Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Buc Train Keeps A' Rolling With 6-4 Win

OK, Kevin Correia got the Bucs off to a good start with a 1-2-3 first; his fastball has been up, but a couple of somewhat loud outs were tucked away by the OF to go with an opening K. Dallas Keuchel did the same, getting an opening whiff to start a clean inning.

Carlos Lee opened the second with a knock to left through the hole. Scott Moore banged a first pitch hook into right to put Astros on the corners. Juan Castro cashed in with a sac fly to left. JD Martinez kept the parade marching when he poked a two-strike hook well off the dish into right for a bloop single, with runners again anchored at first and third. Brian Bogusevic rolled a 2-0 changeup into right to bring home another run and send Martinez to third. Keuchel tried to squeeze Martinez home; it didn't work, and a fly ended the frame with the Astros up 2-0.

Casey McGehee drew a 3-2 walk to open the Pirate half. Garrett Jones fell behind 0-2, got a cutter outside and flared a soft hustle double into center to put Bucs at second and third. It was his second straight knock off a lefty after an 0-for-months hitless string. Keuchel showed Pedro an array of curves, and eventually lost him on a 3-2 pitch with an empty base at first to bring up Mike McKenry. The Fort got ahead 2-1 and banged a changeup into deep center, plenty long enough to score Casey and advance the other runners when Shafer's throw went to third instead of second. There's been some seriously good baserunning this inning.

And some more to come:  Barmes fell behind 0-2 on curves, fouled a couple more off, then got a heater down the middle that he spanked for a single. He drew a throw from home after Shafer missed the cutoff man and got into a rundown. Pedro, who had stopped at third, headed home and scored while the Astros tried to trap Barmes (and the tag looked like it was with an empty glove). Good answer frame; the Bucs are up 3-2. Houston was tossing the ball around like it was little league tryout day. Shafer got a seat on the bench after the inning, so either his ill-advised decisions with the ball didn't sit too well with Brad Mills or he's hurt, no word yet. That puts old Bucco Brian Bixler in right and Bogusevic in center.

With one out in the third, Jed Lowrie fought for a seven pitch walked. KC worked over Lee on the inside half with fastballs, got ahead 0-2 and got him to end the inning with a 4-6-3 DP. Keuchel tucked the Bucs away in order; KC did the same to the 'Stros in the fourth. Correia has been efficient, sitting at 54 pitches.

After one away in the Bucco turn, Jones bounced a knock into right; suddenly he's a lefty monster. Pedro walked on a 3-2 pitch. The Fort dug himself an 0-2 hole, then got a curve that he roped into the left field corner to plate Jones and make the score 4-2. McKenry pulled into second as Pedro stopped at third. Barmes couldn't bring Pedro home, popping out to short. KC hit a ball fairly well to right, but Bixler was there for the grab.

KC tried to work leadoff guy Bodusevic tight; all four pitches missed inside. Keuchel fouled a pair off, but did a nice job advancing Bogusevic by laying down a two-strike curve. Correia hung a pair of sliders to Bixler. He took the first and roped the second into left to put Astros on the corners. Altuve fell behind 0-2, took a waste pitch, then rolled over on a heater away for a swinging bunt on the left side that brought in the run. At the halfway mark, it's 4-3 Pittsburgh.

Sutton began the fifth by knocking a 2-0 fastball on the outside black into right for a two-bagger. Walker pulled a curve to third, and Sutton held on the 5-3. Keuchel tried to work the edges against Cutch, fell behind 3-1 and threw ball four intentionally. McGehee went down looking for the second out. Jones popped out swinging under a hook; they've let a couple of chances to add on in the past two innings get away.

With one away in the sixth, Moore rolled a two-strike changeup into center. A groundout moved him to second with two away. There he stayed as Martinez popped out to Jones. In the Bucco half, McKenry singled with an out. Keuchel tried hard to walk Barmes, but he'd have none of it, eventually flying out to center. Eric Fryer came on to hit for KC.  He got ahead 2-0 and rifled a single into right. That was all for Keuchel; Fernando Rodriguez came in to face Sutton, and got him on  a gentle roller to third.

Correia went six, giving up three runs on six hits, two walks and a K (to the first batter), tossing 82 pitches. He hasn't made it to the seventh since late May, but probably would have today if the team could have small balled a couple of extra runs for him. Brad Lincoln climbed the hill for Pittsburgh in the seventh and Gorkys Hernandez took over patrol duties in left.

