Friday, August 24, 2012

Hughes Implosion Enough For Brew Crew To Hold Off Bucs 6-5

Holy Molly, a scoreless first! Wandy walked Ricky Weeks with one away, but got Ryan Braun to bang one to short for a 6-4-3 DP.  Mike Fiers got the Bucs on three groundouts, not a very good sign. That's what the guys did against Andrew Werner last game, another soft tosser, either rolling over or getting ahead and bouncing to their strong side. Let's hope they adjust to a 80-ish pitcher a little more quickly tonight.

Aramis Ramirez opened the second with a knock to center. Corey Hart brought him home on a double to center off a curve and went to third on a throwing error by Clint Barmes. Well, so much for that scoring first thing for the Bucs. Jonathan Lucroy singled him home, and it was 2-0 in a hurry. Carlos Gomez bounced a ball to short; Barmes muffed it. Jean Segura walked on a 3-2 pitch, and the sacks were full of Brewers, still with nobody out. Fiers, who was 0-for-20, helped by whiffing. Norichika Aoki kept the Bucs alive by tapping an 0-2 pitch back to the hill for a 1-2-3 DP, and the Bucs dodged a big bullet, even though down a pair. The Pirates went down in order.

With an out in the third, Braun spoiled a boatload of deliveries and drew an 11 pitch walk, Wandy's third. A-Ram and Hart both flew out, so Rodriguez survived another frame. The bottom of the Pittsburgh lineup all went down on strikes.

Rodriguez tossed a clean fourth. JT broke up Fier's streak of nine-in-a-row with a knock to center. Travis Snider sent a 2-2 hook into right for a double, with JT hitting the brakes at third. Cutch was clutch, lining a 2-1 curve into left to tie the game. GI went fishing and K'ed swinging.  Walker banged one back to the box and Fiers made the stop to turn two, finishing the frame.

After fanning Fiers to start the fifth, Wandy gave up a crushed double to right to Aoki, who stole third. Weeks fell behind 0-2, ran the count full, then smacked a curve to short, freezing Aoki. Braun was walked intentionally. Ramirez got ahead 0-2, fouled a couple off, then bounced to Pedro, so some smoke but no fire was generated by the Brew Crew. With one away, Hot Rod took a 1-2 heater to center for a knock. Barmes tried to turn on a slider, but was a little behind and flew out deep to center. Wandy whiffed and it was on to the sixth.

Wandy got ahead of Hart 0-2 to start the frame, but a couple of pitches later left a heater just below the belt on the outside half and watched it get knocked into center. He worked over Hart with a half dozen tosses to first while Lucroy was at bat, and keeping him close worked. He jammed the catcher and got a grounder to third that Pedro gloved to start an around the horn DP, the third in six frames. Gomez tried Pedro again, and became the third out.

JT had his third good at-bat of the night, drawing a 3-2 walk on a high change up. It was a quick trip to first; he was caught stealing three pitches later. To make things more frustrating, Snider worked a walk, taking a tight 3-2 fastball. Fiers got Cutch swinging at a slow curve and GI waved at one that was high and tight to finish an inning that never quite took off.

Segura caught a Wandy heater that he left up and drilled it deep into center, but Cutch was there to wrap leather around the ball. Fiers dropped a bunt down the third base line and earned his first MLB hit when the ball hugged the chalk and refused to roll foul. Aoki forced him at second, on a 9-6 as Jones threw the pokey pitcher out from right field. That was it for Wandy.

He went 6-2/3, giving up three runs on six hits with four walks (one intentional) and three K, tossing 100 pitches. We notice he likes to work up in the zone and doesn't get many swings-and-misses; seems like a correlation there. Anyway, Jared Hughes came on and plunked Weeks to set up Braun, who he lost on four pitches; it was Braun's third walk of the night. His second pitch to A-Ram was a heater, inside corner on the knees, and Ramirez cleared the bases by blasting it to right center by the Xfinity sign for a double.

Cutch went down as he slid into the wall trying to save the inning. His knee was OK, but the Bucs weren't; it was 5-2 Brew Crew. Hughes got ahead of Hart 0-2, ran the count full, and gave him a heater that he banged into center for another run. Hughes stayed in, got up on Lucroy 0-2, and got him to roll out to short. But Milwaukee was up big now, 6-2. And it all started with a bunt that wouldn't take a left turn.

