Monday, August 27, 2012

Cards Take Opener 4-3

Looks like this is one big series that gonna start between the raindrops as it's a drizzly night in Pittsburgh.

It wasn't the greatest start as Pedro threw away Jon Jay's bouncer to open the game. But after getting Matt Carpenter to fly out, AJ kept the runner close and picked him off. Matt Holliday beat out an infield knock to second; Josh Harrison made a nice play but couldn't get the finish. Allen Craig tapped back to the mound, and the Bucs picked up Pedro pretty well. JT opened by rolling a Kyle Lohse curve to short; Travis Snider bounced a slider to second. Cutch squared up and lined out to center, and it was a scoreless first frame.

AJ tossed a clean second frame. Ditto for Lohse. And it looks like the lefties are gonna have to hack; their outside zone goes beyond the black, as Pedro discovered when he went down looking. The third was another routine inning for AJ, and Lohse had no trouble with the bottom of the Bucs lineup. Hopefully the Pirates will adjust to a little wider zone; Lohse has three K, and two were looking at pitches a little off the black; only Burnett went down swinging. Usually hacking isn't a problem with the Pirates...

Ahead of Carpenter 1-2 to start the fourth, AJ lost him with pitches away. Two outs later, he was on second after advancing after a nice barehanded play by Pedro on a slow roller by Craig. AJ fanned Beltran swinging as he kept going further downstairs with every pitch.  JT took a fastball away to right for the Bucs first knock. Snider got the second, yanking a 3-1 change up away to right to put Bucs at the corners. Cutch lined a single to center, and the Buccos had their first run. Jones couldn't move the runners up, flying out to center on a full count. Pedro singled to right to load the bases. Harrison fell behind 0-2, but lined a ball to left to bring home Snider after a nice running grab by Holliday. Barajas flew out to right, but the Bucs were on the board first and up 2-0.

Yadier Molina began the fifth with a 3-2 knock the opposite way. On a 3-2 pitch, Skip Schumaker rapped a fastball to center to plate Molina as Cutch had trouble getting his footing in the wet pasture (he later said he turned his ankle on the play). AJ is falling into the same trap as Lohse faced, falling behind guys. Maybe the big strike zone lulled them into a false sense of security.

After a wild pitch moved Schumaker to third, AJ fanned Raffy Furcal on a full count slurve. It was of no value, though, after Lohse rolled a ball past Burnett into center to knot the score. Carpenter doubled off the wall, but a pair of strong throws by Cutch and Harrison cut down Lohse at the plate; it's 2-2 going into the bottom of the fifth. Amazing how quickly two pitchers that were cruisin' can lose it.

Clint Barmes opened the Pirate half with a two strike knock to right. AJ popped out trying to bunt, but it worked out when Carpenter's throw to first got away and Barmes ended up on second anyway. JT flew out to right on a slider away and Snider pulled a bouncer to first.

Holliday got ahead 3-0, looked at a heater and went with the next, homering over the wall in right. Barmes threw away Craig's soft bouncer, allowing the runner to get to second. A Beltran grounder moved Craig to third. The Bucs decided with an open base to pitch to rather than walk Molina. That decision hurt when he got what he was looking for, a 1-2 pitch belt high and away, and went with it to right for a sac fly. And with that, the ground crew pulled the tarp over the field as the rains fell, a few pitches too late.

AJ went 5-2/3, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk with three K after 93 offerings. Jared Hughes took over after a 34 minute delay, not too bad a hold up but enough to end the starters' night. Schumaker greeted him with a single to right, but he coaxed a comebacker from Furcal. Lance Lynn toed the rubber for the Red Birds. He got into an eight pitch battle with Cutch, getting him eventually to fly out to center on a 3-2 pitch. So did GI and Pedro, and so it was 4-2 Cards after six.

With an out, Jay tripled to left; JT didn't get a very good jump on the ball. We're hoping that groin thing isn't still on his mind, though it's more likely a case of wet grass and slick footing. But Hughes bore down and got a grounder followed by a K to keep the score manageable.

Harrison opened with a soft single to short and went to second on Furcal's misthrow. He stayed there as Hot Rod was jammed and popped foul to first. Lynn stayed away from Barmes, who took a 2-1 heater to right for a double to cut the Card edge to a run. Jeff Clement grabbed a bat and flew out to left on a change up; the only heater he saw was a waste pitch. Fernando Salas trotted in from the pen to match up with JT. He fell behind 3-0, but came back to get a bouncer to first. It's 4-3 St. Louis with two frames to go.

Jason Grilli climbed the bump for the eighth. Craig started the ball rolling with a double. Beltran fouled out to Hot Rod for the first out. Molina flied out to Cutch, moving Craig to third. David Freese came up to hit for Salas, and Grilled Cheese sent him packing, swinging at a slider down to keep the Cards off the board.

Mitchell Boggs took the ball for the Red Birds. He whiffed Snider on a foul tip. Cutch yanked a slider to left to put the tying run aboard. GI bounced into a force. Mike Methany went to lefty Marc Rzepczynski to face Pedro. It kinda worked; he held him to an infield single. Methany must have a headset to Tony LaRussa; he brought on Jason Motte to face Harrison. He got a jump on a four-out save by getting Josh on a force.

Tony Watson got the phone call for the ninth to face the 8-9-1 hitters. After two tappers back to the hill and a bouncer to second, it was up to the bottom of the order/bench to scratch together a run. Motte got Barajas on a fly to fairly deep left center. Gaby Sanchez came up for Barmes, who had two hits while Hot Rod has none. He flew out to right, and The Fort was Pittsburgh's last chance. He went down swinging at a two strike heater outside the zone, and the Cards won game one 4-3.

It was a playoff type game. The Bucs hit the ball fairly well, but couldn't get enough to drop, a pity with the bullpen doing such a fine job after the rain delay. Now they're in a hole, and the next couple of games could go a long way to deciding how September plays out.

The Pirates haven't been able to cobble together a top or bottom of a lineup. The 1-2 hitters have a .244 BA/.283 OBP and 7-9, not including pitchers, have a .223/.282 slash. It's tough to score when you're giving two out of three innings away every night.

Jake Westbrook and James McDonald get it on tomorrow.

  • Neil Walker was a late scratch from the game with back tightness. Josh Harrison, who was starting at short, moved to second and Clint Barmes was added to the lineup. We'll know more tomorrow; Walker was sent home after an exam.
  • On a rainy Monday nite, 16,700 showed up at the game tonight.
  • Expect Starling Marte back later rather than sooner. He's eligible to return in a week, but hasn't swung a bat since he landed on the DL with an oblique injury.
  • Gerrit Cole went 6-1/3 frames giving up four runs on six hits with six walks and four K's, and throwing 110 pitches, a real rarity for AA starters.Worry about the walks if you will but not the runs; the Curve committed three errors behind him, and all the scores were unearned.
  • Bradenton 1B prospect Alex Dickerson was named the Florida State League Player of the Year, hitting .299 with 12 HRs and 88 RBI in 124 games.
  • The much traveled  Steve Pearce went from Houston to the Yankees for cash.
  • Surprise, surprise. Jerry Meals missed a call at 1B that broke up a no-hitter for Oakland's Brett Anderson. He did get to escape the heat tho, as Anderson gave up another knock for a two hitter.

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