Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jones, McCutch Hot; Rox Not

The Bucs went down quietly in the first to Aaron Cook; the Rox came back with a messy - and scary - bottom half.

Ohlie gave up a leadoff single to Seth Smith, and he was doubled off by Neil Walker who snagged a soft liner. Carlos Gonzalez singled with a bouncer up the middle, went to third on a pick-off throw that went through Garrett Jones, and scored on a Troy Tulowitzki liner.

The scary part? Tulowitzki's liner went off Ross Ohlendorf's head; it was hit so hard that it landed in short right on the fly. Ohlie never went down - those Texans are tough - but he was immediately yanked and taken by ambulance for treatment.

But he appears OK. He was alert all the time, and the hospital says he has a bad contusion and an abrasion, basically a cut and bruise. He even returned to Coors Field, and was joking with Jeff Karstens and the other guys in the dugout, and was part of the post game high-five conga line.

Bob Walk of FSN had the best line of the night, when after Ohlie was declared OK by the docs and on his way back to the park, said that his head was so hard because it was so jammed with facts, referring to his Princeton degree.

Still, it was reminiscent of the ball Lance Berkman drilled off Chris Jakubauskas; eerily, both were hit by the fourth batter of the game in the first. Sean Gallagher came on to get, in effect, his first start as a Pirate. And it was a good beginning; he struck out Brad Hawpe.

Jones evened it up in the second when he bopped his thirteenth long fly, driving this one into the evergreens by the Pirates right center field bullpen.

The Rox gift wrapped the third, and the Pirates reacted like kids at Christmas. Gallagher walked, Andrew McCutchen got aboard on a dropped fly, and Jose Tabata legged out a Baltimore Chop when the first baseman wandered away from the sack.

Neil Walker singled in two, and Jones and Pedro each singled home another. Manny Corpas came on the end the onslaught, but it was 5-1 Bucs going into the bottom of the third.

Gallagher walked a pair in the third, but got Tulowitzki to fly to center to continue his scoreless skein.

With two outs in the fourth, Gallagher walked another, and JR handed the ball over to Wil Ledezema, making his first Pirate appearance. Gallagher went 3 innings, threw 57 pitches (only 28 for strikes), and walked three, struck out four.

It was a good start; Ledezema threw heat, hitting 94 and 95 on the gun, and whiffed Miguel Oliva trying to catch up to a high fastball.

The Pirates looked like they were going to get to Corpas in the fifth, when Jones legged out another hustle double and Pedro walked. Lastings Milledge squelched the rally by hitting into a 6-4-3 DP, which has been haunting the Bucs during this series.

Ledezema got a bit of a rude awakening in the fifth. He threw 13 pitches, and 12 were fastballs. He got hitting-challenged Dexter Fowler to hit a shallow fly, but McCutch crashed into the wall at the 415' mark to haul in Seth Smith's blast and Jones snagged a rope smacked by Jonathan Herrera. Still, looks like three soft grounders in the scorebook.

McCutchen's catch caused a little anxiety; he came of the wall grimacing after banging his recently injured shoulder running down the fly, but after some milling around and probing by the trainer, he stayed in.

The pitchers turned over, too. Tyler Buchholz 1-2-3'ed the Pirates in the sixth and Javier Lopez took over for Ledezma.

The Rox got a leadoff run when Carlos Gonzalez mashed a ball into right for his 18th home run; it hit off the third deck railing.

Then Tulowitzki chopped an infield hit to third; the throw escaped Jones and Tulo headed to second. Walker, backing up, made a bad toss, in the dirt and to the outfield side of the sack, but Ronny Cedeno snagged it cleanly and made a diving tag to get the out.

The baserunning blunder would cost them a run an out later when Ryan Spilborghs doubled into straighaway center, over McCutch's head. Given new life, Lopez K'ed Ian Stewart.

With a three run lead, JR brought DJ Carrasco in for the seventh. He got the first two Rox, and gave up a ground rule double to Smith. It's hard to believe that Colorado's outfield is so good that he's a bench player; he's roped everything Pittsburgh has thrown at him. Not so for Herrera; he K'ed chasing a high heater.

Garrett Jones tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when he pounded his second HR, a lead-off drive into right. Joel Hanrahan came on for the bottom half of the frame with a 6-2 cushion and kept it that way.

The Pirates blew a golden chance to really ice the game in the ninth, when they had runners on second and third with one away, but Tabata and Walker couldn't bring them home.

Octavio Dotel finished off the game in a non-save situation. He got the first two hitters on a sliding catch of a soft liner by McCutch and a snag of a liner to third by Pedro. Two ground balls sneaked through the infield to add a little drama, but the third roller was hit to Jones, who took the out unassisted (and nearly trampled Dotel in the process.)

For the Rockies, it was the eighth loss in a row; they're playing a lot like the sad sack Buccos were, making errors in executing basic plays and sorely lacking clutch hits. And they had no answer for Jones, who was 4-for-5 with two homers, a double, 3 RBI and two runs scored, or McCutch, who had a double, two singles, a walk and run scored.

Pittsburgh is far from hitting on all cylinders, but solid D, aggressive baserunning, decent run production and strong pitching will help minimize the cost of the mistakes.

Paul Maholm is scheduled to face Ubaldo Jimenez in tomorrow's get-away game.

--This marks the first time this season since mid-May against the Cubs that the Pirates have won back-to-back games on the road.

-- Here's a scary thought: we're nearly into August, and the Pirates have yet to put together a winning streak of over three games. Even in the disaster that was 2009, they strung together a pair of five game streaks. One was in May, with the roster intact; the other was in August, after the team had been gutted.

-- GW's observation from Coor's Field: The balls may be in humidors, but every fly out seems like it's hit to the track - and that's with the corners being 347' and 354', and the gaps going 420'-424'. Ah, nothin' like that mountain air.

-- Aki Iwamura was taken to the hospital today after being injured in a collision at first base while beating out an infield hit. No word on his condition yet, although his CT scans were negative.

-- Brandon Moss hit a grand slam today; he has 17 HR and 70 RBI at Indy. Ryan Church's clock is ticking...

-- Craig Hansen has joined the Bradenton Marauders’ roster to begin his rehab work. Nice to get someone back.

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