Found May 04, 2013 on
The moments that turned out to be the vital ones for the Pirates in Friday’s 3-1 win against the Washington Nationals pretty much summed up Pittsburgh’s season in a nutshell.
Mark Melancon got Bryce Harper to strike out swining to end the eighth inning on Friday. Photo by: David Hague
With Neil Walker officially being placed on the disabled list, the team had to call Jordy Mercer up from Indianapolis on Friday afternoon just a few hours before the game. In the first month of the season seemingly whenever something would go wrong for the team — be it a loss or a cold streak — the end result could be viewed as a positive.
With the game tied 1-1 in the fifth inning, Mercer, who was hitting second for the Pirates on Friday, smacked a 2-0 pitch just over the left field wall and beyond the reach of Bryce Harper for a two-run home run the proved to be the winning margin.
“I hit him second because he’s been hot,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “One of the things I’m a big fan of when we get these guys up in Indianapolis if they’ve been playing and they’ve been playing well is to get them in as quick as we can.”
Mercer said after he ran the count to 2-0 he told himself to be ready for a pitch to hit.
“(Washington starting pitcher Ross Detwiler) was pounding fastballs and had good velocity,” Mercer said. “Told myself I was going to get ready for that 2-0 pitch and see what happens and I was successful. I got myself in a good count and let it fly. Whatever happens happens after that.”
Then when the Nationals had their best opportunity to score, just like has been the case all season when the Pirates have a lead, the bullpen put a stop to the offensive threat.
Mark Melancon did the Mark Melancon thing where he pitches the eighth inning and gets the ball to Jason Grilli with a lead for the ninth. Friday was somewhat odd in that Melancon allowed multiple baserunner, but when he found himself in a two-out, runners on the corners situation with Harper at the plate he found a way to escape. Harper struck out swinging and with it ended the last real threat by Washington.
“Melancon is going after everybody this year,” Hurdle said. “Sometimes the hitters are going to get you when you’re going at them with your best stuff. The kid’s done a very good job, Harper, hitting right handed pitching. That was a very good match-up That’s one of the prime time match-ups you look for when you come out to a ballgame. Our guy pitched through the error and a two-strike base hit that was dumped into right field. He continues to show up and be very, very effective.”
And of course A.J. Burnett had one of his best starts of the season (and there have been a few) in striking out nine Nationals in seven innings while allowing just the one run. Burnett, who was the National League leader in strikeouts for the month of April, had not been pitching as deep into games as he would like in large part due to the high pitch counts associated with throwing a lot of strikeouts. On Friday he matched his season high with the seven innings pitched (he also went seven in his last start at PNC Park against St. Louis) and threw fewer than 100 pitches for the first time since he hurled the ball 98 times against Chicago in the first game of the season.
“We were very efficient tonight,” Burnett said. “We mixed in changeups that we don’t normally throw and we got a few more strikeouts on fastballs and curveballs.”
Asked if he could have asked for anymore with a performance like the one he had Friday, Burnett said there was always room for improvement.
“I could take 15 (strikeouts),” he said. “I’m trying to keep up with (Texas’) Yu Darvish. He’s pretty filthy.”
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
The Pirates made two roster swaps before Friday’s game, adding Jose Contreras and Jordy Mercer to the team. To make room, Neil Walker was moved to the DL and Jared Hughes was optioned to AAA.
Contreras was signed in the offseason and is a 41 year old reliever from Cuba. I discussed his addition in February here and he’s been pitching well in his minor league rehab outings....
Jordy Mercer will start at second base again today when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Washington Nationals. Mercer, as many of you probably know by now, was called up Friday afternoon when Neil Walker was placed on the disabled list and hit what proved to be the game-winning home run in the fifth inning of the Pirates 3-1 win.
Jordy Mercer will start at second base for the Pirates...
TOP OF THE SYSTEM
A look at how the current top 20 prospects did today. Note that this list doesn’t include players currently in the majors. If a player is in the majors, he will be removed, everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. Rankings are from the pre-season rankings, and links to each prospect writeup can be...
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talks about Jordy Mercer’s big night in his return to Pittsburgh from Triple A Indianapolis and about A.J. Burnett’s nine-strikeout performance in the Pirates’ 3-1 win against the Washington Nationals.
Episode one of The Pirates Prospects Podcast can be downloaded or streamed below. This week’s episode includes analysis from Tom Bragg and James Santelli on the Pirates, John Eshleman on Altoona, Tom Bragg on West Virginia, John Dreker on the draft, an interview with pitching prospect Robby Rowland, and more. Highlights of the show include:
**Minor League Recaps with a look at...
Jason Grilli has been named MLB’s Delivery Man of the Month for the month of April. Photo credit: David Hague
Remember when there was talk that Jason Grilli couldn’t be a closer? Today he was named MLB’s Delivery Man of the Month for the month of April. The award recognizes the best reliever each month. Grilli had an 0.82 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 11 innings of work in April...
There is no reason why Mark Melancon should be handcuffed to the eighth inning. Photo by: David Hague
After today’s game, Clint Hurdle announced that he would only be using Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon when the team is ahead. Hurdle didn’t use either reliever in the ninth inning, instead turning to Tony Watson for a second inning in a game that was tied 4-4. Watson gave up...
Saturday was an odd day at PNC Park. For starters, the game was on national television (something that doesn’t happen often to the Pirates). This also happened.
Then the great bullpen debate of 2013 got off an running, and well, it did not end well for the Pirates.
Starling Marte did a very Starling Marte thing and hit a two-run home run in the third inning to put the Pirates...
The Pittsburgh Pirates have finally done something that will get them some much needed publicity, it has nothing to do with what their doing on the baseball diamond, but it’s a start.
According to USA Today Sports, the 16-12 Pirates have a unique way of doing their player introductions, adopting a late-night television vibe in the mold of Saturday Night Live or David Letterman...
The Pirates opened this weekend’s series with a very strong performance as their pitching led them past the Nats on Friday night.
A.J. Burnett was excellent – this was his second-best outing of the year (behind the near no-hitter vs. St. Louis). The NL’s strikeout leader punched out nine Nats and worked efficiently, allowing just five hits and one walk. That allowed him to...
The Pittsburgh Pirates used to be a joke of a team, but they are pretty good and are rocking this Saturday Night Live starting lineup video.
Barrett Barnes has been placed on the DL.
Catching up on some minor league moves:
**The West Virginia Power have placed Barrett Barnes on the 7-day disabled list. As Tom Bragg reported on Wednesday, Barnes had a hamstring injury. The DL placement was retroactive May 2nd.
**After Jordy Mercer was promoted to the majors, Jeff Larish was added to the Indianapolis roster.
Three videos today from the after the Nationals’ 5-4 win against the Pirates at PNC Park.
Clint Hurdle’s interview is broken up into two parts and I was even able to snag some of Stephen Strasburg’s clubhouse interview. I’ll have a recap of today’s game up this evening but for now enjoy the videos.
Before previewing today's game, let's talk about yesterday's loss briefly. It was frustrating to watch in just about every way possible. On one hand, the Pirates walked six hitters, hit three batters, gave the Nationals three runs on bad defensive plays by the two guys (Barmes and Marte) that are supposed to anchor the defense, and totally spaced on the existence of baserunners...
Boy. That Andrew McCutchen really kills the Nationals doesn’t he? Cutch has eleven homers against the Natinals (not a mistake). The only team he has more against is the Brewers. That’s stunning considering the Nationals are 13th in starts against for Cutch. In 24 games Cutch has a slash line of .456/.514/.933 for an OPS…