Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ump Breaks Up Pitching Duel; Braves Win 4-3 In Nineteen

Back to local TV; let's see if the Bucs can continue to roll now that their cameo on ESPN is done.

Xavier Paul started the game off against Tommy Hanson with a rope into right after falling behind 0-2. Three pitches later, he was at second with a swiped sack. Garrett Jones, kinda miscast as a two hitter, did his job. He saw eight pitches before bouncing out to second, moving Paul up ninety feet.

Not that he needed to. Neil Walker caught a first pitch curve, inside half and knee high, and ripped it off the right field wall for a triple. McCutch tried the same, jumping on a first pitch fastball, but popped it into right, and Walker had to hold. Pedro picked him up by lining a curve into right to bring The Pittsburgh Kid home. Lyle Overbay ended the inning with a liner to Nate McLouth in center. It was 2-0 Pittsburgh before Atlanta got to their bench.

McLouth started the Brave half by drawing an eight pitch walk off Jeff Karstens. Nate the Great ended up on third quickly; he stole second and moved up when Mike McKenry's throw went into center. Martin Prado popped up for the first out. Brian McCann K'ed swinging through a curve. JK completed the trifecta when he got Freddy Freeman to fly out to the wall in left center to strand McLouth.

Ronny Cedeno opened the second by striking out swinging at a slider. Mike McKenry kept the beat going when he tattooed a slider well over the left field wall for his second homer of the campaign and the Bucs' first after a 77 inning dry spell. Paul drew a two out, 3-2 walk, and stole second again. Hanson worked Jones in-and-out, and in another eight pitch at bat got him swinging through a slider. Going into the Brave second, it was 3-0 Pittsburgh.

Dan Uggla began the frame with a single up the middle. Eric Hinske moved him to second on a swinging bunt. Jason Heyward walked on five pitches; JK's control is off in the early going, a rarity for him. Julio Lugo chopped into a 6-4 force out, barely beating the relay to first after a nice grab & feed by Cedeno. JK fell behind Hansen 3-0 before coming back to get him on a 3-2 grounder to short. Karstens has run between the raindrops, but is up to 41 pitches after two, a really high count for him.

Hanson struck out Walker swing at a curve. McCutch lined one to left, and Hinske was there for the catch. Pedro tapped back to the box, and it was a clean frame for the Braves.

After a pair of hard hit outs, Karstens gave up an 0-2 ground single to McCann, catching too much plate with a heater he wanted upstairs as a waste pitch. Freeman followed with a line knock into right off Walker's glove. On a 2-2 pitch, Uggla got a heater down the middle and drilled it into center to score McCann. Hinske drew an eight pitch walk to load the bases. JK fell behind Heyward 2-0, fed him a sinker down the middle, and he knocked it into center to tie the game. Julio Lugo bounced out, but it was 3-3 after three.

Karstens has been laboring tonight; he's already up to 72 pitches. Give the Braves credit. They've been quite disciplined at the plate, regularly getting into hitters counts, and taking advantage. And JK doesn't have his best stuff or command here at Turner Field.

Overbay flew out short of the track in right top open the fourth. Cedeno bled an infield single to the left side. McKenry flew out to center. With Karstens up, Cedeno stole second; JK struck out on the next pitch. Curious timing for RC's steal, but it worked.

Hanson had a feisty at bat, as it took Karstens eight pitches to sit him down. McLouth went down looking at a borderline heater. Prado bounced out to third, and Karstens had a 1-2-3 inning.

Paul tried to bunt his way on in the fifth, but didn't push it far enough and Hanson got him for the first out. Jones flew out. Walker dropped a 3-2 slider into left, and McCutch followed with a walk after an extended, eight pitch at bat. Pedro worked the count full before striking out chasing a curve.

McCann started off the Atlanta half with an infield single to second; he was forced out at second on a Freeman roller to Walker. Uggla shot one to Pedro, and he started an around the horn DP. It was 3-3 after five.

Overbay swung at the first pitch and rolled it back to Hanson for out number one. Cedeno fell behind, but roped a 1-2 heater at the knees into right. McKenry flew out, and Matt Diaz stepped up for Karstens, flying out on the first pitch.

JK went five innings, giving up three runs on six hits with three walks and three K's. Hey, the guy's human, and at least lasted through five throwing 96 pitches. Tony Watson took the hill for Pittsburgh.

After getting ahead of Hinske 0-2, the count worked its way full and Watson beaned him. He jammed Heyward and the soft roller down the left side ended up an infield hit, both runners advancing a base when Pedro threw the ball away. Lugo flew out to short left and the runners stayed anchored. Brooks Conrad came up to pinch hit; he was intentionally walked to jam the sacks.

McLouth tried a squeeze on the first pitch, and fouled the ball off; it was a sure run if he got it down. He finished the at bat by striking out swinging at a fastball. That left the dangerous Martin Prado as the last hill to climb; he rolled one gently to Overbay and the game was still tied after six.

