Friday, May 24, 2013

Bucs Non-Support Of AJ Continues In 2-1 Loss

Marco Estrada had an easy first; three balls hit in the air, two skied and a changeup that Cutch took to the track. AJ matched him, with two grounders and a track shot to right by Jean Segura. The second was a repeat for Estrada; a couple of routine outs and a liner to center by Neil Walker pulled in just short of the track. It didn't go as well for Burnett.

A-Ram led off with a five pitch walk. Carlos Gomez fell behind 0-2, took a pitch, then lined a sinker away the opposite way for a double; Gaby didn't have a play as he was holding the runner. AJ picked up a K, but Alex Gonzalez stroked a knee-high change over the middle of the plate to the gap in left center, and it was 2-0 Brew Crew after two frames.

Estrada struck out the bottom third of the Buc order swinging in the third. Maybe next time around they'll get aggressive at the plate; the Bucs are taking 89 MPH fastballs over the outer half; six of nine Pirates so far have been behind 0-2. AJ had been struggling in the opening pair, but looked more like himself in the third, putting away the top of the order in order.

The Pirates went down 1-2-3 again; that's 12 in a row for Estrada. His stuff isn't overwhelming, but the Bucs can't seem to square up on a fastball away tonight. The Brewers went down quietly in the fourth, too. After fourteen Bucs down, Walker dropped a two-out pop into left for the Bucs' first hit. Inge followed with a liner up the middle; Estrada stuck up his mitt while ducking and it stuck. AJ had his streak snapped at 11 Brewers when Estrada one-hopped a pitch into right with two down in the fifth; Norachika Aoki almost cashed him in, flying out to the wall in right center.

Starlin Marte raced to a two out triple lined into the LF corner with two down in the sixth, but Snider K'ed for the second time, swinging through a fastball. AJ kept dealing, issuing a 3-2 walk with one out to A-Ram sandwiched around swinging strikeouts of Ryan Braun and Gomez.

Pittsburgh came close to breaking out big against Estrada in the seventh, but settled for a run. Cutch roped an at 'em ball to Braun, who backpedaled to make the grab. Gaby lined a single to right, but was erased at second when Segura made a sweet play in the hole and got the force on Russell Martin's bid for a hit. Walker one-hopped a high heater to the wall in right center to plate Martin and make it 2-1. Inge finished the inning with a check swing comebacker. AJ pitched another clean inning.

Brandon Kintzler came on for Milwaukee. After Gomez chased down Clint Barme's fly short of the track in right, Garrett Jones walked on a 3-2 pitch. The Brew Crew gloves came in handy again; Aramis Ramirez tossed out Mart on a little roller on a 50-50 call; Marte would have likely beat it if he hadn't watched the play while running down the line. Gonzo took the ball to face Snider; Hurdle countered with JT. he shot a 3-2 liner, but it was another at 'em ball, right into the glove of 1B Gonzalez.

That was it for AJ, who went seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits with two walks and six K. Bryan Morris took the bump. With two down and 0-2 on Segura, the SS rolled a pitch off the end of his bat that was away and almost in the dirt. Braun followed with a liner at the box; Morris knocked it down to get the last out.

Jim Henderson came in for the save. Cutch dropped a 3-2 single into center, falling a short hop in front of Gomez, who was playing a no doubles D. Sanchez took a big cut, but got under the ball and skied a fly to left. Martin banged one up the middle, off Henderson's glove, but it deflected right to Segura, who forced Cutch at second. Henderson had to leave the game; he hurt his leg trying to make the play.

Francisco Rodriguez climbed the hill, and took two pitches to get The Kid on a roller to second. Miller Field continues to be a no fly zone for Pittsburgh.

Lots of little things contributed to the loss. Hurdle's oddball lineup put the two guys you most want up in a one run game, Jones and Pedro (who never batted) on the pine. The Pirates' passive plate approach to Estrada complemented his game plan. Toss in some at 'em balls and some nice glovework by Milwaukee, both of which staved off a promising Buc rally in the seventh, and you have the recipe for a 2-1 loss.

Jeff Locke takes on Mike Fiers tomorrow.
  • This was Burnett's fifth straight seven-inning outing that he's given up four or fewer hits. He's 1-3 in them, although giving up just 10 runs. 
  • The Bucs had the right man up at the end of the game. Neil Walker had two of Pittsburgh's five hits.
  • An underappreciated facet of the Buc defense - Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez have been exceptional this year at digging out low throws, and that it turn allows the infielders to cut it loose.
  • Jean Segura made several hit-saving plays in the field tonight and was Milwaukee's man of the hour; we'll take him over the Cubs' Starlin Castro any day.
  • Surprise: RHP Jeff Karstens felt pain in his right shoulder during his throwing program today and has been shut down. He'll be evaluated next week in Pittsburgh. We suspect that if he makes an appearance, it won't be until September.

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