Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Offensive Woes Continue; Bucs Fall In Ten 2-1

OK, umps miss calls. It's another day and time to move on. The big questions from last night's game are will the Pirates get off their seventeen inning schneid and can the starters give the bullpen a little recovery time in the next couple of days?

Xavier Paul didn't get it cranked; he bounced out to first unassisted. Jones flew out to center. Neil Walker became the first Bucco base runner against Jair Jurrjens when he lined a changeup into left for a single. McCutch walked to set up two ducks for Pedro. The ducks stayed on the pond as Alvarez was called out on strikes looking at a changeup on the outside black.

Paul Maholm got Nate McLouth to bounce to second to open the Braves' first. Martin Prado got rid of his collar quickly, doubling inside third. he tried to stretch it to three, and looked like he made it, too, but ol' bud Jerry Meals rung him up. Irony or payback? Anyway, Freddy Freeman grounded out to short, and it was a scoreless first, no surprise after watching the bats in action yesterday.

Steve Pearce had a long at bat against Jurrjens, and it piad off when his fly into right was misplayed by Wilkin Ramirez; Pearce reached second on the error. Brandon Wood struck out swinging at a shoulder high heater. Ramirez redeemed himself by gloving Eric Fryer's liner to right.  Maholm was called out on strikes, and the Pirate zeroes in Atlanta keep pilin' up.

Dan Uggla doubled inside third for a two bagger to open Atlanta's second. David Ross fell behind 0-2 and flew out to right center and Jones. Ramirez turned it around and got ahead 2-0; he flew out to fairly deep center, moving Uggla to third. Julio Lugo went down swinging at a slider. Atlanta didn't have any extra base hits last night; they have a pair in two innings tonight.

Paul led off with an infield single to second. He was caught stealing on a pitchout; he went on the third pitch twice yesterday, and the Braves took note. Jones flew out to left, and Walker bounced out to first. Alex Gonzalez got the Braves rolling with a ground single through the left side and Jurrjens bunted him along. McLouth bounced back to the box and Prado popped out. Still no score after three.

McCutch went after a 3-1 changeup and flew out to left in front of the track. Pedro couldn't barrel up on some balls down the middle, but showed enough patience to draw a ten pitch walk. Pearce caught a 1-2 mistake pitch over the middle and lined it into center to put Bucs on the corners with one away.

Wood knocked one into medium left; Prado made the grab and nailed Pedro at the plate; the Bucs are trying everything to touch the plate. It was a close play at home as Alvarez just missed sliding under the tag, and in fact may not have been tagged, but we won't go there. With the pitcher coming up, it was absolutely the right call by Nick Leyva.

Freeman poked one into left for another double and the third time the Braves had the lead off runner at second with no outs. Uggla hit an infield single to short; Freeman had to stay at second. Ross bunted the pair up a station. Ramirez helped Maholm, swinging at ball four on a 3-1 pitch and popping it up for the second out. Lugo gave him a bigger hand; ahead 2-0, he swung and missed three straight sliders that all ran inside. Four innings, no runs.

It was three up, three grounders, three down for the Bucs in the fifth. JJ is up to 88 pitches, but the Brave bullpen is in relatively better shape than Pittsburgh's, and one more inning from Jurrjens should set them up. Maholm K'ed Gonzalez swinging at a fastball across the knees. Jurrjens rolled back to the mound, and McLouth went down swinging at a heater. Funny inning; PM strikes out everyone but the pitcher.

Garrett Jones got a 3-1 heater at the belt, and praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, knocked his tenth long fly of the year over the right center fence, ending a 22 inning stretch of futility for Pittsburgh. Walker followed by drilling a single into right. With McCutch up, Walker was caught stealing on a missed hit-and-run; that's the third out made on the bases tonight. McCutch bounced out to third. Pedro smacked a two out double to left center. Pearce flew out to end the inning, but there was finally a run on the board, and it belonged to Pittsburgh.

Predo started off with a bloop single; he muscled a slider six inches inside into left. He struck out Freeman on a foul tip off a 3-2 slider. Uggla collected his third knock of the night when he grounded a ball through the left side to put runners at first and second. Ross tied the game when he rapped a ankle high slider through the infield into left. Paul had a play at home, but kicked the ball trying to pick it up. Ramirez struck out swinging at a slider, and Lugo K'ed looking at the same. It's 1-1 after six.

