The Zachster started off tonight in a little two out jam when Gabby Sanchez hit a ground rule double and Dan Uggla walked, but he got Mike Stanton swinging. Ricky Nolasco gave up a one-out knock to Jose Tabata, but got a strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP with Neil Walker batting on a very borderline called strike three on a 3-2 delivery.
Duke kept up the two out blues when he got a pair of routine outs to start the second, and then gave up a single to old battery mate Ronny Paulino. Fortunately, Nolasco was up next and K'ed swinging. Two strikeouts for Zach; not a bad start. But Nolasco had four K's after two; it's starting off as one of those nights for the Bucs at bat.
The Fish went down 1-2-3 in the third, with Duke collecting his third K. Nolasco added his fifth whiff in the bottom half and has faced the minimum nine hitters; maybe they'll have better luck the second time around. Can't do much worse, hey?
Uggla started the fourth with a single, but got greedy and was thrown out at second by McCutch. Duke retired the next pair, and it was 0-0 going into the bottom of the frame. The Bucs went down in order again, but at least all three hitters put the ball in play with JT giving one a ride to the Notch. It's a start.
Duke walked weak-hitting Wes Helms to start the fifth, not getting much help from plate ump Ed Rapuano. Helms went to second on a potential DP grounder that Diaz turned into a 6-3, and scored when Nolasco lined a knock into center. Nothing like going through the bottom of the order; walk a .223 hitter and have him driven in by a .156 stick. It got worse.
Hanley Ramirez singled on a 3-2 pitch to put runners at first and second, and Logan Morrison lined a single to load them; all three raps were hit on the nose. Sanchez lined a single to right, scoring two more, and Uggla added a sac fly. The Bucs had their work cut out now, down 4-0.
Maybe they forgot their lunch pail tonight. Two more guys went down swinging, and through five, the Pirates had sent up 15 batters. Maybe the ghost of Don Drysdale took over Norasco's body, or arm, at any rate.
Bottom of the order again, and more mayhem. With one out, Helms singled in front of a stationary Ryan Doumit, drawing boos from the crowd. With two away, Nolasco dinked a well-placed double to score him on a hanging curve that a diving McCutch almost ran down but had tick off his glove.
Nolasco now has more hits tonight than the Pirate team. That brought on Sean Gallagher, an inning late, as is JR's wont lately. You can't really blame him; most teams manage to get six innings out of a starter, except for Pittsburgh.
It took Gallagher seven pitches, but he finally got Ramirez swinging. Duke went 5-2/3, giving up five runs on nine hits, with two walks and four K's after 101 pitches. And no cheapie ground ball singles this game; most of the hits were squarely struck.
Andy LaRoche finally ended the runnerless streak with a two out grounder up the middle. A wild pitch scooted him to second, and he was joined on the base paths by McCutch, who walked after falling behind 0-2. Tabata singled off Nolasco's leg to juice the sacks.
Walker had a chance to make it interesting, but took a called strike and swung at a pair of shin-high changeups to end the inning, becoming Nolasco's ninth strikeout victim. The Pirates remained deaf to opportunity's knocks.
Wil Ledezema came on in the seventh, and threw a clean inning, needing only eight pitches to get a pair a pops and a K.
Jones starting the seventh by falling behind 1-2, getting to a full count, and singling off Nolasco's glove. Pedro followed with a ball bounced up the middle to put two aboard. That hit stuck the fork in him; RHP Jose Veras came on. Nolasco went six, giving up five hits, walking one, and striking out nine.
It took Veras four pitches to get Dewey to fly out and Chris Snyder to hit into an around-the-horn DP. As the old Dave Edmunds song goes "I hear you knocking but you can't come in..."
Daniel McCutchen got the ball in the eighth, and kept the Fish off the board, just giving up a leadoff walk. Veras put down the Bucs, his outing spoiled only by a two-out error by Ramirez.
Tabata lined out; he's the only Bucco batter that's laid any lumber to the ball tonight, with two hits and two stung outs. He, Ohlie, and Karstens for Nady and Marte sure looks good in hindsight.
Chan Ho Park took the hill in the ninth, still looking for his old magic. Hey, even Harry Potter can't help him. After getting an out, he plunked Ramirez and gave up a double off the 399' mark in center to Morrison to score him. To his credit, he did strike out the last two batters.
Even so, we're not sure why Park is on the roster; the suits might as well bring back LHP Justin Thomas or give RHP Joe Martinez a cattle call for the last six weeks. His Buc ERA is 10.80, and it's not like Park is part of the Pirate future.
Clay Hensley came to mop up the final frame. He got the first two guys handily, and Pedro hit a ground ball double into left to prolong the agony. No problem; Dewey struck out to get what remained of the 14,156 fans home at a decent hour.
No runs, six hits, eleven K's. They drew one walk. Worse, they're not very disciplined and don't seem to have a plan at the dish. They're last in the NL in runs (3.46/game), last in batting average (.241), last in OBP (.304) and next to last in slugging percentage (.364) and walks (2.97/game).
Hey, Donnie Long may be true blue to JR, but if performance is what keeps your job, he may be joining Joe Kerrigan and Gary Varsho in the unemployment line.
And they can't seem to play the field cleanly; they missed a DP opportunity that could have possibly squelched the Marlins' big fifth frame, and let a catchable fly drop that led to a run in the sixth.
Ross Ohlendorf will take the hill against Josh Johnson tomorrow night.
-- Ronny Cedeno was penciled into the lineup tonight, and then scratched after an awkward BP. It may be DL time for the SS.
-- RHP Jose Ascanio will have his badly bruised hand in a splint for the next three or four weeks, ending his season at two rehab appearances.
-- Red hot Pirate prospect Andrew Lambo sprained his AC joint of the shoulder when he crashed full tilt into the wall today. No word on the severity of the injury yet, but it could possibly end his season. It's the same sort of injury that kept McCutch out for a few games, but Lambo's seems more serious at first blush.