Monday, April 30, 2012

Bucs Win 9-3; Meek Sent Down To Indy

Didn't look like a very auspicious start tonight for the Buccos. Michael Bourn singled off James McDonald to open the Brave first after the Pirates had gone down in order. He was nailed stealing by Rod Barajas on a bang-bang call, and good thing - a walk and a Freddy Freeman first-pitch homer quickly made it 2-0, and that's a mountain for Pittsburgh's offense to climb most nights. Fortunately, tonight wasn't one of those evenings.

The Pirates came back to put runners at the corners with no outs when Casey McGehee doubled and Neil Walker beat out a bunt single. But Mike Minor bore down, and a Yamaico Navarro pop out and 6-4-3 by Pedro Alvarez kept Pittsburgh off the boards. The Braves countered by putting runners on second and third with one away after an Eric Hinske single and Tyler Pastornicky double - can't anyone get him out? - set the table. But J-Mac whiffed his mound opponent and got Bourn on a bouncer.

Pittsburgh wouldn't be denied in the third. Barajas walked, and after a McDonald K, Jose Tabata doubled. Josh Harrison dropped a soft single into left to plate one run and a Cutch sac fly tied the game. J-Mac found his rhythm and struck out two of the three Bravos he faced.

Alvarez gave the Bucs the lead in the fourth when he crushed number five over the right field wall following a Navarro knock to make it 4-2. Even better news is that the pitch he smacked was a first-pitch fastball off a lefty. Atlanta got one back when Dan Uggla led off with a two-bagger, went to third on a grounder and came in on Hinske's knock. Both clubs went down in order in the fifth.

In the sixth, the Bucs put up another two spot when Neil Walker singled, stole second, and trotted home after Navarro pounded his first homer of the year over the wall in left to make it 6-3 to break the five run curse at long last. They shattered it next inning.

JT walked and was bunted to second, bringing on Chad Durbin. A Cutch single sent Tabata to third, and he scored on a passed ball. McGehee walked, and a single by Walker plated a run and sent the back runner to third. A Navarro bouncer brought McGehee in, and it was 9-3. Hinske doubled to open the Bravo half, but J-Mac wasn't about to let up. He K'ed the next three hitters.

Both sides left a runner on in the eighth, with Livian Hernandez on for Atlanta. McDonald left the bump for Chris Resop after two were away. J-Mac went 7-2/3 frames, giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts, tossing 114 pitches. His had trouble with his heater today, but his hook and slider were on.

The Bucs went down quietly in the ninth, and Resop worked out of a minor jam caused by a single and his own error, ending the game by getting Matt Diaz swinging.

It's good to see the bats finally catch fire. Now to see if it carries over at St. Louis, where the Bucs now head for a three game set. Charlie Morton takes on Adam Wainwright in the opener.

  • In post-games news, Evan Meek was optioned to Indy. The Pirates are expected to call up a lefty, either Doug Slaten or Danny Moskos. Slaten isn't on the 40-man roster but has been throwing well, so the Bucs could DFA one of the fringe pitchers (Duke Welker, D-Cutch) or move Jeff Karstens to the 60-day DL.
  • McDonald's 10 strikeouts were a career high. The last Pirates righty to strike out at least 10 in a game was Ross Ohlendorf on September 5, 2009 against the Cards with 11.
  • Every Pirate position player had at least a hit plus a run scored and/or RBI.
  • Neil Walker's 3-for-5 led the Bucco hit parade. Eric Hinske went 4-for-4 for the Braves; he had half their knocks.
  • The 10-12 Pirates have alternated wins and losses for 11 consecutive games.
  • Atlanta again had trouble getting runners home. They were 1-for-10 with RISP.
  • RHP Gerritt Cole notched his first win for Bradenton tonight. He went six shutout innings, giving up a hit and a walk with 6 K.

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