Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Big Innings Bite Bucs; Astros Win 8-2

It's a warm July night as the Buccos try to sweep the Astros in front of a weeknight crowd of 18,910.

Charlie Morton fell behind Astro catalyst Michael Bourn 3-0, but came back to get him to bounce out on a full count. Angel Sanchez grounded out, too. Hunter Spence put one on the dirt, but it kept going into center for a base hit; Pence stole second. Carlos Lee walked on a 3-2 sinker. Jeff Keppinger hit into a force to end the frame.

Morton will have to work on first pitch strikes. The Astros are being patient against him and getting themselves into hitters' counts.

Alex Presley legged out a dink to short to lead off the Bucs. Chase d'Arnaud bunted him to second - small ball already. Garrett Jones walked on a 3-2 pitch; looks like it's going to be a tight strike zone tonight called by plate ump Ron Kulpa.  McCutch lined a slider into left; The King scored, and Jones stopped at second. Bud Norris got ahead of Neil Walker 1-2 and then nibbled around the strike zone.

Walker fouled off six straight pitches before lining a changeup into left. Lee made the catch, surprising Jones who was caught off second for the DP. 1-0 Bucs after an inning.

Brett Wallace led off with a knock; he was forced at second on a Clint Barmes bouncer to short. Carlos Coporan went down swinging. With Bud Norris at the dish, Barmes swiped second, but the pitcher K'ed swinging over a 3-2 sinker. Lyle Overbay flew out short of the track in front of the bullpen. Brandon Wood went down looking on three pitches. Mike McKenry singled to right, and Morton went down swinging on three pitches. After two, it's 1-0 Pirates, with both sides sending up the top of the order in the third.

Bourn went down swinging at a curve. Sanchez and Pence grounded out as Morton had a clean, seven-pitch inning to bring his pitch count back under control at 46.

Norris nibbled at the edges against Presley and didn't catch a call as Presley walked on four pitches. d'Arnaud bounced out to third, moving Presley to second. Jones flew out to fairly deep right; Presley tagged and went to third. McCutch rolled a slider to Sanchez at third, and that ended the frame.

Morton got Lee swinging at a curve. Keppinger smoked at liner to Walker, and Brett Wallace K'ed on a foul tip. That's nine in a row for CM, and he has five K's. Walker made Norris work again, and rolled a changeup into center on the eighth pitch he saw. Overbay went after the first pitch and smacked it to second to start a 4-6-3 DP. Norris K'ed Wood again to end the fourth.

Barmes opened the fifth by poking a sinker on the outside corner into center. Corporan helped the cause by pulling the next pitch, an outside sinker, to second that Walker converted into a 4-6-3 DP. Norris struck out looking, and it was still zeroes for Houston after five.

McKenry lined a high heater to first to become out number one. Morton flew out to center, and Presley tapped back to the box as Norris had an easy frame.

Bourn slapped the first pitch to short; d'Arnaud missed on the throw to put the burner at first to open the sixth. Sanchez caught a two-strike sinker and drove it into center for a double to score Bourn. He went to third when McCutch mishandled the ball. Pence singled him home, followed by a Lee single-turned-triple that rolled beyond the Notch after McCutch missed the fly trying to make a sliding grab. Keppinger doubled up the third base line. Every hit has been on knee high sinkers, middle-to-inside part of the plate.

Wallace bounced a curve to first, moving Keppinger to third. Barmes grounded a belt high single into center for a knock, and it was 5-1 Astros. Clint Hurdle brought in Chris Leroux. Corporan greeted him with a line single to right, and Norris bunted them along. He K'ed Bourn to finally stop the bleeding, but it was a big inning for Houston.

Morton went 5-1/3, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits with a walk and six K's, tossing 84 pitches. At least his curve kept the lefties at bay, and that's something to build on.

d'Arnaud rolled one up the middle to start the Bucco half. He stole second. Jones flew out short of the bullpen track in left center on a 3-2 pitch, with d'Arnaud going to third, and a McCutch bouncer brought him home. Walker bounced out too, and after six it was 5-2 Houston.

Leroux pitched a clean seventh, escaping when McCutch tracked down a Lee shot to the track in right center. Overbay led off with a rope to left center. Wood flew out to left. McKenry pulled an away slider through the left side to put runners at first and second. Xavier Paul went to the plate for Leroux and popped out.  Presley got a 2-2 fastball down Broadway, but didn't catch enough of it, flying out just in front of the track in straightaway center.

Dan McCutchen took the ball for Pittsburgh. After working Keppinger down, he tried to sneak a belt high heater past him; Keppinger was all over it and lined it into right for a single. Wallace struck out swinging at a slider in the dirt. Barmes and Corporan flew out.

Norris called it a night after 101 pitches; Wilton Lopez climbed the hill. He got d'Arnaud swinging, and Jones too, on three pitches. McCutch joined the K parade, and the Bucs were down three with three outs to go.

Jay Michaels opened with a bloop double to right that glanced off Walker's glove and fell in. D-Mac got ahead of Bourn 0-2, lost a call on a slider that looked liked it caught the knees, and then gave up a long double to right center. He got Sanchez on a comebacker. With Pence up, Hurdle called on Danny Moskos.

The lefty-on-lefty didn't work; Pence singled Bourn home. Lee singled Pence to third. Keppinger lifted a sac fly to the track in left center, and Wallace was caught looking. It was 8-2, Astros.

David Carpenter took over in the ninth. he threw a clean inning, striking out Overbay and Wood to finish with a flair.

We don't have a problem with Leroux and Moskos facing the meat of the Astro order tonight. Hurdle has Joe Beimel due back after the All-Star break, and he has to decide which pup to keep and which to send down, so what better testing ground?

Hey, the Bucs took the series, and that's their goal. And if you're gonna get beat, you might as well get it all out of your system and get whupped good. Pittsburgh has a day off to lick their wounds, and then host the Cubs over the weekend to take them into the All-Star break.

  • The Bucs loss snapped a seven game winning streak against Houston, Pittsburgh's longest since the 79-80 seasons.
  • Milwaukee won and the Cards were down big, so the Pirates will drop back into third but should still be just 1-1/2 games back if St. Louis loses.
  • The Astros started the day with an hour long clubhouse meeting. Whatever got said behind the closed doors sure had an effect, at least tonight.
  • The Bucs have been pretty competitive lately, even in losses. This is the first time they've lost a game by more than two runs since June 20th, when the O's took them to the woodshed 8-3.

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