Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bucs Walk Off With 8-7 Win

AJ Burnett made quick work of the first two Astros before his outfield let a couple of balls drop. Alex Presley froze on a two-strike flare to left by Jed Lowrie, and his late sprint and dive came up short. Carlos Lee hit a high slicing fly to right; it landed just fair as Drew Sutton didn't have the wheels to get to it. Fortunately, it bounced over the railing for a ground rule double, and Lowrie had to stay at third. Scott Moore had an even count at 2-2, looking at hooks, and AJ blew a heater past him to end the frame.

Lucas Harrell had an easy first. He gave up a two out infield chopper to Cutch for a soft knock, but his two K more than offset that.

With one away in the second, the Astros small-balled a pair of runs. Bogusevic hit a chopper up the middle; Walker grabbed it but made a weak, off line throw with his back to first; Clint Barmes was behind him and had the better shot but the pair weren't on the same page. Bogusevic stole second as Chris Snyder drew a five pitch walk. Harrell killed a bunt up the third base line, and Casey McGehee's feet went out from under him as he fielded the ball, loading the sacks. Jordan Shafer fought off an inside heater, dumping it softly into right for a run scoring knock, and Jose Altuve lifted a curve to right to plate another. But it could have been worse; AJ again stranded runners at second and third after Shafer stole second without a throw.

The Bucs went down meekly again, with two K and a pop out.

The 'Stros opened the third with back-to-back doubles. Lee took a fastball to right and kept chugging as Sutton got to it. He beat the throw easily when Sutton slipped trying to make the peg to second, barely reaching the cutoff man. Moore doubled into right, almost over first base on a grounder that was better placed than hit, rolling past a diving Jones. AJ manned up after that, whiffing the next pair swinging at curves. Snyder was intentionally walked to get to Harrell, who tapped back to the mound. It was 3-0, and that's with the Astros stranding six, with five in scoring position, over three.

Harrell struck out the side in the third. Like Jordan Lyles yesterday, he's painting the corners early; we'll see how the Pirates fare the second time around.

The Astros continued to wear out right field against Burnett. With and out, Altuve rolled one past first and steamed into second; he probably had two bases off the bat, but just to make sure, Sutton dropped the ball. Then Lowrie hit a broken bat bloop into right; Sutton's weak throw was cut off and it was 4-0. AJ finally got Lee, who rolled over on a hook and bounced into a 6-4-3 DP.

We're not trying to bang Sutton, who is, after all, a utility infielder. But he's a fish out of water in the outfield, and unfortunately a ball magnet tonight as Houston keeps going that way. It's not that easy a field to master at PNC; Brian Bogusevic, Houston's regular OF'er, was tortured by it last night, especially the Clemente Wall.

But Sutton's in there for his bat, and started the Bucco half with a single. He trotted home after Cutch caught a sinker on the outer half and buried it among the Clemente Wall seats to cut the Houston lead in half. After another pair of whiffs, McGehee and Rod Barajas banged back-to-back singles to left, but Barmes popped out to shallow center to end the frame.

AJ tossed a clean fifth. Gorkys Hernandez came into the game in left, replacing Presley who banged his head on his first inning dive and was suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Harrell K'ed the first pair of Bucs - he has 11 now, his career high - then gave up a weird hit to Sutton. He rolled one softly to third; Harrell cut off his 3B'man Moore to take the ball, and then tried to make a throw while flipping in the air - and hit Moore in the back with the toss. It didn't hurt (except Moore). He got Cutch to bounce out to short on a fastball after falling behind 3-0.

Snyder led off the sixth with a double to left. Harrell laid down a nice bunt with two strikes that Barajas couldn't get out of box quickly enough to play for a knock to put runners on the corners. Shafer softly dropped a curve that was down and tight into right to make it 5-2, and that was it for AJ. He went 5 IP, giving up six runs on twelve hits with two walks and five K, tossing 91 pitches. Burnett didn't get squared up often, but Houston found the holes against him tonight. Chris Resop took the ball and let the sixth run in on a bunt and sac fly before getting the third out.

Jones and Walker started the sixth with consecutive knocks. McGehee lined a two strike sinker to left, and it 6-3. That was it for Harrell; Fernando Rodriguez entered the contest. Barajas K'ed swinging; he only saw one strike during his at-bat. Then Pedro grabbed a stick to hit for Barmes. He fell behind 0-2, but kept battling. The runners moved up on a short wild pitch, and El Toro took the eighth ball he saw hard up the middle to plate the pair. Two grounders ended the frame, but after six, it was a 6-5 ballgame.

Juan Cruz climbed the hill for Pittsburgh. He did his job, retiring Houston in order with two whiffs. Brandon Lyon came out to work the seventh for Houston. The Bucs used a dink and a blast to claim their first lead of the night. With one out, Cutch hit a chopper to short and beat a not particularly strong throw for an infield knock. Snyder set up away for Jones, but the heater was down and in, and he launched it completely out of the stadium, clearing the Clemente Wall crowd and giving the fans a curtain call.

Jason Grilli took the bump for Pittsburgh in the eighth.The Bucs were in no doubles mode, and good thing. Chris Snyder started with a grounder inside the third base line, but McGehee was there for the backhand stop. After that, all Grilli needed on the field was Barajas; he struck out the next pair of Astros.

The Bucs went down in order; it's Hanny time. With an out, he walked Lowrie on five pitches. With two down, he had a full count on pinch hitter Juan Castro. After a foul, Hanny tossed a back door slider that ran into castro, and he lined it into right to tie the score with Lowrie on the run. This time, the no doubles D cost the Bucs; Jones was on the line, and the ball was hit toward the hole, where he'd be stationed regularly.

So it's on to the bottom of the ninth, with Wesley Wright facing the top of the order. Hernandez went down swinging on a back foot hook. Sutton got a hung curve on a 1-1 pitch, and he banged it 407' over the center field fence; bet he knows what Zoltan means now. Oh, and it was his first homer since 2010, when he was a Cleveland Indian.

Both clubs banged out 13 hits tonight, but there was one big difference. Houston had six doubles and Pittsburgh had three homers. The total bases may add up the same, but the results sure don't.

Pittsburgh had a lotta heroes tonight. Cutch's homer to get the Bucs going, Sutton's walk off, Jones with a go-ahead dinger, Pedro's terrific at bat culminated with a two run knock, four innings of one-run ball by the bullpen...hey, let's play another tomorrow.

And we will. Dallas Keuchel will take on Kevin Correia to kick off the Fourth tomorrow afternoon.

  • AJ's personal eight game winning streak may have been snapped, but his team streak continues - the Pirates have won the last 11 games he's started.
  • Andrew McCutchen had a string of six straight hits ended in the fifth, when he bounced to short.
  • Cutch and Drew Sutton both had three hits tonight, two singles and a homer each.
  • The Pirates have homered in 11 straight games. That's the longest streak since 1994, when the Pirates went long 13 consecutive games in late June-early July.
  • The Buccos have now won six of their last seven games.
  • The Pirates are now eight games over .500, their highest mark since the last game of 1992.
  • Attendance for the game was 21,516.

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