Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bucs Bopped 7-4

OK, the Astros don't have Hunter Pence or Lance Berkman, two Bucco killers from way back, to torture the staff anymore. You'd think that would work to Pittsburgh's advantage, but...

After three innings of pretty well pitched ball by Wandy Rodriguez and Ohlie, the Bucs broke on top in the fourth. Josh Harrison started off with a double to center and came in when McCutch homered, number 19 on the season, to right. Neil Walker doubled to deep right center, and  Dewey doubled him in. Matt Diaz walked, and with no outs, the Bucs looked to be on the way to a mega-inning.

But Brandon Wood, Chase d'Arnaud and Ohlie all whiffed, so the Bucs were up 3-0. And that would be their last noise at the dish until the ninth.

The Astros used two-out lightning to chip away. After two routine outs, JD Martinez singled, Carlos Lee walked, and Brian Bogusevic dropped a flare into left to make it 3-1. The 'Stros added another in the fifth when a two-out knock by Jordan Schafer snuck into center off d'Arnaud's mitt to score Cliff Barmes, who had led off with a double.

Ross Ohlendorf continued step-by-step on his comeback trail, going five frames and allowing two runs (both with two away) on five hits with six strikeouts. Laboring over the last two innings, he was replaced by Jason Grilli in the sixth.

Houston broke it open in the seventh after Grilli dodged some raindrops in the sixth. With an out, a curve broke too well and hit Schafer on the foot. Jose Altuve doubled to put runners on second and third, bringing out Jose Veras. 

A ground out tied the score. Two pitches later, the Astros had a 6-3 lead when Lee yanked his 13th of the year into the left field stands when he turned on a fastball that looked about 6" inside.

Houston added a run in the eighth with three straight singles off Tony Watson. With an out, there were runners on second and third after a double steal that didn't draw a throw (it was ruled defensive indifference).

The Bucs have really gone downhill in keeping guys still on the bases and we're wondering if the "indifference" calls are coming from the bench or if the pitchers are just ignoring runners. They got out of it thanks to an Astro baserunning blunder that led to a DP when Altuve wandered too far off second during a ground out.

With two away in the ninth, a Jones walk followed by a Ronny Cedeno triple cranked into center made the final 7-4. The Pirates are now 9-26 since they briefly held first place last month.

Wandy Rodriguez struck out a career high 13 batters in seven innings. Last month, he matched his career high by striking out 11 Pirates. His 13 strikeouts were also the most by an Astros pitcher since last year, when Bud Norris struck out 14 against, natch, the Pirates.

Brandon Wood K'ed four times and Chase d'Arnaud three times while the team as a whole went down 16 times. The Bucs only put 16 balls in play - 11 outs + 5 hits - and just give too many at-bats away, which is becoming a recurrent theme. Hey, after a while a big leaguer should be able to figure out Rodriguez is throwing the curve; at least make him throw it for a strike.

As for Pirate pitching, Evan Meek will be welcome when he comes back, and the sooner, the better. Pirate starters can't seem to crack the five inning barrier anymore, and the bullpen has been way overexposed, especially the back end.

Charlie Morton goes against former Giant Henry Sosa today.

  • Some discussion among Bucco cognoscenti: maybe it's time to stretch Chris Leroux out and see if he has what it takes to start. Like Charlie Morton, a change in arm slot has revived his career.
  • Starling Marte rapped out his 167th hit last night, setting a new Altoona Curve single-season record. Nate McLouth set the old benchmark of 166 in 2004.
  • Bradenton OF'er Robbie Grossman and 3B Elevyz Gonzalez have been named to the Florida State League Class A team for the 2011 season.
  • On the theory that it takes five years to rank a draft class, Jim Callis of Baseball America looked at the 2005 class. He ranked Pittsburgh's draft 8th best, based mostly on the play of McCutch, who he called the Bucs best pick since Barry Bonds.


WilliamJPellas said...

16 strikeouts by Pirates, uhh, "hitters" in last night's game. Sixteen. That's almost 2/3rds of all the outs made by Pittsburgh in the entire game. Holy We've Got A Lot Of Guys With Big Time Holes In Their Swing, Batman!!!

Ron Ieraci said...

They're frustrating to watch, Will. They were a lot more disciplined earlier in the year, so they are aware of the concept making junk ballers throw strikes. The worst part is that's it seems contagious.

My guess is that it just shows how young the Bucs are and lacking in veteran go-to when times are tough.

And yes, the corners will be a problem again next year. I can live with Jones, though it'd be a lot easier on my mind if someone of the right handed persuasion not named Brandon Wood partners up with him.

WilliamJPellas said...

Hmm. 'Twould seem I am a bit higher on Wood than you are. I think he could be somewhat useful in a platoon-and-pick-your-spots-way, at least as long as Pedro is continuing to underachieve. He's certainly a lot better with the glove than any other 3B, err, "options" we have at the moment. Other than Wood, what would be your course of action with our corner infielders going forward?

Ron Ieraci said...

One problem that I see, Will, is too many platoon guys starting that really should be bench players. The Bucs have some holes, and they have to get them plugged.

A lot of the moving pieces on the corners will depend on whether or not Pedro booms or busts.

I wouldn't mind seeing Lee come back, although his age and contract make that unlikely, so a Jones/somebody platoon is probably in the cards for next year. And if Pedro's not the answer, they don't have a third baseman in the pipeline.

There's something to be said about stockpiling pitchers and center fielders, but there are other guys on the field, too. Except for Neil Walker, they could upgrade anywhere in the infield.

Heck, I'm hoping that Jordy Mercer/Pedro Ciriaco and maybe Brock Holt get looks at SS for 2012; d'Arnaud isn't ready and Cedeno is just too up-and-down.

WilliamJPellas said...

If they were going to go with anyone from inside the system, to me Pedro Ciriaco is clearly the next man up at shortstop. If nothing else, at bare minimum he would definitely catch everything that was hit to him, and he'd steal a few bags. Dunno if he'd hit even .250, but after watching Cedeno, who cares?