Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bucs Ride See Saw To 7-6 Win

Couldn't ask for a much better start; McCutch and Jose Tabata went deep to start the game. The Bucs added two more when Edison Valquez walked in a run - he issued three free passes in the inning - and Ronny Cedeno hit a sac fly to straightaway center that came within a few feet of being a grand salami.

But they refused to add on and chase Valquez. They left runners on first and third in the opening frame, Neil Walker hit into a first-and-second occupied 4-6-3 DP in the second, and McCutch was caught stealing on an overslide in the fourth with Tabata up.

It allowed the Reds to fight their way back. The red-hot Jonny Gome hit a solo homer, and Walker gave Cincy two-out life in the fourth when a grounder bounced off his mitt (it was ruled a single) and a pair of knocks made it 4-2.

Then Cincinnati blew it up in the fifth; maybe the extra three Red batters in the fourth and the quick 1-2-3 Bucco fifth caught up to JK. Miguel Cairo homered with one out, Joey Votto singled, and Scott Rolen doubled him in.

That was it for Karstens, who went 4-1/3 innings, giving up five runs on eight hits, a walk and six K's. Daniel McCutchen came on and got Gomes to fly out, but Jay Bruce rolled a single into right to give the Reds the lead, 5-4.

Jones tied it in the top of the sixth when he went long for the third time this year, and the Bucs regained the lead with two outs when Cedeno walked and pinch-hitter John Bowker doubled him home.

Jose Veras had an interesting inning. Lyle Overbay booted an in-between hop, Jones misread a liner that dropped in just off his mitt, and Miguel Cairo stuck out his elbow to plunk his way on base.

One away and the sacks were juiced, with Joey Votto and Rolen up. Veras struck out Votto on a high heater, and got Rolen to roll one to second. Walker knocked the spinner down (Tim Neverett aptly described it as a "tackle" of the ball), and threw him out from his knees.

A Pedro DP ended the Buccos seventh, and Hurdle tried to get another inning out of Veras after running through the pen pretty well yesterday. But a a homer to Jay Bruce tied the score, and with a runner on second and two away, Hurdle made a two-for-one switch, bringing in Chris Resop (Veras was at 40 pitches) and plugging Steve Pearce in at third. Resop got a pop out to end the frame.

In spite of their best efforts to shoot themselves in the foot, the Pirates went ahead in the eighth. Jones led off with a knock and stole second, and when Chris Snyder's sac bunt went through pitcher Logan Ondrusek, the Bucs had runners at the corners with no one out.

Cedeno pushed a weak bunt up the right side, and whether it was a delayed squeeze or his own brainstorm with the infield back (EDIT - he said after the game that it was his decision), it caught Jones by surprise. He broke home late, but appeared to score when the tag was high, around his hip. But he was rung up, as usually happens when the ball beats the runner to the base.

Pearce popped out, but clutch McCutch dropped a soft two-out single into center. Snyder chugged home, but his run was almost nullified when Cedeno steamed into third, his hard slide barely beating the throw. And that would have cost Pittsburgh the run; Snyder was still two steps from home.

We assume RC took a calculated risk with the play in front of him to draw the throw and give the plodding Snyder a better shot at scoring, and it worked by the slimmest of margins. (He may have had a brain cramp, too, or thought the throw was going home; there was a play on Snyder available so we're giving him the benefit of the doubt.)

Mr. Eighth Inning, Evan Meek, took the hill. He didn't last long, and was probably on a short leash to start with after working yesterday. After an opening K, a ground ball single and walk brought about another twofer from Hurdle, who replaced Jones Tabata with Matt Diaz and brought on a fresh Joel Hanrahan in an effort to close out the game.

Hanny worked to Rolen, who roped a heater a couple of feet to the SS side of second. A diving Cedeno snagged the slicer on a sweet play, doubling off the runner at second and preserving the lead.

The Bucs left Walker on at second in the ninth, and Hanny stayed on the hill, trying for a five-out save. He got it, but not without a couple of Maalox moments. He got the first batter on a soft roller to Pearce, and Bruce followed with a swinging bunt that Snyder tossed over Overbay's mitt.

Walker made a hustle play to back up the throw, and cut it off by the stands. Bruce took a step toward second, saw Walker with the ball, and trotted back to first. The throw beat him easily to the bag, and he was rung up. In this case, two wrongs did make it right for the Bucs.

But the drama was just beginning. Edgar Renteria hit a hopper over the mound, and it more or less died at Walker's feet for a single. Paul Janish punched a grounder into right through the hole. A wild pitch and walk loaded the bases for Drew Stubbs.

Hanny fell behind 2-0, Snyder set up right over the middle of the dish, and Stubbs sat on the heater. He got it, but didn't catch enough; he skied it into medium right center, McCutch waved his arms, squeezed the ball, and the Pirates took a 7-6 white-knuckler from the Reds.

Kevin Correia goes against Travis Wood tomorrow night as the Bucs improbably go for their third straight road series win.

-- McCutch must like leadoff; he was 3-for-3 with two walks, a run scored and 2 RBI.

-- Tabata stole his ninth base; as of now, he has the NL lead.

-- Each club hit three homers, and all six were solo shots.

-- Pittsburgh drew eight walks today after drawing seven yesterday.

-- Pedro's early season woes continue; he was the only Pittsburgh starter not to reach base, and struck out two more times. He's hitting .193.

-- In spite of all the action, Hanrahan only threw twenty pitches; we'd assume he'll be good to go if needed tomorrow night. Meek and Veras, though, will probably get an off day. Considering all the innings the pen has had to pick up the last couple of days, Hurdle has done a good job keeping guys fresh.

-- When McCutch and Tabata started the game with back-to-back homers, it was the third time that's happened in Bucco history. It last occurred in 1982 against the Astros, with the honors going to Omar Moreno and Johnny Ray. Today's victim, pitcher Edison Valquez, had the same thing happen on Opening Day against the Brew Crew.

BTW, it was McCutchen's seventh career lead-off homer.

-- Matt Capps has claimed the closer job at Minnesota, at least until Joe Nathan can conjure up his old mojo.

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