Eric O'Flaherty and his 0.95 ERA replaced Hanson, and he struck out Paul on a foul tip. Steve Pearce came to the plate for Garrett Jones and was schooled, striking out swinging. Walker at least put the ball in play, grounding out to third. And it doesn't get easier; the Brave bullpen has been awesome this season. The Bucs countered with Joe Beimel. He rolled through the Braves, striking out a pair.

Next, the Braves rolled out Johnny Venters (1.32 ERA). McCutch fell behind 1-2, but eventually drew a walk to open the eighth. It took the lefty three pitches to dispatch Pedro; only one was over the dish. McCutch was caught stealing while Overbay was at the dish; he K'ed too. Hey, Venters can make anyone look bad, but especially the lefties, who hit just .138 against him and strike out 35% of their plate appearances..

Beimel got the first two Braves easily in the first, but Lugo caught the Bucs napping with a bunt single to third. and that brought Chipper Jones up to pinch hit. Beimel got him on a grounder to short, and he and Watson have put up three goose egg frames.

Craig Kimbrel (2.15) took the hill; he K'ed Cedeno looking. McKenry legged out an infield knock to short (do Pirate catchers led the league in infield hits, we wonder?) Brandon Wood pinch hit; he rolled an 0-2 fastball on the black into right to put runners on the corners with one away.

The Bucs tried the squeeze; the Braves pitched out (the infield had a mound conference just before the pitch) and McKenry was dead; Paul didn't even offer at the pitch, pulling the bat back, and eventually struck out to end the frame. Unless Paul thought the safety squeeze was on, his lack of effort to protect McKenry was inexplicable.

Jose Veras took over. He struck out McLouth swinging. McLouth, upset with the call before that pitch, beefed and was bounced by plate ump Jerry Meals; manager Fredi Gonzalez joined in and was ejected, too. Prado bounced out to short and McCann popped out. JV had a drama free frame, by his standards anyway, and it was on to extra innings.

Scott Linebrook took the hill for Atlanta. Paerce went down swinging. Walker lined an opposite field single and stole second; McCutch walked, ball four being intentional. McCann hurt his oblique during the at bat; David Ross came on to catch. He's the last position player on the bench, so there are no Atlanta pinch hitters available from here on out.

George Sherrill came on to face Pedro, lefty-to-lefty. He caught him looking; Alvarez only took one swing the entire at bat, letting a couple of nice looking balls sail by. Overbay bounced out to end the frame. It was Chris Resop's turn to take the ball.

He gave Freeman an 0-2 curve over the plate, he rapped it into the second base hole for an infield single when Walker couldn't glove it cleanly; it could have just as easily been ruled an error. Resop struck out Uggla on three pitches; he doesn't believe in wasting any. Alex Gonzalez, who came in when McLouth was booted, bounced one to Cedeno for an inning ending 6-4-3 DP.

Cristhian Martinez toed the rubber for Atlanta. Cedeno grounded out. Martinez fed McKenry a fastball down the middle; he flew out in front of the center field track. Eric Fryer pinch hit for Resop; he struck out on three pitches, swinging in front of a changeup.

Jason Grilli joined the line of Bucco relievers to pitch when he climbed the hill in the eleventh. After a pop out, Lugo lined a first pitch single into center. Jordan Schafer, who had subbed earlier in the game, tried to bunt his way on, fouling the first pitch, and eventually reached when he was beaned on an 0-2 pitch. Martinez bunted them over to put it on the shoulders of Prado. Grilli jammed him, and he bounced out to short.

Paul started the twelfth with a bounce out to first. Pearce continued to wear the collar, striking out for the third time in three at bats. Walker grounded out to first, and the Bucs had their tenth straight zero added to the board.

Grilli lost Ross on five pitches. Freeman poked a fastball off his ankles and rolled it the opposite way for a single, with Ross holding at second. Uggla roped one, but right at Pedro for the first out. Gonzalez hit one weakly; McKenry went to first for the out with the runners advancing.  Lefty heyward was intentionally walked to get to righty Lugo, who has two hits tonight. He was jammed and bounced one to Pedro, who stepped on third to end the frame. Lucky thirteenth coming up?

Martinez came on for his third inning, and why not? He's only thrown 16 pitches in the first two.  McCutch hit his first pitch to short; Gonzalez couldn't come up with it and the error put Andrew at first. Pedro bunted him to second; only with Pittsburgh would that happen. Overbay flew out; he's 0-for-6. Cedeno bounced out to second to end the inning. Hey, Pedro's had a bad night, but you have to let McCutch go on his own and let Alvarez have his hacks.

Schafer went down swinging at a Grilli curve. Martinez, who does it all apparently, lined a single into right. Prado popped out for the second out. Ross walked on a 3-2 pitch, and that brought up lefty banger Freeman. Grilli jumped ahead of him 0-2, and got him swinging at a nasty curve.

Give McKenry his props. It's the fourteenth inning, and he's caught every pitch, yet he fought Martinez for 14 pitches before flying out. Maybe it'll help the next guys in the order. Maybe not. Pinch hitter Chase d'Arnaud, the last Buc position player, went down swinging at a changeup. Paul saw the change, and rolled one into right for a two out knock. It didn't help Pearce; he got a change and bounced out to short.

