Saturday, August 7, 2010

Closers Clobbered; El Toro Gores Rox

The first inning match up between Ohlie and Jorge De La Rosa went quietly enough with each side hitting a single. The Rox flexed their muscles a bit in the second, but nothing came of it.

Ian Stewart doubled up the right field line, and Miguel Olivo and Clint Barmes both lifted change ups to the 389' mark in left; Jose Tabata tracked them both down at the wall, so a lotta noise but no damage done.

Lastings Milledge smacked a one-out double to right center in the Bucco second, but took himself off the bases when he tried to reach third on a weakly hit ball to short. Troy Tulowitzki would have none of it, and so the Bucs first scoring change went down the tubes.

Carlos Gonzalez started the fourth off with a triple that nearly left the yard to right center. After jamming him with three pitches, Ohlie tried a change up away. He's not having much luck with the ol' change of speeds today; they've been getting laced.

Tulo brought him home when he took a heater to the wall in straightaway center for a long sac fly. At the end of four, it was 1-0. The difference so far is that Ohlendorf's change up was earning frequent flyer miles while De La Rosa's was giving the Pirates fits; it's rarely over the plate but they just can't lay off it.

The Bucs got something going in the fifth. Chris Snyder drew a walk by laying off those change ups, and Ronny Cedeno singled him to second. It took Ohlie a couple of tries, but he bunted them over with two strikes.

McCutch wasn't clutch; he grounded out to third, freezing the runners. Tabata worked another walk out of De La Rosa to bring up Neil Walker. He swung at the first pitch, and sent it foul into right where Brad Hawpe ran it down. Shot in the foot again.

In the sixth, Ohlie walked Todd Helton with one away. But in a huge nine pitch at-bat, he came back to get Gonzalez after falling behind 3-1, on a short fly to Andrew McCutchen, throwing him nothing but heat. Ohlie followed by catching Tulo looking; it was some clutch pitching by the righty.

Jones wouldn't bite on the change up either, and walked to open the Pirate sixth. After Pedro flied out, Milledge drew a walk. This time, De La Rosa couldn't get any pitch over the plate. He paid when he fed Snyder a 3-2 heater that he smacked high off the left field foul pole to give the Bucs a 3-1 lead.

That was it for De La Rosa. He went 5-1/3, giving up three runs on five hits, four walks, and five K's. Once the Buc batters quit fishing for the change up, it became just a matter of time.

Manny Corpas took the ball. He got Cedeno to pop out and then gave up three singles to load the bases; two were infield singles that caromed off gloves. Randy Flores came on to face Walker, as Jim Tracy likes to turn the Pittsburgh Kid around to his right side.

It worked. Walker, with a chance to blow the game open, flew out to mediun right field. But the Bucs were now on top for Ohlie, who has rarely been rewarded for his good outings this season.

Ohlie was struggling, though. His velocity was down, and Hawpe lined a 90 MPH fast ball into right for a leadoff single and advanced to second when Milledge didn't come up with the ball cleanly. That brought on Wil Ledezema. Ohlendorf went six innings giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

Quite the match up was in store - the bottom of the Rox order against the seventh inning Pirate reliever mash up. Ledezema did his job, getting the lefty Stewart to ground out the first, moving Hawpe to third. Now it was Chris Resop's turn.

He got the catcher, Miguel Olivo, to bounce out to short, and the run came in to make it 3-2. Resop then struck out Barmes; too bad he couldn't have reversed the results.

Jones got that run back in a hurry when he popped a Flores slider into the hedges in the batter's eye in dead center, well over the 399' mark. Pedro followed with a single, and the Rox LOOGY was having a tough outing. Rafael Betancourt took the hill to face Thrilledge.

He cleaned up the inning, and it was time for the closing acts. Evan Meek would face pinch hitter Seth Smith and the top of Colorado's order. He got the first pair, and then walked Helton on four pitches, all inside as he tried to jam him.

You'd rather Gonzalez came up with the bases empty instead as the tying run. Oh well. Meek pounded him inside with heaters and sliders, and got him to ground out to second.

