Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Sticks Are Willing, But The Mitts Are Weak

Chris Volstad had his sinker working early; the Bucs went down 1-2-3.

Not so for the Zachster; Emilio Bonifacio started things off for the Fish with an infield single, stole second, and moved to third on an Osvaldo Martinez bouncer. Logan Morrison singled up the middle, and it was 1-0 Florida.

He walked Dan Uggla, got Gabby Sanchez on a short fly, and with two outs, Mike Stanton singled up the middle for another run. Wes Helms doubled over third to bring home two more. He walked Brad Davis intentionally to get to Volstad, who grounded out to Neil Walker. Duke was down 4-0 after one, and had already thrown 37 pitches.

With one out, the red-hot Pedro lined a single to center. John Bowker had the green light on a 3-0 pitch and drove a fastball to Sun Life's Notch; it turned into a 430' out. Ronny Cedeno K'ed to leave El Toro stranded.

With one out, Martinez singled to left and Morrison walked. Uggla hit one to short; Cedeno's throw to second missed the mark, his fifth error in six games, and the bases were loaded. Sanchez hit a sac fly, and it was 5-0.

Pittsburgh went down in order in the third; surprisingly, so did the Marlins.

The Bucs made a bit of a bang in the fourth. JT led off with a leg single, and Neil Walker doubled him home. Garrett Jones lined a shot to center; Bonafacio corralled it, and Walker went to third. Pedro roped a knock into center to plate him, and Bowker singled to right. But Cedeno added to his memorable night by chopping into a DP to go with his K and error.

A bit better running might have kept the inning alive; Bowker avoided a tag on the way to second, but hesitated when the throw went to first and was nailed in a rundown.

Pedro had a ball hit off the heel of his glove for an error after one was away. Then a single that just went under a diving Jones, who was holding the runner, was followed by a smoked double off Uggla's bat. A grounder became the second out, but Mike Stanton took a heater well over the 434' Notch to make it 9-2. Pedro let another ball go through his legs before Davis popped out.

Duke went four, giving up nine runs (and only four earned) - six with two away - with eight hits and three walks, throwing 89 pitches.

Pedro Ciriaco singled with one away, and Jose Tabata walked with two outs, but Walker whiffed on a ball in the dirt to end the frame. Joe Martinez took the ball, and got through the inning with a goose egg.

The Bucs went down in order in the sixth; the Fish added another run on a Sanchez double and Stanton single. Even with the lead, Volstad was through; Brian Sanches climbed the hill in the seventh, and gave up a Cedeno homer. Bad Brad took his turn for Pittsburgh. Did nicely, too - Lincoln struck out the side with 94-95 MPH heat and a sharp 12-to-6 hook.

Sandy Rosario came on, and made things interesting. JT dropped a broken bat single into center, and Walker singled. Brandon Moss slowly rolled a ball 60' for an infield knock to load them; Pedro singled a run home. Then Bowker walked, and Rosario was gone, replaced by Clay Hensley.

Hensley was facing the JV; he got Alex Presley swinging at a slow hook, and Jason Jaramillo popped to short left. But he walked Argenis Diaz to make it 10-6 and bring up the tying run, Delwyn Young. DY popped to center, and the Fish escaped.

Jeff Karstens got the call for the bottom of the eighth. Morrison greeted him with a triple; he came in on Sanchez's single, a routine grounder that made it through a drawn-in infield. Jose Veras came on in the ninth to usher the Fat lady on stage.

He couldn't do it. Veras got an out, but a JT walk, Moss double, and Pedro homer - El Toro had his first four hit game, to go with five RBI on the night - was enough to bring on Leo Nunez. He whiffed Bowker and Presley, both swinging through changeups, and the Fish hung on, 11-9.

Hey, tonight again showed that if you are really serious about improving the Pirate pitching, start by improving the infield defense. The difference in the game wasn't the pitching; it was the five unearned runs. In 2009, the Pirates led MLB in fielding percentage; in 2010, they're last. 'Nuff said.

It's Paul Maholm versus Adalberto Mendez tomorrow; Maholm will try to become the only Buc pitcher to notch 10 wins in 2010. He's 9-15 now.

-- JT has a thirteen game hitting streak; Pedro has a ten game streak. McCutch had his 24 game on-base streak broken tonight; he missed a couple at-bats when JR brought on the bomb squad.

-- The Pirates join the expansion era Mets as the only club not to win at least 20 road games in a 162 game schedule.

-- Tiger manager Jim Leyland and his entire coaching staff were retained for next year. That includes Lloyd McClendon and Gene Lamont, so Detroit remains the elephant's graveyard for old Bucco skippers.

-- The MLB suits and the player's union tweaked free agency some:

- Players will no longer have to file for free agency; it will be an automatic process.
- The free agent negotiating period following the World Series will start after five days.
- The deadline for a team to offer arbitration to its own free agents will be November 23rd.
- November 30th will be the deadline for free agents to accept or decline arbitration offers from their teams.
- The non-tender deadline will be December 2nd.

All the dates were moved up a week or so; the thought is to get more FA's signed earlier so players don't have to wait until March to ink a deal.

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