Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bucs Take Eighth In A Row 2-1

Francisco Liriano lost Ricky Weeks on a 3-2 pitch to start the game, and Jean Segura followed by protecting the plate against a 1-2 spinner and blooping the pitch away into center. But this wasn't a repeat of last night. The Cisco Kid got Carlos Gomez to chase for a swinging K and Aramis Ramirez to bang into a 6-4-3 DP to put up an opening zero. With an out, Russell Martin dropped a single into right; Sean Halton, a first baseman by trade, couldn't get to it. But no harm for Donovan Hand. Cutch bounced a chopper up the middle, and with the shift on, it became a tailor-made DP.

The Brewers got a two out single in an otherwise quiet second. Pedro made big noise with one out; he drilled a 1-2 sinker that was up 445' into the drink for his 20th and a 1-0 lead. Frankie tossed a clean third with a couple of swinging K.

It's a good thing Liriano can pitch, because he clogged up the bases pretty well. After Jordy Mercer beat out a chopper up the middle, Liraino's bunt was a skipped throw away from being a DP. Starling Marte doubled; Liriano hit third after Marte was already on second. With the infield in, Martin hit a ball sharply to the 2B hole that Weeks made a great diving stop of; Frankie stood at third and watched, trotted toward home, and then stopped about ten feet short to get tagged. Cutch popped out, and the Bucs missed a run.

The Cisco Kid may have still been carrying that base running weight around; he served Gomez a meatball then he ripped for a leadoff triple. But he focused and K'ed A-Ram. With the infield in to Jonathan Lucroy, a one hopper to Walker cut down Gomez at home, and a tapper to the mound ended the frame. Garrett Jones led off by banging a sinker down into the shrubbery of the batter's eye 410' away to make it 2-0. Hand went to his curve after that to sit the Bucs down.

Liriano had two outs and two strikes on Hand in the fifth, but curiously gave him a change that he poked softly into right. No problem except for a handful of extra pitches, as Weeks bounced out. The Bucs went down quietly.

The Brewers got on the board in the sixth. Gomez singled off Liriano, and A-Ram sigled sharply just past Mercer. They were still on first and second two outs later when Yuniesky Betancourt broke an 0-for-16 streak. With two strikes, the Brew Crew had the runners going, and Betancourt banged a low slider on the outside half behind the runners into short right to make it 2-1.

Brandon Kintzler came on. With one gone, Cutch beat the shift with a right side bouncer and stole second with a sick here it is, here it isn't sleight of hand move with his arm. Jones tried to beat the shift, too, but his one hopper went to the only man on the left side, 3B Ramirez, for the second out and Pedro K'ed. Tony Watson took the bump for Pittsburgh in the seventh, with Travis Snider going into right. Liriano went six, giving up a run on seven hits with a walk and six whiffs.

The lefty put away the 8-9-1 guys routinely, and John Axford took his turn on the hill. He tossed a clean frame, and Mark Melancon took the ball for Pittsburgh in the eighth. MM did his part. With an out, Gomez reached on a wild pitch strikeout - seems that's been happening a lot lately - but was left on second. Closer Jim Henderson came in for the Brew Crew and tucked the Bucs in; it was Jason Grilli's game to close, after a layoff of five days.

Pinch hitter Norichika Aoki sliced his first pitch into left center, and Marte covered the acreage to make the grab. Two grounders later, Grilli had his 27th save and Liriano his seventh win as the Bucs continued to win, baby, win.

Unlike most Buc-Brewer games, this one was pretty well played all the way around (except for Liriano's comedy routine on the bases; his AL pedigree sure shows). The diff was the Pirates left the yard twice, and the Brewers didn't.

Charlie Morton takes on Kyle Lohse tomorrow afternoon.

  • This is the first Pirate team to win 50 games before the July. The last club to do that was the 1960 Bucs.  Scary, isn't it?
  • Pedro is the first Buc to have 20 HR before the All-Star break since Jay Bay in 2006, and the first  with 10+ HR in June since Richie Hebner in 1975. He also extended his now career high hitting streak to a dozen games.
  • The club has never sold out five straight games at PNC Park - until tonight, when 38,438 showed up for on-the-field and post-game fireworks.
  • In pitching news, AJ is coming along and will throw a simulated game next. Jared Hughes is tossing bullpen sessions. J-Mac will go to Texas to see a doc next week, and both Phil Irwin and Kyle McPherson have been shut down, as has Wandy Rodriguez. Jeff Karstens isn't expected back until September. And we wondered what they were gonna do with all those pitchers in March!

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