Saturday, June 26, 2010

We Stayed Up All Night For This?

The Pirates gave Brad Lincoln a quick 2-0 lead; like last night, it wouldn't last. Pittsburgh jumped ahead on an Andrew McCutchen double to plate Neil Walker and a boot to score McClutch.

A ground ball single and walk came home to tie it in the A's half of the frame when with two outs, Walker botched a ball to let one tally in and the next batter singled in another.

Dewey doubled McCutch, who was on first after a sac bunt attempt went awry, in to go ahead 3-2 in the third. The Bay Area club came back with another pair of ground ball hits and a walk, followed by a line single and sac fly to go back on top 4-3.

The A's tacked on another run in the fourth when Coco Crisp tripled against another counter-intuitive defense; the lefty was being played well into left center by McCutch, and hit one tinto right center that McC was too far over to run down. A sac fly brought him home.

Walker brought the Bucs a run closer when he belted his third homer over the right field scoreboard, his first as a lefty and the team's first in the fifth inning, according to FSN's Tim Neverett.

Bad Brad kept it together long enough to go six innings, throwing 107 pitches. He gave up eight hits, five runs (three earned) while walking a pair and whiffing one, the last hitter he faced. Lincoln did a better job of keeping the ball down, but his control is still an issue, as is his ability to miss bats; we suspect the two are interrelated.

Ben Sheets would join him, going six frames, giving up four runs on eight hits with a walk and nine K's.

The seventh started with a diving Walker getting run over by Ryan Church when both went after a foul fly; The Pittsburgh Kid went down and had to leave the game. Kevin Kouzmanoff, given new life, dumped a pop double into the same spot except on the other side of the chalk.

DJ Carrasco got himself into more trouble when he was caught spectating on a grounder to first and allowed himself to be beat to the bag - by the A's catcher Kurt Suzuki! First and third, no one out. Ryan Sweeney lined a double over first base just past the mitt of Garrett Jones, and the game was approaching fat lady time.

Javier Lopez came on, and got a grounder with the drawn-up infield to keep the runners anchored. An intentional walk loaded the bases, but JR kept his fielders in. Cliff Pennington, a .219 hitter from the right side, banged a potential DP ball through the defense to plate a pair.

We understand why JR had the infield up; he could have just as easily kept the middle back and corners in, and may have been out of the inning. Ah, hindsight.

Brendan Donnelly was the third pitcher of the inning; two singles, a walk, a wild pitch, and an around-the-horn double play that wasn't turned later, and it was 12-4 Oakland.

But it's not to be totally unexpected that the bullpen is going to get rocked; Pirate pitchers rarely get into the seventh, and the relievers, despite JR's best efforts, can't catch their breath. Maholm's one inning start only exacerbated an already volatile situation.

Justin Thomas made his debut in the eighth; he gave up an infield single, a triple on a 3-2 pitch when he threw a BP fastball, and a sac fly to make it 14-4. He was up all inning, perhaps because of butterflies, or maybe that's where he works; it's too soon to tell.

The Bucs went down quietly, and 14-4 was the final count. And if the Pirates rotation doesn't come around soon, there may be a lot more like this down the road.

Daniel McCutchen faces Trevor Cahill tomorrow. A good showing by DM and he'll probably get another start; a bad day at the office could be Charlie Morton's ticket back to the 'Burgh.

-- Neil Walker was taken to a local hospital after his collision with Ryan Church for overnight observation to see if he has any concussion-like symptoms; he probably hasn't taken a hit like tonight's since his Pine-Richland gridiron days. He walked off the field under his own steam and was alert and talking to the Oakland team doctors in the clubhouse.

-- Positions 1-5 in the batting order cranked out nine hits tonight; 6-9 had zero (Bobby Crosby finally had an 0-for). With Pedro going through growing pains - his swing looks long, and the league is working him away, at least until he shortens it up some and can get to the outside corner in time - we wonder how long JR is going to insist on a right field platoon.

Lastings Milledge is hitting .263 against righties; Ryan Church .190 going into tonight's game (and Church was 0-for-4). It doesn't take a SABRE-tician to figure out that Pittsburgh is more dangerous, relatively speaking, with Milledge at the dish. Church is a better right fielder, but Milledge played left OK; there's no reason to believe he won't figure out right, too, given some time.

Milledge at 26 is still young enough that the team should be evaluating his worth down the road; there are no OF'ers that are MLB ready in the system now that Jose Tabata has been called up. So they should be working him to determine if he'll be the 2011 RF, if Garrett Jones should return to the pasture, or if the team needs to go free agent next season.

And that decision will affect the Pittsburgh careers of Steve Pearce and Jeff Clement. The dominoes will fall once they decide what Milledge's future holds and where Jones fits in, and they can't figure that out with Milledge collecting splinters.

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