Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’

9/30 Scouting report: Pirates

As the playoffs get underway, two Major League scouts offered their take on the National League Central contenders. The Pirates play host to the Giants on Wednesday in the Wild Card game at PNC Park. Here’s their take on the Bucs:

Scout #1:

Andrew McCutchen

“In my opinion, what makes him such a good hitter is he has very minimal movement at the plate and a very quick bat,” said one scout. “It allows him to get a good long look at the ball, and therefore swing at more pitches in the zone. You can’t pitch him any one way — you have to mix up speeds and locations. His preference is to pull but he can/will use the opposite field and has some power that way as well. He’s a good all-around hitter with a great feel for the strike zone. The best way to get him out is to move the ball around the zone on him and if he doesn’t bite, make the next guy beat you and don’t let McCutchen beat you.”

Josh Harrison

“He’s a great story, and I’m rooting for him,” a scout said. “He has got a chance to play and has run with it. He can hit the ball the other way, not with authority, not like McCutchen, but his preference is to pull. He starts with an open stance and closes up with a soft dive in toward the plate. Harrison has some hook to his swing. With two strikes, he will gear down a touch and take more of a right center look to help him try to cover all pitches. You have to show him something in hard during the at-bat or he will go out and hook you to left field. He has filled in nicely at third base, making some nice plays.

“Pittsburgh’s secret weapon is no longer a secret — Josh Harrison has burst on the scene and is making a name for himself with his play. Manager Clint Hurdle knows how to get his guys motivated to play and is a good motivational manager.”

***

Scout #2:

Andrew McCutchen

“He’s one of the most exciting players in the game today,” said a second scout. “He’s an elite athlete who can beat you in so many ways. ‘Cutch’ can beat you with his offense, his defense and also his legs. He is the one guy that you can’t let beat you with the game on the line. He forces the defense to hurry on any routine ground ball and hustles down the line each time.

“Defensively, he has great baseball instincts and gets tremendous reads off the bat. He has a slightly above avg arm and is usually pretty accurate with his throws. He is a special player and will be in the MVP conversations again this year.”

Josh Harrison

“Harrison is a guy who grinded it out over the last few years and blossomed with the opportunity he has been given,” the scout said. “Josh is a special player in the fact he offers so much versatility giving the Pirates much flexibility when it comes to using him in so many different positions. Josh, a former college shortstop, can play all over the infield as well as the outfield. Guys like Josh are irreplaceable for a National League team like the Pirates. Josh has been a spark in the leadoff spot and was battling for the batting title. He’s settled in at third and is very athletic. He makes all the routine plays and most of the exciting ones. He plays with emotion and hustles each and every time out of the box and forces the defense to hustle and get the ball in as he will turn a single into a double very quickly. He has a good arm with power. Paired with McCutchen, they offer a dynamic 1-2 punch.”

– Carrie Muskat

6/18 Looking ahead …

The Cubs open a 10-game homestand on Friday, playing host to the Pirates. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: RHP Edwin Jackson (4-7, 5.11) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (4-7, 3.09)
Saturday: LHP Travis Wood (7-5, 4.48) vs. RHP Vance Worley (0-0, 0.00)
Sunday: RHP Jason Hammel (6-4, 3.02) vs. RHP Brandon Cumpton (2-2, 5.82)

9/15 Sunday starter

The Cubs know Francisco Liriano only too well. The lefty is 3-1 in four career starts against the Cubs, and 3-0 in three games this year. On July 5, he threw his second complete game, beating Jeff Samardzija at Wrigley Field.

“He’s another guy who you’re not going to string a lot of hits together,” Dale Sveum said of Liriano. “You’ve got to be patient and hope you get a couple walks and hits and somebody pops a two-run double or something like that. That’s how you score against these guys when they’re on a roll. The kind of guy he is with that velocity, he almost pitches like CC Sabathia and pitches off his offspeed stuff, but with obviously really good velocity to go with it.”

Do the Cubs have any kind of edge having faced him so much this year?

“There’s always an edge to know if you can be patient and make him get the ball up,” Sveum said. “But his slider is so hard and he keeps it down and back foots you. It looks like a fastball coming out. Both his changeup and slider look like strikes and they end up balls.”

Liriano is vying for his 17th win. He would be the first Pirates lefty to win more than 16 games since John Smiley was 20-8 in 1991. Liriano also is 10 strikeouts away from 1,000 in his career.

– Carrie Muskat

7/17 What’s price tag for Garza?

The Cubs were willing to part with top prospects Chris Archer, Brandon Guyer and Hak-Ju Lee to get Matt Garza in January 2011. Which team will find the right combination by the Trade Deadline to acquire the right-hander?

The Rangers are reportedly the front-runners for Garza as July 31 approaches, but MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports they will not part with Venezuelan left-handed pitcher Martin Perez, 22, who is 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts. Right-hander Luke Jackson, 21, has drawn some interest. A first-round pick — 45th overall — in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Jackson is 8-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 16 starts at Class A Myrtle Beach. He has struck out 86 over 82 1/3 innings.

