Monday, June 25, 2012

Bucs Bumble Way To 8-3 Loss

The Pirates are 5-18 against Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park since it opened in 2004 and have lost 9-of-10 played in the yard since 2007. Different year, different teams; we'll see if JK can provide a running start for the Pirates tonight.

Joe Blanton got Alex Presley on a gentle roller to short and whiffed JT swinging at a high-and-tight heater. Cutch hit a slow hopper toward the middle, and the ball ran up Jimmy Rollin's glove for a boot. Garrett Jones walked on five pitches, but Neil Walker kept to the theme, grounding out softly to second.

Jimmy Rollins greeted Jeff Karstens by chopping a two-base ground poke to right past Jones off a two strike hook. Juan Pierre bunted him to third, almost beating the throw to first. Hunter Pence dropped a soft fly in front of JT in right; Rollins held until it hit the grass and then took off, beating the peg home by a hand. Then the little league action began. Carlos Ruiz hit a flare off the end of the bat into right for a knock;  Pence got to third under a high throw by Tabata. Pedro fired to second, and the ball went into right. JT's toss home skipped past Rod Barajas, and Ruiz kept trucking to third.

Shane Victorino took a pitch away up the middle for the first well struck ball of the frame, and it was 3-0. Placido Polanco checked his swing on a two strike slider; it caught the bat and dropped into right. JT took a shot at Victorino at third; the throw missed the mark again and another run scored. JK had enough; he K'ed both Ty Wiggington and Mike Fontenot, but it was a painful way to return to action - five hits, only one hard enough to crack an egg, and three errors behind him. Welcome back, Karstens!

The Bucs showed some life when Pedro and Mike McKenry opened with back-to-knocks. It was a short lived rally. Clint Barmes knocked the second pitch he saw on one hop to Rollins for the 6-4-3 DP, and JK went down swinging. McKenry was in because Barajas, who turned his ankle on the play at the plate and took a foul off the knee a few batters later, was yanked. We'll see later which, if either, caused his issue (they later announced that he bruised his knee). Karstens, after a deep breath, put down the Phils in order in their half.

Pittsburgh got a run back in the third when JT hit a rocket the opposite way to right, his first homer in six weeks, to make it 4-1. The Phils answered when their bugaboo, the stolen base, bit them. With an out, Ruiz lined a single to center and stole second. The throw beat Chooch to the bag, but Walker short armed it a bit and it bounced off the runner's knee. A grounder moved him to third, and Polanco's two out knock into center plated him.

Neil Walker took the first pitch of the fourth the other way, doubling to left. Plate discipline left something to be desired for Pedro and McKenry. Both got ahead in the count, but Alvarez K'ed swinging over a pair of changeups off the plate, and McKenry fouled off ball four, then watched strike three sail down the middle. But Barmes came to the rescue, grounding a curve to right to bring The Kid home, sliding in to beat a throw that was outside the first base line. There is some advantage to having a eight hitter pitchers don't work around with two outs, first base empty, and the pitcher due up.

Can't blame the fielders this inning. Fontenot lined a changeup to right. Blanton popped up the foul attempt, but a short wild pitch moved the runner to second. Karstens fell behind Rollins 3-0, grooved a sinking heater, and watched it bounce down from the second level in right field, making it 7-2. Pence legged out a single on a slow roller to third; doesn't seem to matter how hard the Phils smack the ball, it ends up a knock. Ruiz K'ed on a foul tip, but ouch.

The Bucs did keep chippin', tho. JT reached second on a throwing error by Polanco, and Cutch brought him in with a knock to center. The game mercifully remained that way until the seventh, when Doug Slaten gave up a single and three straight walks - two on four pitches - to pump the Phil lead to 8-3, then got serious and struck out the next trio. Still, he might have made the decision of who to send to Indy tomorrow a little easier.

In the ninth, McKenry singled to lead off. Barmes couldn't decide if he wanted the game extended or not; he saw ten pitches, fouling off the last five, found one he liked and bounced into a DP. Maybe Citizen's is a house of horrors; Pittsburgh at least was horrible tonight. Nine whiffs, four errors, three DPs...ugh.
No critique needed tonight other than mama said there would be days like this. The biggest concern is how badly Rod Barajas is hurt; the system isn't deep in MLB ready catchers, and we all remember the nightmare behind the plate last year. Hello, Jose Morales.

Erik Bedard takes on Vance Worley tomorrow night.
  • Joe Blanton had his season high in Ks tonight with 8. 
  • The answer to today's trivia question: Casey McGehee. The question: who is the Pirates emergency catcher? Casey actually did quite a bit of catching in the minors, though he never donned the tools in the show and last wiggled a finger in 2008.
  • More movement: Jake Fox was released from Indy to make a roster spot for Jordy Mercer, who was sent back to Indy yesterday.
  • If you're wondering, Drew Sutton will join the team tomorrow after spending a day with his wife, who is expecting in October. A pitcher will have to go to get the roster back in equilibrium. But for today, an extra arm is fine - Chris Resop is probably down after two innings yesterday, Jared Hughes is just recovering from a mystery ailment, and Brad Lincoln isn't cleared for duty until Wednesday.

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