The Pittsburgh Pirates flew into Baltimore tied for first place with the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central. They were on a four-game winning streak, a sweep of the Kansas City Royals, and a season-high five games over .500. The Bucs headed into their 60th game of the season on Tuesday with a 32-27 record — the most wins for the Pirates at the 60-game mark since the 1992 team was 35-25.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been considered “surprise” teams this season, both sitting near the top of their divisions. It’s been the bats that has kept the O’s in games this season, and they were out in full force against the Pirates arms over the three-game set.
The Pirates pitching staff entered game action on Tuesday with the third-best ERA in the Majors at just 3.25. But during the three-game set against Baltimore, each starter struggled sending the club their third straight loss. The Pirates hadn’t lost more than two in a row since their season-high five game losing streak from April 10-14. Baltimore sealed the sweep with the 11-6 win on Thursday.
Right-handers Brad Lincon, Kevin Correia and lefty Erik Bedard combined to allow 15 runs on 26 hits over 13.2 innings — a 10.28 ERA. The starting staff faced a tough lineup in the Orioles, who are hitting for a .251 team average, with their 87 home runs ranking third in the American League.
While the starting staff struggled, the Pirates offense has picked up in the month of June. They entered action hitting for a .256/.309/424 line — 9th in the NL. They hit just .210 in May. They pounded out six runs on 10 hits in the loss on Thursday. Three of them came from a long ball by Rod Barajas in the 6th frame. They also scored six runs in the 8-6 loss on Tuesday also combining for 10 hits in the game.
Despite the rough three game series, there is no need to jump ship. The Pirates head to Cleveland in second place (three games out of the Reds) and are sitting two games over .500 (32-30).
With Morton’s Season Over, Pirates Consider Options
Right-hander Charlie Morton’s 2012 season ended early on Thursday after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The recovery period for this type of surgery is typically 8-12 months.
Jeff Karstens threw a bullpen session this afternoon, and according to reports is expected to restart his rehab with Double-A Altoona on Tuesday. Karstens was placed on the disabled list on April 18 with right shoulder inflammation, but during what would have been his final rehab outing on June 7, the right-hander injured his right hip flexor. Karstens rested for a week before resuming throwing.
Karstens most likely will need two rehab outings to get to the desired 100 pitch mark, so could still be a few weeks away from returning to the rotation. Manager Clint Hurdle said that righty Brad Lincoln will get the start on Sunday against Cleveland, and his role will likely be determined (bullpen or rotation) after his fourth spot start. Lincoln has had back-to-back rough outings, where he’s allowed nine earned runs over 8.1 innings.
The Pirates have two very talented lefty prospects in Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens pitching well for Triple-A Indianapolis. Locke allowed two runs over 5.2 tonight for Indy and overall in 2012, he’s posted a 3.27 ERA. And Owens, too, has put up numbers worthy of a promotion. Owens allowed a run over six frames his last trip to the mound, and has posted just a 2.29 ERA over 78.2 innings this season.
However, it looks as if neither will be joining the rotation in Pittsburgh just yet. For Owens, it would be his Major League debut. Locke was a September callup in 2011 and also was recalled for three-games last month.
“Before we even think about the guys in Triple-A, we think we’ve got six major league starters, with Lincoln and Jeff Karstens,” General Manager Neal Huntington told the Trib. “Rudy and Jeff and really doing great things down there and they’re continuing to grow. We hope not (need callup), because that means we’ve got another pitcher injured. We feel like we’re deeper than we were a year ago, able to sustain another hit, but hope we don’t have to.”
Bedard Roughed up by O’s
Lefty Erik Bedard allowed just two runs over 7.0 innings his last trip to the mound at PNC Park against Kansas City, but lasted just 3.1 frames after his worst outing of the season on Thursday against Baltimore.
Bedard allowed four runs to score in the 1st alone. Brian Roberts led off the inning with a base hit up the middle. After getting his next batter to fly out to center, Chris Davis drew a free pass off Bedard. The lefty gave up three straight two-out RBI hits. The first from Matt Wieters was a single to right field to plate the first run. Mark Reynolds and Steve Pearce followed with doubles, Pearce’s two-batter drove in two.
After the lefty threw 36 pitches to get through the rough 1st, Bedard needed just 10 in the 2nd frame. However, Bedard struggled again in the 3rd. Weiters picked up his second RBI on the night with a ground rule double to drive in Davis, who also hit at two bagger. Bedard allowed a two-out walk to load the bases, but left them stranded after inducing a groundout to end the inning.
Bedard exited his outing early — just 3.1 innings, his shortest of the season — after allowing back-to-back one-out singles. Wieters hit a grounder just under the glove of a diving Pedro Alvarez to score both runs.
Overall, Bedard allowed seven runs on eight hits over 3.1 innings. He walked two and struck out one while throwing 84 pitches, 54 strikes. It marked Bedard’s shortest outing of the season (minus when he exited with back spasms) and the most earned runs allowed since giving up nine against New York in May of 2008.
Daniel McCutchen Begins Rehab
Right-handed pitcher Daniel McCutchen was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment tonight with High-A Bradenton. He allowed a hit and struck out one over 2.0 innings. McCutchen has been on the disabled list since May 13 with a strained left oblique.