MILWAUKEE – The Pirates entered Wednesday’s series finale at Miller Park having won just seven of their last 53 games played in the building. The run dates back to 2007.
I can think of only one other similar house of horrors in major sport. Clemson, which I previously covered before joining the Trib, has never won a men’s basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C. Never. I believe the streak stands at 0 for 55 now. So, it could be worse #BUCN.
But getting back on point, it really is a dramatic run of futility. So what is it about Miller Park?
(Two things happen at Miller Park: the Brewers win and anyone can go deep)
The Pirates’ record there and the Brewers’ work there has raised some eyebrows. With some even wondering aloud on public forums if the Brewers are somehow stealing signs. On Monday and Tuesday it certainly seemed like the Brewers knew what was coming, after all Milwaukee middle infielders Jean Segura and Yuniesky Betancourt when the opposite way for home runs.
Noted fellow Pirates scribe Rob Biertempfel noted on Twitter today: “(The Pirates) are double- and triple-coding their signs to avoid, ahem, prying eyes @ Miller Park. So, you might see cross-up or two w/newbie (Jeanmar) Gomez.”
Stealing signs has been a part of the game since the game began. It’s accepted to a degree within certain boundaries. But boundaries are crossed if/when video and/or folks off the field are employed. Is that going on? I have no idea. Unless there’s concrete evidence it’s probably unfair to speculate.
What we do know is the Brewers like their home field. The Brewers went 49-32 at home last season. They are 9-5 at home this season.
But overall the splits from last season suggest nothing alarming. The Brewers hit .266 at home and .253 on the road. They hit 119 home runs at home, and 82 home runs on the road. Things to consider: most teams have home-field advantages because their teams are tailored to the park, umpires give home teams borderline calls, and players are comfortable there. Moreover, Miller Park is a great hitter’s park as we saw when seven home runs left the yard.
The Brewers’ record against the Pirate at home might also be more dramatic because the Brewers have fielded some quality teams since 2007. The Pirates have not.
What I do know is Pirates pitchers were not executing pitches against a solid Major League lineup in a very hitter-friendly park on Monday and Tuesday. I mean, even middle infielder Segura and Betancourt went to the opposite field for home runs. Still, I do know this. Even if a MLB batter knows what pitch is coming, if it’s properly executed, it’s still tough to hit. See: Miriano Rivera’s slider.
POTENTIAL 2014 FREE AGENCY TARGETS
With A.J. Burnett at the end of his contract, and with Wandy Rodrgiuez holding a player option for 2014, the Pirates will perhaps be in the market for multiple starting pitchers.
Tim Williams offered a good link to the 2014 free agent pitcherse with the highest groundball rates today.
The Pirates would love to keep Burnett around and he’s suggested he would be interested. Kuroda is a really effective and under-appreciated arm, but in this weak free agent class his price will be high.
I know this: after watching the Brewers tag six home runs at Miller Park over the last two days, the Pirates will be looking for ground-ball pitchers.
LIRIANO IS ONE START AWAY
Francisco Liriano looks ready.
In his Triple-A start Tuesday night: 6IP, 4H, 0R, 0BB, 9K. Fastball was 90-94 mph.
We all know Liriano can miss bats but he hasn’t walked a batter in 11 Triple-A innings. In 16 rehab outings to date he has a 27-to-3, strikeout-to-walk ratio. Liriano is throwing strikes. That’s big if he can sustain it.
Clint Hurdle said Liriano will make one more start and then he should be ready for the a May 10 start in New York.