Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pedro, Walker Key Pirate Win

Can't start a game off much better. Brad Lincoln had a routine first, and the Bucs went right after Dave Bush. With an out, Delwyn Young and Neil walker singled, then Garrett Jones drew a full-count walk. Pedro followed with his first grand salami, dumped into the right field stands several feet inside the foul pole.

Lastings Milledge followed with a single, and went to second when the third of three straight pick-off tries got away. Eric Kratz pounded one through the wickets of Casey McGehee, and the error allowed Thrilledge to come home. McGehee, having a tough inning, let Ronny Cedeno's ball play him for another boot.

Lincoln bunted them over, and Jose Tabata rubbed a pound of salt into McGehee's wound by cashing them both in with a double. Just for the heck of it, Young doubled JT home. And what the heck, Walker's double scored Young.

Bush finally got Jones to fly out; the Bucs were up 9-0. Guess they got over last night's sorry performance at the plate without a hitting hangover. And it's nice to see them make a team pay for its mistakes for a change.

Lincoln must have been napping while all this was going on; he came out and all his balls were around the belt or higher. He plunked Prince Fielder, got a fly out, and then surrendered a wrong-way double to Jim Edmunds. Alcides Escobar singled Fielder home and left runners on the corners.

Jonathan Lucroy, the eight hitter, singled in Edmonds and left runners at first and second. Kenny Macha opted to leave Bush in instead of going with an early pinch hitter, and he popped out trying to bunt. That didn't staunch the bleeding; Ricky Weeks singled home a third tally. Lincoln fed Cory Hart three straight hooks, and ended the inning by getting him to bite on a high heater for a swinging K.

Pedro made the fans a little less antsy when he took a 2-2 slider and dropped it over the Clemente Wall for his first multi-homer game.

Lincoln still couldn't get the ball down, and with one out, gave up back-to-back line drive singles to Fielder and McGehee. It got worse; Edmonds took a down-the-middle BP heater over the fence in dead center, and suddenly we had a ball game. Escobar tripled into the Notch.

Lincoln had Lucroy struck out on a heater above the knees, but the ump missed it, and the catcher got a run-scoring infield single on the next pitch. And that was it for Bad Brad. Hey, it's all about location; he had none tonight.

He lasted 2-1/3 innings, and gave up seven runs on nine hits with a K before yielding to DJ Carrasco. Heck, DJ might as well be a starter for the innings JR has had to bring him in to work. But like he did for Jeff Karstens the other night, DJ banked the fire, this time with a pair of K's.

The Bucs went down 1-2-3, and with Hart, Ryan Braun, and Fielder due up, it was already nail-biting time - in the fourth inning! Especially when Hart rolled a single into left to start the frame and stole second an out later. But he got Fielder and McGehee to ground out to end the inning without any damage.

Walker started the fourth with a single, his third hit in four frames, but Jones bounced into a 4-6-3 DP. Even with the bases empty, it was no surprise that he didn't give Pedro anything to hit and walked him on four pitches. He got Milledge to fly out. Who'd of thunk after a nine run first inning that Dave Bush would still be on the mound and Brad Lincoln in the shower?

Well, he wasn't for much longer. Bush was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fifth, after throwing 75 pitches and giving up ten runs, six earned, on nine hits. Now the battle of the bullpens was fully engaged.

Carrasco did his job brilliantly; he went 2-2/3 innings with a hit, walk, and five strikeouts added to his ledger. Carlos Villanueva came on for Bush, and pitched a clean fifth. So with four innings to go, it was 10-7 and in the hands of the relief corps.

Brendan Donnelly took the reins from Carrasco in the sixth, the gateway frame to Meek, Hanrahan, and Dotel. He walked Weeks, and with one away, Braun lined a shot into the left field stands on a 3-2 pitch to make it 10-9. Javier Lopez took the ball, and got Fielder and McGehee to preserve the slim margin.

Still, memories of that 1989 Phillies' game where the Pirates put a ten spot on the board in the opening frame only to lose (and cause Jim Rooker to walk from Philly to Pittsburgh) danced in GW's head.

