Tag:Paul Maholm
Posted on: July 22, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 1:03 pm

3 to Watch: The legit Pirates edition

The Cardinals are a game out of first-place in the National League Central, and one out of every five games left on their schedule is against the Pirates.

Is that good or bad?

Isn't it great that we're even asking that question?

We are asking it, because even here in late July, we're still asking whether the Pirates -- the first-place Pirates -- are for real. We're still asking if they're just a great story, or if they're more than that.

"They're legit," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

They're 51-45, six games over .500. Or as the skeptics like to point out, six wins over Houston over .500, because if you take out their 12 games against the awful Astros, the Pirates are right at .500 against the rest of the league.

They're 51-45, and if they were in the National League East, that would leave them 10 1/2 games out, and we'd consider them sellers. They'd be 4 1/2 behind the Giants in the National League West, without any real chance of winning.

But they're not in the East and they're not in the West. They're percentage points up on the Brewers and a game up on the Cardinals, who come to Pittsburgh this weekend for a series like none that PNC Park has ever seen.

The games Friday and Saturday are already sold out. The game Sunday is close to selling out.

People are excited, as they should be. The Cardinals are impressed, as they should be.

"Maybe if this were May or June, you might discount teams," Matt Holliday said. "But this is late July."

The Cardinals and Pirates haven't played since the first week of the season, when the Pirates won two of three in St. Louis. The Cardinals scored just seven runs in the entire series.

"I said it then," Lance Berkman said. "If they get pitching like that all year, they'll be tough."

They haven't gotten pitching like that all year, not yet. But they've got pitching like that through 96 games, and they are tough.

"Their young players are into their second or third year, and they have a better idea," La Russa said. "And they've pitched well. It's a very familiar formula.

"And it works."

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Chris Carpenter took the loss in one of those three April games against the Pirates, even though he allowed just one earned run in six innings. It was his first loss to the Pirates in seven years, a span in which he had gone 10-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Carpenter faces Paul Maholm in Cardinals at Pirates, Friday night (7:05 ET) at PNC Park. Carpenter will be followed by Jaime Garcia on Saturday, and Kyle Lohse on Sunday, assuming Lohse's right middle finger cooperates. He was examined by a doctor in St. Louis, and cleared to pitch. For the Pirates, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton will follow Maholm in the rotation.

2. When the Mariners played so well in the first half, general manager Jack Zduriencik's job looked safe. Now the Mariners have lost 12 in a row, and people are asking again whether Zduriencik will survive. The more immediate question is when the Mariners will win a game, now that they're within two of tying the record for the longest losing streak in club history. The best chance might come in Mariners at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, when Felix Hernandez pitches against John Lackey. According to the Mariners, Hernandez has the lowest career ERA at Fenway (1.49) of any pitcher with five or more starts there. On Saturday, in the game that could tie the record, it's Blake Beavan against Josh Beckett.

3. The Twins are going for it in the American League Central, although if they collapse this weekend against the Tigers, maybe they'll change their minds. They lost Thursday night to Justin Verlander, dropping to 0-6 against Detroit this season. The most interesting matchup of the weekend may come in Tigers at Twins, Sunday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Target Field, when Francisco Liriano faces Rick Porcello.

Posted on: September 16, 2010 8:11 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2010 10:49 pm

The Pirates vs. the Mets -- the '62, '63 Mets

NEW YORK -- This week, the Pirates couldn't beat the 2010 Mets.

I'm a lot more interested with how they do against the 1962 Mets. And the '63 Mets.

The 120-loss legendary '62 Mets? Yeah, those guys.

The Pirates aren't going to lose 120 games, as the '62 Mets famously did.

But they might lose as many road games as the '62 Mets did. Even worse, they might lose as many road games as the '63 Mets did.

Since baseball went to a 162-game schedule in 1961, the '62 and '63 Mets are the only two teams to fail to win 20 road games in a full (non-strike) season.

The expansion '62 Mets were 18-62 on the road. The '63 Mets were 17-64.

The Pirates, after a 6-2 loss tonight that completed a four-game Mets sweep at Citi Field, are 15-59.

They have seven road games remaining, the final week of the season in St. Louis (three games) and Florida (four games). They need to go 5-2 to get to 20 wins.

This, for a team that has lost 21 of its last 23 road games, has been swept in 13 series on the road already this year, while winning only four road series.

The Pirates haven't been a great team at home, either, but they're when they play at PNC Park they're not close to being historically bad. It's just when they go on the road that they become worse than the 119-loss 2003 Tigers (who went 20-61 on the road) and the 112-loss 1952 Pirates (19-58) or the 111-loss 2004 Diamondbacks (22-59).

"That's how it's been since I've been here," said pitcher Paul Maholm, a Pirate since 2005. "But never like this."

To be sure, the Pirates have been a dreadful road team (and a lousy team overall) in recent years. They were 22-58 on the road last year, 24-57 in 2006.

But plenty of other teams in recent years have had records like that. No team since those expansion-era Mets -- nearly 50 years ago -- has had a road record like this.

"It is puzzling," pitcher Zach Duke admitted. "I wish I had an answer."

The stats explain part of it. A bunch of Pirates hitters have awful home-road splits, notably Pedro Alvarez (.273 at home, .190 on the road), Ronny Cedeno (.279, .210) and Delwyn Young (.292, .182). And the Pirates have a 4.50 ERA at home, as opposed to 5.69 on the road.

"Obviously, we don't pitch as well on the road," manager John Russell said. "We don't drive the ball as well on the road."

But Russell had no good explanation for it. Neither did his players.

"I think we're playing better now," Cedeno said. "But we've lost close games."

In the first six games of their current trip, the Pirates lost three extra-inning games, lost another one-run game, and were blown out just once.

Is that really progress?

The numbers that matter show that in those six games, the Pirates went 1-5. And with seven road games to play, they're 15-59.

Could they catch the '62 Mets, and lost 62? They'd need to go 5-2 the final week not to catch them.

Can they catch the '63 Mets, and thus tie for the second-most road losses in modern major-league history (64)? With a 2-5 finish, they'd get there.

In fact, if the Pirates go 1-6 in their final eight road games, they'd finish with 65 road losses, tying the 1935 Boston Braves (13-65) for the most in modern major-league history.

The way they're going, they've got a shot.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com