Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bucs Show ESPN How It's Done 3-1

OK, everyone in the country except in Pittsburgh (and Atlanta, we guess) get to see the Buccos and Braves battle it out on national TV tonight. And hey, it's a lot like the Northshore - gray skies, thunder, lightning...oh, and rain.

In fact, the Atlanta weather forecast is "Showers and thunderstorms likely. Heavy downpours and frequent lightning with storms continuing through the overnight hours." Hmmm, some of the lights and the scoreboard just went out. Is that an ark floating down the Chattahoochee?

But hey, the Braves want to get the game in, since this is Pittsburgh's only trip to Atlanta this year. Though the radar showed the city to be on the edge of a huge moist green blob, they crossed their fingers and rescheduled the start for 9:10.

And start they did a couple minutes beyond that time. Tim Hudson wasted no time with Xavier Paul, catching him looking on four pitches. It took him six offerings to K Garrett Jones swinging. Five pitches later, Neil Walker went down looking. Quite an introduction to Pirate hitters for the national viewers, hey?

James McDonald got ahead of Martin Prado 0-2. A couple of pitches later, he rolled one to Pedro, who booted it. J-Mac fed Jason Heyward three heaters and got him swinging. To make matters a little better, Prado was caught stealing on the ol' strike 'em out, throw 'em out play. Chipper Jones struck out on a foul tip; he saw three fastballs. McDonald is throwing first-pitch strikes and hitting 95-96 on the gun.

McCutch started the second with a five pitch walk, and even the strike was iffy. Pedro Alvarez walked on a 3-2 pitch; it was a solid at-bat as he laid off the outside stuff. Lyle Overbay sent a curve short of the track in left center and moved both runners up a station. Ronny Cedeno bounced out to Chipper Jones, who had to go to his left, to bring McCutch home, and the Bucs drew first blood. Mike McKenry slapped a slider into left to plate Pedro on a wide throw home, and moved to second on the play. J-Mac went down swinging, but the Bucs had the early 2-0 lead.

J-Mac gave up a single to David Ross with two away, and Nate McLouth followed with another as his grounder to the right side ticked off Walker's glove and sent Ross to third. No trouble; he got Alex Gonzalez swinging for his fourth K in two frames.

Paul made Hudson work this time around. He popped out on the ninth pitch of his at-bat. Jones rolled a single through the left side. Walker got an 0-2 pitch in on the hands and bounced back to the box for a 1-6-3 DP.

Hudson led off the third by blooping a 3-2 pitch into right for a knock; J-Mac didn't get the call on a couple of previous pitches that looked good. Prado followed by lining a 2-0 fastball into left for a single. McDonald caught a break; Heyward lined one to Walker, who flipped to Cedeno for the DP, catching Hudson too far astray.

Jones followed with a single to center to put runners on the corners with two away. Chipper showed his knee surgery didn't slow him down; the Braves had him moving and he swiped second on a curve in the dirt; it may have been a hit-and-run. J-Mac got out of this jam just like last inning's predicament. He got Freddie Freeman swinging.

McCutch smashed one, but it was gloved at the wall in right center 390' away by Heyward. Pedro drilled a sinker up the middle for a single. Overbay pulled a sinker away to second, and it turned into a 4-6-3 DP. After a pair of whiffs, McLouth poked an outside 3-2 heater into left. J-Mac caught Gonzalez looking for his eighth K of the night. The other side of the pillow is that he's thrown 67 pitches through four frames and could use a quick, clean inning.

Hudson struck out a pair in the fifth on his way to a clean frame. He led off the Brave fifth, and took McCutch almost to the track in center for the first out. Prado took McCutch to the wall with his long fly to center. McDonald struck out Heyward on a foul tip for his ninth K, a career best. And it was a neat, ten pitch inning, even if a couple of the outs were loud.

After fishing for a couple to fall behind 0-2, Jones worked Hudson for a one out walk in the sixth. Hudson threw Walker a shoulder high change that was a mile outside (it indeed may have been a pitchout attempt); but there was a hit-and-run called. He couldn't lay off for Jones' sake and dribbled one to third for the second out.

Putting that ball in play led to a run when McCutch singled sharply up the middle on the next pitch to score Jones. McCutch went to second when McLouth let the ball roll through him a bit and then Andrew stole third. Pedro, who showed patience his first two at-bats, lost it on this one. He hacked at a couple of pitches off the plate and struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt. But it was 3-0 Bucs.

