Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bucs Win Home Run Derby 6-4

The clouds can't quite decide whether to stay or float on, but hey, nothing dampens a fireworks night at PNC Park.

With an out in the first, Dusty Pedroia drew a walk off Jeff Karstens. He stole second and went to third on an errant throw by Mike McKenry; the ball hit the runner because Cedeno was behind, instead of in front of, the base. It got Pedroia to third, and that cost when a grounder to short brought him home. Gonzalez walked with two away, and JD Drew brought a little excitement by blasting one that took McCutch to the bullpen fence for the third out.

Tim Wakefield's knuckler got the Bucs 1-2-3 in their half. After an inning, it was 1-0 Bosox.

Jarrod Saltalamaccia led off the second with a double; JK kept him there. The Bucs went down in order again. With two gone in the third, Adrian Gonzalez drove one out over the left center fence, his sixteenth of the year, to make it 2-0.

The Bucs raised a mild threat in their half. A Cedeno single and JT walk put runners on the corners with two away, but Chase d'Arnaud flew out to left to leave them stranded.

Salty lined a single to right with one away, and Josh Reddick walked. JK already has had a game's worth of walks in four innings. Marco Scutaro got him out of hot water by banging a ball to third, and d'Arnaud started a 5-4-3 DP to end the fourth.

McCutch rapped a one out single to third that Youkilis couldn't field cleanly. He stole second as Walker drew a four pitch free pass behind him. Lyle Overbay worked the count full, and then crushed a knuckler that didn't dance over the right center wall to give the Bucs a 3-2 lead. It was his sixth of the year. Who sez a little bench time is a bad thing?

Cedeno followed by lining a double to left. McKenry popped out, but Karstens helped his own cause by bouncing a single up the middle to plate RC, his first RBI in the majors. After four, it was 4-2 Pirates, and the packed house was feelin' it.

Karstens was feelin' it too as he tossed his first clean inning of the night in the fifth. d'Arnaud fell behind 0-2, but got enough of a knuckler to bounce one to short that he legged out for an infield hit, flying down the line. Jones followed with a double to right center, sending d'Arnaud to third with no outs.

McCutch bounced one to second; it went through Pedroia's legs to score a run and keep runners on second and third. Walker, first pitch swinging, hit a shallow fly to center, freezing the runners. Overbay was intentionally walked to load the sacks. It paid off when Cedeno hit one up the middle; Scutaro gloved it, stepped on second and tossed to first to end the inning. The Bucs are up 5-2, but left a couple of runs begging.

With two outs, Drew lined a single to right, but JK finally solved Salty, retiring him on a medium fly to center after going 3-2 on him. JT drew a two-out walk for Pittsburgh, but was caught trying to swipe second.

At 93 pitches, Karstens was presumably on a short leash. Josh Reddick bombed JK's second pitch, a changeup, into the night for his first homer and it was 5-3. With two outs, Karstens fell behind Ellersby 3-1 and served him a heater down the middle; it too was crushed over the right center wall, his ninth, and made it a 5-4 game. That brought on D-Mac.

JK went 6-2/3 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) and six hits (three left the yard) with three walks and two K's on 109 pitches, his season high.

Pedroia drilled a 3-2 fastball into right for a double. In came Dan Moskos to face Gonzalez. He got him to pull a slider to Walker to end the frame.

Matt Albers took to the hill for Boston. With one away, Jones proved his value in the lineup when he drilled a first pitch heater yard in right center, his eighth of the year, to give the Bucs a little breathing room at 6-4. Jones' dinger was the first given up by Albers since June 13th of last season, covering 77-1/3 innings, the longest active homerless streak by AL reliever - until tonight. 

With two outs, Albers walked Walker; that brought on Daniel Bard, a righty, to face Overbay, a lefty. Neither manager apparently goes by the pitching book. But it worked. Overbay had the green light on a 3-0 pitch and popped it into left. It was the same situation as last night - two runs up, six outs to go.

Tim Wood came on. Youkilis bounced one to short, Cedeno threw over to first - and Overbay dropped the ball. Now it was Tony Watson time to face the lefty Drew. He struck him out swinging at high and tight heat. Salty hit a medium fly to McCutch. Watson got ahead of Reddick 0-2, then left a fastball over the plate that he took into right for a single. No worries; Scutaro flew out to center, and the lead stayed at two runs.

Cedeno walked to start the Bucco eighth. McKenry struck out after failing to get a bunt down. Xavier Paul pinch hit, and his grounder moved RC to second. JT drew a free pass too, but d'Arnaud went down swinging.

Joel Hanrahan took the hill in the ninth, and Big Papi was waiting for him. It was a great nine pitch battle, with David Ortiz fighting off 97 MPH fastball after fastball. Hanny finally won, getting a grounder to first.

Pedroia kept the drama alive when he doubled to right with two away on a 3-2 offering and Gonzalez on deck. Paul almost hauled the ball down at the wall but it wouldn't stick in his mitt; it was close enough that the post-game celebratory fireworks went off and Karstens hopped the dugout railing. Hanrahan threw 23 straight fastballs, and was ahead of Gonzalez 1-2 when he decided to toss a slider. It sure fooled Gonzalez, who struck out trying to check his swing to earn Hanny his 22nd save and Jeff Karstens his fifth win.

Hey, the Pirates wasted at-bats again and left some runs on the field. They bobbled a couple of plays. But say what you will, they took two-out-of-three against the NL's best team, Philadelphia, and have the series in hand against the AL's best team, Boston.

Hanny is money in the bank. Guys like Dan Moskos, Tim Wood, Tony Watson and D-Mac are being galvanized by pitching in high-leverage situations against some of the game's best hitters. Philly and Boston can rake, and they've stood up to them. The starters are gutting it out and keeping the team in games; the offense is doing enough to win them, and the D is doing its part. And they're doing it in front of full houses.

It gives us reason to believe this year and even more for the future.

Andrew Miller takes on James McDonald tomorrow afternoon.

  • How dominating has Hanny been? Pedroia's two-out double was the first base runner he's allowed in his last nine save opps, stretching over 9-1/3 innings.
  • Tonight's attendance of 39,483 was the largest crowd to ever watch a baseball game at PNC Park. Good year for the gate so far, hey?
  • Kristy Robinson of Ohio Valley Athletics reports that Pedro Alvarez has had another rehab setback; now he's got a problem with his neck. He was supposed to take the field yesterday, but is day-to-day again. 

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