Sunday, July 24, 2011

"I'll Grind His Bones To Make My Bread..."

Today's game has a must win feel about it, even though the Bucs are only a game out of the lead. The kids are jammin' the stands, waiting for their post-game run around the bases. Let's hope the Bucs circle the sacks a few times before them.

Nice enough start for Charlie Morton. He got three ground outs sandwiched around Jon Jay's one out single. Kyle Lohse retired the Bucs 1-2-3. The second was a little rougher on Morton.

Colby Rasmus and Skip Schumaker led off with singles to put runners on the corners. Gerald Laird hit a sac fly to bring home a run. An errant pickoff throw moved Schumaker to second, and that was followed by a Daniel Descalso walk. Lohse bunted them up a base, but CM contained the damage by getting Ryan Theriot to bounce to short. Lyle Overbay reached on a one out error, but the rest of his teammates flew out in their half. 1-0 St. Louis after two frames.

Jay started the third by drawing a walk and was tossed stealing. Morton retired Pujols and Berkman, which is no easy chore for a Pirate pitcher, and up came the Bucs. Eric Fryer led off the third with an infield single. Morton K'ed trying to bunt him over. Fryer took the matter in his own hands, stealing second and going to third when the throw went through Theriot. Chase d'Arnaud smacked a double to left, and it was a tie game.

Morton mowed down the Cards in the fourth; Lohse faced three batters. McCutch led off with a single and was erased on a Lyle Overbay 6-4-3 DP followed by a Garrett Jones K. Why doesn't McCutch run anymore? Cleanup-itis? Heck, if the Pirates send their catcher, you'd think they'd green light McCutch.

Morton ran into problems in the fifth. A leadoff walk to Descalso, who has had quite a series, set the stage. Lohse struck out trying to advance him, but a hit-and-run single through the right side by Theriot sent DD to third, where a wild pitch scored him. Jay walked (both free passes were on 3-2 pitches) to set up Pujols and Berkman. Morton went soft on Sir Albert, drawing three straight fouls, and got him to pop up on a high heater. He retired Berkman on a bouncer to first, and though he gave up a run, CM's damage control was outstanding.

Ronny Cedeno got the Bucs rolling with a double dropped softly into right, and Fryer moved him to third on a ground out. It would prove to be a critical piece of small ball when Morton smacked a fly to fairly deep center to plate RC. After five, it was 2-2.

The lead didn't last long. Rasmus caught a sinker that dove right down the middle of the plate and crushed it over the wall in right, his tenth of the year, to put St. Louis up again. Schumaker followed with a grounder up the middle, and Gerald Laird bunted him over. Morton got ahead of Descalso 1-2, but missed inside with the next three deliveries to put runners at first and second. Tony Cruz came on to pinch hit for Lohse.

That was it for Morton; Jason Grilli jogged in from the pen. Morton went 5-1/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits, with five walks and three K's while tossing 94 pitches. His splits caught up to him; the Card lefties went 5-for-10 against him and drew all five walks. Grilli K'ed Cruz swinging at a heater and got Theriot on a bouncer to second to put out the fire. 

RHP Lance Lynn took over for the Redbirds. Walker drew a one out base on balls. McCutch went down swinging, missing a 95 MPH heater. He stayed outside on Overbay, walking him on five pitches. Jones couldn't pick them up; he went down swinging. The score was 3-2 Cards after six.

Jay lead off the seventh with a rope to center. Pujols grounded out to the shortstop hole, moving Jay up a base. Grilli worked Berkman upstairs, and got him swinging through a fastball. He walked Rasmus on four pitches, the last an intentional ball, but got out of the jam with a Schumaker ground out. That was a big inning for Grilli and the Bucs to get through; the righty faced four lefties, but with Tony Watson out after a three inning stint yesterday, Clint Hurdle didn't have many match-up options. 

Lynn challenged Cedeno with a series of belt high fastballs; RC finally found one he liked and drove it into right for a leadoff double. Fryer bunted, and the well placed roller ended up a single to put runners on the corners. Steve Pearce grabbed a stick and pinch hit for Grilli. Pearce smacked a curve to third; instead of going home, Descalso turned it into a 5-4-3 DP that tied the game. After seven innings, it was 3-3.

Chris Resop toed the rubber and Laird greeted him with a double to left. Descalso tried to bunt him over, but missed the pitch, and Fryer threw behind Laird to Cedeno for a huge pick off.  It became huge an out later when David Freese singled sharply to right, but Resop nailed the third out. Mitchell Boggs put the Bucs away in order.

Joel Hanrahan came on to face the heart of the Card order. He yielded a two out single to Berkman when Cedeno inexplicably broke the wrong way on the routine roller, but that was all that he allowed. Boggs again retired the Bucs 1-2-3.

Joe Beimel climbed the mound and pitched a clean tenth.  Jason Motte took the ball for St. Louis. After an out, Xavier Paul beat out a bouncer to first on a bang-bang race to first with Motte. He stole seond and went to third when the throw short hopped Theriot. d'Arnaud hit a soft liner to short center; Paul tagged and scored easily when Rasmus' throw was well up the third base line. The Bucs ground out a hard earned 4-3 win over the Cards.

Give the team credit. They were down three times to the Cards and with a dartboard lineup answered each and every time, finally hustling the winning run home. And hustle they did; even in the late innings of a muggy, 90 degree day, every Buc bust his butt down the line even for routine outs. It paid of for Fryer and Paul and eventually the team. 

Don't forget the contributions of the bomb squad. Cedeno, Fryer, Paul, d'Arnaud and Grilli all came up big in the win. It takes a village... The bullpen shut down an opponent once again, and the Bucs followed their 2011 blueprint of sweat, defense and pitching to a big win. And it was big; the Pirates are in a three-way tie for first after the victory.

As far as Charlie Morton is concerned, we have no problem with a sinker/curve mix; it's worked well for guys like Chris Carpenter (although we'd rather see him master his change than hook to offset the lefties some). He's showing his four seamer at times too. But he does need to really improve his secondary pitch command. Still, he's just a few months into reinventing himself. Morton has his confidence back; when the control comes, he should be a rotation mainstay after becoming an afterthought last season.

Tomorrow night James McDonald (6-4, 4.15) goes against the Braves' Tim Hudson (9-6, 3.39).
  • A crowd of 35,402 watched the Buccos today. The three day attendance for the series was 112,994, the 3rd largest three-date total in PNC Park history.
  • Today's victory was Joe Beimel's first win as a Bucco since May 2, 2003.
  • Alex Presley is day-to-day with his bruised thumb; the docs say it's structurally OK and he's just getting ice on it. The King told Kristy Robinson of Ohio Valley Athletics that he thinks the injury is nerve-related. There's no real timetable for his return to action, and there has been some discussion about putting him on the 15 day DL.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweets that the Bucs are shaking the bushes for a back-end reliever.

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