordaz allowed Ordaz to reach first base safely, but Abreu simply struck out the next two batters.
Fruto took the loss for Columbus, his 4th of the season. Shane Youman won his 4th game of the season, and Franquelis Osoria got his 7th save.
Indians’ hitting gems of the game: Brian Bixler went 2 for 4, with a triple and an RBI. Brad Eldred also went 2 for 4, with a double and an RBI.
Luis Ordaz -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: The inning-ending double play in the bottom of the 8th inning. With the bases loaded and one out, pinch hitter Larry Broadway hit a grounder which Luis Ordaz (photo) scooped, threw to Brian Bixler covering second base, and on to Brad Eldred at first. It kept more runs from scoring and ended what could have been a big Columbus rally.
Michael Ryan’s hit in the 6th inning increased his hitting streak to 7 games.
Brian Bixler’s triple in the 1st inning was his 8th of the season, leading the league.
Yurendell de Caster sat out again tonight, still having back strain.
Shane Youman has earned all of his four wins on the road. Is there some magic to that? Should he have the team wear their road uniforms for his next start at Victory Field? “We were joking around about that in the clubhouse before the game”, said Youman. “I don’t know if (General Manager) Cal (Burleson) will go for that.”
Go Tribe!

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Game #76 at Florida

Dolphin Stadium | 7:05 | Maholm vs. Dontrelle Willis | Box The Paul Maholm we saw in Spring Training is starting to return, I think. Maholm worked into the eighth inning, the offense received contributions from unexpected sources and the Pirates beat the Marlins, 3-2. In seven of his 16 starts, Maholm has thrown seven innings or more. In his last three outings, he’s pitched 21.2 innings, allowing 7 earned runs, 15 hits and 5...

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