Friday, April 13, 2012

Big Hit Never Comes; Bucs Swept 3-2

Aye, Carumba. The Dodgers jumped on Jeff Karstens for three firast inning runs, and you kinda got the feeling that the game was over. Well, that feeling was right on as the Bucs couldn't come back and went down 3-2.

The Pirates made an effort to get on the board first when Andrew McCutchen got aboard on a two-out infield single and Casey McGehee followed with another knock, but unlikely five-hole hitter Yamaico Navarro popped to short to end the frame. The Dodgers would convert their chances in the first.

After an out, Mark Ellis singled and Matt Kemp golfed a curve for a double. Andre Ethier was drilled in the back with a fastball to load the bases for Juan Rivera, who lofted a sacrifice fly. Most of the damage came after two were away when James Loney rolled a single into left and Juan Uribe dropped a soft knock into center to bring home another pair of runs.

It looked like plenty after Capuano struck out the side in the second after notching a pair of K's in the first. The part that hurt was four of the five victims were caught looking at sinking fastballs, none of which broke 90 on the gun. Karstens was in the groove, too.

Like he did against the Phillies after being roughed up in the first, he found his mojo and mowed down nine straight Dodgers. He did run into problems in the fourth and fifth, though, stranding a pair of runners each frame.

The Bucs finally got on the board in the fifth when Mike McKenry caught one of those sinking heaters and drove it over the centerfield wall. They caught up to Capuano in the sixth.

Cutch and McGehee again hit back-to-back singles, this time to start the frame. With runners at first and third, Navarro lifted a sac fly to left to make it 3-2. A Clint Barmes single and McKenry walk were sandwiched around a Pedro Alvarez force-out to load the bases with two away.

Karstens was due at the plate (he pitched five innings and allowed three runs on seven hits, and Clint Hurdle called on Garrett Jones to grab a bat.  Don Mattingly countered with lefty Scott Elbert, and Hurdle trumped him when Hague replaced Jones. He caught a 1-0 four seamer on the nose, but his rocket to center was right at Kemp, and that, for all intents and purposes, was the game.

The seventh was more frustration. Jose Tabata bounced a single of the pitcher, but was promptly erased when pinch hitter Neil Walker bounced into a 1-6-3 DP. Cutch followed with a knock, and was caught stealing.

That was all the noise left in the game. Both bullpens traded zeroes, and the Bucs were swept out of LA.

There is some hope, though, that the Pirates can bounce out of their hitting slump. Two stats particularly stand out: their 25.7% line drive rate (NL average - 20.5%) and dismal batted ball in play average of .246, the league's lowest (NL average - .280). Sooner or later, something has to fall in.

  • Can't blame the middle of the order for the loss. Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-3 with a run scored and a walk, and Casey McGehee was 2-for-4.
  • Pirate pitchers have allowed a first inning score in four of the Bucs first six games.
  • Pittsburgh is 4-for-34 (.118) with RISP.
  • The Dodgers now have a six-game winning streak over the Pirates, with victories in nine of the last ten matches. Their current 6-1 start is Blue's best since 1981.
  • The Pirates continue their west coast road trip with a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants starting today and then they're off to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks on Monday.
  • AJ Burnett will make his next rehab start at Indy on Monday, where they hope to get him up to the 80-85 pitch mark after throwing just 41 pitches in his last start at Bradenton.

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