Well, James McDonald knows how to make a debut. With an easy motion that belies a 94 MPH heater, he started off by striking out the side in the first, using his fastball-curve-changeup package. McD couldn't keep up the fast pace in the second; he only struck out a pair.
The Pirates hit three long flies yesterday; they added another two in the second. Garrett Jones drilled a 3-1 slider over the Clemente Wall, and missed clearing it by two rows.
With Milledge aboard and two away, Ronny Cedeno dropped a foul fly by the railing that three Rox could have caught, but they all hit the brakes and let it fall. The next pitch was a curve out and up, and RC curled it just inside the left field foul pole to spot McDonald a quick 3-0 lead.
Young McDonald got into a little pickle in the third, when a one out single and two out walk brought up the tying run. But as he did with the leadoff hitter, McD whiffed Cliff Barmes; his seventh K and a career high - in three frames!
And that was a good omen; not just the swings and misses, but the fact that the Rox were +65 in the run column over the first three innings. Well, no quick lead tonight.
The Bucs added another in the third when McCutch hit a liner over left fielder Seth Smith's head; Smith turned the wrong way and the ball fell in for a double. A fly by Jose Tabata and a single by Neil Walker brought McCutchen home.
Jones followed with a single, but was nailed by cutoff man Troy Tulowitzki when he took a wide turn around first, anticipating a throw going through to third. Even being aggressive with the lead, when the play's in front of you, that's a mistake that shouldn't happen. Still, 4-0 and a good start against a hard hitting Colorado club.
The Pirates kept chipping at Jeff Francis. In the sixth, a leadoff double by Walker turned into a run after a tag to third following a Jones fly and a Pedro single. With two outs, Chris Snyder singled to put runners on the corners, and Manny Corpas took the ball from Francis to face Cedeno.
He walked him, and the red hot Jeff Clement took McDonald's place at the dish. First pitch swinging, he got under the ball and fouled out to the first baseman.
For McDonald, his line was six innings, fours hits, a walk, and eight K's, tying the Pirates season high, after throwing 89 pitches. He was unafraid to go off speed, even in hitter's counts, though he did throw a few too many pitches and was up in the zone, especially considering he was 14-of-21 with first pitch strikes.
But he sure was what the doctor ordered for Pittsburgh. Wil Ledezema got the call for the seventh, and looked like he recovered from yesterday's fiasco.
He gave up two hits, neither particularly well struck as much as well placed. One was off Pedro's glove, a daily happening, and the other was a grounder just past Jones, who was holding the runner. WL whiffed a pair.
McCutch and Tabata singled to start off the seventh, but Walker, Jones and Pedro failed to move them around. Sean Gallagher took the hill for the eighth. He didn't last long. After walking two of the first three batters - and the only out he got was on a fine running catch by Tabata on a slicing liner - Justin Thomas got the ball.
He got a pop out, and looked out of the inning with a grounder to the hole. Cedeno watched the ball go under his mitt, and a run scored. Everyone held their breath when Jason Giambi hit a big lazy fly up the left field line the opposite way; Tabata hauled it in a step short of the fence.
McDonald wasn't the only guy making his Bucco debut; Chris Resop came on to pitch the ninth. He showed a strong arm, hitting 93-95 on the gun, and pitched a clean inning to close out the game, striking out Ian Stewart on three heaters to get the last out.
Nice start for James McDonald and Chris Resop. It looks like the Pirates have found that elusive fifth starter with McDonald, and Chris Resop and Wil Ledezema appear to be JR's picks for the seventh inning man, with Sean Gallagher and Chan Ho Park the bridge guys. We'll see how that works out; a couple of outings, good or bad, could shake up the whole equation.
Zach Duke will take on Jason Hammel tomorrow night.
-- Pirate catchers have thrown out five of the last seven runners trying to steal on them. And Dewey wonders why he's being groomed for the outfield...
-- It's hard to believe looking at James McDonald's 6'5", 195 pound stringbean frame, but his dad James was a tight end for the Rams.
-- Steve Pearce is expected to rehab for four months before being allowed to take part in baseball activities; his appearance at Spring Camp ready to go is pretty iffy, though possible.
-- Brain Bixler was shipped to Altoona today. With Brian Friday back and Pedro Ciriaco coming aboard as part of the Carrasco deal, there were too many SS's at Indy.
-- According to Pirate Prospects, Pittsburgh has signed 4th round pick Nick Kingham. No signing details yet, though it is expected to be over slot.
Kingham, a 6'6" 18 year-old righty, was rated the #186 prospect in the draft by Baseball America, and had a commitment to Oregon. Kingham throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His fastball sits at 90-92 and can touch 94-95. His change is 77-79 and his curve clocks in at 82.
-- Jay Bay collided with the left field fence in Los Angeles on July 23rd, and has suffered from the dreaded "concussion like symptoms" ever since. He hasn't begun baseball activities yet, and may be lost for awhile to the Mets. It's been a lost season anyway for the ex-Bucco star; his NY line is .259/6/47.
-- The Giants DFA'ed RH reliever Denny Bautista for assignment to create roster space for Todd Wellemeyer. He's 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA, and 44 K in 33-2/3 innings, with 27 walks. Bautista still has a live arm; it's just a question of where the ball's going after he lets it go.