Monday, May 31, 2010

Home For the Holiday

The Bucs continued their generous ways early in today's ballgame, when in the second inning Ryan Church, playing in left, ran Andrew McCutchen off a ball that he was calling for, and it dropped in for a triple. Multiple positions are fine, but often lead to these kinds of communication snafus. And they always seem to cost the team, as it did a batter later when an infield out brought home the run.

They continued their sloppy play in the third when Ronny Cedeno booted a bouncer and Neil Walker knocked down a ball but couldn't make a play. Ohlie picked them up, shutting down the 2-3-4 heart of the Cubbie lineup.

The Pirates ineptitude with the bats continued, too. Randy Wells, who faced six batters without getting an out last start, held the Bucs to three hits over five. The $64,000 question is whassup with Andrew McCutchen.

He reached first twice with two outs, and stayed anchored. Neil Walker follwed both hits with singles; a stolen base in a situation begging for one could have led to a run or two. Whether it's a confidence thing, wet conditions, or respect for Wells, we don't know. We do know that it's becoming more and more of a drag on a team that struggles to score.

The Pirates tied it in the sixth, when they got into the Cubs bullpen. Garrett Jones golfed a down-and-in heater over the wall in right for his sixth long ball of the year.

Ross Ohlendorf left after seven innings, and was getting stronger as the game wore on. He threw 103 pitches, giving up a gift run on three hits, two of which could have easily been turned into outs, striking out six and walking a pair. It was an encouraging outing for Ohlie and a welcome sign for the rotation.

Pittsburgh weathered a scare in the eighth when a walk, stolen base, and bouncer put a runner at third with two away. But a brilliant bare-handed play by Andy LaRoche banged-banged Mike Fontenot's bid to bleed the lead run home.

And it paid off when the Pirates went ahead in their half of the frame. Jones doubled with one out against Sean Marshall. With two away, the Cubs intentionally walked Ryan Doumit to get to Jeff Clement. JR sent up Bobby Crosby instead, and he lined a 3-2 pitch into center to plate Jones and give the Bucs a 2-1 lead.

Octavio Dotel came on to close, and GW was worried about rust on the old warhorse; he hadn't pitched since May 25th. It showed against the first batter, Alfonso Soriano, but he struck him out without throwing a strike to the free swinger.

Then he got into rhythm. He broke a bat to get a shallow fly, put one on the hands that dropped between three players, and then blew a heater past Ryan Theriot to ice his eleventh save. It's good to be home.

Three Pirate pitchers held the Cubs to four hits, and only Geovany Soto's single was struck with any authority. The Bucs didn't exactly pound the ball; they got seven hits, two from Walker, whose two outs were both hit on the nose, too, and a homer and double by today's hero, Garrett Jones.

Jeff Karstens will hook up against Ted Lilly tomorrow night.

-- JR told the beat guys that Neil Walker will be the second baseman from now on; Aki Iwamura is a bench rider. We suspect it's just the first of several moves in the next couple of weeks.

-- First baseman Steve Pearce, who sprained his ankle Monday in Cincinnati, still needs a protective boot on his right foot. The Pirates can't even guess when he'll be back until he can lose his blue bootie.

-- You'd expect a good game today from these two teams; they're tied for the most MLB Memorial Day wins with 105 (the holiday used to feature a scheduled doubleheader for decades.)

-- On his radio show, Neal Huntington threw cold water on a quick promotion for Brad Lincoln, saying he needed work on his changeup. And Charlie Morton doesn't?

-- The Pirates reacquired OF Jonathan Von Every from Boston for Jousue Peley. Peley, 22, is catching at West Virginia, and hasn't hit over .200 in three years of Class A ball. The move makes sense for the Pirates, who will need a replacement for Jose Tabata at Indy shortly, we assume. They also plan to promote red-hot Alex Presley from Altoona, according to Huntington.

-- Donnie Veal has ligament problems in his left elbow, and will see Dr. James McAndrews Tuesday. That is rarely a good sign.

-- Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk has a piece on Ollie Perez. Not only has he been sent to the pen, but apparently he's lost the confidence of both his manager and his teammates.

And hey, remember the troops today. Freedom is never free; it's cost our nation over a million military lives to keep.

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