Hey, the rain came early; the tarp was off the field by 6:15 and it's an on-time start tonight.
J-Mac got through the first OK, limiting the Giant damage to a two-out single by Aubrey Huff. Madison Bumgarner was better, K'ing two of the first three Bucco batters. McDonald began to spray the ball a bit in the second, and left runners on second and third with two away when he got his mound opponent to bounce to short.
The Pittsburgh Kid broke the ice for the Pirates with an infield single, and Steve Pearce followed with a line double to right to put runners at second and third with no outs. Chris Snyder dropped a single into center to make it 1-0.
With runners on the corners, Pedro struck out on three pitches and Brandon Wood was retired on a short fly to right. J-Mac whiffed - that's four K's for Bumgarner - and both bottoms of the order left a flock of ducks on the pond.
Aaron Rowand walked to start the third; J-Mac has the same problem with pitches up tonight that he's had all season. He bore down, did a little better job of getting the ball down, and got the next three G-Men, helped by a terrific over-the-rail grab of a foul pop by Pedro Alvarez. The Bucs went down in order, with Jose Tabata joining the K parade.
McDonald and Bumgarner had been struggling coming into tonight, but so far its been a decently pitched game.
With one away, Pat Burrell drew a walk. But Cody Ross rolled over on an 0-2 pitch, grounding it to short, and Wood started a 6-4-3 DP to get J-Mac out of the fourth frame.
Walker started the fourth with his second infield hit of the day, and Pearce singled sharply into left. Snyder moved them up a sack with a roller to third. Pedro struck out swinging again; for the second time, he's left a runner on third with less than two outs. Wood was intentionally walked to load them for McDonald. J-Mac never took the bat off his shoulder, and it almost worked; he was called out on a 3-2 pitch.
Miguel Tejada walked to open the fifth and was bunted to second by Bumgarner. McDonald got Rowand swinging, and Sanchez ended the inning on a bouncer to short. So far, so good - even with four walks and some deep counts, J-Mac is sitting at 73 pitches through five.
Bumgarner had no trouble putting away McCutch, Tabata and Matt Diaz; the top of the order is now 0-for-9 with 3 K's. McDonald retired the first two hitters in the sixth, followed by an infield single from the now svelte Kung Fu Panda. He fell behind Burrell 3-0, but came back to get him on a fly to left.
Walker, Pearce and Snyder are up this frame; they have all five Pirate hits so far. But Bumgarner got them in order this time around, thanks to nice stop by Pedro Sandoval on Snyder's shot to third.
Ross started the seventh with a line single to right on a 3-2 fastball. That was 98 pitches for J-Mac and Clint Hurdle brought on Mike Crotta.
McDonald went six innings, giving up four hits, four walks, and striking out three, taking a nice step forward. Especially encouraging was the return of his curve, which got sharper as the game wore on. Overbay took over first base in a twofer switch.
Bruce Bochy must have thought Dewey was catching; he sent Ross, who Snyder threw out. Good thing, too, when Tejada bounced a single into left. Bochy sent up the lefty Nate Schierholtz; Hurdle countered with Joe Biemel, who got him on a fly to McCutch. Out went Joe, in came Chris Resop to face Rowand. He balked Tejada to second, but little matter - he K'ed Rowand.
Lefty Dan Runzler came in for San Fran; Pedro singled off Panda's glove and Wood dropped a soft single into right. This time, Hurdle had Overbay bunt; he bunted back to the box and into a force at third. Guillermo Mota came on to face McCutch and Tabata.
Mota whiffed McCutch, who swung through a slider off the plate. Tabata was clutch; he took a 1-2 fastball on the outside corner and drove into right for a single and a big insurance run. Garrett Jones pinch-hit for Diaz, but went down swinging.
Resop stayed on the hill. He got Sanchez on a liner to Jones, Huff on a liner to McCutch, and Buster Posey on a come-backer. Guys like Chris Resop are the reason the Bucs love to dumpster dive; most are busts, but sometimes you get lucky.
And, of course, the rains fell again in the eighth. But the umps let them play on. Mota didn't complain; he 1-2-3'ed the Bucs. Resop faced four hitters and got four outs on 20 pitches; the ninth is Hanny time (and the eighth may become Resop time, at least until Evan Meek shakes his virus).
He walked Sandoval on five pitches to open the frame and fell behind Burrell 3-1. But Hanny pumped a couple of heaters down the middle and coaxed a pop out. Big out; Ross lined a single to right on the next pitch. Tejada didn't have the same luck. He bounced one to Wood, and the 6-4-3 DP ended the party.
Joel Hanrahan notched his seventh save, and the Bucs took a baby step toward respectability by winning a close game against a championship club that's built to win the tight ones.
-- The Pirates drew 9,048 tonight as the rain and Penguins, who were home tonight for the seventh game of their Stanley Cup series, continue to keep attendance down.
-- Don't consider Brandon Wood the everyday shortstop quite yet, though he's starting for the second straight game. He gets the nod tonight as a "manager's decision," and it's safe to assume that Ronny Cedeno's failure to run out a grounder last night is the reason RC is riding the pine. Maybe Clint Hurdle actually understands what "accountability" means.
-- In two starts at short, Brandon Wood has started three DPs.
-- The beat gang reports that Xavier Paul will be in uniform tomorrow and John Bowker will be DFA'ed.
-- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says that if teams come calling for Chris Snyder, the price will be high.
-- Jameson Taillon's professional debut was short-lived. He went two innings and 45 pitches, giving up a run on three hits with two walks. It was a damp, chilly night; Taillon was obviously on a short leash to start with. He did hit 93-94 on the gun in his brief outing, and after a shaky first, settled down in his second frame.
-- RHP Fernando Nieve, who the Bucs released in camp and was signed by Houston, was let go by the Astros so that he could pitch in Korea.
-- The WPIAL just announced its fifth Hall of Fame class, and manager Joe Colella of Hopewell baseball got the call. He's in his 48th season as the Vikings' coach, with 660 wins, three WPIAL and one PIAA crown on his resume.
So did Adam DiMichele, Sto-Rox HS class of 2004. He's the only athlete in WPIAL history to be named Post-Gazette All-Area for baseball, Fabulous 22 for football, and Fabulous 5 for basketball, and the Viking was named first-team All-State in all three sports.
DeMichele attended Okaloosa-Walton College in Florida as a pitcher and OF'er, and was a 38th round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2005 before moving on to QB at Temple and later in the CFL.