Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Home Town Heroes

Charlie Morton started off well enough in the first; he walked Albert Pujols with two away and the bases empty, rarely a bad decision. The Bucs raced from the gate; McCutch singled, JT tripled, and a Neil Walker bouncer made it 2-0 in a heartbeat.

The Redbirds got a run back when a Colby Rasmus single turned into a run, aided by Chris Snyder. He stole second on a throw that was one-hopped and offline, went to third on a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch, a curve that bounced behind the plate and went through Snyder's legs as he failed to get his glove down; it should have been a simple block.

John Bowker got the run back in a hurry when he dropped his fifth homer, second as a Pirate, over the Trib Media sign, 375' away in right center. Ronny Cedeno followed with a single to center. Snyder continued his hot steak by banging into an around the horn DP; Morton K'ed.

Skip Schumaker got a one out single and went to second when Morton's pick off attempt bounced away from Garrett Jones, another catchable ball. CM shrugged it off and stuck out Jon Jay and Sir Albert.

The Buc bats continued to boom. McCutch lined a double into the left field corner to start things; Tabata bunted him up (why, JR, why?) Walker drew a bae on balls, and Jones bounced one over the Notch to score one. Pedro rocketed another double into center. An intentional and semi-intentional walk loaded the bases with two away, and Morton K'ed again. 6-1 after three; pretty sweet start.

Morton nailed the first two hitters in the fourth; plate ump John Hirshbeck awarded first to Daniel Descalso on a hit batter call; replays show the ball didn't nick him; his shirt may have been brushed by Snyder's mitt (and oddly, there was no protest.) No prob; a soft bouncer ended the frame. PJ Walters came on for St. Louis and quieted the Bucs.

The Cards went down in order; Morton's working on a two-hitter with 5 K's after five. Walters wasn't so sharp this time around; Jones singled and Pedro bombed his twelfth over the Heinz sign in center. And the fun was just beginning.

Bowker had a long at-bat, singling on the twelfth pitch after fouling one hard just below his knee. Cedeno walker, and Snyder singled in a run and put Buccos on the corners. JR called off the dogs momentarily, having Morton swing away, and he did his job of K'ing. McCutch lined a shot into left that Matt Holliday corraled, but Cedeno came in after the catch. Pittsburgh had a 10-1 lead.

The Pirate leather let Morton down in the sixth. With two away, Holliday hit a fly to medium left; it dropped in for a double when JT first went back on the ball, and then didn't have enough time to compensate. The next batter lined one to third; Pedro made a nice leaping effort to snag it, but the ball ticked off the top off his mitt, dying in short left to let the run in.

Walker started of with a single. Jones followed with a hot shot to second that Schumaker tried to backhand; he missed, putting Pirates at first and second. With one away, Bowker doubled a run home; Jones was held at third or he would have tallied, too.

Chris Leroux came on for the Pirates. Morton went six, giving up two runs on four hits with a walk and 5 strikeouts. His biggest breakthrough seems to be on his focus; the Pirates gave him plenty of opportunity to blow up tonight with their fielding, but he hung tough.

Leroux gave up a walk and single, but escaped unscathed. JR started emptying the bench; three pinch hitters allowed Walters his first clean inning. And yah, we're curious too - with all those September arms in the pen, why did LaRussa throw Walters away tonight?

Bad Brad Lincoln and the bomb squad took the field in the eighth. Lincoln's control was erratic, falling behind early and often. He wasn't helped by the scrubs, either.

A flare single and walk scored when Alex Presley, in center, dove for a soft liner and missed it badly; Argenis Diaz's relay to home was halfway up the first base line and JJ couldn't flag it down.

But he got two well hit balls aimed at regulars; Bowker made a nice running grab of a shot to right center, and Jones gloved a hot smash up the first base line. Lincoln gave up three, two earned, in the frame. But hey, at least his velocity was back; he was throwing 93-94.

Mike McDougal allowed Walters to ice his arm; he got the Bucs 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth. D-Mac took the hill in the ninth.

He gave up a double on a grounder that hit first base and bounded over Jones' head and another on a shot to the Notch that Presley again slid for and missed, barely this time. He also struck out the last two batters, and the Bucs cruised to their fifth in a row, 11-6.

It's great to see the starting pitching hold up and the bats start to collect some knocks. It would be better to see the Pirates hitting on all three cylinders and catch the ball, too, but hey, two out of three seems to be working just fine this week.

Brian Burres continues his quest for recognition when he takes on Jeff Suppan tomorrow afternoon.

-- One reason that the Pirates have so much trouble on the road: El Toro has a dozen homers - and eleven have come at PNC Park.

-- John Bowker has started seven straight games for the Pirates, and nine of the last ten. In 44 at-bats as a Buc, his line is .250/2/9; in 82 at-bats with the Giants his slash was .207/3/8.

-- Garrett Jones' run-scoring double was his first RBI since September 3rd, 19 days ago. The Bucs could stand a little more production out of the clean-up spot.

-- Steve Blass of FSN said he lives on the same street as Dave Guisti and Kevin Slowey; that's a lot of pitching talent on that Upper St. Clair lane.

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