Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bucs Treat Record Crowd To 6-3 Win - And Fireworks Too!

The joint was rollin' again as the army of Phillie fans came early to set up shop. Pirates fans, of course, know where to eat and drink before the game, and took in some of the Arts Festival, so they arrived in a bit more leisurely fashion.

And hey, it doesn't count 'til 7:05 anyway and the fireworks are after the game, not before. Still, there's a whole bunch of red in the ol' ballyard tonight - again. Wonder how the Primanti cheesesteaks stack up against Geno's or Pat's and their Cheez-Whiz?

It wasn't a great start for Charlie Morton. Jimmy Rollins doubled, and a Placido Polanco single put runners on the corners with nobody away. He whiffed Chase Utley, and got a grounder from Ryan Howard, but the Bucs could only get the force and it was 1-0 Phils. Shane Victorino drove one toward the bullpens, but McCutch tucked it away to slow the tide.

JT got the Bucs off an running when he turned on slider and chopped it into left for a leadoff two-bagger. Paul bunted him to third. It looked like genius when McCutch chopped an infield single up the left side, plating Jose Tabata.

Neil Walker poked one the opposite way, but it didn't have enough carry and was hauled in on the left field track. Overbay's belt to right wasn't caught; it clanged off the Clemente Wall for a double, scoring McCutch and putting the Bucs up 2-1.

And it was almost for naught; the pitch before, Overbay dribbled a ball up the line and was thrown out, but the plate ump overruled the first base ump and called it foul. Hey, there was as much action in inning one of tonight's game as there was in twelve frames Friday.

With one out, Domonic Brown singled in the second. Then Charlie plunked Dane Sardinha, the catcher and eight hitter, on an 0-2 pitch, and Kendrick bunted the pair over. He escaped any damage when Rollins bounced out to Walker.

Ronny Cedeno cranked a one-out double to left, and a Morton moved him to third. Kendick got Tabata on a comebacker to end the frame. Morton put together a 1-2-3 inning to open the third. Kendrick did too, in a fashion - Paul singled, was tossed stealing (replays showed he was in; bad series for this crew), and that was followed by a pair of groundouts.

Philadelphia tied it in the fourth. Shane Victorino roped one into center, and a Raul Ibanez knock into right put runners on the corners. A soft roller to the right side by Brown brought the run home. The tie was broken pretty quickly.

Overbay tripled the opposite way to open the Bucs half, helped by some bumbling by LF'er Ibanez, and with the infield back, a Chris Snyder grounder to third brought him home. Then Brandon Wood clocked one into left, his first Bucco dinger, and the Bucs were up 4-2.

The Phils threatened again in the fourth. A four-pitch walk to Wilson Valdez followed by a one-out single by Chase Utley put runners on the corners again. But the sinker paid off as Howard rolled into a 4-6-3 DP to end the frame.

For the Bucs, the first noise was a long fly out to the wall in left by Paul; apparently the Bucs need a smaller park or a new strength coach. McCutch ate his Wheaties; he bounced a ground rule double (fan interference) into left with two away. Walker lined out to left on a 3-2 pitch to end the frame.

In the sixth, Morton walked Brown with two away. He whiffed Sardinha, but was up to 93 pitches. Mike Zagurski came on for the Phils, and Overbay greeted him with a single up the middle. Snyder K'ed swinging, and Wood took another ball deep to left, but the park held this one. Cedeno hit one on the nose, but right to Utley to end the inning.

CM was efficient in the seventh, getting a pair of ground outs - one a very nice barehand play by Cedeno - and a K, using just 10 pitches. It was enough to satisfy Clint Hurdle; Morton took the team, shorthanded after a 12 inning games yesterday, into the eighth with the lead.

He went seven, allowing two runs on six hits with two walks and five K's, tossing 103 pitches. Morton is now 6-2 with a 2.52 ERA.

Matt Diaz grabbed a bat in his stead. JC Romero took the mound for Philly, and walked Diaz to open the Bucco seventh. Adding insult to injury, he stole second. Tabata fouled a bunt try on the first pitch, and froze Diaz at second with a groundout to third. It wouldn't have helped; Paul struck out swinging.

Nor did it make any difference to the red hot McCutch, who rifled a 2-1 changeup into the left field corner to score Diaz. Walker was walked intentionally to get to the 3-for-3 Overbay, who was a long fly short of the cycle. He went for it, but the lefty-on-lefty matchup worked for the Phils and he K'ed swinging.

