It started off well enough for Wandy Rodriguez, who whiffed Stephen Drew looking, but went downhill in a hurry. The K was followed with a double off a first pitch heater by Aaron Hill. He didn't waste much time at second; Jason Kubel looked at one heater and left the yard in right with the next to make it 2-0.
The Bucs came back in the second off veteran lefty Joe Saunders. Gaby Sanchez dropped a two-strike fastball softly into left for a knock. Neil Walker ripped another heater to right to put Bucs on the corners. The Fort chipped in by lining a curve to left to plate Sanchez; the runners moved up on a Travis Snider groundout to second. Jordy Mercer hit a sac fly to knot the score. Wandy Rodriguez reached on a dropped throw at first that would have been the third out, and it cost the Snakes when Starling Marte singled home the go-ahead run.
Pittsburgh tried to get to Saunders again in the third with back-to-back knocks by Cutch and Gaby to open. They were stranded, and the Pirates started a futility streak of fourteen straight batters retired by the lefty. The game would stay 3-2 until the top of the sixth.
Chris Johnson lined a one-out knock and came home ahead of Wil Nieves, recently claimed on waivers by the D-Backs. He dropped his second long fly off the year over the fence in the left field corner, catching a hanging curve. Longballs at the bottom of the order have haunted Wandy; he gave up a two run dinger to Mat Latos last outing that cost him the game.
Rodriguez left the game after that frame, going six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks with two fan jobs, tossing 93 pitches. Jared Hughes came on, and all the tongue-waggling in the world wouldn't help him. With an out, Hill singled on a ball hit to the SS hole. Kubel caught a back door running fastball and drove it into the Bucco bullpen in left center to make it a 6-3 game. With two away, Justin Upton doubled, and Clint Hurdle tapped his left arm for Jeff Locke. He would be a bright spot, retiring the next seven hitters.
But it was to no avail. The Bucs had a shot in the seventh off David Hernandez when Marte tripled with two gone. Josh Harrison popped out on a high heater on a 3-2 count; a walk there would have brought up Cutch as the tying run, but it wasn't to be. The last two innings went by quietly, with only a Sanchez single, and the Snakes left town with a split.
The Pirates may want to think about situating their bullpen during the stretch. Jason Grilli appears to be going through a dead arm period and Hughes' regression is in full swing. The back end needs some help; maybe Juan Cruz can give it a boost or one of the Indy arms. But they sure can't be carrying six starters for long and dealing a short hand to the relievers who have carried the team on its collective back.
It wouldn't hurt to have Wandy kick it up a notch. In three games with Pittsburgh, he's 0-2 with a 4.73 ERA and 4 homers against, and that's not the performance the Bucs were looking to get from the veteran lefty. Rodriguez took his seventh loss in his last eight decisions today while Kevin Correia won his seventh straight decision Wednesday night. Don't read much into it yet. There's a lotta campaigning to go yet, even if the early returns aren't so hot.
The lineup will have to find itself, too. It had been in a comfort zone for the past two months as far as knowing everybody's role on the team, but now there's a little bit of experimentation going on to see where the new guys fit in. The Pirates will be unsettled until the pecking order is reestablished. How do they work out the Jones-Snider-Sanchez time? Josh Harrison hasn't done much with his brief opportunity this series; is Pedro going to settle back into the lineup full time? Will The Fort and Jordy Mercer see more action? Stay tuned. The answers not only will impact the pennant chase, but next year's roster, too.
Edinson Volquez and James McDonald will open the San Diego set tomorrow night.
- Mike McKenry has a nine game hitting streak.
- Pittsburgh exports are everywhere. Kirk Gibson, Arizona's manager, played on the last Pirate team to make the postseason as a short-time member of the 1992 Bucs.
- Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated likes what's going on with the Bucco attack.
- David Manel of Bucs Dugout: "The offense deserves almost complete credit for 24 percent of the Pirates' wins and almost total blame for 26 percent of the losses. The pitching/defense deserves almost complete credit for 25 percent of the total number of Pirates' win and almost total blame for 17 percent of the losses." Follow this link to his post.
- West Virginia LHP Zack Dodson was suspended for 50 games because of substance abuse. The games lost will run into the start of the 2013 season.
- Mt. Lebanon's Don Kelly of the Tigers cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA Toledo by Motown.