Friday, June 11, 2010

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright...

Justin Verlander and Ross Ohlendorf both started off like aces; the first runner didn't reach base safely until Aki Iwamura drew a walk in the third. And he become the first run when Andrew McCutchen doubled him home with two outs, thanks in part to Verlander.

With Aki at second, Jason Jarmillo hit a one hopper that the pitcher stabbed; Iwamura, on second, had committed to third. But Verlander never looked at him and took the out at first; the ensuing knock to left wouldn't have come near scoring Jaramillo from first. So hey, thanks. Pittsburgh needs all the help it can get.

The Tigers growled in their half; a lead off single was followed by a DP ball two-hopped to first, but it eluded Ryan Doumit and bounded into right to put runners on the corners. But Ohlie was up to the task; he struck out the next three hitters.

The Pirates came close in the fourth, when with two out and two on, Iwamura had one gloved at the fence in left center that was five feet short of going yard. But if there's one thing the Bucs have shown in abundance this year, it's warning track power.

Like Zach Duke last night, the fourth was a hill too high for Ohlendorf. After getting the first two batters, Brennan Boesch golfed an knee-high inside corner curve into the seats. Two doubles and a single later, it was 3-1. All three hits were on pitches that Ohlie left belt-high, and the Tigers made him pay.

It was more of the same in the fifth. With a runner on, McCutch bombed one towards the pole that slid foul at the last second; five more feet again. Pirate pitchers make mistakes and they turn into runs; opposing moundsmen escape with their errors more often than not.

In the sixth, the wheels fell off for Ohlie, and again with two outs. This time a Dewey misplay proved crucial. Boesch was picked off first easily, but Doumit didn't put the tag on him.

He eventually stole second and scored on a single - drilled right past Doumit (in his defense, the ball was spanked, but had a chance at being at least knocked down). Ramon Santiago then crushed a homer, and just like that, it was 6-1. All six runs scored with two away.

That was Ohlendorf's swan song. His line was six frames, six runs, ten hits, and six K's. The good news is that his velocity is coming back; he was 93-95 all night with the heat, but Ohlie just couldn't close out the innings.

And hey, we're not piling on Doumit. He shouldn't be in that spot, especially in an American League, DH game. If anything, work him in right where he isn't such a black hole and let Jones play first. It's little, inexplicable things like constantly playing guys out of position that lead to Keystone Kop antics in the field and gift runs that this team just can't overcome with its pitching or hitting.

The excitement in the seventh was thanks to a loud out set up by a combination of Coamerica's vast acreage and Austin Jackson's wheels, when he ran down a Ronny Cedeno shot that was 400' plus and snagged it with an over-the-shoulder grab. A web gem for sure.

The Bucs stirred in the eighth, chasing Verlander when McCutch doubled and Walker drew a base on balls. Doumit bounced into a DP, but Jones lined a single into center to score McCutchen and nick the lead to 6-2.

Dana Eveland cleaned up the last couple of innings. He's another soft throwing lefty who has to nibble around the plate and pitch to contact; he doesn't get many swings-and-misses. Jose Valverde closed the win out for Detroit, sending Pittsburgh to their sixth straight defeat.

The Pirates, despite their limited success at the dish - five hits, five walks - had a good approach tonight, aggressive in the strike zone and not fishing too much. But a fly-ball pitcher like Verlander and a roomy park like Coamerica can survive some hard hit balls, and they did.

One game within the was played by Walker and Tiger's utility man Don Kelly, born in Butler and a player at Mt. Lebanon High and Point Park, and also Walker's brother-in-law. They each robbed one another in the field, Kelly reaching into the stands to snag a foul off his in-law's bat and Walker returning the favor with a twisting, diving catch of a Kelly pop. Ah, sibling rivalries!

Paul Maholm will face Jeremy Bonderman on Saturday night.

-- JR used his ouija board for the lineup again - Jose Tabata's on the bench after two starts (his hammy is OK; he's just being protected against Verlander), Ryan Doumit is back at first, and Neil Walker slides over to third. Aki Iwamura gets a gig at second while Ryan Church DH's.

Listen, GW knows that the Bucs hit like a granny beer league club, and we can't really blame JR for loading up with lefties against Verlander (even though lefties only hit him a bit better than righties, .216 to .207). But geez, how much iffy play in the field can the pitching stand?

Couldn't JR have put Church or Delwyn Young in right and Jones at first while Doumit DH's? And maybe the range-challenged Iwamura could return to his glory days' hot corner spot and leave Walker at second if you're gonna jerk guys all over the lot. We're sorta lost as to why the starter, who needs the work, has to move for a bench guy.

Just saying...

-- Jen Langosch of reports that when Pedro gets his call, Andy LaRoche will become a utility guy; he's already started taking grounders at second base.

-- The Pirates began a fifteen game set against the AL, playing Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Texas, and Oakland. The Sox and Indians are at PNC; the others on the road. The Bucs don't return to NL action until June 28th, against the Cubs at Wrigley.

-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette tweets that 2B Jimmy Negrich has been bumped up the ladder from Altoona to Indy.

-- Nate McLouth has been placed on the 15-day DL after a Wednesday collision with Jason Heyward; he's suffering from dizziness and being treated as if he has a concussion.

No comments: