Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bucs Batting Funk Continues In 4-1 Loss

Hey, the Bucs did something different last night. They actually took the lead early in a ballgame. Clint Barmes' first hit as a Bucco went yard when he drilled a third inning leadoff home run to left field off Chad Billingsley to put Pittsburgh up 1-0. It was the first time this season that the Pirates took the field with the lead.

Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Erik Bedard got the first two Dodgers in their half of the frame before losing Mark Ellis. Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera followed with singles, and it was just that quickly 1-1.

With the score still tied at ones and one away, Nate McLouth and Andrew McCutchen bopped back-to-back singles in the sixth. Neil Walker followed with a laser to short. But it was right at Dee Gordon, and he doubled McLouth off second before he could get back to the sack. It's been a tough start for The Pittsburgh Kid. He's roped several balls since the season opened, but has just one hit to show for his efforts.

In their half of the sixth, LA tallied the go-ahead run. Kemp singled to open the inning, and Rivera reached on a comebacker that spun off Bedard's glove. Walker grabbed the carom, but didn't have a play to make and ate the ball. Andre Ethier's liner to left scored Kemp, and the Dodgers went up 2-1.

That was it for Bedard, who worked five frames, allowing two runs on eight hits and a walk with three Ks after 88 pitches. He struggled with his command in Dodger Stadium, not getting ahead of hitters like he did on Opening Day. Chris Resop got the call.

He retired Jerry Hairston on a sweet sliding catch by Nate McLouth in right and got Juan Uribe on a grounder. Then the managerial wheels starting spinning..

Resop intentionally walked A.J. Ellis with runners at second and third and two outs to juice the bases for the pitcher and force Don Mattingly's hand. Lefty James Loney pinch-hit for Billingsley, and Hurdle responded by waving in Tony Watson, who sat him down after a foul pop to keep the game close. Billingsley went six frames, giving up a run on five hits with four Ks while tossing 77 pitches.

The sixth inning shut-down just delayed the inevitable briefly when the Dodgers added two more runs in the seventh. Gordon led off with a double off Watson, and Evan Meek took the ball. He almost worked his way out of the frame.

He struck out Ellis with three pitches, and then got Kemp after falling into a 3-0 hole. Juan Rivera got a fastball up and singled in Gordon. The hit parade continued when Ethier rolled one up the middle and pinch hitter Tony Gwynn, Jr. brought Rivera home with another knock. That made the score 4-1, the eventual final. Meek's velocity is still down a few ticks from his 2010 season. He's cranking it up at 91 now as opposed to 95 in his pre-injury season.

The sixth was the deciding frame for Pittsburgh. Walker hit a bullet that ended up an inning-ending DP, and Rivera hit a potential DP ball that ended up setting the table. Sometimes the baseball gods are a funny bunch of deities. It's also worth noting that three of Blue's four runs came with two away. Apparently Clint Hurdle's 2012 mantra of "finish" hasn't quite sunk in yet.

Tonight's game will match RHP Jeff Karstens vs. LHP Chris Capuano. Capuano is 4-7 in 15 starts against the Bucs with a 5.79 ERA, so the bats should finally have a chance to get in sync after a five-game stretch of swinging against some of the NL's better arms.

  • A couple of season-starting slumps ended last night. With Barmes' homer and Garrett Jones' collecting a single and double, every Pirate regular now has a hit on the year. Jones was the only Pirate to reach base twice; the Dodgers were perfect in the field and allowed no walks.
  • In the final three frames, the LA bullpen limited the Bucs to one hit - a two-out single by Alex Presley, who has a five game hitting streak to start the season - and struck out four. Kenley Jansen struck out three batters in the eighth.
  • The Pirate BA is .189 with 9 runs scored in five games.
  • The middle of the LA batting order went 8 for 12 with 3 RBI.
  • The Dodgers are off to a 5-1 start. Closer Javy Guerra already has four saves, two against the Pirates.
  • AJ Burnett hit a bump in his rehab outing at Bradenton. He gave up five runs on eight hits, a walk, hit batter and wild pitch with 4 Ks in 1-2/3 innings of work against Palm Beach.
  • Indy SS Chase d'Arnaud is suffering from a concussion after being beaned earlier in the week.
  • Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects has the 411 on C Eric Fryer, who is starting to make a case for himself as a MLB prospect.

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