Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bucs Score 4 Without A Hit, Win 5-1

The Fish were off and running against AJ Burnett. With one out, Emilio Bonifacio rolled a ball up the middle and promptly stole second. He got the next pair of Fish routinely, but that might be a storyline tonight. AJ's leg kick makes him a tempting guy to take off on, and Miami was 4-for-4 last night on the basepaths.

Alex Presley opened with a nice little at bat against Carlos Zambrano, working a nine pitch walk. Neil Walker followed by taking a splitter away the opposite way into left off 3B Greg Dobbs' glove for a hustle double, putting Buccos at second and third. The Big Z got Cutch swinging, fishing for a couple of pitches that were down and in. Garrett Jones rolled a shoe-top high splitter to second to plate The King, and the Bucs had an early 1-0 lead.

AJ fell behind Justin Ruggiano 3-1, came in with a heater, and watched it disappear over the Clemente Wall to tie the game. With an out, Omar Infante knocked one up the middle. Burnett cleaned up nicely, getting John Buck to bang a first pitch fastball to short to start an inning ending 6-4-3 DP.  Pedro opened the Buc second by ripping a sinker on the outside black into center. Z dodged a bullet when Rod Barajas roped a 2-2 sinker right at the third baseman. Clint Barmes was jammed and bounced into a force. AJ closed his eyes and drew a four pitch walk. Presley got a pitch up, but couldn't make the Fish pay as he popped it up.

Burnett went to full counts on two of the first trio of Fish in the third, costing him with two away when he lost Bonifacio. He came back to finish Carlos Lee on a slow roller to third, and his pitch count is OK so far at 42. With one away in the Pirate third, Cutch legged out a grounder to short, and Jones drew a five pitch walk. It led to naught: Casey McGehee went down swinging at a 3-2 splitter, and Pedro popped out behind the dish on the next pitch. A couple of things to note: the Bucs are working the Big Z, who's at 64 pitches. And if you're a lefty, be ready to hack away - plate ump Dale Scott has a very wide outside zone. Oh, and the Bucs are already 0-for-6 with RISP and stranded five.

Dobbs singled to right off a 2-2 heater with two down in the fourth before AJ put away Infante on a fly to Cutch. Hot Rod started off the Bucco at bat by getting plunked by a curve. Barmes proved to be a pest; he fouled off pitch after pitch until the eleventh delivery hit him, too (maybe out of frustration). The beaned batters hurt Zambrano; AJ's bunt was thrown away by Buck, and Barajas scored as Barmes steamed into third. Presley drew a four pitch walk; it might be getting near meltdown time for the Big Z.

He stayed on the hill to face Walker after a chat with pitching coach Randy St. Claire. The Kid lifted a sac fly to left for the first out. Cutch took a five pitch walk to load the sacks again. Jones drew a 3-2 walk to bring another run home. That did Zambrano in; Chad Gaudin got the call to join the fray. And hey, wouldn't ya know it - he walked McGehee on five pitches. Gaudin came back to K Pedro looking on one of Scott's wide, but consistent, strikes. Hot Rod K'ed too, helping Gaudin by swinging through a couple of pitches out of the zone. The Bucs put up a four spot without a hit - heck, the only balls put between the lines were a bunt and sac fly - to go up 5-1. They have three hits, are 0-for-8 with RISP, left 8 aboard after four innings, and still have five runs. Go figure.

Burnett enjoyed his rest after the long frame; he finally threw a clean inning, fanning a pair. Barmes led off the Pittsburgh fifth with a floater to left for a knock, and AJ dropped one down to advance him. Presley's grounder moved him to third. Walker K'ed swinging, and it's on to the sixth. The Marlins got a two out double from Logan Morrison in the sixth, but it caused no damage other than to break up AJ's little streak of consecutive outs at six. Gaudin was loose, too, tossing a 1-2-3 frame.

Dobbs opened the seventh with a bloop knock into center. AJ had the answer again, getting Infante to roll a sinker up the middle where Barmes was stationed for 6-3 DP. Buck grounded out, and Burnett has recorded 13 ground outs so far and at 91 pitches (The Big Z threw 97 in 3-1/3 frames) has another inning left in the tank. Gaudin has done yeoman's work saving the Fish pen; he put the Bucs away neatly again.

Gorkys Hernandez got his cue, entering as a defensive replacement in the eighth. With one away, Jose Reyes grounded a double into the RF corner. Bonifacio was caught looking, but Lee got aboard on an infield single that The Kid knocked down but couldn't finish. That was the prompt for AJ's curtain call, who left to another home field ovation with a wave of the mitt. He went 7-2/3 innings, giving up a run on eight hits and a walk with three K, delivering 104 pitches. Brad Lincoln climbed the bump, as Jordy Mercer went to short as part of the obligatory Clint Hurdle two-fer. Bad Brad K'ed LoMo, and there were three outs to go.

Heath Bell came on to give Gaudin a well-deserved blow, and was greeted with a Mercer triple off the left center bullpen fence, just shy of his first big league homer (it was his first MLB triple). An out later, Walker went to first after drawing a 3-2 walk to put Bucs on the corners. Cutch went down swinging at curves for his third K of the night; even Superman has a bad day at the office. Hernandez didn't get a chance to bring his Indy teammate home; The Kid was caught stealing.

Lincoln put away the Marlins, giving up a two out single to Infante while punching out another pair. Raise the Jolly Roger; 39,000+ were dancin' to the victory fireworks. Congrats to Brad Lincoln; it was his first MLB save, the sixth Pirate to earn one this year, along with Hanny, Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli, Jared Hughes and Chris Resop. That's some versatile bullpen. And don't forget AJ; he's 11-3 and still undefeated at PNC Park.

The Pirates had five hits. Cutch whiffed three times. The team stranded 10 and were 0-for-12 with RISP. And they won easily. Looks like these guys aren't going away. Miami's Anibal Sanchez will try to prevent the sweep tomorrow when he takes the hill against Jeff Karstens.

  • The last team to score 4 runs in one inning without a hit before the Pirates turned the trick tonight: the Oakland A's on Sept 23rd, 1998, against Seattle. It was the first time the Marlins have allowed that line in their franchise history; they're probably hoping the last, too.
  • The Pirates expected a good turnout tonight, and they got one. When the turnstiles quit spinning, the Bucs had the fifth-largest crowd in PNC Park history of 39,411 fans.
  • The Bucs led MLB in runs scored in June and are on top again so far in July. The last time the Pirates led the league in runs scored in consecutive months was in August/September 1974, according to Dan Potash of Root Sports
  • The Bucco team streak of 10 games with a long ball ended tonight.
  • Pittsburgh is now 18-9-4 in series this year, with three sweeps and looking for a fourth tomorrow.
  • Something to watch for: John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times writes that a scout told him this about Jose Tabata at Indy "He looks completely disinterested, even more disinterested than when he was in the major leagues. You don't have to watch him long to realize he doesn't want to be there."
  • The Orioles DFA'ed Steve Pearce. His 2012 line was .254/3/14 in 71 AB with a 105 OPS, but he was caught in a crunch following the pick-ups of Jim Thome and Omar Quintanilla.

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