Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bucs Fall 8-4

OK, the Bucs look to reclaim their road warrior status at St. Louis tonight.

Edwin Jackson drilled JT to open the game. That miscue was quickly corrected when Alex Presley lined a shot to Albert Pujols, who was holding Tabata, and he stepped on the bag for a DP. McCutch K'ed, and it was the Cards turn.

Charlie Morton has been hot lately, but his sinker didn't have its usual bite early on. After an out, Allen Craig and Sir Albert hit back-to-back doubles to make it one nothing. With two away, Lance Berkman singled to right and JT's throw was up the third base line a step or two, allowing the run to score. After a frame, it was 2-0 Redbirds.

The Bucs got a two-out double from Josh Harrison, but he was left stranded. With one away, Rafael Furcal singled, was bunted to second, and came in when Skip Schumaker dropped a ball into center to make it 3-0. The three runs St. Louis put on the board in two innings equaled the number of runs Morton had given up during his last four starts this month.

The Pirates got back in the third. Mike McKenry got aboard on an error, moved to second on a Morton bunt and came in when Presley singled in front of a diving Craig. McCutch and Neil Walker drew free passes to load the bases. Garrett Jones got ahead 3-0, took a couple of heaters to run the count full, and then knocked a low and away fastball into center to knot the score. Harrison flew out short of the track in left center on a 3-2 pitch, and it was a new ball game.

Morton doesn't have enough problems tonight; Jones muffed a grounder by Matt Holliday after an out. Berkman rolled a single into right to put runners at first and second. CM's sinker has a little more movement this inning, and good thing. He got David Freese to bounce into a 6-4-3 DP to set St. Louis down.

Ronny Cedeno opened the fourth with a double. McKenry followed by banging one off the wall in left center for another two base knock, and the Bucs were up 4-3. Morton bunted MM up a station. JT tapped one up the left side to the pitcher, who ran down a napping McKenry off third. Not only was Scoobie Doo out, but he didn't get into a rundown, so Tabata only reached first. Presley popped out, and Pittsburgh left a duck on the pond though they did regain the lead.

Morton looked like he'd escape with a clean inning, but Jackson lined a single into center with two away. Schumaker struck out looking at a curve, but Morton is only throwing in the upper eighties now, a few ticks below normal.

With two outs in the fifth, Jones drew a four pitch walk. Harrison bounced out, and it was Morton against the meat of the Card order coming up. Craig started off with a single to left and stole second. Pujols walked on four pitches. Holliday flew out to right, and the lefty Berkman was the next challenge. He walked on four pitches. Freese inside-outed a sinker that was well in and dropped it into right to score a pair for St. Louis and put them up 5-4.

That was it; Chris Leroux came on with Chase d'Arnaud in a twofer switch. Morton went 4-1/3 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits with three walks and two K's. He just didn't have his usual stuff today. And it's bound to take a toll on the pen; Aaron Thompson was yanked after 4-1/3 frames yesterday. Leroux finished off the frame and kept the score manageable at 5-4.

McKenry singled with an out in the sixth. d'Arnaud hit into a force and stole second. JT had the green light on a 3-0 count, and grounded a slider to second to end the frame; only a fine play by Schumaker kept the ball from going into right to tie the game.

That was it for Jackson, too. Jon Jay came out to pinch hit for him, and led off with a knock. After an out, a changeup that got away from Leroux and past McKenry moved Jay to second. With two away, Pujols was walked intentionally. It paid off even though Holliday squared up on a slider; he shot a bullet right at d'Arnaud at third.

Matt Rzepcyznski climbed the hill for St. Louis in the seventh, and he retired the Bucs on seven pitches. Leroux struck out Berkman on a change; it got away from McKenry for another wild pitch and Berkman ended up on first. Freese took another inside pitch to right; this one was hauled in by JT. Yadier Molina K'ed and Furcal popped out as Leroux continued to toss goose eggs at the Cards.

Jones started the Bucs off in the eighth with a single up the middle. Matt Diaz grabbed a stick for Leroux, and Jason Motte took the ball for the Redbirds. All the wheels were spinning; Xavier Paul came in to run for Jones. He stole second and moved to third on a grounder to the right side. The X-Man stood there as Cedeno struck out swinging at a shoulder-high fastball. Dewey went to the box for Scoobie Doo and flew out to center; too bad he didn't hit for RC.

That's two times the Pirates have stranded a runner at third with one away in a one run game. Hey, you can't always bring them in (the pitcher gets paid, too), but in those two spots JT bounced out weakly on the first pitch which was a slider off the plate and Cedeno K'ed on a go-fish heater; at least the at-bats should be focused in that situation.

Tony Watson got in hot water immediately when Jay doubled the opposite way up the third base line and was bunted to third. Gerald Laird K'ed - guess the Bucs aren't the only ones to waste an opportunity - and Pujols was intentionally walked again.

Holliday made up for Laird's at-bat when he clobbered his 19th of the year over the left field wall to make it Fat Lady time. There was a little more excitement when Watson threw behind the next batter, Berkman, leading to a little growling. GW never did understand why the following batter gets the buzz job; heck, he didn't do anything.

Anyway, Fernando Salas made quick work of the Bucs in the ninth, and the Cards took the opening round.

This was another in a recent series of games where bad starting pitching was followed by a bullpen letdown. One feeds of the other; the Pirate bullpen has just been given too many innings to cover in the last month and middle inning guys are in the game late and in high leverage spots. Clint Hurdle doesn't have a whole lot of options when he has to dip into the pen to eat four innings every night.

James McDonald goes against Jake Westbrook tomorrow night.

  • Jose Tabata's hitting streak ended at ten games tonight.
  • As David Todd, host of the pre-and-post game shows on 104.7 tweeted, the Bucs have a dozen viable 2012 bullpen candidates - Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Jose Veras, Chris Resop, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Daniel McCutchen, Chris Leroux, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Daniel Moskos and Bryan Morris - in the organization now. Five are holdovers from last season - Hanny, Meek, Resop, D-Mac and Leroux. It'll be interesting with Jason Grilli and Jose Veras back and Watson, Moskos and Wilson vying for the two lefty spots. The Pirates will have some decisions to make for next season, even with Hughes and Morris stashed at AAA.

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