Jeff Karstens retired the first two Cards, but lost Matt Holiday on balls after being ahead in the count 1-2. No prob; he came back to get Carlos Beltran swinging. Still, gotta throw strikes with a big lead. After K'ing the 8-9 hitters to open the second, Lynn walked Presley on five pitches and he stole second. But he found the third out quickly this time around, getting Tabata on another bouncer to second. JK put the Cards away in order, collecting a pair of K.
Cutch opened the third by spanking a 3-2 fastball up the middle. Jones went down on three pitches, swinging at two out of the zone. Walker went done swinging the same way on a 2-2 count, whiffing on a pair of balls off the plate. Pedro didn't fish, but his drive to left center on a 3-2 curve was hauled in at the fence.
Tony Cruz greeted JK by smacking a curve for a double to center in the third. Cutch got a late jump on it, but almost caught up to the ball before banging into the wall. Cruz was bunted over by Lynn, and Karstens lost Skip Schumaker on four pitches to bring up the big guns. He almost escaped with a goose egg, but the Bucs couldn't turn a well placed Jon Jay grounder into a DP. Despite a nice stop and good feed by Walker and strong turn by Clint Barmes, Jay won a bang-bang call at first. Cruz came home, and a pitch later, Jay stole second. That cost, as Holiday drilled a 2-2 sinker into center to bring home Jay and halve the lead at 4-2. Cutch saved any further damage by making a sweet diving catch of a Carlos Beltran flare to end the frame.
There was a little consternation as the training staff met Cutch after the inning. He was holding his wrist, banged up during the diving grab, and they hustled him into the exam room. But he came back out, so we assume all is well.
With an out in the fourth, The Fort bounced a heater over the wall in right center for a ground rule two-bagger. The Bucs left him there; this is beginning to be reminiscent of the Phil game where the Pirates jumped ahead 5-0 and hung on by the skin of their teeth for a 5-4 victory...and the Cards probably have a stronger lineup. Allen Craig opened with a bloop single to right just in front of JT. David Freese was jammed, and his grounder to third ended up a force; this time, Walker's turn wasn't very good, and the relay was badly off target. JK whiffed David Descalso and Cruz bounced out, so no blood, no foul.
JT started the fifth with a long at-bat, banging the eighth pitch, a hook, into center for a double. Cutch couldn't move him up, grounding out to third, and favoring his wrist after a check swing. Jones walked on five pitches. Walker poked a heater away up the third base line for a double, scoring Tabata while Jones had to hit the brakes at the hot corner. With first open, the Cards wanted no part of Pedro, and intentionally walked him to juice the sacks. El Toro's protection, Barmes, came through; his bouncer to short wasn't crisp enough to turn into DP, and Jones came home on the force out at second. So the Bucs did add on, making it 6-2. JK put the Cards down in order, and at 72 pitches has a chance to get to the seventh today.
Barret Browning came on for St. Louis. His first MLB inning went nicely for him, 1-2-3 with his first big league K, of Alex Presley. In the Card half, Holiday hit a jamshot dink to right that dropped short of JT. Karstens retired the next trio on a can of corn, pop up, and punchout. He's looking like the JK of 2011 during the past couple of innings.
Browning looked good too, putting the Bucs away routinely in the seventh. There was a change; Drew Sutton took over in left as Presley moved to center. Cutch was pulled, and he was pronounced day-to-day after the game with a sprained wrist. Karstens tucked the Red Birds away 1-2-3 on ten pitches, and has quietly rung up 7 whiffs, with a pitch count of 95. It was his last frame; he gave up two runs on four hits with two walks.
Maikel Cleto, a fresh AAA arm who had a cup of coffee with the Cards last year, took the bump. He struck out the side, with the one misfire of plunking Barmes. Tony Watson toed the rubber for Pittsburgh. With an out, Jay grounded a double up the third base line on an outside sinker, with Pedro well off the line. An out later, Beltran turned on an inside heater and bounced it off the base of the wall in left center for another two bagger, making the score 6-3 and bringing on Jared Hughes. He closed the inning with a two pitch, broken bat bouncer to short from Craig.
Victor Marte climbed the mound for St. Louis, and watched the Pirates go into small ball mode. Presley bunted for an inning-opening knock and went to second on a wild pitch. JT sacrificed him to third (a tactic that we think is way overused by the skipper) and it paid off. Sutton hit a weak two-hopper to short with the infield in. The SS had to move to his right and backhand the ball, allowing The King to slide in ahead of the throw and upping the margin to 7-3.
Hughes stayed on the hill and retired the Cards in order to earn his first big league save (he came on in the eighth when it was 6-3, and finished the game). It was Karstens' first win of the season. Now let's hope that Cutch hasn't banged up his wrist too badly; there's no question that he's the one guy Pittsburgh can't possibly replace.
Erik Bedard faces Jake Westbrook tomorrow afternoon.
- Pittsburgh is at a season high seven games over .500, matching last year's high point.
- The Bucs are now 9-1-1 in their last eleven series, and have a chance to broom St. Louis at Busch for the first time since 1991.
- Pedro's grand slam was the first of his career and the first Bucco bingo since Derrek Lee pounded one in September against against the
- Clint Hurdle told the media that Brad Lincoln will not be available for the next two days after throwing 33 pitches last night. In case you're wondering about his use of the bullpen lately, keep in mind that the Bucs are in the midst of 20 straight games, running through the July 8th All-Star break, so Hurdle has a lot of juggling to do to keep his guys fresh. Lincoln is an especially tricky case, having been jerked between the pen and rotation, and for the time being won't be used in back-to-back games.
- Happy B-Day, Drew Sutton, who is 29 today.
- RHP Victor Black (1-1, 1.36, 4 saves) of Altoona has been added to the Eastern League All-Star team. He joins Curve homies C Ramon Cabrera, RHP Brandon Cumpton and IF Brock Holt.