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Monday, April 25, 2011

Giants hope to feast on Bucs' three journeyman starters

The Giants, seeking an offensive revival to shake their four-game losing blahs, may get just the tonic in their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which starts today.

They're facing the back end of the Pirates' rotation, missing former Giant Kevin Correa, who's had a good start (3-2, 3.48), and Paul Maholm, the crafty left hander who had a nice outing Monday against the Washington Nationals.

Instead, they'll be facing a trio of journeyman hurlers: Charlie Morton, a 27-year old right hander, James McDonald, the 26-year old ex-Dodger, and Jeff Karstens, a 28-year old righthander.

Morton, who came up to the big leagues in 2008 with the Atlanta Braves, has a lifetime record of 13-30 with a 5.72 ERA and has fared poorly against Giants' hitters. In 46 at bats against Giants, he's given up 16 hits (a .348 average) -- four home runs among them (to Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Aaron Rowand and Eli Whiteside).

This year, though, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound starter seems to have put things together. He's 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA, including a complete-game five-hitter in a 6-1 win over Cincinnati.

Morton does have control issues -- walking 15 in 27 innings, and lefties slap him around a bit (.364, with a .512 on base). If you take away his one bad start, though, in which he gave up six runs on 10 hits in five innings vs. Florida, Morton has exceptional numbers: 4 earned runs in 22 IP, for a 1.63 ERA (against Cincinatti, Colorado and St. Louis -- three teams with potent offenses).

He'll be up against Matt Cain tonight.

In Game Two Wednesday, James McDonald takes on Madison Bumgarner, a reprise of a matchup between the two last July 19 while McDonald was still with Los Angeles. In that game, Bumgarner got the win, and McDonald took an early exit: he gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings, including a home run by Nate Schierholz.

McDonald has been effective against the Giants in relief: 9 1/3 IP, two earned runs. But Giants hitters on the current roster have hit him for a .364 average (12-for-33) with two home runs (Schierholz and Mark DeRosa).

This year, McDonald, a 6-foot-4 right hander,  is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA, giving up 25 hits and 21 earned runs in only 18 innings. In his last start, he gave up eight runs in three innings to the Florida Marlins, yielding a grand slam home run to center fielder Scott Cousins (the first of the USF alum's big league career) and a three run home run to light-hitting catcher Brett Hayes.

McDonald seems to have something of a leash after turning in a solid 11 starts last year with Pittsburgh after being acquired from the Dodgers. He had a 3.52 ERA in 64 innings, striking out 61.

In Game Three on Thursday, in a matchup of true journeyman pitchers, Karstens will be making his third start of the year against Ryan Vogelsong, a 33-year old traveling man with a 10-22 record and 5.77 lifetime ERA, making his first MLB start of the year (he made 33 starts for the Pirates between 2001-06 after being acquired from the Giants in the trade that brought Jason Schmidt to S.F. in '01).

Karstens, who came up with the Yankees in 2006, has a lifetime mark of 14-27 with a 5.02 ERA.

Giants hitters are 9-for-33 (.273) against him lifetime with one home run (Huff, in his only at bat against Karstens).

Karstens is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA this year, though one of his victories came in a one-inning vulture relief outing. In 16 innings, he's given up 17 hits and six walks for a total of seven earned runs. His first start was shaky, blowing a 4-0 lead, giving up five earned runs on eight hits before getting yanked after 4 1/3 innings.

But he settled down in his second start, against the Washington Nationals: six innings, six hits, one walk and two earned runs.

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