Freeman jump started the Brave half with a well struck ground ball single through the right side with one gone. Dan Uggla smacked a heater down the middle into left to put runners at first and second. J-Mac blew a  3-2 heater past Ross, but McKenry was called for catcher's interference when his hand caught the bat to nullify the K and load the bases.

Clint Hurdle came out and took the ball from McDonald. J-Mac went 5-1/3 innings, giving up eight hits and striking out nine. His swing-and-miss stuff was on display today, but more importantly, he managed the game well with runners on. Chris Resop got the call from the pen to face the lefty McLouth, and he nailed him on a foul pop hauled in on a lunging backward grab by McKenry. Gonzalez struck out swinging at high heat, and Resop had pulled off another Houdini act.

Overbay opened the seventh by ripping a ball through the right side for a lead off knock, and Cedeno bunted him to second. McKenry bounced one to short; Overbay was caught trying to go to third with the play in front of him. Lastings Milledge's legacy lives on. Steve Pearce came on to pinch hit for Resop and bounced out on a 3-2 pitch. D-Mac took the hill. He retired the Braves in order, striking out both lefties he faced.

George Sherrill took over for Atlanta. Walker drew a four pitch walk with two away, and McCutch drew a 3-2 base on balls. Pedro bounced out to first on a 3-2 slider to end the inning. McCutchen stayed on the mound. He came inside corner and belt high on Chipper Jones; he launched it a few rows over the right field wall for his ninth homer. Freeman drew a five pitch walk.

That was enough, and Jose Veras came in from the pen while Brandon Wood went to third. Uggla flew out to the wall in straightaway center. He got Brian McCann to swing through an outside heater. McLouth popped out. JV had a good fastball today, and threw strikes. There was just one more bridge left to cross.

Scott Linebrink came on in the ninth for Atlanta and put Pittsburgh's 6-7-8 hitters down in order. The ninth is Hanny time. Three up, three down, and the Pirates started their grand tour in fine style in front of bleary eyed fans coast-to-coast.

The Bucs didn't exactly pound Atlanta - they K'ed ten times - but scored three runners that had walked, twice with two outs. The old formula worked. Good pitching - all five Pirate hurlers had a strikeout, fourteen in all - some nice glovework, despite the two errors, and just enough offense.

Paul Maholm has his work cut out for him tomorrow when he takes on Jair Jurrjens.

  • McCutch's stolen sack was his first swipe in a month; his last prior steal was on June 25th.
  • In a real rarity for the Bucco pitch-to-contact staff, not only did they register 14 K's, but not one Brave was retired via the ground ball tonight. (Thanks DK) Pedro muffed the only routine grounder, and that was from the game's first batter. Power pitching, hey?
  • The last time the Bucs were on ESPN was September 22, 2004 at PNC against the Cubs. It was a memorable game; Ollie Perez lost 1-0 to Carlos Zambrano when he walked the pitcher with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth. (Thanks to Brian at Raise the Jolly Roger)
  • With both Ronny Cedeno and Pedro back on the 25 man roster, the odd man out would seem to be Chase d'Arnaud. He needs to play everyday. Tough decision, though. The Bucs do have five outfielders, so he could hang around until another position player returns or be swapped out for John Bowker or Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez is RH, a good glove contact hitter with speed who's on the 40-man roster; Bowker is a LH with pop, an average glove with average speed who isn't on the 40-man.
  • Ohlie is progressing well in his rehab. He may be back sooner rather than later, maybe even after a couple or three more minor league starts.
  • Trevor Bauer, the right-hander out of UCLA who was selected third overall in this year's draft by Arizona, signed a contract today. Jack Magruder of Fox Sports Arizona reported that the deal is worth $7M, including a $3.4M bonus (its unknown how much of the salary is guaranteed yet). Looks like we're starting to zero in on a price tag for Gerritt Cole, and it won't be cheap. Pedro got a $6M bonus, and his salary can range from $335K - $2.15M between 2009-12.


WilliamJPellas said...

What's with McCutchen and only 16 SB's this season? The guy has elite speed and has been a good basestealer, but not the great one he has the potential to be. Your thoughts?

Ron Ieraci said...

Confidence is the only thing I can think of, Wil. But he may *knock on wood* be gaining some. Yesterday he stole third, and he took off a couple times on balls that ended up fouled. I sure hope he gets his wheels in gear; those guys hitting behind him are a DP waiting to happen.

Ron Ieraci said...

And as an afterthought, I liked Walker batting behind him much better than ahead of him.

Ron Ieraci said...
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