Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
2005-05-20 15:19
by Mark T.R. Donohue

While the rest of Major League Baseball gets their interleague on, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Rockies are the odd teams out. Colorado goes to PNC Park for the first time this year to face a trio of pretty decent pitchers -- Mark Redman, Oliver Perez, and Josh Fogg. Redman has been a huge surprise in becoming the veteran ace of a team with an otherwise pink-cheeked rotation. Fogg is like a righthanded Kirk Rueter, a guy with no stuff who somehow keeps his team in games. Perez has the best raw talent on the Pirates but has had a rough time of it lately; he is still striking guys out so chances are he will put it back together sooner or later.

The best player on the Pirates who absolutely no one has heard of is lefthanded reliever Mike Gonzalez. The guy has quietly maintained a 2.26 career ERA and an unbelievable 1.03 WHIP. He's just as tough on righties as he is on lefties and he strikes guys out at a more than 1 K per inning clip. With the recent struggles and eminent marketability of incumbent Jose Mesa, Gonzalez has "closer-in-waiting" written all over him.

The Pirates have been streaky this year, but they are definitely improved from last season's 72-win season. Last year's NL Rookie of the Year Jason Bay leads the offense with 8 homers and a .293/.359/.547 line. Craig Wilson's power numbers have been strangely absent (1 homer), but the outfielder/first baseman does have a shiny .436 OBP. He's out for the forseeable future with a finger issue. The lineup fills out with a motley crew of damaged goods (Matt Lawton, Daryle Ward) and no-names (Rob Mackowiak, Jose Castillo). The Pirates definitely look to win with pitching (12th in MLB in starters' ERA). They are last in the majors in runs scored.

The Rockies will send out road warrior Jamey Wright, struggling Jason Jennings, and the always unpredictable Joe Kennedy for the three games (Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon). It should do the Colorado rotation some good to face a light-hitting team in the confines of a relatively pitcher-friendly stadium. The keys, as always with this team, will be not walking opposing batters and getting hits with runners in scoring position. If anything it'll be an opportunity to watch two of the more exciting young shortstops in the National League in Clint Barmes and Jack Wilson, and to see two managers not long for their jobs in Clint Hurdle and Lloyd McClendon. The time to win some games is now, because while Milwaukee and Chicago might not be great, they're a lot better than the Rockies are right now, and after the road trip St. Louis awaits.

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