After Walker and Alvarez struck out looking, Hot Rod was determined to swing the lumber, and he turned on a knee high slider and belted it over the wall in left, his first long fly in five weeks. That brought on Jim Henderson, who got Barmes to bounce out.

Chad Qualls toed the rubber and put away the bottom of Milwaukee's order routinely. Francisco Rodriguez took the ball to face Josh Harrison and the top of the order, which he retired 1-2-3. Clint Hurdle called on Hanny to pitch the ninth, a curious call though he probably could use the work. He worked a clean inning, although a couple of balls were squared up.

John Axford came on to close it out for the Brew Crew. Cutch worked him for a 3-2 walk to open the frame. Jones joined him on the bases five pitches later as Axford was having problems locating the strike zone, tossing four high and wide to GI. After getting ahead 2-0, Walker fouled off a heater and took the next into left, plating Cutch and putting Bucs at first and second for Pedro.

He became the first out, swinging through a 3-2 heater that was borderline black, a pitcher's pitch he couldn't take with two strikes. Jeff Clement hit for Hot Rod, and went down swinging at a 96 MPH fastball up in the zone. Mike McKenry, in an 0-for-21 slump, was the Buc's last hope. He fought Axford for eight pitches before singling to center off a heater, scoring Jones and moving The Kid to third.

That hit chased Axford, setting up a Kameron Loe-Gaby Sanchez match. Loe tossed him four heaters for an even count, and then snapped off a hook to get him swinging. The Bucs fought hard, but again dug themselves too deep a hole to get out of.

They need to get back to the disciplined approach they had in July; they're becoming pull happy. It may have to do with the string of soft tossers they've seen as the hitters seem to handle the power guys pretty well. But against the nibblers, they're yanking too many weak grounders and strikeouts; they went down another 13 times tonight. One thing that can't be said about this team is that they lack heart, but they better rediscover the approach that made them so dangerous for six weeks. There is an opposite field.

As for the bullpen, it's never regained its equilibrium since Brad Lincoln left and the Pirates decided to carry an extra starter. To add to the reconstruction job, it looks like the Pirate management isn't very confident of throwing the young guys in the fire. Hisanori Takahashi, 37, should join the team tomorrow as the second lefty. If we were wagering, we'd guess Jared Hughes goes down; he's in the midst of a long overdue regression and the FO seems to have a jones for Chad Qualls.

Shawn Marcum takes on Jeff Karstens tomorrow night.

  • Until tonight, Wandy Rodriguez had never lost four consecutive starts in his career.  But since beating Milwaukee 6-3 on July 7th, he's gone 0-7 in his last eight starts.
  • The Pirates have gone 36-12 this season when scoring the first run of a game, but have done that in only three of their first 22 games in August. 
  • The Pirates have now struck out 10 or more times in 43 games this season, tied with the Nats for the most in MLB.And yep, it happened again - Mike Fiers tied his career high w/10 strikeouts.
  • The attendance  was 37,197, the Pirates 14th sellout.
  • For all the complaints about the base running, the Bucs have the MLB's second fewest men thrown out on the bases with 30 and are in the top five in taking the extra base, which they do 43% of the time. Now if they could only steal a sack... (Thx to Tom Singer of for providing the link.)
  • At Indy, LHP Jeff Locke threw six shutout innings, allowing four hits and one walk, and striking out six.
  • RHP Luis Heredia tossed five innings for State College, giving up a run on three hits with four K.


WilliamJPellas said...

Locke is clearly ready. I freely admit I was not a fan of his when he was acquired---as my "Two Thumbs Down to the Nate McLouth Trade" article detailed---but Locke has proven to be highly durable and highly effective in the minors, and he strikes out enough enemy hitters to make me curious to see what he can do in the big leagues. Again, the Pirates have a number of assets that have reached maturity in Triple A. There is no point in keeping guys like Locke, Wilson and, before he was traded, Rudy Owens, down on the farm any longer. Either play them or trade them but cash the chips in one way or another. Use the assets. It's time.

Ron Ieraci said...

Agreed, Will. The FO is still in collector's mode, it seems. And I always found it odd that other GMs claim that Pittsburgh overvalues its prospects, yet won't bring them up. Maybe puffery, but still makes you wonder what standard they use.