Ah, the Bucs. Second and third, one out with Garrett Jones up and the infield back. He whiffed, swinging and missing back-to-back change ups. Leadoff single in the second by Bobby Crosby, and Lastings Milledge lined to first for a DP. After an Andrew McCutchen homer to start the third, Neil Walker singled. Andy LaRoche rolled into a tailor made twin killing.
Of course, neither team showed much of a killer instinct during the first three innings. They combined for seven hits and four walks, but put together an 0-for-6 RISP. Only solo shots by McCutchen and Jason Heyward put points on the board.
In the fourth, Pittsburgh finally got a clutch hit. Milledge was aboard after a single, and went to third on Ronny Cedeno's two-out double to left. Then Brian Burres helped the cause by tripling when he hit a soft slicing liner that the shallow-playing Nate McLouth took a bad angle on and allowed to roll to the wall.
Burres got through the fourth unscathed and the Bucs up 3-1. Big inning? Well, the Pirates are 14-1 when leading after four, so...
In the fifth, the Pirates returned to their old ways. Neil Walker led off with a double, and with one out, a Jones liner to the pitcher turned into another DP.
That fourth inning record was moot after the fifth, when Burres began to lose control. A single and walk came in on Troy Glaus' double up the line; LaRoche was playing off it and Milledge was in left center, so the ball had a lot of room to roam. And Burres was up to 96 pitches, 50 for strikes.
Same ol' in the sixth for the Bucs. Ryan Doumit got to second with no outs, Crosby couldn't move him up, and Dewey got picked off. It was the third time in six frames that the leadoff runner was on second with no outs and didn't get advanced to third. Fundamentals, my dear Watson, fundamentals.
Burres faced a batter in the sixth and gave up a single, bringing on Javier Lopez. Lopez uncorked two wild pitches - and in justice both went off Doumit's mitt; maybe Dewey was crossed up. Both pitches looked catchable - and then plunked Nate the Great, who was trying to bunt. Jones saved the bacon for a moment with a tumbling catch that froze the runner, but a sac fly brought the gift run home.
The game went on quietly enough after that until the bottom of the eighth. Brendan Donnelly walked Eric Hinske to put runners on first and second with two away, and JR brought in Evan Meek, who promptly fell behind 2-0 to Martin Prado who sat on a heater and drove to the fence. 6-3, Atlanta.
To add a little misery to the game, the tarps had to come out for the ninth, prolonging the agony by 24 minutes. The Bucs, BTW, had nine hits, two each by Walker and Cedeno.
Paul Maholm will go against Kenshin Kawakami tomorrow afternoon.
*rant* This team isn't constructed to play Earl Weaver ball, and either through coaching, talent, or brain cramps can't play small ball, which requires some fundamental execution. They don't move runners, they run station-to-station, fall asleep on the basepaths, and the pitchers walk 4 guys a game and too often work from behind in the count.
Now we know that JR and the staff schedule days to go over fundamental stuff, but maybe the team is just not athletic enough for it take root; maybe better players are the answer.
They're trying to cram power bats into the lineup, and as a result have several guys that play multiple positions, some not even having substantial minor league time at their MLB spot. Some call it versatility; others call it being a jack of all trades and master of none.
A perfect example was Walker, who almost didn't get to first to cover on a bunt because he was stationed near second base, at DP depth. Did JR have the wrong defense? Was it Walker's inexperience? Shouldn't a coach or teammate given him a heads-up?
More? Tonight two guys were doubled up on liners, another was picked off second, a guy was held up at third on a throw that went to second base, attempts to steal second base with two outs weren't taken...and that's just baserunning basics.
Whatever it is, the Bucs win games in spite of themselves, and sooner or later will have to learn to play smart and throw strikes if they ever want to sniff respectability. *end of rant*
-- The Braves tried a little psyche game on Andrew McCutchen, playing "Dude Looks Like A Lady" when he came to the plate in the third. He homered, and gave a shush to the PA announcer on the way to the dugout. Guess it worked; he didn't play it any more.
-- McCutch also returned to the leadoff spot; JR must use a ouija board to make up his lineup.
-- The Pirates put eleven runners on base, scored three times, but only stranded four. Amazing.
-- Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game for the Phils against the Fish, striking out 11 in a dominating performance. And he needed to be perfect; the suddenly punchless Philadelphia nine won 1-0. It's the 20th perfect game in MLB history.
-- The Angels' Kendry Morales hit a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning, but broke his leg celebrating at home plate by taking a leap on the dish and landing awkwardly. He'll be out for an indefinite period with a fracture in the lower left leg that will require surgery. Maybe this will slow down the toga party mentality of ballplayers, but we doubt it.