Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Slumber Company Goes Down 2-1

The Bucs continue their northern adventure tonight at Toronto. Prior to last night, Pittsburgh has won the first game of a series fourteen times and taken thirteen of those sets, a trend they'd like to see continue against the Jays.

Brandon Morrow made it look easy in the first, getting the Bucs out in order without breaking a sweat. Yunel Escobar fought off a high and tight pitch by dropping it into center for a knock, but was erased by McCutch trying to stretch it into a two-bagger.

Joey Bats walked with two away, and the red hot Adam Lind rolled a single up the middle to put runners on the corners. Edwin Encarnacion got ahead of Maholm 3-1, and after a pair of homers last night, was looking for anything over the dish. He flew out to right to end the frame.

Plate ump Dan Iassogna isn't giving up any low strikes in the early going; we'll see how what effect that has on groundball meister Maholm as the game goes forward.

Morrow was dealing. He struck out the side and now has four K's after facing six Pirate hitters. The strike zone may not be deep, but it's wide tonight. With one out, Juan Rivera drilled a ground knock into left. Jose Molina rapped the next pitch to d'Arnaud, who started an around-the-horn DP to finish the frame.

It was three up, three down for the Bucs again. Maholm matched him, and after three it's zeroes. The Bucs were coming up for their second look at Morrow.

With one away, d'Arnaud reached when his sharply hit ball deflected off third baseman Bautista's mitt for a single. Garrett Jones had the green light on a 3-0 pitch; he lined out to second. McCutch bounced out, and it was another easy inning for Morrow.

Lind continued to rake; he doubled into right center with one away. Maholm coaxed a pop out and grounder to get out of the fourth.

Walker took a walk to start the fifth. Overbay got a 3-2 heater and bounced it into right with Walker on the go to put Buccos on the corners. Diaz bounced to third, and the throw home nailed Walker who was off on contact. Cedeno picked him up when he singled into center to score Overbay, but the relay home was cut and Diaz was tagged out at third for the second out. Eric Fryer K'ed, but at least the Bucs got one up on the board despite a couple of Lasting Milledge moments on the basepaths.

Maholm went to the changeup in the fifth. After a pair of fly outs, Davis caught one and scorched it into left for a double. After going 3-2 on Escobar, missing with sliders, he came back with a change that was rolled to Cedeno to end the inning. 1-0 Pittsburgh after five.

Presley walked to open the sixth. After fouling a bunt try on the first pitch, d'Arnaud K'ed. Jones went down swinging too - six pitches, two whiffs. with McCutch up, Presley stole second. Morrow stayed away from Andrew, and this time didn't get the calls as McCutch walked on five pitches. A wild pitch moved them up ninety feet, but Walker struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt that Molina had to block and toss to first to complete the out.

The first Jay, Eric Thames, the only Toronto position player in the lineup without a homer, rectified that on the second pitch, lining one out into left center to tie the game. Bautista roped a double to left, just beating the throw to the bag. Encarnacion hit one to third; d'Arnaud went to second and threw behind Bautista, who had wandered too far off the bag, for the second out on a bag-bang play. Hill bounced one to d'Arnaud, too, but this time he booted the ball to put runners at first and second. PM got a pop out from Juan Rivera, and escaped the sixth tied at one

With two away, Cedeno beat out a ball to short, but Morrow got Fryer to fly out to right. He's done for the night after 117 pitches in seven innings, but gave up just a run on four hits with three walks and 10 Ks.

With one away, Davis ripped a 3-2 fastball for a ground rule double into left center, and Escobar took the next pitch up the middle and under Cedeno's glove for a hustle double (McCutch and Presley bumped into one another fielding the ball) to put the Jays up 2-1. A bouncer to first moved Ecsobar to third, and Joey Bats was intentionally walked. That brought up en fuego lefty Lind, who PM K'ed on three pitches.

Jason Frasor took the hill for Toronto. On a 3-2 pitch, Presley flew out short of the left field track for out number one. d'Arnaud walked on four pitches. Jones bounced out to first, pulling an outside change, and d'Arnaud was forced at second as Jones chugged into first. The baserunning blunders kept coming, though - on ball three to McCutch, a snap throw by Molina caught Jones off the base and became the third out. He had broke on the pitch, stumbling at the start, and tried to reverse fields.

Paul Maholm called it a night after seven innings and 98 pitches. His line was nine hits, two earned runs, two walks and a K, another solid effort. Tim Wood came on for the eighth, and nailed the Jays 1-2-3. Frank Francisco came on to try to notch the save for Morrow.

McCutch drove a fastball to the track in right center; it was just a loud out. Walker fought hard during a nine pitch at-bat, but pulled an outside sinker to first for the second out. Overbay walked on a 3-2 pitch to keep the inning alive, just checking off ball four in time. Joel Harrison came in to run. He wouldn't get very winded; Diaz bounced out to short to end the game and waste another strong effort by Maholm, losing 2-1. 

Give PM credit; he had to work upstairs most of the game because the knee-high strike wasn't there for either team. The Pirate batters saw a lot of pitches, but weren't very disciplined. Rarely did they get into hitters counts. The Jays worked them almost exclusively outside, but the hitters refused to go the opposite way, resulting in a ton of fouls and ten Ks. Even with drawing five walks to go with their meager four hits, the Pirates only had four at-bats the entire game with RISP.

And just once, we'd like to hear a manager talk about smart instead of aggressive baserunning; maybe guys like Jones and Diaz wouldn't be pushing the envelope navigating the sacks (although we have to wonder if Jones gaffe was a missed hit-and-run. That's rarely in play with the cleanup hitter, we know, but in this case a non-traditional four hole guy, McCutch, was at the dish). The Jays weren't exactly textbook in their running, either. It was a bad game for Little League kids to watch. 

There will be learning moments, too, at the plate and especially in the field. It's really hard to mesh as a aunit when three of the eight position players were wearing Indy uniforms last week.

Still, there's a good chance to take another series tomorrow evening. Rookie Brett Cecil, just recalled from AAA, will take on Jeff Karstens.

  • Xavier Paul was scratched from the lineup with a tight hammy. Matt Diaz took Garrett Jones' spot as DH and Jones went to right. The X-Man will be reevaluated tomorrow.
  • We're not ready to draw and quarter Chase d'Arnaud for his play at third quite yet. He played all of three games at the hot corner at Indy, and hadn't played the position in the pros since 2008.  Additionally, Rogers Centre turf is famously springy, so it's a bad place to get an initiation by fire.
  • Since interleague play began, the Pirates have had winning 8-7 marks only twice. This year's squad  have a chance to become the third Pittsburgh team to finish its AL sked with more wins than losses tomorrow.

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