What to do in Pittsburgh

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Pirates CEO McClatchy To Step Down

cjzcwaod.jpg

Kevin McClatchy

Kevin McClatchy has decided to step down as the Pittsburgh Pirates chief executive officer at the end of the 2007 season. Continue reading

July 26, 2007 Posted by | Home Page, Pirates news, Pittsburgh News, Sports | Leave a comment

Pirates News

 ntviekra.jpg

  • Shane Youman pitched a career-high eight innings in his seventh big league start.

As Xavier Nady sat in front of his locker after the Pirates’ 1-0 loss to the Astros on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park, the final call from home plate umpire Ed Hickox still had him steaming.

It had been a day in which the Pirates offense fell silent against an average 40-year-old pitcher, but Nady still liked his chances in the ninth against Astros closer Brad Lidge, whom he had touched for a home run earlier this season.

Rajai Davis stood on second, a single away from tying up the game. So when Nady checked his swing — or at least felt he had — on Lidge’s 2-2 pitch, he couldn’t believe what he heard next. A “Strike three!” call came from the mouth of Hickox, leaving Nady fuming and saddling the Pirates with another game in the loss column.

“[We] can’t catch a break,” said a still-disgusted Nady afterward. “That was a big at-bat, too.”

And so things seemed to go on Sunday. There were no breaks, no bounces, no mercy for a Pirates team that hasn’t been able to find its rhythm since returning from the All-Star break. And as a result, the Pirates wasted a brilliant performance from starter Shane Youman, as the team dropped a heartbreaker in front of 22,404 fans.

“That’s a shame that he pitches a game like that, and we failed to score,” manager Jim Tracy said. “That’s the best Shane Youman has pitched since he’s been here.”

The Pirates have now lost eight of their nine games since the All-Star Break, but this one stung especially. It stung because the Pirates couldn’t have asked for a better performance from their young starter.

“Any time a guy goes eight innings like that and gives up one run and pitches outstanding, to not come up with a run to support such a strong pitching performance is frustrating,” said Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth, who backed up Youman with two impressive catches in the outfield.

The ninth-inning strikeout call wasn’t the only bad break of the afternoon for the Pirates, who came into the game looking to notch their eighth win of the season against the Astros. With the game scoreless going into the seventh, Pirates third baseman Matt Kata was unable to corral Brad Ausmus’ leadoff chopper, giving the Astros just their third baserunner of the game.

By no means was the play an easy one, but in a game where every miscue is magnified because of the team’s lack of offense, one unfortunate bounce produces, as Tracy referred to it, “overanalysis” afterward.

Ausmus moved quietly around to third on two groundouts. Then replacement outfielder Luke Scott drove a ball up the middle that grazed Youman’s glove, but landed in center field for an RBI single.

“I thought I put a little bit of my glove on it,” Youman said of Scott’s single. “I wasn’t really on my toes ready for that ball. It was one of those things that happened. He was able to come up with a big two-out hit, and they get the run. That’s the game.”

And with that, the Astros had all the offense they would need on an afternoon during which the Pirates must have felt trapped inside an episode of the Twilight Zone. Another loss, another quiet offensive performance and another instance of the little things not going their way.

“You don’t go out and expect to get shut out or get beat by a ton of runs,” said Adam LaRoche, characterizing the team’s sentiments during the recent struggles. “What you expect is that nothing is going to go your way, whether it’s missed pitches or the other team finding holes. Whatever it is, fluke things can happen.”

Youman couldn’t have scripted his start on Sunday much better than it played out. That one seventh-inning run would be the only damage the Astros could manage against the rookie left-hander, who pitched a career-high eight innings in the seventh big-league start of his career.

“I just had a good rhythm,” said Youman, who fell to 2-2 after making his fourth start of the season. “I felt good on every pitch. This was just one of those days where I felt good, where everything was working.”

Unfortunately, Houston’s Woody Williams was better, which forced Youman to watch the best start of his short Major League career wind up in defeat.

“He’s been around a long time; he knows how to pitch,” said Cesar Izturis of Williams. “He was throwing strikes, and his curveball was good today. You just have to tip your hat.”

Williams’ stats coming into his start weren’t exactly intimidating. The right-hander came into Sunday’s game having lost two starts against the Pirates earlier this season. The 40-year-old right-hander also had a five-game road skid trailing him to his start at PNC Park and had only won one road start all season.

But the stats sheet can be thrown out the window after this one, in which Williams allowed just one extra-base hit in his eight innings of work. Not once during the game did Pittsburgh advance a runner to third base, and while they scattered six hits on the afternoon, the Pirates couldn’t string any together like they had done so successfully one night earlier.

Afterward, Youman told the media that he wasn’t frustrated that his strong performance didn’t result in a better outcome. Tracy couldn’t say the same, sitting in front of microphones on Sunday, evidently frustrated by the lack of offense he has seen from his team lately.

Since returning from the All-Star break, the Pirates offense has batted a disappointing .234 as a unit. And with another loss, the Pirates dropped back to a season-worst 15 games under .500. All the Pirates can hope for now is that, as they head out to New York to begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday, a few things here or there will start going their way.

“You just play the game. You can’t question that part of the game,” Youman said of the bad breaks. “That’s part of the game you can never understand. I’ll take my chances any day in this situation.”

Jenifer Langosch is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Pirates news | Leave a comment