Monday, June 1, 2009

Mets Bumble, Bucs Rumble

Hey, the Bucs caught the Mets at the right time, or so it seemed. Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado and Ryan Church were all out for one reason or another, and Livian Hernandez of the 4.28 ERA was on the mound.

Well, it didn't seem that way for long. After three frames, it was 5-0 Metropolitans, and Ian Snell appeared intent on claiming Gorzo's spot in the Indy rotation.

But the enigmatic Snell strung together three shutout innings, the Bucs put up a three spot after catching up to Hernandez the second time around, and the score was 5-3 in the Pirate half of the eighth. Now it was all in the hands of the Mets' pen, the best in the NL, just where Jerry Manuel wanted it.

Ah, but the best laid plans of mice and men... Those ground ball outs of yesterday turned into singles up the middle, the Mets made at least three poor defensive plays, and when the smoked cleared, it was 8-5 Buccos.

Matt Capps made it hold up, after giving up a lead-off, broken bat dink to start the ninth. Nyjer Morgan made a great diving catch on Luis Castillo's soft liner, and the next two outs were routine.

Maybe the trick is to get to the top ERA guys in the game. The Pirates barraged Wandy Rodriguez and jumped all over the Mets pen, which had a 22-1 record when given a lead after seven innings and 2.85 ERA overall.

That should put tomorrow's game in the bag for Pittsburgh, when it faces lefty ace Johan Santana, 7-2, with a 1.77 ERA, right?

-- Four Bucs had multi-hit games, led by Adam LaRoche and Jack Splat with three bops apiece. LaRoche's average may not show it, but for the past ten days or so, he's been consistently centering on the ball. Baby bro Andy had three RBI tonight, as he and Morgan added a pair of knocks.

-- And hey, GW will plead mea culpa on Morgan. We were certain he was just a placeholder at the start of the year, but his defense and OBP have become integral to whatever success the Bucs have enjoyed so far this season. The staff coached him up, and he did the work. A great story.

He's the reason Andrew McCutchen is still cooling his heels in Indy. It doesn't have anything to do with McCutch's performance; it's just that there's no real reason to bring him up and start the clock as long as Morgan is playing ball so solidly.

-- In fact, the entire Pirate defense has been light years ahead of last season's play. There's a reason the pitching's been so good; it's because the team is catching the ball behind them and allowing the staff the confidence to pitch to contact.

Morgan in left, Brandon Moss in right, and Andy LaRoche at third are all upgrades from 2008. Wilson's healthy again, and Freddy Sanchez has dipped himself in the PNC fountain of youth. Moneyball may not value defense, but pitching staffs sure do.

-- Don't look now, but Nate McLouth is down to .250. He struck out three times tonight and looked bad doing it; he only hit one ball on the nose. It makes perfect sense; once Adam LaRoche starts stroking the ball, McLouth loses his eye. It's the Pirate way.

And make no mistake, he's critical to the Pirate attack. His 33 RBI still comfortably lead the team, and with Doumit out maybe six more weeks, his bat will have to provide a major boost to the offense.

BTW, the top slugging percentage on the team belongs to muscleman Freddy Sanchez, at .495. And ya wonder why the Bucs have so much trouble scoring with any consistency? The team slugging % is just .394, 14th in the NL.

-- JR is beginning to show his true colors in working a bullpen. He likes the matchups. He replaced Sean Burnett with two outs to get a righty pairing with Steven Jackson, and yanked Jackson for Gorzo to get a lefty a mano duel. He's shown that tendency at times during the season; now that Donnie Veal is out of the mix, we'll surely see it more often.

-- Bob Walk of FSN called Tom Gorzelanny "The Vulture" after he notched his third win of the year - in six total innings! It took him 105+ frames to get six wins last year.

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