Monday, September 27, 2010

Road Kill

With one away against Kyle Lohse, JT singled and Neil Walker drew a base on balls. He had the Pirates right where he wanted them; Garrett Jones bounced to Albert Pujols, and as quick as you can say 3-6-1, the frame was done.

Skip Schumaker and Allen Craig greeted Charlie Morton with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners; the new, improved CM got Sir Albert to pop out and Matt Holliday to ground into a 6-4-3 DP, started nicely by Ronny Cedeno. Lotta smoke, no fire in the first.

No worry about a twin killing in the second; Player-of-the-Week Pedro bombed his fourteenth to start the frame, turning on a fastball and driving it 427' over the right center fence, while Morton 1-2-3'ed the Cards.

McCutch doubled into left with one out, but Lohse's bacon was saved when third baseman Daniel Descalso, playing in to guard against the bunt, made a diving stop of JT's bid for a single.

With two away, Morton's luck went south. Two bouncers up the middle barely eluded a diving Cedeno, with a jam shot into center sandwiched between to score one run. Holliday smoked the first ball of the inning, a single into left, with Pujols getting nailed at third after a second run crossed the plate.

Pedro set up the tying run when he doubled to the base of the wall in right with one away. A grounder got him to third, and Cedeno softly lined a middle-of-the dish slider into left to score El Toro.

Colby Rasmus started the fourth with a liner to Cedeno; it clanked off his glove. But RC made amends, snagging a low liner and then doubling off Rasmus, who was off on contact rather than freezing in a Lastings Milledge moment. The score was 2-2 at the end of four.

Not for long, though. With one out, McCutch and JT singled. Walker singled McCutch home, but Pujols cut the relay home, faked to third, and caught The Pittsburgh Kid at first. It may have cost a bigger inning; the Bucs got one more when Pedro dropped a soft lob RBI single into center.

And oddly, the Master of the Multiple Moves, Tony LaRussa, didn't have any action in the bullpen, although Lohse had given up four runs, nine hits, and was in the process of throwing a 35 pitch inning. And in September, yet, with a small horde of arms available to him.

Morton gave up a leadoff single, but a bunt and two grounders carried him out of harm's way.

The Bucs got a two out single from Morton in the sixth, his first of the year, and left him on base. The Cards, despite the score, have been playing the field well behind Lohse, in particular Descalso and Pujols, who together have pulled off a half dozen above average plays.

The sixth started off badly for Morton. He fell behind Pujols, who lined a single into center. Then he hung a breaking pitch to Holliday, who parked it in the seats to tie the game. But Morton rallied, and got the next three outs handily.

With one away, the Bucs had the bases loaded against lefty Dennys Reyes after a walk to Walker, a Jones double, and an intentional walk to Pedro. JR lifted John Bowker for Andy LaRoche, who hit into a 5-4-3 DP.

The whole set up was strange; lefties are hitting 100 points higher against Reyes than righties; that's why LaRussa left him in against LaRoche, and why it was a mystery why JR brought him off the bench for Bowker. Give that round to LaRussa.

Matt Pagnozzi started the seventh with a single off new pitcher Sean Gallagher. He was bunted to second, and stayed there after a K. Gallagher got Craig to hit a soft grounder to Cedeno, who airmailed his throw well over Jones head, allowing the go ahead run and putting Craig at second.

Pujols was intentionally walked, Holliday drew another free pass as he was worked carefully by Gallegher, and with no place left to put anyone, he reached back and K'ed Rasmus.

Jason Motte came on for the Redbirds; Cedeno roped a knock into right center to open the inning. Pinch hitter Ryan Doumit went for the first pitch, and hit a perfect one hopper to Sir Albert; 3-6-3 was the result, and the Pirates had hit into their third DP of the night.

Chan Ho Park took the hill in the eighth, and the bad karma continued. A leadoff walk was singled to third with one out. The runner at first took a wide turn, Cedeno cut the ball and turned to first - and Jones was nowhere near the bag, or Pagnozzi was dead, just like Walker was earlier.

Then more bad juju; an 0-2 curve hit the back foot of Jon Jay; the ump missed it, the ball kicked away, and a run came in. Neither Dewey nor JR thought the insurance run was worth debating with plate ump Brian O'Nora.

Kyle McClellan came on to close the game, and after a leadoff walk to McCutch and a stolen sack, he did just that.

The Pirate bats and pitching didn't lose tonight's game, but their shoddy play in the field did. Oh well, another road loss and the Cards, one game from elimination, get to live another day.

Brian Burres takes on Jeff Suppan tomorrow night.

-- Injury updates: James McDonald says he's OK and expects to make Wednesday's start. Chris Resop threw a side session yesterday and should be available tomorrow, while Lastings Milledge took some cuts at BP and may get in a game or two before the year winds down.

-- This isn't baseball related, but sad local sports news. George Blanda, the Hall of Fame quarterback and kicker who played a record 26 seasons of professional football, died today. Even though he was a Raider, he was one helluva ballplayer. Blanda was a coalminer's kid from from Youngwood in Westmoreland County, near Westmoreland CC.

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