Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hose 'Em Off: Bucs Win 5-4

It was 95 out in Houston, and Garrett Jones has been as hot as the Texas weather. Jose Tabata opened the game with a bunt single, which was muffed a bit by 21 year old rookie pitcher Jordan Lyles. Xavier Paul K'ed and McCutch walked. The Pittsburgh Kid whiffed, and Jones was behind 1-2 when he caught a heater and mashed it long and gone over the RF fence to give the Bucs a 3-0 lead from the git-go.

J-Mac almost gave it back. With an out, he gave up back-to-back knocks to Jeff Keppinger and Hunter Pence.  With two away, he walked Brett Wallace and was behind 2-0 to Matt Downs. Downs fouled off the next three before sending one deep to right that Jones snagged on the track. Lyles and J-Mac combined to throw 56 pitches in that inning; looks like another long day for the bullpens.

The bottom of the Buc order went down quietly in the second, and ditto for the Astros. The Pirates squared up a couple of balls in the third, notably Paul's close-but-no-cigar bid for another opposite field homer, but the Bucs were sat down in order again. The Astros got a two-out single from Pence (he and McCutch may be the two hottest players in the NL right now).

Carlos Lee got ahead 2-0 and was served a heater down the middle. He drove it on a rope to left off the wall, barely eluding Tabata, for extra bases. But Pence got a little greedy, and a JT-to-Cedeno-to-Brown relay team put the tag on him at home to get out of the third. It took a great peg from Cedeno and a strong block of the plate to just get the bang-bang call on Pence.

The Bucs were mowed down again; that's ten in a row for Lyles since giving up the Jones' long ball. Wallace walked to open the fourth. Downs smoked one up the third base line past Harrison to put runners at second and third with no one away. Angel Sanchez slowly rolled one up the left side. Harrison got him at first but a run came home and the lead runner advanced to the hot corner, and he touched home after a sac fly to center. It was 3-2 after four.

The bottom of the Buc order didn't need a bat; Lyles struck out Cedeno, Brown and McDonald. That's a lucky 13 consecutive outs, six by K.

J-Mac walked Michael Bourn on five pitches.  He got Keppinger after falling behind 3-0 on a hard hit ball to short, with Bourn moving to second. Pence got ahead 2-0 and drove one into the left center field gap for his third hit, a RBI double to tie the game.

McDonald K'ed Lee looking (after he crushed a ball that just hooked foul) and intentionally walked Wallace to get to righty Downs. It worked; he bounced one to Harrison, who took the easy force at third. It was a new ball game at 3-3, and McDonald has tossed 100 pitches after five frames.

McCutch ended the futility streak at 15 when he lined a two-out single into center. Walker followed with another rope into center; first and second with two away. Brad Mills reached into his pen and brought out LHP Sergio Escalona to face Jones.

Hurdle liked the matchup; so did Jones, as he lined a ball into center that ticked off a diving Bourn's glove.  It was ruled an error, but it brought McCutch home. Harrison followed with a double; Walker scored, but Jones was cut down on a nice block of the plate by Carlos Corporan.  The Bucs were up 5-3.

Hurdle likes rolling the dice; he left J-Mac in with a beat-up bullpen and no Hanny.  He gave up a leadoff double to Sanchez, who just got in under Walker's tag. Corporan flew out to fairly deep center. Jason Michaels came on to pinch hit, and popped out. Hurdle took a stroll, tapped on the left arm and brought on Tony Watson for a lefty-lefty mano-a-mano with Bourn.

McDonald went 5-2/3 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with four walks and K's; he threw 109 pitches. Watson worked away from Bourn, and got the speedster to fly out to left to end the sixth. Wilton Lopez took the ball for Houston. Cedeno and Brown went down quickly. Brandon Wood pinch hit; he drove one to deep, straightaway center, 400'+, and Bourn put it away. Big dang park.

Watson faced the heart of the 'Stro order; it took him five pitches to put them away. The Pirates had runners on first and second with one away in the eighth, but The Pittsburgh Kid bopped one to second for an inning-killing 4-6-3 DP. Watson got the first pair of Astros, then walked Sanchez. Tim Wood came on and closed the frame.

The Bucs got an infield single from Matt Diaz in the ninth off Fernando Abad, and then it was...Jose time.  Hanny was off today after three saves in a row, soooo...

Jason Bourgeois started off with a 3-2 single; he stole second.  An out later, Jeff Keppinger knocked him in with another one-base knock.  Hey, no problem - two grounders to Wood at third, and the Bucs tucked another W away while Veras notched his first Bucco save. The last out was a little dicey; Lee smoked one to the hot corner, and Wood knocked it down, stayed with it, and got Lee on a bang-bang play.

Hey, earlier in the season, we noted how they were playing just well enough to lose. Well, now they're playing just well enough to win. Viva l' difference! 

Kevin Correia will face Josh Tomlin at Cleveland tomorrow night.

  • The Pirates have now won four in a row and five of their past six games. 
  • McCutch's double against the Mets in Pittsburgh was ruled an error after a protest by the Mets.  It costs McCutchen two RBI and does something the NL pitchers haven't been able to: break his hitting streak.
  • Hurdle told Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review that the Bucs won't be shaking up the roster for interleague play.  As Biertempfel explains "After the three-game set in Cleveland, the Pirates play host to Baltimore and Boston at PNC Park. Those games will be played under National League rules, meaning no DH. The Pirates will play three more interleague games in Toronto, then resume NL play."

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