Friday, July 27, 2012

Astros Implode In Ninth; Pirates Rally For 6-5 Victory

Well, Jordan Lyles saw last night that feeding Starling Marte a meatball was a bad way to begin a game. He jumped ahead of him 0-2 on heaters and got the rook to bounce a curve to short. Odd at bat for Alex Presley; he never took the bat off his shoulders and K'ed looking at 4 pitches. Cutch grounded a hook to short, and it was an easy opener for Lyles.

Jeff Karstens whiffed Jose Altuve fishing for a nasty curve that started at his shoulders before breaking into the dirt. An out later, Chris Johnson drilled a slider to the left center gap between Marte & Cutch for a two bagger. Scott Moore hit a little foul pop behind the plate, and it was scoreless after a frame.

Garrett Jones opened the second by going down, whiffing on a 2-2 heater away. Neil Walker sat down, swinging through a 93 MPH center cut fast ball. Pedro bounced to third, and Lyles is off to a hot start.

JD Martinez got the game's first knock when he sent a curve through the SS hole. Justin Maxwell softly singled to right to put Astros at first and second. Ben Francisco rolled a 2-0 pitch into center, and Houston was up 1-0 with runners on the corners. Karstens K'ed Chris Snyder swinging at a curve.

Lyles was up, and ran a squeeze on the first pitch to put Houston ahead 2-0, reaching first on the play at the dish. Maxwell lunged past McKenry, who had fielded the ball on the line, then touched the plate on a leaping reach back before the second tag landed, per ump Alan Porter. He was close to being tagged before he scored, when he scored, and also being out of the baseline. But he eked by on all counts. Altuve hit into a force and stole second, but Martinez flew out with Houston up 2-0.

The Bucs went down 1-2-3; Chris Johnson cranked a curve yard for the Astros in the third to make it 3-0.

The Bucs did better the second time around. With one down, Presley yanked a 1-2 heater into the right field stands, and Cutch doubled. But a pair of grounders left him at third; it was 3-1. Karstens got ahead of Francisco 0-2, fed him a curve, and he barely sneaked it into the Crawford boxes; it took a review to stand. But stand it did, and it was 4-1 Houston after four.

Pedro led off the fifth with a line knock to right. Lyles worked McKenry down and away. He tossed three straight curves to The Fort, and the last ended up in the left field seats on the line as he too found the friendly Crawford boxes. The next trio of Bucs fanned, but it was a 4-3 game. After a K, Johnson drew a 3-2 walk and was wild pitched to second. Scott Moore was issued a five pitch free pass; even the strike call was iffy. After a fly out, he lost Maxwell on a 3-2 pitch. JK rediscovered the strike zone, and wiggled out of the jam with a grounder from Francisco.

Presley opened the sixth with a leg hit to second that Altuve couldn't handle cleanly. Cutch popped to right. Jones singled to right and alertly took second as the the throw went through to third to set up Walker. But he swung at a heater well outside the zone and rolled it third, freezing the runners; not a very good at-bat for The Kid. Pedro went down swinging at a curve in the dirt, and the Bucs refused to answer opportunity's knock.

Chris Resop came on for the Bucs. JK went five innings, giving up four runs on six hits with three walks and six K, tossing 88 pitches. Not a great outing; he had a lot of movement, as the K's (and W's) testify to, but also left a lot of balls uncharacteristically over the plate. With two down, Altuve lined a 2-0 heater to left for a knock off Resop, but didn't advance.

Lyles worked the count full to The Fort to open the seventh, and tried to blow a knee high inside half heater past him; McKenry turned on it and roped the ball into the left field corner for an opening double. That was it for Lyles; Francisco Rodriguez came in to take the mound. Barmes, who had struck out twice, bunted McKenry to third. Josh Harrison grabbed a stick. He fell behind 0-2, then got a waste pitch up and away that he lifted into left to bring home McKenry and knot the game. F-Rod started off Marte with a pair of curves to get ahead 0-2, then froze him with 95 MPH gas to catch him looking.

It was Jared Hughes' turn to take the bump. He fell behind Johnson 3-1, came in with a four seamer, and it was whacked atop Tal's Hill for a leadoff triple. Moore grounded out to first, with Johnson holding. But he left a sinker up to Martinez, who bounced it between the second base bag and short past a infield that was drawn in to plate Johnson and give Houston the lead once again at 5-4. On a 2-2 pitch, Maxwell took a four seamer tight and at the knees and bounced it up the middle on a nice bit of hitting to put Astros at first and second.

