Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bucs Fall In 11 To Cubs 4-3

Carlos Villanueva got the first two Bucs easily before Cutch singled up the middle. The Cubs are one of the few teams that doesn't run an infield shift against him, and it cost them a hit there. But they do shift against Garrett Jones, and he rolled one softly to the second baseman, stationed in short right, to end the frame. AJ used seven pitches to get three ground outs, the last a smoked one hopper off Anthony Rizzo's bat that Bradon Inge made a diving grab of to keep the inning clean.

The Bucs aren't doing much against the soft tossing Villanueva; there hasn't been a loud foul off him yet and he's got a pair of K; maybe the second time around will be the charm. After whiffing Alfonso Soriano in the Cubs' second, AJ lost Luis Valbuena, who moved up a station on Nate Schierholtz's single just past Jones, who was holding the runner. Darwin Barney hit a DP ball to Jordy Mercer, but it turned into a force as Brandon Inge had it roll out of his hand while trying to make the relay. Welington Castro couldn't cash the misplay in; his soft liner was right at Mercer.

The Pirates went down in order in the third, with Villanueva picking up another pair of K. The Pirate defense sure didn't look like the pride of the league in the third. Villanueva broke his bat to start the frame, but dropped a bloop into center. After an out, Starlin Castro lifted a foul fly behind first; it hit in the field, but Inge couldn't get to it, either a step slow or more likely unfamiliar with Wrigley's brick walls. Given new life, Castro roped a flat fastball to right center for a double to put runners at second and third. Rizzo hit a Baltimore chop to Jones, who dropped it. The run would have scored even if he held on, but losing the out hurt when Soriano golfed a fly to medium center; Cutch's throw after the catch was on the first base side of home, and it was 2-0.

JT opened the fourth with a leg double on looper into right and came home on Cutch's two-bagger to left. A Jones grounder moved him to third. Pedro K'ed, fouling off a flat offspeed pitch that hung over the dead red of the plate, then looking at a backdoor slider. Martin was walked and swiped second on a nicely executed delayed steal, but Inge's hopper to short ended the frame at 2-1. AJ had a routine frame, just issuing a 3-2 walk with two down that didn't hurt.At 59 pitches, he should be good for another frame.

Villanueva was done after 69 pitches, replaced by Hector Rondon in the fifth. With an out, AJ rolled one up the middle for a knock and then was forced by Marte. That was a good thing, as JT banged one off the ivy that a leaping Soriano couldn't glove and Marte scored standing up. Cutch walked, but Jones went down fishing at a running heater away. AJ needed seven pitches to get three ground outs.

Pedro opened the sixth with a tapper to short that rolled for an infield knock against the shift. Martin walked and Inge bunted them up. Mercer banged one to short with the infield in; Pedro got into a rundown, but Martin never left second; if it was a contact play, they both should have been off. It did get AJ out of the game, as Gaby came up to pinch hit against Pedro Strop. Sanchez fanned on a check swing to end the frame as the Bucs worked to get their .230 average with RISP even lower.

AJ went five, giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits, two walks and three K, tossing 66 pitches. Tony Watson took the hill and matched Burnett by getting three ground outs on seven pitches. With an out in the seventh, JT walked, getting the benefit of a check swing call, but was quickly erased on Cutch's 6-4-3 DP ball. Watson got a pair of outs, the fell behind pinch hitter Scott Hairston 2-0. Hairston was looking fastball and swung over a change up. He was still looking heater when he saw one, belt high and outside half, got it up into the wind and knocked it over the batter's eye in center to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.

Lefty James Russell took the hill in the eighth. He got Jones to ground out, then Pedro lined a soft single to left. That brought in RHP Blake Parker, who got Martin and Inge to pop out. Vin Mazzaro got back on his bar stool after being staggered last time out and struck out the middle of the Cub order.

Kevin Gregg came on to close, and struck out Mercer - who whiffed swinging thorugh a 91 MPH heater right down the middle - and Travis Snider, who fished for a running fastball off the dish. Marte worked the count full, spoiled a couple, and found one he liked, burying it deep into the seats in left center to tie the game. JT worked a full count walk, and Cutch shot a liner to the track in left, but right at Soriano, who was deep in a no doubles D. Mark Melancon took the ball. Seven pitches, three outs, and on to the 10th.

In the 10th, Matt Guerrier got Jones to bounce to second. Darwin, plying in the grass, had the ball come up on him and couldn't recover for the error. Pedro got ahead 2-0, but instead of the fastball got a changeup. He had been going the opposite way with them all game, but rolled over on this one, banging into a 4-6-3 DP. Martin drilled one up the middle, but off Guerrier's foot to second, and he was a 1-4-3 victim. Bryon Morris came on to face the Cubs. With an out, he gave up a pair of excuse me hits - a Dave Sappelt bloop into right that fell thanks to the no double D and a Baltimore chop by Julio Borbon - but Martin threw out Sappelt stealing in between, and Castro's tapper to short took it the 11th.

To open the 11th against Guerrier, Inge took the ball to the wall in straight center, where Borbon backed against the ivy to make the grab. Mercer lined a single to left, but Snider rolled into a 4-6-3 DP to put another quick end to a frame. Morris stayed on.

Rizzo stroked one the opposite way for a knock. With Snider playing literally on the track against the RH Soriano, Alfonso dropped a bloop into medium right for a cheap single. Valbuena tried to bunt twice. The second time, Rizzo was leaning toward third when Martin, who had a good shot at him, threw the ball through the SS hole instead of second to put runners on second and third. Valbuena was walked, and Dioner Navarro hit one to right, deep enough that Rizzo scored easily for the game winner.

Pirate defense let the pitching down today, and the offense continues to sputter, stranding nine and 1-for-7 with RISP. The Bucs are still in a good place and bumps in the road do pop up, as they did for the Cards and Reds. But sooner or later they're gonna have to address some offensive issues to support the pitching.

The grind continues for the Bucs as they come home to face the Oakland As with Jeff Locke taking on Bartolo Colon tomorrow.

  • Starling Marte has a dozen straight games with a knock and Cutch has a nine game hitting streak goin' on.
  • Neil Walker will get an MRI on his sore right side Monday. Currently, it's being considered a day-to-day injury.
  • This is this first time the Bucs have lost back-to-back series since late May/early June against the Reds and Braves.
  • Scott Hairston of the Cubs has 17 hits; eight are homers, and they're all off of lefties.
  • Jameson Taillon is on the bump for Altoona tonight.

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