Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bucs Ride Big Inning, Bullpen To 5-3 Win

The first inning was a little rough on James McDonald. He walked leadoff man Alex Gordon on a full count, and an out later, Billy Butler drilled one off Pedro's mitt for a knock. But a couple of flies later, and J-Mick was out of the jam. KC's Vin Mazzaro had no such problems. He got a tapper to the mound and a pair of Ks to open his outing.

Ir was 1-2-3 for the Royals in the second. Mazzaro walked Alvarez and Rod Barajas on 3-2 pitches in the Pirate half, but otherwise had no issues. So far, he's gotten nothing but whiffs and soft grounders the first time around the Bucco order.

KC woke up in the third. Another 3-2 walk to Gordon hurt when Yuniesky Betancourt went yard to left on a 1-1 heater to make it 2-0. Butler followed with a roller up the middle. He escaped without any more damage, but Kansas City, while not exactly disciplined, is spoiling a lot of pitches and making J-Mick work. He's already at 59 pitches in the third.

With an out, Alex Presley got a fastball away and smacked it the opposite way for a knock and then stole second. Five pitches later, Neil Walker drew a free pass. With Cutch up, the duo pulled off a double steal; Mazzaro has a pretty long delivery. McCutch couldn't bring them home, grounding out to third. Jones bounced out to second, and a golden opportunity went by the boards as the Bucs continue beating the ball into to dirt. Pittsburgh has been making Mazzaro sweat, too - he's also at 59 pitches.

Eric Hosmer led off the fourth by lining a 2-2 heater into the right field corner for a double, and went to third on a fly out. J-Mick worked himself into a good spot when he got Alicides Escobar on a comebacker and the pitcher up, but gave Mazzaro a 2-2 fastball that he knocked into right to bring home the run, collecting his first MLB hit and RBI in one fell swoop.

El Toro opened the Bucco half with his second walk of the night, staying alive after fouling off a nasty slider. Mazzaro got ahead of JT 1-2 working him inside; he went a little too far inside on the next pitch and hit him on the hand. Barajas took an 0-2 curve down and away and lined it into right to juice the sacks. Clint Barmes got ahead 3-1, fouled off a sinker and rolled the next one to the shortstop hole; it went for an infield knock to make it 3-1 and keep the bases jammed.

Clint Hurdle pulled the plug on J-Mick after four innings and 76 pitches and sent up the Hit Collector, Matt Hague. That was it for Mazzaro, too - Kelvin Herrera climbed the bump. Hague popped the ball to right. Hosmer, playing out of position, let the can of corn drop, then fired a one-hop strike home. It easily beat JT, who was in a force situation and was on third tagging when the ball fell, but Brayan Pena, the catcher, bobbled the catch. The ruling was fielders choice for Hague, assist to Hosmer, error on Pena.

Presley hit a swinging bunt up the third base line; Mike Moustakas may have had a play at home but ate the ball, and it was tied at threes. Walker hit a soft roller to first. It clanged off Butler's glove, though he recovered in time to get the out at first as another run scored. Cutch walked, and Jones hit into a force out after rolling over on a slider to make it 5-3.

Pittsburgh sent up ten hitters in the 29 minute half frame. The Pirates could have played the half inning in a tee-ball field for as hard as they hit the ball, but a five spot is a five spot no matter how it comes about.

Chris Resop climbed the hill for Pittsburgh. After two outs, he gave up a knock to center by Moustakas; it stayed down and rolled through Cutch. But it ended up just a single; Moustakas missed first and had to return to the sack. Jeff Francoeur lined a one-hop laser off Barmes' wrist to put runners at first and second, but Resop got Hosmer to fly out to left. The Bucs got a two-out single from Barajas as the game settled down a bit.

Pena started the sixth with a roller to first; Hague tossed a perfect ball to Resop covering, who dropped it while trying to find the bag. Escobar lined a shot to left, and Hurdle called for Doug Slaten. He retired the two lefties KC offered, and Hurdle waved in Jared Hughes to face the righty Betancourt.

Jason Grilli's out for tonight after a pair of consecutive outings and maybe Hanny, too, so Hurdle's straddling a thin line with the pen. But the move worked; one pitch, one ball shot to Cutch to end the frame. Aaron Crow faced the top of the Pirate order, and set them down with a pair of K. Hughes put the Royals to bed in the seventh.

Louis Coleman climbed the hill in the seventh for KC. Casey McGehee banged a 1-2 fastball off the bullpen fence for a double, but never got off second. Hosmer led off the eighth with a first-pitch double the opposite way off Hughes. A tapper back to the hill had Hosmer trapped of second, but Hughes took the safe out at first, letting the runner move to third. Didn't cost him; a grounder to the hot corner and a K cleaned it up.

Greg Holland pitched the eighth. He lost pinch hitter Jordy Mercer on a 3-2 pitch with one away, but he was caught stealing when KC sniffed out the call and pitched out, maybe on a misfired hit-and-run. A fly ended the inning, and with a save situation, Hurdle called on Hanny in the ninth. It was only the second time this year that a guy has come out of the bullpen for three straight games (Hughes was the other.)

Hanny went 3-0 on Gordon, and then filled up the strike zone, getting three ground outs to earn his 17th save. Hughes got a well deserved W, his second.

The Pirate bats didn't do much tonight with just six hits, but KC is in disarray on the field, trying to juggle a lineup around their DH. They're also quite aggressive at the plate, making it easier on the Bucco pitch counts, especially for the relievers.

It also showed up in the Royals' 1-for-12 performance with RISP, not that the Pirates' 3-for-13 was worth a letter home. And, of course, the bullpen covered five more innings tonight; regression be danged. So hey, it's three in a row, and the Bucs are one game out of first. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Bruce Chen and AJ Burnett will close the series tomorrow afternoon as the Bucs look for the sweep.
  • Tonight's attendance of 39,312 was the fourth sellout of the year and the seventh largest baseball crowd ever at PNC Park.
  • Garrett Jones hitting streak ended tonight at seven games.
  • Not a surprise, but the team officially announced that Brad Lincoln will go Tuesday against the Orioles.
  • Clint Hurdle told the media that Jeff Karsten's strained hip flexor should only put him on ice for a week or so, and that he'll throw off flat ground until it's healed to keep his arm stretched.
  • Alex Dickerson earned a spot in Baseball America's Hot Sheet this week. The Bradenton 1B had a slash of .478/.500/.957. Indy 1B Jeff Clement was listed later in the article as a "Blast From The Past."
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN has a piece about the upcoming negotiations between the Bucs and Boras over Mark Appel. It doesn't sound very pretty.

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