Taylor Buchholz worked the ninth. Delwyn Young welcomed him with a lead off single into right. After an out, Tabata doubled into left to put runners on second and third. That brought on Joe Biemel, who walked Walker to load the sacks for the lefty tandem of Jones and Alvarez.

Duquesne Joe struck out Jones on a curve in the dirt after he had fouled the previous four pitches. That was the good news for the Rox; the bad news was that it was a wild pitch; a run scored and the other runners advanced. He got Pedro to fly out deep to right center, and now it was Joel Hanrahan's game to close with a 5-2 lead.

Tulo started off with a ground ball single up the middle, and Hawpe singled to right. Stewart launched one into right center, and just like that, it was 5-5. That 30-something pitch outing last night may have taken the juice out of JH's arm, although Stewart turned on a 96 MPH heater.

He came back to get a pair of ground outs and a K, but it was a new ball game. It would become a battle of attrition; the Pirates had used four bullpen arms and the Rox, with Matt Belisle working the ninth, had gone through six relievers, although they still had Huston Street as their ace in the hole.

Snyder walked with one away, and Argenis Diaz took his place on first. Cedeno flew out, and Dewey came on to hit for Hanrahan. No ninth inning heroics tonight; he grounded out to second and put on the gear for the tenth to catch Sean Gallagher.

Fowler started off when he was jammed and rolled a ball up the middle that went for an infield single. After a pitchout and several throws to first, Gallagher gave Helton a curve that he deposited over the short porch in right.

After a fly out, SG walked Tulo. After another fly out, he went to second on a passed ball, but Gallagher got out of the inning without additional damage.

Street came on, and to prove that closers are not infallible, gave up a double ripped into center to lead off hitter McCutch when he didn't get a two-strike fast ball high enough to swing through. It was originally ruled a homer, but review brought it back. Payback...

He got Tabata and Walker (who had an especially off night, leaving seven runners aboard during the course of the game and the bases loaded twice, albeit with two away) and walked Jones.

Never walk a guy with two outs; Pedro bombed a slider over the Clemente Wall, a half dozen seats fair, and the Pirates set off Skyblast early with an 8-7 win. George Thorogood isn't the only dude at PNC who's bad to the bone.

It was his first walk-off winner as a pro - he hit one in college - and while it was just one dramatic home run in the scheme of things, it could be the blow that gives a young team the confidence to move forward and realize that they can win ugly games, too, if they just keep grinding.

The Pirates stranded 13 runners, gave up five runs in the last two innings, and made a couple of sloppy plays in the field, yet managed to pull it off. As Earl Weaver preached, the three run homer will win a lot of games for you. Good thing, too - neither club scored many style points tonight.

And poor Ohlie; he gave up fewer earned runs in six innings than the winner, Sean Gallagher, did in one. Is there no justice...?

Paul Maholm will pitch tomorrow afternoon; we're not quite sure who the Colorado pitcher will be yet. (EDIT - it's Esmil Rogers, if that helps)

-- Tonight's game marked the sixth straight Saturday night sellout at PNC Park and seventh of the year. They had four full houses last season. For the record, the team has sold out 15 of its 19 Sky Blast promotions which began in 2001.

-- Chan Ho Park was the 25th different pitcher the Pirates have used this season. The record for most pitchers used in a single season is 26, set in 2008.

-- Jim Negrych was sent to Altoona to clear a roster spot at Indy for Aki Iwamura, returning from the DL. Negrych hit .295/3/19 in 48 games for Indy. It was a mildly surprising move; Indy's had its last two 3B'men, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, called up and didn't really have a regular at the hot corner; Aki will fill that hole now.

Still, we hate seeing even fringe prospects like the 25 year-old Negrych blocked by guys like Aki who will be gone in two months.

-- Another victim of the infield shuffle was recently re-acquired Brian Bixler, who was sold to the Washington Nats. With Brian Friday and Pedro Ciriaco manning the middle at Indy, BB was just organizational depth.

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