Sunday, April 28, 2013

Locke, Long Balls Rout Redbirds 9-0

The first frame went quietly for Shelby Miller. After giving up the obligatory opening knock to Starling Marte, he put the Bucs down in order. Jeff Locke had a backward inning; two soft ground balls got runners aboard, one when he dropped Gaby's toss to first and another through the right side, but three smoked liners went for outs.

Pittsburgh drew first blood in the second when Russell Martin knocked a 1-2 heater into the CF stands. Locke did his thing; after an opening walk, he got a 4-6-3 DP ball (the first Inge-McDonald-Sanchez twin killing in Bucco history) and a soft liner to end the frame cleanly.

Locke drew a four pitch walk to open the third, but Marte banged into a 4-6-3 DP; he hit the ball sharply up middle, but the Card infield was tight around second with a runner on. It hurt; JT walked and Garrett Jones doubled to left. Nick Leyva, maybe questionably with two gone, held Tabata up, and Gaby bounced out to third to end the frame. Locke tossed a 1-2-3 inning, helped by a couple of above average stops by Old McDonald.

With an out in the fourth, Martin took a fastball away and drilled it halfway up the fence in right for two bags, but Inge and McDonald couldn't move him. Locke walked Holliday to open the frame, then cooly left him at first to run his shutout string, carrying over from his last start, to ten frames.

In the fifth, JT was up with two down. He fell behind 0-2, worked Miller for another half dozen pitches, and then took a 94 MPH heater the opposite way for a long ball and 2-0 Bucco lead. The Cards got their second hit on a Pete Kozma dink to right, but Locke stranded him without breaking a sweat.

Pedro opened the sixth with a walk and was erased on a 6-4-3 DP rolled into by Martin. Inge followed with a knock to center, and he chugged around on a double to left by McDonald that clanged off Holliday's mitt. The knock also got Pittsburgh into the Card pen. Miller got the hook after 113 pitches and Fernando Salas came on to retire Locke on a fly to left. The Cards collected a two-out knock by Allen Craig, but Locke got Yadier Molina, who had squared up twice on the ball in earlier at-bats, on a routine hopper to short.

Salas got the first two outs of the seventh quietly when Jones banged a first pitch fastball off the top of the RF wall, bouncing back in play. He pulled in with a triple, and after a review, was waved home. The ball hit a back fence behind the padding, and the umps ruled correctly that was plenty long enough to break out the trot.

Locke kept dealing and had some help. After a pair of routine outs, Kozma was ahead 3-0 and swung, hitting a soft fly to right and keeping the young lefty's pitch count at 95 through seven. But that was enough; Justin Wilson got the call for the eighth. Locke went seven scoreless frames, the longest outing of his career, giving up three hits, walking a pair and whiffing four with a 13 inning scoreless streak going on right now. The last run he surrendered was on a Justin Upton homer on April 18th.

The Bucs failed to score in the eighth. After a pair of easy outs, Jon Jay battled Wilson and earned a 13 pitch walk. He came back to break Holliday's bat (two, in fact) and get an easy roller to Pedro to end the frame.

Mitchell Boggs had a rough ninth, but more thanks to the baseball gods than bad pitching. He gave up a leadoff knock to Clint Barmes on a flare to right and a single through the left side by Marte. He K'ed JT, then walked Jones, whom he was working around after Marte had stolen second to leave first base empty. With the infield in, Gaby hit a dribbler so weak that there was no play at home, and Barmes scored.

Mike Matheny, who must have a copy of Tony LaRussa's book in his back pocket, then called on LHP Marc Rzepczynski to face Pedro. More bad luck for Boggs' ERA; Pedro went the opposite way to single home a pair. And bad news for Rzepczynski's ERA; Martin followed by taking him deep to left center. Wilson, apparently in a hurry to get to the mound, went down on a 3-2 pitch without taking a swing during his at-bat. Can't blame him; he retired the Redbirds in order, and the Bucs are in first place.

Gonna be some tough decisions in a couple of weeks when Franciso Liriano and Charlie Morton are due back now that Jeff Locke is locked in; the lefty is 3-1with a 2.83 ERA.

The journey continues as the Bucs head to Milwaukee tomorrow. They send Wandy Rodriguez to the hill to face Yovani Gallardo.

  • Starling Marte had his eleventh multi-hit game of the season, second in MLB.
  • The Pirates joined the Giants and Cardinals as NL leaders with their fifth shutout.
  • Today was Clint Hurdle's 700th win as a skipper.
  • The Pirates got their 15th April win, a victory total they haven't reached since 1992.
  • The Bucs aren't completely sold on keeping Neil Walker off the DL. They're going to roll the dice and give it a few days before they determine just how long the gash will keep him out of action.
  • The Pirates were thought to have Jose Contreras on schedule to arrive during next weekend; now it appears that they expect him back Tuesday, likely in response to Jonathan Sanchez's suspension and an overworked bullpen. The Bucs have the option to fill Sanchez's Wednesday start with either Jeanmar Gomez or by calling up Andy Oliver from Indy (too early for Cole), as neither Justin Wilson nor Francisco Liriano are stretched out enough to start.
  • Charlie Morton's day at Altoona lasted six innings. He allowed a run on three hits with a walk and four K while tossing 70 pitches. Morton worked out of an early jam in the second thanks to a DP ball and cruised from that point. The staff had him throw 20 more pitches afterward in a side session to work his arm a little longer.

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