Saturday, June 1, 2013

Gotta Score To Win: Bucs Go Down 2-0

The first frame went quietly enough; Francisco Loriano put away the Reds, picking up a couple of K. Alex Presley greeted Mike Leake with bouncer up the middle, and Neil Walker followed with another bouncer, this one to Brandon Phillips to start a 4-6-3 DP. In the second, The Cisco Kid was still dealin', striking out the side. Garrett Jones led off with a single for the Bucs. He was forced out by Russell Martin, who made it a delayed DP by being caught stealing. Pedro walked, but another bouncer, this one by Travis Snider, ended the frame.

The Reds ended their strikeout swinging streak at seven with two down in the third, when Leake hit a soft fly to Cutch in center. After a Clint Barmes groundout, Liriano helped his own cause by fouling off five two-strike pitches before softly golfing a shoe-top hook into right center for a knock. Presley rolled a single into right to put Pirates at first and second. Neil Walker went down looking, followed by a Cutch foul pop out to first. It may take a Congressional act to get the Bucs on the board.

Zack Cozart got Cincy's first knock with an out in the fourth, a swinging bunt single to the left side. Votto dribbled another one, and Russell Martin had to take the play at first. It hurt, as Phillips weakly rolled a check swing 3-2 slider below his knees to the right side for an infield knock. Liriano was slow covering the bag, and Cozart, who was off on contact, came around to score. TV replays showed that Liriano did get to the base on time, barely ahead of a diving Phillips, but ump Bob Davidson's went Cincy's way. So the Reds were up 1-0 without a ball leaving the infield. The Bucs didn't hit a ball past the dirt either; two struck out in their half.

Todd Frazier opened the fifth with a knock up the middle, and Devon Mesoraco drew a 3-2 walk. The Cisco Kid got Derrick Robinson looking, but is laboring; his pitch count is suddenly at 70. He K'ed Leake, a fair hitting pitcher, swinging and also Shin-Soo Choo to get out of the jam. Travis Snider got good wood on the ball, but lined out to Bruce. Barmes shot a single into center and was bunted to second. It took nine pitches, but Leake struck out Presley to add another zero to the growing collection. Now all the starters know how AJ Burnett has felt all season.

Liriano was working on a quick sixth with two outs on four pitches before Phillips lined a changeup into right for a real hit before Francisco whiffed Jay Bruce. Liriano went six strong innings, giving up a run on four hits and a walk with 11K after 96 pitches. After Walker whiffed, Cutch hit the second Pirate liner of the day to Robinson in left. Jones came up with a single through the right side with two down and moved up a base as Martin followed with a line drive knock into center. Pedro jumped on a first pitch fastball, and banged it to second to end the frame. The Bucs have seven hits through six, but haven't touched third base yet.

Vin Mazzaro took the bump in the seventh. Frazier took a 3-2 heater at the knees and banged it up the middle. He was erased a pitch later on a Mesoraco 6-4-3 DP. Robinson spoiled a couple of two-strike pitches before roping a slider to left, but Vin got Jack Hannahan on a grounder to first. Leake was gone too; Sam LeCure took the ball and retired the bottom of the order, with Brandon Inge pinch hitting, routinely.

Tony Watson replaced Mazzaro in the eighth. Choo took a pitch in and lined it the opposite way for a knock and was bunted to second. Joey Votto did what Joey Votto does; he sent a bouncer up the middle, better placed than hit, to score Choo. Phillips was hit on a 1-2 pitch to put a pair of Reds aboard (he left the game with a bruised forearm), and a Bruce grounder to first moved the runners up a station. Then Frazier got plunked to jam the sacks. Mesoraco fouled off ball four and Watson escaped when the catcher flew out to right on a 3-2 sinker. We're still not sure why Clint Hurdle keeps trying to fit Tony and his 4.61 ERA into late inning situations.

Jonathan Broxton took the hill. Presley fought him for nine pitches and finally rolled a four seamer into right. Walker softly dropped a slider into right, and the Bucs had runners at the corners with no outs. Cutch fell bahind 0-2 and popped out on a slider on the outside black, not helping the cause. Jones was also in an 0-2 hole, fought to get a full count, and rolled one to first. Presley was off on contact and Votto tossed him out at home. It was a good call; the ball had DP written all over it. Martin flew out to center; too bad that neither of the guys ahead of him could do the same. A one run spread would have made it interesting in the ninth.

Justin Walker took the bump in the ninth, and in a two-fer, Jordy Mercer went to first, his first pro appearance at the position since 2010 at Altoona, when he played there once. Wilson tossed a clean frame and Mercer got his first MLB put-out at first.

Aroldis Chapman climbed the hill. Marte batted for Pedro against the hard throwing lefty and banged a single to left to open the frame. Gaby hit for Travis Snider, looked at two strikes, then waved at a fastball well off the plate in a wasted at-bat. The Fort batted for Barmes and sent a liner toward the bullpen, but it was run down by Choo. Mercer drew a five pitch walk to put the tying run aboard for Presley in a tough lefty-on-lefty matchup. Mesoraco made a nice save, blocking a slider in the dirt that was running away from him to freeze the runners. It ended up moot; Chapman blew a 100 MPH heater past Presley to end the game.

The Pirates claim job #1 is building pitching depth, but their hitting depth at the MLB level could use some work, too. We know the team line, but the club went through a several week span like this last season, and the way the Reds and Cards are playing, a dry spell of that duration would be a killer.

The pitching remains tough, and the Bucs are due to run into a ball or two, so this may just be a minor burp. But tonight, they were shut out on ten hits and that's how many they stranded, going 0-for-8 with RISP and only getting one runner to third.

Jeanmar Gomez will look to salvage game three against Mat Latos tomorrow afternoon.

  • Francisco Liriano's seven K in a row tied the Pirates record set by Erik Bedard against the Cards on May 3rd of last season. His 11 K are the club's season-high, and it's the 12th time Liriano has collected 10+ strikeouts in game during his career.
  • Alex Presley had three hits in his first start since being recalled.
  • Tonight's crowd at PNC Park was 33,912. 
  • The Pirates have failed to score in 28 of their last 29 innings.
  • This is the first time the Bucs have lost back-to-back games since May 8th-9th.

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