Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Close Only Counts For Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Ah, the Buccos, God bless their star-crossed little souls. They put up a three-spot in the second on Steve Pearce's two-run blast and a single by Zach Duke, and with two out in the ninth, clung to a 3-2 lead.

Duke allowed just two runs on four hits in 7-1/3 innings, and notched seven strikeouts. His only bump was in the fifth, when a couple of fastballs got away from him.

Matt Kemp doubled off one and Casey Blake tripled off the other, on a ball that Garrett Jones couldn't handle cleanly and let rattle around in the corner. Other than that, he was lights out for Pittsburgh.

But it was Matt Capps time in the ninth, and everyone holds their breath when he takes the hill. He gave up the two-out single to Kemp that tied the game; Andre Ethier, who had doubled with one away, beat Jones' throw home. For Capps, it was his fourth loss/blown save in his last eight outings. His ERA is 6.02.

Oh, the baby Bucs hung in. They even scored a run in the thirteenth to go ahead once again on a Ryan Doumit single. But mad scientist JR couldn't leave well enough alone; he saw all those warm bodies in the bullpen and decided to try to use each and every one. Quantity and quality are not the same things.

Steve Jackson pitched the twelfth, and got out of a one-out, runner on third jam by going to his change-up. He coaxed a pair of rollers with it to escape the inning, and his command, often lacking, looked sharp.

But JR opted to bring in Chris Bootcheck to close the deal. He grooved a 1-2 fastball that was lined off him for a base hit to the leadoff hitter, Rafael Furcal.

He got the next batter to fly out, deep in the left field corner, and JR tapped his left arm and called for Phil Doumatrait. His first pitch was a knee-high heater on the inside corner to Ethier, and it left the yard. Bye bye ball and ballgame.

But it wasn't an unexpected finish. JR yanked Jackson, with a 3.60 ERA, for Bootcheck, with an ERA of 12.00, and Dumatrait, who's compiled an 11.16 ERA. The result was predictable.

The Bucs had chances. Twice there were runners on first and second with one out during overtime, but neither Lastings Milledge nor Pearce, with two outs, could bring one home. In fact, they whiffed three of the four times. Pearce particularly looked bad, unable to lay off two-strike fastballs that were a foot out of the zone.

So hey, what's new? Waste another strong Duke performance, don't hit in the clutch, and blow leads in the ninth and thirteenth innings. Just another day for the Pirates.


MarkInDallas said...

Pearce actually struck out swinging on a ball that hit him square in the solar plexus.

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks, Mark - no TV in Pittsburgh (it's football season), so I depended on the Gameday simulator. And I have to admit, even with graphics, it looked like the ball hit him. I was hopin' it was at least a check swing.

The first time he whiffed, he took a belt-high hanging change-up for the first strike, and swung at a heater that looked to be at least shoulder high for strike three.

Still, for all Pearce's woes, Lastings Milledge had a couple of shots, too, and couldn't even move a runner up. The Pirates need a middle of the order presence badly; Garrett Jones must be feelin' kinda lonely there.

And Will, I probably would have kept McLouth, if only to have someone to plug into the middle of the order gap. It's certainly a short-term hit; we'll see down the road if Morton, Locke, and Hernandez ever pan out.