Monday, August 13, 2012

Bucs Drop 5-4 Opener To The Blue

Hey, the Bucs got through the opening frame, breaking a six game streak of surrendering the first score. It was through no fault of their own; Matt Kemp doubled to right with two outs on a quite catchable ball that Garrett Jones, well, didn't catch. But Andre Ethier, after a hold your breath moment, flew out to Starling Marte at the wall, and all was well for Jeff Karsten and the Pirates out of the box. The Bucs went down routinely to Aaron Harang, but at least it was still an even game after one.

Good second for JK; two whiff's sandwiched around a long James Loney fly to center that Cutch tucked away. They put on the shift against  Jones, so he poked a heater to left for a leadoff knock. The excitement died quickly when Gaby Sanchez rolled an 0-2 sinker to second for a 4-6-3 DP. Pedro got an infield knock up the left side, catching a break on a bang-bang call at first. The Fort drew a five pitch walk in between a barrage of pickoff throws to first, but a Clint Barmes bouncer ended the frame.

AJ Ellis opened the third with a double off the Clemente Wall, and Harang dropped a two strike bunt to move him up a station. Shane Victorino got a 2-2 sinker down the middle and banged it into right for a two bagger and an LA lead. Mark Ellis battled through eight heaters and drew a walk; JK is working the black and the knees and not catching many calls. Walking the guy ahead of Kemp is usually not a good idea, and Matt banged a 2-2 fastball down the middle into center to plate Victorino. Ethier smacked the first pitch to right; Jones made a leaping grab to take away a double and caught Kemp before he could scamper back to first. Whew, but still 2-0 Blue with JK at 56 pitches.

Starling Marte delivered a knock to right with one away. Walker drove a blast to center, but it settled in Kemp's glove for a noisy out. Cutch walked on five pitches; both guys on the bump are getting squeezed tonight by Tim Tschida. Jones didn't waste all that speed on the sacks; he ripped a slider for a double to right to bring both the burners home and went to third on a throwing error. He was stranded there, but after three, it's a 2-2 game.

Karstens tossed a clean and quick fourth. Harang got through the bottom of the order giving up just a walk to Mike McKenry, but it was enough to turn over the order next inning and run his pitch count up to 77, thanks to a hard fought Barmes K that took ten offerings.

With one down in the fifth, Harang smacked a single to center. Victorino fell behind 0-2, ran the count full with a couple of pitches just missing, and then bombed a slider over the Clemente Wall to put LA back up 4-2. First Headley, now Victorino...hey, the Pirates couldn't trade for everyone on their wish list, could they? The Pirates sent up the top of the order and went down in order, although The Kid and Cutch both took balls to the left field track. With all the long fly near misses by both teams, it would be an interesting horseshoe match.

Ethier opened the sixth with a knock to right, but was left there. Jones started the frame with his third hit, a single to right. And just like in the second, Sanchez rolled a ball to second for a 4-6-3 DP. Pedro whiffed, and it was on to the seventh, without Harang, who was lifted for a pinch hitter after 99 tosses. Karstens put the Dodgers away 1-2-3, and was done. He went seven innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk with four whiffs, throwing 104 pitches.

Javy Guerra, the opening day closer who saved all three games against Pittsburgh in April and then had a knee scope in June, took the hill. He got McKenry swinging, survived a long fly out to right by Barmes and lost Josh Harrison after getting ahead 0-2. Marte kept the inning alive when 2B Ellis booted his grounder. Don Mattingly raised the right arm for Randy Choate. The Kid lined the second pitch up the middle; Choate stuck up his mitt and snapped the leather around the horsehide before the ball could reach center. Walker's hit the ball pretty well tonight, but has an 0-fer to show for his efforts.

Juan Cruz climbed the mound. After an out, he walked Kemp; better him than the guy ahead of him. Ethier got drilled with a pitch, and Hanley Ramirez drew a five pitch free pass to load the sacks; welcome to tonight's tight strike zone, Juan. Clint Hurdle called on Tony Watson to try to keep the game in hand. Righty Juan Riviera grabbed a stick in place of Loney, and singled in a run to center. Adam Kennedy rolled a 1-2 delivery to Pedro; he got the force at home. Watson fell behind AJ Ellis 2-0, but three pitches later sat him down looking. But the Blue added another run, making it 5-2 with six outs to go.

Ex Bucco farmhand Ron Bellisario took the ball in the eighth. Cutch greeted him with an 0-2 infield dribbler that went for a knock. Jones drove the next pitch, a sinker, to the Notch for his fourth hit, another double, and it was 5-3. Travis Snider took the stick for Sanchez and flied out to left. Pedro bounced out to third, freezing Jones. The Fort came through; his seeing-eye single to left plated GI. After eight, it's 5-4 LA.

Watson stayed on; pinch hitter Luis Cruz banged a lead off double to left center, and Victorino bunted him to the corner. That brought on Jason Grilli to look for a few swings and misses. He had it for Mark Ellis, fanning him on three pitches, blowing gas past him. It took him a little more work to sit Kemp down, but he went down swinging on a full count slider. Man, does this guy ever get to pitch against the bottom of an order?

Kenley Jansen came on to close; he fanned Rod Barajas on three pitches to start the ninth. Marte flew out to left and Walker popped out. The Buccos dropped the opener 5-4.

We know we're beating a dead horse, but carrying six starters and a long reliever along with Hanny who only comes out for a save is putting a huge burden on the bullpen plus it leaves the bench a man short. The FO may be crossing their fingers that the team can carry on into September, but with ten of the next sixteen games against LA and Saint Louis, it's pretty much crunch time.The players aren't fumbling the ball as much as management. Set a rotation, set the bullpen - Jared Hughes, Chris Leroux, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris and Evan Meek are all sitting by their phones at Indy - and stock the pine.

Chad Billingsley faces Kevin Correia tomorrow.

  • Pittsburgh has lost the opener in four of their last five series.
  • The turnstiles click 24,670 times tonight.
  • Mad scientists Clint Hurdle has reshuffled the already once shuffled rotation. AJ Burnett will go on Thursday against the Dodgers to keep him on his five day schedule. The revamped look starting tonight is: Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, Wandy Rodriguez, AJ Burnett, James McDonald and Erik Bedard. Our feeling is that any configuration that gets AJ the ball early and often is a good one by us.


WilliamJPellas said...

That's 3 losses in 4 games in what is arguably the most critical stretch of the entire season. The Pirates simply MUST start winning NOW if they are going to stay in contention for the second wild card spot; I've given up on the division. Losing to the Dodgers is like losing two games in the standings, not one, because LA is right behind us in the wildcard race. Not good. Not good at all.

Ron Ieraci said...

It's pretty simple, Will. The pitching has to carry them to the promised land. If they get it, they'll be OK. And if they don't, then they weren't a playoff team.