Pirates Overcome Defensive Lapses in Win Over Giants

PITTSBURGH – It wasn’t pretty, but the Pirates got the job done again.

The Pirates defeated the Giants 5-2 tonight, taking three of four and putting San Francisco a daunting nine games behind them in the Wild Card race.

Francisco Liriano was not sharp and neither was the defense behind him, but Liriano and the bullpen found a way to get outs when they most needed them.

After the Giants’ Matt Duffy singled with one out in the fifth inning, Buster Posey followed by hitting a high pop-fly into shallow right field. A lack of communication by Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker allowed the ball to drop in between them. Walker retrieved the ball and fired to second with plenty of time to get Duffy but his throw bounced into left field, allowing Duffy to get to third base. Marlon Byrd then hit a routine groundball to Aramis Ramirez, who executed the easy throw to first, but Alvarez was unable to glove it and a run scored to give the Giants their first run of the night. With runners on first and second base and still only one out, Liriano was able to work out of the jam by striking out Andrew Susac and inducing a comebacker to the mound to retire Brandon Crawford.

Liriano was faced with a similar situation in the sixth inning. After striking out the first hitter of the inning, Alvarez made his second error of the night when he missed a line-drive off the bat of Gregor Blanco. Liriano then allowed two straight singles pulling the Giants to within one and ending Liriano’s night. Arquimedes Caminero relieved Liriano and was able to induce a groundball double-play to shut down the Giants’ rally and limit the damage.

Overall, Liriano finished the night allowing seven hits, three walks, and two unearned runs in 5.1 innings of work. He did not have his best stuff tonight, striking out only five batters, but was able to get through the outing and keep the Pirates ahead in the game.

“He had some sequences where he was lights-out and he had some sequences where he was pitching from behind,” Hurdle said of Liriano’s outing. “At the end of the night, he could’ve gotten out of there without giving up a run. You talk about a man’s grit on the mound, rolling his sleeves up and getting some things done in the dirt, he was able to do that tonight.”

Joakim Soria pitched a shaky seventh inning in which he allowed a two-out walk and a ground-rule double, but was able to retire pinch-hitter Brandon Belt to get out of the inning unscathed. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon combined to pitch two perfect innings to close the game.

The offense stayed hot tonight, led by solo home runs from Andrew McCutchen and Alvarez. Every position player reached base tonight and the Pirates recorded at least one base hit in every inning.

As I wrote about Tuesday night, the offense has been a huge difference maker so far in the second half of the season. In the first half, the Pirates’ offense ranked 27th in home runs (67) and 21st in OPS (.698). So far in the second half, the Pirates rank 10th in home runs (40) and 4th in in OPS (.770).

** Arquimedes Caminero has been one of the most dominant relievers in the Majors during the month of August. He has now pitched 16 straight scoreless innings, and is inducing groundballs at a 78% clip. Right now, Caminero is either striking out opposing batters or producing groundballs.

Hurdle has been using Caminero mostly in long-relief situations as of late, but he turned to Caminero when the Pirates needed a groundball or strikeout in a spot that has been usually reserved for Jared Hughes. Caminero got the groundball the Pirates desperately needed, and sustained their one-run lead in the sixth inning.

“That kept the game in check and kind of tipped it our way from a momentum standpoint,” Hurdle said.

** The Pirates have officially finished their toughest stretch of the season, and fared tremendously. Since August 4th, the Pirates have played the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Mets, Diamondbacks and Giants. If you remember coming into this stretch, the Pirates had just lost A.J. Burnett to injury, Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison were still two weeks away from returning, and many hoped that the Pirates would be able to tread water through it.

The Pirates went 13-5 during that stretch.

The schedule will ease up again for the next couple of weeks, with three last place teams over the next ten games. The Pirates will play only one team with a winning record until they meet the Cubs in the middle of September. They begin that stretch in Miami tomorrow night. Tim Williams will have live coverage of the series.

  • For all those who wish to see Sean Rodriguez DFAd any time soon I would point them to the play he made last night on the flip to Watson. No way Alvarez makes that play. Also, no way Ramirez makes the play Kang did at third late in the game. Those defensive shifts have paid off more often than not (a glaring exception being the Diamondbacks game last week) and I hope Clint keeps it up.

  • I would like to see the break down of how many errors Pedro has after a day off as opposed to when he is playing regularly.

    • Games in which Pedro made at least 1 error after an off day: 7
      Games in which Pedro made at least 1 error after playing the previous day: 8

      Some games had multiple errors in the same game, but that seemed not the point of what you were going for. He doesnt seem to have a split either way in if off days impact his results.

  • Where can I find stats on shifts for this season? I read the Pirates have utilized a shift in 41% of their alignments. Just wondering where and who is tracking this and how detailed it gets?

  • Lets hope the Bucs don’t go into cruise mode just because their playing a bad team. I hate to see them fall prey to that mentality and let the weaker teams spoil them. I have seen it happen far to often.

    • It’s expected at this point. Fully prepared to take a few games off to avoid the frustration. Hope I am wrong.

