Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bucs Broom Rangers 7-5 With An Unlikely Cast of Characters

The first frame was a quiet one for Matt Garza and AJ Burnett; that would change before too long. In the second, the Bucs threatened when Pedro doubled with an out and Garrett Jones walked with two down, but a Clint Barmes pop ended the frame. AJ struck out the side; he has five K in two innings.

Felix Pie worked a 10 pitch walk to open the third and stole second as JT whiffed. Neil Walker singled him home, but was caught trying to get to second on the throw; that hurt when Justin Morneau followed with a double. He was stranded as the Pirates took a 1-0 lead. Burnett tossed another clean frame.

Pittsburgh added on in the fourth. Pedro walked in a disciplined eight pitch at bat. Russ Martin dumped a soft single to left and Jones' liner to right loaded the sacks. Barmes walked on five pitches to bring Pedro home. Then the Bucs do what they do best; Pie K'ed, and JT couldn't get the ball in the air, though his forceout, a DP grounder that Andrus bobbled, plated a second run. The Kid went down swinging, and it was 3-0. AJ was still dealing and retired the Rangers without a peep.

Joseph Ortiz took the hill for wild child Garza in the fifth, and was greeted by a no-man's land bloop single by Morneau, who went to third on Marlon Byrd's single into center. Forget a big frame; Pedro rolled one up the middle of the diamond and into a 6-3 DP. AJ Pierzynski doubled for the first Texas hit, but was left on base.

The tide began to turn in the sixth. The Bucs went down in order. AJ walked the first two Rangers and an Ian Kinsler single loaded the bases. Elvis Andrus hit a grounder toward the SS hole; a diving Barmes could only knock the ball down, and it rolled into short center to plate a pair. Alex Rios followed with a 6-4-3 DP and a fly out to end the damage, but at 4-2, it was a game again.

AJ had some words for Barmes after the frame, but they were yukking it up in the dugout after the game; our guess is it was about positioning, not performance. Burnett even gave a tweet regarding the incident afterward, praising his shortstop in AJ's own colorful way (spoiler alert: Sister Margaret Mary would not approve of the language, nor would my mom, but boys will be...).

With an out, Morneau singled, bringing on Jason Frasor. He gave up a double to Byrd, and lefty Neal Cott came in. He surrendered a fly to fairly deep center by Pedro that brought home a run and moved Byrd to third, where he came in on a wild pitch for the second straight game.

But Texas was getting ready for a move, fueled by some soft knocks. Pierzynski doubled and with an out moved to third following Jurickson Profar's pop single to right, just beyond Walker. A ground single to right brought in a run and Jeanmar Gomez. After a fly out, he gave up a pair of lazy liners into center before Bryan Morris took the ball to retire Beltre on a long, loud fly, but it's now another cliffhanger at 6-5.

Tanner Scheppers climbed the hill, and Barmes took him yard off the LF pole to give the Pirates an insurance run, turning on a 97 MPH heater at the hands. The Rangers used a single and walk to get Morris out of the game with one out, but Vin Mazzaro was up to the task and finished out the frame without any further ado.

The ninth went quickly and quietly. Robbie Ross gave up a leadoff single to Morneau, his fourth hit of the afternoon, but followed with three grounders. Kyle Farnsworth was the designated closer. Mark the Shark and Jason Grilli were off duty today, Tony Watson has been busy the past couple of nights, and we're not sure why Justin Wilson isn't working more; he's tossed just three frames this month. But Kyle was more than able today, getting a couple of routine outs and then putting the cherry on top by striking out Andrus.

So the Bucs gave Cutch and the back end of the bullpen a day off, and came out smelling like roses. Depth is a nice thing to have, and the biggest difference between this year's Bucs and the 2011-12 rosters. The sweep also took away some of the sting of the St. Louis thumping, and cut the Bucs' magic number for the post season to 10. Jeff Locke and Chris Rusin will be tossing at PNC tomorrow night as the Cubs stop by for a four game set.

  • Kyle Farnsworth's last save was Sept. 27th, 2011 when he was with Tampa Bay; he saved 25 games that season. And Felix Pie's stolen base was his first since August 12th, 2011, as an Oriole.
  • Charlie Morton said he's good to go on Friday.
  • Cutch is now second in MLB in WAR value at 7.5 per Fangraphs.and 7.6 by Baseball Reference.

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