Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bucs Even Series 4-0

Now that's how to start a game. Starling Marte ripped the second pitch from Mat Latos into center, and when he stopped, he was on third, barely beating the throw with a headfirst dive. Russell Martin legged out a ball to short thanks to an offline toss (it was ruled a hit), and the Bucs were up 1-0. Latos decided that rather than pitch Cutch tight, he'd work him down and away with sliders. Good choice; he swung through three of them. With Garrett Jones up, Martin swiped second, twice wiggling around attempted tags and drawing Dusty Baker's ire.

Jones drew a ten pitch walk; Walker followed with another free pass as Gary Darling squeezed Latos on a couple of calls. Pedro fell behind 0-2, then fought off a heater and dumped into the left field corner to bring home a pair. But Walker, asleep at the wheel, only got to second, and was froze there on Gaby's long fly to the track. Jordy Mercer checked on a cutter away and rolled it to second, and it was 3-0 Buccos.

Charlie Morton wasted no time evening up for a couple of headhunter shots by the Reds last night, plunking Shin-Soo Choo in the calf on the first pitch; both benches were warned, and the game was on. It was time to take care of business, as Ground Chuck got Zack Cozart to bang into an around the horn DP. Joey Votto was buzzed, and then flew out to the track in center to end the frame.

Morton led off the second, and Latos let bygones be bygones, whiffing him on four pitches, none remotely close to Charlie, who nevertheless wasn't exactly dug in at the plate. Marte joined him on the bench after fishing for a 3-2 slider; he may not have seen a strike during the six pitch sequence. Martin became the third victim, swinging through a full count cutter; Latos is at 49 pitches after two frames. Morton put down the Reds in order.

Cutch opened the third with an at 'em ball to Choo. Jones went down hacking at slider, which has been Latos' swing-and-miss offering in the early going, and he sat down Walker fishing for the same pitch. Maybe the Bucs should take a swing at those first pitch fastballs. Morton put away the Reds 1-2-3, with Jones making a nice tumbling grab of Latos' liner to end the inning.

Pedro started the fourth by swinging through a slider, followed by a 3-2 walk to Gaby. Mercer missed on a heater; that's seven of nine down on strikes as Latos is dealin' big time now. Morton tapped out to short to end the frame. Joey Votto collected the first Red knock by grounding a single through the left side against the shift with two down. Not really sure why'd you shift against JV, a guy who uses the whole field. Anyway, Charlie got Brandon Phillips on a comebacker to keep the score at 3-0 after four.

Latos cruised through the fifth. With one down in the Reds half, Todd Frazier drilled a 1-2 curve into center for a knock. After getting ahead of Paul 1-2, Morton lost him when he hit him on the foot with a sinker on a 3-2 delivery. Devin Mesaraco grounded out weakly to third, putting runners at second and third with two down and ending Latos' evening. He was replaced by pinch hitter Jack Hannahan, who bounced one sharply to short to end the frame.

Southpaw Manny Parra climbed the hill in the sixth. He struck out lefties Jones and Pedro, sandwiched around a liner to the center field track by Walker. Choo started the Reds off with a bang up the middle, but was nailed stealing two pitches later. Cozart K'ed swinging at a pitch in the dirt, but it got away from Martin and he reached first.

That was it for Morton, who was struggling the last couple of frames. He went 5-1/3 with three hits and two K after tossing just 61 pitches; Tony Watson took the ball with Votto up. He left a sinker up, and JV roped it off the wall in left for a two bagger, with Cozart stopping at third. Watson got a break when Phillips fouled off a hanging change, then came back to strike him out on a high heater. He came in on Jay Bruce's hands with two strikes and got a tapper back to the mound as the Bucs dodged another bullet.

Curtis Partch came in to work the seventh, and got Gaby on another ball hit to the track in center; too bad the Bucs can't turn on a couple of those. Mercer walked on four pitches, and Watson bunted him to second. Marte made Clint Hurdle look like Einstein when he cracked an 0-2 curve up the middle to plate Mercer. He stole second, and Martin joined him shortly thereafter, drawing a four pitch walk. Cutch went down swinging at heater, but the Bucs added another run; there are never too many of those in your column at GABP. Travis Snider went to right in the seventh and got a good view of Watson carving up the Reds with two K and a pop up.

Snider led off the eighth with a walk and stole second, but stayed there. Mark Melancon took the bump and put Cincy away quietly. JJ Hoover came on in the ninth and struck out the side. Jason Grilli came on to close. with an out, he struck out Phillips, but again the ball eluded Martin and he reached first. No prob; the next pair of reds on a skied fly and K as Charlie Morton picked up his first win of the year.

Working MM and Grilli with a four run lead was actually a smart move. With a day game Thursday, Hurdle has them either tomorrow night or Thursday afternoon, but not both dates because of the quick turnaround, so why not ice today's game, even with everyone but Bryan Morris ready in the pen.

Four hits. 17 strikeouts. And they still won by four runs. Probably not the way Clint would draw it up, but whatever works... Jeff Locke takes on Bronson Arroyo tomorrow.

  • This was the Bucs 12th shutout of the season to lead MLB. 
  • Mat Latos had a personal 10 game winning streak ended tonight.
  • Pittsburgh drew more walks (6) than hits (4) against Cincinnati.
  • 17 strikeouts is the Pirate season high. Pedro and Starling Marte whiffed three times and four other Bucs fanned twice. Gaby was the only Pirate starter not to go down on strikes.
  • Morton only K'ed a pair of Reds, but in 3-2/3 IP, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli punched out eight.

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