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Final: Pirates 1, Cubs 0

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Looking ahead to first pitch …

Game: Pirates (27-18) vs. Chicago Cubs (18-26)

Starters: LHP Francisco Liriano vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija

Time: 7:05 p.m.

Site: PNC Park

TV, radio: Root Sports, 93.7 The Fan

Here’s the official live box score.

Here’s the Pirates’ lineup …

  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Travis Snider, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Garrett Jones, 1B
  5. Neil Walker, 2B
  6. Russell Martin, C
  7. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Liriano, LHP

Here’s TribLIVE’s Pirates page. Rob Biertempfel is covering.w

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

182 Comments

  1. Ah, Mercer gets a start at SS

    • I’m ok with Mercer getting spot starts (3 per week between 3b-ss-2b) as long he is not struggling in the field and he is hitting ok. We need to find out about him for next year, and as long as he is contributing that works for me.

      • I worry less about his range than his arm. He just doesn’t seem to have much zip on his throws across the diamond.

    • Strange. They seemed infatuated with Barmes for last year and this year when he wasn’t hitting. Now, he starts to hit a little and gets pinch-hit for and doesn’t start half the games.

      I’m a Jordy fan, but I thought Barmes was the man at short.

      • same here Spunky

        • I think Barmes is the man for this year. But – I keep saying this – they have no other legit in-house options at SS for the forseeable future if Jordy is a bust and Clint leaves via FA. So, they really need to let Jordy play enough to know whether he can handle the position on a regular basis next year. As long as he isn’t hurting them, and he isn’t so far, I think he needs to get some starts for now.

  2. So how many were left on base yesterday?

  3. This isn’t a bad lineup at all

    • 2,3,5,6,7 can all extend at-bats.

      Getting Samardzija out before the 8th is about the only way the Pirates win, IMO.

      • Bingo, NMR! I like how you are thinking on that. If he is sitting at 80 pitches after 6, look out. I wish we could miss that guy just once. Or, better yet, I wish we could tattoo him tonight.

    • I’m not sure that we have a better line-up to parade out there with a right-handed pitcher. I think this is as good as it gets.

    • I’d switch Snider with Walker .

      • I like Walker in the power spot. I never liked Walker batting 2nd. But I can’t say it would be a bad choice to swap the two.

        • Walker drew 3 walks last night. He won’t be in the 5-spot to walk, though.

          Of course, after the first time through, it’s all relative anyway.

        • I’m not sure what Walker has done in the past two years to warrant a power spot in the lineup, period.

          He’s not a power hitter.

          Even forgetting his awful start to this season, he’s hit a homerun every 46 PAs between 2011-2012. Much maligned Travis Snider has hit a home run once every 40 PAs this season.

          • That gets us back to that “clutch” discussion more than “power.”

          • It may have been you I was conversing with about Snyder a couple of weeks back, NMR. I was saying he just isn’t driving the ball like he used to, and I wondered if he was just trying to be a completely different player on the fly – a tough transition. Well, the jury is still out, but I am happy to report he has hit 2 HRs since then, and a slew of 2b’s, which is great to see. I am seeing more of the power-hitting Snider than I had seen at the end of last year and start of this year of late. Maybe there is a happy medium of decent power with better OPS than his pre-Bucs career emerging with Snider. I would so love to see this continue.

            • That sounds familiar, Jim.

              Take a look at the difference in Snider’s batted ball profile between his time with the Bucs and Jays.

              http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2830&position=OF

              Huge reversal between being a flyball hitter and a groundball hitter. No doubt in my mind that it’s going to take a minute to see just what the new swing and new approach can produce.

              I’d personally be more than happy with 10 HR and a .350 OBP until Polanco takes over.

              • For sure. I was concerned that in trying to transition, he was becoming a slap hitter by accident. And I think you may be on to something about how he is headed toward 10 HR (as a 2/3 starter in platoon) and a .350 OBP now. He is starting to crush the ball to the gaps much moreso of late. 2 years from now I do believe he will be overtaken by the force of nature named Polanco that is steamrolling its way to PNC!

          • Thought we talked about that last week. We’d rather have Walker in a power spot because he does make better contact.

            I don’t think you need to be a HR hitter to be in a RBI spot. I’ll take a better overall hitter there, than, say…….Pedro. (unless its a day game)

    • Agree

  4. Hitters in the 2 spot are potential bunters. I’d rather waste a Snider at-bat with a bunt than Walker’s.

    • Currently I would rather waste a Walker at bat. I really like this line up. I like Barmes and think he should remain the starter a majority of the time but I agree Mercer has to get 10-12 at bats a week so they can see what they have going forward.

