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Go Crazy Pittsburgh! Pirates in First Place!

Don’t be alarmed folks, that black logo with a yellow “P” in the middle of it is not some foreign object — it’s just a Pittsburgh Pirates logo. I know we’re not used to seeing their flag fly above everyone else in the NL Central rung, but alas it’s true. Thanks to a win over the Astros Friday, the Pirates were in first place (by mere percentage points above St. Louis) the latest in the season since 1997. Yes, this is the same organization that hasn’t had a winning season since 1992, one we called a “hapless bunch” earlier this year.

So what’s different about this team? How have they been able to win? It’s been all pitching. While their offense has scored the fifth fewest runs in the National League this year, their team ERA is fifth best in the NL. Paul Maholm and Jeff Karstens have both thrown over 100 innings of sub-3.00 ERA ball while relievers Joel Hanrahan and Daniel McCutchen have been equally lights out in over 40 innings of work apiece. They only have one hitter with an OPS over .800 and it’s All-Star Andrew McCutchen, so it’s safe to say the 14-homer outfielder is carrying the offense.

Pittsburgh won’t last on top without getting more hitting, so that’s why we’re memorializing this accomplishment with a post. Savor the taste, Pirates fans — you guys are in first place in mid-July. Don’t expect to be back anytime too soon.

Joel Hanrahan Paints Toe Nails in Pittsburgh Pirates Colors (Pictures)

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan has been one of the best relievers in baseball this year. He also has an inordinate amount of Pirates pride, and he doesn’t mind showing it off, even if it means getting his toes painted as he did Wednesday:

Hanrahan says he was on a double date with his wife and the Resops (Chris Resop is another reliever on the Pirates), and their first stop was to a nail shop for manicures and pedicures. He then tweeted out those photos which we saw at Busted Coverage. The right foot obviously is in Pirates colors but he told Fan Phooey that the left is purple and pink to support prostate and breast cancer awareness. I’d rag on Hanrahan a little more if a) he weren’t pitching lights out this year and b) if we hadn’t already seen this by two other prominent athletes.

Photo Credit: Joel Hanrahan’s twitter

Pirates Prospect Tony Sanchez Told to Get off Twitter?

Pittsburgh Pirates No. 2 prospect Tony Sanchez could make it in the UFC.  No, we have not seen him fight.  No, he doesn’t appear to be exceptionally big, tough, or insane.  He just likes to tweet and in the UFC you get paid for that type of thing.  Or, should I say, Sanchez liked to tweet.

According to CBSSports.com, the 22-year-old catcher deleted his Twitter account (@TSanchez26) at around 3:30 on Tuesday after writing, “See ya twitter. thanks to the fans for their support and continued support. Pittsburgh is the only goal and twitter is standing in my way.”  Although Pirates farm director Kyle Stark denied that the team told Sanchez to stop using Twitter, that tweet would certainly indicate he was given an ulterior motive.

As for the reasons why he either decided to or was encouraged to stop using Twitter, Sanchez has been a little too loose-lipped — or loose-fingered — with some of his tweets and had to apologize on several different occasions for it.  The first tweet he wrote that upset Stark had to do with throwing a party, and Sanchez later spoke to the Altoona Mirror and apologized for it.  Apparently he hadn’t learned his lesson.

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Pirates Encourage Boycott of Local Bar Offering Discount Following Losses

The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992, giving the fans of Pittsburgh very little to pass the time between the Penguins and Steelers. We keep hoping that they’ll rebuild with good draft picks like Andrew McCutchen, but that appears to be unrealistic. Instead they’ve settled for being the laughingstock of baseball that’s perennially putting up fire sale signs in June. Given their apparent acceptance of losing, it’s odd to see members of their front office get so ticked off by negativity in the community.

WTAE in Pittsburgh via Ben Maller reports that two Pirates front office members called for a ban of Stroll Inn, a bar that offers a nickel off pitchers following Pirates losses. I don’t know how heavy of drinkers they are in Pittsburgh, but last I checked a nickel can’t even buy you a stick of gum, so this seems to be much more about the humor than the discount. Unsurprisingly, the same group that fired one of its pierogi racers for expressing negativity, is displeased with the bar.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Still a Hapless Bunch

Avast ye, matey’s! It has been said that Halley’s Comet might appear on Earth twice in a typical human lifetime. The same could be said of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Somewhere on the spectrum of winning the lottery a few times in a row and finding one of those stamps with the upside-down airplane on them lies a Pirates championship run. Since the last time the team was spotted playing in October, the team has found a way to lose 90-or-more games nine times while finishing 13 games or more behind first place all but one season since 1992. The team came into being in 1887, when it was designated as hailing from “Pittsburg.” At some point in history, the team added an “H,” left out a lot of “W’s” and has elicited a flurry of “Z’s.” The result has been a laughingstock where one is not warranted, kind of like a Bob Saget variety show.

It’s safe to say that William Kidd, Bartholomew Roberts, and Blackbeard never swung in on any chandeliers in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. At least those guys knew how to make someone walk the plank. The poor schmos in the Steel City have had a tough enough time finding a way to walk the 90 feet down to first base. It probably explains why there is a long list of managers that have been sent to Davey Jones’ locker, from Gene Lamont to Pete Mackanin, and John Russell. Perhaps Garrett Jones (no relation to Davey) and Jose Tabata could have learned a thing or two from Long John Silver about how to properly execute a hit-and-run. Coming off their 18th consecutive losing season, it is safe to say that things for Pittsburgh’s resident baseball team have been AAARRRRRR-duous.

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Pirates Think they Tricked Rockies into Pitching to Jose Tabata

The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 in 14 innings Friday night. Both teams were shutout from the 7th inning on until the Pirates won things on a Jose Tabata walkoff double off the wall in right field.

The big question after the game was why the Rockies decided to pitch to Tabata with two outs and a man on in the 14th when relief pitcher Garrett Olson was on deck. Pittsburgh players were convinced a mind game intended to trick Colorado worked.

As Pirates writer Colin Dunlap explained, Pittsburgh sent Andrew McCutchen on deck even though he was really in the hole. They think seeing McCutchen on deck was enough to convince Colorado to throw to Tabata even though the right move would have been walking him to face the pitcher.

Tabata is Pittsburgh’s leadoff hitter and he’s batting .344 on the season. Olson is a relief pitcher who hardly ever bats. Nice call Jim Tracy, or maybe he just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible after the long night.

MLB 2011 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates Apparently Happy With Status Quo

Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. Last week we looked at the how the NL Central might shape up with the Cardinals, Reds, Brewers and Cubs. Thursday: Pittsburgh Pirates; Friday: Houston Astros.
The Bottom Feeders: Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-Season Moves: The biggest — though not big — move for the Pirates this off-season involved trading left-handed pitcher Zach Duke to the Diamondbacks for righty Cesar Valdez. Duke went 8-15 last season with a 5.72 ERA, while Valdez went 1-2 with a 7.65 ERA in nine games for Arizona last season. In two seasons in AAA, Valdez was 13-16 with a 5.90 ERA.

Strengths: If nothing else, the Pirates are young. The active roster boasts nine players born after 1985 and only six born before 1982. New addition Lyle Overbay is the oldest at 34, while the youngest, starting outfielder Jose Tabata, won’t turn 23 until August. The organization has at least some hope for the future if the young players at the top of the order — Andrew McCutchen (pictured above), Tabata, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez — progress as expected. Though not a top team in either category, the Pirates fall right around the middle-of-the-pack in both doubles and triples, which is higher than they they rank in just about anything else.

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