What were the Pirates doing on defense?

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Milledge defense.jpgThe Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic observed something quite extraordinary: in the early going of the Pirates-Giants game, the Pirates consistently shifted all three outfielders towards right, even with right-handed batters at the plate. This allowed Aaron Rowand’s leadoff double and Mark
DeRosa’s broken-bat, two-run single before the shift was removed. Kovacevic believes that Lastings Milledge could have reached both of those balls had he been positioned properly.

I didn’t watch the game live, but I just now went back and watched the replay on MLB.tv and, yes, the shift was rather ridiculous. The Giants broadcasters began questioning it during Edgar Renteria’s first inning at bat, saying that the Pirates “must have last season’s scouting report,” because unlike last year when Renteria was battling injuries, he can now pull the ball again. Even if that’s the case with Rowand, there’s no word on why they were running it during everyone else’s at bats. And I’ll add that the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the Pirates’ starter Brian Burres is a guy who works the cut fastball inside and that even if he’s not throwing there on purpose — which is rare — he misses inside all the time, which makes pulling the ball into an empty left field pretty damn easy. Just ask Mark DeRosa.

Overall, Kovacevic notes, seven fly balls were hit
to left with no outs recorded “through no fault of his own.
He simply could not cover the ground to get to them, whether because of
foul luck or flawed advance scouting or positioning.”

Pirates baseball: it’s FAN-tastic!

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.