Pirates Notebook: More patience, more pitches
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LOS ANGELES -- The patient Pirates?
Consider these numbers ...
They rank second in the National League in pitches seen per plate appearance, at 3.89. Only their opponent in this series, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have seen more, at 3.97.
They also rank sixth with 49 walks, after being the worst in that department last year.
They are eighth with a .327 on-base percentage, after being 13th last year.
Most important, they rank second with 69 runs, after being 12th last year.
Sure, a couple of those numbers are inflated by four extra-inning games, but the average is unmistakable.
INDIANAPOLIS (10-3) beat Pawtucket, 3-0. RHP Ty Taubenheim (1-2, 7.71) pitched six scoreless innings and allowed two hits. He struck out six and walked three. RHP Jesse Chavez (1.29) pitched two perfect innings of relief and struck out two. RHP Jonah Bayliss (0.00) pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save. RF Steve Pearce (.264) went 2 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI. CF Andrew McCutchen (.244) went 2 for 4 with a double. 3B Neil Walker (.200) went 1 for 3 with a double.
ALTOONA (4-8) lost at Trenton, 4-0. RHP Derek Hankins (0-1, 2.25) allowed two runs and six hits in five innings. LHP Dave Davidson (1.13) pitched two scoreless innings of relief and struck out three. DH James Boone (.231) went 2 for 3 with a walk.
LYNCHBURG (4-7) lost to Potomac, 5-2. LHP Tony Watson (0-2, 5.54) allowed two runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. C Steve Lerud (.235) went 2 for 4 with a double.
HICKORY (8-5) lost to Lexington, 6-4. LHP Mike Felix (1-1, 1.00) allowed three runs, one earned, and three hits in three innings. He struck out seven and walked none. 2B Matt Cavagnaro (.222) went 2 for 3 with a sacrifice.
Just as clear is that the approach has been systematic: Although neither manager John Russell nor hitting coach Don Long stress walks, each pushes the concept of a team-wide, patient approach, not only because it instills in the batter an approach of waiting for the best pitch to hit, but also because it applies pressure to the opposition.
That was evident Monday night when Los Angeles closer Takashi Saito, accustomed to breezy, dozen-pitch saves, was pushed to 28 pitches. The first two batters saw six pitches each, the next saw five, Adam LaRoche singled on the first he saw, and Saito's 19th pitch -- after a ball-one curve -- resulted in Nate McLouth's three-run home run that brought the 6-4 victory.
"A team effort," McLouth said.
Individually, there are three players qualified for the batting title who have seen four or more pitches per plate appearance: McLouth is at 4.3, ranking 11th in the league, while Jose Bautista is at 4.13, Jason Bay at 4.09.
A footnote: Nyjer Morgan, who has only 18 plate appearances, actually leads the team with an outrageous 4.69, but that has far more to do with fouling off two-strike pitches than watching them go by.
How much does patience mean to a team's success?
"It's not always a good thing," Bay said. "But, if you're always close to the bottom in that category as a team, you're basically saying you're a sucker for every second or third pitch. And that can't be right. I mean, there's nothing wrong with swinging at the first pitch. It's not our plan to go out there and take. But it helps to be patient. And it's contagious, too."
Both ways, he added.
"When two guys have quick at-bats, you see the third doing to the same a lot of the time. But you also see, when we're all being patient, we wear out the opposing starting pitcher faster, and we string together a lot of good at-bats. That's probably not something we're accustomed to here."
No, not exactly Pirates-like.
"But it will be Pirates-like pretty soon," McLouth said.
LaRoche was out of the starting lineup for a third game because of what yesterday was diagnosed as a virus.
The concern now, Russell said, is that it might be spreading through the clubhouse. It appears catcher Ryan Doumit has it now, and others have minor symptoms that could lead to more. And, if that is the case and they are moving as gingerly as LaRoche was again yesterday, that could lead to trouble.
"We'll see," Russell said.
• There was no immediate word on center fielder Chris Duffy's scheduled visit yesterday with Dr. Lewis Yocum to check on his surgically repaired left shoulder.
• Chris Gomez made his first start at first base. Doug Mientkiewicz had been spelling LaRoche, but Russell said, "I want to keep everybody involved." Also, Gomez would be facing left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo.
• First in the cage for voluntary extra batting practice yesterday: McLouth.
• Miguel Perez, the catcher at Class AA Altoona and a participant in the major-league camp in spring training, has a dislocated shoulder and will be out indefinitely. Milver Reyes will assume starting duties.
First Published April 16, 2008 12:00 am