Corey Hart has been phenomenal lately and shows no signs of slowing up. It's reminiscent of his 21-game hit streak last year in which he was able to get on in any fashion. I'm most proud of the unselfishness that goes with his bunts for hits. The guys on FOX went off on him when he tried to do it on Saturday, but I can't complain about a guy doing whatever it takes to help his team out. Even better, he's gone year three times in the last six games, which is also reminiscent of his slow power start last year before the finally let him play every day.
Pirates fans have to be happy about Nady who looked like he was a perpetual fourth outfielder. His power numbers have been impressive all while maintaining his average. It's beating a dead horse, which I'm pretty well known for now, to say that this squad is poised to explode if Freddy Sanchez would just show up. If Nady would just get the opportunity to hit more often with RISP, he would have some really impressive numbers.
What Was The Difference?:
In every game, it seemed to be starting pitching. Manny Parra and Ben Sheets combined to pitch 14.1 innings of one run baseball in games one and two. Ian Snell and Paul Maholm, on the other hand, gave up eight runs over 12.1 innings. It's not surprising that the Brewers took those two games. It's even less surprising to find out that the Pirates won game three since Dave Bush gave up six runs in five, while Tom Gorzelanny only gave up two. If the Brewers had any sort of reasonable game from Dave Bush, they would have swept this series. Unfortunately, Ned Yost plays favorites. When Carlos Villanueva pitches bad, he gets on his case and says he's not attacking or he's missing his spots. When Bush pitches poorly, he works real hard, he's just not getting the success. It's a double standard I'm sick of hearing because Yost is partial to his boys.
Causes for Concern:
The Brewers have to have some serious concerns about the starting rotation. Even by inserting Seth McClung in for Villanueva, they are just as vulnerable since McClung is still unproven and Bush is clearly incapable of consistency (refer to last year as well if you don't believe me). There is an absurd amount of talk right now surrounding the Brewers regarding trades for guys like Randy Wolf and perhaps Paul Byrd. Randy Wolfe is definitely a no go in my book, but the opportunity to get Paul Byrd is an intriguing one. Byrd is making $7.5 mil this year, but has supported it with a 4.10 ERA and a 1.3 WHIP this season in a very competitive division. I would be okay with this possible trade as long as the Crew doesn't sacrifice it's future. It's pretty obvious that Gwynn has been give no opportunity become an every day player especially because LaPorta will probably be ready by September. This makes him good trade bait, as well as Dave Bush who has a much lighter contract than Byrd and a lot more innings in him. It's still concerning though. Perhaps a few weeks in the bullpen will work Villanueva's problems out.
The Pirates have to be a little worried about their starting pitching as well. Gorzelanny continues to walk batters left and right, but got away with it yesterday by getting some big ground balls and strikeouts. Maholm looks extremely vulnerable and Snell is no where near what he was in 2007. While the bullpen doesn't look spectacular either, the Pirates need to right the ship in the first six innings first. It looks like Grabow and Capps can handle most of the load after that, since the offense has more than enough in it to tack on insurance runs. If Snell can get back to form and Duke can keep his walk total down, the Pirates may be able to hover around .500 for most of the year.
Causes for Excitement:
Every week it's Corey Hart, and this week is no different, but let's be honest here, Rickie Weeks is on the horse. Both Weeks and Hart hit two solo shots in the series and were able to get on base at around a .400 clip. Weeks improved his average by 15 points and his on-base by 16, pushing him over the Mendoza line and now carries the fourth best on-base of any of our starters. This means he should still be our leadoff hitter. Think about it. You want the guy with the highest on-base possible at the top of the order, but if his average is garbage, you don't want to rely on him to try and drive runs in. As a result, you make him the table setter and that's what Rickie is.
While Nate McLouth struggled in the first two games, the Pirates' 3-4-5 hitters have been absolutely ridiculous. They probably won't maintain these numbers all season, but it's still fun to watch as a baseball guy. Bay is possibly the only disappointing guy there, but after this series, he may have found some confidence that can boost this team to another winning streak. All they need to do is avoid the Chicago Cubs like the plague. Their command is just too awful for a team that takes walks like the Central leaders. Nevertheless, look for the Pirates to accumulate some big offensive numbers. If only they would take more walks, they could do even bigger things.
Predictions and Notes:
Game three was an atrocity. I was right in suggesting the Brewers needed some offense to get the job done with Bush on the mound. After really getting on Carlos' case, Yost didn't seem to mind that Dave Bush couldn't even get past the fifth. Instead of making the heady move like he did elsewhere, Yost defends the guy. Ugh. I can't stand managers who take favorites (insert Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella). It's a simple fact that some guys just can't cut it for very long in the bigs and I have no doubt that Dave Bush is one of those guys. Villanueva will definitely have a longer career in the bigs if he stays in the bullpen, so I'm not devastated by it, but he's clearly the better of the two in my book, and he's getting paid significantly less because of his service time. Trade Dave Bush and Tony Gwynn for a solid three or four starter.
The Brewers offense appears to be on the rise as they managed to get more than ten hits in every game of this series. The Pirates matched them on Wednesday and Thursday, eventually taking game three following two huge double plays to prevent the big inning. Look for more of the same as the Brewers head to Washington to play the Nationals. Beware of the starting pitching as Seth McClung will likely take the mound on Saturday and will be limited to 75 pitches or so. Good luck Seth!<>