Sunday, June 10, 2012

Burnett, Bullpen, Cutch Broom Royals 3-2

AJ Burnett got a break today. Ned Yost finally faced the inevitable and started his regular position players today, sitting DH Billy Butler, who caused a wholesale shift in defense while in the lineup. Not that it made much diff in the first; AJ used six pitches to put away KC.

Pittsburgh got on the board first. Alex Presley got a 3-2 pitch pretty much down the middle and dropped it into right for a leadoff knock. Neil Walker was jammed, and his weak spinner to second moved Presley up a base. Cutch worked the count full and drilled a high sinker that didn't sink into right center off the Trib sign for a two bagger and 1-0 Bucco lead.

The Royals were a little more disciplined in the second; it took ten pitches to set them down. Chen also tucked the Bucs away, without a ball leaving the infield. Burnett kept dealin' in the third. Not so Chen. With one down, Walker dropped a single into center. Ahead of Cutch 1-2, Chen fed him a heater high and tight in the strike zone, and watched the ball drop a few rows into left field to make the score 3-0. Lefties and McCutch are like a horse and carriage...

Burnett's streak ended at eleven when he lost Eric Hosmer on a 3-2 pitch with two away. He stole second on a pitch in the dirt, but Burnett fanned Mike Moustakas on a slurve to keep the goose eggs intact. Rod Barajas opened for the Bucs by smoking a liner off Alcides Escobars mitt; it was ruled an error. Barajas made the next miscue, though, when Josh Harrison smoked one to center that Jarrod Dyson ran down nicely at the track, and doubled Hot Rod off first. Barajas is slow, but with no outs, he had to be sure the ball hit dirt before rounding the bases.

Control problems in the fifth set up a KC jam for Burnett. With an out, Mitch Maier walked on a 3-2 curve that missed away, and stole second under a strong throw by Barajas. Escobar was then plunked in the back on a 3-2 hook that slipped from Burnett's hand. Ray Searage came out for a chat, and Burnett must have listened. Dyson hit the first pitch up the middle on a couple of hops, a tailor made 6-3 DP to end the threat.

Presley reached on an one-out drop by Moustakas, who couldn't get the ball out of his mitt on a slow roller. He was caught by Chen heading to second, but got the call on a bang-banger that could have gone either way. Walker had a rare throwaway at-bat, looking at a pair of strikes and missing a high slider. KC was tired of Cutch, who was walked intentionally to get to McGehee, who bounced to third. KC has been trying to gift the Bucs a run or two the past couple of innings, but Pittsburgh won't take them.

With an out in the sxith, Alex Gordon smacked the Royals' first knock cleanly through the second base hole. He stole second, again on a ball in the dirt. Burnett's big kick and liberal use of the slurve is giving KC the green light to run. But AJ got the next pair of guys routinely to maintain the shutout.

Nate Adcock,who the Bucs lost in the Rule 5 draft, came on in the sixth. He walked Matt Hague, then K'ed Barajas. Garrett Jones pinch hit, and knocked a single into right, but the 8-9 guys went down quietly.

With an out in the seventh, Pena hit a leg double to left, taking a chance three runs down but getting in under Jones' throw that skipped off Barmes glove as he applied a late tag. With two away, Escobar turned on a tight first pitch heater, bouncing it over the left field rule for a ground rule two bagger and cashing in Pena's gamble. Adcock put the top of the Buc order away, capped by a web gem catch by Maiers who ran down Cutch's foul fly down the line and did a flip over the railing. Replays showed he dropped it as he hit the concrete, but close enough for the ump, whose sight was blocked by the padding over the rail.

Hurdle tried to get another frame out of Burnett, and that was a mistake. With an out, Gordon dropped a hanging curve the opposite way for a knock, and went to second on a wild pitch. Johnny Giavotella rolled one weakly on the left side and easily legged it out to put runners on the corners. That was it; Tony Watson came on. Burnett went 7-1/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits, two walks and six whiffs, tossing 107 pitches.

Watson got Hosmer to hit a soft grounder to short, but the Bucs could only turn the force on the weak roller, making the score 3-2. Working carefully to pinch hitter Billy Butler, he walked him on five pitches. Hurdle made another trip to the mound, calling on Juan Cruz. He walked Pena on five pitches to load the bases, but came back to catch Maier looking at a backdoor curve.

Greg Holland climbed the mound for KC and punched out the side. Hanny is off today after three straight outings; it's Grilli time. And he brought all the drama. Escobar dropped a flare into right to open the ninth, and was bunted to second. Yunieski Betancourt fell behind 1-2, but nursed a walk, escaping a couple of close calls. When in doubt, go to the heater, and Grilli did, K'ing the next pair of Royals to save the game for Burnett. For AJ, it's his sixth W and Grilli notched his first save of the season.

It's a nice little streak the Bucs are on, but if they don't get a bat soon, it's going to be unsustainable. They score eight times the last two games, but only had 11 hits. Still, good D and great pitching can carry you a long way. But they need a little help.

The Bucs are off tomorrow, and open at Baltimore on Tuesday.
  • For Pittsburgh, it's four wins in a row, matching the season high. They also took their fifth straight series and earned their second sweep of 2012.
  • Opponents have stolen 23 consecutive bases off the Pirates, mainly off the pitchers. KC was 4-for-4 today.
  • Today's attendance for Little League Day was 25,752.
  • Chris Leroux went to Indy to begin his rehab. He'll be used out of the bullpen, and will work multiple innings, as the Pirates see him as a long man in the pen.
  • Expect a rash of draft signings to be announced tomorrow. At least a half dozen picks have unofficially joined the fold.

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