Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LaRoche Drives In Four; Bucs Fall 7-4

The Bucs first inning run streak come to a halt against Gio Gonzalez; he gave up just a two-out knock to Cutch. But it wouldn't stop the Nats. With one away, Bryce Harper tripled off the wall when JT's leap fell short and the ball ricocheted away.  He came in on Ryan Zimmerman's bounce out. A single and walk followed, but that was to be all the early damage against Eric Bedard.

The Pirates K'd in order in the second for four-in-a-row whiffs for GG, and the Nats went down quietly, too. Pittsburgh went down 1-2-3 again in the third. Ian Desmond led the frame off with a homer when Bedard hung a 1-2 hook, and it was 2-0. He did pick up his first pair of K's, fanning Harper and Adam LaRoche; he's only three behind Gonzalez.

The Pirates were up and down again; that's 10 in a row for Gonzalez. Cutch continues to square up, though, flying out to the fence in left center, and at least all three hitters put the ball in play. Washington went down in order.

Yamaico Navarro fell behind 0-2, but worked a nine pitch walk to open the fifth. Rod Barajas singled into center, and the Bucs were in business with runners at first and third. Clint Barmes K'ed when he couldn't lay off the high heat. Josh Harrison softly lined a 2-0 sinker into center that Harper misread to make it 2-1. Bedard couldn't help himself, awkwardly fouling off two bunts before chasing a fastball a mile off the dish. JT got a four seamer at the belt, but bounced it to short to end the frame. Bedard put DC away, picking up another pair of whiffs and notching his ninth straight Nat.

Walker whiffed fishing for a curve at his feet. Cutch bounced out, and McGehee K'ed swinging. Bedard fanned Harper and Zimmerman for 11 consecutive Nats down, but on a 1-2 count fed LaRoche a heater that was over the dish instead of away and watched him line it over the fence in right center to make it 3-1. Then Xavier Nady took a change that stayed up yard, and the game was getting away. Danny Espinosa bunted for a single. Tyler Moore had the green light on a 3-1 pitch and roped a ball to center, but Cutch was there. Still, 4-1 is quite a mountain for the punchless Pirates to climb.

Barajas drew a one down pass. He came in an out later when Harrison, showing (for him) great patience, drove a 2-1 fastball out of the park, crushing the low heat to left center for his first long fly of 2012. Nate McLouth grabbed a bat, but went down swinging at a high fastball, Gonzalez's tenth K of the night. But it is interesting now at 4-3. The line on Bedard was six innings, allowing four runs on six hits (three homers and a triple), one walk and seven whiffs after 92 pitches. The newly recalled Evan Meek took over, as Hurdle opted to rest his beleaguered bullpen rather than stick to the tried and true.

Jesus Flores fell behind 0-2, then got plunked with a high and tight heater. He was bunted to second. Desmond K'ed, and Meek worked around Harper, walking him on four pitches. Zimmerman walked to load the sacks, catching a break on a couple of borderline calls. LaRoche ripped the first pitch he saw for a bases-clearing and backbreaking double to right. Nady struck out, but the Bucs were down 7-3.

Meek has his velocity - he was touching 96 - but he's still up in the zone and flat, a bad combo. And the runners that scored were on base because of two walks and a HBP. It also shows why Clint Hurdle would like two lefties in the pen, as Tony Watson threw 22 pitches yesterday and worked 3 of the last 4 games. Otherwise, you'd have to think he'd be the guy facing LaRoche.

Tyler Clippard took over for Washington. JT singled and stole second as Walker K'ed. Cutch singled him to third. McGehee swung at ball four, but it wasn't totally fruitless; he lifted a sac fly to left, though the Pirates could use runners, to make it 7-4. Pedro came on to pinch hit, and bounced the first pitch to second to end the inning. We expected Garrett Jones, who's much more experienced coming off the bench, but at least a big stick got a swing.

Jared Hughes came on for the ninth. This was his third consecutive game, a Hurdle no-no, but he's only thrown 24 pitches in those two prior outings. He was effective again, getting Washington 1-2-3 on 15 pitches. Henry Rodriguez came on to finish for the Nats. Barajas reached on an E6. Barmes K'ed for the third time during an at-bat where he may not have seen a strike. Harrison turned on a 1-2 fastball and one-hopped it to the SS hole where Zimmerman cut it off and started a game-ending 5-4-3 DP.

The Pirate FO has some work to do. Clint Hurdle doesn't have a bench to call on, and the bullpen is being overworked. There are no easy answers, but some movement has to be made, even if it's internal.

James McDonald goes against Jordan Zimmerman tomorrow night.

  • Jared Hughes now has a seven appearance (9 IP) scoreless skein.
  • The Pirate bullpen had a 16 inning scoreless streak ended after LaRoche's double off of Evan Meek.
  • Not only was Josh Harrison's homer his first of the year, but it was the first surrendered by Gio Gonzalez, who was the last qualified starter, innings-wise, to give up a bomb this season.
  • Jeff Karstens continues to make slow progress. He threw 20 pitches against live hitting today.
  • So far this year, Adam LaRoche is hitting .583 against the Bucs, with three runs, eight RBI, two doubles, three homers and an OBP of .688. Not too surprising; he's hit .360 with seven homers against his old mates since being traded away.

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