Another player the Cubs may be looking at is Mike Olt, a 24-year-old right-handed hitter who was Texas’ first-round pick in 2010 (49th overall). He was batting .211 in 61 games at Triple-A Round Rock with nine home runs and 14 doubles.

The Cardinals, Pirates, Indians, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Dodgers also have had scouts at Garza’s recent starts. The right-hander has been impressive, posting a 5-0 record and 1.24 ERA in his last six outings.

“He’s handled it great,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Garza. “Obviously, he knows [about the rumors], as well as last year at the same time when his name was all around. He’s pitched in as good a five-game stretch as he has in his whole career.”

In January 2011, Jim Hendry traded five Minor League players, including Archer and Guyer, the Minor League player of the year, to the Rays for Garza. Tampa Bay added two other players in the deal in reliever Zach Rosscup and outfielder Fernando Perez, but Garza was the Cubs’ target.

“It’s a good, old fashioned baseball trade that doesn’t often get made with the volume of people involved and for the right reasons for both organizations,” said Hendry, the Cubs general manager at the time.

Several of the teams interested in Garza consider him to be a No. 3 starter for their rotation — the Pirates, for example, already have an ace in Francisco Liriano. But could Garza be the piece needed to get Pittsburgh to the postseason? All-Star Jeff Locke (8-2, 2.15 ERA) was not available for Tuesday’s game because of lower back tightness. The Pirates may decide Garza is worth the high price tag the Cubs have set.

“Obviously, he’s throwing extremely well and he’s very healthy and there are teams out there looking for pitching who are going to call and try to acquire him,” Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said on Friday. “For us, he’s helping us win games now, there’s a chance to possibly retain him beyond this year, so we’ll just balance all that out and do what’s best for the organization.”

There has been talk about a possible contract extension, but the more likely scenario is the Cubs deal Garza by July 31. The right-hander will be a free agent after this season, something bidding teams have to factor in their decision as to which players to part with for what could be a two-month rental. There is another option: If Epstein does not deal Garza, the Cubs could make him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.

The Cubs players like having the right-hander on the mound, or on the top step of the dugout in games he’s not starting.

“He’s a leader in the clubhouse,” Jeff Samardzija said. “He leads by example. He can talk a little bit but that’s not his main point. He does that for fun. He loves talking. He’s just a great dude to have and the more guys you have like that out of your 25, the better chance you have for a successful season.”

Garza was rumored to be traded last season before an elbow injury sidelined him for the final 2 1/2 months. He made his last start July 21. A strained lat in Spring Training delayed his 2013 start until May 21, and he looked sharp in his season debut, holding the Pirates to one hit over five shutout innings.

“He’s one of the hardest working pitchers you’ll ever be around,” Sveum said. “Even the four days he doesn’t pitch, he’s on the bench and rooting his teammates on. You’re always going to hear him on the bench. He’s one of those special starting pitchers who will always be involved in the game, and position players who play every day and other people appreciate that.”

So, any teams interested in Garza, be prepared. He’s loud, he needs Popeye’s chicken on the day he starts, and a quiet place for an hour or so to watch comedy shows on his iPad before he takes the mound. He can be loud, is quick with the post-game pie in the face, and devoted to his family.

On Sunday, the Cubs closed out the first half of the season with a loss to the Cardinals. Garza, who had picked up a win the night before, holding St. Louis to two runs over 6 2/3 innings, left the clubhouse about 11:30 p.m., eager to spend the All-Star break with his kids.

“You get caught up in [the rumors], but I’ve been through it so much that I’m just oblivious to it until something happens,” Garza said Saturday. “It’s stressful but at the same time, I have a great outlook. I get to pitch every five days. I just keep going and keep looking forward to that next five days.”

His next scheduled start is Monday against the Diamondbacks.

– Carrie Muskat

5/23 Cubs lineup

The Cubs close their three-game series against the Pirates on Thursday at PNC Park, facing right-hander Jeanmar Gomez. Edwin Jackson gets the start. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Soriano LF
Schierholtz RF
Castillo C
Valbuena 3B
Barney 2B
E. Jackson P

* The Cubs have lost their last four games by one run, and now are 6-12 in one-run games this season. The 18 one-run games are tied for second-most in the Majors with the Royals (the Diamondbacks lead with 19) while their 12 one-run setbacks are tops in the Majors.

* Jackson has faced the Pirates as a member of six teams: the Dodgers in 2005, the Rays in 2008, the D-backs in 2010, the Cardinals in 2011, the Nationals in 2012 and the Cubs this year. This is his second start vs. the Bucs this year. He gave up two runs over five innings on April 3 at PNC Park in his Cubs debut. In his career, Jackson is 4-1 with a 3.09 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates.

* How good has the Cubs’ starters been? They’ve posted 28 quality starts this season, and have a 1.98 ERA in those games yet have won just 11. Only three NL teams have more quality starts than the Cubs: the Phillies (32), the Cardinals (30) and the Nationals (29). The Cardinals have won 20 of their QS, the Nats 16, the Phillies 15.

