Pirates beat Cubs 3-0

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

If only every trade with the Yankees worked out this well.

Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out a career-high eight as the Pirates nipped the Cubs, 3-0, on Tuesday night at PNC Park.

On a day dominated by news of the trades of outfielders Nyjer Morgan and Eric Hinske and relief pitcher Sean Burnett, Olhendorf, acquired as part of last year’s Xavier Nady deal with the Yankees, enjoyed the best start of his burgeoning major-league career.

The 26-year-old Ohlendorf (7-6) allowed four hits and no walks, and didn’t allow a runner past second base. It was Ohlendorf’s fourth quality start in his past five games.

The victory gives the Pirates their first winning June (14-13) since 1996.

Freddy Sanchez, batting second in the lineup for the departed Morgan, went 3 for 3, his NL-leading 31st multi-hit game of the season. He drove in two, scored a run and stole a base. Brandon Moss, who started in left field, went 2 for 4.

John Grabow pitched a scoreless eighth and Matt Capps worked the ninth inning for his 18th save, including 12th in as many chances.

Cubs starter Ted Lilly (7-6), who had never lost to the Pirates in nine career starts, allowed three runs — two earned — on eight hits in seven innings.

Ohlendorf, who had never struck out more than five batters in any of his 20 career starts, fanned at least one batter in every inning but the first. When Geovany Soto hit a one-out double in the fifth, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Texan struck out Mike Fontenot on three pitches and then got Ryan Theriot looking at a third strike.

The Cubs put runners on second and third with no out in the eighth against Grabow, but the left-hander struck out Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome, and got Derrek Lee to ground out to second.

The Pirates took advantage of a Cubs error to take a 1-0 lead in the fourth. With Freddy Sanchez on second and Andy LaRoche on first, Lilly struck out Brandon Moss. But the third strike was a wild pitch. As Sanchez tried to score from second, catcher Soto’s throw got past Lilly for an error as Sanchez slid home.

A two-out single by Sanchez in the fifth inning scored Wilson for a 2-0 lead. Doubles by pinch-hitter Steve Pearce and Sanchez in the seventh inning made it 3-0.

– By John Grupp

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Morgan trade: odds and ends

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Andrew McCutchen was a beneficiary of the Nate McLouth trade, earning a full-time job in the Pirates’ outfield. But it hit McCutchen a bit closer to the heart today when Nyjer Morgan was traded to the Nationals.

“When Nate McLouth was traded, I never really played with him. I didn’t really feel it,” McCutchen said. “Now that I was here, playing beside (Morgan), it really hits you.”

• The deal is just another improbable turn in Morgan’s career.

“Being a 33rd-round (draft pick), I’m not even supposed to be here (in the majors). So, just being able to open somebody else’s eyes is a beautiful thing. It’s flattering. I look at it as a positive thing, not a negative thing. I loved going to war with these boys here. It’s unfortunate that I have to go, it sucks leaving, but that’s part of business.”

• Sean Burnett’s career had gone riches to rags and back to riches. A former first-rounder, he was derailed by a slew of injuries and two years ago lost his spot on the 40-man roster. This season he turned into a solid reliever and, according to Nats interim GM Mike Rizzo, was the key piece of today’s trade.

“It’s pretty cool when another team wants you,” Burnett said. “Two years ago, when I was taken off the 40-man, nobody wanted me. I’ve made pretty good strides in the past few years, getting back to the big league level and establishing myself as a big league pitcher.”

• Rizzo said he and Pirates GM Neal Huntington began talking trade several weeks ago.

“The second piece of the trade (Burnett) was the main part that took us to this point to get the trade done,” Rizzo said. “There were several names bandied about. We felt that Burnett was a guy we had to have in the deal because he’s left-handed, (because of) his track record, and because he’ll be a piece for us not only in the short term but for the long term.”

• Joel Hanrahan, who will join the Pirates’ bullpen tomorrow, already is familiar with some of his new teammates. He played with Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young in the Dodgers’ farm system and met John Grabow on Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

“It’s nice knowing a couple of people,” Hanrahan said. “Andy and DY [Young] are two of my better friends around baseball, so that’s good.”

• Lost in the hoopla was the Pirates’ other trade today: Eric Hinske was dealt to the Yankees for two middling prospects. Hinske was traded in the morning, cleared out of his locker and was gone long before the clubhouse opened to the media this afternoon.

“When we recruited Eric, we felt he was going to be a great fit here,” Huntington said. “We felt there would be lots of at-bats for him. Andy LaRoche has stepped up and hasn’t needed to be spelled, and Delwyn Young came over and started to poach a lot of Eric’s at-bats.”

