Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bucs Drop Sixth Straight 2-1

Homer Bailey put the Bucs away quietly to open the game; AJ Burnett tried to match, but with two outs Joey Votto singled to left. Ryan Ludwick fought AJ for eight pitches, but went down swinging. With a pair down in the second, Alex Presley became the first Bucco runner, drawing a five pitch walk. Clint Barmes went down swinging to end the frame. Jay Bruce opened the Red half by shipping a heater to center, but Cutch had it measured. Scott Rolen fanned looking at a full count heater that was a gift call from minor league call-up ump (hey, it is September!) Manny Gonzalez, who has a pitcher's strike zone. Chris Heisey struck out on a foul tip, and it was scoreless after two.

After the 8-9 hitters bounced out against Bailey, Brock Holt singled to center. Josh Harrison flew out, and it was the Reds turn. Ryan Hanigan started it off by knocking a curve into center for a single. Bailey fanned trying to lay down a bunt. Brandon Phillips took a tight slurve and put it into center to put Reds at first and second. A wild pitch that Barajas usually mitts moved them up a station, and it cost when Wilson Valdez grounded out to second to tally Hanigan. Votto whiffed looking, and it was 1-0 Cincinnati.

Cutch opened the fourth by banging a slider to left for a knock. Jones followed with a single to center, and there were Bucs on the corners. Gaby Sanchez battled through an eight pitch at bat, taking a slider to right to bring Cutch home, with GI stopping at second. It was a bittersweet knock; Gaby missed by a foot or two of hitting a three run homer the pitch before. The King went down swinging, and a Barmes roller moved the runners up. Hot Rod was walked intentionally to get to AJ, who went up hacking and K'ed.

Ryan Ludwick drew a nine pitch walk to open the Redleg half. AJ whiffed Bruce swinging at a slurve. Rolen hit a ball to short, nicely played on a change-of-direction by Barmes, advancing Ludwick to second. He punched out Heisey on a curve; it was 1-1 after four.

Holt lined out to second to start the fifth, and Harrison popped out to the mound. Cutch got a 2-0 slider and singled to left. Jones tried to cash in by launching a drive to deep center, but Heisey tucked it away at the wall. After an out, AJ lost his mound opponent Bailey on five pitches. He blew gas past Phillips, getting him swinging. Valdez singled to right, with Bailey going to third when Jones had problems coming up with the ball. Burnett got ahead of Votto and eventually got a grounder to second to escape the jam on a sweet diving play by Holt, who was positioned well in a shift against the lefty. Burnett has eight K's, but has also tossed 88 pitches through five.

With an out in the sixth, Presley caught a down and in heater and ripped it to right for a triple. The Bucs tried a suicide squeeze with Barmes; the 0-1 pitch was a semi-pitchout that he barely missed, and Presley was dead at the plate. Barmes flew out to center, and another chance was wasted. Ludwick opened the Red half with a double. Bruce flew out deep to center, moving the runner up a station. Rolen lifted another fly, this one to left, and Ludwick touched home, and it was 2-1 after six frames.

Starling Marte hit for Hot Rod in the seventh and went down on three pitches, fanning on a high heater out of the zone. The Fort grabbed a stick for AJ; he drove an 0-2 heater deep to center, but it was corralled by Heisey. Holt grounded out. AJ went six innings, giving up two runs on  five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts after serving 101 pitches. Jared Hughes came in from the pen. After two quick outs, he got to face Brandon Phillips, who kept alive his racism charges against Hughes on a TV interview today. Hughes didn't bean him; maybe he should have, as Phillips legged out a weakly hit infield single and stole second on the first pitch. Valdez whiffed on four pitches, and the Bucs had just six more outs to go.

Sam LeCure took the ball after Bailey had tossed 116 pitches. Travis Snider batted for J-Hay, and yanked a ball to first for out number one. Cutch flew out, and Jones bounced out to second, nailed on a strong play by Phillips. Three to go. Tony Watson toed the rubber while Jordy Mercer went to third. Votto walked after eight pitches. Watson caught a call on a high and tight heater to sit Ludwick down. A Bruce grounder moved Votto to second. Jason Grilli was called on to face Rolen, and got him swinging at a high 3-2 heater.

JJ Hoover climbed the bump in the ninth. With two away, Jeff Clement singled to keep the Bucs on life support, with Chase d'Arnaud running for him. The plug was pulled when JT went down swinging on three pitches. It was Hoover's first MLB save.

It's getting pretty painful to watch the club now; runners are stranded, balls are dying on the track, DPs aren't being turned and there's always a clutch botched play somewhere in the mix. Tonight it was the squeeze. The Reds sniffed it out, pitched out, and Barmes just missed getting a piece of it. Though he's called on to bunt fairly often, he's not the greatest at it. Maybe Nick Leyva's conversation with Presley tipped the Reds off; maybe the fact that the Bucs just pulled it off recently stuck in Dusty Baker's memory bank.

The Reds used a wild pitch and grounder to score their first run and a leadoff double and two fly outs to plate the winner. Maybe it's superior talent or maybe just a better, more fundamental approach. Whatever, the Bucs have been missing it the past several weeks. They were swept by the Reds despite outhitting them in all three games.

The Pirates are off tomorrow before going to Wrigley for a four game set with the Cubbies. And somehow they're still alive, though the field is quickly catching up.

  • Brock Holt extended his hitting streak to eight games.
  • AJ has now gone five straight starts without a win.
  • Tonight was the Pirates seventh straight loss in one-run games, dropping them to 25-26 in squeakers, which they had excelled in earlier in the year. It was also their sixth loss in a row, the season low water mark.
  • St. Louis lost again; the Padres, who have been red-hot even before they beat up on the Bucs, swept them.
  • Pedro was scratched from the lineup with right wrist discomfort. Josh Harrison got the start in his place.
  • Clint Hurdle said during the pregame media gathering that Jeff Karstens will be available from the pen beginning in Chicago; Jeff Locke is not locked into the rotation, and he'd like to get Kyle McPherson a start "if the opportunity presents itself."
  • He also said Neil Walker will be off from all baseball activity until at least Friday, when the Cub series begins.

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