Ryan Theriot started off against Paul Maholm with a pesky eight pitch at bat before K'ing on a fastball. No such luck with Jon Jay; he tripled off the Clemente Wall on ball that looked catchable but Garrett Jones couldn't quite get to. Sir Albert got a first pitch two-seamer and rode it over the wall in right center for his 22nd homer. It's not a very auspicious start for PM.
After a Matt Holliday fly out, Lance Berkman doubled inside third with Chase d'Arnaud playing well off the line. David Freese bombed his fourth long fly over the right field wall on a first pitch changeup. Yadier Molina followed with a bloop single to center, and Nick Punto walked on four pitches. Chris Carpenter bounced out to short, but geez. Nine batters, four runs, five hits, two homers, two stranded and the Cards have hit for the cycle in the first frame. And the Bucs only scored four runs in their entire last series. Yikes!
Alex Presley bounced to short to open the Bucco half against Carpenter. d'Arnaud looked at a called third strike. Neil Walker squared up on a 3-1 sinker, but lined it right at Theriot to end the frame.
Maholm got the first two Cards on grounders to third, but Albert Pujols continued the attack by lining a double into the left field corner. Holliday went down swinging at a high heater to set St. Louis down.
McCutch went after the first pitch and flew out to right short of the Clemente Wall track. Overbay flew out to left. Jones collected the first Buc knock when he picked an 0-2 sinker off his knees and doubled into right center. Ronny Cedeno got ahead in the count 2-0 and took a belt high cutter into left to score Jones. McKenry got an infield single when Carpenter saw a ball up the middle deflect of his mitt. Maholm lined a single to center on a letter-high sinker, scoring Cedeno. McKenry was thrown out heading to third on a not very smart bit of base running, costing Presley his swings with a runner in scoring position. 4-2 Cards after two innings.
Berkman is also a long time Buc killer; he singled off Walker's glove. But this time, Freese bounced one to third and the Pirates pulled an around the horn DP on a nice turn by Walker, who was slightly handcuffed by d'Arnaud's feed, which was behind him. Good thing; Molina doubled to right. Punto was intentionally walked to get to Carpenter. He lined a first pitch heater into right to plate Molina and kill the buzz. Pittsburgh went down in order. The score was now 5-2 Cards after three.
Maholm pitched a clean fourth, even getting Pujols. McCutch rolled a sinker up the middle to open the Pirate half of the inning. Overbay went down swinging. Carpenter came inside on Jones, but his liner was right at second baseman Punto. Cedeno bounced into a force to end the fourth. You'd think McCutch would have tried to get to second...
Berkman tapped back to the box. Freese got ahead 3-1 in the count and lined a single to left. Molina was jammed with a slider, and grounded into a 5-4-3 DP started by a nice snag by d'Arnaud to end the Card fifth. With two outs for the Bucs, Presley drew a walk; plate ump Laz Diaz isn't giving up low strikes tonight to either hurler. d'Arnaud went down looking on three pitches, the second time he's watched a third strike go by without offering.
St. Louis went down in order in the sixth and at 86 pitches, Maholm should have another inning in him if Clint Hurdle so desires. Walker again hit one on the nose; this one was right at Pujols. McCutch's 3-2 liner dropped into right. Carpenter came inside on a 3-2 pitch to Overbay, and he roped it into right for a double.
Runners at second and third, and a big at bat coming up for Jones. He blooped a single into left; two runs scored, but he was gunned going to second, another case of bad base running especially with the play in front of him. Cedeno rolled one up the middle for a knock. McKenry lined one past Punto, and there were runners at the corners with two away. Xavier Paul grabbed a bat. He pulled a curve away to first to end the inning. But the Bucs had gotten back within a run at 5-4.
Maholm went six innings, giving up five runs on ten hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Dan McCutchen came on in the seventh to face Jay, Pujols and Holliday. Jay flew out to the track in straightaway center. Pujols took a changeup on the black and at the knees and rolled it into left for a single; it's hard to sneak anything past him. Holliday banged a fastball to short; Cedeno started a 6-4-3 to keep it a one run game.
Carpenter pitched a clean seventh; Walker ended the frame with his third lineout of the game, again to Pujols. Joe Beimel came on for Pittsburgh.
St. Mary's Joe did his job, getting Berkman on a little fly to McCutch. Chris Resop came on to replace him. he got Freese to bounce out, but Molina took a first pitch heater over the center field wall, his sixth, to make it 6-4. Punto followed by lining a 3-1 heater into right for a single. Carpenter followed with a rope to left to put runners on the corners with two away. he put away Theriot on a grounder, but the Cards had an insurance run to make it 6-4.
Carpenter started the eighth; the St. Louis bullpen has been its Achilles Heel, and LaRussa was sticking with his starter, even at 97 pitches. Smart move; McCutch, Overbay and Jones went down without a peep. The newest Buc, Jason Grilli, took the hill in the show for the first time since 2009.
He got Jay to ground out. Pujols was served a curve that broke over the middle and ripped it into left for a ground rule double; the "P" in PNC must stand for Pujols. Grilli fell behind Holliday 3-1, but came back to K him swinging at a curve. Berkman was intentionally walked. Pinch hitter Daniel Descalso batted and popped out to third. The Bucs had one at bat to go.
Fernando Salas took the hill. He got Cedeno on a fly to center. McKenry gave the Bucs a chance when he lined a 3-2 fastball into center for a knock. Matt Diaz was sent to the dish, and went down swinging at a slider thrown in a different area code than the plate. The King got a first pitch heater down the middle; he popped it up, and the Cards took the first game 6-4.
The Cards won because they hit three first-pitch homers. The lesson is that no matter how badly you want the first pitch to be a strike, don't throw it down the middle. St. Louis was waiting, and Pittsburgh paid the price. Lesson two, and this is on-going: the Pirate offense isn't very potent, so there are times to push the envelope on the bases. But hey, do it with the handful of guys that can run, maybe even Walker and Cedeno. But running yourself out of innings because guys like McKenry and Jones are trying to stretch things isn't aggressive; it's bad baseball.
Still, Pittsburgh could have folded its tent after the first, but came back to make a game of it. Laz Diaz made it a hitters game with his strike zone, and if a couple of the Bucs' at 'em balls would have had eyes, it could have been interesting.
LHP Jaime Garcia (9-4, 3.11) and RHP Kevin Correia (11-7, 4.04) will hook up in the middle game of the series tomorrow night.
- Ronny Cedeno extended his hitting streak to eleven games in his first at bat since returning from the DL.
- The Pirates had their 11th sellout of the season at PNC Park with a crowd of 38,490 fans, with two more full houses expected over the weekend.
- Pittsburgh hasn't lost a home series since the Braves took a two-game set on May 24-25th by 2-0 and 4-2 scores.
- Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reports that "A number of teams, including the Indians and Pirates, have asked the Rockies about catcher Chris Iannetta, according to major-league sources." The light hitting (.232 lifetime BA) 28 year old vet is making $2.55M this year, $3.55M next season, and has a $5M club option in 2013 that would be voided if he was traded.
- The Pirates are on national TV three times in the next month: ESPN on Monday night at the Braves (7 PM - blocked in the City but on Root Sports), Saturday, August 13th (4:11 PM) at the Brewers on Fox, and Saturday August 20th (4:11 PM) vs. the Reds, also on Fox. The last game was a fireworks night, now cancelled. Kind of a pity; it would have made a great post-game backdrop.
- The long lost Jeff Clement is now playing rehab games for the GCL rookie team as of yesterday.