Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bucs End On High Note With 2-1 Win

The Bucs looked like they had something going on in the first against Danial Hudson. Alex presley walked, stole second, and went to third on Clint Barmes bouncer. Cutch follwed with another free pass, and neil Walker was waiting on a 3-2 pitch. McCutch was off on the pitch, and Walker hit it right up the middle, straight into the glove of the shortstop Willie Bloomquist, who was covering the bag and got a gift 6-3 DP.

J-Mac kept the Pirate first inning woes going. He gave up a lead-off triple to Bloomquist after Garrett Jones got a dead hop off the right center field fence. After a soft lineout, Jason Kubel lined a single into center to make it 1-0. A walk and a long fly put runners on the corners, but J-Mac escaped by getting Lyle Overbay on a can of corn to left. Still, McDonald had three balls of on five of the six Snakes to bat, and it took him 33 pitches to get out of the frame.

The game settled down after that. Both sides went in order in the second. The Bucs got a leadoff single from Mike McKenry in the third, but small ball enthusiast Clint Hurdle had J-Mac swinging away instead of bunting, and he bounced into a DP. McDonald gave up a two out knock to Kubel on a 3-2 pitch. It was the sixth batter in three frames that had run up a full count, bringing J-Mac's pitch count to 68.

Cutch and Walker teamed up again in the fourth. After easily legging out an infield single, McCutchen was the front end of another DP when Walker hit a one hard hopper back to Hudson to start a 1-6-3 twin killing, the Pirates third in four frames. J-Mac had a 1-2-3 inning.

The Snakes tried to give the Bucs a run in the fifth, but they wouldn't accept it. Casey McGehee reached when third baseman Ryan Roberts backed up on a ball and let it spin off him. An out later, Pedro Alvarez drew a five pitch walk, his first of 2012. McKenry followed with a perfect DP grounder to short, but Aaron Hill dropped the ball on the relay to put runners on the corners. Nate McLouth hit for McDonald, fell behind 0-2 but eventually hit the ball on the nose, lining out to right.

J-Mac went four innings, giving up a run on three hits and a walk with a pair of Ks, but threw 78 pitches.  Brad Lincoln claimed the hill. Ten pitches, three outs, including a four pitch swinging K of Bloomquist.

Presley lined a knock to right to open the sixth, and Clint Barmes dropped a bunt to move him along. But the middle of the order didn't have the answer to Hudson. Cutch whiffed, swinging through a fastball and Walker popped out.

The Snakes blew a golden opportunity in their half. Hill tripled to left center to open the frame. Lincoln struck out Kubel swinging at a hook, and then walked Miguel Montero. Ryan Roberts ripped a ball to third, and Alvarez gloved it smoothly and started a 5-4-3 DP to allow Lincoln to escape the jam.

Hudson made both Jones and McKenry look bad on swinging strikeouts as got them to fish. But in between, Alvarez got J-Mac off the hook when he belted a 2-0 change into the right field bullpen to tie the game at 1-1. Lincoln got through the frame, even though he walked a pair. He was helped mightily when AJ Pollack, a number one pick making his MLB debut, was caught stealing after oversliding second. Bad Brad went three innings without a score, giving up a hit and three walks (one intentional) while whiffing four.

With two down in the eighth, Barmes and Cutch spanked back-to-back singles, ending Hudson's day. Righty David Hernandez took the bump to face Walker. The Kid dropped a parachute into right, falling between three Snakes and scoring Barmes to put the Bucs up and runners on the corners. McGehee got ahead in the count 3-0, but given the green light with the slumping defensive replacement Jose Tabata behind him, popped the anticipated heater behind the dish to end the frame.

Chris Resop got the first out of the eighth on a comebacker, but Aaron Hill rolled an infield single to second. With a pair of lefties due up, Hurdle called on Tony Watson. He got Kubel to roll a sinker to second, and the 4-6-3 finished the inning.

Brad Ziegler put down the Bucs in the ninth. Juan Cruz came out to save the game for Lincoln, but gave up a knock to a battling Montero on a 3-2 cutter to open the frame. Justin Upton came in to run, but never got to second. Roberts K'ed, Overbay lined out, and Barmes made a nice play on a slow hopper hit by Pollack to get a force at second and ice the win.

The Pirate pitching has been pretty solid, although catching the Snakes without Chris Young for two games and Upton during the series hasn't hurt the cause.

J-Mac is still a question mark. He's battled through the past three starts with just his heater; his secondary pitches just haven't come around. His curve and change are both plus pitches if he can ever regain the feel for them. Lincoln was more aggressive on the hill and showed a sweet curve, but losing those two guys in his third inning of work is a red flag. Still, considering the offense, 5-7 isn't a bad record.

The Bucs are off tomorrow, and host the first-place Cardinals over the weekend at PNC Park.

  • It took Brad Lincoln 40 pitches to go three innings; it took J-Mac 78.
  • The Pirates have won three of the last four games after dropping five in a row on the coast.
  • Technically, Pedro Alvarez has a .000 batted ball in play average. Both his hits were homers, and a four-bagger isn't considered in play by stat heads. 
  • Root Sport's Lacee Collins reports that "Pirates manager Clint Hurdle says Kevin Correia will start Saturday, and most likely Brad Lincoln will start on Monday."
  • The Pirates have given up first inning runs in eight of twelve games. James McDonald has yielded opening frame scores in all three of his starts.
  • Happy birthday, Steve Blass. He was born in Canaan, Connecticut, in 1942; you do the math. 

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