Monday, September 13, 2010

No Late Rally Tonight

The game got of to a late start; rain delayed it 45 minutes. Must have been a good storm; even the Jets kickoff was pushed back.

Dillon Gee relied on his 90 MPH fastball in the first. It was good enough to handle McCutch and JT; with two outs, Neil Walker drew a base on balls and Garrett Jones singled him to third. He pounded Pedro inside with his fastball and got him swinging on a changeup away.

Jose Reyes singled to start the Mets off; James McDonald promptly picked him off and cruised through the first.

Again, the Pirates waited until two were away to get into the flow when Chris Snyder singled. J-Mac ended the inning with a swinging bunt roller to third.

David Wright lined a single to left to open the Met second. Ike Davis took a fastball deep the opposite way, but Tabata had enough room to collect the first out. Josh Thole walked, and McDonald shut them down after that.

McCutch flew out deep to straightaway center, JT struck out swinging, missing a pair of belt high 89 MPH fastballs, and Walker lined out to right.

Gee became the third straight Met to start the frame with a knock; he doubled to left, and Reyes bunted him to third. Angel Pagan hit a medium fly to left, freezing the runner, and Carlos Beltran fanned on a changeup. J-Mac continued his stroll through the New York raindrops.

Jones started the fourth by going the opposite way and rolling a ground ball double into left, followed by a Pedro walk. John Bowker hit a short fly to center; he's getting every opportunity to prove himself, but...

Ronny Cedeno moved the runners up a station when he pulled a down and away curve softly to third. With two away, Gee intentionally walked Snyder and got McDonald on a foul pop. The Pirates had stranded six, four in scoring position, in four frames. It didn't seem to bother J-Mac; he put away NY in order.

With one out, Tabata bounced a ball over third for a double, followed by a walk to the Pittsburgh Kid. Jones caught a heater, but it ended up a long fly out to center, deep enough to get JT to third. Pedro bounced a curve to second, and the Bucs went down again. J-Mac handled the bottom of the Met lineup handily, striking out a pair.

Cedeno got a one-out single in the sixth, and never budged off the base. Pagan worked a one out walk in the Met half, and J-Mac's velocity seemed to drop a couple of ticks. But Snyder caught Pagan stealing, and Beltran flew out to right; McDonald was sitting on just 71 pitches after six frames.

Gee was done. He went six innings, giving up five hits, four walks, and striking out three. Gee didn't shut the Bucs with Volquez or Cueto velocity, stuff or command; he left plenty of balls over the plate, though he did have nice separation of speed with his junk, which helped keep the Pirates off balance. It was plenty enough to quiet the Bucco bats.

Elmer Dessens took the hill. Every pitch but one was an 88-89 MPH heater; he got the Bucs 1-2-3. With one away, Davis doubled into right center on a 3-2 pitch. After a visit from Ray Searage, J-Mac came back from a 3-0 count to get Josh Tholes on a grounder to short and retired Lucas Duda on a fly to left.

Pedro Feliciano came on to work the eighth, and got the Bucs in order. With one out, outfielder Jesus Feliciano, who came on an inning earlier during a double switch, lined a single into center. Reyes grounded to Jones, moving the runner to second. J-Mac got a first pitch fly to right center from Angel Pagan, and his night was done. And it was a good one.

He struggled through the last three innings, but gave Pittsburgh eight shutout frames, with five hits, two walks, and four K's to his credit after 100 pitches. His fastball command was sharp even though his velocity dipped; the Mets basically laid off his soft stuff until they had two strikes.

James McDonald now has a 3.48 ERA in his eight starts for Pittsburgh, and has thrown 17 consecutive scoreless innings, the third longest active streak in MLB.

Hisanori Takahashi came on to pitch the ninth. Snyder drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Alex Presley pinch ran for him, and Andy LaRoche picked up a bat to replace J-Mac, with Dewey already coming in and DY on the bench. Presley was caught stealing and LaRoche K'ed. Chris Resop took the ball, and got the Met 3-4-5 hitters 1-2-3.

Takahashi stayed in; McCutch opened the tenth with a double to left. JT tried to bunt him over; McCutch was nailed at third. JR loves to bunt with a runner on second and nobody out; why give up the out and take the bat out of Tabata's hands? We know the Mets did it earlier in the game - is it any wonder it's scoreless?

Walker took a hack at ball four and popped to short; Jones hit a ball on the nose, but right at Davis. Chan Ho Park came on for Pittsburgh. After an out, a defensive sub, Ruben Tejada, doubled to left. Pinch hitter Nick Evans took a curve for a strike; he drilled the next one into left to end the game, Tejada beating JT's off-line throw.

JR didn't lose this game; the Pirate bats were to blame. But he had a couple of opportunities to manage them into winning situations, and didn't. When you drop a 1-0, extra inning game and your best pinch hitters and relievers don't see the light of day, and you take the bat out of a .307 hitter's hands with the lead run at second, you're not putting your team in a position to win.

It doesn't make any difference whether it's September or not; the club already has the first pick in next year's draft virtually locked up. The team needs to learn how to win, and that starts with the manager.

Zach Duke takes the hill against RA Dickey tomorrow night.

-- Neil Walker's hitting streak ended at 18 games. He went 0-for-3 with two walks.

-- Yesterday's 3-1 win in Cincy marked the 13th time that the Pirates won a game in their last at-bat. That's 27% of their 48 victories; good thing the kids don't quit.

-- Citi Field reminds GW of PNC Park in its field layout, except its Notch is in right center instead of left center.

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