Saturday, September 11, 2010

Everything But Win

The Bucs tried to get to Edinson Volquez early, but a Jose Tabata single off Orlando Cabrera's glove and a Garrett Jones walk led to nothing. Charlie Morton looked sharp, mowing down the Reds. One reached on an error; Morton promptly picked him off.

The second was a little different. The Bucs went down 1-2-3, and Cincy drew first blood. A curve ball that stayed up was ripped for a double by Scott Rolen, Jonny Gomes lined an elevated slider for a single to put runners on the corners, and a tailing heater nicked Ramon Hernandez to juice the sacks with nobody out.

But it wasn't a meltdown moment yet. He gave up a sac fly to Drew Stubbs, but got a nicely executed around the horn DP off the bat of Miguel Cairo to escape down just 1-0.

Both clubs went down without a peep in the third. The Pirates caught a couple of pitches in the fourth, but Walker's drive was snagged at the fence in left center and Pedro's fell at the foot of the track in right. CM walked the first hitter, but got a 6-4-3 DP to clean it up.

Volquez kept putting Pirates away; after five, he had a streak of 13 straight hitters retired. And today, it's not so much Buccos flailing as Volquez dealing; his heater has been down and touched 97, while his change up and curve have been sharp, thrown any time in the count. Great five innings for the Reds pitcher, just returned from the DL and a rehab stint at Class A Dayton.

Morton got out of the fifth giving up a one-out double to Stubbs, who hit a pretty decent slider the into left. For CM, three hits, one run, one walk and two K's after 57 pitches, a pretty strong outing so far and a nice pitching match up.

The Bucs went down in order again, and Morton snuffed Cincy 1-2-3. It was becoming monotonous; the Bucs went down in order in the seventh, too. Volquez got the Bucs fishing a couple of times; getting ahead in the count and mixing his pitches had them entirely off balance.

The Reds got some insurance on a play JT couldn't make. Rolen led the inning off with a soft liner to left that Tabata tried to make a slidng catch on; it looked like it ticked off the top end of his mitt and turned into a double. Gomes smacked another single, and Hernandez hit a sac fly.

After a Stubbs single put runners on the corners again, JR called in Chris Resop; he gave up a sac fly to Stubbs. The same guys that bit Morton in the second came back to haunt him in the seventh. The only good news was that Volquez was done; Nick Masset came on in the eighth. And he was a welcome relief after Volquez's brilliance.

Ronny Cedeno singled with one out, and scored when John Bowker smacked an 0-2 heater mistake pitch into right center for a double. DY bounced out, and McCutch walked to keep the inning alive.

Tabata hit a soft roller toward the SS hole, and Rolen couldn't cut it off. He did manage to block out Cabrero's view, though, and the ball dropped from his mitt for an infield single; it was probably a hit once it got past the third baseman no matter how Cabrero played it.

In came Aroldis Chapman, who was awesome last night. He was more human today. The Buc runners ran a double steal without drawing a throw, and the count went 2-0 on Neil Walker. The Reds decided to work on Walker rather than walk him to load the bases, and he turned a 100 MPH heater into a two-run single up the middle to give Pittsburgh an improbable 4-3 lead.

Evan Meek came on in the eighth. After an out, a single and walk brought up Rolen and Gomes, who had tortured Morton. Meek fell behind Rolen 3-1, then blew a pair of fastballs past him. He caught Gomes looking. That's a lesson for Morton; when in doubt, go to the ol' number one (which he did tonight; about 75% of his pitches were heaters).

Chapman stayed on to work the ninth, and whiffed a pair of Bucs. You have to wonder a bit about the bullpen gig; his heater was 98-100 tonight and his slider 88, great numbers but down a couple of ticks from his last outing. He may be one of those guys that needs some recovery time between outings.

Joel Hanrahan was next, looking for his fifth save. Didn't get it, though. Hernandez singled up the middle to start things off. Stubbs botched a bunt, but came around when Chris Heisey, pinch hitting, doubled over the third base bag. Extra innings again.

Francisco Cordoba chopped down Pittsburgh 1-2-3 in the tenth. In a surprise move, JR brought in Justin Thomas, probably just to face Joey Votto and take a seat, instead of Wil Ledezema. We'll never know the master plan; Votto smacked a walk-off homer into the left center seats to give Cincy a 5-4 win.

Hanny's command was off tonight, and he threw, we thought, way too many sliders; his heater is what brung him to the dance. But no matter what he threw, he caught too much of the plate. The Bucs are gonna have to square away the back end of the bullpen; losing back-to-back games after late rallies against the division leader shows both how far the the team has come and how far it has to go.

Brian Burres goes against Johnny Cueto tomorrow afternoon to close out the Reds series.

-- Surprisingly (to GW, anyway) Garrett Jones still leads the club with 47 outings in right field, followed by Lasting Milledge with 44, Delwyn Young with 20 and Ryan Doumit with 15. Ryan Church, since traded, had 33 appearances. Think that spot is gonna be a wide-open competition in 2011?

-- Neil Walker's hitting streak is now at 17 games; again he kept it alive during his last at-bat. Pedro's seven game hitting streak ended.

-- Altoona advanced to the Eastern League championship after beating the Nat's AA club, the Harrisburg Senators, 10-5 today. The Curve got five home runs from five different players: Miles Durham, Jordy Mercer, Andrew Lambo, Hector Gimenez, and Chase d'Arnaud. Jimmy Negrych has been an unsung hero; he hit .625 in the four game series.

They play the Yankee AA club, the Trenton Thunder. There's some speculation that they could see Andy Pettitte, who's on rehab assignment there. (EDIT - Pettitte's due to go Tuesday; should be a great challenge for the Curve hitters.)

-- Pete Rose was recognized on the field during the pre-game at Great American Ball Park to celebrate the 25th anniversary of breaking Ty Cobb's hit record, and got a wild greeting from the Cincy crowd, who chanted "Hall of Fame." He wasn't permitted to speak to the media or address the fans; the team played a video message instead.

This in-limbo status is way out of hand; either bar the guy completely from the game and be rid of him or say he served his penance and welcome him back into the fold. Now it's just a soap opera.

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