– Carrie Muskat

9/9 Good timing

Kelly Shepardson was on her way to the airport when she got a flat tire. That’s the bad news. The good news is the delay gave her time to hear more of the Cubs-Pirates radio broadcast, and she could hear her fiance, Anthony Recker, hit his first Major League home run in the fourth inning for the Cubs. Recker, who is from Allentown, Pa., was making his first start for the Cubs. His father was at the game.

“I’m glad he got to see it — he was pretty pumped,” Anthony said.

How do we know all of this about Kelly’s day? She kept people posted on Twitter, and apparently announced when Recker was designated for assignment.

“She keeps up to date on everything,” Recker said.

– Carrie Muskat

9/8 Samardzija finishes strong

Jeff Samardzija may have finally convinced people he picked the right sport. He threw his first career complete game and the first by a Cubs pitcher this season in his final start, notching the win in a 4-3 victory over the Pirates.

“That was pretty impressive,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “I think he knew he had 125 pitches to get it done in, and he did it right there.”

Alfonso Soriano hit his 27th home run and David DeJesus hit a tie-breaking RBI single in the eighth to back Samardzija, who threw 120 pitches, 81 for strikes. With the win, the Cubs posted their first back-to-back wins on the road since July 23-24, which also came at PNC Park.

Samardzija is done because he’s reached his innings limit for the season. The right-hander is not coming off surgery like the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. This is just a precautionary move in Samardzija’s first season as a starter. He admitted to reflecting on how far he’s come when he took the mound for the ninth, and thought about the pressure he put on himself this year to perform.

“I wanted to prove I could be the guy they needed me to be and I didn’t want to leave any question marks out there,” Samardzija said.

Said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle: “The guy over there, that’s a special arm.”

Samardzija struck out nine in his 17th quality start, and finished with 174 2/3 innings, more than twice as many as he totaled last season (88) when he pitched in relief. The right-hander began this year with 169 2/3 career innings in the big leagues over four seasons.

“He mixes his pitches well,” Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez said. “He’s got a good fastball, and he just competes well. He keeps the ball down, and makes good pitches when he needs them. Anytime anyone can do that, makes him tough to hit. He hit the strike zone pretty much the whole game.”

What the Cubs want next season is for Samardzija to do in six months what he did in the second half, which was post a 2.58 ERA. He won’t have to battle for one of the five spots in the rotation, and could be the Opening Day starter.

“I knew what I needed to do and I knew I had a lot of question marks around myself coming into the year,” Samardzija said. “I knew where I was going as a pitcher and the direction I was going and wanted to keep improving and get that experience late in games. You really want the staff and everyone to know they can trust you and keep giving you the ball.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/30 Cubs lineup

Justin Germano makes his first start for the Cubs Monday night as they open a three-game series against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. This will be Germano’s 37th Major League start and first since 2010 with Cleveland. Germano has never faced the Pirates, and last pitched at Wrigley Field in 2008 while a reliever with the Padres. Lefty Erik Bedard will start for the Pirates. Here’s the lineup:

Johnson CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Baker RF

Soto C

Barney 2B

Mather 3B

Germano P

– Carrie Muskat

7/31 Cubs face D-Lee, Pirates Monday

Last August, when the Cubs traded Derrek Lee to the Braves, it created an strange scenario. Lee was dealt the day before the Braves played the Cubs at Wrigley Field, so he had to face his former teammates about 48 hours after he left. The Gold Glove first baseman played in Chicago from 2004-10.

It’s almost the same situation this year as the Orioles traded Lee to the Pirates, whom the Cubs face on Monday. That will be the first baseman’s first game with his new team.

“He’s a very professional player, a quiet, silent leader,” Geovany Soto said of Lee. “I had the pleasure of playing with him for a couple years and it was special. He’s always upbeat, he’s always positive. I think he’ll be a good addition to the Pirates.”

So, how was it last year when the Cubs had to face Lee in his first game with the Braves?

“It’s a litte awkward, but good for him,” Soto said. “He’s got a chance to compete and get to the playoffs and best of luck.”

– Carrie Muskat

6/6 Up in the air

In a span of about 57 hours, give or take a few, the Cubs will play in three different ballparks, beginning Sunday in Houston at Minute Maid Park. They have a makeup game Monday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh (11:35 a.m. CT) and then fly to Milwaukee to open a series Tuesday night against the Brewers at Miller Park.

* Last season, the Cubs played three games in three days in three different ballparks when they met the Indians at Wrigley on June 21, 2009; then play at Atlanta, then at Detroit.

* The last time the Cubs played three games in three days in three different road parks was 2004 when they faced Cincinnati on Sept. 19 (a 5-1 win), then played a doubleheader in Florida Sept. 20 (which they split), and then traveled to Pittsburgh Sept. 21 (a 10-inning win). Hurricane Francis in Miami forced that crazy itinerary.

– Carrie Muskat

 

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