Friday, September 27, 2013

AJ & The Byrd Too Much For The Reds In 4-1 Victory; One Step To Go For Home Field

Fairly quiet opening frame. Homer Bailey got it over with quickly, beaning Neil Walker with an out. he went to second and stayed there as Cutch grounded out and Justin Morneau lined one to right into the glove of Jay Bruce. AJ gave up a two out knock, and it was zeroes after a frame. With two down in the second, Russ Martin walked and Clint Barmes singled, but AJ whiffed to end the party. Burnett went out, walk, out, single out and it remained goose eggs.

The plate began to move on Bailey in the third. Marte was HBP in the back on an 0-2 count and stole second; Walker lined out to center. Cutch and Morneau drew walks, and Marlon Byrd cashed in a pair with a single just past a diving Cozart through the left side. Pedro proved a party pooper, banging into a 4-6-3 DP, but the Bucs had an early 2-0 lead. AJ tossed a 1-2-3 frame thanks to a beaut of a diving grab by Marte on Joey Votto to close out the inning.

The bottom of the order was pretty meek in the fourth. Martin sat down looking on three pitches, Barmes had the green light on a 3-0 pitch and hit a dribbler in front of the plate, and AJ rolled out to second. After a pair of soft ground outs - one a nice tag play by Morneau on an off-line toss by Pedro - AJ left a heater on the inside half above the belt to Todd Frazier, and he rang it off the LF foul pole to make it 2-1. Zack Cozart chopped a 3-2 pitch up the middle, but Burnett got Ryan Hanigan on a hopper to short.

Marte became the second straight Pirate leadoff hitter to sit down on three pitches by looking at a third strike fastball in the fifth. The Bucs got a two out walk from Cutch, but a Morneau grounder ended the frame. With one down, Shin-Soo Choo did what he does; he slapped a tailing fastball the opposite way into left. No sweat; Ryan Ludwick rolled over on a pitch away and bounced into a 6-4-3 DP.

The Byrd almost opened the sixth with a dinger; his ball hit the edge of a raised cutout beside the bullpen and stayed in play for a reviewed and upheld double, it kissed the corner by the length of the ball. No review for Pedro; Bailey tried to sneak a two strike fastball past him, and El Toro crushed it into straight center halfway up the batter's eye  to make it 4-1. Dusty gave Alfredo Simon the ball after that blast. He walked Martin on four pitches, K'ed Barmes and Burnett, and got an at 'em ball off Marte's bat, a liner to short. AJ shutdown the 4-5-6 hitters on a pair of lazy flies and a Bruce grounder into the shift.

Simon tempted fate in the seventh, but balls hit by Walker and Morneau were both corralled deep on the track in right and left center. AJ cruised, getting a pair of grounders and a whiff, and at 89 pitches may have another inning left. With lefties due up for the Reds, Clint has a lot of options.

Logan Ondrusek took the hill, and was greeted by back-to-back knocks by Byrd and Pedro. But the bottom of the order lived up to their name. Martin fouled out, Barmes whiffed, and with Travis Snider swinging a bat and Tony Watsom heating up, Clint instead sent up AJ, who went down looking. But no worries about an inning too long this time; Burnett mowed the Reds down and has retired 10 in a row.

JJ Hoover got the call for the ninth. The top of the lineup did a fine imitation of the bottom, striking out twice around a one hopper to second. AJ was done after eight, giving up a run on five hits, a walk and K'ing six, using 99 pitches. Jason Grilli came out looking for this 33rd save against the heart of the Red order.

He struck out Joey Votto on a check swing - Joey was walking back to the dugout - but Laz Diaz at third blew the call, and three pitches later Votto singled. Jason made it moot, though, as Phillips slowly grounded the next pitch to Pedro, who still turned it into a 5-4-3 to erase Diaz's mistake. Jay Bruce bounced out to Morneau, and the Bucs were one step away from a home playoff game Tuesday.

Nice win; enough hitting to go with an excellently pitched and defended game. While Russ Martin continues in his funk, The Kid continues to square up and in the last couple of games, Justin Morneau has begun to stay on the ball instead of pulling off, and his bat would be a welcome addition if the Bucs are to make a playoff run.

Charlie Morton faces Bronson Arroyo tomorrow afternoon.

  • Pedro's 35th homer set a new club record for long balls by a third baseman, topping Aramis Ramirez's mark of 34 in 2001.
  • AJ's tenth win gives him double-digit victories for the ninth consecutive season.
  • Homer Bailey hasn't beat the Pirates since he no-hit them last September.
  • The Braves recently asked Sid Bream if he would throw out the ceremonial first pitch if they faced the Pirates in the playoff — and he turned them down. “Whatever their motive was, I don't want to be involved,” Bream said.
  • Local politicos have declared Monday "Black and Gold" day to honor the Bucs, and the festivities will kick off with a rally at Market Square starting at 11:30.

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