Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bucs Bomb Their Way To Home Field 8-3

Bronson Arroyo got through the first easily enough; a couple of grounders and a hung change up sent not quite far enough into the LF corner by Cutch for a 1-2-3 frame.

Shin-Soo Choo opened with a knock off Charlie Morton on a two seamer that he left over the dish. Ryan Ludwick rolled over on the next pitch, sending it to short where a diving Clint Barmes made the stop and got a force at second. Joey Votto walked, and was erased on a Brandon Phillips force that left Reds on the corners. After getting ahead of Jay Bruce 0-2, Morton lost him; Charlie has been kinda all over the place so far this inning. Todd Frazier flew out, and hopefully Chuck will find his rhythm soon. He was lucky to get out of the first, leaving several pitches in the wheelhouse that were fouled away.

Justin Morneau walked and Marlon Byrd singled him to second to begin the second inning. Pedro flew out to center, Russ Martin took one to the track in right for another out with Morneau going to third, and Barmes K'ed on a foul tip. Morton put the bottom of the order away quietly.

Arroyo retired the first two Bucs easily in the third, but not The Kid, who pounded a 3-2 sinker that stayed up and on the outside half over the wall in center to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead. Cutch followed with another bomb, taking a slider into the LC bullpen. Morneau kept it going by rolling an 0-2 pitch into right, but the party ended on a Byrd grounder to short.

Morton faced the top of the Redleg's order and started by plunking Choo on the shoulder with his first pitch. Ludwick bounced out to third, moving Choo to second and then he went to third when Martin lost one of Morton's pitches in the dirt between his knees. Votto walked again to put Reds on the corners, and Choo scored when Phillips slapped a single into right. Bruce gave the Reds the edge when he ripped a two seamer pretty much down the middle high off the wall in left center for a double. he fell behind Todd Farzier 3-0, came back to run the count full and then retired him on a grounder to Pedro. Cozart was thrown out after a nice play by Morton. Charlie is off his game today; we're not sure that Clint will let him face the top of the order again as he doesn't have an answer for the lefties.

The Bucs have turned into the 1927 Yankees, at least briefly, as Pedro opened the fourth with a blast that traveled 431' to tie the game.  Morton made the last out and is back on the hill to face the 8-9-1 hitters. Ryan Hanigan got ahead 3-1, but bounced out to third two pitches later. Arroyo also tested Pedro on a tapper to become the second out. Charlie lost a borderline 2-2 call on Choo on the corner and then walked him, the third time he's reached base. Ludwick popped out to end the frame; we'll see if Chuck is sent back out to face Votto, Phillips and Bruce in the fifth.

Marte opened the fifth with his third straight groundout. But when you're hot, you're hot, and Neil Walker went yard again to deep right center on a first pitch meatball  to give the Bucs the lead. Cutch followed with a single, and was forced at second on a Morneau grounder played nicely by Phillips. Arroyo lost a close two-strike pitch on the corner to Byrd, and he too paid as The Byrd ripped the Bucs fifth homer into center on the next delivery, a sinker over the heart of the plate. That brought in Sean Marshall, who closed out the frame with the Bucs up 6-3.

The heart of the Red order was up in a challenge inning for Morton, and it started of as expected, with Votto singling sharply off Charlie. There was a delay as Phillips fouled a ball off his foot, but after some TLC, he stayed in and singled to right. Phillips came out after the knock, and was limping with a growing bump on his shin, so it must have been a solid smack. Morton got a big out, whiffing Bruce on hooks. But he lost the edge again, walking Frazier on five pitches to load the bases.

That finally brought in Vin Mazzaro to face the 7-8 batters. Hurdle nursed Charlie along, hoping to get five innings and a win for him, but again may have stuck with a guy an inning too long, just as Dusty Baker did. Vin got Cozart swinging but fell behind Hanigan 2-0. He finished him on the next pitch, a liner to center that Cutch ran down and gloved to keep the lead at three; the Bucs have some serious leather in the outfield.

Logan Ondrusek climbed the hill in the sixth to face the bottom of the order. Martin and Barmes K'ed swinging at balls in the dirt. Andrew Lambo grabbed a bat for Mazzaro, and joined the club - the HR club, as he crushed his first MLB homer over the wall in right center, turning on a 95 MPH heater above the knees. Marte joined the club, too - the K club, going down on a slider in the dirt. Justin Wilson came on and lost Derrick Robinson on a 3-2 pitch as Buc pitchers continue to stick their hand into the fire today. After Choo flew out to left, he lost Ludwick on a 3-2 pitch, as he's having trouble navigating ump Tim Timmon's tight strike zone. Wilson came back to K Votto on a fastball on the hands and retire Chris Heisey on a grounder.

Ol' buddy Zach Duke took the ball in the seventh and got three soft outs from The Kid, Cutch and Morneau. Tony Watson came on to work a 1-2-3 frame. The Bucs opened the eight with three straight singles to load the sacks; Barmes cashed in The Byrd with a sac fly, moving Pedro to third. Garrett Jones came up in the pitcher's spot and Dusty waved in Manny Parra. Gaby took Garrett's spot and banged a ball to third for an around the horn DP. Mark the Shark claimed the bump with an 8-3 to get in some work. He tossed a 1-2-3 inning, getting Choo to fly out after a long at bat to close the frame.

Sam LeCure took his turn on the hill in the ninth. The Bucs put a couple of runners aboard, but were short-circuited by Morneau's inning ending 5-4-3 DP. Bryan Morris closed it out, pitching cleanly except for the obligatory walk to Votto.

What a long, strange trip it's been. The Bucs clinched home field on national TV, and by role reversal - bend but don't break pitching and Murderer's Row offense. So it'll be the scrubs tomorrow - Jeff Locke may yet have another start - and Francisco Liriano v Mat Latos Johnny Cueto Tuesday in the knock-out game at PNC Park. Since the Pirates' last playoff appearance, the Steelers and Penguins have earned post season berths 29 times; it's good to join the gang again.

  • Today was Pittsburgh's first six home run game since 2007 against the Rockies at Coors Field in an 11-2 win, and only their eighth in team history. The Bucs are the first visiting team to hit six HR in a game at GABP.  Pittsburgh hit all their blasts in a four inning  (3rd-6th) span.
  • Pedro Alvarez now has hit the most homers (36) by a Pirate since Brian Giles hit 38 in 2002, and is back into a tie with Paul Goldschmidt for the NL lead. He's also the first Pirate player with 100 RBI in a season since Jason Bay, who cashed in 109 runners in 2006.
  • Today was the first career multi-HR game for Neil Walker.
  • The Buc dugout followed tradition and gave Andrew Lambo the cold shoulder after his first dinger, until Marlon Byrd broke the ice after a long - to Lambo - few seconds with a hug and then the team congrats flowed.
  • The Pirates and Reds have beaned 27 batters in their matchups, tops in any MLB series this year.
  •  Clint Hurdle told the media he was leaning toward a four man rotation for the playoffs, should the Bucs take Tuesday's game.
  • The Cards clinched the division title last night. They've taken the NL Central crown in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2013. The Cubs set kind of a reverse record this season - three (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St, Louis) of the five NL playoff teams clinched against them.

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