By Timothy Miller
The fightin’ Phils travel to the other side of Pennsylvania this weekend for a three game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. (Our roving reporter, JMike will be there covering the games and proving photos and updates throughout.) This follows a some what disappointing home series against the Colorado Rockies where the Phillies took two out of four games against those pesky mountaineers.
Highlights (and lowlight) from the Rockies Series:
- Tom Gordon continued his dominating role as closer for the Phillies as he pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts while giving up no hits in the series.
- David Bell blasted a three run home run to help Ryan Madson earn his second win this season, in what was a somewhat better performance for the young pitcher after his 9 run, one inning debacle last time on the mound.
- Jon Lieber remains winless after giving up three runs in seven innings against the Rockies on Thursday. He left the game when the teams were tied at three, but Ryan Franklin came in to lose the game.
- In seven innings, newly promoted Triple A prospect Cole Hamels throws shutout ball while striking out 14 batters against the Mets’ Triple A team. That’s right, 14!
How the Pirates – who are currently the worst team in the majors – stack up:
So far this season, and as a whole, the Pirates have been a disappointing franchise. There still are some weapons in their lineup that the Phils should watch out for though. Their red hot first baseman Craig Wilson already has seven home runs this year and is batting close to .300. He has stepped up his game with regular first baseman Sean Casey on the 15-day disabled list. The other hot hitter is shortstop Jack Wilson who is hitting .329, along with a surprising four home runs so far. The rest of the power comes from Canadian bred Jason Bay who has five homers, and veteran outfielder Jeromy Burnitz who has four. Burnitz is a powerful guy who can usually be counted on for a home run, a double, or a strikeout. Bay as of late, has either been a home run or a strikeout. The rest of the lineup contains mediocre at best players. Second baseman Jose Castillo (.257), former Royal third baseman Joe Randa (.222), catcher Humberto Cota (.238), and struggling center fielder Chis Duffy (batting a dismal .176) round out the rest of the 5-18 Pirates.
The Bucs rotation has struggled greatly. Only one of their starters has an ERA under 5 and that belongs to youngster Zach Duke at 4.50. Duke is 1-2 and will not see action against the Phils this weekend. Their ace is Oliver Perez who is a strikeout machine – only if he does not give up a lot of runs, his ERA is 7.20 and he has only won once this season. Victor Santos (former Brewer and Ranger) is the only other starter to earn a victory for the Pirates. The two other arms in the rotation are Ian Snell (7.71 ERA) and Paul Maholm (7.40). The Phils will face both of these pitchers this weekend. Maholm was shown on a funny segment Wednesday against the Cardinals. ESPN aired footage of Maholm teaching the television audience how to use an effective pickoff move. After the segment, the cameras went back to the game where the announcers thanked Maholm and then told the whole world that Maholm just taught them how to effectively get called for a balk instead of using an effective pickoff maneuver. Hmm, maybe that’s why the Pirates only have five wins!
The bullpen has been shaky as well. Their closer, Mike Gonzalez not surprisingly only has two saves, and holds a 2.57 ERA. He has not seen a lot of save opportunities, but with only five wins, who would? Former Phillie Roberto Hernandez is the other Pirate with a recorded save. He is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA. The only highlight of the bullpen is former Giant Salomon Torres who has two wins out of the bullpen with the lowest ERA in the pen at 2.65. The rest of the bullpen contains former White Sox Damaso Marte, Ryan Vogelsong, John Grabow, and Matt Capps.
Friday: Brett Myers (2-0, 3.04) vs. Ian Snell (0-2, 7.71)
Saturday: Cory Lidle (2-2, 4.74) vs. Paul Maholm (0-2, 7.40)
Sunday: Gavin Floyd (1-2. 8.50) vs. Oliver Perez (1-3, 7.20)