Monday, July 23, 2012

Samardzija & Soriano Silence Bucs 2-0

Well, the buzz on the field is whether Ryan Dempster is a Brave or Cub; as of the National Anthem, he was still in a Chicago uni. Erik Bedard had other things to worry about, like finding his May mojo. He didn't locate it against Reed Johnson, walking him on five pitches. Starlin Castro got ahead 3-1, let a juicy heater sail past him, then softly lined out to Garrett Jones in right. Anthony Rizzo hit a rope, but it was right at Clint Barmes. Then Alfonso Soriano got ahead 3-0 on Bedard, but went down chasing a curve three pitches later. An opening walk on the wild side, but so far, so good.

Jeff Samardzija ended Alex Presley's streak of getting on to open a game at four when he got him to fly out to center. Neil Walker swung through a 3-2 splitter. Cutch got nothing near the center of the plate and drew a five pitch free pass. Garrett Jones caught a knee high 0-2 splitter and gave it a bop, but it was run down at the wall in right center by Johnson.

Bedard pitched a clean second, getting another K on the hook. Casey McGehee got ahead 2-0, then rolled ball three to short. Pedro flew out to right on a towering ball that he got just a bit under. Rod Barajas went down swinging, with the last two pitches down and away. Doesn't look like one of the Bucs' "let's be disciplined" nights at the dish, at least during the first go-around against J-Sam.

The third was another 1-2-3 for Bedard, with a pair of K. Samardzija also put the Bucs away, though a ten pitch at bat by The King resulted in a fly to the fence in straight center. J-Sam is susceptible to the long ball, and the Pirates have been a hair away from three of them so far tonight.

Castro broke up Bedard's nine consecutive out streak with a 3-2 walk to begin the fourth. Anthony Rizzo went down hacking at a curve. Soriano got the first hit of the game, and it was a big one, as he drove a low heater to the track in center for a double to bring home Castro, ending a 28 inning scoreless streak for the Cubs. Bedard nailed the next pair, K'ing Geovany Sota to end the frame with Chicago up 1-0.

After a long fly to center by Walker, Cutch got aboard when he smacked an 0-2 splitter on the outside black off Rizzo's glove at first for a knock, helped greatly by J-Sam forgetting to get to first. Cutch took off on the ensuing 2-2 pitch and was cut down trying to steal second, and Jones popped out a pitch later to end the frame. It was one, two, three for Bedard again in the fifth with two more K; he now has eight whiffs in five frames. After a pair of ground outs, Hot Rod took one to the track in left; it was another loud out, and through five, the Bucs have one infield hit off Samardzija.

The top of the Cub order came up in the sixth, and sat down just as quickly; Bedard fanned another pair. The Bucs went down without a peep.

With two away in the seventh, Soto got the second Cub knock when he turned on a heater and lined it into left. Joe Mather went down swinging at a hook. Bedard found that mojo tonight. he went seven, giving up a run on two hits with two walks and eleven whiffs, tossing 113 pitches. But he'd get no help tonight; the Pirates went down in order again.

Chris Resop climbed the hill for Pittsburgh in the eighth and picked up where Bedard left off, putting the Cubs away in order with a K. Samardzija had another shut down inning, and just hit the 99 pitch mark.

In the ninth, Resop got ahead of Castro 0-2 on hooks and gave him a heater on the outside black that he rolled into center for the Cubs third knock. With Rizzo up, Clint Hurdle waved in Tony Watson. He whiffed the rook on a slider. But Soriano came through again, taking a knee high sinker on the outside half to right center for a double to bring home Castro and make it 2-0. He's a notorious low ball hitter, and made the Bucs pay twice when they went downstairs.

Tony Campana came in to run; he went to third when Watson threw a pickoff toss into center. David DeJesus went down hacking at a slider a foot off the plate; in fact, Watson never threw a ball near the strike zone to DD. Hurdle must have noticed; he brought in Evan Meek to face Soto in his first Pirate outing since late May. Not too surprisingly, he walked Soto on five pitches. It took nine pitches this time, but Meek walked lefty Luis Valbuena to load the bases. With no action in the Bucco pen, it's on Meek to close the frame. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Darwin Barney swung at the first pitch after back-to-back walks and bounced out to leave it at 2-0.

Carlos Marmol came on to tuck in the Pirates. He got ahead of Josh Harrison 0-2 with tight heat and tried to put him away with a slider, but he got enough to roll it to short for an infield knock. Drew Sutton grabbed a stick. Marmol got up on him 1-2 and fed him a slider he couldn't reach for the first out. Marmol tossed three sliders at Presley, getting him swinging. Walker hit a heater to short, and that was the game. When Marmol finds the plate, he's a beast.

Hey, it's been 31 games since the Bucs have been shutout, and Samardzija was gassing it at 97 in the eighth. J-Sam has long ball issues, and the handful of balls the Bucs barreled up on fluttered down on the track instead of over the fence. But he's a guy with control issues too, and the Pirates gave him a lot of help; only Presley and Pedro had consistently good at bats tonight.

The Pirates didn't exactly square up against Miami either, and their plate discipline, so good for a six week span, is morphing back to its free swinging ways. Lately the club has taken first pitch strikes, expanded the hitting zone, gotten into pitcher's's time to take a breath and get back to what gotcha here.

It's homecoming as Paul Maholm goes against James McDonald tomorrow night.

  • The Pirates hadn't been shutout since June 15th against the Indians, 2-0, against Justin Masterson with Chris Perez finishing up. 
  • Erik Bedard tied his season high in K with 11, matching the mark he set May 3rd against the Cards.
  • Tonight's attendance was 27,586, the biggest Monday night crowd in PNC history.
  • John Wagner of has a piece on Starling Marte, including his feelings on not yet being called up.
  • OF Greg Polanco is getting noticed by the baseball community, says Ben Badler of Baseball America. He adds it's a big year for international players developing in the Buc system, like Alen Hanson, Luis Heredia, Harold Ramirez and Jin-De Jhang.
  • Karen Price of the Tribune Review asked Paul Maholm how he'd feel if the Pirates traded to get him back. “It would be ironic to leave as a free agent and then they wanted me back. There are rumors, and we will see how it turns out. My next two starts are against them. It should be an interesting 10 days.” Maholm is 4-0 with an 0.89 ERA in his past five games.

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