Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cubs Stun Pirates 13-9

Chris Volstad barely survived his first batter, Starling Marte, who launched a drive to deep center, but not quite deep enough to elude Joe Mather's glove. After another fly out, Cutch drew a walk and Garrett Jones kept the inning alive with an infield knock that was generously ruled a hit. Cutch stole third to put runners on the corners, but to no avail as Gaby Sanchez went down swinging.

Jeff Locke got Mather on a long fly to left and Darwin Barney on a grounder. Anthony Rizzo banged a 2-2 heater the opposite way to left for a two bagger that just ticked off Marte's glove, and Alfonso Soriano picked up his 100th RBI of the year with a seeing eye single to center to give Chicago an early 1-0 edge.

With one down in the second, Clint Barmes singled to left center with two strikes. He came around when Rod Barajas caught an 0-2 sinker, above the knees and on the inside half, and went yard a few feet inside the left field pole for this tenth dinger of the season. Marte singled after a Locke bounce out and stole second. That was followed by a full count walk to The Kid. Cutch kept the two out good times rolling with a knock to left to plate Marte, with Walker stopping at second. Jones flied out, and it was 3-1 Buccos.

Locke beaned Welington Castillo to open the Cub half, then got Dave Sappelt on a deep ball to left that Marte corralled. After falling behind the eight hitter, Luis Valbuena 3-1, Locke came back to fan him. Volstad smacked a curve down the middle to center for a knock. Mather grounded out to Barmes, and the lead held at a pair of runs.

Barmes collected his second knock with two away in the third. Volstad stayed away from Hot Rod this time around, walking him on four pitches. Good idea; Locke tapped back to the mound to end the frame, and that's now six runners the Bucs have stranded in three frames. Barney opened the Cub half with a 3-2 walk. This at bat, Rizzo was the answer, not the problem, as he bounced one to Sanchez for a 3-6-3 DP that he didn't run out very diligently. Pedro dove to come up with Soriano's grounder and tossed him out to finish the frame.

After a Marte whiff, The Kid collected his first knock of the month, a single to right. Cutch followed with another single to right, but The Kid was tossed out at third, not running very well after his turn at second and still almost making it in, losing a bang-bang call at the sack. Cutch stole second, the Bucs third swipe of the game. Jones hit a liner the opposite way, but Soriano was there for the inning-ending grab. Pittsburgh has eight hits and three walks in four innings, but only a three spot to show for it, stranding seven so far and 1-for-5 with RISP. After getting Castro to fly out in the Cub fourth, Castillo reached on a Barmes boot, but Locke got the next pair of Cubbies routinely.

Sanchez opened the fifth with a full count knock to center. Pedro, in a September slump, decided it was time to El Toro a meatball sinker and crushed it to the opposite field and over the left center wall, clearing the yard and landing on Waveland Avenue, to make it 5-1. Hot Rod walked for the second time after a Barmes K and was moved to second by Locke. Alberto Cabrera took the bump to face Marte, who singled Barajas home and then swiped second, going to third when the throw got away. Walker whiffed, but the lead was much more comfortable at 6-1.

Locke got Josh Vitters to ground out, then tossed a first pitch heater down the middle that Mathers smoked out of Wrigley to make it 6-2. Barney followed with a knock to center. Locke is starting to leave pitches over the plate instead of working the edges, and that's not his game. Rizzo got an inside corner heater at the knees and creamed it over the fence, and suddenly the lead was down to 6-4. Soriano singled for the fourth straight Cubbie knock, and Clint Hurdle finally saw enough, calling for Chris Resop.

Locke lasted 4-1/3 frames, giving up five runs on seven hits and a walk with 2K, tossing 74 servings. Resop got Castro on a soft grounder, moving Soriano to second. Castillo singled to center on a 2-0 fastball. Soriano scored on an ill-advised throw to the plate by Cutch, with Castillo moving up to second. Sappelt whiffed, but like yesterday, a big Bucco lead has been whittled to a bare run.

