Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bats Desert Maholm Again; Blue Wins 2-0

Neil Walker was scratched late; he has "flu-like symptoms." So Ronny Cedeno slid to second and Brandon Wood took over at short; Wood is still getting work at second base, a position he's never played before, and not ready for prime time. The new lineup:

Andrew McCutchen CF, Xavier Paul LF, Garrett Jones RF, Lyle Overbay 1B, Chris Snyder C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Brandon Wood SS, Ronny Cedeno 2B, Paul Maholm P.

For Cedeno, it will be his first game at second in almost two seasons and his first ever appearance at the spot as a Pirate.

Paul Maholm dodged the first inning blues that have haunted him, putting down the Blue in order with a pair of soft rollers and a K. Hiroki Kuroda did him one better; he whiffed a pair of Buccos in the first.

PM got the first two guys in the second, and then everyone held their breath after a Rod Barajas single and Jerry Sands walk. But Russ Mitchell bounced out to Pedro, and Maholm had navigated the opening two frames, his personal bug-a-boo, safely. For the Bucs, Chris Snyder drew a walk to make the only noise.

The third inning was a little ragged for Maholm; he went 3-0 on the pitcher and 3-1 on Jamey Carroll before getting both to ground out. Ivan DeJesus singled, but PM K'ed Andre Ethier for the second time to end it. Kuroda sailed through the Pirates, still looking for their first knock of the night.

Matt Kemp led of the frame with a leadoff infield single; two groundouts and a long fly to the wall kept the Dodgers off the board. Jones drew a one-out, four-pitch base on balls, and that was all the action for the Bucs.

Maholm got three routine grounders in the fifth; by now he has to be wondering what the Bucco batters have against him. Kuroda threw Pedro four straight balls; nevertheless, he struck him out swinging. Wood collected the Buc's first knock with a broken bat looper into left center, but a Cedeno force out and a Maholm K - swinging, like Pedro, at three balls outside the zone - whiffed. Not much discipline being shown at the ol' dish tonight.

The sixth was again LA's inning. DeJesus walked on four pitches, and Ethier hit a swinging bunt up the first base side. Overbay decided to take the bag, but the ball got past Maholm and Cedeno's flip to first after a long run was late; Overbay, who pulled up, was the only man who had a play, if indeed there was one. Kemp walked on five pitches to load the sacks.

Pittsburgh got some temporary relief when Juan Uribe bounced into a DP, scoring a run. PM fell behind Barajas 2-0 and intentionally walked him to get to rookie Jerry Sands; he doubled the second run in. Mitchell was intentionally walked, and Kuroda rolled out to first. 2-0, Dodgers. And though no one knew it at the time, that would be it.

The Pirates put a couple of ducks on the pond in their half, but couldn't bring them home. Paul singled with an out, stole second, and Overbay walked with two away. They moved up a base on a wild pitch. But Snyder, who had been solid in RBI opps, wasn't up to the task, swinging through three pitches without so much as a foul.

Maholm was done; Daniel McCutchen came on to face the top of the order. PM gave up two runs on five hits and five walks (two intentional) and three K's in six innings, using up 98 pitches. D-Mac can-of-corned the Blue in the seventh.

Pedro had Kuroda measured; he bombed a ball about six feet outside the foul pole and off the Pepsi Tower, and then lined out on a laser directly to second. Cedeno punched a two-out single, but Dewey ran out of magic and whiffed pinch-hitting, the fourth straight Pittsburgh inning that ended with a K. Kuroda did a great job of letting the Pirates get themselves out; he throws them a strike every at-bat and let them fish the rest of the way.

Jose Veras put up a zero in the eighth. Kemp drew a full count lead off walk, checking his swing on a hook. He stole second with one away despite a strong throw by Snyder, but JV got a short fly and K to keep him anchored there. The top of the Pirate order faced Matt Guerrier and went down in order.

Joe Beimel 1-2-3'ed the LA batters. Vincente Padilla almost did the same to Pittsburgh, but Pedro lined a two-out, two-strike double to keep the Bucs alive. Padilla went 2-0 on Wood, but came back to get him swinging on a hook.

The Pirates lost 2-0, thanks to a pair of walks and a poorly played infield bleeder. And with the offense seemingly clueless (and without Walker, Hurdle has very few options for any semblance of a middle of the order), every little mistake counts.

Oh, and tonight was another example of why the Pirate faithful don't get fired up over .500 in early May. When you hold the opponent to five hits and still lose by a pair, well, you still have a ways to go.

Charlie Morton will try to earn a split of the series tomorrow when he takes on Jon Garland.

-- The Pirates have scored 11 runs in eight starts for Paul Maholm. Hiroki Kuroda was a bad match-up for him; he now has a 4-1 record and 1.89 ERA against Pittsburgh in his career.

-- A couple of observations: Ronny Cedeno is starting everyday because he can glove it in a premium fielder's position; he would have ate up a couple of balls Wood couldn't get to tonight. And Lyle Overbay hasn't shown us much leather yet; he may be an improvement over Garrett Jones, but he's certainly no Kevin Young or Adam LaRoche. Heck, he's not even Sean Casey.

-- Evan Meek threw in the pen today and will have another session over the weekend. If he feels OK, he'll go off to Indy for his rehab next week.

-- Mike Crotta's elbow injury (right posterior elbow inflammation) is real; it's a recurrence of a problem he had during the off season and it flared up a week or two ago. He tried to pitch through it; a rookie mistake by a kid trying to tough it out after earning a spot in the show.

-- Jason Stark of ESPN wrote an article headed "Pittsburgh Actually Showing Progress."

"...we've got guys who can play better," Neal Huntington told him. "And to me, that's the most encouraging thing. It's not our record. It's showing signs that we can be better, that we SHOULD be better."

-- The Dodgers' reliever Matt Guerrier was a starting pitcher for the Pirates organization at AAA Nashville in 2002-03; he was traded to the Bucs for Damasco Marte by the White Sox. The Pirates got Marte back in 2006 before shipping him to the Yankees in 2008.

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