Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bucs Fall 3-2 On Hart's Walk-Off Bomb

Well, the first went down easily enough. Marco Estrada put away the Bucs 1-2-3, and AJ Burnett did the same to the Brew Crew. The second started out the same, until Pedro launched a two-out homer the opposite way to left center when Estrada tried to slip a 1-2 hook past him. AJ struck out the side; he has five K - in a row, yet - to Estrada's four in a real gunslinger's duel in the very early going.

Another inning, two more fans for Estrada in the third. Carlos Gomez opened the Brewer half by drawing a seven pitch walk, and stole second barely after touching first. After Jean Segura K'ed and with Estrada up, Gomez didn't even wait for a bunt; he swiped third, too, on a not so great toss by Hot Rod. He didn't have to steal home; a wild pitch scored him on what was set up as a straight squeeze play. To make matters worse, Estrada drew a four pitch walk. He's the third of the past four batters that AJ has gone 3-0 on. Nyjmo hit into a force, and got himself picked off to end the frame at 1-1.

Snider tried to bunt his way on to start the fourth; didn't work. Cutch looked at one heater and belted the second off the center field wall for a double. GI Jones bounced out to first, moving McCutch up a station. Pedro poked another pitch away to left, but this one found leather. After an out, AJ lost Ryan Braun on a 3-2 heater, and he stole second after an obligatory toss to first. Aramis Ramirez bounced out to short, freezing Braun. Corey Hart sent a drive to right, but Snider settled under it on the track to keep the game even.

Josh Harrison struck out swinging; he may not have seen a strike. Barajas and Barmes both fouled out, and it was a quiet fifth frame for the Bucs. Ditto for Milwaukee; it was a clean inning for AJ.

Burnett whiffed to open the sixth. Alex Presley took a curve the other way for a double, followed by a four-pitch walk to Snider. Cutch struck out swinging at a 3-2 heater and like Harrison last inning, he may not have seen a strike. Jones dribbled a change up for an infield knock to juice the sacks and set up Pedro. He went down looking after a dozen pitches on a borderline change up away. That drew some barking from El Toro, who very rarely disputes a call.

After whiffing Estrada and Morgan, Ricky Weeks collected the first Brewer knock when he dropped a curve into short right. And guess what - he stole second, without a throw. AJ got Braun fishing to close out the inning.

The bottom of the Buc order went down quietly in the seventh. A-Ram bounced out to open the Milwaukee half, followed by a 3-2 walk to Hart. Lucroy grounded out, moving Hart to second. Gomez caught a tight curve and bombed it into center for a double and a 2-1 Brewer lead. That was it for AJ, who went 6-2/3, giving up two runs on two hits and four walks with nine K, tossing 102 pitches. Jared Hughes finished off the frame.

Jim Henderson climbed the hill for the Brew Crew in the eighth. Brock Holt grabbed a bat to pinch hit and drew a four pitch walk, the first Buc leadoff hitter to get aboard. Presley bunted him over. Snider went down swinging at 96 MPH gas. After a strike, Cutch got sawed off by a heater inside and broke his bat, but he got enough to bloop it into the grass behind Weeks and bring Holt home. McCutch stole second and went to third when Segura couldn't handle the throw. He stayed there as Jones struck out looking at a slider away that just caught enough black.

Jason Grilli took the ball in the eighth. Norichika Aoki dribbled a ball, and Barajas fired it past first for a single and error. Nyjmo whiffed, fouling off three bunt tries. Weeks was jammed with heat and popped out foul to first. That earned Braun an intentional pass, though Ramirez isn't exactly a day at the beach. Well, maybe he is - he popped out to end the frame still tied 2-2.

John Axford took over for Milwaukee. After a pair of groundouts, Hot Rod banged one up the middle. Jordy Mercer came in to run in his place and Mike McKenry grabbed a stick for Barmes. The Fort drew a full count walk, and it was Gaby Sanchez's turn at the dish. He did the same, getting a 3-2 free pass. Presley fell behind 1-2 looking at a pair of gift strikes, then taking a heater just off the outside corner for strike three; The King sat down without taking a swing or maybe even seeing a strike.

Hanny toed the rubber in the ninth. He wasn't there long; Hart sent his second pitch, a hung slider, over the left field wall.

These are the games that test players. Marvin Hudson's strike zone was big enough tonight (and oddly, he's known for a fair strike zone, sprinkled with the occasional badly missed pitch), but the Bucs lost a couple of bases loaded chances when he extended it even further.

But games are won on big hits, not big walks, and the Bucs didn't have many up their sleeve tonight. The bottom of the order came up small again; it's hard to give away three innings a game. And they really have to rethink this stolen base thing; stats or not, you can't get away with turning walks into triples. In this last month, everyone is gonna be go-go until the Pirates prove they can throw someone out.

Yovani Gallardo takes on James McDonald tomorrow.

  • Mike Sanserino of the Post Gazette reported that Jeff Locke will claim Erik Bedard's spot on Monday (and the rest of the season) while Kevin Correia will pick up Jeff Karstens' Wednesday start, both against the Astros. Kyle McPherson, Justin Wilson and Chris Leroux will by default work out of the bullpen
  • Pedro Alvarez has reached base safely in 14 of his last 15 games, going 22-for-54 with 10 BB, lifting his BA to .252. And only Aramis Ramirez (34 in 2001) and Frank Thomas (31 in 1958) have hit more HR in a season as a Bucco third baseman than Pedro, who has 27.
  • The Pirates are last in stolen base success at 56% and opponents caught stealing at 10%. Maybe the brass should spent a minute or two on that next spring.
  • Gerrit Cole made his first AAA start tonight. He went six, giving up three runs on six hits with a walk and 7 K. He's for sure on the fast track, having started the year in High A Bradenton, moving on to AA Altoona, and now a step away from the show.
  • LHP Kris Johnson (3-2, 2.09) was promoted to Indy from Altoona to help fill the pitching gap the Pirate call-ups have caused for the playoffs. He's a reliever/spot starter. RHP Logan Kensing and C Miguel Perez have both been removed from the minor league DL and are also available for the Tribe.

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