Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bucs Can't Cash In, Go Down 5-4

With one away, JT got it going against Jake Westbrook by shooting a single into right. After a Garrett Jones whiff, Neil Walker worked the count to 3-0; unfortunately, Tabata was caught stealing by Yadier Molina after ball three. That's quite a mismatch as JT is a subpar base swiper and Molina the premier catcher in the NL; oh well. So the Buc string of first inning scores - they plated 11 runs in the opening frame the past three games - came to a screeching halt.

Raffy Furcal opened the game against Eric Bedard with a bloop single, but the lefty went through the rest of the lineup easily to keep him planted. Bedard's hook is spinning and hanging in the early going, so he went to the hard stuff to get through the frame.

Neil Walker started the second with a knock the opposite way, and Pedro followed with a single off the mound and pitcher. Westbrook sandwiched a fly by by Clint Barmes around swinging whiffs of Drew Sutton and Mike McKenry to keep the Bucs at bay.

Bedard struggled through the second. After an out, he was ahead of Molina 0-2; Mike McKenry set up down and away, and the fastball was up and centered. Molina cranked it over the bullpen and 375' mark to give the Cards a 1-0 lead; kinda fitting, as it was Molina bat day in St. Louis. Shane Robinson flared a broken bat dink into right on a 3-2 pitch, and Tyler Greene walked on a full count. Westbrook bunted them over, but Pedro made a nice stop in the hole to toss out Furcal and end the frame. Bedard is working slow, bu hard; he's already at 45 pitches.

With one away in the third, Alex Presley tripled to left center, taking advantage off a hop off the concrete base that caused a brief outfield bobble. Westbrook made the play of the inning, though, when he backed up an airmailed throw to the hot corner and did a 180 to snag the toss, preventing Presley from scoring. The infield came in for ground ball machine JT, and he obliged by rolling one right at 2B'man Greene, freezing The King. Jones worked the count full and lined a shot toward the right field corner, nicely pulled in on the sprint by the fish out of water first baseman Allen Craig. Do the Bucs miss Cutch? Well, they're 0-for-5 with RISP after three.

Matt Carpenter fell behind 0-2, took a couple of balls and then rolled a knock into right. Matt Holliday bounced out, moving him to second. Allen Craig saw a pair of hooks; he fouled off the first one and the second was above the knees, down the middle and became a souvenir as he deposited it over the center field fence. David Freese followed with a line single. Jones collected the second out with a long over the shoulder catch of a foul hit in no man's land, and Presley iced the inning with a running grab of Robinson's bloop. 3-0 Cards after three.

The bottom of the Bucco order came through in the fourth. Walker led off with a single, and an out later Drew Sutton doubled to right. Craig looked like a first baseman, trying to slow down near the wall and bouncing off it, dropping the ball in the process. That put runners at second and third, and Barmes poked a two strike offering that was well away between three fielders in right, scoring The Kid. The next pitch was a fastball down the middle, and The Fort drove it a dozen rows deep in left center to give the Bucs a 4-3 edge. Bedard responded with his first 1-2-3 inning, fanning a pair. Still, he's at 75 pitches on a steamy afternoon.

 Westbrook put away the middle of the Pirate lineup in the fifth. It didn't go as well for Bedard. He hit Carpenter in the hand and watched him score when Holliday took a changeup into left for a double. bouncing high off the wall and allowing the run to score. Sutton had problems corralling Craig's fly to left, allowing Holliday to tag and reach third. Bedard reached back and K'ed Freese on a hook, and then walked Molina intentionally. Robinson ruined the strategy when he hit one sharply up the middle, just beyond a diving Barmes, and the Crads had regained the lead 5-4.

That was it for Bedard. He went 4-2/3, giving up five runs on eight hits with two walks and five K, tossing 100 pitches. Chris Resop climbed the bump to face pinch hitter Daniel Descalso, who flew out to Presley. In a kind of odd double switch, Josh Harrison came in to replace Walker; maybe it's just to get The Kid a break from the brutal weather, though he is 2-for-3 this game.

The Bucs failed to cash in again in the sixth. Pedro walked, and after a Sutton K, Barmes dropped a bunt for a base hit, barely beating the throw on a nice fielding play by Westbrook. McKenry hit a ball on the nose, but right at Craig, with Pedro tagging to third. But Harrison tapped out to third to end the frame.

Resop put the Cards away on a couple of grounders and a K, highlighted by a barehand snatch and laser toss by Alvarez to retire Furcal. Marc Rzepcyznski came on for St. Louis in the seventh, and Presley greeted him with a single. JT promptly followed with a comebacker to start a 1-4-3 DP. Jones hit a ball to right center that Robinson dropped for a two base boot, and that brought on Mitchell Boggs to pitch. Casey McGehee grabbed a stick, and his fly to right center ended the frame. Even with the big frame, Pittsburgh is 2-for-10 with RISP. Lotsa chances, but few takers so far.

Juan Cruz lost Holliday after being up 1-2. After a long at bat, he caught Craig looking, and rung up Freese swinging on three pitches. Molina flew out to center, and the Bucs were down to their last two frames.

Pedro singled on an 0-2 pitch; after two changes, Boggs tried to sneak a heater past him. He was replaced by Eric Fryer; it appears that El Toro was cramping. Sutton followed with an infield hit; Freese made a diving stop to prevent the ball from going into left and becoming a double. Barmes bunted them up, but McKenry popped up a jam job. Matheny went to his closer, Jason Motte, in this situation to work on a four out save, and got the first easily on a Harrison pop out.

In the past three innings, the Bucs had the leadoff runner aboard; twice they had the first two hitters on base, and have come up with zeroes. It's tough sledding when Cutch and then Walker are on the pine. In the eighth, Fryer went to left, Sutton to second, and Harrison to third with Tony Watson on the bump. He faced the minimum, ending the inning with an unlikely around the horn Harrison to Sutton to Jones DP.

The Bucs had the top of the order up in the ninth, but Motte's last three outs would be just as simple - a pair of K and the predictable ground out by JT.

The team needed a decent start from Bedard and didn't get it, and the order generated chances, but went 2-for-12 with RISP.  McKenry's homer was the Buc offense, but he left six men on base in his other at bats. And to the Crad's credit, they made a couple of nice plays to save runs. SAll in all, nice to take the series, and now it's back home to face Houston. James McDonald will take on Jordan Lyles tomorrow night.
  • Mike McKenry has a seven game hitting streak after his long ball in the third inning.
  • Eric Bedard became the thirteenth active lefty to register 1,000 K when he caught Matt Holiday looking on a backdoor cutter in the first.
  • For those wondering about RHP Evan Meek's work at Indy, he's 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 29-1/3 IP. His worrisome stat is 17 walks/24 K during that time.

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