Sunday, June 23, 2013

All's Well That Ends Well; Battlin' Bucs Sweep Halos 10-9

Joe Blanton kept his strikeout rate up in the first, whiffing Starling Marte and garrett Jones. But in between, he left a couple of balls up. Jordy Mercer hit one to the track, and Pedro did him one better, just clearing the right center fence with a towering blast to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead. El Toro got a reprieve before his homer; he had hit a foul pop into short left that Mike Trout gloved, but it popped loose as he was tripped up by third baseman Alberto Callaspo.

After a knock by Neil Walker to open the second, Blanton picked up another pair of K. Tony Sanchez made his first at bat memorable. He drove a 2-1 fastball into the RF wall - it stuck in a ledge beneath the scoreboard for a ground rule double, probably costing the Bucs a run by freezing The Kid at third. McKenry flew out to left to leave the ducks floating. The Pirates were about to play their sloppiest frame in quite sometime.

After an out, a walk and slap single to left was followed by a Baltimore chop to Walker; he tried to make a glove toss to first and missed Sanchez, allowing a run to score and the trail runner to get to third. Pedro had a two hop DP ball hit to him; it bounced off his chest. A seeing eye single was rolled into left - Morton is working the lefties away, and they're going with the pitch rather than rolling over - and was followed by another walk. Walker fielded a slow roller, and his flip to second got the force barely, but Mercer was cut down and dropped the ball trying for the relay; two runs scored on that play. When the smoke cleared, it was 5-1 Angels and Charlie had a 32 pitch inning.

The Bucs got a couple back in the third; ends up the LA infield couldn't play grounders any better than the Pirates. Starling Marte opened with a speed double off a grounder to short that clanked off a glove and then went to third on a short passed ball. Mercer grounded out to third and Pedro whiffed. Garrett Jones' check swing roller to second went through Howie Kendrick; he was charged with an error though Jones probably had it beat out. Walker doubled to right; the ball was cut off short of the fence, stopping Jones at third. Gaby smacked a hard one hopper to third; it ricocheted off Callaspo and it was 5-3.

It calmed down after that. The Halos went down 1-2-3 in their half, and the Bucs did the same in the top of the fourth. In the LA at-bats, JB Shuck drew a two-out walk. He stole second and came in when Brad Hawpe softly stroked a curve into right. The Pirates again went down in order in the fifth; Pedro and Jones both hit balls hard, but right at 1B Mark Trumbo. Ground Chuck did his thing; he got four grounders - one was thrown away by Mercer; Sanchez for once couldn't pick the hop - and put up a zero.

Blanton retired the Bucs routinely in the sixth on nine pitches; that's 10 in a row. Morton K'ed the first two Halos, then walked the next pair. He was done, going 5-2/3, giving up six runs (three earned) on six hits and five walks with five whiffs, tossing 99 pitches. Ryan Reid came on and drilled Mike Trout with his first pitch to load the bases for Albert Pujols. He banged a one hopper to third, and Pedro made the toss across the diamond to end the frame.

Blanton mowed the Bucs down again in the seventh. Reid worked a routine frame after Jones circled under Trumbo's liner to the track in right.

After getting an out in the eighth, Mercer's hot shot to third, the Halos called on lefty Scott Downs. He got Pedro on a bouncer to second and struck out Brandon Inge, who hit for Jones (no, we don't know why either) on a ball that looked way tight. Duke Welker took the ball in the bottom of the eighth and worked a clean frame, hitting 98 a couple of times.

Closer Ernesto Frieri came on, and the Bucs took a liking to the flamethrower. Walker drew a walk and Gaby singled on a 3-2 pitch to put runners on the corners. Snider popped out behind the dish, and Cutch, called on to pinch hit, bounced to third for a force to make it 6-4. Russell Martin's day off was interrupted, too, as he grabbed a bat and drilled a 3-2 heater off the left field wall as Shuck pirouetted tracking it to make it 6-5. Marte fell behind 0-2, took a slider just off the plate and lined a second one into left center to tie the game, going to second on the throw home. Kevin Jepsen took over, and got Mercer to bang a curve to third to end the frame. Mark Melancon came in for the Bucs, who had their A team in the field now with Cutch and Martin. MM worked a 1-2-3 frame.

If you thought the ninth was amazing, well, the tenth was better. Pedro doubled and was bunted to third by Clint Barmes. Walker was given an intentional walk, and Gaby battled for another free pass. Behind Snider 3-1, Jepsen fed him a heater that was slapped into left; it took a hop past Shuck and three runs were in, all standing. Cutch singled him to third and Martin's knock drove him in to make it 10-6 and Jason Grilli time.

This was the tenth time Grilli came on in a non-save situation, and a great argument for those who believe closers should close. After a K, Kendrick hit a bloop to right that a diving Snider missed, turning it into a triple. Callaspo hit one through the left side to bring him home. Erick Aybar singled the same way; Angel lefties go with pitches away, as the Pirates should know by now. Hank Conger flew out to left center. Then the drama began. Shuck rolled one up the middle to make it 10-8, and Brendan Harris softly lined one up the LF line; Aybar scored and when Marte lobbed a throw to third toward Shuck, Harris took second and it was 10-9. Two outs, runners at second and third with Mike Trout up. Four pitches later, he sat down as Jason reared back to finally and dramatically end the game with a swinging K.

Not much in the way of good, fundamental baseball today, but a lot of excitement and omg moments. The Bucs took the sweep - the first time the Angels had been swept in interleague play since 1999 and the first time the Bucs swept a road interleague series ever - and while the regression numbers swing back toward norm, a win is a win. No game tomorrow; the Pirates face Seattle Tuesday. They deserve a day of rest; it was all hands on board today.

  • Pedro has homered in four consecutive games. 
  • An old problem: lefties tortured Morton; they went 4-for-8 with three walks against him.
  • Two Bucco MLB debuts today - Tony Sanchez, who got his first hit, and Duke Welker, who got his first strikeout.
  • Peter Bourjos had to leave the game after his break-up slide into second base in the second inning. It not only prevented a possible DP, but allowed a pair of runs to score.
  • The Bucs announced their upcoming rotation: Jeff Locke on Tuesday and Jeanmar Gomez on Wednesday against Seattle, followed by Gerrit Cole on Friday to open the home stand against the Brewers.
  • The Pirates are 5-2 on this road trip, with two games left at Seattle.
  • Wandy Rodriguez went four innings for Indy today with a line of one run, four hits, one walk and five K, tossing 73 pitches.
  • Luis Heredia made his WV debut:and went five scoreless innings, giving up a hit, four walks, and punching out five.

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