The Braves get their money's worth out of a pitcher; Jurrjens came back out with a pitch count of 104. He walked Wood on a 3-2 count to start the seventh. Fryer fouled off a pair of bunt attempts and struck out swinging. Maholm tried next; he popped it up, JJ let it drop, got Maholm at first and eventually Wood at second. Heck, it's getting hard to even strand runners anymore. It's also poor execution all around in a key period of the game.

PM got the first two Braves easily, then McLouth dropped a fly ball into right for a two out knock. Prado bounced out to third. Maholm has done a gutsy job of picking up both the team generally and the pen specifically tonight. He threw a strong seven innings, giving up a run on nine hits and striking out eight while throwing 109 pitches.

It's time for the Braves' back end to take over, and Eric O'Flaherty took the mound in the eighth. Matt Diaz pinch hit for Paul to face the lefty; he K'ed on a 3-2 slider down and in that would have been ball four if he laid off. That's easier said than done against O'Flaherty.  He got Jones swinging at a nicely placed sinker, knee high on the inside corner. Walker bounced to second.

Tony Watson took the hill for the Bucs to face the lefty Freeman. He got ahead 0-2, and laid a heater right down the middle that Freeman lined into center for a lead off single. Uggla flew out to right center. Ross has been a Pirate killer all his career (.236 vs the league; .320 against Pittsburgh) but Watson won this battle, getting him to bang one to Walker, who started a 4-6-3 DP. On to the ninth and Craig Kimbrel..

He breezed through the frame. McCutch flew out while Alvarez and Pearce struck out. Jose Veras was the Pirate answer in the Brave's half of the frame. Chipper Jones came out of the dugout to face him, and bounced out to short. Why is it their guys with quad tweaks stay on the roster and Pittsburgh's are out for two months?

Lugo K'ed on a curve, but Gonzalez doubled into the left center gap to put the winning run on second. The Braves sent up Eric Hinske. JV got him looking at a hook, and it's extras again in Atlanta. Hey, we still have Chris Leroux and Hanny on ice, maybe Joe Beimel and a guest starter if needed. We'll see.

Scott Linebrink came on for Atlanta in the tenth. He got Wood to fly out to right. Eric Fryer lined a single to left. Lyle Overbay grabbed a bat to take Veras' spot. Overbay smoked one to first; Freeman was holding the runner, snagged the rope and got Fryer for the DP.

That brought on Chris Leroux. McLouth rolled a fastball into right for a leadoff knock. Prado fouled off a pair of bunt tries and flew out to right. Leroux got ahead of Freeman 0-2, but three pitches later, he lined a slider to right to put runners on the corners. Uggla was intentionally walked to load the bases. Ross laced the first pitch into left, and the Braves had a second walk-off win in overtime, 2-1.

This begs two questions. Does the FO really believe in this team? Because if they do, waiting until August for Jose Tabata, Alex Presley and Ryan Doumit to return may be too late. Right field and first base are black holes now, and look to be in 2012. We know they can't force sellers' hands, but they need some thump badly. The Pirates don't have a position player on the active roster who's hitting .275+.

The attack? Just seven hits against admittedly outstanding Braves pitching. But c'mon - two guys caught stealing, a fly ball, line out, and bunt DP all in the same game? Consecutive bunts after a lead off single?

And how is it you can lose two back-to-back one run games in extra innings and use every pitcher in the pen, including one that just arrived from Indy today, except for your All-Star closer? Shouldn't he have been facing Dan Ross instead of Chris Leroux? We understand that no matter who's pitching, you have to score eventually to win. But you need to set down the opponent before you can get that fresh set of at-bats.

There's actually nothing wrong with the Bucs, who remain competitive virtually every night, that a hitter or three can't cure. With some run production, the little things fall into place and bloggers like GW will run out of things to rant over. Without out, every niggling detail gets magnified. Whether they'll get any help this week is the big question.

At least tonight's game ended the same day it started. Derek Lowe will go against Kevin Correia, who will try to salvage a split of the four game set tomorrow afternoon. And with all that's gone on, that'd be a very good thing.

  • Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that "Scouts from the Pittsburgh Pirates have been following Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena for more than a month, according to multiple major league sources." So they are looking for a bat, of sorts.
  • Interesting night of rumors concerning Buc uberprospect Starling Marte. He was pulled from the Altoona game in the fourth inning. Marte had been hit in the wrist in the first inning, but the Curve said he wasn't yanked because of that. Some sharp eyed folk noticed that Hunter Pence and BJ Upton weren't playing, and trade rumors started flying. The Bucs denied those hot stove embers. Ends up he did something on the field that drew the ire of manager PJ Forbes, who sat him down as a lesson. Gotta love deadline week.

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