Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pirate Pitchers Stand Tall In 1-0 Win Over Reds

Looks like we're between thunderstorms tonight (it sucks to be eastern Ohio or central PA this evening), so maybe the Bucco faithful can get home before the bewitching hour. But hey, if it takes five hours to notch a W, play on.

J-Mac threw a tidy first frame; first pitch strikes to everyone, and two K's while using up just a dozen pitches. With one away in the Bucco half, Josh Harrison ripped a single into right off Mike Leake. Neil Walker caught a changeup and one-hopped it into the bullpen for a ground rule double.

McCutch bounced one gently up the middle; the Reds were playing back and let the run score with Walker taking third on the ground out. Garrett Jones swung and missed at a ball well off the plate. But instead of whiffing, he was awarded first on catcher's interference, apparently this crew's call du jour. No diff; Lyle Overbay struck out. The score was 1-0 Pittsburgh after an inning.

With one away in the second, Miguel Cairo lined a 3-2 heater into center for the Reds' first knock. Chris Heisey bounced into a force, 4-6. The Bucs got a "neighborhood" call on the out; Wood never touched second and still took forever on the turn. Heisey swiped second with Fred Lewis at the dish and went to third on a balk call. Lewis drew a walk on a 3-2 fastball that missed. McDonald rediscovered the zone, got ahead of Ryan Hanigan 0-2 and got him on a fly to McCutch.

Wood led off with a walk on a 3-2 pitch, showing a good eye and some luck with the call on a couple pitches just off the black. Mike McKenry went down swinging after letting two strikes sail past him. McDonald bunted back to the box, at it turned into an easy 1-6-3 DP.

Leake opened the third by rolling a single up the middle. J-Mac struck out Drew Stubbs on a heater. Zack Cozart grounded into a 4-6 force; it's not hard to tell that Wood is plenty rusty on the pivot. Joey Votto banged out to first, and so far so good. The Bucs went down in order, and it was 1-0 after three.

The Reds went down 1-2-3; McDonald K'ed a pair to bring his total to five after four frames and was looking pretty sharp tonight. McCutch lined out on a 3-2 sinker to Brandon Phillips; the Bucs have smacked a few at 'em balls off Leake so far. Jones and Overbay went down quietly to end the frame.

Hanigan rattled a one-out double into the left field corner, and Leake moved him to third. J-Mac dropped three curves in on Stubbs and got him swinging to leave Hanigan stranded. Better yet, McDonald is sitting at just 60 pitches after five. And he needs to be on his A game tonight. The bottom of the Pirate order went down without a fight; that's eleven in a row for Leake.

J-Mac can play that game, too. He put away Cozart, Votto and Phillips in the sixth. The Bucs had the top of the order up, and could use a little lumber to back up McDonald.

Presley began the sixth with a walk, and like Wood may have caught a couple of calls along the at-bat. It all evens out; he was caught stealing. The ball beat him to the base, and even though he appeared to get his foot in before the tag, that's a call you'll always lose. Leake got Harrison and Walker, and it was still an old fashioned 1-0 pitchers' duel after six.

Cairo walked on five pitches to start the seventh. Heisey bunted him to second, thrown out on a barehand play by Harrison. Lewis beat out an infield roller to short to put runners on the corners with one away when Wood ho-hummed the throw and Lewis hustled it out by a hair. Hanigan walked on four pitches to load the bases.

Clint Hurdle went to pen, and called on Joe Beimel, his only lefty option after Tony Watson went 2-2/3 innings yesterday, to face Jay Bruce. J-Mac went 6-1/3 innings, giving up four hits, three walks and seven Ks on 87 pitches. And he wasn't a happy camper when he left, barking at plate ump Brian Gorman for squeezing the plate, which he has for both pitchers all night. Sure hasn't seemed to help the hitters much, though.

Beimel fell behind 2-0, missing badly with a couple of fastballs, but came back to strike Bruce out swinging at a slider, bringing down the house. With the righty Stubbs due up, Chris Resop came on. He has worked with the most inherited runners in MLB, so the bases full of Reds was nothing new. Resop got Stubbs on a grounder to first, causing a second outburst from the crowd. Guess some Steeler fans are killing the summer at PNC this year.

Nick Masset took the hill for Cincy in the seventh. McCutch drew a 3-2 walk to open the frame. Jones dribbled into a force out, replacing McCutchen at first. Xavier Paul came in to run for him, and was caught stealing on a perfect throw by Hanigan. Too bad; Overbay followed with a single to right. Wood went down looking to end an inning that never developed.

Resop stayed on to face the Reds' 2-3-4 hitters. He chopped them down routinely, and should be good for tomorrow, throwing just eleven pitches to record his four outs. Logan Ondrusek toed the rubber for the Reds. Presley doubled to right with two away, and there he sat. It was once again Hanny time.

Cairo bounced out. Heisey sent McCutch to the wall in center, where his drive became a loud second out. Ramon Hernandez kept the Reds alive when he lined a 98 MPH heater into center for a knock; Bronson Arroyo came in to run for him. Hanigan bounced a two-strike single up the middle, and there were runners at first and second for Jay Bruce. Bruce bounced one softly to Walker, and Hanny had save number 28.

Can't say much except great job, pitchers, when you get back-to-back shutouts. McDonald is tough when he can get his curve over the plate, as he proved tonight. And there's nothing more exciting to a baseball purist than watching a 1-0 game, especially when that run is scored in the opening frame.

In spite of the wins piling up, the Pirates will be a stronger team once Ronnie Cedeno comes back; Chase d'Arnaud provides some excitement and Brandon Wood a little pop that RC lacks, but neither one can carry his glove, or for that matter, his stick.

Pedro Alvarez and Steve Pearce will be welcome additions, too, once they're right. And our guess would be that when Jose Tabata returns, Alex Presley will get the majority of time in right field; the up-and-down Garrett Jones picked a bad time to slump again.

Whether the same all-for-one mentality that's fueled their surge remains intact is another question, though we see no reason why it shouldn't. The bigger question is whether the pitching can hold up under the grind of the dog days and a pennant race. Some steadier gloves and a little more scoring production should help.

The two games have produced three runs. And with Johnny Cueto (5-3, 2.01) going against Jeff Karstens (8-4, 2.34), don't expect a heck of a lot more scoring tomorrow afternoon during the get-away game as the Bucs look to break out the broom.

  • Neil Walker now has a thirteen game hitting streak, the third longest active streak in MLB. Tonight was the seventh straight game that he got a hit during his first at bat.
  • Tonight was the Bucs third shutout since the All-Star break behind three different starters - Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, and James McDonald. The last time the Bucs tossed back-to-back shut outs was April 17-18th, 2009, against the Braves. The starters were Paul Maholm, who won 3-0, and Ian Snell, who won 10-0.
  • The Bucs drew another good non-promotional weekday crowd of 26,058.
  • At Indy, Pedro Alvarez went 4-for-4 (.370), Ronny Cedeno 3-for-4 (.400) and Steve Pearce 1-for-4 (.269) as they travel the last step before returning to Pittsburgh.
  • Jose Tabata and Ross Ohlendorf both started rehab outings at Bradenton tonight. JT (.167) went 1-for-2 with a double, walk, RBI and run scored. Ohlie (0-0, 4.50) gave up four runs on eight hits in four innings.

No comments: