Friday, August 10, 2012

McDonald Implodes; Headley Hammers Friars To 9-8 Win

James McDonald has been suffering through a recent case of the first inning blues, and he got it out of his system quickly tonight. His second pitch of the game was dropped over the Clemente Wall by Alexi Amarista, and the Padres jumped up 1-0 before the Buccos got to the bat rack.

The Bucs looked like they were going to roar back. Starling Marte got a generously ruled single on sharply hit ball to third, and Travis Snider followed with a seeing eye roller to right to set up Bucs on the corners against Edison Volquez. Cutch lined out, and Garrett Jones bounced to first. Marte was off on contact and nailed at home, though it appeared he slid under the tag. So the Pirates first opportunity went by the boards.

Volquez got the first two outs routinely in the second before Clint Barmes singled. He then lost J-Mick, and Marte made him pay with an RBI knock through the SS hole off a sinker to tie the game. Pittsburgh took the lead in the third. With one down, Garrett Jones was fed a 3-2 heater down the pipe and golfed it out of the park in right center to make it 2-1.

The fourth was Volquez's swan song. Barmes led off with his second knock and McDonald walked again. The both trotted home as Snider jacked his first Bucco blast to right center off a 1-2 change up to put Pittsburgh comfortably in the lead 5-1. After Cutch reached on a walk, Alex Hinshaw came on for the Padres. Jones singled, with McCutch moving to third. A Neil Walker roller to second moved GI up 90', and Pedro brought them both home with a two run knock to center.

Since a two-out first inning single by Carlos Quentin, McDonald put away eleven straight Friars. That streak ended brutally in the fifth with a 3-2 walk to Cameron Maybin followed by a knock to right by Jeff Baker. Pinch hitter Jesus Guzman stroked a heater down the middle for a two bagger to center to plate the pair; the 7-8-9 hitters have arisen to bite J-Mick. Aramista knocked a 3-1 pitch to right to plate Guzman and make it a 7-4 match. Everth Cabrera singled to put San Diego runners at first and second.

Clint Hurdle has a big problem now; he wanted J-Mick to finish five for the win. Kevin Correia isn't available and Jeff Locke went 2-1/3 yesterday, leaving the pen both shorthanded and devoid of long men. Factor in that Chase Headley is up and can tie it with a swing. And he did, taking a grooved fastball out to right. Hurdle came out, a batter late; how quickly it turned for McDonald from a six-pitch fourth to five straight knocks in the fifth. Chris Resop took the ball and put out the fire.

Brad Brach took the bump for SD and shut down the Bucs; Resop returned the favor in the top of the sixth. Jones drew a one out walk on five pitches, and went to third an out later on Pedro's 3-2 knock to center. Hot Rod, in an 0-for-14 funk and as overdue as last month's rent, came through with an 0-2 single to center to regain the lead. But not for long.

Again, a walk set it up. Cabrera drew a two out pass in the seventh and Headley dropped his second homer of the night off Tony Watson, who had replaced Resop with one away for match up purposes. The ball landed a few feet inside the foul pole, three or four rows deep. Headley is equal opportunity; he's gone yard from both sides tonight. Losing the guy ahead of him with two away wasn't very good tactical pitching, either. Dale Thayer toed the rubber for the Friars. Marte gave the ball a charge with an out, but the wind, which helped carry Headley's ball out to left, held Marte's up in center and it was hauled in. After seven, it's 9-8 Padres.

Watson lost Maybin on a 3-2 count with two down in the eighth, but this time it didn't cost him. Luke Gregerson climbed the hill and put away Cutch, Jones and The Kid. Chad Qualls worked the ninth and got three grounders. Huston Street answered the call to close out; he's 20-for-20 in save opps this year. Make it 21; three up, three down.

It's easy to fault Hurdle for hanging with J-Mick too long, but he had a couple of things going against him. Beside a seriously depleted pen, the McDonald implosion left barely enough time for anyone to get loose in the pen. So we'll give him a pass this time; even Nostradamus couldn't foresee J-Mick's sudden flameout.

But the Bucs had better get about reconstructing a viable pen; carrying that extra starter is leaving them seriously short of arms and burning out the guys that are available. And McDonald has become a one trick pony; guys are laying off his curve and feasting on his heater. Dejan Kovacevich of the Tribune Review thinks a stint in the pen might help him straighten out.

Pitching carried the team for a long spell; it's been creaking for a while, and the Pirates disrupted it further by adding Wandy to the rotation, flipping KC to the pen and trading Brad Lincoln without making balancing  moves. So that's next on the agenda, and hopefully it's an item checked with a bullet.

Jason Marquis takes on A.J. Burnett tomorrow.

  • San Diego has now won ten straight games at PNC Park.
  • Before tonight, the biggest lead Pittsburgh had lost this season was three runs, and San Diego's biggest comeback was from a four run deficit.  You can swap those numbers out for sixes now.
  • Travis Snider's bomb was the 800th HR for the Pirates in their twelve seasons at PNC Park and his first as a Bucco.
  • Tonight's attendance was 38,702, the 12th sellout of the season.
  • RHP Gerritt Cole hit 100 MPH in his game for Altoona tonight. He went 5-1/3 scoreless IP, giving up three hits, three walks and punching out six while tossing 90 pitches. 
  • Happy Birthday, Luis Heredia. The puppy pitching prospect at State College just turned 18 today.

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