      • Yep, Nate. And, if Clint actually hits .240 with continued solid pitching and maybe 8 jacks this year – not impossible – maybe they re-sign him next year to continue to bring Jordy along.

        Of course, I’m sure we can get the next Jean Segura at the trade deadline. Ok, I have to stop beating that horse. It just kills me that Milwaukee pulled that off. I know they had Greinke to dangle, but damn.

  5. This will be the first time I actually get to see Liriano pitch for the Pirates. Game is being shown on WGN. The highlights and live look-ins on MLB Network make it look like he has a lot of movement on his pitches. I’m looking forward to seeing a pitcher with that much movement on his pitches pitching for the Pirates.

    • Lets hope Liriano can continue to “control” that movement, thats been his problem in the past.

      Good chance of thunderboomers tonight though, we’ll see if we get the game in

  6. Liriano’s a huge question mark here. He was a wonder child in 2006, went under the knife, and has about a 5.0 MLB ERA since then. He’s been magnificent in his 2 Pirate starts this year, possibly due to NL batters not having a book on him. He’s 29 in Dominican Republic years, so I can confidently assert that he’s not eligible for Social Security in 2013. I love pitching excellence, and hope he sustains it. He’s got the credentials to be an ace, but they come with red flags. So let’s see what time unfolds tonight. Go Bucs!

    • I imagine that the 39 year old Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, former GM of tBoston Red Sox, has a book on Liriano and has communicated it to Cubs manager Dale Sveum, so this should be interesting.

    • Liriano is definitely a wild card, Officer. So far, so good. You are right about his on again, but mostly off again pitching and ERA in his career. One thing I would say, though, is that he is not facing AL lineups now. You get a nice breather on at least one, and usually 2 batters in an NL lineup. Of course, Wandy probably thought that last night until Garza dinged him.

      • Good point. I’ve not had a chance to look up Garza’s batting stats. Enquiring minds need to know.

  7. WEDNESDAY PICK ‘EM LINE

    Max “wager” is 100 units on any single line.
    All “wagers” must be in multiples of 5 units.
    Play as few or as many lines as you’d like.
    As always, this is for fun and entertainment purposes.

    Tonight’s Pick ‘Em Line
    Total STRIKEOUTS THROWN by Francisco Liriano in tonight’s game
    0-5 (DOUBLE ODDS)
    6-10 (EVEN ODDS)
    11 or More (EVEN ODDS)

    Good Luck!!

  8. I will like to see what Liriano does tonight.

  9. I will put 75 on 6-10. Thanks Playoffs.

  10. Good news: Brewers getting killed. Reds tied with Mets in the 8th.

  11. I’m just curious, but do you guys who think we need to know what we have in Mercer for next year think we don’t have a reasonable chance of competing this year? I know Barmes is only signed thru this year, but it seems to me the question should not be about next year, but the guy who gives us the best chance this year. Just sayin’. (And maybe that’s Mercer, but the justifications for playing Mercer seem to be mainly about next year, bob hassis aside).

    • :D

      Excellent. “Bob Hasis aside”. He’s not only the President of the CH Fan Club, but the CB one, too.

      I’m still wondering why Barmes is sitting so much. Probably because we all stopped calling for it. (Like they listen to us)

    • I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision.

    • That is a fair question. I think they give us a chance to win in different ways. I don’t think Barmes is hands down better. I’m sure if you ask 100 Pirate fans which one they want starting it wouldn’t be more then a 60-40 split. Because they are so close I personally am OK with Mercer getting two starts a week especially if we have a flyball pitcher going or it’s a pitcher Barmes has struggled against.

    • I don’t think that competing this year and spot starts for some of next year’s talent are necessarily mutually exclusive.

      This is quite a bit different from a September lineup for a team that’s out of it and wants to see what it’s rookies can do.

    • Competing for a championship? Heck no.

      But I also don’t believe that the primary reason to play Mercer is just to see if he can stick next year.

      2B, 3B, and SS are currently the weakest positions on the roster. Plenty of opportunity to get Mercer starts outside of SS.

      When he does play SS, I’m not sure that the additional runs Barmes saves on defense are not made up by Mercer on offense.

      If we accept range as Mercer’s limiting defensive factor, how many balls has Barmes gotten to this year that Mercer could not have? That’s clearly not an answer you have off the top of your head, but ballpark it. 5? 10? More?

