Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gotta Score To Win; Bucs Fall 1-0

Another gray day in Pittsburgh; kinda matches the team's mood right now. The tarps were off by 2:30; now to see if Charlie Morton can brighten the Bucco nation's outlook tonight between the forecast showers.

Starlin Castro was a pest in the first at bat; swinging freely, he had a nine pitch at-bat before flying out to medium right. Darwin Barney bounced a sinker to second, and A-Ram rolled one to short. Good start for Morton, whose sinker shows good movement early.

McCutch rocketed a one hopper that shot off Aramis Ramirez at third for an infield knock; he stole second as Garrett Jones K'ed swinging. Neil Walker rolled one softly in the second base hole, and Barney made a long run to glove it and throw him out. Derrek Lee worked the count full and sent a slider on a rope to short, but it was right at Castro, and Matt Garza had a goose egg. After one, it was scoreless.

Carlos Pena started off by dropping a first-pitch sinker the opposite way into left off the end of the bat for a two base knock. But the next three batters, all righties, beat sinkers on the ground to the left side, and Morton had an easy frame as Pena never got past second. The Bucs went down in order, as Ryan Ludwick and Ronny Cedeno grounded to short, sandwiching a Pedro K swinging at a slider down.

Morton struck out the eight-nine hitters swinging, then Castro punched a flat sinker into right center for a single. He didn't last long; he took off on the first pitch and was nailed by Mike McKenry at second to end the Cub's third. McKenry drew an opening 3-2 walk for the Bucs, and was bunted over by Morton. McCutch rifled a shot to left, but Soriano was perfectly positioned for the catch. Jones went down swinging for the second time, and it was zeroes after three.

After two ground outs to the left side, Pena again dumped a slider the opposite way for a double; the bloop hopped the railing. Note to self: back him off the plate next at bat. Morton jammed the next hitter, Marlon Byrd, and got him on a soft liner back to the mound.

With an out, Lee lined one past Castro for a knock. Ludwick went down swinging without seeing a strike; he has shown no plate discipline in his brief time as a Pirate. Pedro dropped a flare into left, but Cedeno flew out to center to end the inning.

Morton was feelin' it; he struck out the side, and was at a comfortable 60 pitches after five frames. The Cubs would go on without manager Mike Quade; he was tossed yapping about the third strike call on Tyler Colvin, who was froze on a borderline heater on the outside corner. Just for good measure, Colvin got the thumb, too, so Reed Johnson took over RF.

The Pirates went down in order. After last night's fireworks, Garza and Morton are working on three hit shutouts after five innings, slider vs. sinker.

Garza K'ed to start the sixth. Castro one armed a curve into short left for knock; Barney followed by smoking a one hopper into left. A-Ram hit a soft liner the opposite way; Jones ran it down. They worked carefully to Pena, losing him on a 3-2 slider to load the bases. Byrd hit a first pitch sinker to second, and CM escaped his first jam of the night. The Bucs went down 1-2-3, with Jones and Walker both going down swinging.

Soto drew a walk to start the seventh. Soriano hit one on the nose, but Pedro was there to glove it. Johnson rolled out softly to first, moving Soto to second. In a sort of against the book move, the Cubs allowed Garza to bat; he K'ed. That was Morton's final batter. He went seven innings, giving up five hits, two walks and K'ing seven, using 94 pitches. We completely understand taking him out on an upbeat note after his past six week travails, especially with the top of the order due, but maybe one more inning might have made a difference.

The Pirates didn't leave him in line for the win; three short flies to right with a Pedro single in between was all they could muster. It was time for Chris Resop. Castro greeted him by bopping an elevated 3-2 heater into the left center field stands to give the Cubs the game's first run. Barney then rattled a double to right.

Resop looked a little shaken; McKenry and then Ray Searage paid him visits, and the chats paid off. Ramirez went down swinging at heat; Pena was intentionally walked. It worked as Byrd hit one sharply to Walker, who started a routine 4-6-3 DP. Resop was still fired up coming into the dugout, batting the wall around as he came down the steps.

Matt Diaz pinch hit and walked on a 3-2 pitch, getting the call on a check swing that looked like it went around. The X-Man took over on the bases for him. That also ended Garza's night; Sean Marshall came in from the pen. McCutch and pinch hitter Steve Pearce both flew out to right. Walker watched Paul steal second, and then crushed a 3-1 slider, but for the third time tonight with runners on, it was an at 'em ball. This one was shot straight at A-Ram, who was guarding the line to take away a double. He did.

Jose Veras took the mound in the ninth, and pitched a clean frame, K'ing a pair. Carlos Marmol came out to close for the Cubs. Lee got a call on a 2-2 pitch and then went to first when he was drilled in the elbow with a 3-2 slider. Ludwick bunter him to second (welcome to Pittsburgh). This time, Marmol got a call when his 3-1 pitch went outside but was called a strike; he came back to K Pedro swinging at a slider. Dewey pinch hit for Cedeno; he went down trying to check his swing on a slider down. For Pittsburgh, the 1-0 loss is their sixth straight defeat.

Well, can't blame the pitching tonight. The Bucs had but four hits, and even with that managed to go 0-for-8 with RISP. It's like the early part of the season when the offense and pitching couldn't get synced. And don't look now, but the Bucs are under .500 at 54-55.

Rodrigo Lopez goes against James McDonald tomorrow.

  • Neil Walker's 20 game hitting streak against Chicago ended, but McCutch's 27 game on-base string continued.
  • Clint Hurdle told the beat gang that a six man rotation is not in the plans, but he could call on Ohlie or bring up Brad Lincoln for spot starts to rest the rotation piecemeal or even have guys skip starts. He also said JT was running at full speed and is about due to begin a minor league rehab stint.
  • Jen Langosch of was told by Hurdle that Ryan Doumit will start tomorrow and share duties with Mike McKenry. Dewey had been out since May 29th with a fractured ankle.
  • Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago said the Bucs had interest in Cub catcher Geovany Soto during the trade period, but like Carlos Pena, Chicago said he wasn't available. He suggests they may revisit the deal later, as the 28 year old has prospects pushing behind him and would be a reasonably priced ($3M + two arb years) bridge to Tony Sanchez.
  • Yesterday, Joe Beimel became the sixth player to pitch 100 games at PNC Park. The others are John Grabow (197), Salomon Torres (188), Matt Capps (154), Scott Sauerbeck (108) and Damasco Marte (103).
  • The Pirates have signed 20 of their 2011 draft picks so far for bonuses of about $2.3M. That number will jump when they sign Gerritt Cole. Recent reports have Josh Bell on the way to college at Texas, though there is still a slim chance that he could be brought aboard. 


WilliamJPellas said...

Okay, now, Soto I understand if the Pirates are wanting a "bridge to Sanchez" and they have already decided that Doumit and Snyder won't be back. Soto at least is a legitimate major league starting catcher, whereas almost everyone else whose name has been kicked around by the front office is a platoon or backup type of player---and we already have several of those. I could definitely live with Soto for two seasons.

Ron Ieraci said...

Agreed, Will.