PHOENIX - APRIL 11: Chris Young #24 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated by teammates Adam LaRoche #25 and Mark Reynolds #25 after Young hit a three-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning of the major league baseball game at Chase Field on April 11, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
This game was like a bad keg party--you have a few minutes of fun, then do the same thing for too long, then make a bad decision or two, and all of a sudden there's upchuck all over the floor. Things were going smoothly at first, with an Andrew McCutchen homer and a two-run triple by Delwyn Young. But the ridiculous thirteen-run fourth inning changed all that.
Daniel McCutchen started that inning with a walk and a fielder's choice and then allowed back-to-back homers to Chris Snyder and Kelly Johnson. With the Pirates having no real trouble with Edwin Jackson and a 6-4 score, John Russell could easily have kept the game alive by putting in a competent reliever, but instead he stuck with McCutchen, who looked visibly distraught on the mound. McCutchen allowed singles to Edwin Jackson and Conor Jackson, and then a triple to Stephen Drew, and the Diamondbacks led 8-4. Russell finally put in a reliever; unfortunately, the one he picked was Hayden Penn, who simply should not have been pitching with only a four-run deficit and whose mess of an appearance inspired what's sure to be one of the more interesting quotes we hear from a broadcaster this season:
"Hayden Penn pretty much upchucked all over Chase Field when his name was called" – Mark Grace
Yeah, there pretty much was upchuck all over the place. Penn entered the game with a runner on third, and the runner got to come home when Penn upchucked his first pitch all the way to the backstop. He then allowed a walk, a single, another walk, an RBI groundout and, for good measure, another walk. He had no idea where his pitches were going; he looked poised to run toward home after each pitch in the very likely event that the catcher would have to run somewhere to clean up his upchuck.
Normally I'm against making quick decisions about players, regardless of how much upchuck they spew in a given week, but Penn isn't someone who ever deserved a lot of time to begin with, and he hasn't shown any ability to command his pitches or get big league hitters out. He does have a good arm, but that could be said about any number of pitchers who stay marooned at AAA. I think it's doubtful anyone would claim Penn on waivers anyway, so there isn't much of a downside to just designating him for assignment and, assuming he clears waivers, dealing with him at Indianapolis.
A small problem with getting rid of Penn is that there aren't a lot of relievers (besides Joel Hanrahan, obviously, who will be back soon while Daniel McCutchen temporarily goes to Class AAA) banging on the door. Vinnie Chulk appeared to be first in line after Spring Training, but he imploded in Indianapolis' first game and has allowed ten runs in two innings there. Brian Bass or Chris Jakubauskas or Jean Machi or someone could be next after that. (Jakubauskas took a loss today starting for Indianapolis, allowing three runs in five innings; Steven Jackson also allowed four runs.)
In any case, with the game well out of control, Russell (reasonably, this time) turned to the Pirates' second-worst reliever in Jack Taschner, who promptly allowed a bases-clearing double by Snyder and a two-run jack by Edwin Jackson. And that, folks, is how you allow 13 runs in an inning--you let the opposing pitcher get two hits, including a homer; you stick with your flustered starting pitcher for too long; and you let Hayden Penn pitch. And that pretty much does it. Bobby Crosby added a two-run homer of Bob Howry in the ninth, but this game was effectively over in the fourth inning.
Earlier today I also watched a bit of the Altoona Curve game, which ESPN carried because Stephen Strasburg was pitching. Chase D'Arnaud and Jordy Mercer didn't start, so there really weren't a lot of hitting prospects to watch, but I was impressed with Rudy Owens, who pitched five innings. There weren't any radar gun readings on the broadcast, but Owens' stuff obviously wasn't bad--in fact, his curve was downright good. And he's very polished for his age; his command looked very good in the innings I saw. This could be the kind of thing I feel stupid for saying later, but Owens actually looks like he shouldn't have much trouble this year.
Bradenton doesn't play today (Nathan Adcock will start tomorrow), so the only team anywhere in the organization that had an unambiguously good day was the West Virginia Power, which had an excellent start from Quinton Miller (who had three strikeouts, no walks and one unearned run in five innings) and also broke out of its offensive slump, with homers by Evan Chambers, Jesus Brito and Kyle Morgan. Chambers also singled and doubled and is now hitting .250/.471/.583 over four games. So... there's that.