      • Thanks for reminding me, NMR. I also think he spot starts for Pedro against tough lefties, and for Neil if he is struggling. Not always for CB.

      • I also don’t happen to think that we need to see what he can do at the big league level at shortstop.

        The field is the same size in AAA. Batters hit the ball just as hard and run just as fast. He either has the range or he doesn’t.

        What we need to see is if he can hit big league pitching enough to make up for his known defensive liability.

      • “Competing” for a playoff spot, NMR. If you get in the playoffs, who knows what can happen. But I’m using it as competing for a playoff spot.

        • Still don’t see the team as any higher than 7th best in the league.

          I could see them being somewhere within 3-5 games of that second wild card spot, but thats on the fringe of “competing” in my book.

          • If they are on the “fringe” as you say, don’t you try to win? You certainly don’t go all NH and say ” the metrics show we aren’t as good as our record.” ;-)

            • Jordy Mercer starting over Clint Barmes part time will not be the difference between an 85-win team and an 88-win team. Barmes isn’t nearly that big of a difference maker.

              I’d be keeping an eye on Jimmy Rollins if the team truly wants to go for it in a reasonable manner.

            • I have to admit, I am a bit nervous about what strategy NH takes at this year’s trading deadline. I don’t think we’ll be in 1st place, but hopefully we’ll be in the thick of the WC race. I don’t even want to go there yet, and I’m guessing 1/3 of the posters will say he should slide all of his chips to the center of the table (make top prospects available), 1/3 would say you can trade some good prospects but don’t mortgage the future (sort of last year’s strategy) and the last 1/3 would probably say be very cautious because we are a decent team now, but not a true contender and we cannot risk any of the young players for a failed run. Since I didn’t post here the last 2 years, I don’t know how that discussion went, but I bet it brought out some real passion from this group.

              • They have to come up with at least one more starting pitcher I think.

                Wandy didn’t cost the future. Offensively is still a tough call for additional help.

                Way too early though, injuries happen. Makes a difference.

              • Ha, you’ll love trade deadline time on the blog, Jim.

                I think there’s going to be a matter of finances involved this year, though, so NH is going to have to get creative. I seem to remember talk of pushing payroll to the max heading into 2013 instead of leaving room for deadline acquisitions as they’ve done in ’11 and ’12.

                We shall see.

              • Is that starting pitcher to be found from the quartet of Karstens, Morton, Cole and JMac? Actually, I immediately throw out JMac. I think he has lost it, mentally. Morton, I don’t know. I actually think Jeff K can give us 15-18 solid starts. Cole seems to be struggling mightily right now.

                Or, are you talking #1 starter? I don’t want to see that, only because it would cost Polanco or something similar. And, we still wouldn’t win the Series … and the guy would be gone. I also don’t see NH/BN going that route.

    • I’m one of those guys, Arriba, and I am not advocating we just hand him the job at all. I am saying the leash on Jordy is pretty short, and we just keep giving him a little more as long PT as long as he hits better than Clint would and plays average SS. My goal would be 250 or so ABs for him, but that would just be my guide if I’m Clint and the FO. If he plays his butt off, he gets a little more slack. If he completely tanks, either in the field or at the plate, then his playing time gets dialed back or he goes back to Indy. Part of this strategy is he has to show he is ready. If he shows he’s not ready, Plan B has to be to uncover some other SS from somehere other than our organization or sign CB for a couple more years. SS seems to be a place where our cupboard is empty in the mnors.

    • Jim S— I think you missed the point of my question. I wasn’t questioning whether he should get some at bats, just if the people advocating it were punting on this year, and .i tried to ask in a very respectful way. ;-)

      • Got it, Arriba. I guess my answer wasn’t clear enough on that. I was trying to say I would just slowly give him more playing time if he earned it, and what I should have said is I would do that to make sure that if he started tanking we could quickly get him out of there and not short circuit a playoff run – which is what I think we should be planning for this year. No way am I punting on this year, and I want the better SS in there come crunch time, for sure.

          • Right now I want Barmes as my starter and Mercer as a bench player. I don’t care about next year until we’ve tanked or are out of the playoff race.

            If we compete all year, I think that after this season, management should either acquire a shortstop or decide that Mercer is the 2014 starter assuming nobody else in the organization challenges him.

    • I don’t think either of these guys make or break us. Barmes doesn’t need to play 162. There are enough AB’s to go around for both.

      I do think its too early to start thinking about next year though.

  12. Who would have thought our division would be the best in MLB?

    The Buccos have the 6th highest record in MLB.

    The blue jays and angels are well below .500.

