OK, so the Bucs don't have Pedro, Dewey or Steve Pearce and the Mets are without Jose Reyes, Ike Davis and David Wright. Hey, should end up a 10-8 game, right? Just joking; actually Charlie Morton (5-2, 2.61 ERA) and Dillon Gee (4-0, 3.83 ERA) are two of the better young righties in the NL, and they're hooking up tonight.
The Bucs went down in order; ditto for the Mets. Neil Walker started the second with a line single; he was forced at second by Lyle Overbay. He got to trot home when Chris Snyder caught a slider over the heart of the plate and crushed it over the wall in left center for his third homer.
Daniel Murphy led off with a single into center. Angel Pagan lined a ball off the glove off Brandon Wood at third; it fell in for a knock. Josh Thole bounced out to the right side, moving the runners to second and third with an out. Morton K'ed Jason Pridie, but Snyder muffed the catch; a run scored, another runner moved to third, and Pridie got to first on the passed ball.
Rueben Tejeda rolled a soft ball to the left side, and Wood had to eat it; the game was tied. Another passed ball moved the runners to second and third. Morton struck out Gee, and Willie Harris bounced out to first. Two passed balls, two infield singles - funny how the ball is drawn to the guys that can't catch it, hey? Anyway, it was quickly a new game.
Gee struck out the side; his rep is that of a wild child, but of his first 43 pitches, 35 have been strikes. He has 6 K's after three, matching his MLB career high. Morton got three grounders; a single, a force, and a 6-3 DP.
The Pirates went down quietly in the fourth. The Mets made some noise, and put up three hits without scoring. Ground ball single, ground ball 6-3 DP again, line single, ground ball single, ground ball out.
Ronny Cedeno broke a streak of nine straight Bucco outs when he dropped a soft single into left with one away in the fifth and was stranded there. With one away, Morton plunked Justin Turner with a curve. Carlos Beltran rolled a single into right. Murphy hit a seeing-eye grounder into left to load the sacs, and Ray Searage came out for a little chat.
On an 0-2 pitch, Angel Pagan got a sinker down and on the outside corner; he dribbled a bleeder up the middle. Cedeno made a diving stop, but the ball stuck in his glove and he couldn't get the flip to Walker, and it was 3-2 Mets. Josh Thole popped out in foul territory, and Pridie took a changeup deep to left, but there was room for Tabata to make the grab.
The good news is that the Mets have had plenty of opportunities to put the game away; the bad news is that the Bucs bats are frigid, and for that matter, so are their gloves.
They went down 1-2-3 in the sixth; their record after falling behind after six is 1-22. Tejeda started the Mets off by blooping a ball into short right and was bunted to second. A two-out wild pitch moved him to third, but Morton got Turner to bounce out.
After a Walker lineout, Overbay drilled a single into right, and a wild pitch moved him to second. Snyder legged out an infield single to the deep shortstop hole (no, that's not a typo) to put runners on the corners.
Cedeno bounced out to third and into a force at second to tie the game. He was caught trying to steal on the first pitch, but he did his job. That was it for Morton; Daniel McCutchen took the hill.
Morton gave up three runs (one earned) on eleven hits, all singles, striking out four and tossing 92 pitches. He did a good job keeping the game in hand, especially without a lot of defensive support. Last year's Morton would have given up twice the runs in half the innings.
McCutchen walked Beltran on four pitches, and Murphy followed with a line single into right. Pagan drove one to the wall in center; McCutch hauled it in as Beltran moved to third. Josh Thole took a knee high heater on a 2-1 count and pounded it into gap for a two-bagger that plated both runners, and the Mets had regained the lead and some; they were up 5-3.
Clint Hurdle called on Danny Moskos to climb the hill. He collected a pair of routine outs to stem the bleeding. Jason Isringhausen took the ball for the Mets.
Wood got ahead in the count 3-0, but eventually struck out for the second time. Xavier Paul caught a 3-2 cutter and roped it to the track in dead center for a loud second out. Jose Tabata bounced out to short to end the frame. Jose Ascanio came on to work the eighth; it looks like Hurdle has thrown out the white towel.
He got ahead of pinch hitter Nick Evans 0-2, and then fed him four straight balls. He fell behind Turner 3-0, and two pitches later fed him a sinker that he almost took out in center; it scored Evans. Two lead off walks and both scored.
Beltran got an infield knock to put runners on the corners. Murphy hit into a force out to bring home another run. JA fell behind Pagan 3-0 before getting him to ground out to finish the frame.
Francisco Rodriguez took over in the ninth. with one out, McCutch walked and Walker drove a ball to the track in center that Pagan ran down, yet another long out.
Hey, tough day at the office. Today's storyline was pretty simple: everything the Mets hit, at least against Morton, had eyes, and everything the Bucs hit found a fielder. mama said there'd be days like this. Still, there are a couple of questions tonight's contest highlighted.
Brandon Wood is neither hitting nor fielding, and Jose Ascanio has spent his Bucco career either on the DL or getting lit up. We've beaten this horse before, but just because you're out of options or once made BA's prospect list doesn't mean you should taking up a roster spot.
There's no logical minor league candidate to replace Wood right now, but if we were evaluating, we'd be checking out Josh Harrison during his 15 day audition period. And if he looks like a guy that can play off the bench, we'd keep him when Steve Pearce comes back. Heck, Wood makes us miss dear ol' Delwyn Young.
As for Ascanio...he may have a great arm, but if it doesn't translate into outs, it's not worth a MLB roster spot. Maybe injuries have derailed him, and some time in the minors might bring back the mojo. But now he's just taking up time and space. Tim Wood has been doing OK at Indy and can bring the heat; he should be able to handle a low-leverage bullpen gig.
We won't get involved in the Xavier Paul-Alex Presley debate. But a solid argument could be made that they picked up the Dodger version of what they already had on the farm.
The Bucs under the current FO have never been able to build a solid bench, a combo of iffy evaluations, warehousing of out-of-option guys, and closing the deal on the hard sell that coming to Pittsburgh requires. But taking that next step will require depth, and the Pirates need more Steve Pearce type guys on the roster.
-- Keith Law of ESPN just ran his mock draft and has the Bucs selecting Gerritt Cole, saying "The Pirates are still seriously on Danny Hultzen and Bubba Starling, and I wouldn't rule Anthony Rendon out entirely, but my gut tells me right now they'll find Cole's raw stuff -- he hit 101 for me on Friday night and touched 100 many times, including in the eighth inning -- too good to pass up."
-- We meant to post this last week; this article is an interesting read. Howard Bryant of ESPN asks "Where does medical science end and ethics begin?" It does get awfully murky.
-- As John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus noted, it was a "good day for Mount Lebanon grads: Don Kelly makes game-ending diving catch for Tigers, Josh Wilson homers for Brewers."