Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cards Clobber Bucs 9-1

Hey, the makeshift Bucs take on the Cards in front of packed park on yet another muggy night in Pittsburgh. Heck, it seems like McCutch and The Pittsburgh Kid are the only two day-in, day-out guys on the team anymore; even old trot 'em out Lyle Overbay looks like he's headed to platoon duty with Steve Pearce aboard.

Can't beat Kevin Correia's start; three up, three grounders, three outs. Chase d'Arnaud greeted Jaime Garcia by legging out a hit to the shortstop hole. He stole second as Ronny Cedeno and Neil Walker popped out, and remained there when McCutch was called out on a curve that looked inside. Oh well.

St. Louis got to Correia in the second. Matt Holliday doubled to right, and Lance Berkman walked on five pitches. David Freese sent one a step short of the wall in right; Steve Pearce made a leaping catch over McCutch for the out. Holliday tagged and moved into third. KC got ahead of Yadier Molina 0-2, and tried to jam him; the pitch stayed over the plate and was lined into center to give the Cards a 1-0 lead.

He went 3-2 to Daniel Descalso, and DD whacked a slider on a rope to right to score Berkman and move Molina to third. Garcia and Skip Schumaker both hit the ball on the nose, but right at Walker and Brandon Wood. It was 2-0 Cardinals halfway through the second.

Pittsburgh cut the lead in half. After Steve Pearce K'd swinging at a changeup, Matt Diaz lined a double to right. He went to third on a wild pitch that went through Molina's wickets and scored easily when Brandon Wood stroked a ball up the middle. McKenry bounced back to the mound for a DP, and it was 2-1 St. Louis after two.

Correia was back in control in the third. After a pair of groundouts, he walked Holliday, who was beneficiary of a couple of close strike calls. No diff; Berkman lined a shot straight to Cedeno, who was on Walker's side of second base thanks to a shift. Garcia retired the Bucs quietly on three grounders.

KC retired the first two Cards, but after getting ahead of the eight hitter Descalso 1-2, walked him. The pitcher popped out, but the order turned over. Walker has had no luck so far this series; his grounder headed up the middle was snagged on the dive by Descalso, who threw him out. McCutch walked, but Pearce hit a sharp one hopper to third that turned into an easy around the horn DP.

The wheels started to groan in the fifth. Ahead of Schumaker 0-2, KC threw him a shoetop high slider off the plate; he poked it into left for a single. Jay bounced one up the middle to put runners on the corners; Pujols lined one into right center to score a run and chase Jay to third. KC waged an eight pitch battle with Holliday, finally K'ing him on a slider.

It was a Phyrric victory. His next pitch was a high slider to Berkman; he dropped it over the center field fence for his 27th homer of the year. An out after that, Molina hit a pitch off the handle; the lazy fly stayed on the line and hit the outside of the left field foul pole for a homer. That was it for Correia. He went 4-2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on eight hits with three walks and two Ks, and a lot of his outs were BBs. D-Mac came on to close out the frame, but way too late; it was 7-1 Cards.

Diaz led off by dropping a single into center. He died at first as Wood popped out to center while McKenry and pinch hitter Paul both looked like overmatched Texas Leaguers, striking out swinging on three pitches. Tony Watson came on for Pittsburgh and retired the Cards in order. Walker was finally rewarded for roping a ball when he ripped a two out double to right for the Bucs only sixth inning noise.

With two away in the seventh, Watson ran across a bump in the road. He walked Nick Punto and Freese cued a single into right past Wood, who was holding the runner. Watson escaped when Molina flew out to medium left. Pearce led off with a single to left; a K and DP later, Watson was back on the hill for the Pirates. He again had a two out burp. Schumaker had an infield knock when he rolled a ball to the right side that was Walker's to play, but instead Wood ranged over to make the grab. Watson broke late to cover first and lost the race. No sweat; Jay bounced back to the box.

The Bucs chased Garcia in the eighth. McKenry beat out a grounder to second to open the frame. Lyle Overbay caught one, but sent it toward the Notch for a loud out. d'Arnaud dropped a flare into left to put runners on first and second, and Tony LaRussa brought in Jason Motte. He got Cedeno on a force and struck out Walker looking at a 97 MPH heat.

Jose Veras climbed the hill for Pittsburgh in the ninth. He walked two of the first three batters, gave up double to score one and a grounder to plate another. Then JV walked another guy, and Joe Beimel came on to finish the frame. The last thing Clint Hurdle wanted to do was use another arm in a lost cause. We expect Veras is going to have to work hard to regain his manager's confidence after tonight.

Hey, it's not the end of the world; the Bucs are still going to be either one or two games behind after tonight. But so far the series does demonstrate a couple of holes that need addressed. The Cards have hit five homers in two games; the Bucs haven't hit one in nearly a week. The starting pitching is starting to fray; except for Paul Maholm, none have worked in the 175-200 inning range before, so they're entering uncharted waters. A six man rotation might be under consideration. And as they go shorter into games, the bullpen is being asked to pick up more and more innings.

So if there's a wish list, a big bopper, a starter and a late guy would be on it. It's possible that the FO consider Pedro, Brad Lincoln and/or Ohlie to be internal answers for the first two items. But a proven set-up man doesn't exist in the system with Evan Meek's prolonged absence. And in the middle of the lineup, El Toro could use a righty counterpoint. So we'll see what's in store over the next eight days.

But we do know what's in store tomorrow afternoon - Kyle Lohse and Charlie Morton hook up as the Bucs try to avoid the broom.

  • Ronny Cedeno's hitting streak ended at eleven games tonight.
  • The Bucs got their twelfth selllout tonight with 39,102 fans in attendance at PNC Park; another is set for tomorrow.
  • Jose Tabata was on the Pirate bench tonight taking in the game after being checked by team doctors, who recommended a short rest period for his quad. Ross Ohlendorf was in the dugout last night, stopping over on his way to Altoona to continue his rehab.
  • With yesterday's appearance, Jason Grilli became the 45th Pirate to take the field this season. The 2010 club set the record for the most players used in a year with 51.
  • Pedro may be back next week. Clint Hurdle told Pirate radio talk show host Dave Todd of News Talk 104.7 that it won't be in the next day or two, which would lead us to speculate (and it's purely speculation) that he'll possibly join the team when they go to Atlanta.
  • Hunter Pence isn't the only OF'er with some future team control on the market. BJ Upton of the Rays is on the block, too. A lot of teams have been calling to gauge his price, although there is no indication that Pittsburgh is one of the clubs interested; they have a stable full of center fielders.

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