Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Liriano Tosses A Gem; Outguns Samardzija 1-0

Francisco Liriano cruised through the first, getting a whiff and a pair of ground outs. After retiring the first pair of Buccos, Jeff Samardzija looked like he was going to do the same. Then Cutch lined a full count splitter to left for a double, Garrett Jones followed by roping a first pitch heater to right, and holy schmoly - the Bucs had a 1-0 lead on their nemesis.

It took the Cisco Kid eight pitches to retire Chicago in the second; Samardzija was back in control, too, tossing a 1-2-3 frame with a pair of whiffs. The third started off, well, not so well.

Cody Ransom singled to open the frame, followed by a walk to Darwin Barney, who the Bucs can't figure how to get out; he was down 0-2 and then watched four straight miss the dish. Samardzija bunted, and Liriano made a bad toss to first to load the sacks for the top of the order. Julio Borbon banged one to first; Jones came home for the force. Starlin Castro whiffed fishing for a slider; Russell Martin blocked three pitches in the dirt during the at-bat. Anthony Rizzo hit a fly to right that Travis Snider ran down, and Liriano had wriggled out of the jam. The Bucs went down in order; Liriano's liner to third was the hardest hit ball.

With an out in the fourth, Scott Hairston reached on a boot by Jordy Mercer, and stayed there. Cutch ain't afraid of no Samardzija; he led off with a double the opposite way, his second two-bag knock. Two K and a pop out later, he was still there.

The bottom of the Cub order laid some wood to the ball in the fifth, but Snider measured Barney's fly to the track in right and Marte tracked Samardzija's drive to the Notch. Liriano then K'ed Borbon for punchout #6. Mercer got to first with one away on a Castro boot. Liriano couldn't move him up, bunting into a 2-6 force. Marte flew out to end the frame. Samardzija is one up on Liriano so far; he has seven K.

Pedro made a nice play at third to deny Castro's bid for a knock, Rizzo went down swinging and Soriano sat down looking for an easy sixth for Liriano; his changeup has been a weapon tonight, and he's at just 76 pitches.

Snider lined out to open the frame; the baseball gods evened up when Cutch K'ed on a slider in the dirt that got away from Wellington Castillo, allowing him to get to first, and soon second on a steal. Jones battled his way on base, drawing an eight pitch walk. Walker fought back from 0-2 to a full count, then banged a fastball down in the zone to short for a 6-4-3 DP. But there was a silver lining; Samardzija was at 100 pitches now.

Liriano's bacon was again saved by Pedro, who has made three strong plays at third so far tonight, this one to take a hit away from Hairston. Castillo followed by rolling a heater up the middle for Chicago's second knock. Ransom went down looking, and a weak grounder to short by Barney finished the inning. Samardzija troupered on; with the state of the Cub bullpen, why not? It took him 11 pitches to put down Pittsburgh, equaling his season high of 111 tosses.

Tony Watson came on (along with two-fer Gaby) to replace Liriano, who went seven scoreless, giving up two hits with a walk and nine K after tossing 91 pitches. With two lefties due up and Justin Wilson having thrown 24 pitches yesterday, Watson is the southpaw left standing. After an out, Borbon dropped a bunt single, bringing up the Cub's big guns. He ran the count full to Castro before getting him to pop out to right. Borbon stole second with Rizzo up, on a pitchout not particularly well executed by Watson. But Watson came way inside with some 95 MPH heat on a 2-2 pitch to punch out the first baseman swinging. Dramatic inning, but still 1-0 Buccos.

Carlos Villanueva toed the rubber for the Cubbies. Pinch hitter JT opened by drawing a full count walk, and Marte bunted him to second. Snider took one to the wall in right, where it was hauled in, moving Tabata to third. The righty decided to work on Cutch rather than Jones, and got him to roll over on a hook away, bouncing to third. Mark Melancon, who we're sure Clint Hurdle would have liked to give the night off, came in looking for his first Bucco save.

The ninth started off with a swinging K of Soriano at a hook in the dirt, but he, like Cutch, got to first when Russell couldn't corral the ball. Lefty Nate Schierholtz grabbed a bat, was jammed and bounced into a 5-4 force. Castillo lined a cutter into center to put Cubbies at first and second. Another lefty, Ryan Sweeney, picked up a stick. MM tossed a cutter at his hands and got a soft liner to Walker. He finished off Barney on a pop, and the Cubs again made it exciting, but in the end fell to the Bucs. Melancon got his first save of the Cisco Kid's third W.

Nice win, but Clint Hurdle could trust his starters a little more. He probably didn't have much choice using Melancon, and MM tossed 22 pitches. He and Grilli could both be out tomorrow, and yesterday was the start of sixteen consecutive games. It would help the skipper if the offense could support the stellar pitching better; this is the second 1-0 win in three games. But a win is a win right now; Liriano and the bullpen made a first inning run stand up.

Edwin Jackson takes on Jeanmar Gomez in the finale tomorrow afternoon. 

  • Pittsburgh has won six straight one-run games.
  • Andrew McCutchen has four multi-hit games in his last five outings and has been stinging the ball throughout the homestand. And as Cutch goes...
  • Jason Grilli is off tonight after throwing 34 pitches yesterday, and may be rested tomorrow, too. Mark Melancon has worked 6-of-10 and may be iffy to work, too, though his pitch count has been pretty low in recent outings.
  • Darwin Barney had reached base five straight times against the Bucs this series until he flew out short of the right field track in the fifth inning.
  • The Pirates drew 12,675 on a threatening night that turned out pretty nice.

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