The Bucs went down in order in the second. The Tribe tried to call down some two-out thunder with consecutive knocks by Casey Kotchman and Lonnie Chisenhall, but McDonald got a fly out from Jack Hannahan to escape without any damage.
Masterson struck out the side in the third, giving him five whiff jobs in three frames. Again, Cabrera drew a one-out walk off J-Mick, both times on five pitches. Jason Kipnis got ahead 3-0, took and strike and flew out. No such luck with Carlos Santana. He ran the count full and then softly hopped a hung spinner past the third base bag (the infield was shifted toward right) for a double to plate Cabrera, who was off on the 3-2 pitch. The ball died after hitting the tarp, effectively removing any chance Alex Presley had at the runner. Michael Brantley flew out to keep the score 1-0.
J-Mick is at 67 pitches already, having control issues and also issues with plate ump Ed Barksdale, who is squeezing him on some good-looking sliders. But he's been away to most of the lineup, which has been patient at the dish and consists of seven port siders and two switch hitters. So it's lefties wild in Cleveland; he has to get after them.
Cutch drew a one-down walk in the fourth. After Jones was caught looking, Casey McGehee fell behind 0-2, took a waste pitch and lined the next offering into left to put runners on the corners. Alvarez walked on a 3-2 slider away to jam the sacks. But there was no joy in Mudville. JT went down on an 0-2 foul tip to squelch the threat. He's the eighth Bucco that Masterson has fanned. J-Mick got more aggressive and retired the Tribe in order on a dozen pitches.
With an out in the fifth, Josh Harrison lined a 2-2 slider into center for a single. It was short-lived success; he was caught stealing on the next pitch. Presley bounced out, and the Bucs still sported a goose egg. It was another 1-2-3 frame for McDonald, who tossed 11 pitches and has recovered nicely after laboring through the early innings.
Walker opened the sixth with a ground rule double to right, banging an inside half slider than ran across the plate. Cutch bounced out, moving The Kid to third. Jones couldn't bring him in, popping out on a slider in on his hands; the second baseman Kipnis made a strong running catch in short right with his back turned to save a run. McGehee grounded out on the first pitch, getting on top of a high sinker, to end the frame. It was another three up, three down frame for J-Mick for ten straight Indians put down, but he finished the frame at 101 tosses.
Pedro went down looking on three pitches. JT took five pitches and trotted to first with a walk. Barajas flew out to center. JT stole second, and Masterson bopped Harrison on a 2-2 pitch to put runners at first and second. A wild pitch moved the pair to second and third. Presley couldn't help the cause, though, poking a heater away in the air to left to finish the frame. That was it for J-Mick, who went six frames, giving up a run on three hits with two walks and five K. Tony Watson climbed the bump.
Johnny Damon greeted him by flaring a slider off the dish into center for a knock. Kotchman got an 0-2 slider that caught way too much of the plate and rolled it into right to put Indians on the corners. Jose Lopez grabbed a bat and popped out. But the old adage better to be lucky came into play against Hannahan. He lined a sinker down the middle to left, where Presley gloved it with one hand on the run and then threw a strike home to nail a tagging Damon. So Watson pulled a Houdini, and it's still just 1-0 Tribe.
Vinnie Pestano came on to work the eighth; Masterson showered up after 109 shutout pitches. Pestano faced the 2-3-4 hitters for Pittsburgh. Walker flew out. Cutch gave a jolt to an 0-2 heater, but it was hauled in on the track in straight center. Jones struck out swinging on three pitches; the third a breaking ball in the dirt. Jason Grilli took the ball for the bottom half.
Shin-Soo Choo walked on a 3-2 pitch, and stole second an out later on a bang-bang call. With two away, Santana walked on a full count, watching the last three pitches sail just under his knees. With Michael Brantley up, Clint Hurdle called for Juan Cruz; we're not exactly sure why he yanked Grilli, it may have been the pitch count (24) or his control.
Anyway, it was the wrong move; Brantley softly lined a knock into center to score Choo and make it 2-0. It extended Brantley's hit streak to 22 games. Cruz K'ed Aaron Cunningham, but it was a batter late. Tribe closer Chris Perez took the mound, looking for his 21st save.
McGehee took his first pitch into center for a single. Pedro flew out to left. JT grounded an outside fastball to second, and the 4-6-3 turned out the lights on the Bucs.
It's frustrating. The Pirates needed a clutch hit that never came, and the Tribe manufactured both runs after two were away, and the runners that came around were aboard thanks to walks. But it's tough to collect those hits when only two of your nine batters, even with a DH, are batting over .250. It's something the FO has to address, and not with a rental. If they don't believe in their upper level farmhands - and judging by the composition of the guys riding the pine, they don't - then find a bat that's under team control for a couple or three seasons to plug the dike.
AJ Burnett takes on Ubaldo Jimenez tomorrow night.
- The Bucs picked a bad time to hit the rocks. Since tying Cincy for first place, Pittsburgh has dropped four straight while the Reds have won four in a row.
- The Pirates are 1-6 in AL stadiums so far this season. Think that DH spot doesn't provide a home team advantage?
- There's been a lot of smoke lately concerning the Bucs and Chase Headley. He plays the hot corner, which suggests that Pedro would be involved in a deal for him; after all, two's a crowd at third. Makes one wonder if El Toro is dealt, would he turn out another Andy LaRoche or Jose Bautista? We'll bet that's what the FO is wondering, too.
- Brandon Moss hit his sixth homer in nine games for Oakland tonight...just sayin'.
- Congrats to Neshannock, which won the PIAA-AA softball title with a 5-4, extra inning victory over Warrior Run.