As bad as the Pirates’ offense was this afternoon, it could have been worse. If not for a slow-healing cut on his thumb, Ubaldo Jimenez, who finished third in Cy Young voting last year, would have pitched today for the Rockies instead of 25-year-old righty Esmil Rogers.
Then again, Rogers had more than enough to suffocate the Bucs in a 7-1 Rox victory. Making only his 10th career start (30th outing), the right-hander pitched 7 1/3 innings and racked up seven strikeouts, both career highs. Rogers allowed one run on four singles.
“He located pretty well,” said Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones, who went 0 for 2 with a walk. “He kept his slider down. We hit some balls good, but right at guys.”
Neil Walker, who went 1 for 3, offered this take on Rogers:
“A lot of us were up there looking for certain pitches. When he’s throwing 93, 94, 95 (mph) on the inner half for strikes to righties and lefties, your eyes light up when you see balls over the plate then, when you go to swing at 94, 95, it’s tough to barrel it up. I think we’ll be more prepared next time we face him.”
Rogers was no stranger to many of the Pirates. As a rookie last season, Rogers notched his second career win Aug. 8 against the Pirates.
“We knew he had a live arm,” Walker said. “We knew he had good offspeed. We knew that if he threw strikes with his offspeed that we were going to have to battle and zone him up. We tried to do that in the middle innings. We got aggressive, probably more aggressive than we could have been –- myself included –- and we didn’t barrel him up.”
»»» Walker took full blame for the two-base throwing error in the first inning that led to a 2-0 Rockies lead: “I just blew it. Just a terrible play. Just bad. I just didn’t make the play. I hurried it. That’s it.”
»»» Conversely, Rox third baseman Ty Wigginton made a defensive sparkler in the bottom of the inning that might have saved the game. With runners at the corners and none out, Andrew McCutchen hit a screamer down the third base line. Wigginton snagged it and fired across just in time to get McCutchen. Jose Tabata scored, but the Pirates never again threatened.
“It was a good defensive play,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “If that ball gets by him, we might be able to do some things in that inning.”
»»» Here’s a leftover note from Wednesday’s game against the Cards. Evan Meek tossed a 1-2-3 inning, which was a solid turnabout from his two rough relief outings to start the season: “(I wanted the ball) really badly, actually,” Meek said. “It was one of those things where I knew I wasn’t far off. You don’t want to sit on it, you don’t want to wait, and that’s one of the good things about being a reliever is you get thrown back out there. I love that (manager Clint Hurdle) put me back out there with a two-run lead, I love that he has the confidence in me and that was big for me. Now I can build off that, take that into my next outing and just get on with it.”
»»» No surprise here: Former Reds reliever said Rob Dibble said that when Barry Bonds played for the Pirates, some of Bonds’ teammates tried to bribe Dibble to hit Bonds with a pitch.
»»» The State College Spikes will hold auditions for national anthem singers at 11 a.m. Saturday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
»»» Rule 5 pickup Josh Rodriguez is living in a hotel for a day or two until his apartment is ready. I asked if he’s ready to find his way around Pittsburgh. “My car comes equipped with (a GPS unit), so I should be all right,” he said.