Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What A Difference A Day Makes

The Bucs drew first blood off Ryan Dempster. With one away, Jose Tabata walked and went to third on a Neil Walker single. Garrett Jones, swinging at two heaters well outside the plate, missed the first one and dribbled the second towards the mound; the only play was to first, plating JT.

Pedro doubled to left center to score Walker, followed by a Dewey beaning. The hit batter hurt Dempster more than Doumit; on the next pitch, a slider down Broadway, Ronny Cedeno doubled deep to right center to bring home another pair, and it was 4-0 before the Cubbies got back to their dugout.

Jeff Karstens had a smooth first, giving up a bloop single scattered among three groundouts. With one away in the second, McCutch drew a walk after falling behind 0-2 and promptly stole second.

Tabata fouled off five pitches 'til he found one to his liking, a high fastball that he bopped into center for a three bagger. Walker had a bad at-bat, fishing for a couple of pitches, and K'ed. Dempster tried to help by tossing a couple of balls in the dirt that Koyie Hill kept alive as he walked Jones. No Alvarez two-out magic this inning; he went down swinging.

With a 5-0 lead, Karstens again got the Cubs routinely on a grounder, fly and whiff. Dewey started the third with a ground ball single into right. Chris Snyder singled an out later, and JK bunted them to second and third. McClutch lined a single into center, scoring them both. Five of the seven Buc runs have come with two outs.

Hill led off with a ground ball single up the middle; Carlos Zambrano pinch hit for Dempster. His swinging bunt got Hill to second, and JK left him stranded there. Marcos Matteo came on to replace Dempster.

Walker welcomed him with a line single to right. Jones caught a 3-2 heater and whacked his twentieth dinger of the year into center. Karstens, who's had more rest between innings tonight than he usually gets between starts, mowed down the Cubs on a pair of bouncers and a K.

The Pirates went down in order in the fifth, ending their scoring run. It was the first time this season that they'd tallied at least once in each of the first four innings of a game.

Alfonso Soriano started the fifth off with a ground ball knock up the middle. An out later, Hill homered to right center to make it 9-2.

One fine day Pirate pitchers will figure out how to retire the bottom of the order. Going into tonight's game, the seven hitter was batting .296 against Bucco pitching and the eight hole raked at a .289 clip. So on to the sixth.

JT opened the frame with a rope to right, and Walker brought him in with his eighth blast of the year in straightaway center over the 400' mark. Matteo got Jones and a grounder and struck out Pedro - his 3rd K of the night - and got yanked for James Russell, a lefty - after the Pirate lefties had batted. JR must be contagious.

This is the inning of no return for Karstens; he's been a more than adequate pitcher over five frames this season, but the sixth is his black hole. Hopefully, a nine run cushion should help ease him through it. His pitch count is at 73; he should have a couple of more innings left in him.

Whether because of the lead, the friendly confines of Wrigley, Cubbie ineptitude, or just the hidden vigorish, JK pitched a clean frame.

An error led to a big Buc seventh. Synder reached on a boot, and with two away, McCutch and JT singles produced a run. Russell fell behind Walker 3-0; he fed him a pair of heaters over the middle of the plate; the Pittsburgh Kid took the first one and drilled the next for a two-run double.

That brought in Sean Marshall to face Jones, who struck out to become the first Pirate with 100 K's in 2010; Cedeno (93) and Pedro (91) are right behind him in the whiff race. JR pulled Karstens for Sean Gallagher after 87 pitches; JK's line was six innings, two runs, four hits, and six K's.

Gallagher pitched a clean inning, as did Marshall. Hill led off the eighth poking an 0-2 heater away and off the plate over the third base bag for a double. Dang eighth hitters! Darwin Barney, a .190 hitter, lined a single to right to put runners on the corners.

Blake DeWitt bounced out to Walker, moving Barney to second and scoring Hill. Starlin Marte grounded a fastball down the pipe up the middle for another run. Micah Hoffpauir doubled him in with two away, and the X-Man singled him home. Bye-bye Gallagher; hello Chan Ho Park.

Nady took second on defensive indifference; he scored on Soriano's single. After eight, it was a Steeler score, 14-7. Carlos Marmol came on to punt, er, pitch in the ninth. McCutch tried some more two out thunder when he doubled, but JT went down swinging.

JR called on Chris Resop to tidy things up; with an off day Thursday, we'd have been tempted to get Joel Hanrahan some work. It's a minor point, and a moot one as Resop put away the Cubs on eight pitches.

So a nice comeback to yesterday's loss. The Pirate pitching was still meh, but the attack finally broke out. But we've seen this before for a game or two; the key is to produce runs consistently, not a quick flurry and a week of lumber slumber.

The Bucs pounded out 14 runs on 15 hits, and had seven extra-base knocks. They also struck out 15 times, an indication that they were aggressive at bat, but not very disciplined - and the two go hand in hand.

One nice sign was the fielding, which turned in a handful of very nice plays and avoided the killer gaffe that's been haunting them lately. So the process continues.

James McDonald will close the Cub series against Tom Gorzelanny tomorrow afternoon. Gorzo is 7-8 with a 3.98 ERA for Chicago.

-- The Pirates ended a fourteen game road losing streak with tonight's win, and ran their 2010 Wrigley record to 5-3 and 10-4 against the Cubs.

-- Jeff Karstens had lost eight straight decisions and hadn't won since June 19th against Cleveland. Meanwhile, Ryan Dempster had won four straight decisions, and he had just one loss in his past 10 outings. As Chuck Berry noted, "C'est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell."

-- In case you're wondering where Cubs C Geovany Soto is, he underwent a MRI on his right knee on Monday. Soto was diagnosed with fluid on the knee and is listed as day-to-day

-- By the local reports, Evan Meek won't have to visit the DL with his bruised hand. He's expected to be ready early next week, if not by the weekend.

-- Don't expect the September call-ups until after Labor Day, when Indy's regular season ends on September 6th. Heck, most of the Tribe are here already. Brad Lincoln is still a maybe; he's on the DL with a sore neck.

-- Bradenton OF Quincy Latimor (.266/18/98) and RH closer Noah Krol (5-6-33, 3.23 ERA) were named to High-A Florida State League postseason all-star team.

-- The Arizona Fall League assignments to the Mesa Solar Sox were partially announced today. 2B/3B Josh Harrison (.302/4/73), OF Andrew Lambo (.282/6/35), SS Jordy Mercer (.275/3/62), and C Tony Sanchez (.314/4/35) are the position players. The first three play for AA Altoona; Sanchez was at high-A Bradenton (he'd be rostered at Altoona also except for a broken jaw suffered in June.)

There are three pitching assignments yet to be made.

-- A sign that some talent is working its way through the system: Altoona clinched its division title tonight with Rudy Owens leading them to a 9-1 win. They’re division champs for the first time since 2004, and will make their first playoff appearance since 2006.

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