Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 6/28/12

Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug       (Opening image credit cbspittsburgh)

If the Pittsburgh Pirates are to finish over .500 this season for the first time since 1992, fans may point to the 7th inning of last night’s 11-7 Pirates’ win over the Philadelphia Phillies as a turning point.  The situation was bleak.  Losers of 3 in a row, and on the verge of being swept by their cross-state rivals.  Having seen their 6-run lead shrink to only 1, runners on 1st and 2nd, and still no outs for the Phillies.

Lincoln; Image credit piratesgab

The Pirates called on RP Brad Lincoln, recently demoted back to the bullpen to clear a spot for SP Jeff Karstens’ return from the DL.  With a tenacity as fierce as a vampire hunter, Lincoln promptly struck out Hunter Pence, forced Shane Victorino to fly out, and struck out pinch-hitter Jim Thome on 3 pitches, culminating in an extended staredown of Thome as he walked off the field.  Boom.  The Pirates added 3 more runs- 2 courtesy of CF Andrew McCutchen’s 14th of the year- and the Pirates won 11-7.

Some quick takes from the game:

1.  Welcome back SS Drew Sutton.  After the Pirates claimed him from the Red Sox, then promptly dealt him to the Tampa Bay Rays in a rather puzzling move, Sutton was returned by the Rays, and started for the Bucs last night in LF.  He went 2-4 with a walk and RBI.  Sutton can play every position on the field outsie of catcher, adding one more potential name to the “Guys that would probably be more productive than SS Clint Barmes” list. 

2.  While this author doesn’t think C Mike McKenry is probably a full-time starting catcher, it should be noted that after another HR last night (3 over his last 2 games), “The Fort” is now up to a .798 OPS in 80 AB.  Add his name to the “Guys that would probably be more productive than C Rod Barajas” list.

3.  Sadly, this type of wasteful spending happens every offseason for GM Neal Huntington.  He signs clearly declining, aging veterans to multi-million dollar contracts, and then younger, cheaper, in-house options always surface during the season.  If Huntington is granted another offseason as Pirates’ GM, he should either:

A.  Not waste millions on declining veterans, and instead spend the money on signing young, high-ceiling international players.

B.  Instead of spending $10-15 MM on 3-4 poor free agents, spend all $10-15MM on 1-2 younger, high-quality free agents.

4.  Last night notwithstanding, the Pirates’ bullpen continues to be a strength for the club, among the leaders in all of baseball in ERA.  Across the state however, the bullpen of the high-powered Phillies continues to be its Achilles’ heel.  The pen has a cumulative 4.41 ERA, or 25th in the Majors.

Brown- A future Pirate? Image credit thebaseballhaven

Now would be a prime time for the Pirates to offer any reliever outside of CL Joel Hanrahan for Phillies’ AAA OF Domonic Brown, who, despite being ranked the #4 prospect in all of baseball in 2011, continues to be shut out of the Phillies’ OF, and appears to be allowing his frustrations to manifest in decreased production during another AAA stint this season.  The young slugger still has a cumulative .292 BA and .825 OPS throughout his minor league career.

Thanks for reading.  Go Bucs!

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