Brad Lincoln retired the first two batters with no sweat. Not so Hanley Ramirez, who turned on a tight fastball and crushed it over the wall in left center, tying the game in a hurry. He's only thrown one curve, and his fastball is up in the first; three balls have been hit pretty deep to the outfield.
But the Bucs bounced back. After getting a couple of infield outs, Sanchez fell behind Rod Barajas 2-0 and gave him a heater at the belt. He took it over the fence in left, putting Pittsburgh back on top. Bad Brad limited the Fish to a Gaby Sanchez single, and it was 2-1 after a pair.
Tabata opened the third with a shot to the wall in left center as Logan Morrison robbed him of another extra-base knock. Sanchez survived it and put down the top of the order in order. With one away, Lincoln walked Jose Reyes on five pitches. That's akin to a double, and sure enough, McGehee couldn't flag down a pick-off toss, and that put Reyes on the Keystone sack. But there he stayed.
With one down in the fourth, Casey McGehee made Sanchez work, drawing a free pass after 11 offerings. He was stranded. Lincoln had Lo-Mo 0-2 to open the Marlin half, gave him a heater on the inside of the plate and watched it ricochet off the wall in right for a double. That one cost him. With two away, Emilio Bonifacio singled him home, and then swiped second on a delayed steal as no one covered the bag. But Lincoln escaped. His pitch count was up to 53, and Clint Hurdle said they'd be keeping him on a short leash after 60; three innings and 44 pitches were his tops this season.
Pittsburgh went out 1-2-3. So did Miami; Lincoln is working his curve ball in nicely, and he's given the team as much as they could expect so far tonight.
With an out, Cutch kept rollin' with a single to left. Pedro, with a pair of Ks, squared up on a heater and drove it into the left center gap for a double as McCutch motored home with the lead. And give the Pirate bats some credit. This is the first time this season that Sanchez has given up more than two runs in a start.
Even at 68 pitches, Lincoln stayed on the bump to face the heart of the Fish order with the pen on short rest after yesterday's marathon. His fastball was clocking at 92-94, mixing in a curve that came in at 81-82. It was enough to put the Fish down in order.
Barajas caught a hanging slider to open the seventh and pounded a double to left. But it went quickly south. Clint Barmes bunted back to the mound and Barajas was nailed trying to get to third. Yamiaco Navarro grabbed a bat, making it the end of the night for Lincoln. He went six frames, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk with 3K after 80 pitches, leaving with a 3-2 lead. Navarro flew out and Barmes was caught stealing. So much for small ball.
Jared Hughes climbed the hill. With two outs, John Buck turned on a sinker that was below the knees and inside to line a single into left. Greg Dobbs came on to hit for Sanchez and bounced out. On to the eighth.
Steve Cishek came out to do the honors for Miami. The sinker/slider specialist put away the Bucs in order.
Jason Grilli took the mound for Pittsburgh. Reyes fought off a 95 MPH heater and dropped it softly the opposite way into left to open the frame. Omar Infante K'ed on three pitches, whiffing at high heat. On a 1-2 pitch, Ramirez took a fastball to right that dropped barely in front of a deep-positioned (no double D, we assume) JT for a knock, putting runners at the corners. Good thing Guillen didn't have Reyes take a run at second base.
Lo-Mo went down swinging for the second out. Grilli got ahead of Giancarlo (formerly known as Mike) Stanton 0-2, put a heater just under his hands and got a pop up to Walker to close the frame. His was dealing; every ball put in play was hit late and the opposite way.
Lefty Randy Choate took the ball for the Fish. Presley drew a two out walk, and Ozzie Guillen brought in RHP Ryan Webb to get the match-up with Barajas. The duel never came about; Presley was caught stealing on the second pitch (the team is 16/31 in that department, sheesh!). Hanny took over for Pittsburgh, looking to close the deal. Austin Kearns pinch hit for Webb and lined out to Cutch. Bonifacio flew out to left. Buck fell behind 0-2, worked the count full, and then popped a 98 MPH heater to first to end the game without any drama.
Lotta guys contributed tonight: Lincoln, the bullpen once again, Cutch, Alvarez, Barajas...it was the textbook team win. And for the Pirates, it's the first three game winning streak of the season. It was coincidentally Brad Lincoln's third win of the year and Hanny's seventh save.
Kevin Correia faces Josh Johnson tomorrow night as the Bucs go for a sweep of the short set and a four-bagger. Oh, and a .500 record.
- The Pirates team ERA of 3.15 is #2 in MLB (Nats are #1 at 2.73) going into tonight's game. Too bad the team BA is 28th at .222 and the OBP is last at .275, along with RS at 97. David Manel of High and Outside worked out the Pythagorean record of the Bucs if the pitching was at league average: it's 11-23 instead of 16-18. The team would be at 19-20 wins if the offense was performing at league average.
- Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors has his 2013 Contract Issues post up for the Pirates, for those who like to think ahead. The Bucs have 5 free agents, two option year and 9 arb-eligible players to deal with in the off season.
- Starling Marte, who suffered a bruised hand when hit by a pitch a few days ago, is back in the Indy lineup after a clean check-up in Pittsburgh.
- The International League Player of the Week is Steve Pearce. He went 8-for-16 with three homers, three doubles and four RBIs over four games from Wednesday through Saturday. He leads the IL in batting (.361) and doubles (12) while ranking third with a .444 on-base percentage and fourth with 26 runs scored. Pearce plays for the Yankees top farm club at Wilkes-Barre. Maybe the grass is greener...