Monday, June 14, 2010

The June Swoon is On

Bleak as the baseball landscape may appear, Pirates fans can look to Baltimore for consolation.

The Orioles are 29 games under .500. Yikes. The Bucs are "only" 17 games under .500 for the second-worst record in the majors.

Eight straight losses for the Pirates, with no end in sight. The June swoon is on, full-on, and they are careening through an all-out tailspin, freeffall, spiral, call it whatever you like.

Out of the five starters in the rotation, Paul Maholm -- who won't start again until next Friday -- gives the Pirates their best chance to win, so the next three games vs. the White Sox at PNC Park could be losses, easily. Rookie Brad Lincoln goes up against Freddy Garcia in the next game, and then presumably Ross Ohlendorf and Zach Duke will start the next two.

Too bad for Jeff Karstens, who pitched his best game of the season yesterday. Granted, Detroit manager Jim Leyland played his Sunday lineup of several backups, but Karstens deserves credit for pitching a very good game. Another wasted effort, though, as the offense fizzled. Again.

Riding the seven-game losing streak entering yesterday's game and with the off-day today, manager John Russell was desperate to win a game before returning to PNC Park for more interleague action vs. the White Sox and Indians.

Russell went with his best lineup of regular starters, including Ryan Doumit at catcher. In a telling indictment of this team's lack of hitting talent, four of the nine starters are batting .240 or below:
  • Ryan Church, RF, .186
  • Delwynn Young, DH, .233
  • Andy LaRoche, 3B, .236
  • Ronny Cedeno, SS, .240
Predictably, those four players went a combined oh-for-12 with one walk (drawn by Delwynn Young). Then, of course, we had Aki Iwamura lugging his .177 batting average off the bench in a futile pinch-hitting appearance.

The rotation is a concern, yes, but so is the bullpen. Brendan Donnelly's nearly useless, but of greater concern all of a sudden is the suddenly shaky Ocavio Dotel. He has struggled his last three appearances, including yesterday's blown save, last Sunday's loss to San Francisco and the near-loss a week ago Saturday when Lastings Milledge made that wondrous diving catch on the warning track to save the win over the Giants. That was the last win for the Pirates, by the way.

There is no end in sight. The only thing to do is to bring up Pedro Alvarez, but that's not going to solve the offense. There's too much deadweight: Milledge, Church, Awimura, LaRoche, Jaromillo, Crosby. That's a lot of inept offense doing nothing but taking up roster spots.

Bob Smizik examines the right-field dilemma of Lastings Milledge vs. Ryan Church. There's not much to choose from there, that's for sure.

There's also not much general manager Neal Huntington is likely to do at this point to bolster the rotation. There's nothing at Indianapolis, and management won't reach down to Altoona to call up Bryan Morris, Rudy Owens and/or Tim Alderson. Would they? No, of course not.

It's going to be a long rest of the season.