Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nats Walk Away With 5-4 Decision

Jeff Locke opened with a nice 1-2-3 inning. Stephen Strasburg got into a little jam early on. He plunked Starling Marte, who stole second and went to third on a wayward peg. But there he stayed as Strasburg did his thing, getting Travis Snider and Cutch swinging and Garrett Jones to pop out.

A little touch of wildness put Locke in a second inning hole; he walked two of the first three Nats. But he got Wilson Ramos to roll one to short, and the 6-4-3 DP ended the frame. The Bucs went quietly in their half. But wildness and a misplay ended Locke's shutout string at 15 innings in the third.

Roger Bernardina was HBP, and a throwaway by Clint Barmes put runners on the corners, where a sac fly by Ian Desmond would plate the game's first run. The National lead didn't last long. Barmes singled to open the Buc half, and a batter later Marte got his revenge for his beaning by launching a first pitch fastball over the fence in right center to make it 2-1 Pirates.

It looks like a see-saw afternoon; Ryan Zimmerman tripled to left on a ball Marte misplayed and he came in on Adam LaRoche's sac fly. The Pirates went down in order. In the fifth, the Nats wasted a two-out double by Danny Espinosa. The Bucs made hay in their half when a Jordy Mercer knock was followed by a Barmes homer on a 1-0 fastball to put Pittsburgh up by a pair.

Again, the lead went by quickly. A single and walk brought out Clint Hurdle and brought in Justin Wilson. Locke went five and would be charged with four runs (three earned) on three hits, three walks and three K after serving 74 pitches. Wilson walked the first batter he faced to juice the sacks, then struck out the side - except for the two-run single that Ramos bounced up the middle to tie the game. Cutch walked in the Bucco half, and an out later Russell Martin was beaned, but the Pirates couldn't advance them.

Pedro booted another ball in the seventh, and with two outs, Wilson walked back-to-back hitters. Bryan Morris came on and whiffed Tyler Moore on a hook to keep the score even. The Bucs went down 1-2-3 in Strasburg's last frame.

Tony Watson came on in the eighth, and with two outs gave up a knock and hit a batter, but wriggled out. Tyler Clippard took the bump for Washington. with an out, Cutch singled, but Jones' liner up the middle was snared by the pitcher and turned into a DP.

Watson's control issues continued into the ninth. With one away, a hit batter and LaRoche knock followed by a successful gutsy call (and a major Pirate mental lapse) by Davey Johnson for a double steal put Nats at second and third; they cashed in on a Moore sac fly. Martin led off the ninth with a single off Rafael Soriano, but was gunned trying to stretch it into a double. It was close, but in that situation, it has to be guaranteed. Mercer and Pedro went down routinely, and the Bucs lost an imminently winnable game 5-4.

The Bucs walked six, hit three, and three of the free passes scored. Washington's attack hasn't been all that; they only had six hits today, and three of their five runs were on sac flies. Throw in a couple of errors and a misplay that helped create two runs, and the Pirates did more to help Washington score than the National batters did, setting up all of their five scores.

It was their first real clunker in awhile, but it does point to a problem that has to be corrected sooner or later. Going into today, the Bucs four walks/nine led the NL and 10.5% walk rate led the majors. All those Pirate walks eventually have to come back to haunt them, both from a runners on base stand point and as a pitch count  issue.

Seems like today might have been a good time to see Jose Contreras has; at least he's fresh. And Hurdle's reluctance (shared by most managers) to use Melancon or Grilli unless he's ahead might make sense in an appearance/inning type scenario, but it puts his bridge guys in high leverage spots that they're not meant to face.

Wandy Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez pair up in a battle of lefties in tomorrow afternoon's rubber match.

  • The Bucs drew 29,975 today, the largest crowd since Opening Day.

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