Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bucs Roll Into All-Star Break With 13-2 Beatdown Of Giants

AJ Burnett looked like he was gonna have an easy opening frame, getting a pair of routine outs. Melky Cabrera hit a pop into short left; Clint Barmes had it measured. But he saw Drew Sutton coming in and pulled off; Sutton stopped on a ball that belonged to him. He couldn't corral the carom, and Cabrera had a single and error to put him on second. Buster Posey walked on a 3-2 pitch before Pablo Sandoval popped out to third. The miscommunication didn't cost a run, but it did add eleven pitches to AJ's count.

Tim Lincecum's road woes continued. He K'ed Sutton, then fell behind Neil Walker 3-1. The Kid drove a fastball into the right field corner for a double. The count was 2-2 to Cutch, who belted a hanging off speed pitch yard over the center field wall to put the Bucs up 2-0. Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee squared up on balls that found their way into Giant mitts to finish the frame.

The Giants went down quietly in the second.  The only Bucco noise was a one-out double hitting the base of the wall in left by Rod Barajas, who was left stranded. AJ put the Giants down in order in the third for seven straight outs. The Pirates added another run when The Kid blasted a hanging curve to dead center and deep into the hedges in front of the batter's eye. Lincecum rallied after that, whiffing Cutch and Jones with changes, by far his most effective pitch. But with a wild 89 MPH heater, flat slider and no curve to speak of, the pitch loses a lot of its effectiveness, and it's the only one he has today.

San Fran was put away as they came up again in the fourth, with AJ helped by a nice grab and spin play by Walker. Not so the Bucs. McGehee opened by singling hard up the middle. Pedro roped a liner to right that was pulled in just in front of the track. Hot Rod walked on a 3-2 count. Barmes dropped a flare into the grass that fell in as Angel Pagan was caught napping in center. AJ chased his mound foe when he guided a slider up the middle to drive home his first Bucco RBI. Clay Hensley took the ball. Sutton greeted him with a sac fly to right, with Barajas moving to third. The Kid dropped a dink into short center, and it was 6-0 Pittsburgh after four.

Burnett's roll continued; three G-Men up, three G-Men down in the fifth. The Bucs added on through no fault of their own. Jeremy Affeldt came on for SF, and was greeted by a single by Jones and opposite field double by Casey. He looked like he may escape when Pedro grounded out sharply to first and Barajas popped out. The Giants opted to work on Barmes, and he knocked an 0-2 change toward the hole. Kung Fu Panda nicely cut the ball off, but instead of taking the easy out at first, he tried to tag McGehee and missed (who may have been out of the baseline, but was ruled OK by the third base ump), giving the Bucs their seventh run.

Nate Schierholtz led off the sixth with a liner to center, ending the futility streak at thirteen. No problem; AJ started a new one, getting the next three batters routinely. Brad Penny came on, on had no more luck than the other Giant hurlers.

With an out, Walker hustled out an infield single, beating a high throw. Cutch took a shoulder high slider and tomahawked it into left. After Jones flew out, McGehee roped one into the left center Notch. Two runs scored as Casey limped into first with a mild groin strain; Gorkys Hernandez came on to run for him.  Gorkys took second on a wild pitch and scored when Ryan Theriot bobbled Pedro's hopper for an error and then threw wild trying to catch the speedy Hernandez at the plate for another one. Barajas paid the price for Hernandez's exuberance with the score as it was, getting clocked on the shoulder with the next pitch. Hey, there's no mercy rule in MLB!

Posey led off the seventh by knocking a curve to right for a two bagger. Sandoval got a 3-2 sinker on the inside half and bombed it into center to cut the lead to 10-2. With one away, Hector Sanchez drew a walk after a twelve pitch at-bat; that was it for AJ. He went 6-1/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with two walks and five K after tossing 104 pitches. Brad Lincoln took the bump. It took Bad Brad four pitches to send the game to the seventh inning stretch with a fly out and three pitch K.

George Kontas got the call for the Giants. After two routine outs, The Kid rolled his fifth hit of the day up the middle. Cutch caught a heater above the letters and ripped it to the right of the batter's eye for his second dinger of the day, and had to give the crowd a curtain call after he made it 12-2 Pittsburgh. Lincoln mowed down the Giants, helped by nice glove work by Hernandez and Jordy Mercer.

The Bucs put up one more - the second was their only scoreless frame - when with one out, Pedro drew a 3-2 walk. He went to second on an excuse-me grounder by Barajas. Brad Lincoln grounded a ball through the hole. Justin Christian came up to play it as El Toro pulled up at third, and it rolled through him to chase the third baseman home.

Lincecum is a mystery; he still leads the league in swing-and-miss % and averages over 9K per game. But his control is spotty, his velocity down, and his walks up to nearly five per game with his overall ERA double what it was a year ago, and a road ERA of 8+.  But hey, the way the Bucs are cookin', it might not have made much difference. This team looks ready to make a run this summer.

For AJ, it was win #10 as the Bucs head in all directions for the break. They reconvene Friday in Milwaukee for a three game set. Pittsburgh is now 48-37 and guaranteed to be the NL Central leader going into the All-Star break. And forget Cutch as just a MVP candidate; he may end up with the Triple Crown, too.

  • Neil Walker's hitting steak is now at an even dozen games. Drew Sutton's string ended at seven.
  • For Walker, it was his second five hit game; for Cutch, it was his seventh multi-homer contest.
  • 28,954 was today's paid attendance.
  • Cutch told the media in the pre-game interviews that he would get his old prep coach, John Spradlin of Fort Meade HS, to pitch to him during the HR Derby. Pretty cool choice, we think.
  • After the Bucs' are done, grab a beer and tune in to the All Star futures game at 5 PM on ESPN2. Gerritt Cole is slated to pitch and Jameson Taillon is also on the roster.

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