December 1, 2021

SHL National Association: Pirates Lefty Hurlers “Pitching In” to Keep Pittsburgh On Top of Division

February 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pirates’ (19-7) GM Curt Schilling should be proud of his team’s early start… especially the pitching.  Ahead of the Dodgers by two games, the Pirates’ pitching staff owns the best ERA in the SHL at 2.54 and have allowed just five home runs in 26 games.  No one on the team is blowing away their opponents — the Pirates are last in the SHL in strikeouts with just 64 — but they’ve limited opponents to 33 walks and a BABIP of .254, the best in the league in both categories.

On top of the club’s pitching honor roll are left-handed starters Jesse Tannehill and Ed “Cannonball” Morris.  Tannehill is 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA (fourth best in the SHL) with a league’s best 0.82 WHIP and .228 OBPA in six starts.  He has gone at least eight innings in every outing and has yet to allow more than three earned runs.  Morris is equally impressive with a 5-1 record and 1.95 ERA in seven starts.

Tannehill and Morris played a huge role in the 25 inning scoreless streak the Pirates take into Toronto for a two-game set on May 7.  After Babe Adams allowed a run in the second inning of their 8-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on May 2, Adams and closer Roy Face combined for seven scoreless innings of work.  After an off day, Tannehill threw a three-hit shutout in their 3-0 win over the Braves and the next day, Morris and Face combined for nine innings of scoreless ball in a 2-0 win to complete the two-game sweep of the Braves.

In addition to the accomplishments of Tannehill and Morris, Face has anchored the league’s best bullpen with 11 scoreless innings of work in 10 appearances.  Face is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and allowed just one hit in his last five appearances.

On the offensive side, slugger Willie Stargell leads the SHL in RBI with 29 and so far has slammed six homers and Barry Bonds possesses the team’s highest batting average, hitting a solid .363.

Impressive Individual Performances Keep Dodgers Nipping at Pirates’ Heels:  Headed for an end of the week showdown with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Dodgers (17-9) are just two games back of the division leaders thanks to some early season performances worth noting.

At the top of the list is first baseman Dolph Camilli.  Currently, Camilli owns the league’s best on-base percentage at .512.  Reaching base in over half of his plate appearances, Camilli has been especially tough on pitchers who fall behind in the count against him.  In the 29 plate appearances where Camilli is ahead in the count, he is 5-for-11 with 17 walks and a sacrifice fly.

Outfielder Duke Snider has shown impressive power at the plate and currently sits behind Babe Ruth of the Yankees for the league’s home run lead with nine home runs.  Snider’s homers have slowed recently with just one home run in his last eight games after hitting eight in his first 18 but he still has an OPS of 1.018 and is also second in the league in RBI with 28.

Pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Sutton also should be mentioned when discussing superb individual performances.  Koufax has the rotation’s best record at 5-1 despite a slightly elevated 4.14 ERA.  Koufax also has 47 strikeouts, just four behind league leaders Roger Clemens (Blue Jays), Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) and Pedro Martinez (Expos) who all have 51.  Reliever/spot starter Sutton is 5-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 9 appearances.  After getting shelled by the Reds on April 7 in a relief appearance, Sutton was called on to start and gave up one run in an eight inning gem against the Royals on April 11.  Despite his performance, Sutton was returned to the bullpen and called on in the eighth inning of a game on April 15 against the Astros.  Sutton blew a one-run lead thanks to a solo homer by Craig Biggio then shut down the Astros in the top of the ninth and picked up the win thanks to a walk-off double by Davey Lopes in the ninth.  Since that outing, Sutton has not allowed a run in five straight appearances and has not allowed a run in nine innings of work.

Big Red Machine Has No Arms:  The Reds (11-15) own the best batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, have the most hits and home runs, are third in the SHL in runs scored and lead-off hitter Joe Morgan recently saw a 24-game hitting streak come to an end.  Unfortunately, their pitching has not cooperated and the club is five games below .500 and trail the division leading Pirates by eight games.

The Reds pitching staff are near the bottom of every pitching statistic including 26th of 28 teams in ERA at 5.27 and 25th of 28 in runs allowed with 152.  Because of the staff’s awful start, changes to the rotation and staff make-up saw starters Jose Rijo and Edinson Volquez sent down to Triple-A Louisville at the end of the month.  Rijo went 0-2 with an 11.12 ERA in five starts and Volquez posted an 0-2 record with a 7.78 ERA in five starts.  The club recalled previously demoted Dolf Luque and called up Gary Nolan to take the roster spots of the pair and recently moved Tom Seaver back into the rotation.  In his second start of the season, Seaver pitched the Reds past the Phillies in a 4-2 win on May 3.  In the game, Seaver pitched eight innings of three-hit ball and allowed just one earned run to the team with the league’s best record.

The other spot of the rotation will likely be filled by Luque or Nolan and things are looking up for the Reds since the roster moves — they are 3-0 including a two-game sweep of the Phillies.

Musial’s Absence Has Cardinals Slumping:  The Cardinals (10-16) started slowly out of the gates and then lost Stan Musial when he injured his tricep muscle on a throw late in their 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on April 21.  Since the outfielder went down, the Cardinals have spiraled, going 3-8 without Musial in the lineup.  After a 1-8 start without him, the Cardinals managed consecutive wins for just the third time this season.

Musial (.323/.382/.548) was the team’s second best offensive producer behind Rogers Hornsby and is expected to give the club a lift when he returns at the end of the week.  Musial’s replacement, Enos Slaughter, is 11-for-43 (.256) with four RBI and seven runs scored in the 11 games since he went down.  Outfielder Willie McGee, called up to replace Musial while he was on the mend on the DL, has seen little playing time and is 0-for-1 in his only plate appearance.  McGee is likely to be sent down when Musial returns.

The Cardinals hope to have Musial back at some point this weekend when they travel to Cincinnati to face the Reds with a shot at climbing back out of the National Association cellar.

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