The Bucs handed the 5-2 lead to Jose Veras, who missed yesterday's marathon after suffering a meltdown in New York. He fell behind Utley 3-1, but came back to get him on a fly. Howard bounced out to second, and he K'ed Victorino swinging at a curve in the dirt. His stuff was nasty tonight, if not always over the dish.

Danys Baez climbed the hill for Philly. He got ahead of Snyder 0-2, then threw four straight balls to walk him. Wood forced him out at second on a grounder to Howard; he went to second when Valdez's return throw went astray. Cedeno bounced out to second with Wood moving to third with two away. Garrett Jones stepped to the plate to pinch hit for Veras.

Cedeno's out proved to be a welcome bit of small ball; Baez's first pitch to Jones, a curve in the dirt, got past Sardinha, and Wood scored on the short wild pitch and wide throw home to put the Bucs up 6-2. A gift run is always a welcome thing, especially against the big boys.

Surprisingly, Hurdle called on Hanny to close out the game, with Chris Resop rested and a non-save situation. Ibanez drilled a ground rule double into left center, catching a 99 MPH heater. Brown took Tabata to the wall to snag the first out. Pinch hitter Carlos Ruiz drew a 3-2 walk. Ben Francisco grabbed a bat, and Hanny froze him with a slider to get the second out on a K looking.

Valdez singled to load the bases on a ball that bounced off Hanny's mitt and ricocheted for an infield knock, and that brought up the tying run in Polanco. He singled in a run on a rope to center. Ray Searage took a stroll to the mound to have a few words with his closer. They must have been good ones; Hanrahan got ahead of Utley 0-2 and finished him on a routine fly to left.

It was a nail biting finish, but the Bucs took home a 6-3 win over the Phils - and that roar from the North Shore finally came from the Bucco faithful alone. Well, even if they didn't dig the game, at least the Philly crowd can sit back and enjoy the Zambelli brother's show. And it has been a great atmosphere in the ballpark with the competing fans aroar and going at it.

Doc Halladay goes against James McDonald tomorrow afternoon; dare the Bucs think sweep of the NL's top team in win percentage and a .500 record in June?

-- Tonight's attendance was 39,441, the largest crowd ever at PNC. (Mr. Nutting thanks all those Philly fans.) It led to an odd moment; Charlie Morton got a half-standing ovation, half "You ain't Doc" chant when he went into the dugout after seven.

The sellout - the Bucs third this year - pushed the season attendance to 504,893, which averages 20,196 tickets sold per game, or 52% of the capacity of PNC Park, which holds 38,496. Three NL Central teams - Saint Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee - are operating this season at 80%+ capacity and averaging 34-37,000 per game. That's how big the gap is that has to be made up to level the revenue playing field.

And that stat line explains why the Phillie fans flocked to open seats on the North Shore. Their park averages over 45,000 per game, and operates at 104% capacity. Of course, Philly's metro area has a population of 5.8M; Pittsburgh's is just 2.4M. Still, that's a baseball town.

-- The Bucs smacked ten hits tonight; seven were for extra bases, yet they were only 2-for-11 with RISP. McCutch continues his tear with three hits in the game, same as Lyle Overbay. McCutch is now hitting .272. Is there any doubt that the Bucs should try to tie him up into his early FA years?

-- In case you're wondering after last night, Clint Hurdle told the beat gang that Matt Diaz is the emergency catcher, with Steve Pearce, now on the DL, #4 on the depth chart. Only after those guys are burned up does the gear pass on to Neil Walker.

-- Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects hits on a point we made in a post a while back about optimizing the roster, although from a different angle. Tim gets into more detail, and crafts a good argument for infusing the team with young blood at the cost of a few dollars eaten in contracts of stop-gap vets.

-- Yesterday was the first time, due to injuries, that the Phils had their entire starting lineup intact all season. That didn't last long; Jimmy Rollins left early in tonight's game with a bruised knee.

-- Not baseball related news, but one of our favorite Steelers, running back and HoF'er John Henry Johnson, passed away today at the age of 81. GW still remembers his epic matches against the Browns, especially the time in 1964 when he rushed for 200 yards to lead the Black and Gold to an upset of the Brownies. JHJ was personally driven to outshine Jim Brown, and he did that day. He played for Pittsburgh from 1960-65.

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