Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bats, Bullpen Icy In 4-1 Loss

The beleaguered Edwin Jackson started today with a nice, routine 1-2-3 inning. Jeff Locke got the first two outs, one on a nice stop by Neil Walker. He then walked Anthony Rizzo on five pitches, working him tight and missing. The big first baseman swiped second as Locke napped on him, but the lefty came back to whiff Alfonso Siriano.

Jackson went 1-2-3 on the Bucs again in the second, with Cody Ransom diving to take a hit away from Russell Martin and Soriano hauling in Pedro's drive at the track in left. Locke walked Dioner Navarro with an out and wild pitched him to second, but struck out the other three Cubbies looking; he has five K's so far, working the generous corner that plate ump Paul Nauert has given both pitchers so far.

Clint Barmes singled to left with an out in the third and was bunted to second. Starling Marte got a gift knock; his chopper to third should have been the third out, but Angel Hernandez missed the call at first. Marte swiped second, but Travis Snider flew out to short left to leave the ducks floating on the pond. Locke got two 6-3 outs, then walked Ransom and Rizzo on nine pitches; none were a strike. With Soriano up, Locke spun and threw a strike to second; this time it was the Cubs napping as Ransom was picked off.

Cutch opened the fourth by drilling a one-hop double of the left field wall and came in on Jones' looping liner to short right center. The Bucs couldn't muster any more; Martin K'ed and Pedro grounded into a 5-3 DP; the third baseman was shifted over second base, right where Alvarez's bouncer went. The wind was blowing in for the third straight day, and that helped keep Soriano's drive in the yard for Marte to corral. After a K, Locke again walked a batter with two down; he's at 63 pitches and would be in great position to go deep but for those free passes. A nice play by Barmes, his second of the game, and a nice pick by Walker turned a Castro bid for a knock into a force to end the frame.

The Pirates went down quietly in the fifth. Locke got over his two out block and retired the Cubs on 10 pitches to calm his count. All the Bucs got in the sixth was a two out knock by Cutch.

Ransom drew a leadoff walk, and the shift bit the Bucs against Rizzo. He hit a soft roller to Walker, Locke covered first late, and The Kid had to take the out himself. As it was hit to second, both Barmes and Pedro hesitated, neither apparently real sure who was to cover second (Pedro), and Ransom scooted to an uncovered third (Barmes spot). Soriano was walked semi-intentionally to set up a possible DP. Didn't happen; Hairston lofted a fly to center on a 3-1 pitch to bring home Ransom after missing a double up the line by a ball's width two pitches earlier. He fell behind Navarro 2-1, who got the Cubs first hit - yah, they scored before they had a knock - on a soft liner over short.

That was it for Locke at 100 pitches. He went 5-2/3 innings, giving up a run on one hit, seven walks and six K. Justin Wilson got a three pitch K to end the frame. The Pirates again went down without a peep in the seventh. Not so the Cubs.

Ryan Sweeney started it off by fighting off a high heater and grounding it the opposite way through the hole. After a force at second on a bunt nicely played by Pedro, Darwin Barney softly dropped another elevated fastball into right, a couple of steps in front of Snider. The Cody Ransom took a heater above the knees and on the inside corner and turned on it; his liner had just enough distance to fall into the seats where the stands jut out in left for a three run homer.

Carlos Marmol came on in the eighth, and got two whiffs and a tapper to second. Ryan Reid took the ball. He gave up a single off Barmes glove and got a soft liner to right. Mike Zagurski then climbed the hill, and got a pair of grounders to second. Kevin Gregg took the bump for the save. With an out, Cutch singled - and then was caught stealing, in a pretty incredible brain cramp being down 4-1. Jones, of course, followed with a double. Martin went down looking, leaving the tying run in Pedro on deck as the Bucs went down.

This team needs some offensive help. It's in the bottom third in every offensive category: BA (27th - .235); K rate (27th - 22.5%); OBP (26th - .300); OPS (26th - .677); runs (24th - 228); slugging (24th - .377)...well, it goes on. It's nice that Gerrit Cole is coming to town; it would be nicer if a couple of bats came with him.

The Bucs are off tomorrow, then host the Giants for three games with Gerrit Cole and Tim Lincecum opening  the set Tuesday night.

  • Cutch and Jones had two hits apiece; the rest of the team had two more.
  • The Cubs haven't been no-hit since 9th Sept 1965, against Sandy Koufax, though the Bucs have tried hard this series, taking no-nos fairly deep into all three games.
  • After a decent outing at Indy yesterday, Charlie Morton looks like Thursday's option to go against the Giants if Wandy can't take the hill. That'll be determined tomorrow after Rodriguez tosses a side session; he may yet land on the DL.
  • If you're wondering who #45 is, wonder no more - it's Gerrit Cole. We'd like to think the smart move is to keep him here for good, but with a lot of pitchers ready to come off the DL, he could get squeezed in a numbers crunch that's part and parcel of the Pirates' beloved "asset allocation" game.
  • Jameson Taillon was scratched from his start at Altoona, but for nothing major. He had a stiff neck.

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