Sunday, August 5, 2012

AJ Pitches Bucs Past Reds 6-2

Homer Bailey survived a pair of fly outs by Starling Marte and Neil Walker and got Cutch looking to open the contest. The ride was bumpier for AJ. After an out, he lost Drew Stubbs on a 3-2 pitch. He stole second on Burnett's first delivery to Jay Bruce and then scored when Bruce jumped on a heater down Broadway and lined it into left for a double. Ryan Ludwick then blooped a single into center off the end of the bat to put Reds on the corners. Ludwick got happy feet, but AJ tossed to first as he broke to second, and he was easily run down; Frazier K'ed looking, and it was 1-0 Reds.

Jones led off the second by lining a heater to right center. The Kid followed with a blast to right off a hanging curve, and the Bucs were up for the first time in the series 2-1. After two were down, Clint Barmes sliced a single to right to turn the order over. AJ K'ed, but tossed a clean frame when he got to the hill, getting a pair of grounders and a swinging whiff.

With one away in the third, Josh Harrison singled up the middle and Cutch drew a five pitch walk after driving a 3-0 pitch a few feet foul of the pole. Jones bounced out softly to first, advancing the runners, but Bailey pumped three low-90 heaters past The Kid to leave them stranded. It hurt. With two down, Drew Stubbs lunched a back door spinner to right; with the wind blowing gently out, it carried over Jones' outstretched glove and about two rows deep into the seats to tie the game.

The Bucs answered the bell. Gaby Sanchez lined a two-strike pitch softly to center, his first Pirate hit, and went to third an out later when Barmes dropped a flare into center. AJ bunted Barmes up. Marte took a pair of borderline strikes, then banged a curve that Bailey hoped to backdoor off the right field fence for a stand-up triple to put Pittsburgh back up 4-2. Burnett put away the 4-5-6 hitters quietly.

Cutch started the fifth by flying out to the 404' mark in center. Jones and Walker banged back-to-back singles before Sanchez flew out to left, just getting under a fastball and skying instead of smashing it. Rod Barajas was plunked to load the sacks, and Dusty Baker came out and flipped the ball to Jose Arredondo. Good call; Barmes struck out on four pitches. AJ cruised through the bottom of the lineup, picking up a pair of punchouts.

Alfredo Simon took the bump. After AJ K'ed, Marte lined a single to left center. On a hit-and-run, Harrison's grounder was knocked down to save a base, but there was no play to be made on him. The rain came down pretty hard with Cutch at bat; he worked the count full and flew out. Jones K'ed, and the Pirates ran their LOB count to nine and are 1-for-8 with RISP. AJ kept dealing; he's put away 10 straight Reds after six.

Simon navigated the seventh safely, giving up only a two-out knock to Hot Rod. It took Burnett four pitches to tuck away Cincy, bringing his total through seven to 74. With an out in the eighth, Marte was smacked with an 0-2 curve. Simon missed with a pickoff throw, and the youngster steamed into third, but was rung up by ump Brian Gorman on a phantom tag; maybe he read Jerry Meal's book. Anyway, the Reds dodged another bullet. But nothing is bothering AJ; he put down the Reds to run his consecutive out streak to 16.

Pittsburgh opened the gap in the ninth. Logan Ondrusek watched Cutch finally get all of one and lose it over the left center wall. Jones whiffed, followed by back-to-back rollers through the right side by Walker and Sanchez to put runners on the corners. Barajas bounced a DP ball to third, but it bounded through the wickets of Todd Frazier, and the Bucs were up 6-2.

The rains and AJ arrived at the same time in the ninth. After getting a pair of sloppy ground outs, Burnett lost both Bruce and Ludwick on 3-2 pitches. Hurdle came out of the dugout and raised the right arm for Hanny. AJ went 8-2/3, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks with seven K, serving up 103 pitches. And we have no problem with yanking him; AJ threw enough pitches, it's wet, and Hanny needs the work.

The Bucs needed a big game from Burnett and got it. Hanrahan didn't provide any drama today; he got ahead of Frazier 0-2 and got him on a pop to short right. The bleeding stopped, and the Bucs are on their way home. AJ won #14 and somehow Hanny got his 32nd save, tying him for the MLB lead.

Hey, it would have been nice to have taken the series, but the young Pirates held up well in the first crucible of the pennant chase. The house was rockin' in Cincy with 121,030 fans over the three games, they got past beanballs and nerves, and if a couple of breaks that went the Reds' way had fallen in Pittsburgh's lap instead, so might have the series. But for a team that's awfully wet behind the ears, it's all part of the learning process.

Arizona's Wade Miley takes the PNC bump against Erik Bedard tomorrow night.

  • AJ Burnett's 14 wins are the second most he's ever had in a season. His best year was with the Blue Jays in 2008, when he won 18. He's also tied for the NL lead in victories with Johnny Cueto and RA Dickey. One last bit of trivia: he's the Pirates first 14 game winner since Tom Gorzelanny in 2007.
  • Burnett is 8-0 in starts following a Pirates loss, and 4-0 when following consecutive defeats. That's how you define a stopper.
  • Cutch tied his career high in homers, set just last year, with 23. Ditto for Neil Walker, who had a dozen in 2010 and 2011.
  • Brandon Phillips was out of the lineup again for the Reds. Jonathon Broxton and Aroldis Chapman were also on ice after being used in the first two games.
  • The Pirates went 6-4 on this road trip, not bad considering that Pedro had no RBI on the journey and Cutch didn't get one until the ninth inning of the tenth game.
  • Ex-Steeler lineman Chukky Okobi, producer of "Buctown," visited the Root Sports booth durng the game. He said he had to jump in the car and get to Cincy Saturday after seeing Cutch get beaned Friday night. Now there's some backup; a 300 pound Steeler beats high and tight any day of the week.

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