    The nats are at .500.

    My prediction of a Jays/Nats world series is not looking too good.

    • Much as it disappoints a few persistent posters who masquerade as though they were former Pirates announcers – and a few newcomers who feel entitled to govern these comment boxes, the Pirates are rocking!

      • Yep, I was a naysayer early on. But they are a fun team to watch. Let’s hope the starters can hold up. Pitching is the name of the game.

      • I’m a definite newcomer here, but I love what the Bucs are doing. They are not a perfect team yet, but I like them now and even more 2-3 years from now. Been following them forever, and got the MLB pkg to watch every night. I am even making a deal with my wife to dump NFL Sunday Ticket this year in favor of 162 games of Bucs on MLB Pkg on DirecTV.

      • Only one who feels “entitled” around here, is YOU. Quit being an a$$ and leave posters along. grow up. Grow a set and be a real man. Not a loser.

      • Much as it disappoints you……….. those said posters arent going away.

        Because some people dont root for the team the way you deem “correct”, then you attack them. How sad.

        By the way, you do know that DK has stated that you dont attack other posters, you attack him, and him only?

        I will go back to cheering for the Bucs as I see fit. I am beyond happy they are winning. Sorry if I dont meet your approval.

        DK: Attack me already! I live for it!

  13. You know, I was thinking abit about the discussion on Stetson Allie, there is precedence, Rick Ankiel made the switch from pitcher to stick and at a much older age

    It could happen…..

    • He won’t be in the HOF, but he’s still playing. Totalling lost it as a pitcher.

      Ankiel and Allie are similar in that they were young when the switch was made.

    • Hey, if Babe Ruth can do it . . .

      • I’m reminded of Dad’s advice. Wilfully failing analytic geometry because you’re confident you’ll become a rock star is a bad plan.

        • That would depend on how many concerts you’ve played, I suppose.

          Of course Ruth could both pitch and hit and do them very well. Allie’s pitching talent left him (to be kind), but you’ve got to admire him for his determination to stay in the game.

          Whether he’ll become a major league hitter is still not known.

    • Not only that, Bizrow, but Ankiel pulled it off while already being in the Bigs as a pitcher. Truly impressive. I think he did get pinched for ‘roids, though, once didn’t he?

  14. I don’t think they are necessarily mutually exclusive, either, which is why I asked the question rather than stating it as a conclusion.

    • Sorry, that was supposed to be in response to JHadar.

      • And it was a good question.

        I’m with those who believe that a significantly better hitter makes up for a weak hitter with excellent defensive skills. I think it’s especially true on a team with pitchers who are getting a lot of strike outs — you will get many fewer chances to field than you will times at bat at most positions, although shortstop may be the exception there — but the number of extra hits should be significantly higher than the the few hits that the better fielder can make a play on.

        Right now Mercer’s OPS is .854 and Barmes is at .580. As far as I know there really isn’t a good defensive stat — range factors and all that — but in the time a hard hit ball gets out of the infield how much farther can Barmes move than Mercer and how many balls get into that uncovered space between Barmes and Walker or Alvarez? I’m thinking not enough to offset that difference in offense. Of course it’s problematic whether or not those numbers are representative of what either will do for a whole season — but that’s what I would want to know about Mercer’s offense and starting him often to keep him sharp is one of the best ways I can think of to find out.

        Both for this year and next year.

        • Great post, JHadar – especially the part about how a heavy K pitching staff can hide some defensive shortcomings due to less chances! I help coach my son’s 11U travel team, and I thought I knew a pretty good bit about the finer points of the game. But, I learn so much here about strategy and analyzing players from so many different posters. Sometimes I don’t agree, and often I do. But, so many of you come at these issues from a different perspective than traditional thinking. Lots of times I completely change my thinking on certain issues. I feel like I have new and better ways to help the kids just from stuff I pick up here. And I love baseball even more from the conversations here.

  15. Late to the friendly Barmes vs Mercer debate.

    I like both. I want Mercer to get more playing time but I don’t have a problem with Barmes because of his defense.

    Two things did cross my mind about this:
    1) Mercer was 2-2 last night.
    2) Maybe this is a sign from Clint that he is going to give Mercer more playing time.

    DK: If he does, TC, it’ll be because Mercer will have earned it in the field. Hurdle’s made abundantly clear — again last week when I brought it up with the manager — that the glove will play at that position. That’s why Barmes/McDonald came about in the first place.

    The info I have is that Mercer is not an everyday defensive major-league shortstop, but obviously Mercer can prove that wrong.

