Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pirates Edge Astros 4-3

Armando Galarraga worked Starling Marte over with sliders on either corner and got him swinging. Didn't work quite that way on Alex Presley; his first pitch was a sinker and The King drilled it over the right field wall to make it 1-0 in a hurry. With two down, Garrett Jones smacked a sinker up Tal's Hill that glanced off Justin Maxwell's mitt and ended up with a three-bagger. Neil Walker caught a 2-0 slider away and hit it toward the left field notch, where it was hauled in. Still, nice to give Wandy the lead from the git-go in his first Bucco outing.

Rodriguez got the first two outs of his Pirate debut routinely before losing Chris Johnson on four pitches. No prob; he came back to punch out JD Martinez swinging at a curve.

Galarraga had an easy second. Pedro flew out just short of the track in right center while Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes both K'ed swinging at sliders. Wandy had trouble finding the dish. He walked Justin Maxwell on five pitches. He was up 0-2 on Ben Francisco, but eventually lost him when a 3-2 curve broke low. Brian Bixler bunted the pair up, and Carlos Corporan shot a liner to left to plate a run. Galarrago K'ed swinging in what should have been a bunt situation, and Jose Altuve bounced into a force to leave it at 1-1.

The first two Pirates went down quietly in the third. Presley drew a walk, but Galarraga got Cutch to bounce to third on a 3-2 change to end the frame.Wandy got the first pair of outs before losing Martinez on a 3-2 curve; the four walks in three innings are already the season high for Rodriguez. Maxwell lined a curve to Barmes to end the inning.

The Bucs regained the lead in the fourth. The 'Stros put a shift on Jones, leaving only the 3B on the left side - guess who Jones hit it to? Woulda been nice if he got on, as The Kid pounded a high, hung slider into the second tier in right. Pedro went down on a 3-2 curve and Hot Rod grounded out in the hole - Cutch would have had a double for the time it took - and it was 2-1 Pittsburgh. Rodriguez had a routine inning, only losing Brian Bixler on a five pitch walk in the process.

Pittsburgh left a runner on third in the fifth. Barmes led off by flaring an 0-2 pitch off the plate into right and Wandy bunted him over. Marte flew out softly to center. Barmes went to third on a short wild pitch, but Presley whiffed on an inside hook. Galarrago is not only the kind of pitcher the Bucs have trouble with, staying down and away, but is getting a generous strike zone against lefties.

Altuve opened with a knock to center. He was on the move when Matt Downs hit a sharp grounder in the hole; Barmes made a sweet diving stop, but had no play at first. A long fly and pop out moved Wandy within an out of surviving, but Maxwell took a curve down and away the opposite way. It barely eluded Presley's leap at the wall, and barely ticked the very top of the fence, ending up a triple to put Houston up 3-2.

Cutch opened the sixth with a knock. The Bucs got a break when Downs made a lunging grab of Jones hard rap heading past first, but then hit Cutch in the helmet with his throw to second. It was tough on Galarraga, too, as that play got him the hook from Brad Mills. Wesley Wright climbed the hill.

He got into quick trouble when he bounced a slider to Walker on an 0-2 pitch, hitting him in the ankle and loading the bases. He just as quickly got an odd DP - Pedro fouled a ball behind the dish, and the spin carried it forward. Corporan caught it just in front of the dish, stepped on home and threw to first. He had the runner at third easily, but acted on instinct. Good thing for Pittsburgh he did; a passed ball on a cross up - Corcoran was set up inside for a curve, and got a heater away - allowed Jones to score and tie the game. Altuve made a terrific over-the-shoulder grab in short right on Barajas' bloop to prevent further damage.

After two outs, the Astros got back-to-back knocks. Moore got an infield hit when a diving Walker short hopped the ball, but it ricocheted off him, followed by an Altuve liner to center. Down popped out and that was it for Wandy in fis first Bucco outing. he went six innings, giving up three runs on six hits with five walks and five K's, tossing 103 pitches.

Chuckie Fick took the hill for Houston in the seventh. Barmes lined a single to right to greet him. Wandy stayed in long enough to bunt him over. Fick had the baseball gods on his side; Marte ripped a shot to center, right at Maxwell, who lost his feet making the grab as the ball run back toward him, and Presley spanked a one hopper to Altuve's glove, and he escaped three squared up balls with no damage. Chris Resop took the bump for Pittsburgh and threw a clean frame.

Fick opened the eighth by putting Cutch aboard, missing on a 3-2 pitch. Jones dug out a sinker down and away and lined it into center to put runners on the corners. Fernando Rodriguez answered Mill's call. Walker popped out and Pedro was caught looking at a curve that was a little off the plate and called late. That made Pittsburgh 0-for-17 with RISP this series, a streak that ended when Barajas lined a single to left to bring home Cutch. Jones had broken on the pitch and kept chugging to third, where he was an easy out. But the Bucs were up 4-3.

Brad Lincoln came on, with Casey McGehee going to first base in Clint's two-fer. After two were away, he tried to blow an 0-2 heater past Corporan. It ran in, and he fought it off enough to bloop a single between Cutch, who was playing deep, and The Kid. Jordan Schafer came in to run and stole second on the first pitch. No problem; Moore popped out, and there were three outs to go.

Wilton Lopez tossed a 1-2-3 ninth; Jason Grilli came in for the save (Hanny has worked three straight nights and was scheduled for R&R). He struck out a pair in a clean inning, and you can raise the Jolly Roger.

It was Grilli's second save; he iced the game for bullpen running mate Chris Resop, who notched his first W of the year. Not much to say except it's a good time to catch Houston, and if the two teams traded bullpens, Houston might be up three games instead of down three.

James McDonald takes on Lucas Harrell in tomorrow afternoon's match, then the Bucs are off to Wrigley Field.

  • Pittsburgh is 58-42. If the Bucs finish out at .500 (31-31), they'll have an 89 win season.
  • Minor deal: Christian Marrero of the Braves was traded to the Pirates for Indy infielder Brian Friday. Friday has been assigned to AAA Gwinnett and Marrero to Indy. Marrero is a 25 year old OF/1B with a 2012 slash of .248/5/35 between Double and Triple A. Friday, 26, was an organizational depth player selected in the third round of the 2007 draft from Rice. He was hitting .232.
  • Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports: "The Pirates’ best remaining options appear to be Headley and Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino. Pittsburgh right-hander Brad Lincoln has been mentioned in the Pirates’ trade conversations for both Headley and Victorino, sources say. The Pirates may face competition from within the division to acquire Victorino: The Reds, looking for an outfield bat and leadoff hitter, are known to have interest in Victorino, as well."

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