• Morgan, Burnett and Hinske are the latest in a long line of teammates to whom Jack Wilson has said goodbye over the years. Wilson understands what management is trying to do — but that doesn’t mean he has to like it: “They’re businessmen; they have a plan. They’re trying to achieve winning baseball in Pittsburgh. We (players) don’t have a plan. We have a plan to go play baseball tonight at 7:05. It’s the same plan we have every day. We don’t see or talk to (management), so we don’t know what they are doing. Obviously, they’re thinking they’re getting deals they can’t pass up on … I guess.” Wilson paused and frowned. “I guess. Whatever.”

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Huntington rolls the dice

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Pirates today rolled the dice on Lastings Milledge, triggering a four-player trade to bring the enigmatic outfielder to Pittsburgh.

The Pirates got Milledge and right-handed reliever Joel Hanrahan from the Washington Nationals in exchange for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett.

Hanrahan is expected to join the Pirates bullpen in a day or two. Milledge is on an injury rehab assigment in the Gulf Coast League and will be sent to Triple-A Indianapolis in a week to 10 days. Milledge will play left field for the Pirates.

“I’m a little shocked, but it’s business,” Morgan said. “I’m just very, very happy that I opened up somebody else’s eyes and somebody wants me. I look at it as a positive thing, not a negative.”

Earlier today, the Pirates also dealt Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees for catcher/outfielder Eric Fryer and righty Casey Erickson.

Outfielder Garrett Jones was promoted from Indianapolis. The Pirates will make another call-up tomorrow to fill out their 25-man roster.

Milledge, 24, was the New York Mets’ first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 2003. He was traded to Washington in November 2007.

“Coming out of the draft, there were many who thought he could be an All-Star,” Huntington said. “In his first full season in the big leagues at (age) 23 he had a very nice year, 24 doubles, 14 home runs, stole some bases. We think there are some things we can help him with defensively and there are some things we can help him with at the plate.”

Milledge played in just 260 games over four seasons in the majors and has a career .261 batting average with 25 home runs. This season, he hit .167 in seven games — and also blew off a team meeting and took lazy routes to fly balls — and was demoted to Triple-A.

Milledge also wore out his welcome in New York, drawing criticism from teammates for showboating after homers and high-fiving fans.

“There is a good person there,” Huntington said. “We can help him fulfill his potential. He can be challenging at times, but there are a lot of players in baseball (like that).

“With maturity, with some guidance, with some direction, we might have ourselves a pretty good player here. It was a chance we were willing to take.”

Milledge broke his right ring finger May 11 in a game against Triple-A Indianapolis and last week began a rehab assignment.

Hanrahan, 27, was drafted in the second round in 2002 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and came up as a starter. After he signed with the Nationals as a minor league free agent, Hanrahan was converted to a closer.

This season, Hanrahan has struggled — going 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and five saves. Initially, the Pirates will use him as a middle reliever, with the goal of eventually moving him into a late-inning role.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Bucs close to closing Morgan swap

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Pirates are close to closing a four-player trade which would send outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett to the Washington Nationals.

The Pirates will receive outfielder Lastings Milledge and right-hander Joel Hanrahan.

Milledge, 24, was the New York Mets’ first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 2003. He was traded to Washington in November 2007.

The Pirates are awaiting results of a physical on Milledge, who is on a rehab assignment and recovering from a broken finger.

This season, Milledge hit .167 in seven games — and also blew off a team meeting and took lazy routes to fly balls — and was demoted to Triple-A. He’s played in just 260 games over four seasons in the majors and has a career .261 batting average with 25 home runs.

Hanrahan, 27, was drafted in the second round in 2002 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and came up as a starter. After he signed with the Nationals as a minor league free agent, Hanrahan was converted to a closer.

This season, Hanrahan has struggled — going 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and five saves.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hinske traded; Jones called up from Indy

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Pirates today traded ultilityman Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees in exchange for two minor leaguers.

Neither player the Pirates acquired — catcher/outfielder Eric Fryer and right-hander Casey Erickson — was considered a significant prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.

Fryer, 23, hit .250 with 11 doubles, two homers and 24 RBI in 59 games with Class A Tampa. He will be assigned to Class A Lynchburg.

Ericson, 23, went 3-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 21 games (three starts) for Class A Charleston. He will be assigned to Class A West Virginia.

Outfielder Garrett Jones was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to replace Hinske, and is expected to be in uniform for tonight’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

The Pirates signed Hinske as a free agent this past offseason to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

Jones, 28, signed with the Pirates in December as a minor league free agent after spending seven years in the Twins organization. At Triple-A Indianapolis, he batted .307 with 12 homers and 48 RBI in 72 games.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Going bananas?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Q: Hasn’t Delwyn Young “gone bananas” enough to warrant starting in right field for a while? A .346 (batting average) is what it is. Why not let it play out? Another question: If Nyjer Morgan gets dealt can Brandon Moss play left competently or could we see a call up of Garret Jones?

— Jeff Z, Virginia Beach, Va.

A: One thing holding Delwyn Young back from being a starting outfielder is his defense. It is merely adequate in spots, but not stellar. I’m not sure he’ll ever be an everyday player at any one position. But I could see him having a long, successful (and lucrative) career in the majors as a utilityman/pinch-hitter/fourth OF.