    • I’m thinking the same thing.

      • Hey, we are well overdue for a guy to blossom and come out of the woodwork. Goodness knows we’ve had enough stinkbugs, if that makes any sense

        Coming down pretty hard in Hopewell, but I can’t figure out which way the storms are going, am thinking the game will be delayed but looking at radar if nothing pops up, it might get in

    • Soft error tonight.

  16. Welcome Lunatics, if you don’t see your current location below, please add a reply to this post

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  17. So, I turned into the Pirates game here in Glen Allen VA via WGN and who appears on a segment about Jack Brickhouse, none other than Milo Hamilton…’ol Jack seemed to be getting some sort of award from the Cubbies back in 1981….time filler for sure until the game starts…

    Brought a smile to my face given our own Milo Hamilton being a regular on the Blog!

    Let’s go BUCS! and of course, Let’s go PENS!

    Take care all.
    Randy in RVA.

  18. +1 for the good guys!

  19. Thanks for all of the love between the 3:45 pm and 4:45 pm segment of this blog.

    Important point of clarification for Lucky et al; I do not recall saying Mercer had a strong arm, in fact I had my doubts. I’m sure I inferred it was stronger than Barmes’.

    Let me call your attention to Barmes method of fielding; he never fields a ball while being directly behind it; that would be a dead give-away to his weak arm – he always fields the ones to his right back-handed whether necessary or not, then attempts a dramatic leaping throw or some convoluted panic throw. Sometime it gets to first without a bounce too.

    On balls hit to his left, he ALWAYS fields with one hand and throws on the run.

    These maneuvers disguise the weakness in his throw, which is woefully sub-standard for the majors and compares unfavorably to many of our opponents.

    If he hit a productive .250 or better (and quit taking two groin high fastballs for strikes and swinging and missing (for a K) on the next curve ball way outside and low of the strike zone) I could actually like him. BUT we will never win a championship of any kind with him at SS.

    This is my total opinion of Barmes. He is a pure journeyman.

  20. On that ball Martin just hit to Castro, Barmes would have had his body entirely to the right of that ball, and attempted to field it solely with the glove and thrown it on the run.
    As you saw it was a routine groundout

  21. Who likes Liriano?

  22. He’s averaging 12 pitches per inning. 4 pitches per batter. Wow.

  23. Should we be worried about Walkers future? It seems that he has slipped, offensively, to a below average player. His injury last year reduced his effectiveness? And, could this be why there seems no interest in long-term signing?

  24. Behind a gem turned in by Francisco Liriano and a first inning Jones RBI to score Cutch the Bucs down the Cubs 1-0 and there was noooooooo doubt about it.

    With the win the Bucs improve to a season best 10 games above .500 at 28-18, 13-6 in May and 7-2 on the current homestand. It is the fourth consecutive series won by the Bucs who are now 9-4-2 in series this year. The Pirates will go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon when Jeanmar Gomez takes the hill.

    Let’s Go Bucs!

  25. Raise it. Two amazingly weak pop ups to end the game. Melancon rocks!

    • Melancon gutted it out tonight, but I thought he needed a day off. A tired Melancon was not as good, I don’t think as Morris or the Vin Man could have been. But, as I said, he got it done. That’s what matters. We need to get out to a big lead tomorrow, as I think they’d really like to rest not only Melancon but Grilli tomorrow again. Would be nice to carry a 7-2 lead or so into the 8th.

      Also, am I the only one who thought Liriano was good for another inning? He was cruising at 91 pitches through 7.

      28-18 feels very good. Survived another torturous outing by the former Wide Receiver from ND. No complaints here.

  26. The Pirates have scored in only one inning in each of the last three games, but they have one all three. probably not a recipe for continuing success though.

    • You are so right, Tom P. A recipe for continuing success would be to get back to scoring 5,6,7 runs per game. Easier said than done, though. I just read yesterday that PNC is right near the top of MLB in fewest runs per game this year. We scored a bunch of runs in Philly, Milwaukee, then NYM. So, when we hit the road in Milwaukee, I expect the bats to reawaken.

  27. So the Pirates have the 4th best record in the majors, and are third in their own division. I can deal with that for now. And they made me completely forget there was a hockey game tonight until about 5 minutes ago. Seriously.

  28. Great job by the Pirates to get another series win before the final game is played. They have won their share of free games. Since they lost to Arizona they have beaten Cincinnati, Atlanta, New York, and Milwaukee. I hope it continues tomorrow. It would be great to have an 8-2 homestand.

    Sweep is good.

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