Hey, the Bucs got back on their first inning roll today against Drew Smyly. Decked out in the Pittsburgh Crawford unis, Josh Harrison dropped a first pitch, one-out bunt for a basehit. The next pitch was a fastball down Broadway, and Cutch was the wrong guy to serve that to, as he pounded it over the fence in left center to put the Bucs up 2-0. AJ Burnett had little trouble with the Tigers in the opening frame, giving up a two-out ground single to Miguel Cabrera.
Pittsburgh worked hard but came up empty in the second. Casey McGehee broke an 0-for-20 streak when his chopper got past a diving Jhonny Peralata into left with one away. With two down, JT hit an infield single to the SS hole, and Harrison drew an eleven pitch walk, his first of the year, to bring up Cutch. He got a heater away, but fell short as his fly to right was caught on the front edge of the track. Young Mr. Smyly won't be long for the mound today; he's already at 54 pitches.
Detroit went through the same frustration in their half. With two away, Brennan Boesch took a curve into right for a knock. Peralta lifted a foul fly down the right field line, and after a long run and slide, JT had it hit off his glove. That triggered a wild spell for Burnett. He walked Peralta and Ramon Santiago, who was hitting .175. The count ran full to Don Kelly, who fought off a pitch and lifted a pop foul into the first row of seats; Pedro Alvarez leaned over and made the grab to get the Pirates out of the inning. That missed foul by JT cost Burnett a boatload of pitches; he's now up to 43 himself.
Pittsburgh went down in order. Smyly's hook has the Buc batters looking like little leaguers at Bud Hammer Field; he has 5 K. Andy Dirks led off by lining a double the opposite way to left. An out later, Prince Fielder caught hold of a hanger and drilled it into the RF seats to tie the game. Two pitches earlier, he hit a weak dribbler, but Barajas got a late break out of the box and opted to let it go foul rather than take the out with the runner holding tight at third; bad choice in hindsight. Delmon Young followed with a single, but AJ worked out of the frame. His curve has a mind of its own today, and that's not good.
Yamaico Navarro fought off a fastball to bloop a single into center in the fourth; an out later he broke early and was caught stealing 1-3-6. Burnett looked to have an easy frame after two outs, but walked Kelly, a .204 hitter on five pitches. A stolen base and wild pitch had him perched on third, but Dirks flew out to left to keep the game knotted.
With one away in the fifth, Smyly plunked Harrison in the shin with a two-strike slider. He'd pay when he tried to sneak a heater on the outside half past Cutch, who dropped it over the fence in the right field corner to make it 4-2. An out later, The Kid lined a knock, and Jimmy Leyland waved in Brayan Villarreal. He K'ed Rod Barajas, who went down for the third time today. AJ again got the first two outs easily, then gave up a monster double to Young, who banged it off the wall past the 420' mark. Avila bounced out to maintain the Bucco lead at two.
The Pirates went down 1-2-3 to Villarreal in the sixth. Like a broken record, Burnett got the first pair of Motown batters and gave up a single to Santiago. He whiffed Kelly, only the second K of the game for AJ. After six, it was 4-2 Pittsburgh.
Villarreal, who was gassing at 97, mowed down the Bucs again. Cutch drove one of those heaters about 405' into straight center, but at Comerica, it didn't even reach the track. Burnett went six without his good stuff, but gave up just two runs on seven hits with three walks and 2K, tossing 106 pitches. Jason Grilli came on, and Nate McLouth went to left, replacing Navarro. With glove guy Gorkys Hernandez sitting on the bench, we can only guess he wasn't called up at Hurdle's request.
Detroit cut the lead to a run. with one out, Cabrera and Fielder both lined knocks the opposite way. A fly to center got Cabrera to third, and he came home when a rising heater, about shoulder high, ticked off Barajas' mitt for a passed ball. Lefty Phil Coke came on for the Tigers.
Walker singled with an out and went to third when Barajas fought off an 0-2 pitch and blooped it into right. After missing on a delayed squeeze, McGehee went down swinging at a backfoot curve. McLouth hit, even lefty vs lefty, and hit a slow roller to third. Cabrera barehanded the ball and shorthopped the throw; Fielder made the pick and the Bucs were finished in the eighth. Can't blame Hurdle for playing for an insurance run, but McGehee had hit the ball sharply all three at-bats and the skipper left a couple of RH bats on the bench to let McLouth hit.
Juan Cruz worked a quiet bottom half. Boesch led off with a knock. Cruz whiffed Peralta and got Santiago on a bullet to first but right at McGehee, who stepped on the bag for the 3 unassisted DP. Juaquin Benoit took the hill for Detroit. Pittsburgh went down in order, and Hanny took the mound to face the top of the Motown lineup. After two were away, what else? He walked Cabrera to bring Fielder to the dish. But Hanny was equal to the task; he got him swinging at a 1-2 slider, and the Bucs hung on 4-3.
The game comes down to this question - with the Pirate offense in the state it's in, why would any pitcher let Andrew McCutchen beat him?
Max Scherzer and Kevin Correia hook up tomorrow afternoon for the deciding game of the set.