I want to say, “Hey, there’s nothing you can do when a guy goes out there and has a day like Aaron Harang had today,” because it’s certainly hard to say much when a guy spins a three-hitter at you with 9 Ks and only 103 pitches for the whole game. But then it’s also hard to think it’s an isolated incident when you were one-hit just three days ago, especially when the one-hitter was tossed by a guy who hadn’t won a game since the 2006 World Series and the three-hitter was thrown by someone coming off of the worst season of his career.
Of course, me saying that the Pirates’ offense is bad would be like me saying, “It’s Easter” or “Tiger Woods drops f-bombs left and right on live TV when he misses putts.” It’s just re-stating the obvious. Sure, Harang and Carpenter’s gems were aided by the Pirates’ offense, and you shouldn’t assume that games like these are going to end in April.
What makes for much more interesting discussion from today’s game is Ian Snell’s start. After he gave up a double to Willy Taveras and a homer to Brandon Phillips in the first inning, I thought, “Here we go again,” and I doubt I was alone there. But Snell had a little more in the tank than that today and even though he got in to trouble again a few times, he managed to keep the Reds off of the scoreboard the rest of the afternoon. I was particularly impressed in his ability to really bear down in a few situations and crank his fastball up to around 94 (according to Gameday) to get some big strikeouts. If you check the first graph here, you can see that Snell got his fastball above 92 pretty regularly today, and I think that’s where it needs to be for him to really be successful. Three walks in six innings isn’t great, but I’ll take seven strikeouts, five hits, and only two runs in six any day.
Of course, that line and the final score were both really mitigated by some great help from the defense behind him, particularly Jack Wilson. Wilson turned one of his trademark diving-up-the-middle-shovel-from-the-glove double plays in the sixth inning (this particular sort of play, which Wilson has made look so easy the countless times he’s pulled it off, is exactly what people are going to remember Jack Wilson for in Pittsburgh), then caught a line drive in shallow left field off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion and turned it in to a 6-4-3 triple play. The problem, of course, was that to that point, Wilson had turned in two defensive gems, but the Pirates’ offense only had two hits to match.
Finally, a few other quick observations:
- Craig Hansen got in to trouble and couldn’t finish his one inning, but I still liked seeing him strike Aaron Harang out on three pitches. To my eye, at least, he does seem to have a bit more control this year.
- I wasn’t really a fan of John Russell pinch-hitting for Andy LaRoche with the game on the line in the eighth. I get that the guy is struggling, but either he’s your third baseman and you trust him to be out there, or you don’t. From what I’ve seen and read about the past few games, he does seem to be getting some good wood on the ball and I mean, come on, he’s not going to bat .000 this year. I still won’t be surprised if Russell spares him the boos during the home opener tomorrow.
- What really burns about this one is that JR managed to finagle two scoreless innings from relievers not named Grabow or Capps, and the Bucs still couldn’t pull this one out.
- Nate McLouth did not look good at the plate today. Harang made him look like a little leaguer during the last at-bat of the game. But hey, I’m just a nerd with a computer, what do I know?
At least Snell turned things around a bit today. And hey, .500 for the home opener isn’t too bad, all things considered.