Friday, June 22, 2012

Bucs Score Early, Cruise To 4-1 Win

 It took AJ Burtnett a bit to loosen his arm; he went 3-2 on the first three Motown hitters, and lost Quintin Berry with one out, who stole second on the next pitch. But he died at third as his Tiger teammates all bounced out.

The Bucs took their first look at Doug Fister, and the top of the order liked what they saw. Down 1-2, Alex Presley whacked an elevated heater into the right field corner for a two base knock. Neil Walker lined the next pitch into center, sending The King home. He went to second on a short wild pitch and then to third on Cutch's broken bat dink into left. The merry-go-round stopped when Garrett Jones reached for a two strike change, rolling into a 6-4-3 with the Tigers exchanging the second run for the twin killing. McGehee bounced out to third, and the Pirates were up 2-0 after a frame.

AJ struck out Delmon Young to open the second, but lost Alex Avila on a full-count curve. Jhonny Peralta fell behind 0-2 and flew out to center and Ramon Santiago did the same on a first pitch heater that Burnett got away with, served right down the middle.

The much maligned Detroit defense gift wrapped the next pair of Bucco runs, all on one play. The newly patience Pedro fell behind 0-2, took three balls, fouled off a heater and banged the next smoker up the middle for a knock. Rod Barajas dinked a soft liner between short and left to put runners at first and second. Clint Barmes K'ed on three pitches, swinging through a curve. Burnett tried to bunt, and punched the ball right back to the mound. Fister had El Toro at third, but tossed the ball into left to allow him to score. Young picked up the cowhide and then dropped it, sending Hot Rod safely home, skittering across the dish with a belly-flopper. After two, it's 4-0 Pittsburgh.

The Tigers went down in order in the third, with Burnett picking up a pair of whiffs. Fister stopped the bleeding, too. Cutch led off with a single, spanking an 0-2 slider into center. Jones ripped a liner just foul into right, and swung through the next pitch for the first out. McGehee bounced to short, and a 6-4-3 DP nipped the inning in the bud.

Motor City got its first knock with two outs in the fourth when Young slapped a slurve up the middle, but he was left standing on the bag two pitches later. With one away, Barajas dropped his second flare, this time to short right, for a single. And for the third time in four frames, the Bucs banged into a DP, this one 5-4-3 off Barmes' bat.

In the fifth, it was three Tigers up, three ground balls, and three Tigers down. Fister was groovin' too, getting a pair of looking strikeouts sandwiched around Presley's long fly out to the track in right center by the Xfinity sign. Burnett would be tested in the sixth.

Austin Jackson rolled a 2-2 pitch through the second base hole and Berry followed with a five pitch walk. Miguel Cabrera and AJ battled through eight pitches, finally ended when Cabrera cued one to short to start a 6-4-3 DP. Prince Fielder popped out, and Burnett hung another hard earned goose egg on Detroit. Cutch led off against Fister with his third hit, a liner to center. He moved to second on a grounder, and with two away, Alvarez was intentionally walked. Barajas lifted yet another flare, but this one carried just a bit too far and was run down by Young to end the frame.

Burnett called it a day after 98 pitches, going six scoreless frames giving up two hits and three walks with five K. Jared Hughes climbed the mound, and it was a tough outing for Tackleberry. Young lifted one to the wall in straight center, a 395' out. Alex Avila hit a slow roller up the third base line, and Pedro showed off his rifle by tossing a laser to retire him. But a pair of sinkers that didn't sink got Motown on the board when Peralta doubled midway up the Clemente Wall and Santiago high off the fence in right center. A walk to Brandon Bosch ended Hughes' day. Tony Watson came on. Jackson was up, and got nothing but hard stuff from the lefty, K'ing as he swung through high heat to end the frame with the Bucs still comfortably ahead 4-1.

Luis Marte came on for Detroit, and he put the Bucs away without a ball finding its way past the infield. Jason Grilli was atop the bump in the eighth against the Tiger's 2-3-4 hitters and shut them down quietly. Marte got the first two outs in the Bucco half, ending Cutch's bid for a fourth hit when his liner ended up an at 'em ball to short. That was followed by a Freddy Sanchez filet to right by Matt Hague, who was wild pitched to second. The inning shut down when McGehee went down swinging at a 3-2 slider. It was Hanny time. No drama tonight; a pair of K's and a grounder to short put this baby to bed.

It was AJ's eighth win and The Hammer's 18th save. Might be a different game if Fister's second inning throw to third was on target, but defense is intertwined with pitching, and the Bucs made all the plays while the Tigers misfired on one. And sometimes one is all it takes.

Max Scherzer takes on Brad Lincoln tomorrow night.

  • AJ Burnett has won seven straight starts, and the Pirates have won the last nine games he's started.
  • Casey McGehee's hitting streak ended at nine games.
  • The Bucs had their fifth sellout with a crowd of 37,965. The Pirates expect tomorrow to be a sellout too, and predict a good crowd for Sunday.
  • Jeff Karstens should take the bump Sunday for Indy with no pitch count cap. If he gets through that, he should be good to rejoin the Bucco rotation.
  • The Tiger's Prince Fielder has launched 28 long balls against the Pirates in his career, his most homers bashed against any team.

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