*When the Pirates have a chance to reach .500, something always seems to go wrong.
After taking a 2-1 lead in the 7th inning Friday night on a solo home run from Neil Walker (4), the Pirates bullpen had an uncharacteristic night, blowing the 2-1 lead in the top of the 8th as reliever Chris Resop who has been rock solid this year, surrendered 2 runs in the inning.
Resop put himself in a hole by walking the first batter he faced in Michael Bourn. Resop has walked 8 batters in 16.1 innings this season.
The Pirates fell to 15-17 on the season and they now fall two games under the .500 mark.
*Clint Hurdle continues to take the bat out of his best players hands in key situations. In what’s becoming a common scene, Hurdle had Andrew McCutchen lay down a sacrifice bunt after Xavier Paul led off the bottom of the 8th with a walk.
Hurdle’s philosophy is to move Paul into scoring position but that’s a play you make with Ronny Cedeno at the plate not Andrew McCutchen.
The right play would have been a hit and run situation. Paul has good base running ability and with McCutchen being a good gap hitter, Hurdle deserves the criticism he’s getting for that call.
Speaking of Paul, he has the look of a very intriguing player. You can see some of the tools and the addition of him has upgraded the Pirates bench.
*Paul Maholm is entering a pivotal two month stretch. The consensus around baseball is that the Pirates will actively look to move him in July. He’s due a $9.75 million option with a $740,000 buyout. There’s no chance the Pirates would pickup that option.
However, he’s a guy who really likes it here and would like to stay. He has to show consistency over the next couple months to get the Pirates at least interested in discussing a possible extension around the salary he’s making now ($4.75 million).
Indications are the Pirates feel up and coming prospect Rudy Owens can fill Maholm’s spot next season in the rotation at a much lower price.
What’s going to be interesting with Maholm is how the lack of run support he gets weighs on him moving forward along with his uncertain future with the team. The Pirates have scored 2 runs or less in 5 of Maholm’s 7 starts.
*Offensively the Pirates rank 25th in runs (117), 28th in batting average (.232), 22nd in on base percentage (.310) and 27th in slugging percentage (.344). The Pirates have struck out 272 times this season through 32 games and bad news for them is that tonight’s starter Bud Norris (2-1, 3.03 ERA) has 43 strikeouts in 35.2 innings pitched and is among the NL leaders averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Norris though was 0-2 last season vs the Pirates, allowing a combined 12 runs.
For the Pirates, Charlie Morton (3-1, 3.52 ERA) takes the mound looking to improve to 4-1 on the season. Morton allowed 4 runs in 5 1/3 innings in his last start on Sunday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies.
Walks remains a concern for Morton, 23 on the season, but a key to his success has been holding opponents to a .203 batting average when runners are on base. Against Colorado he allowed a base runner in every innings.
Morton has collected a 2.08 ERA in two starts at home this season but is winless at home on the season.