    • Exactly. Forty games to go and Hurdle needs to keep these guys in form and take advantage of the weak teams. The Cardinals can be caught, and that should be the goal. As good as this year has been so far it is tough to forget three issues:
      1. the poor start
      2. post all-star losing streak
      3. the tough losses in St. Louis, a couple in the give-away category.
      Too many positives to list, but Kang’s emergence is my favorite.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 24, 2015 7:47 am

    I am thankful the Pirates did not extend Pedro after his 2013 season – would have been huge mistake. I would try to move him this Winter, to an AL team in need of a DH. Probably won’t fetch much, but he needs to go so Bell can play 1B next season.

    Walker is a frustrating player to watch…he just gives you enough, to think that he could be even a lot more productive than he is at the plate – but he never seems to turn that corner. He’s been a good Pirate over the years, plus a local kid. But, he is just not good enough to stay at second base – and doesn’t hit enough to play first base IMHO.

    • Shocker ! I couldn’t agree with you more on both issues.

      • I don’t think you have to worry about the glove. Bell’s defense has seen real nice improvement this summer, and he could possibly have a high ceiling at the position.

      • Even if his power tops out at 15-20 homers per year, I think he’ll hit for a high enough average and walk enough that it’ll offset any lack of power.

  • If it already wasn’t plainly evident before this game, it surely is now, Pedro Alvarez’s future is as a DH.

    • And, he has the tools to do well at that position (20 HR) and could still be a 1B/3B option at times. The popup behind first was the place for the 2B to take command – that’s on Walker. Not catching an easy throw, and then almost getting de-nutted on a line drive had to be embarrassing for him and the team. You wonder if he is daydreaming out there or just not seeing the ball for some reason.

      If we get lucky, he could finish the season with 25+ HR’s and 80+ RBI’s, and make himself much more appealing to an AL Team looking for some LH pop at DH. Still only 28.

      But, the whole game was ugly.

      • I don’t really feel like we will have to get all that “lucky” to see Pedro reach 25 and 80…ne needs only 5 and 12 respectively. With that said, I think that if he does end up somewhere around there with his past success with the bat he definitely will draw some AL interest in the offseason. If he can hit .250-25-80-780+ then he would have value as a DH

        • piraterican21
          August 24, 2015 12:58 pm

          A team like the Angels might be interested, but after all this I still want him back next year. Three more months of no improvements then bring up Bell

      • I don’t know if you have noticed that Pedro cannot seem to settle on a glove to use. Last nights throw that he dropped seem to pop out of the newer beige colored glove that he recently started using ditching the black one that twice had balls go right through the pocket. I really don’t think he has gotten comfortable with using the first base glove yet and hopefully he will do so soon.

        • At this point, itd almost be worth trying his regular 3Bmen glove. Its not as if alternative 1bmen gloves has worked well.

    • Really is incredible how poorly he’s adjusted to the simple act of catching baseballs with a 1B mitt. If anyone tells you they thought last winter that Alvarez would have just three throwing errors and *still* be the worst defender in baseball, by a significant margin, they’re a liar.

      • Was going through FG to find a recent worse fielding % for a 1st baseman. Pedro came into last night’s game at .981. I had to go all the way back to pre-expansion. Dick Stuart had a .976 in 1959 and .979 in 1963, which I believe is where Pedro is now after last night’s errors.

        • Unreal. Baseball Prospectus wrote a scouting piece in Spring Training on his transition essentially saying he has all the skills to be just fine at the position, which made complete sense considering he was a passable 3B until the yips.

          Thomas alluded to the glove issue above; some team could end up with a steal if he figures out the simplest part of the position to play, catching the damn ball.

          • Call me naïve but I thought he’d be fine over at first or MUCH better than this. At times he looked like a vacuum at third. For a big guy he was decently quick over there. Really strong arm too. Then………..he’d field a rocket shot with plenty of time (and think)……double clutch………the people diving in the stands when the ball came their way. It was like a bad 80’s comedy. I have to think it’s mental at this point right? It’s not like 1,000 more reps and he’s going to be able to catch a ball which we all know he’s capable of doing? Right?

            • You weren’t the only one…I thought he could be one of the better first basemen in the league based exactly off what you just said. How many current first basemen could move over to 3rd and be an adequate fielder? Couldn’t have been further off on that call, apparently.

              Mental is all I can figure as well, unless it truly is an issue with equipment.

              • If it is equipment (not advocating that i believe that) can you imagine how pissed he is and how little anyone would believe him?

                “Guys, these gloves suck”

                “Sure Pedro, cool story”

      • When I first shifted to 1B when I played baseball, I could not sort out how to catch with a 1B mitt either. I don’t know why, the ball just wouldn’t stick. I went back to using my outfield glove for a long time because of it, and it worked just fine.

        But I have since figured it out, and I wouldn’t use any other glove at first now. The shape seems to me to be more conducive to scooping. But that initial adjustment is tough, the glove does feel different, and it feels different when the ball hits it, too. By now, though, after all the reps I’m sure he’s taken, he should have figured it out, he should be used to it. Of course, having the ball literally go through his glove twice this season probably hasn’t helped his comfort level.

    • I seem to recall Tim mentioning the DH could be coming to the NL soon, but I can’t remember which year. If it does next year, though, Pedro might be worth keeping around. On the other side of his defensive struggles, he’s grown a lot as a hitter this year.