Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ford Flies, Bucs Bungle Way to 3-2 loss

Hey, even when it doesn't rain, it does. With a forecast for a thunderstorm, the tarp stayed down on PNC grass - and a drop never fell (although one of the groundskeepers did water the infield, providing the living definition of "irony"). So there was a 45 minute "no rain" delay before the game started, just because Joe or one of his proteges said it would. Ah, Pittsburgh in April.

It didn't bother Charlie Morton any. He got two quick ground outs before issuing the dreaded two-out walk to Aubrey Huff, who promptly stole second. CM got Buster Posey swinging, so a potential bullet was dodged. Nor did it bother Matt Cain; he threw a tidy frame.

Kung Fu Panda started the second with a ground ball double into right; Morton came back with a pair of K's and a great catch by McCutch to leave him stranded at second. But he is up to 39 pitches and could use a quick, clean inning to get his pitch count under control.

He did get the lead in the second; Garrett Jones bombed a 2-2 curve that hung over the dish past the center field fence for his fourth of the year.

Morton got his easy inning in the third; even with a Freddy Sanchez jam-job infield single, he finished off the G-Men in ten pitches. Cain one-upped him, retiring the side on swinging strikeouts.

Posey started off the fourth by drawing a ten pitch walk, but Pablo Sandoval bounced the second offering to SS Brandon Wood, who started a 6-4-3 DP. Matt Diaz began the Bucco half with a double to center, sitting on a 3-1 fastball. Lyle Overbay was jammed on a 2-0 heater, and lined it gently to third. A Neil Walker fly to right got Diaz to third, but there he stayed as Jones went down swinging.

CM finally got a 1-2-3 inning, and was sitting on 72 pitches after five and in good shape. Cain mowed down the Bucs thanks to a great stop of a Wood shot down the line by Panda. It's been a classic pitcher's duel, with each team having just two hits and both hurlers with 5 K's apiece.

Aaron Rowland opened the sixth with a double to left, and Sanchez rolled one to second to advance the runner. Morton tried to paint an 0-2 pitch on the outside corner against Huff, but he lifted the opposite way into left for a game-tying sac fly. The Giants played the inning as a textbook example of manufacturing a run, something the Pirates failed to do in the fourth.

But they manufactured one in the sixth. With two outs, Diaz walked, stole second, and came around on Overbay's ground ball knock to left as Pittsburgh regained the lead 2-1.

Panda started the seventh against Morton with a ground ball single into left, the fourth lead-off batter to reach base. Pat Burrell followed with a five-pitch walk, and that was it. Clint Hurdle took his slow walk and called for Chris Resop.

And he was equal to the task. Resop got a pair of pop outs, one on a nice over-the-rail grab by Overbay, and battled Mike Fontenot for a dozen pitches before blowing one past him; the righty was between 94-96 every pitch.

It was another strong outing for Morton, too. He went six innings, giving up a run on four hits with three walks and six K's, tossing 96 pitches.

Jeremry Affeldt gave up a leadoff knock to Dewey, and Ronny Cedeno came on to run. Surprisingly, Hurdle called on Pedro to bunt. Not too surprisingly, he blew it, popping out.

Ramon Ramirez took over, and while walking Wood still notched an out when Cedeno, making an ill-advised back door slide after a good jump, was caught stealing. Hurdle may have out thought himself this inning; hopefully, he didn't ding Pedro's confidence too much.

Wood went to second on a wild pick-off attempt, but Jose Tabata, who came on during a two-for-one switch, flew out to short center.

Evan Meek had a short outing in the eighth. Rowland singled, and Darren Ford ran for him. he scooted to third on a hit-and-run bouncer through the SS hole by Sanchez - Wood broke because Hurdle had flipped coverages, playing the odds that Sanchez would hit behind the runner - and that brought on Joe Beimel. He did his job, getting Huff to pop out after falling behind 3-1.

Now it was Jose Veras' turn. Buster Posey took his first pitch into left, deep enough to score the burner Ford without a throw to knot the score.

Replacing Rowland with Ford paid another dividend in the eighth when Diaz blasted a ball into right center that the speedster ran down; it would have been a play that Rowland may not have been able to make.

It was enough to get Ramirez out of the game; Javier Lopez took over and closed out the frame.

Veras struck out the side in the ninth; Sergio Romo coaxed a pair of grounders and a K. Cedeno, who stayed in the game, didn't help his own cause when he failed to run out a tapper up the third base line. It was ruled fair, and he was thrown out by 60 feet. Hurdle had a brief chat with the man in blue and a longer one with his shortstop.

Ford's feet and general Pirate ineptitude led to the go ahead run for SF in the tenth. Nate Schierholtz led off with a soft single to right against Hanny. Diaz overran the ball, and Schierholtz went to second.

Ford bunted, but right to Overbay, who nailed Schierholtz at third. That put the Bucs right where the Giants wanted them. Hanrahan threw to first, the ball hit off Ford's body, and he was at third in a heartbeat.

With the infield in, Sanchez hit a hopper to Walker, who held Ford. But then he lollipopped the throw to first, Ford broke home, and Overbay's rushed relay was in time, but well wide of the mark, skipping past Snyder. Ford's speed and Pittsburgh's sloppy play gave the G-Men the lead, and the game.

Brian Wilson got the save, surviving two hard hit at 'em balls drilled by Tabata and McCutch.

The Giants won tonight because they didn't make mistakes and played small ball behind good pitching. You can even tell by their bench makeup - when they needed a runner, they brought in Ford, who may have single-handedly won the game. The Bucs? They called on Cedeno.

Good teams find ways to win tight games; bad teams find ways to lose.

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