Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Best Team In Baseball Wins Again 5-4

With an out in the first, Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig rolled singles through the left side. Matt Holliday lined a shot past Clint Barmes mitt, and it was 1-0 in a hurry. Make that 2-0, as Daniel Descalso ripped a two-out single up the middle. The Cards ran a successful double steal, but were left stranded. Well, sooner or later those grounders had to find holes, and they did this inning. worse, it took Jeff Locke 30 pitches to navigate the inning. St. Louis won't chase, even though he's just off the edges. Starling Marte took a page from the Cardinal playbook and drew an opening walk off Adam Wainwright. A Neil Walker tapper moved him to second, and with two down, Pedro singled him home to make it 2-1.

With one down in the second, Wainwright dropped a single into right after being in an 0-2 hole. Jon Jay crossed up the Bucs and dropped a bunt single up the third base side to set up the Cards, but Locke worked out of it with no damage. Garrett Jones opened the Buc half with an opposite field knock, but a Presley bouncer back to the box cleaned the bases 1-6-3. Clint Barmes followed with a single up the middle. Locke K'ed, but at least the order turned over. It's been a long pair of frames; Locke is at 48 pitches and Wainwright at 45.

Holliday opened the third by banging one high off the Clemente Wall; it was reviewed, ruled in play, and he had a long single. As David Freese K'ed on a ball in the dirt, Holliday stole second and went to third when Descalso's dribbler in front of the plate became an infield single. The squibbler cost the Bucs a run when Tony Cruz rolled one softly to the left side; Barmes' only play was to first and it was 3-1. An intentional walk set up a Wainwright K. Locke has given up a couple of hard shots, but the balls rolled in the dirt have been his problem tonight. With one down in the Bucco half, The Kid caught a curve and sent it over the Clemente Wall, no review needed, to make it 3-2, his first yard ball in a month.

Beltran turned on a changeup with one away in the fourth and doubled to left. With two down, Holliday collected his third hit to score Beltran, a single through the right side, and moved to second on the play at the plate. Freese bounced out, but Locke has given up a career high 10 hits (five grounders that got through and two infield knocks); regression on all those balls in play is catching up to him. Jones singled to right with one down. A force out later, Barmes dropped a soft flare into right. It kissed the chalk for a double, and Presley touched home with the Bucs' third run. Josh Harrison came up to hit for Locke, who has tossed 87 pitches in four frames, and bounced out.

Vin Mazzaro took over in the fifth and worked a clean frame. Marte started it off for Pittsburgh with a bunt hit, winning a bang-bang call at first, stole second, and moved to third on a Walker ground out. He came in on a sac fly by Cutch to tie the score. Wainwright started the sixth with his second hit, a grounder up the middle. Jay got a call in his favor on a 2-2 delivery, but went to the well once too often and K'ed looking. Two routine outs later, it was the Bucs' turn again. Martin led off with an infield knock. Jones liner to right center was run down by Beltran. Presley fished at a full count backfoot curve as Martin was off on the pitch, and the strike 'em out, throw 'em out ended the frame.

Tony Watson climbed the bump in the seventh, and JT went to right in a double switch. With an out, Freese singled up the middle. Descalso banged one to third; Pedro booted it trying to make the throw to second, and a pair of Redbirds were aboard. Cruz hit one that Watson had to play, moving up the runners as he was barely tossed out at first. There they stayed, as Watson K'ed Pete Kozma. Wainwright worked a routine frame. He didn't have his best stuff, but gave Mike Matheny a break by lasting seven and giving a respite to a busy and battered bullpen.

With an out in the eighth, Jay singled through the left side; the Card balls are finding grass instead of gloves. Not so with Beltran, who ripped one to the center field track, but Cutch was there; guess it evens out. Tony fed Craig four straight changeups, and he tapped the last one back to Watson to end the frame. Trevor Rosenthal replaced Wainwright, and Walker greeted him with a single. Cutch flew out, and Pedro took one to the track in left that fell just short and into Holliday's glove, with Walker tagging. It was a key 90'; Martin punched a slider into left center, and the Bucs had the lead for the first time tonight. He was caught stealing a couple of pitches later, but did his job just fine. Russ got an ovation after he was thrown out, and the team got one when they came out for the ninth; the joint is hoppin'.

Mark the Shark claimed the hill for the close. Grounder to Walker, soft liner to Walker and...nah, the last out was a K, freezing Daniel Descalso with a hook. Maybe they are the best team in baseball, even without any deadline help. The crowd sure thinks so; every game of this series, they've amped it up a little more. And hey, pretty good drama for ESPN tonight, too. Maybe they'll be back.

Locke is the poster child for regression. But he could help himself by regaining some of that early aggressiveness; instead of keeping everything just off the edges, he'd be better served by nicking the corners to keep out of deep and hitters' counts. But the Bucs picked him up against the Card ace, and the bullpen put up five zeroes. That's a tough combo to beat. And who'd of thunk Charlie Morton was looking to broom the Redbirds against Joe Kelly tomorrow night?

  • Pirates are now 23 or more games over .500 entering August for the first time since 1972.
  • Tonight's attendance: 31,679. The house has been pretty full for every game of the series, but the count is a little low because ticket exchanges count for the original game, not the one attended.
  • The Bucs picked up good glove, light-hitting utility infielder Robert Andino from Seattle for a PTBNL. He cleared waivers in May and was in AAA, and the Pirates assigned him to Indy.
  • The Fort did more than get his knee "stuck." Mike McKenry had meniscus surgery today and will be out for the rest of the season. He's expected to be back at 100% for spring training.
  • Travis Snider's injury is turf toe; he's suffered from it since late last season, and is now in a boot.
  • Jameson Taillon went his scheduled five innings tonight and allowed one run on four hits with six strikeouts for Altoona.

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