Report: Pirates will fire Russell, keep Huntington

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The Pirates are ready for change.  Again.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette heard from “several internal sources” this weekend that the Bucs will cut ties with manager John Russell soon after the offseason hits.  GM Neal Huntington, though, is thought to be safe.

Russell’s contract runs through 2011, but the Pirates have 104 losses this season and could wind up with 105 if things don’t go well in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Marlins.  Barely any of the poor play can be blamed on Russell, but this is professional sports.  Major League Baseball is a what have you done for me lately kind of place.  The captain must go down with the ship.  Pick your cliche.

Russell offered some words of optimism after Saturday’s game when asked to review the 2010 season, highlighting the play of youngsters like Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen.  It won’t be enough to save his job, apparently, but Russell is right — there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the Pirates.

“The
thing I look at most is how we developed our young players,” Russell
replied. “I can’t remember since I’ve been here where we’ve had
four-plus guys who can drive in runs for us. We’ve always had one or
two, but you look at Walker, Pedro, Jones, McCutchen … it’s exciting
to see. I think our offense is starting to get some type of identity
where we can score runs now and, if we get good pitching, we’ve got a
pretty good chance to win.”

Russell currently stands 186-298 as a manager and will probably struggle to find a head job in the near future.

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.