I think Moss would be OK in left — coming into this season, he had played in 49 games in LF and 36 in RF — although he might struggle some in the pasture that is PNC Park’s left field. More likely, Lastings Milledge (if that’s who would arrive in a trade) would go to left. Jones is having a heckuva season (.303, 12 HR, 48 RBI, .842 OPS) at Triple-A, and I would think he’d be a natural call-up if/when, say, Eric Hinske is traded.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Fun with numbers

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Through the first 35 home games this year, Pirates attendance is up more that 12 percent compared to last year. Those digits might be a bit deceiving, however.

Last week, the Pirates hosted their marquee interleague series against the Cleveland Indians. It pulled in a three-game total of 69,391 fans.

Last year, the New York Yankees did not visit PNC Park until the Pirates’ 39th and 40th games of the season. (The June 26 game was rained out and made up July 10.) Those three games against the Yanks drew 116,900.

Unless this three games against the Cubs and Thursday afternoon’s rainout makeup game against the Mets pull in big crowds, that 12-percent growth figure should be considerably smally by the end of this week.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

CUBS — 1. Alfonso Soriano lf, 2. Ryan Theriot ss, 3. Derrek Lee 1b, 4. Jake Fox 3b, 5. Geovany Sota c, 6. Milton Bradley rf, 7. Ryan Freel cf, 8. Henry Blanco 2b, 9. Rich Harden (4-4, 5.10) rhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Brandon Moss rf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Zach Duke (8-5, 3.09) lhp

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Snell sparkles, but what does it mean?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Ian Snell sparkled this afternoon in his first start for Triple-A Indianapolis. The right-hander struck out 17 of the 24 batters he faced in seven innings, allowing one unearned run on two hits. Snell walked the first batter of the game, then reeled off 13-straight strikeouts.

It’s a positive sign for Snell, who was demoted last week. It’s a positive sign for the Pirates, who at this point don’t know what future, if any, he has with the ballclub. But his performance today against Toledo, which averages nine strikeouts per game, does little to clear up Snell’s status.

In 46 starts since signing a three-year, $8.8 million contract during 2008 spring training, Snell is 9-20 with a 5.40 ERA. The combination of all those numbers makes him impossible to trade — no team would take such a risk for that kind of money. The Pirates tried to trade Snell before things got too bad, but other teams were only willing to part with lower-tier players — the kind the Pirates would expect for dealing a middle reliever, not a starter.

Today, GM Neal Huntington spoke of trying to “salvage some value” for Snell. It is unclear how long Snell will stay in the minors, whether he’ll ever net a decent return in a trade, or whether he’d be a starter or reliever if he makes it back to Pittsburgh.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Russell stumps for Duke

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

This morning, manager John Russell did a little politicking on behalf of Zach Duke’s bid to earn an All-Star berth. Duke is tied for second in the NL in wins (eight) and is 10th in ERA (3.09).

“I think he (deserves a spot) because of the way he’s pitched,” Russell said. “He doesn’t have the huge numbers like some guys. But if you look at the consistency he’s developed, yeah, I think he should be considered.

“If you look at some of his (five) losses, we haven’t scored many runs for him. He pitched a complete game against the White Sox and got a loss. He threw eight innings in his next start and got a loss. He’s been very consistent, and that’s something to consider.”

Duke will start tomorrow against the Cubs. The lefty is riding a five-game winning streak at PNC Park, and has allowed two earned runs or less in nine of his first 15 starts.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

ROYALS — 1. David DeJesus lf, 2. Willie Bloomquist cf, 3. Jose Guillen rf, 4. Mike Jacobs 1b, 5. Brayan Pena c, 6. Alberto Callaspo ss, 7. Mark Teahen 3b, 8. Mitch Maier cf, Zach Greinke (9-3, 1.90) rhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Eric Hinske rf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Charlie Morton (0-0, 3.00) rhp

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

NyjMo the next to go?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

On his way to the ballpark today, Nyjer Morgan’s cell phone beeped with some interesting news. There’s an Internet report that the Pirates are mulling a trade which would send Morgan to the Nationals for enigmatic outfielder Lastings Milledge.

The Pirates, however, are cool to the offer of Milledge. Management would prefer to acquire a middle infielder or starting pitcher.

“I’ve never been in this situation, so it’s kind of new to me,” Morgan said. “It is (flattering) because it means I’ve opened up some other teams’ eyes and they think I can help out their organization, too.”

Morgan is batting .267 with a pair of homers. He is tied for third in the National League with 18 stolen bases.

Milledge, 24, has played in just 260 games over four seasons in the majors and has a career .261 batting average with 25 home runs. He wore out his welcome with the Mets and has confounded the Nats by showboating, missing team meetings and taking a lazy approach in the outfield.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail