Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bucs Split Series With 5-2 Win

OK, Derek Lowe and Kevin Correia go at it tonight in game four. Both have ERAs north of four; maybe there will be a couple of runs before we get into the bullpens tonight.

With two outs in the first, the Bucs tried. McCutch blooped a single just over Dan Uggla's mitt and Neil Walker followed with a rope into right. Pedro took Lowe to nine pitches before K'ing on a slider.

Correia was a little shakier. He walked Nate McLouth, and an out later, Freddie Freeman - that kid is gonna be a good ballplayer - rolled a single into right to put runners on the corners. Uggla popped out, but Eric Hinske sent one into right that hopped into the stands for a ground rule double when Jones turned the wrong way at the track. It was 1-0 Atlanta after a frame.

Lyle Overbay led off with a walk in the second. After a Cedeno fly out, McKenry lined a double to put runners on second and third. Correia was up and behind 0-2 when he dumped a soft liner into left to plate Overbay and move MM to third. Thoughts of a big inning? Fuhgetaboutit. Paul bounced one back to the box for a 1-6-3 DP. Still, the game was tied.

Jason Heyward opened by drilling a ball into center for a leadoff knock. Alex Gonzalez smoked another, but right at Cedeno for a loud out. A bunt moved Heyward to second, where he died when McLouth popped out. It was a close call, though - Cedeno caught the ball as Paul took out his legs. The left fielder was charging in calling for the catch, but RC, running with his back turned looking for the ball, never heard him.

Garrett Jones led off the third with a base on balls. McCutch went down looking on three pitches. Walker roped another knock into center; Jones could only move up a sack. Pedro rolled out to first to move the runners up, and Overbay did the same to end the inning.

Martin Prado lined a single into left. Freeman went down swinging at a 3-2 slider. Prado was on the go, and was gunned down at second by McKenry; love those strike 'em out, throw 'em outs. Uggla flew out, and it was 1-1 after three.

The Bucs went down in order in the fourth. Cedeno lined out while McKenry and Correia both K'ed swinging. And then the rain fell, just what the doctor ordered for the Buc bullpen - a delay that could leave them more innings to eat.

The game resumed at 9 PM or so after a 45 minute hold and Hinske greeted Correia with a leadoff single into center. If you're keeping count, the Braves are 4-for-4 in leadoff guys reaching so far this game. KC got David Ross on a foul tip fastball. He dropped a dandy changeup in on Heyward, who bounced it back to the box to start a 1-6-3 DP.

Lowe got ahead of Paul 0-2 and tried to sneak a second change past him; the X-Man ripped it into right for a knock. Jones got a cutter inside, and he roped one into right to put runners on the corners with no outs. McCutch kept the party going with a double to left center to tally Paul. Walker flew out to short center; Jones had to hold.

Pedro worked the count full and hit a hard shot to first to bring home Jones and make it 3-1. Overbay was worked down and away, walking on four pitches to load the sacks with two away. He fell behind Cedeno 3-0, came back to get the count full, and then helped his own cause immensely by stabbing a liner on the backhand with his back turned to the plate. It may have been a "look what I found," but it's still an out, and a big one. As the Brave announcer said "Are you kidding me?"

Gonzalez led off with a single through the left side - what is it with lead off hitters tonight? - and Lowe bunted him to second. KC caught a call as McLouth was rung up on a fastball well outside, causing another bit of drama as he yapped at the ump. Prado hit one softly to short, Cedeno made the tricky play look easy, and it remained 3-1 after five frames.

Anthony Varvaro  took the hill; he was just called up today to give the Brave bullpen some help. He got McKenry swinging at a high heater. Correia K'ed swinging at a fastball down the middle. Paul gave a four seamer a ride the opposite way, but it was hauled in at the track by Hinske.

Freeman caught a slider on the outer half of the plate, belt high, and ripped it into left center for a double. What, you thought KC would get a leadoff guy? Uggla hit a slow chopper to short; he was generously credited with a single when Cedeno threw the ball away, allowing Freeman to score. Hinske helped the cause by grounding it to Overbay, who started a 3-6-3 DP. David Ross hit one a long way to right center, but McCutch made the catch. At the end of six, it's 3-2 Pittsburgh.

Jones went down swing at high heat; the Bucs are helping Varvaro get over his nerves by hacking away. McCutch flew out to fairly deep right. Walker laid off the upstairs stuff and drew a pass. Pedro followed with another walk, letting a 3-2 curve go by. A wild pitch sent Walker to third (we're not sure what Alvarez was watching) and Overbay joined the parade, walking on four pitches. Cedeno went down swinging in a very undisciplined at bat; he took a strike then swung through two heaters well out of the strike zone, and right after three straight walks. Sometimes it isn't the pitching...

KC finally got a leadoff man. It took nine pitches, and the ball was caught at the center field fence by McCutch, but it was at long last an out. He went 3-2 on Gonzalez, who dropped a flare into left for a single. Chipper Jones grabbed a stick to pinch hit, and that brought Joe Beimel out of the pen. Correia went 6-1/3, giving up two runs on nine hits with a walk and three K's, throwing 89 pitches.

Beimel flipped Jones a changeup, and he beat it to third, where Pedro dove to his left for the stop and started a timely 5-4-3 around the horn DP on one knee. The Bucs were up 3-2 after seven innings. George Sherrill took the mound for Atlanta.

He struck out McKenry swinging at a 3-2 slider, the third whiff tonight for the catcher. Beimel batted; he went down after four pitches. Paul went down looking to end the Pirate eighth.

St Mary's Joe retired McLouth on a foul pop to Pedro. Prado poked a changeup to second for the 4-3. With two away, Freeman singled into right. with that, Hanny made his long awaited appearance, looking for a four-out save. He faced Uggla, and missed badly with his first three heaters. But Hanny kept pumpin' 'em in, and got him on a fly to right.

Sherrill stayed on the mound, and Steve Pearce pinch hit for Jones. He had a patient at bat, and was rewarded with a five pitch walk. The next pitch was an inside half slider to McCutch. He bombed it over the left center wall for his fifteenth homer of the year, and it was 5-2 Pittsburgh.

Walker pulled a slider to short for the first out. Pedro went down on three pitches, falling behind 0-2 after looking at a pair of fastballs pretty much down the middle, his first weak at bat of the night. Overbay went down swinging on three pitches, too, but the Bucs were up three with three outs to go.

Hinske poked a high and away heater up the left field line, but room enough in the park for Paul to make the grab. Ross did him one better by doubling a 97 MPH off the wall in left; Paul crashed into the fence trying to make the grab. Heyward lifted one the other way to left for the second out. Gonzalez flew out to McCutch in center, and the Bucs salvaged the split.

Hanny looked a little rusty - while his velocity was outstanding (he hit 99 on the last toss), the pitches were elevated - but he had plenty enough to notch his 30th save (the record, btw, is 46 by Mike Williams in 2002), finishing KC's 12th W and tenth on the road. Don't forget McCutch, who shook off the cobwebs on his stick and drove home three runs with a double and homer.

It was a nice victory after two brutal back-to-back losses in extra innings. Give Correia (and Maholm yesterday) credit for getting into the seventh and restoring some semblance of order to the bullpen for the Philly series. Joe Beimel did a sweet job to get the ball to Hanny.

It is too bad, though, that the Bucs lost those two close games, especially with Chipper Harris and Brian McCann both down; just one more bat, or one less injury, could have been the difference between a sweep and a split. But the staff and pen earned its props, going nose-to-nose with the vaunted Brave arms and more than holding their own.

Now it's on to Philly, and the Bucs have to show up ready to grind again. The Brew Crew is up by 1-1/2 games on Pittsburgh, and will be playing the Astros. Charlie Morton will face Roy Halladay in the City of Brotherly Love tomorrow night.

  • This is the first time Pittsburgh has beaten Derek Lowe. He was 10-0 against them going into tonight's game. It was a bit of reverse karma, too. When the Braves took their early 1-0 lead, it was the first time they led the Bucs all series until the last play.
  • Tonight was the second time this year that the Bucs turned four double plays.
  • The Atlanta bullpen had thrown 21 shutout innings against the Bucs until McCutch's ninth inning blast.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports wrote that there's a 50-50 chance of Hunter Pence being traded, but that the Astros  "downplayed the possibility" of him being dealt within the division to rivals Pittsburgh or Cincy.
  • John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus says that according to his sources, the Pirates trade priorities are Casey Kotchman, Derrek Lee, and Jason Kubel in that order.
  • Kendall Rogers of the Post Gazette tweeted that he heard there's a better than average chance that the Bucs sign second round pick Josh Bell, who was ticketed to attend Texas. If they sign Bell and Gerritt Coles, it's a great draft season for the FO.

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