But the Pirates pushed back. Young drew a walk, and Walker had his first four-hit game when he singled on a 3-2 pitch with Young on the move, putting runners on the corners. Jones lifted a deep sac to center, scoring Young and getting Walker to second. Pedro whiffed, and Macha pulled Villanueva, who reacted by slamming the rosin bag off the rubber, for Todd Coffey.

But the boss knew best. After walking Milledge on a 3-2 pitch, he got Kratz to fly out to center. Now it was up to the three amigos to hold on to the two run lead.

Lopez actually opened the seventh with LH Edmonds up, and he dinked a broken-bat flare into center for a single, bringing on Evan Meek, who handled the inning easily. JR didn't have such a good time, though.

A late foul call on a dribbler brought a rare eruption from the manager, who was tossed for his vehemence, much to the delight of the crowd. Poor JR had been fuming and muttering the whole game, watching a huge lead dwindle; it was probably better for his blood pressure to take a nice shower before crunch time.

Hanrahan entered in the eighth to face Craig Counsell and the top of the Brew Crew lineup. With one out, Weeks lined a double past a diving Pedro and just under his leather. No problem; Hanrahan whiffed Hart and Braun to keep the Brewers off the board.

Trevor Hoffman shut down the Bucs in their half, but not before giving up Walker's fifth hit. Walker is the first Pirate rookie to have a five hit day since 1991, when another Pittsburgh Kid, Carrick's John "Rock" Wehner, did it.

Octavio Dotel struck out the first two Brewers, gave up a double to Edmonds, and then whiffed Escobar. And who thought a week ago that the Pirates could give up nine runs and still win?

Still, it's a game that shouldn't have been close. Lincoln was upstairs and caught too much of the plate; the youngster is going to have to figure out that MLB pitchers live on the knees and edges of the plate if he plans on becoming part of the solution.

And as a team, the staff has to get the bottom of the order out. Milwaukee's Murderers' Row didn't do the damage; it was the 6-7-8 hitters who collected eight knocks, 6 RBI, and scored four runs. Still, a win is a win.

And that it was led by Walker and Alvarez gives a little validation that the youth movement is finally here and kickin'.

Tomorrow night's starters will be Zach Duke and Randy Wolf.

-- The Dodgers are looking for pitching, and Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette wrote that one of the arms they're looking at belongs to Paul Maholm. His age (28), contract and production, given who he's pitching for, make him an attractive mid-rotation bauble.

-- Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review reports that at least five teams in the hunt have made inquiries to the Pirates regarding DJ Carrasco's availabiltiy.

-- C Eric Kratz got another start today because Dewey was knocked a little goofy by a foul ball off the noodle last night. But hey, it's not another concussion and definitely not a platoon situation (and since Dave Bush is a RHP, we'd agree) say the suits. And with McClutch still out, Delwyn Young earned a start in right; guess Ryan Church's two K's last night broke the camel's back.

-- The Rangers have moved RHP Tanner Scheppers, an unsigned Bucco draftee, back to the bullpen, according to Baseball America's Matt Eddy. He was meh starting, but his upper-90s fastball helped him strike out 27 in 19 relief innings AAA Oklahoma City, after starting the season with 19 strikeouts and no walks in 11 relief innings for AA Frisco.


WilliamJPellas said...

Maholm should not be traded except for a significant overpay, and even then I'd be very reluctant to pull the trigger. He is a very good mid-rotation guy---at least, when healthy, as he apparently now is after a year and a half of nagging injuries. I am certain he would win considerably more games on a good team than he does in Pittsburgh. I think we'd see just how good he really is if he went to the Dodgers or a similar team. But our rotation is already terrible. It would be bad-beyond-belief without Maholm, and the Double-A kids who would presumably be next in line---Morris, Owens, and Wilson---while promising, are at least a year away and would figure to need longer than that to get established.

I've never understood the mentality among some Pirates fans that it's perfectly alright to get rid of every productive veteran we have, especially homegrown guys like Maholm. No, he's not a Hall of Famer and he's not an ace, but he's pretty good, and he has a not-unreasonable contract. Players like that, particularly lefthanded starting pitchers, don't grow on trees, folks.

Ron Ieraci said...

On target, Will. He's been easily the most consistent Bucco pitcher this season, and I think that the suits would have to get quite an offer to move him.

But the way they evaluate...