Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bucs Hold Off Cards 4-3

Except for one inning of everything going wrong that could, the Bucs got solid pitching and four RBI from McCutch and the Pittsburgh Kid, and it was enough to take a 4-3 victory from St. Louis.

Charlie Morton and the plate weren't on speaking terms; he walked five batters. But only one came around to bite him, and he went six strong frames. CM threw 97 pitches, and gave up a run on three hits, five walks and whiffed a pair. He also worked himself out of a couple of jams, showing that his head was in the game.

Morton stuck to a play list of two and four seamers and did a good job of keeping the ball down; every out he recorded was a K or a grounder. When he did elevate a pitch, it was either on a corner or out of the strike zone. The big righty didn't spin his curve often, and that was a good thing; he hung a couple that he got away with.

He's keeping his comeback spring performance going, and that's welcome news for a staff that's looking to prove itself this season.

The Cards went ahead in vintage Tony LaRussa fashion, getting a lead-off walk and hit-and-run single that led to a 1-0 lead in the second, and for awhile, it looked like it might hold up.

Kyle Lohse was masterful over five innings, keeping the ball down and corkscrewing batters with his change. The Bucs only had a pair of knocks off him before they finally figured him out in the sixth.

Ronny Cedeno singled, and a bunt later, Jose Tabata walked. Neil Walker, batting lefty, took an above-the-belt heater on the outside corner the opposite way, dropping it into the left field corner for a two-run double. McCutch followed with his second long ball of the year, pounding a sinker over the wall in left center, and the Pirates were up 4-1.

Jose Veras got through the seventh. The Bucs blew a shot at adding on in the eighth when Tabata, on third with one out and going on contact, was thrown out at home. It was the prelude for Evan Meek time.

Meek had more bad luck than bad pitching, but the results were the same as the last outing. A broken bat single, walk, and bouncer into right made it 4-2 with nobody out and runners on the corners, thanks to Garrett Jones throwing home instead of holding the runner at second. Visions of another come-from-ahead loss, ala Chicago, had to be dancing in Bucco heads.

Surely it rang a bell in Clint Hurdle's mind; he went out and yanked Meek. Rookie Mike Crotta came in, and gave the Bucs just what the doc ordered, a tailor-made DP ball grounded to Cedeno. He dropped it, his second late-inning error in four outings, though he recovered in time to get the force.

The redeemed runner, the generally lead-footed Allen Craig, stole second (his first MLB swipe) on swung-through hit-and-run; Dewey actually made a strong throw, but Craig had too much of a jump off Crotta. No matter; he K'd the batter.

Two down, and out came Hurdle again. He tapped the right arm for Hanny, and he made the unorthodox move (well, compared to the JR era, anyway) look golden when Hanrahan nailed the third out.

A walk, a broken bat knock, giving up a guy's first steal, a mental error, and a botched DP ball all in the same inning...hey, what's new? The Pirates were on the road, after all. But they survived with the lead. Joel Hanrahan made it hold up in the ninth, earning his third save in three outings.

-- Pedro started a pair of around-the-horn DPs and made a nice play on a slow chopper; maybe he plans on holding the hot corner job for more than a minute.

-- Neil Walker had a three hit night; he's hitting .412 with a team-high 7 RBI. And he's not even the Pirate leader in BA. That would belong to Jose Tabata, who's hitting .429 and scored six times from the leadoff spot. Both run numbers lead the league right now; Jose gets on and The Pittsburgh Kid brings him home.

-- Steve Pearce got into his first game tonight and made a nifty play at first; Josh Rodriguez is the only position player still waiting to step between the lines.

-- A lot has been made of Morton's mental state after dealing with Joe Kerrigan, but more important may be Ray Searage's two adjustments - getting CM back to being a power pitcher, and adjusting his arm slot from over-the-top to three quarters. He's still a work in progress, but the early results are promising.

--J-Mac will make his first start of the season tomorrow as scheduled after missing the last couple of weeks of spring ball with a muscle pull.

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