The Pirates have shown the ability to be baffled by power pitchers, finesse pitchers, and arms in between. So how would they fare against a knuckle-baller like RA Dickey?
McCutch started off with a soft roller to third that he legged out for a single. Jose Tabata got him to second with another ground out. Neil Walker squared up a knuckler, but drilled it right to Carlos Beltran. A wild pitch moved McCutchen to third, but Garrett Jones rolled out to first, and it was the same ol' in the first, no matter what the pitch.
Same ol' for Zach Duke, too. He gave up a seeing-eye leadoff groundball knock to Jose Reyes, and after a couple of pickoff tosses, wild pitched him to second, from where Angel Pagan singled him home on a dink to center; McCutch ho-hummed the ball, allowing the Reyes the extra base. Beltran got aboard when Walker, trying to start a DP, muffed the ball. Duke toughed it out, as David Wright bounced one up the middle that Ronny Cedeno turned into a 6-3 DP and Ike Davis whiffed.
Lotta action in the inning for just a run.
Dewey drew a one out walk; Cedeno hit into a 4-6-3 DP. Nick Evans, last nights hero, started the Met half with a line drive single to left. Henry Blanco K'ed, and Ruben Tejeda followed by dropping an 0-2 curve into center to put runners on the corners. The Zachster got Dickey swinging, but Reyes walked on five pitches to juice the sacks.
Pagan made him pay by lining a double to right; Dewey fumbled the ball and all three runners came across, though Pagan was nailed at third.
McCutch was walked with two outs, and JT ended the frame by bouncing back to the mound. McCutch has been aboard twice with a RH knuckleballer on the hill, and surprisingly, to us, hasn't tried to swipe second. When he learns to be aggressive running and lay down a bunt or two, he'll be a strong guy at the top of the order. Until then, he's still a work in progress offensively, with tools yet unused.
Meanwhile, Beltran took a heater over the wall; it's 5-0 and the clock is quickly ticking on Duke's night - and career in Pittsburgh. He got two more outs, and Evans pounded another heater over the fence. And we thought Charlie Morton had problems!
Jones smacked a one-out single; he seems to be the first Buc to figure out that Dickey goes to his 84 MPH fastball when he falls behind. Pedro bounced into a 4-6-3 DP; it's another of those many long nights early on for Pittsburgh.
Tejada led off with an infield single; four innings, four leadoff hits. He was bunted to second, and Reyes singled him home.
We're not exactly sure what JR was thinking, with all those warm bodies in the pen; he must of thrown in the towel after the second inning. He finally made his move, bringing in Joe Martinez. Duke went 3-1/3 innings, giving up eight runs on nine hits with a walk and three K's.
Pagan greeted Martinez with his third hit, a grounder into right. Beltran doubled two more home; it's games like this that you wish baseball used a clock instead of 27 outs. He got Wright to pop out, walked Davis, and whiffed Evans. The Steelers gave up nine points in four quarters; the Bucs gave up nine points in four innings.
The Bucco batters went down in order, as Dickey struck out the side swinging. Daniel McCutchen came on for the Bucs. He got Blanco to ground out; maybe keeping the first hitter off base is an omen. Maybe not; he fell behind Tejada 3-1 and gave up a double off the left field wall.
Dickey hit a comebacker that deflected off D-Mac's glove ; it put runners on the corners. He got Reyes and Pagan on medium flies; it was good sign, after all.
The Bucs went down 1-2-3; Dickey must be channeling Phil Niekro. Steve Jackson took his turn on the hill, and Argenis Diaz (SS), Alex Presley (CF), Andy LaRoche (2B) and Brandon Moss (RF) joined the fray. Hey, it worked - three up, three down as Wright was thrown out trying to stretch a single by JT.
And to make a long story short, the game stayed 9-0 until the ninth. Pedro Ciriaco tripled to start the inning, and scored on a John Bowker ground out; Dickey pitched a complete game five-hitter, and the Bucs limped back to the dressing room. And people wonder why Pittsburgh can't wait for the Steelers, Panthers, and Pens seasons to start.
Paul Maholm faces Jenrry Majia tomorrow night.
-- In the last eight starts, Pirate starters have put together six quality starts; the exceptions were Zach Duke's two outings. He's lasted 4-1/3 frames total in his last two appearances and was charged with twelve runs.
-- The Pirates broke a streak of 32 straight scoreless innings against opposing starters when they scored in the ninth.
-- The Pirates released their 2011 schedule. Opening Day will be Friday, April 1st at Wrigley Field in Chicago; the home opener will be Thursday, April 7th against the Rox at 1:35.
The home interleague games are against Detroit on May 20th-22nd, Baltimore on June 20th-22nd and Boston on June 24th-26th. They visit Cleveland and Toronto.
-- The Mets' Dickey is one of two active MLB knuckleballers; Tim Wakefield of Boston is the other.