Monday, May 9, 2011

Kardiac Kids At It Again; Dump Dodgers 4-1

Aaron Miles and Andre Ethier singled against Jeff Karstens with one out to put runners on the corners in the opening frame. It looked like they may stay there after Matt Kemp K'ed, but Juan Uribe's ground knock into left through the hole barely eluded Pedro and brought home the game's first run.

Garrett Jones appeared to have tied it in the Bucco half of the first when his drive was caught by a Clemente Wall fan, but it was quickly ruled a ground rule double and reviewed; and it was a good call, inches shy of clearing the fence before becoming a souvenir. The second inning went quietly; the only noise was a two-out Chad Billingsley double; he can sling 'em and smack 'em.

Miles led off with his second knock of the game; a batter later, Kemp looked like he had his second, too, when he drove a ball to the wall in center. But McCutch, starting in medium center, ran it down. Miles was on his way to third before he realized the ball was going to end up in McCutch's mitt and was doubled off 8-6-3.

The Pirates tied it in their half. Ronny Cedeno led off with a single, and with two away, Jose Tabata drew a four-pitch walk. Billingsley went 2-0 on Jones, but didn't give in. He sawed off Jones' bat, but the big guy got enough of the ball to muscle a seeing-eye roller into center to knot the score.

JK pitched a clean fourth. The Bucs raised a little dust when Dewey singled and Pedro walked with one out. But a Cedeno fly-out to center, which moved Doumit to third, and a Karsten's K closed the frame.

Rod Barajas saved a run when a fifty-five foot pitch hopped wickedly into his mitt, almost knocking him over. The Dodgers got a Barajas single to start the fifth; he was bunted to second and stayed there as JK got Carroll and Miles. The Pirates went in order.

After the fifth, it usually becomes stormy waters for Karstens. He got the first two guys, but a walk to Uribe and a single by James Loney put him in a pickle with runners on the corners. Karstens was struggling, using 27 pitches on four hitters.

Clint Hurdle saw enough, and Mike Crotta came on to try to close the inning. Good choice; rookie Jerry Sands (his call-up was the reason Xavier Paul was cut) bounced the first pitch to Cedeno for the third out.

It was a solid Karstens effort. He went 5-2/3 innings, giving up a run on seven hits and a walk and striking out a pair, tossing 90 pitches and dropping his ERA to 3.62.

Doumit singled up the middle with two away; he has two of the Bucs five hits, but a Pedro fly to center ended the action. With the 8-9-1 hitters due up in the seventh, Crotta stayed on the hill. He got the first hitter, but Billingsley continued to swing a hot stick, singling into center, and Carroll followed with another knock off Cedeno's glove. That brought on Joe Beimel.

Miles bounced out to Overbay, who got the force at second but couldn't get a DP turned. It didn't hurt; Ethier flew out to center to keep the score even at ones. Billingsley got Cedeno and Matt Diaz. With two away, McCutch hit a ground-rule double into left to set up Tabata, but his struggles continued as he lofted the first pitch to Kemp.

It was Jose Veras' turn on the mound to start the eighth. He plunked Kemp on a 3-2 hook; none of his curves were anywhere near the dish. Uribe knocked one into left; Tabata ran it down and made a sweet sliding catch; Kemp was doubled off first 7-4-3.

The Dodgers beefed (Juan Uribe and Don Mattingly were tossed), and as replay showed, it was a trap. If this were basketball or hockey, it'd be a classic make-up call for missing McCutch's grab last night. Loney grounded out to end the inning on a calm note. Tabata as much as confirmed that he got over on the umps after the inning; he looked like the cat that ate the canary in the dugout, according to Rocco DeMaro.

Jones drew a walk to open the back half of the eighth, and Xavier Paul came in as a pinch runner. It paid off; The Pittsburgh Kid was allowed to swing (you never know when Hurdle's gonna bunt) and rattled a hit-and-run two-bagger inside of first base to score Paul.

That brought on lefty Hong-Chih Kuo to face Overbay. He fell behind 2-0, and Overbay drilled a heater into right for a double and insurance RBI. Then he fell behind Doumit 3-1, came in with another fastball, and Dewey doubled into right to make it 4-1.

A little late for the Dodger cause, Mike MacDougal replaced Kuo. He struck out Pedro and Cedeno; pinch hitter Steve Pearce beat out an infield single to put runners on the corners with two away. McCutch flew out to center to end the frame, but the Bucs late-inning mojo cast its spell again; they're taking a page from the sixties' Kardiac Kids.

Hanny came out looking for his eleventh save. He gave up a one-out line knock to Barajas, and missed a throw by Walker on Jay Gibbons little grounder to put runners at first and second.

Hanrahan got Carroll to hit into a forceout to Pedro; the Bucs couldn't complete the around-the-horn DP. Miles whacked a ball that had double written all over it to third; Pedro made a nice reaction grab, diving to his right, and fired a laser beam to first, giving Hanny his eleventh save in eleven opps.

Ted Lilly takes on Kevin Correia tomorrow night.

-- Today's victory gave the Pirates their first three game winning streak of 2011.

-- Pedro is looking better and better at third; his play there may tilt the Pirates top draft-day selection toward a pitcher like Gerritt Cole rather than 3B Anthony Rendon, whose injury-plagued season is raising a red flag to scouts.

It's easier to find a first baseman with some pop than a hammer at the hot corner; if Pedro can establish himself there, it'll make it an easier job for the Pirates to fill in the lineup down the road.

-- The Pirate pitching has picked it up, as we all know. They've improved their left-on-base % from 67% in 2010 to 73% this year. Their ground ball rate has increased from 44% to 49%; that and better fielding has dropped the BABIP from 2010's .311 to this year's .282. Good stuff, hey?

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