Francisco went down swinging at a sinker. Snyder, the eight hitter batting .178, drew a five pitch walk to load the bases. Matt Downs hit for Rodriguez. Ray Searage visited the bump, no doubt to tell Hughes to throw some #*! strikes. He fired a first pitch heater down the middle, and Downs spanked it to Pedro, who stepped on the bag and ended another bases juiced episode by the 'Stros.

Lefty Wesley Wright came in to face the 2-3-4 spots of the Pirate order. With an out, Brad Mills got cute; he put Wright in the outfield and brought Wilton Lopez in to face Cutch, who rifled a tight 0-2 sinker to left center for a double. Wright returned to the hill and got Jones and Walker out routinely. Tony Watson got the call from Clint Hurdle. He threw a clean eighth, fanning a pair.

Francisco Cordero has been blowing saves at a monumental rate, so Mills stuck with Wright. He whiffed Pedro on four pitches, and that was the cue for Rhiner Cruz to enter the stage. McKenry battled him, and on the seventh pitch lined a slider into left for a knock, his third of the night. Jordy Mercer took his place at first. Drew Sutton, who's been in a funk of late, pinch hit for Barmes and took a five pitch walk to bring up Casey McGehee. He drew a 3-2 free pass, getting the call on a fastball tickling the outside black, to juice the sacks for Marte.

That was it for wild child Cruz, who had been hunting his first MLB save (he closed in the minors). Xavier Cedeno toed the rubber with the top of the order due, bases loaded and one away. Marte bombed a two seamer at the knees to deep center, and the tying run scored on the sac fly with Sutton moving to third after the catch, which would prove to be large in a hurry. Rod Barajas hit for Presley against the southpaw, and watched the first curve bounce off Snyder toward the dugout to bring in a sliding Sutton and move McGehee to second. Hot Rod popped out on a 3-2 pitch, but the Bucs had taken a 6-5 lead.

OK - Barajas catching now, Mercer at short, Sutton in right (why not Jones there and McGehee at first?) and Hanny on the hill. Moore saw nothing but gas and went down swinging. Martinez poked at a 3-2 heater on the outside edge; it glanced on Jones' mitt (he was on the line, playing no double D) and dropped into right to keep the Astros alive; Jordan Schafer came on to run. He stole second on a fastball in the dirt; good choice of pitches to run on, and the play was still close. Maxwell went down swinging at a high and tight heater for the second out. Bogusevich was late on a fastball down the middle; his pop into short left was gloved by Pedro, and the Pirates had another come from behind win in the books.

You have to feel it for Houston; they're in a place Pittsburgh has frequented for years. This is the third time in the past four games they've lost a ninth inning lead and their eleventh straight loss. But it's sure better to be on the sunny side of the MLB street, where good things happen instead of the roof falling in on your head. And it was a timely win; the Reds beat the Rox 3-0 to maintain a two game pad over the Pirates. Pittsburgh has won 8-of-10 and still lost a game in the standings during that span.

It was Hanny's league leading 31st save, and Tony Watson has quietly claimed his fifth win.

Wandy Rodriguez will make his first Bucco start against Armando Galarraga, who was recalled for tomorrow's game to take Rodriguez's spot in the rotation. Gotta be weird for Wandy, making his first start ever in a uni that doesn't say Astros at Houston against Houston.

  • Jordan Lyle tied his career high of K with eight, which he first set against the Bucs on June 16th of last year. 
  • Starling Marte started a lot of HR trivia. Who were the two Pirate managers to homer in their first big league at bat? None other than Chuck Tanner (4/12/1955 vs Gerry Staley of the Reds as a Milwaukee Brave) and Gene Lamont (9/2/1970 vs Cal Koonce of the Red Sox as a Detroit Tiger).
  • Altoona's RHP Phil Irwin has been feelin' it lately. Tonight, he tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up two hits, a walk and K'ing 9 in a 2-0 win.
  • Whoops, there goes another Central Division ace: The Brewers sent Zack Greinke to the Angels for hot prospect SS Jean Segura and Class AA pitchers Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg.

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