The middle of the Pirate order faced Miguel Socolovich in the sixth. He lost McCutch on a full count change up that stayed off the dish. Jones went down swinging. Sanchez inside-outed an 0-2 pitch, banging it to right and putting Bucs at first and second. Lefty Jeff Beliveau took the ball to face Pedro. He got ahead 1-2, wasted a pitch, then hung a hook at the top of the strike zone and away. Pedro is feeling it today; he airmailed his second ball to Waveland Avenue to build the Bucco lead back to 9-5. Barmes walked on a 3-2 heater that was up and away. Hot Rod almost smacked his second of the day, but Mathers tucked away his blast at the wall in center. Harrison grabbed a stick for Resop, and went down swinging on three pitches.

Indy starter Rick Vandenhurk took the hill for Pittsburgh; it's looking a lot like an Indianapolis-Iowa AAA game, surprising with Jeff Karstens, Chris Leroux and Chad Qualls all available. Valbuena greeted him with a single, getting an 0-2 pitch in the middle of the plate. Bryan LaHair took the next pitch to right to put Cubbies at first and second to set up the top of the order. He set them up a little better with a wild pitch, then lost Mather on the next offering to load the bases. Jared Hughes came on, for the fourth time in five days.

Barney singled home a run. Hughes fell behind Rizzo 3-1, gave him a sinker down the middle at the knees, and the rookie blasted it out of the park to give the Cubs a 10-9 lead, his second bomb of the day. Chad Qualls took the hill. After two outs, he lost Castillo on a 3-2 count but got Sappelt to ground out to end the frame with the Cubs up by one.

The Bucs sent up the top of the order to go against Jaye Chapman in the seventh. Marte went to opposite way off him, leading off with a triple, rolling into third without a throw. The Kid hit into a bit of bad luck, lining out to second on a sweet grab by Barney. Cutch struck out looking on a full count heater that was borderline, followed by a Jones walk.

With Gaby Sanchez up, Jones broke for second; Chapman held the ball as no one was covering the base. It was a delayed steal; Marte took off when the pitcher pivoted, and was dead meat when Chapman hung on to the ball, turned and tossed it home. Chris Leroux took the bump against the Cubs and tossed a clean frame.

Shawn Camp took his turn in the eighth. He retired Sanchez on a fly and survived Pedro, getting him to drop a long drive on the warning track just short of the wall instead of on the Avenue. Clement flew out too, and the Bucs were down to their last dibs. 

Leroux lost Barney on a 3-2 pitch that just missed the corner; it's been a hitter's strike zone today, with a bumpy call or two.  He did prove Rizzo was human, getting him swinging through a pitch on the outside black. The glow didn't last long; he gave Soriano a low heater at the knees and he ripped a double to right to score Barney. Burner Tony Campana came in to run for him. The bad news continued as Castro legged out an infield single to put runners on the corners. Oooops, make that second and third; Castro swiped second. Leroux reached back to fan Castillo swinging. Hurdle brought in Justin Wilson to face David DeJesus for the lefty-lefty matchup. Not a good decision; DeJesus singled them both in. It was 13-9, with Carlos Marmol on the hill for the ninth.

Brock Holt led off with a walk, followed by a Travis Snider K. Marte rolled one to short, and the 6-4-3 put the Bucs out of their misery, maybe for the season.

Clint Hurdle is supposed to put his team in position to win, but the way he used the pen today sure didn't help matters. He's managing the Pirates, not Indy, and there's a reason guys are in the show. Trying to convert season-long starters into instant relievers isn't often an easy transition and so far K-Mac is the only Tribe guy that's succeeded at it.

The Bucs are three games out of the second wildcard, and now they're looking at Milwaukee's tailpipe, too, as they have three clubs to scramble past. Ah, well, looks like Steeler season is here.

Kevin Correia closes out the series against Travis Wood tomorrow night.

  • Today was the sixth MLB multi-homer game by Alvarez and his fourth of the season.
  • Cutch, Pedro, and GI have combined for eighty homers, making them one of Pittsburgh's Top Ten Murderer's Row.
  • Jones' infield single in the first looked suspiciously like a boot on the part of 2B Darwin Barney, but with a streak of 130 errorless games, the home town scorer gave the infielder the benefit of the doubt.
  • Today marked the first MLB grand slam and multi-HR game by Anthony Rizzo, and his six RBI are a personal high.

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