Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bucs Grind Out 12 Inning Walk Off Win

The official start of the game was pushed back a half hour, to 2 PM.  Maybe. They started rolling up the tarps 1:30-ish, but there's a whole lot of green on the weather map.

They did get it going, and AJ Burnett made the first look easy, putting the 'Stros away without a peep. Wandy Rodriguez didn't have the same success. Back-to-back doubles banged into the LF corner by Neil Walker and Cutch put the Bucs up 1-0. Both sides went down in order in the second.

Juan Castro softly lined a single into center to open the third. He was quickly erased on a 3-6-1 DP, started nicely by Casey McGehee, who ranged to his right after holding the runner and fed Josh Harrison perfectly. The Pirates went quietly, too, with the Bucs losing a pair of bang-bang calls at first, one right and the other a little more iffy.

Burnett continued mowing them down in the fourth. Pedro opened the Buc half with a knock into center, but an out later was wiped of the bases as the front end of a 6-4-3 DP. Both pitchers are doing a nice job in the drizzle, with Rodriguez working the black and a lot of off speed stuff while Burnett is filling the strike zone and letting his fielders do their job.

Houston tied it when Carlos Lee's fly to the bullpen wall hit off the heel of Cutch's glove for a double, a difficult catch but a ball that McCutch tucks away most days. Burnett almost worked out of it, but with two away, he fell behind Castro 2-0, served him one down the middle, and he dropped it softly the opposite way into left to tie the game.

The rain started to fall a little more heavily, but it didn't faze Rodriguez, who put the bottom of the Buc order down. Rod Barajas is having a Neil Walker sorta day, squaring up on a pair of balls that both found Astro leather. And hey, five innings means it's an official game. The bats were quiet in the sixth; both pitchers are working on three hitters.

Lee caught another gift. With one out, he hit a Baltimore chop that Alvarez charged and barehanded, but too late to even make a throw. The ball would likely have gone foul if he had let it go. Brian Bogusevic dropped a single in front of Cutch, and Chris Johnson rolled a ball through the shortstop hole that died in the wet grass, allowing Lee to cross with the go ahead run. The bases were juiced when Burnett had a slowly hit ball hop over his mitt, but he finished off the 8-9 hitters to escape any further damage, aided by Brad Mills' decision to allow Rodriguez to bat.

Rodriguez cruised through the seventh, and the bottom of the Pirate order is due up in the eighth. Burnett sat down Houston in order. He went eighth innings, giving up a pair of runs on six hits with 4 K after tossing 103 pitches. The Bucs went down 1-2-3, and it's an bench indictment that Burnett's pinch hitter was the lefty Garrett Jones, getting only his fourth at-bat against a LHP.

Jason Grilli put up a zip in the ninth. After a K and walk to Bogusevic, his bacon was saved by McGehee, who made a leaping grab of a Johnson liner headed for the right field corner and doubled off Bogusevic.

Some weird managing from both benches took place in the bottom of the ninth. Rodriguez, who had faced the minimum since the first, was yanked after 94 pitches for Brett Myers. A JT walk, a two-bagger by Walker and an intentional walk to Cutch loaded the bases with no outs.

Mills played back for the DP, conceding the tying run. Pedro fell behind 0-2 before lifting a sac fly to left to knot the game. Then Hurdle batted for McGehee and Navarro with Nate McLouth and Alex Presley. Both have good numbers off Myers, but haven't hit a lick this month. McLouth was lost and looked at a heater down the middle on an 0-2 count, going down on three pitches. Presley got ahead 3-0, but eventually rolled out to the catcher, hitting the ball maybe 10'. It makes you wonder why Jones was burned with two outs and the bases empty the inning prior. Or who was going to play first base, for that matter, with Jones, McGehee and Navarro done.

In the tenth, Hanny came on. Presley went to left, JT to right, Barajas to first and Mike McKenry came on to catch. Hanrahan gave up a two out walk, but kept Houston off the board. Barajas greeted Wilton Lopez with a broken bat single. Barmes, the last bench player, ran for him. Harrison bunted him to second and a McKenry bouncer got him to third. JT hit a slicing liner to right, but it hung up long enough for Bogusevic to make the catch near the line.

Barmes moved to first - the Pirates are out of position players - and Juan Cruz made it academic, getting three fly outs. Lopez stayed on, and struck out Walker on an off speed pitch almost in the dirt and Cutch on a high heater. With Pedro up, Mills went to the pen for lefty Wesley Wright. He got El Toro chasing a slider well away; it wasn't a very disciplined inning for the meat of the order.

Tony Watson worked a 1-2-3 twelfth. J-Mac pinch hit for him (his first ever MLB pinch-hit call) and K'ed; so did Presley, though he was rung up on a pitch off the dish. Guess even the umps are losing their attention span by this point. Fernando Rodriguez came in to get a righty-righty match against Barmes. Didn't work, as Barmes dinked a jam shot into no-man's land in left that went for two bases. Harrison followed by sending a liner into left, and Barmes slid under the tag for a walk-off win.

Harrison's mom came in from Cincy to catch the game; she also got to see her son get a pie in the face from Burnett during Lacee Collin's post-game interview. Happy mothers day, Bonita Harrison (Bee-hay?).

The game turned out well, but it exposed an glaring weakness on the Buc bench. Hurdle's decisions may be out of body experiences, but he's not really got much a toolkit at his disposal. Sooner or later, the Pirates are going to have to get a bench bat; it's getting more and more difficult to carry Alex Presley and Nate McLouth. And that's not Hurdle's job; it's Neal Huntington's.

The Pirates will fly to Miami after today's match, where they'll begin a seven-game road trip Monday night. Following the two-game set in Florida, they play two games in Washington and three against the Tigers in Detroit next weekend. Brad Lincoln will take on Anibal Sanchez tomorrow night.

  • Joel Hanrahan is back. In a surprise move, Daniel McCutchen wasn't returned to Indy; he was placed on the 15-day DL with an oblique injury suffered yesterday in batting practice. No reason to question the report, as he's in an option situation and it would make more sense to keep D-Mac pitching than to put him on ice.
  • Wandy Rodriguez threw first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 27 batters he faced
  • Does Cutch love lefties? He collected seven straight hits against southpaws.
  • Pittsburgh has been outscored 25-9 in the first inning so far this season.
  • The Pirates have gone 16-6 when they've scored two runs or more in a game this season. They have, however, been held to one or zero runs in 12 of their first 33 contests and not too surprisingly are 0-for in those games.
  • In honor of moms and to promote Breast Cancer awareness, ten Pirates players plan to swing pink Louisville Slugger bats today. They were Rod Barajas, A.J. Burnett, Casey McGehee, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Clint Barmes, Yamaico Navarro, Alex Presley, Andrew McCutchen and Nate McLouth. Josh Harrison and Neil Walker will wear Under Armour shoes with pink highlights and all players will be wearing pink ribbons on their jersey. Lots of pink batting gloves, necklaces and wrist bands, too.

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