Friday, September 10, 2010

Bucs Go Overtime, Fumble Game Away

Homer Bailey was tough the first three frames. Painting the corners, he retired eight straight Buccos and recorded six K's. But after 2-1/2, he was down 1-0 when Chris Snyder reached out and dropped a knee-high, outside corner curve four rows into the left center field stands.

Paul Maholm put up goose eggs the first two frames, too, although not quite as stylishly as Bailey. He gave up three hits and left runners at third to end each inning. He wouldn't escape the third so easily.

He hit Heisey on the back leg with a breaking ball, and he was still at first with two outs. Unfortunately for PM, he needed three. Scott Rolen doubled Heisey home, barely missing a homer. Johnny Gomes walked, and Drew Stubbs singled Rolen home on a knock to right.

Paul Janish dropped a soft single over Neil Walker's head into right to score Gomes; he ended up on second when Dewey bobbled the ball and ho-hummed the throw to second. An intentional walk and whiff of Bailey ended the frame with no further ado. In three innings, Maholm, whose command was AWOL, had a pitch count of 72. He also stranded six, while giving up three runs.

The Pirates were catching up to Bailey; they hit three balls on the nose in the fourth, but only Jose Tabata's rap avoided a mitt. Maholm recovered to pitch a clean bottom half.

Ryan Doumit started the fifth with a long, nine-pitch at-bat followed by a single. Ronny Cedeno forced him at second, and was caught stealing on the next pitch - he appeared safe on replay - after a couple of pick-off tosses. Snyder popped out, and it was the Red's turn again. Maholm again sat Cincy down in order.

McCutch singled in the sixth; he too was thrown out trying to steal second. This play was closer, but it looked like he beat the tag. Apparently they're going to have to go in standing up to get a call from ump Bob Davidson tonight. Maholm hung tough; he gave up a walk, but got Bailey to roll into a 2-6-3 DP on a botched bunt.

Garrett Jones barely missed knocking one out of the yard, and settled for a one-out double. There was no basepath drama for him; he stayed there. However, it was a big frame for Homer Bailey; he set his personal highmark for K's when he got his ninth against Pedro. Maholm allowed just one runner in the Red's half, on his own boot.

He kept the game well within reach. In seven innings, he gave up three runs on six hits, three walks and a plunked batter with an impressive eight K's after 113 pitches.

Nick Masset took over in the eighth for Bailey, who went seven innings giving up a run on five hits with nine whiffs. He kept everything away, and the Pirates weren't disciplined enough at the dish to force him off the corner. Not only did he not walk anyone, but reached three balls on a batter just four times.

It took Masset five pitches to put away the Bucs on three balls to center, one a well hit liner by pinch hitter John Bowker. Chris Resop climbed the hill in the eighth for Pittsburgh, an interesting choice, but dovetailing JR's philosophy of saving Meek/Hanny for late ties/save situations if at all possible.

He gave up a lead-off single, then punched out the next pair and got a routine grounder to take it to the do-or-die ninth against Franciso Cordero. Resop is quickly restarting the Three Amigos.

McCutch fired up the Bucs with a single, and finally, a stolen base. JT singled him home. Walker's soft single put runners at first and second. Jones took a fastball the opposite way, lining out softly to left center for the first out. With Pedro up, Tabata swiped third.

It paid off when Pedro dropped a 3-2 heater away into left for a single to plate JT, with Walker stopping at second. Dusty Baker waved in ol' vet Arthur Rhodes. He turned Dewey around, and got a short fly into right; Cedeno did the same.

Evan Meek worked the Cincy ninth. He got the first out, and then walked Brandon Phillips, never a good thing. Meek struck out Heisey swinging with a 96 MPH heater, and plunked Joey Votto with another heater with the count 1-2 to bring up Rolen. Meek caught him looking on a pitcher's call by plate ump Tim Timmins.

Logan Ondrusek, the 6'8" 25 year old, came on in the tenth and got the Bucs 1-2-3. Chan Ho Park did the same for Pittsburgh, K'ing a pair of free-swinging Reds.

The Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman came on in the eleventh, and was all that. He struck out a pair, and his heater was 101-103; his slider was nasty and 90 MPH. Maybe Rene Gayo ought to foster some contacts on Fidel's Isle.

Park remained in the game, and again sat down Cincy in order. After being scored on four of his first five Pirate outings, Park has shut down opponents in ten of his last eleven games. JR may have been right; maybe it was rust, not father time, that was his problem.

The wheels began turning in the twelfth. Lefty Bill Bray started the inning, and got Pedro to bounce out. Dewey singled to left, and was replaced by pinch runner Alex Presley. Baker gave Bray the hook, and brought on RHP Jordan Smith to face Cedeno and Snyder. Lots of options in September.

Cedeno hit a slow roller to Rolen, who made a twisting throw to second. Brandon Phillips seemed to lift his foot off the bag as the throw bounced, but Davidson rang up the sliding Presley; it was a close call whether Phillips was on the sack or not. JR came out, raised three fingers as if to say "that's three you missed" and walked back to the dugout.

(We mention the calls not because they had an effect on the game - we'll never know that - but because they represent GW's pet peeve regarding base decisions: they're too often based on when the ball arrives, not on whether or there was an actual tag or putout made.)

Snyder followed with a walk, but PH Delwyn Young bounced into a soft force out. Wil Ledezema's number was called next.

He gave up a bunt single and hit Votto, and JR wasted no time calling on Joel Hanrahan. On a 1-2 pitch, he hung a slider that Rolen lined into left to load the bases. Gomes then hit a soft broken bat roller that Cedeno, playing in, made a nice play on; his off-balance throw to home beat the runner - but Snyder dropped the peg. And so the Bucs went down again.

Pirate pitching was stout tonight. They gave up nine hits in eleven innings, and struck out 15 Reds. But another botched play and a sputtering attack spoiled what could have been a nice win against the division's top team.

Charlie Morton takes on Edinson Volquez tomorrow night.

-- Neil Walker kept his 16 game hitting streak alive tonight with a first pitch single in the ninth. Nice gift to himself: The Pittsburgh Kid turned 25 today.

-- Dewey isn't playing RF a whole heckuva lot better than Thrilledge (he watched a ball drop in front of him and mishandled a soft single tonight), but keeps getting the call. We're wondering if he's being auditioned as a full-time OF and once-a-week C gig for next year, which would justify his $5M salary, or just being showcased for the winter market. Maybe a bit of both.

-- Eric Kratz and Aki Iwamura, both placed on waivers when the September call-ups were made to make room on the 40-man roster, have cleared them unclaimed. Kratz was reassigned to Indy, Aki was released outright.

-- The Curve took a 2-1 series lead against Harrisburg tonight with a 7-2 win. Justin Wilson threw six innings of two-hit, shutout ball, Matt Hague had 3 RBI, and Chase d'Arnaud and Josh Harrison homered.

Altoona had evened their first-round series with a 6-4 win against Senators the previous night. Anthony Lambo led the Curve with three RBI and two doubles.

-- The Bradenton Marauders are out of the playoffs after losing 2-1 last night. They split the first two games against the Charlotte Stone Crabs (the Ray's farm club), winning the opener 5-0 and losing the rematch 10-2. Matt McSwain lost the pitching duel to Frank De Los Santos.

-- Peter Gammons of has a piece on what a dif a managing change can make, in this case Buck Showalter taking the Baltimore helm. They've been 21-14 since he arrived, and his secret? "It's nothing magical. It's about self-esteem. These players have been losing for a long time." Hmmm...

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