Friday, August 17, 2012

Mac Back; Bucs Grind Out 2-1 win

The first two Bucs singled off Jake Westbrook; didn't do much good. Starling Marte beat out a dribbler to third, showing off his great speed. Then he got picked off first base, showing his not-so-great base stealing mojo. Travis Snider added a knock, but Cutch and Garrett Jones were retired for an opening goose egg.

James McDonald walked Jon Jay on five pitches, not exactly the start he wanted. It did brighten up when he coaxed a grounder to short on an 0-2 heater from Allen Craig for a 6-4-3 DP. Roy Holliday bounced out, and was zeroes after one. Since J-Mick had allowed 10 first-inning runs in his past six starts, it's a promising opening round.

With one down in the second, Pedro took an 0-2 slider to right for a single. Barmes grounded a 2-2 pitch to third to start an around-the-horn DP; the Bucs sure aren't leaving many runners on in the early sledding. McDonald out away the middle of the Card lineup, punching out a pair.

Westbrook's sinker is working; the 8-9-1 guys all grounded out in the third. J-Mick took care of the bottom of the Red Bird order, adding another two K to his count.

Snider started the fourth by drawing a 3-2 walk. Cutch took a sinker to center and Jones did the same with a first pitch heater to load the bases. Westbrook helped things along by skipping a sinker past C Tony Cruz to score a run and move everyone else up a station. The Fort bounced to short; Raffy Furcal mishandled the ball and the bases were juiced again with Pedro at the dish. This time Cruz couldn't glove a change up, allowing another run to plate and advancing the runners.

Pedro tapped back to the hill and Jones was caught off third and lost on a rundown. Barmes banged to second for an inning killing 4-6-3 DP. The Bucs plated a pair, but left some big ducks on the pond. After a whiff to open their half, Craig yanked a heater to left for a double. Bucco base running must be contagious; Craig was gunned by McKenry going to third. Holliday popped out, and it was 2-0 Pittsburgh after four.

The Bucs went down in order in the fifth. With one away for the Cards, David Freese singled to right. With two outs, J-Mick lost Tony Cruz on four pitches, but whiffed Furcal looking on a quite generous call. With an out in the sixth, Cutch took a walk on a 3-2 change up, but stayed on first. The game would be much more comfortable had the Buccos cashed in once or twice more in the fourth.

With two away, after 3B coach Jose Oquendo got the boot complaining over a couple of borderline strike calls, Craig walked on four pitches. J-Mick came back to fan Holliday, but his velocity s down a couple of notches, from 93 to 91, and his control is a little less sharp after 87 pitches.

Pedro dug out a 1-2 slider and pounded it into center for a lead off two bagger in the seventh. Two outs later, with El Toro at third, Yamiaco Navarro grabbed a stick for J-Mick, and bounced out to second. McDonald had a nice outing, going six scoreless frames, giving up two hits, three walks and K'ing seven. And it was a good call to get him out of there; he leaves with something to build on after laboring in the sixth.

Chris Resop climbed the bump to face the 4-5-6 batters of the Red Birds. Carlos Beltran led off by knocking a curve into left for a single. Freese turned on a heater and doubled to left, putting Cards at second and third with no outs. The bleeding was stemmed a bit after a Daniel Descalso fly to left. Cruz bounced a 3-2 heater to second to score Beltran and move Freese to the hot corner. Clint Hurdle handed the ball to Juan Cruz to face Furcal, and it worked as he coaxed a quick, two pitch pop out. It's 2-1 Bucs with six outs to go.

Westbrook was still on the hill, and after two were gone, he lost Cutch on a 3-2 sinker down. With Jones due up, lefty Marc Rzepczynski got the call. Westbrook was at 110 pitches, but was strong tonight - he only allowed two outs in the air - and he may have been working on a shutout if Molina was behind the dish tonight. Cutch went to second on a wild pitch, but GI lost the battle to Rzepczynski, going down on a foul tip. Jason Grilli came on for the eighth, with Gaby Sanchez taking over at first as part of the inevitable Clint double switch. Grilled Cheese had a clean inning, fanning a pair.

Fernando Salas did the honors in the ninth. He put the Bucs away neatly. One note; Pedro got under a 3-0 heater and popped out, but it's nice to see him get the green light and go after aggressively a pitch in the hitting zone. It'd be even nicer to see Hanny have a drama free close, though he's facing the middle of the Red Bird lineup in the ninth.

Holliday caused a little jump in the pulse rate when he drove one deep to right, but Snider had it measured. Beltran walked on five pitches to put the winning run at the dish. Hanny finally got a Card to go after a slider, whiffing Freese. Descalso fought him for eight pitches, but lined a heater to Cutch, and the Bucs are off to the start they needed for this road trip.

Hopefully, McDonald is back; pitching is what fills the dance card. Hanny and Grilli were back to their old nasty selves, and though the Bucs had to grind (1-for-8 with RISP), they came away with  a very nice win. McDonald is 11-5 and Hanny notched his 34th save.

Erik Bedard faces lance Lynn tomorrow afternoon.

  • Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post Dispatch has written off the Bucs, writing "Hey, it was fun while it lasted." 
  • In a bit of a statistical oddity, the Bucs won today's game without a single RBI - the runs scored on a wild pitch and passed ball.
  • St. Louis has gone down 21 times by one-run decisions so far this season; this is their second straight 2-1 loss.
  • The Pirate pitchers ended a ten game stretch of yielding 5+ runs.
  • Neil Walker (finger) sat out for the Bucs and Yadier Molina (back) for the Cards tonight. Both are day-to-day but iffy for the series, with Molina being the better possibility to make an appearance. It's safe to say both were missed by their clubs today.
  • RHP Jameson Taillon's first start in Altoona will be Sunday. He was just moved up a level from High A Bradenton.

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