The Cove's award-winning series preview machine, "Beyond the Bay" returns from a brief hiatus to break down the Giants vs. Pirates series.
Joining us is my friend and former colleague at FanHouse, Pat Lackey, who runs the best-named Pirates blog -- "Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?"
The Cove: So, um, Ryan Vogelsong. The irony is strong with tonight's start -- what's your reaction to his resurgence?
Pat Lackey: Once upon a time, in like 2004, I managed to convince three kids that lived on the same dorm floor as I did to draft Ryan Vogelsong as a fantasy sleeper. He had an awesome spring training and it seemed like maybe he was coming back from arm surgery to finally put everything together. It absolutely did not happen and from that point on, the entire highlight of his Pirate career was probably a five inning relief stint in an 18-inning win over the Astros.
A couple months after that, the Royals had the worst record in baseball and the Pirates were mired in a long losing streak and I decided to liveblog the game for comedic purposes. Vogelsong came in for mop-up duty and I nicknamed him "The White Flag" and that nickname's stuck in Pittsburgh ever since, even though it was literally his next to last Major League appearance before 2011. I've always felt a bit bad about that and I always rooted hard for the guy to put himself together, so I'm happy he's finally finding some big league success this year.
Cove : Speaking of reactions, how's Pittsburgh baseball nation holding up with this recent -- ahem -- correction for the Pirates?
PL: Oh man, it's not good. Attendance at PNC was still high this weekend, but the Steelers are gearing up for camp and the newly minted bandwagon fans are mad at everything because this is the first time in their lives they've watched the Pirates be bad at baseball and the diehard fans are shaking in the corner with their knees drawn up to their chests going, "Not again, not again, not again." It's really hard to type from that position, let me tell you what.
Cove: Is everyone in Pittsburgh still mad at Bruce Bochy about the whole All-Star Game thing? (And would you like to vent about it if so?)
PL: Honestly, McCutchen being initially snubbed ended up getting him way more publicity then he ever would've gotten had Bochy just named him to the team in the first place. Pirate fans generally just want people to acknowledge that the Pirates exist, which isn't an easy task in Pittsburgh with the Penguins and Steelers and Batman and what have you, so the initial snub stung because it felt like another case of everyone just ignoring the Pirates. That made it especially gratifying when every baseball writer everywhere wrote about how egregious the snub was and by the time Bochy actually got around to naming him to the team, I think most Pirate fans had forgotten about the controversy.
Cove: Having worked with you elsewhere (FH4LIFE!), I know you're a bit of a stathead when it comes to baseball. So you can please explain why Aubrey Huff is starting over Brandon Belt in SF?
PL: You want me to use statistics to justify why a guy that's hitting .244/.298/.367 is playing over a 23-year old who's tearing up Triple-A? I mean, I get that the Giants are in a pennant race and don't necessarily have time to wait for a guy like Belt to adjust, but Huff looks pretty much done at this point. Perhaps I could interest Brian Sabean in dealing Belt to the Pirates for, uh, Derrek Lee or something?
Cove: Who from Pittsburgh's roster should Giants fans check out this series in order to see someone/something awesome they might not know about?
PL: They should check out the Pirates' pitching staff, because they just gave up 35 runs in three games to the Padres and they will show Giants' fans that their offense is way more awesome than they previously thought possible.
More seriously, Charlie Morton is really fun to watch if he gets his sinker going and if the Giants don't stack their lineups with lefties. His sinker/curveball/changeup combo is just murder on right-handed hitters, who are pretty much helpless to do anything but beat the ball into the ground against him. Toss in some lefties, though, and things usually get ugly. Beyond that there's the usual McCutchen mention. He's in a bit of a slump of late, but he's still a ton of fun to watch cover ground in the outfield and blast the ball into the gaps and then just run. He's the kind of guy that's much faster when you see him with your own eyes than he is on highlight films, so take advantage of the chance to see him in person if you can.
Cove: Pirates and Giants have three games to play. Over or under on the total runs scored in this series of 8 and why?
PL: Over, for the aforementioned reason of the Pirates being unable to get anyone, anywhere out. I mean, 35 runs to the Padres in three games? I know a lot about low expectations, but that's much worse than anything I could've imagined.