Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bucs Haunted By Ghost Of PNC Past, Lose To Maholm And Cubs 5-1

J-Mick got the start he wanted, freezing David DeJesus with a two strike hook. Not so hot for Starlin Castro, though, who launched McDonald's first pitch heater over the fence in center. The next two Cubbies went down quietly by bouncer and whiff, and it was 1-0 Chicago as the Bucs jogged in from the field. Paul Maholm got Drew Sutton swinging on three pitches, the last a hook in the dirt. A pair of ground outs by Walker and Cutch finished the Bucs in the opening frame.

McDonald had a clean second, although Geovany Soto almost matched Castro when he ripped an elevated first pitch fastball to the wall in center where Cutch pulled it in. Maholm ticked the Bucs in, too. He's sharp early on, avoiding the middle of the plate and staying down. J-Mick's curve is on so far, so we might be looking at a lot of pitching again tonight. 

The Cubs were retired in order again. Good thing McDonald's fastball has some action today; it's been his first pitch to every Cub that's hit except Alfonso Soriano, who saw nothing but curves. The Bucco futility ended with two outs when J-Mick drew a 3-2 walk. Didn't help; Sutton went down swinging again. After three, it's still 1-0 Chicago.

McDonald went soft in the fourth, relying mainly on his hook, and it was another 1-2-3 frame for eleven Cubs in a row. The Bucco righty has five whiffs, but still is only at 46 pitches. Maholm almost watched Cutch tie it when he rocketed a one out, 3-2 curve toward the Notch, but it was pulled in just by the bullpen fence by David DeJesus. The game was knotted after the next batter, Garrett Jones, caught an under-the-letters 1-2 fastball and yanked it into the right center field crowd. Casey McGehee joined the square-it-up club when he roped a 2-1 fastball into center, but DeJesus was there again, a busy guy this inning.

Soto drew a 3-2 walk with one away in the fifth. A fastball in the dirt skipped past Rod Barajas for a wild pitch, moving Soto to second. J-Mick caught a break when Darwin Barney turned on a slider and lined it right to Pedro. The eight hitter Luis Valbuena, with a .217 BA, was intentionally walked and Maholm was then unintentionally walked on four pitches. DeJesus caught a hook that was down the middle and banged it into right for a double to plate a pair. Castro grounded out, but McDonald gave the Cubs the lead right back at 3-1.

Pedro ripped a cutter on the line to first; the Bucs are squaring up on Maholm now, but can't find a hole. Barajas K'ed flailing at two curves; Hot Rod is having a brutal month. Clint Barmes drove one to the track in front of the bullpen, and PM escaped another inning.

Anthony Rizzo hasn't touched a J-Mick curve, but was started off with a fastball that he spanked into center for a lead off single. Rizzo stole second, his first MLB steal. Soriano had an even count after two heaters, then McDonald dropped a curve at his knees and watched it disappear over the fence; the Pirates insist on working him downstairs, and he continues to kill them. It's 5-1 Chi-Town in the middle of the sixth.

The bullpen got up and J-Mick sat down for Josh Harrison. He went six, giving up five runs on five hits (2 HR) and three walks, one intentional. He struck out five and threw 87 pitches. The Bucs went down in order. Barmes started the Bucs off with an infield knock, but was erased on the front end of a 6-4-3 DP rolled into by Gorkys Hernandez.

Jared Hughes climbed the hill for Pittsburgh. DeJesus got aboard with an out when Hughes dropped McGehee's toss on a grounder to first. He stole second, even after a pickoff toss and pitchout. Hughes got Castro swinging at a sinker on a home team check swing call and Rizzo bounced out. After two out in the Bucco half via the K, McGehee rolled a single to left. Pedro followed with a bloop knock into left. Barajas halted the party with a routine fly to center, and after seven, Maholm is cruising on a three hitter with six whiffs.

Brad Lincoln took the ball, and Soriano led off with a flare knock into right to open the eighth. But a strikeout and DP cleaned up that nicely. The Bucs led off with an infield knock by Barmes. He was erased on a 6-4-3 DP rolled into by Gorkys Hernandez, and Sutton K'ed to end the frame for the third time tonight.

Evan Meek took the hill in the ninth. After a pair of routine outs, he gave up a line knock to Reed Johnson, who stole second, and then walked DeJesus on five pitches. Castro lined out to center, and the Pirates were down to their last three outs. Carlos Marmol came on to do the honors.

Walker greeted him with a double and Cutch walked. The rally was short lived; Jones flew out and McGehee banged into another DP.

Bad day at the ranch. The bats and arms are regressing; J-Mick has a 5.60 ERA in July. But good news is on the way. Wandy Rodriguez is said to be a new Pirate, so reinforcements are on the way. That leaves them a week to find themselves an outfielder to add to the dugout, whether it be Starlin Marte or from the outside and whatever other bats may be floating around. They went through a spell without all cylinders clicking and got away with it; now they're building for the longer haul.

Ryan Dempster and Kevin Correia finish the series tomorrow afternoon after Zoltan tosses out the first pitch.

  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review tweeted he had heard that the Pirates bid for Shane Victorino got hung up when the Phillies asked for Brad Lincoln; the Bucs had offered Jared Hughes and a minor leaguer.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports's "Baseball Insider" writes that Hanley Ramirez would make sense for the Pirates, but gives no indication that Pittsburgh has any interest in the Marlin IF. We suspect they don't - his contract is awfully heavy ($31.5M for 2013-14) for a guy who's hit in the .240s for the past two years.
  • A couple more names to add to the fire: "The Angels are willing to offer outfielder Peter Bourjos for the right reliever. The Angels are also suggesting to teams that they would deal designated hitter Kendrys Morales," according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sport's "Baseball Insider." Bourjos is having a poor season, but Morales is one of a just a handful of 1B available.
  • The Bucs drew 32,497 on a Tuesday at PNC Park.
  • Ya probably could have guessed the bullpen was way up there: the Pirates' relievers ranked second in the MLB with a 2.58 ERA going into tonight. They had allowed just 16.7 % of their inherited runners to score, the lowest rate in the majors. The relief corps had recorded 35 saves and posted an 85.4% save rate, leading the show in both categories.
  • 17 year old Luis Heredia went five innings for State College, giving up a run on two hits with two K. He's 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA, not bad for the youngest guy to ever wear a Spike uniform.
  • Well, that was quick. Jason Kendall, 38, unretired on July 19th to sign with KC. He retired for good today.
  • Hal Sparks, aka Zoltan, tweeted that he is going to throw out the opening pitch tomorrow. Wear your bubble wrap.

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