Friday, July 26, 2013

Buc Bats Quiet In 2-0 Loss

Hnederson Alvarez tossed a 1-2-3 frame to open the game. Jeff Locke wasn't quite as sharp, giving up a one out knock to Christian Yalich and walking Giancarlo Stanton, but got away OK. Pedro walked to start the second, but went no further. A two out walk to Jeff Mathis almost cost Locke when his mound opponent cracked a double that went to the wall in left, but Starling Marte-to-Neil Walker-to-Russ Martin erased Mathis at home to keep it scoreless.

Jordy Mercer singled to start the third; an out later, he was taken out on a 4-6-3 Marte DP. With two down for the Fish, Stanton singled off Mercer's glove, but was stranded. The Bucs zeroed in a little better in the fourth, but just ended up with some loud at 'em outs for their efforts. Logan Morrison opened with yet another walk, and with two down, Mathis rolled a single through the left side as the Marlins left another pair aboard. Despite four hits and three walks, Locke has put up four zeroes; maybe the seven K have something to do with that.

Martin started the fifth by looking at three strikes, never even twitching the bat. Jones continued the Bucco roll of lining out, smoking one to RF Stanton before Gaby K'ed looking. Sheesh! Alvarez had 11 K in 24+ IP before tonight; he has five in five frames now. Adeiny Hechavarria got the frame rolling by singling through the left side. Locke made quick work off him, catching him on the move and picking Hechavarria off 1-3-6. With two down, he lost Stanton on four pitches, maybe as a work around, before ending the frame. Still, nine baserunners is tempting fate mightily.

Alvarez coaxed another long out to start the sixth, a Mercer fly just short of the track in center. After a Locke tapper, Marte dropped a bunt for a base hit and stole second, but The Kid rolled over on a fastball down and away to bounce to second and end the frame. With one down, Donovan Solano walked and Jake Marisnick singled up the middle, his first MLB hit. Mathis walked on five pitches to load the bases for Alvarez, who was pinch hit for by Placido Polanco. His swinging bunt to third was wisely eaten by Pedro to plate the game's first run. The baseball gods evened up as Hechavarria's liner was drilled right at Gaby, and a force ended the inning. Locke was lucky; he needed to do a better job challenging the bottom of the order. 

AJ Ramos took the hill; guess the bright spot is that Alvarez took a seat. Maybe not; Ramos blew a heater past Cutch for an opening K in the seventh, and Pedro swung through three straight changes. Martin looked at a slider, and the Bucs were whiffed in order. Locke fell behind Stanton 3-1, came in with an 89 MPH heater, and Giancarlo rocketed the ball into the left center seats to make it 2-0. After a pair of strikeouts, Locke was pulled; Martin left, too, in a two-fer since he made the last out. Locke struggled through 6-2/3 IP, giving up two runs on eight hits with six walks and nine whiffs, tossing 108 pitches. Jeanmar Gomez came on to get the last out. Clint wanted to wring one more frame out of Locke and couldn't quite get it.

Lefty Mike Dunn was on the bump for the eighth. Josh Harrison, who had the hot stick yesterday, pinch hit for Garrett Jones and bounced out. Gaby fought Dunn in an 11 pitch at-bat, winning the battle as he dropped a broken bat double to left. That brought on Chad Qualls to face Jordy Mercer, who Hurdle flipped for Travis Snider. Snider went after the first pitch and rolled it to second, as Gaby went to third. The Fort whiffed. Harrison went to short and Snider to right. Gomez did his part, getting three grounders.

Steve Cishek took the ball, looking for the save against the top of the order. Fater a pair of swinging strikeouts, Cutch banged a two strike single up the middle to bring up Pedro, who also singled to put Bucs on the corners. JT grabbed a stick, and the rally ended with a grounder to second.

Well, the Bucs were due to get shutout; it's been six weeks since they've been goose-egged. Henderson Alvarez filled up the strike zone; the Bucs helped by being pacifists at the dish and falling into pitchers counts, taking 17 called strikes in his six innings. Locke labored with his command, but kept it together enough to only give up a pair. He wasn't hit hard, as most of the Marlin knocks were ground balls. Walking the six and eight hitters cost him a run, as did falling behind Stanton 3-1. But the issue isn't with the pitching; it's with the sticks. The FO has five days to make a move, and we'll see what that time has in store.

Charlie Morton takes on Tom Koehler tomorrow night.

  • Russ Martin "tweaked" his knee; that's why he was removed, not because of a two-fer deal, as we speculated in the game story. He's iffy for tomorrow.
  • Jordy Mercer has an 11 game hitting streak, the longest active streak in MLB. 
  • Jeff Locke had a career high nine K tonight.
  • Starling Marte became the second Pirate to steal 30 or more bases in a season since Cutch swiped 33 in 2010. Before that, it was Tony Womack with 58 way back in 1998.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN on Buc rumors: "The Pirates might not be as focused on Alex Rios as they've been portrayed. Rios' contract doesn't fit into their projected payroll. And Pirates scouts have grumbled that Rios doesn't always play hard. Here's a name to file away: Justin Morneau. The Pirates would prefer a right-handed bat who could play right field, (but) they could slide Garrett Jones back to right. And we've heard they've inquired with the Twins about Morneau."
  • JT can't grip or throw a ball yet after being plunked on Wednesday. The Pirates hope to have him back after the weekend.
  • Tom Veducci of Sports Illustrated likes the way Clint Hurdle protects his bullpen.
  • Alex Dickerson of Altoona had a homer, two doubles and a career-high eight RBIs, which ties the franchise record set by Alex Presley in 2010.

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