Bogusevic had a great at bat against Lincoln. He saw nothing in the center of the dish, and battled for seven pitches before cracking a curve the opposite way for a knock. Chris Johnson, who's been out with a back strain, grabbed a stick. Bad Brad caught him looking at a curve. Bix popped out. Bogusevic swiped second as Altuve batted. He rolled one up the middle; Walker got to the ball but couldn't get the out, putting Houston once again in their familiar runners on the corners scenario. It quickly became second and third after Altuve stole second. Lincoln fell behind Lowrie 2-0, got a gift strike call and eventually retired him on a weak roller to first.

Between innings, Carlos Lee was pulled; maybe the Astros finally found a taker for him. David Carpenter got the call on the mound for Houston, and Walker greeted him with a knock into right. Cutch lined one up the middle, with Walker hitting the brakes at second. McGehee flew out to left. Fernando Abad came in for Houston; Mills wanted a lefty mano-a-mano with Jones and Alvarez. Jones banged a curve to first; Matt Downs, who just replaced Lee, booted it to load the sacks. Pedro is not the dude you want up in that situation, and he drilled a curve up the middle to knock in another pair of runs for Pittsburgh. Funny game: Abad struck out the two righties that followed. Nice to have that cushion built to 6-3 after seven.

Jason Grilli answered the call in the eighth. The Astros didn't hit a ball between the lines against him. Pedro and Gorkys, who showed some serious wheels, ran down foul pops and Grilled Cheese K'ed Castro. The Bucs cranked out three routine fly balls in the eighth, and it was once again Hanny time.

Nice thing, that cushion: Martinez smoked a heater over the left field wall to make it 6-4. It was just a tease. The next three guys went down in order, and the Jolly Roger was unfurled again. KC won his fifth game and Hanny picked up save #21.

Since late May, the Bucs have had winning streaks of 12-of-15, 6-of-7, and now 7-of-8. That's some very good baseball. We'll see if they can keep it rolling when Jeff Karstens goes to broom Houston against Bud Norris tomorrow afternoon.

  • The Pirates are in first alone right now, pending the results of the Reds late game against the Dodgers.
  • Garrett Jones & Pedro Alvarez went 3-of-6 with two walks, three runs, and two RBI against the Astro lefties today. Oh, and no K.
  • Mike Waterloo of Ohio Valley Athletics reports that "Jordy Mercer is in the Pirates clubhouse pending activation," so we'd guess either Hot Rod is at 100% and Eric Fryer's stint is finished or Alex Presley is headed to the DL. They may also just want him close at hand until the FO sorts out who's in and who's out, and may end up back with Indy.
  • The Bucs are 10-1-1 in their last twelve series. Their record is 45-36 at the halfway post of the 2012 season.
  • The Bucco homer string was snapped at eleven games.
  • Today marked Jason Grilli's 300th career appearance.
  • The Bucs drew 36,827 fans to PNC Park, their seventh sellout of the season.
  • Joel Hanrahan has blown three saves this year, and the Pirates have come back to win all three games. In fact, Hanny was credited with two of the victories.
  • Alex McCarthy has a piece on the Pirates' three amigos at Indy, Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, and Justin Wilson.
  • Carlos Lee was pulled because of a trade; he went to the Marlins.


WilliamJPellas said...

I dunno, Ron. Hanrahan definitely looks a lot more hittable this year than he did previously. I don't think there's any question that right now, Jason Grilli is the far better pitcher. I'd almost be inclined to make a real splash by dealing Hanrahan as part of a package, and letting Grilli-Cruz-Hughes close for the rest of the season. The Pirates don't figure to sign Hanrahan, anyway, and besides, he'll cost too much.

The trouble with that scenario, of course, is that Grilli was never this good until the past year and a half in Pittsburgh. Now, maybe he's a late-blooming veteran and maybe he's just benefiting because he's finally healthy, but he's also no kid anymore. So, you wonder if one day his arm will go ker-plooie and that's that. Still, some interesting scenarios are developing for the Bucs. Big decisions pending soon, no?

Ron Ieraci said...

Still not sure about the closer market, Will. Hanny may hang on til the off season. And I think Bad Brad is who they're grooming to take his spot, in 2013 if not this summer.