Now D-Mac came out; only Hanny is left in the pen. The changeup must be the pitch du jour; Uggla popped one out to open the fourteenth. Gonzalez bounced a slider to Walker for the second out, and Heyward did the same for a clean inning for McCutchen.

Despite his 52 pitches, the Braves sent Martinez back out.  Walker went down swinging at a 3-2 changeup. He fed McCutch three straight two strike changeups that he fouled off; he K'ed him swinging at a high heater. Martinez hung a changeup to Pedro; he swung through it for strike three.

With one out, Schafer laid down a two strike bunt to third and beat it out; that's confidence. Martinez bunted him up a station. Prado at 0-for-7 is way overdue. But not this at bat. D-Mac caught him looking at a fastball. It's on to the sixteenth; the GW alarm clock is probably getting thrown out the window when it goes off at 6 AM.

Overbay caught hold of a Martinez change, but lined it at Freeman at first who made a nice play to snag the shot. Cedeno tapped back to the hill. McKenry lined a single to center, but with the bench empty, D-Mac had to bat, and he bounced out to second. Martinez has now pitched as long as Hanson, and considerably better, too. His ERA has dropped from 4.10 to 3.53 during the night.

After striking out Ross, D-Mac walked Freeman on four pitches. Uggla lined to third, and Pedro make a nice grab to turn a single into an out. Gonzalez bounced into a force, and geez, it's the seventeenth frame. Time flies...

Martinez finally headed for the showers and Scott Proctor with a 7.36 ERA, took the hill. He came out throwing smoke, but missed the dish and walked Paul on four pitches. Of course, Hurdle called for Pearce to lay one down; he fouled the first pitch trying. He did get one down, and Paul moved up a sack. That got Walker an intentional pass to bring up McCutch.

Proctor started him off on soft stuff, falling behind 2-1. McCutch got his fastball, belt high inside corner, but couldn't get around and bounced out to first, advancing the runners. Pedro went after a first pitch slider, and flew out to center.

D-Mac got Heyward on a grounder to short. Lugo went after the first pitch, a high heater, and lined it into left. Schafer tried to bunt the first pitch, with the pitcher behind him and no pinch hitter available. He took a cut at the second pitch, and flew out to McCutch. Proctor grounded out to third, and we're into the ninth inning of the doubleheader...ooops, the eighteenth.

Overbay shook his collar and bounced a single up the middle. Cedeno wasn't bunting but it worked out the same. he bounced out to the right side, moving Overbay to second. Lotta pressure on McKenry with D-Mac batting behind him. Well, not that much - he was intentionally walked. McCutchen bunted them up a base. With two outs, it was up to Paul. He smoked one, but into the glove of Freeman to end the inning.

D-Mac came out for his fifth inning, and has Prado, Ross and Freeman to contend with. Prado bounced out and Ross went down swinging on a 3-2 pitch. McCutchen served Freeman a steady diet of changeups, and lost him on a 3-2 pitch; he stole second. Uggla walked on five pitches, also seeing mostly changeups. D-Mac is gassed; he's now thrown 72 pitches. But he had enough in the tank to get Gonzalez to ground out.

Pearce lined a fastball into center and Schafer ran it down. Walker was jammed and popped out to third. McCutch got another belt high, inside half fastball; he got under this one and popped out.

The Hanny rule for save-only appearances must still be in effect; D-Mac came out for his sixth inning of work. He got ahead of Lugo 1-2, but lost him after eight pitches. He got ahead of Schafer 0-2, but two pitches later left a fastball up that he lined into center to put runners on the corners. That brought up Proctor. While he was up, Schafer took second on defensive indifference.

Proctor rolled one to Pedro, who came home. The ball beat Lugo and he was out by five feet in everyone's eyes (including his own; he originally thought he was gunned, too) but those of  Jerry Meals, who called him safe. Hurdle exploded out of the dugout, but the ruling of course stood and the ump got to call it a night. And that's a terrible way to end a ballgame that guys have been contesting for the past six hours; it deserved a legitimate conclusion, not a "it's been a long day and let's go home" call. (If you want to see the play, it's shown here.)

We'll have more on the game tomorrow after a nap, lol. There are sure to be a lot of numbers and odd factoids to come out of the contest.

Paul Maholm faces Jair Jurrjens tomorrow.

  • Expect some movement by the Pirates tomorrow. After the last two nights, their pen is in a shambles. There are several scenarios that are possible, and bet one will play out soon.
  • Tonight (and this mornings) game is the longest time-wise in Pirate franchise history at six hours and 41 minutes.
  • Ryan Doumit had his rehab assignment today transferred from High-A Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis, with the goal to have him catching nine innings by the weekend. If that's the case, he could be back in Pittsburgh by early August. His initial rehab plan is to alternate days between catching and DH'ing.
  • Chase d'Arnaud has a chip fracture of his right pinky finger, but will be available to pinch hit or run.

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