Advance Scout: Pirates, June 10-12

Tuesday, June 10 2003 @ 12:21 PM EDT

Contributed by: Mike D

The Jays are back in the wild, wooly world of the DH, and couldn't be happier. Not only that, but they face a struggling team that isn't really firing on any cylinder, unless Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez count as cylinders. But as the Ottoman Empire learned when they laid siege to Vienna, overconfidence can be costly.

Having said that...the Pirates seem to be a great matchup for Roy Halladay, with their paucity of pop. The starters set to face the Jays don't issue walks, but are very hittable and could be feasted on this week. Mike Williams is the one and only Pittsburgh hurler the Jays don't want to face this week.

On to the Advance Scout!

* Strange stat: Pittsburgh is an unimpressive 25-35 overall, but their road record is a remarkable 16-14 … They’ve been atrocious at PNC Park, the most underrated venue in baseball … In fact, they have yet to win a series at home … They’ve lost five of six …
* Another strange stat: Nearly half of Pittsburgh’s runs have come in the first three innings …
* Aramis Ramirez has followed a bizarre career trajectory … After an Eric Chavez-like offensive performance in 2001 (300/350/536, 34 HR, 112 RBI), he became Ed Sprague in 2002 (234/279/387, 18 HR, 71 RBI) … This year, after a spring training in which Peter Gammons vowed he’d be better than ever, Ramirez started out like Manny Lee (218/288/317, 1 HR, 13 RBI in his first 39 games), but has suddenly gone on a career-best 20-game hitting streak in which he’s turned into Wade Boggs (.435, but with just 1 home run, bringing his totals to 300/347/401, 2 HR, 27 RBI) … The strangest part? He hasn’t yet turned 25 …
* The rejuvenated Kenny Lofton is not in 1994 form, but he’s an effective leadoff man again … More than effective: 306/365/464 with 12 steals is downright good … He’s reached base in his last 36 games! … Last Thursday, he homered against Boston and drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly … He nearly gave the Pirates the lead on Sunday in Atlanta with a sizzling line drive with two on in the eighth, but it was caught and turned into a double play … “That’s just the way it’s been going,” said Lofton …
* Slick-fielding Jack Wilson contributes almost nothing offensively at 248/297/359, 3-for-4 on steals … He’s 1 for his last 11 (.091) …
* But he’s Honus Wagner compared to sometime double-play partner Abraham O. Nunez – yes, the “other” Abraham Nunez – whose recent hot streak has elevated his numbers to 229/293/248, 2-for-3 on steals … Nunez snapped an 0-for-14 pinch-hitting streak with a single on Thursday …
* Reggie Sanders returned from a hamstring injury on Wednesday … He’s 6 for his last 13 (.462) … I think it’s now unavoidable that the reasonably talented Sanders be referred to as a “journeyman” …
* Brian Giles is having a similar season to Manny Ramirez, although Giles was hurt in April … His numbers are typical of his recent excellence, except for his power … In 37 games, Giles has just 5 home runs … He’s hit at least 35 homers in each of his last four seasons, and is the only Pirate besides Stargell and Kiner to have four straight 30-homer campaigns … He’s only struck out 11 times this season … But he’s slugging 28 percentage points lower than his brother Marcus, who weighs 25 pounds less …
* The Great Randall Simon Race remains a dead heat with six walks and six home runs … He cut two runners down, one of whom was Rafael Furcal, with fine throws on Sunday …
* Speaking of journeymen, lifetime backup second baseman Jeff Reboulet stole his first base in three years, putting him in scoring position where he scored the (manufactured) winning run against Boston on Thursday … Reboulet admitted that “we had the hit-and-run on…I’m not going to be stealing bases – not at my age” …
* Hitting just .183, Rob Mackowiak described his demotion to AAA as “understandable”… Matt Stairs is the likely replacement. The New Brunswick native has been rehabbing from a torn ligament in his right ring finger …
* Tonight’s opponent, Kris Benson, has been pretty consistent this season … But he’s been shelled by high-average, high-OBP teams like Houston and Boston … He was roughed up for eight runs, seven earned, on twelve hits by the Red Sox last Wednesday … He’s allowed 30 hits over his last three starts … He sports a 6.18 ERA all-time against AL opponents …
* Tomorrow’s opponent, reclamation project Jeff D’Amico, has made five solid starts this year, but has given up five runs in each of his last two … The hard-luck righty has walked just 15 batters in 67 innings … To protect his oft-injured throwing arm, D’Amico is going on extended rest – six days’ rest before tomorrow’s game. “It’s not an accident,” said Lloyd McClendon of the lengthy time off …
* Thursday’s opponent, Jeff Suppan, has been so-so this season … Like D’Amico, however, his control has been very good … Suppan was pleased with his pitch selection in his strong outing against Boston …
* LOOGY Scott Sauerbeck, among the names on the Yankees’ purported wish list, is holding opponents to just a .167 average … But he served up a game-tying home run to Trot Nixon on Thursday night … Generally, the bullpen has been poor at holding deficits to reasonable, comeback-possible margins. McClendon: “We’ve got to come up with that big pitch late in games” …
* McClendon expressed no SARS fears whatsoever … But the same can't be said for mega-contract bust Jason Kendall: “I don’t want to go. It’s our job to go out and play, but as far as going there, I don’t think anyone wants to go. They say the possibility is not very good, but what if you do get it?” … Giles described Toronto as “a nice city.”
* This isn’t the first Pittsburgh appearance on the SkyDome turf. The two teams played back-to-back exhibition games in 1992 … McClendon is eager to make the trip. Having heard great things about the city, he was disappointed to be held back in Florida for those spring training games in ’92 – he had a separated shoulder … I think Jerry Schunk missed the Pirates by a year …

Probable Batting Orders

vs. LH

8 Lofton
6 J. Wilson
7 Giles
5 Ramirez
9 Sanders
2 Kendall
3 Young
DH C. Wilson
4 Reboulet

vs. RH

8 Lofton
2 Kendall
7 Giles
5 Ramirez
3 Simon
9 Sanders
DH C. Wilson
6 J. Wilson
4 Nunez/Reboulet

Pitching Probables

Tuesday: RH Benson vs. Lidle
Wednesday: RH D’Amico vs. Halladay
Thursday: RH Suppan vs. Hendrickson

Bullpen Usage

Long: Meadows R, Torres R
Short: Beimel L, Tavarez R
Setup: Sauerbeck L, Boehringer R
Closer: Williams R