Monday, July 4, 2011

Bucs Overcome Boots to Whip Houston 5-3

Happy birthday, land that I love. Now to settle back and enjoy the national past time...

Paul Maholm, who has had first inning problems in an otherwise stellar season, started off by getting Michael Bourn on a bouncer to Lyle Overbay. Jeff Keppinger hit a soft single into center, dropping in a step in front of McCutch. The dangerous Hunter Pence rolled a ball softly to the shortstop hole; Josh Harrison had it tick off his mitt and into short left to put runners on the corners.

Carlos Lee then hit a ball deep enough to left center to plate Keppinger. Jay Michaels walked on five pitches, and the packed house was getting a little antsy. Matt Downs roped the first hard hit ball of the inning, but the bullet landed right in Harrison's mitt, and the Bucs were down just 1-0.

Pittsburgh got two hits, but to no avail. Presley led off with a single, but was thrown out at second. He beat the throw, but overslid the bag. Garrett Jones went the opposite way for a two-out double, but McCutch bounced out to end the frame.

PM handled the bottom of the order cleanly in the second.  In the Bucco half, Overbay singled with one away. Harrison and Mike McKenry followed suit, and it was a tie game with runners at first and second. Maholm whiffed trying to bunt, and it cost the Pirates. Alex Presley rolled a single into right, and Pence nailed Harrison at the plate as the throw was there and the plate blocked; Harrison got nothing more than a bloody nose for his sprint and late slide.

He came out to man the hot corner in the third, and that may not have been such a good thing. It started off well enough when Harrison threw out Bourn trying to bunt his way aboard. Keppinger drove one through the left side of the infield for a single. Pence smacked one to third, and Harrison took a look at second and dropped the ball.

Lee lined a knock into center to score Keppinger and move Pence to third. Maholm K'ed Michaels. He got Downs to hit a slow chopper to third. Harrison gloved it and short hopped the throw; Overbay couldn't come up with the pick. The run scored, and Lee chugged into third. Overbay's throw hit him, and Downs went to second. Two errors on the play, and three for the inning so far.

After falling behind 2-0, Maholm walked Cliff Barmes intentionally to load the bases. Carlos Corporan grounded into a force, but it was 3-1 Houston, and Harrison's mitt marks were all over the three tallies.

The Bucs did come back. d'Arnaud doubled to lead off the inning, and a Jones bounce out moved him to third. McCutch doubled off the wall to bring him in, and a Walker ground out got McCutchen to third. Overbay banged a knock up the middle, and it was tied. Harrison popped out to shallow right to end the frame, and that was it for him. Brandon Wood took over the hot corner as Harrison complained of dizziness.

Maholm got the Astros 1-2-3 in the fourth. The Bucs also went down in order.

Pence was plunked to start the fifth. An out later, Michaels hit a one hopper to third; Wood picked it cleanly and went around the horn to end the Houston at-bat.

d'Arnaud began with an infield single with a slow chopper to third; the throw took Lee off the bag. Jones ripped one into right to put runners at first and second. McCutch's fly moved d'Arnaud to third, and Walker's knock brought him in. Overbay banged into a 6-4-3 to end the frame, but it was 4-3 Pittsburgh after five. Every position player has a hit for the Pirates, who have a 12-5 hit advantage but just the one run lead.

The 'Stros made a run in the sixth. Downs singled and Barmes walked on a 3-2 pitch. Brad Mills had his eight hitter bunt them along, and oddly, sent up his pitcher. Myers bounced one to d'Arnaud, who gunned out Downs after a rundown. Bourn whiffed, and PM escaped the inning without any damage. But he is now at 92 pitches after six.

Wood began the Bucco sixth reaching on a boot by Downs at third; he went down on a knee to field the ball and it came up and off of him. McKenry popped out after failing to bunt; Maholm came up and did move Wood to second. The King came through by lacing a high slider into right center and past Bourn to the wall for an easy triple, and the Bucs were up 5-3.

That was it for Maholm. He went six innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on five hits, with three walks and three K's after 92 pitches. D-Mac took the hill for the seventh. He gave up a one-out double to Pence, but left him at third. Sergio Escalona took over for Houston; he gave up a two-out knock and stolen sack to Walker.

Jose Veras put down Houston in order in the eighth. The Bucs tried to make a little noise against Enerio Del Rosasio. Wood walked, and a bunt and bounce out moved him to third. Presley drew an intentional walk, and stole second, but d'Arnaud hit a soft liner to Lee to end the inning.

And hey, that makes it Hanny time. Three up, three down for save #25. Maholm got his fifth win, and the Bucs are finally three games over .500. And with the Astros and Cubs in town before the break, it's the perfect opportunity to pad that record.

Jeff Karstens takes on Wandy Rodriguez tomorrow night.

  • The Pirates have sold out four games in a row for first time in PNC Park history with a crowd of 36,942 today. And it was all Pittsburgh fans this time; Astro fans don't travel like the Bosox supporters do. There were more than 10,000 military personnel and their families in attendance, a nice gesture by the Pirate organization who gave out four free tickets if you had military ID.
  • This was the ninth time the Pirates had a chance to get 3 games over .500 this season, and the first time they've done it.
  • Pittsburgh had 14 hits today. Presley had three to lead the gang, while d'Arnaud, Jones, Walker and Overbay each had a pair.
  • Joel Hanrahan set the club record today for consecutive save opportunities converted with 25, breaking the mark he shared with Mike Gonzalez of 24.
  • Charlie Morton is hosting a BBQ on the field for 35 local military members & their families after the game. That's the Fourth spirit.
  • Nick Leyva has recovered from his back problems and was back at third base today.
  • Some Buccos are close to returning to action from the DL. 3B Pedro Alvarez is taking his swing to Indy and LHP Joe Beimel is now on a rehab assignment with the Altoona Curve.
  • Happy birthday, Chuck Tanner. We know you were watching.

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