Friday, September 24, 2010

Bullpen Toasted Again

The Astro leadoff guys, Jason Bourgeois and Angel Sanchez, frustrated J-Mac at every turn; both fouled off pitch after pitch and drew walks, while raising McDonald's pitch count to over 20 without an out. Hunter Pence added to the frustration by rolling a grounder up the middle; if he pulled it a few feet, it was a DP ball instead of an RBI knock.

Carlos Lee drew a 3-2 free pass, too, and the Bucs were in trouble. A Ray Searage visit seemed to refocus J-Mac; he gave up a sac fly to Jeff keppinger and K'ed the next two 'Stros. Still, 2-0 and 42 pitches isn't exactly a blazing start.

Houston gave the Pirates a gift run in their half. Brett Myers got all the Bucs to hit grounders; McCutch's was sharply hit into left to start off. JT followed with a routine DP ball to short, but it rolled through Sanchez. Neil Walker's ball to first moved them up, and Garrett Jones' grounder to second brought in the run.

The Astros got the run back in the second. Brett Wallace singled to right, was moved to second on Myers' bunt, and scored with two away when Sanchez dropped a flare into center. Sanchez ended up at third when McCutch not only made an ill-advised throw home, but hit the stone wall behind the plate on the fly with it, but it didn't hurt. The Bucs didn't hit the ball out of infield in their half.

J-Mac retired Houston in order in the third; the first two Bucs went down, too. But a bit of two-out lightning tied the game. Jose Tabata legged out an infield single, Walker drew a free pass, and Jones doubled to right center to plate them both. It was on an 0-2 curve; Jones picked it off his knees and lobbed it to the wall; Myers is still wondering why he didn't bounce it in front of the dish.

The news wasn't all good; JT left the game with a knee injury ("irritation of the left knee"), aggravated when he beat out the single earlier in the frame.

The Astros went down quietly in the fourth, getting a two-out parachute drop into right by Myers. And J-Mac has got not only his pitch count back in some semblance of order at 80, but he's dropping his curve ball in for strikes. But you can add McDonald to the injury list; a problem with his nail ended his night after four.

The Pirates got a leadoff walk to John Bowker, but couldn't do anything with it. D-Mac came on in relief of J-Mac in the fifth. He continued his current streak of poor pitching. With one out, Pence singled up the middle. With two outs, Keppinger and Chris Johnson lined knocks into left, and the Astros had the lead back, 4-3.

McCutch and DY started off the frame with walks; Walker bunted them over, helped by Myers slight bobble of the ball. We hate seeing three hitters bunt, but in this case, JR's call worked. Jones hit a sac fly to the track in left, and Pedro doubled high off the right center wall to give the Pirates a 5-4 lead.

Wallace started the sixth with a liner to right; he was bunted up a station by Myers. JR called on Chris Leroux to face Bourgeois. Big mistake.

He walked him, then Sanchez singled through the hole to bring home a run; Bourgeois went to third when Bowker overran the ball. Pence doubled them both home. After a Carlos Lee whiff, Keppinger lined a single into left to plate Pence. JR went to the well again, waving in Sean Gallagher, who whiffed Johnson. But just like that, it was 8-5.

Andy LaRoche cut into the lead when he homered to left; the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced over as Carlos Lee crashed into the padding trying to make the grab. It broke an 0-for-21 hitless skein as a pinch hitter for LaRoche.

Chan Ho Park got back on the bicycle in the seventh and stopped the bullpen bleeding with a 1-2-3 frame. LOOGY Fernando Abad took the hill for Houston. The Bucs kept nibbling away when a Jones triple off the glove of Bourgeois (it was a tough catch; he crashed hard into the wall a couple of steps later) was followed by a Pedro sac fly. The Astro lead was now 8-7.

Park kept it that way with a second inning of clean pitching. Wilton Lopez grabbed the horsehide for the Astros. Alex Presley, who was just handed the Pirate Minor League Player of the Year award before the game, rolled a pinch hit single the opposite way. Dewey stepped up for Park; after roping a foul off the wall, he tapped back to the hill on an 0-2 offering for a 1-6-3 DP.

Joel Hanrahan came on; he couldn't keep it close. Keppinger drilled a one-out double, followed by a Johnson walk. A pair of groundball singles brought them home; it was 10-7, bad guys.

Brandon Lyon looked to close out the Bucs in the ninth. Walker kept hope alive briefly with a two out knock, but Jones K'ed on a check swing. Hello, 100 losses, good-bye, winning home record.

Zach Duke and Bud Norris meet in the second game of the series.

-- Joel Hanrahan struck out two batters tonight; he now has a career high of 95 K's for a season.

-- Talk about quality starts: Brett Myers has gone 6+ innings in every one of his 32 starts so far this season. He only made it that long tonight because of the Houston offense, but it's still quite an achievement. The last pitcher to better that mark was Curt Schilling, who had 35 starts of 6+ frames in 2002.

-- Jose Bautista had two more homers tonight; he now boasts the largest single-season increase in homers in history: 52 in 2010 after hitting 13 in 2009.

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