Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Buc Bullpen Loses Battle; Braves Win 5-4 In Ten

Mike Minor put the Bucs away in the first without a ball leaving the infield. Andrelton Simmons greeted Jeff Locke with a single dropped into center, and stole second an out later. He stayed there as Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman went down swinging to end a scoreless first.

Gaby Sanchez put the Pirates up early when he took a 2-2 fastball yard in left center to open the second, two pitches after he missed sending a slider deep, just sliding a drive outside the foul pole. Minor retired two of the following three Bucs on strikes, but was down 1-0. The Braves got a second RISP when Dan Uggla grounded a ball toward the hole that was cut off by Pedro; he threw it past the base for a single and error. But Locke mopped it up with a soft roller from BJ Upton.

The Bravos evened up in the third when Clint Barmes grounder to second was booted by Uggla. Locke couldn't move him, bunting to third and a force at second. An out later, Jordy Mercer lined a double to left to put runners at second and third. Minor worked a 2-2 count to Cutch, who banged a curve up the third base line to bring the pair home with a two-bagger. He got Gaby to fish for changeup that he rolled to short, but the Bucs were out of the gate with a 3-0 lead.

With an out, Locke walked Simmons, missing with four straight fastballs. He jammed Jason Heyward with an 0-2 heater, but he fought it off to drop a knock into right, and Atlanta had a runner at second for the the third straight inning. J Upton got ahead 3-1, but Locke fed him a pair of changeups and got him to pop to second. He gave Freeman a 1-2 curve that was down and away, he poked it the opposite way on a check swing past third for a two-run double as Marte had trouble getting a handle on the ball. Brian McCann followed with a five pitch walk. He ran the count full on Chris Johnson, being squeezed ala AJ last night, but got him swinging at a changeup to escape the frame with a 3-2 edge. But he used 30+ pitches in the inning, so we'll see how that plays down the road.

Minor got the first pair of outs routinely, but left an 0-2 fastball up and away to Pedro, who dropped it over the wall in left center by the 380' mark to put the pad back to a pair at 4-2. Locke K'ed the bottom of the Bravo order, but could use a quick frame; he's up to 72 pitches. The Bucs went down in order in the fifth; both lefties are pretty similar, spotting their fastball and getting chases and weak contact of the change tonight. After an out, Heyward drilled a heater into right for a double. After a fly out, Freeman worked him for an eight pitch at-bat; Locke won, finally getting a grounder to short to end the frame. At 92 pitches, he may be done; the pen has been getting loose.

The middle of the Bucco order went down without much fuss in the sixth. Locke returned, and came within a strike of a 1-2-3 frame, but Ugla lined an elevated 2-2 heater into left for a knock, and that ended his night. Locke went 5-2/3, giving up three runs on six hits with two walks and seven K, tossing 103 balls, the most pitches he's thrown this year (his high is 104 against Atlanta last year).

Ryan Reid came on, and Martin went behind the dish in the two-fer, with Travis Snider going to right. It wasn't a great move; BJ Upton homered to center on a 1-2 count off a 94 MPH heater, at the knees and down the middle, and it was a tie game. RR came back to K Jordan Schafer, but it was a little late.

Luis Avilan came on for Minor in the seventh and tucked the Pirates away. Reid stayed on to face the top of the order. Simmons dropped an 0-2 slider on the outside black into center for a lead off knock, and Heyward bunted him to second.  J Upton bounced to first, moving Simmons 90 more feet, and Tony Watson came in to face the lefty Freeman; Walker came in at second and Mercer moved to short. Tony threw him three pitches up and in; none looked like strikes, except to Freeman, who went down swinging.

Jordan Walden climbed the hill in the eighth, and Pittsburgh went down in order; that's 13 straight put away by the Braves, who haven't surrendered a hit since Pedro's fourth inning bomb. Watson took the ball again with McCann up, who he retired on a fly. But he missed badly against Johnson, walking him on four pitches. Ramiro Pena ran for him. Watson wasn't any closer against Uggla, losing him on five pitches, none over the plate. BJ Upton popped out to left after a visit to the mound by Ray Searage, and Evan Gattis grabbed a stick. A wild pitch moved the Bravo runners to second and third, and Gattis was then intentionally walked to juice the sacks, without benefit of an Atlanta hit. Clint Hurdle rolled the dice and left Watson in; Simmons bounced to short to end the inning. It worked out, though we haven't a clue of what the skipper was thinking, especially with a nine man pen on hand.

Craig Kimbrel toed the rubber in the ninth, and Cutch greeted him with a roller up the middle for an opening knock. After Gaby popped out, Martin drew a walk. Snider whiffed on three pitches, waving at a slider in the dirt. Pedro got a 2-1 heater down the middle, but at 98 MPH didn't get it all and flew out short of the CF track. The Braves used their closer, so the Bucs brought in theirs, Jason Grilli, to face the heart of the Atlanta order. After a K, J Upton dug out a slider under the knees and lined it to left for a knock. He battled Freeman, who almost won, knocking a 3-2 heater to the wall in center, but it was hauled in by Cutch on the run at the 390' mark. He lost McCann on five pitches, and Grilli has been laboring; he's at 22 pitches. But he had enough in the tank to zip three high heaters past Pena to get the game into the tenth.

Anthony Varvaro came in for the tenth and worked a quick, clean inning. Mark Melancon followed Grilli for a change. He walked Uggla, losing a couple of close calls; plate ump Mark Carlson has called probably ten strikes as balls, for both sides, tonight. After a K, he hit pinch hitter Reed Johnson. The free runners finally cost the Bucs; Simmons spanked a 1-1 cutter down the middle for a double, and the Braves took home a 5-4 win.

The Bucs were lucky to last ten innings; they had six baserunners all night, while the Braves went 2-for-14 with RISP and had ten hits, one hit batter and drew seven walks. The Pirates have a great strand rate, but it ain't 100%.

Wandy Rodriguez tries to salvage a win against the Braves and Julio Teheran.

  • Locke's scoreless streak ended at 22 IP, the longest since Charlie Morton went 24 straight zippo frames in 2011.
  • The rotation for the upcoming Chicago Cub series will be Francisco Liriano on Friday, AJ Burnett on Saturday and Jeff Locke on Sunday. As expected, the Bucs won't add a starter to replace Jeanmar Gomez right away, but will skip his spot following Thursday's off date.
  • Ken Rosenthal on Yardbarker says that barring further injury, looks like Francisco Liriano's deal will be worth $11M over two years.
  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says that one scout told him the Pirates have the best farm system in baseball right now. 
  • Jameson Taillon had a rough day at Altoona. He went six innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits, a walk and three K.
  • News from the latest doping scandal: "MLB will seek to suspend A-Rod, Ryan Braun and about 20 players connected to Miami (Biogenesis) clinic. Founder Tony Bosch agreed to cooperate" per TJ Quinn of ESPN.

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