Monday, July 27, 2009

Can We Get A Mulligan On The Second Inning?...

Hey, the way the Pirates played the field in the second inning tonight brought to mind GW's coaching days at Bud Hammer Field with the 9 year-old Bucs. Unfortunately, it was a MLB team botching the plays, not a pack of third grade kids.

After a single, Jack Splat backed up on a hopper up the middle and had it tick of his glove into center. The runner at first kept going, and an off line throw from Andrew McCutchen let him get to third safely.

The next batter hit one to Andy LaRoche, and the runner at third broke home. LaRoche fired a bullet to the plate. Too bad the G-man hit the brakes and trotted back to the hot corner. Bases loaded.

Then a brief burst of professionalism: they tried LaRoche again, and this time he stepped on the bag and threw home, getting the force out, tag out DP. The next batter hit a hanging liner to right; Garrett Jones just stopped a couple of steps short of the ball, maybe losing it in the lights, maybe anticipating McCutchen grabbing it. Either way, he watched it bound behind him for a triple, plating a pair.

No dummies, these Giants. The next batter zeroed in on Jones and hit a sinking liner to right. He had it clank off his wrist, gave it a boot, and the ball popped into the air. Delwyn Jones made a great diving catch, but the ump missed the play and said it hit the ground. Another run scored, although the Pirates did pick off the batter rounding first. He was apparently as confused as everyone else.

Not that it made a difference. Tim Lincecum was filling up the plate with strikes, taking advantage of a generous zone given both ways by plate ump Mike DiMuro. The Pirates watched two strikes, then swung under the heater or over the curve for strike three. Why be aggressive when you can build up that pitch count?

In the fifth, Lincecum started to lose his command a bit, walking a pair. And in the sixth, the Pirates went into attack mode at the plate, hacking their way into a couple of runs.

But as the Pirate batters adjusted, so did Lincecum. He switched from from the heater as his primary weapon to the off-speed stuff, and the mix got him through the final three frames. The Giants took the win, 4-2, as Lincecum gave up four hits and struck out a career high 15 batters while notching a complete game victory, his eleventh.

Paul Maholm pitched one of his better games of late. Some home-cooking scoring made the four runs earned, but if not for that Keystone Kop second inning, they still might be playing.

-- Our sympathy and prayers for Tony Beasley, whose father passed away today. Beasley took a week off to be with him, and his dad appeared to be on the mend. Tony grabbed a plane from Virginia to San Fran, only to be met at the airport by JR, who passed on the bad news that his father had died from a heart attack.

-- Delwyn Young made a couple of nice plays tonight at second. He looked lost there earlier in the season; maybe that Perry Hill magic is working on him as well as it did with Andy LaRoche.

Steve Pearce made a handful of stretching saves at first tonight, but they were catches that the taller Adam LaRoche would have snagged with ease. The Pirate infielders are going to have get accustomed to a smaller target at first. But Pearce does cover a lot more of the field than the steady but plodding LaRoche did.

Ryan Doumit has done a great job of blocking pitches since his return, but he has quite a way to go on receiving the ball. He still carries breaking stuff out of the zone too often; Doumit has to learn to freeze the glove better.

-- One streak ended and another continued tonight. The Pirates broke their 24 inning scoreless skein, and the opponents have scored their last twelve runs with two outs.

-- RHP Hunter Strickland (6-4, 3.12), recently acquired from Boston for Adam LaRoche, had an auspicious start for West Virginia. He and Diego Moreno combined for a no-hitter, marred only by a third inning error. Strickland went six innings and struck out five; Moreno pitched the final three frames and K'ed three.

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