The Cards went quietly again in the second. Liriano led off, and Shane Robinson made a shoe top grab of his sinking liner, and the catch would prove big. The Bucs left the bases loaded - JT and Pedro walked around a Walker single and Cutch force - when Westbrook K'ed Martin on a 3-2 sinker down and away. But at 54 pitches, he needs a couple of quick innings to hang around. Frankie kept dealing in the third. Westbrook got some help in the Buc half. Robinson made another nice catch with an over the shoulder grab of Jones' shot to center a step or so in front of the wall at the Batter's Eye. Then Presley was rung up at first on a play that he beat, though barely. No juju needed for Barmes; his soft pop into center was a can of corn.
With an out in the fourth, Carlos Beltran's ball to third took a hop over a diving Pedro's glove. Cheating toward second for the DP, a skidding Walker came up just short of gloving Matt Carpenter's roller through the right side. With Allen Craig, hitting .485 with RISP, and the NL's top batter with a .333 BA, Yadier Molina, up, Frankie was in a jam. Well, not really; he got them both swinging at sliders in the dirt. Westbook caught Walker in the hip with a pitch with two down, but retired Cutch on a tapper. He's been laboring, but give him credit; he's kept the game in hand after that disastrous first.
The Cards managed three weak grounders against The Cisco Kid in the fifth. Westbrook plunked Martin in the elbow with an out, but a couple of grounders kept him at bay. Jone's was an interesting out. Martin broke on a delayed steal, but Matt Carpenter, the second baseman, never went to back up the bag, and was rewarded with a grounder right at him when Garrett hit behind the runner.
A blast and a bloop resulted in the Cards first run in the sixth. Pinch hitter Tony Cruz sliced one deep to right center, and it ran away barely enough to elude Cutch for a triple. Carpenter dropped a flare into left center, and it was 4-1. Liriano bore down, and a Beltran K followed by a Holliday 5-4-3 DP cleaned up the frame.
Marc Rzepczynski climbed the hill for the Cards. Barmes doubled to The Notch (it was a towering fly; Starling Marte and Cutch would have fought over it) to greet him. Liriano couldn't get him over on a bunt, and JT scorched a shot to second; Carpenter was at the perfect spot to glove the knee-high liner and doubled up Barmes, who had no shot at getting back. So the Bucs have had opportunities, but haven't been able to add on. That would shortly change.
With two down in the seventh, Liriano hit the wall. He lost Freese on a 3-2 count, just missing the corner and then getting a not quite enough of a check swing for ball four. Francisco walked Shane Robinson on four pitches, misfiring badly. His last batter - Tony Watson was ready - was Pete Kozma, and he went full on him before getting a fly to center to escape the frame. The Cisco Kid went seven, giving up a run on four hirs with two walks and eight punchouts ER, 2 BB, 8 K with 102 tosses.
Walker opened the Buc hald with a walk, and Cutch singled him to second. Pedro did about as well as he good against a lefty, bouncing out to first and moving the runners up. Martin was up, and the Cards brought in Fernando Salas to face him, and he walked to juice the sacks. Gaby, a defensive switch last inning, stepped in the box and hit a sky high fly to medium right to plate Walker, the Bucs' first sac fly since Moses crossed the Red Sea. That opened the gates. Presley rolled a single into right for another run, Barmes drilled a shot into The Notch for the second time tonight to add another pair, and Starling Marte, pinch hitting on his R&R day, rolled a knock up the middle to score Barmes. It's 9-1, and The Fat Lady is awaiting her entrance.
Tony Watson tossed a neat eighth, and the Bucs went down in order. Vic Black came on for the ninth and labored. Holliday shot a single to right, and after and out, Rob Johnson broke his bat but dropped a soft lob over Pedro. With two strikes on Freese, the rookie drilled him in the back, and that got the pen active. Robinson bounced a single up the middle to plate a run, but young Mr. Black got a K and a fly to Cutch to end the evening. he didn't show any command at all tonight, but he did save a pitcher for tomorrow's DH.
Good start; let's see if they can keep it rolling tomorrow in the twin bill. AJ Burnett and Lance Lynn go in the opener. Oh, and are there any questions about who the Pirate ace is?
- Francisco Liriano is the first Buc since Dock Ellis in 1971 to win 11 of his first 15 decisions.
- The Pirates' four-spot in the first was the first time they opened with that many runs since September, 2012. They did have four earlier in the year, but the game was rained out - and it was against Westbrook and the Cards.
- Pedro leads the NL in homers with 27.
- It wasn't SRO, but a nice crowd - 32,084 fans were at the game.
- Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted that "Former Giants closer Brian Wilson has five offers - four from NL teams and one from an AL team - with the Pirates and D-Backs considered strong front runners.