Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bucs Grind Away, Take 3-2 Win and the Series From Chicago

Francisco Liriano lost Darwin Barney on five pitches with one out, but worked a routine frame otherwise. Travis Wood didn't have the same luck. JT tripled of the 399' mark, came in on a wild pitch, and Jordy Mercer followed by bouncing a ball over the left field wall for a ground rule double. Makes you appreciate Cutch and Marte; they may have gloved both balls. Cutch blooped a single to center to put Bucs on the corners. Then the Bucs reverted to their infuriating form. Marlon Byrd rolled out to first with the infield in, moving Cutch to second. Gaby and Pedro popped out, and instead of giving The Cisco Kid an early cushion, they only put him up by one. 

Frankie tossed a clean second, and Wood had his way with the bottom of the order. Liriano's control was off a bit in the third; after an out, he got a generous 3-2 call against Wood, then lost Starlin Castro on four pitches. Darwin Barney lifted a fly to right on a 2-1 fastball to end the frame. With two outs, the Bucs tried again. Cutch was walked and a Byrd single to left put Pirates on the corners. Gaby took a runner on the knee to juice the sacks. But Pedro, the lone lefty, bounced out to first to leave three more Buccos on the bases.

It was 1-2-3 for the Cubs in the fourth, and the Bucs added one to the tally sheet when Tony Sanchez yanked a fastball yard to right center. Liriano hurled another clean frame in the fifth. Mercer opened by going from 0-2 to a walk, but a pair of grounders, the last a 6-4-3 DP off Byrd's bat, ended the inning quietly.

Wood opened the sixth drawing a walk after coming close last time up. Liriano was struggling; after a pop out, he lost Barney, who had fouled off balls four and five before finally taking one off the dish. Vin Mazzaro was warming up, but Francisco had enough left to get a soft roller from Anthony Rizzo for a force and another grounder from Donnie Murphy to escape unscathed. At 99 pitches, he's red lining it. The Bucs went quietly in their half.

Lake opened the seventh with the Cubs first knock, a liner to the SS hole that a diving Mercer gloved, but he didn't have a throw after he popped up with the ball. That took the air out of Frankie's bubble; he gave up a homer to Castillo two pitches later, a pitch at the belt that cleared The Notch. Darnell McDonald slapped a soft single to center, and Bryan Morris got the call. Bouscevich, who apparently majors in soft grounders to short, hit into a force, and pinch hitter Nate Scheirholtz flew out. A Castro K ended the frame. Justin Grimm came on and sat the Bucs down without a struggle.

Kyle Farnsworth took the ball in the eighth. He walked Rizzo with an out, but cleaned up when The Bryd ran down Murphy's shot and doubled Rizzo off first. Pedro Strop came in. With an out, he caught Cucth in the back of the leg with a breaking ball, and Byrd dropped a bloop over short to put runners at first and second. Justin Morneau grabbed a bat for Gaby and poked a single to left; Cutch scored for Morneau's first Bucco RBI, though Byrd was nailed easily trying to tip toe into third. But it's 3-2 and Mark the Shark is on the hill.

Morneau earned his money with his glove in the ninth. He had to climb the ladder to grab Pedro's throw and rightly got the call when he came down on the base and the runner stepped on his foot instead of the bag. A swinging strikeout by Melancon was in the dirt; Tony Sanchez's peg was to the first base side, but Morneau snagged it and kept the bag. The last one was easy, as Morneau fielded a slow roller and shoveled it to The Shark for the win.

Ah, the ifs in this game. If the Bucs had a clutch hit in them early on to break the game open or if The Cisco Kid wasn't working on a no-no, would he have worked the seventh? (Clint says yes; they asked if he was good for another inning, and he said he was) Still, the Bucs have spent all season grinding it out and are used to doing it the hard way. The September deals were handy, too - Byrd's single moved Cutch into scoring position, where Morneau scored him, and back-burner acquisition Farnsworth picked up his first Pirate win after MM's 15th save.

AJ Burnett takes on Andrew Cashner tomorrow as San Diego comes to town.

  • The Byrd has a seven game hitting streak.
  • 36,559 were at PNC Park today to set the Pirate club record with the 20th sellout of the season.
  • Francisco Liriano was attempting to become the first Pirate pitcher to win more than 16 games in a season since John Smiley went 20-8 in 1991. Today ended his season-long oddball streak of games with a decision at 23.
  • The Pirates expect - and want - Wandy to exercise his player option for 2014.
  • The Cards and Nats have healthy leads and the Reds lost, so today's win was pretty big in the September see-saw. The Bucs magic # to earn a playoff spot is six with 13 games to go. (EDIT - the Cards and Nats did win. The Bucs are tied with St. Louis for first, 3-1/2 games ahead of Cincinnati, and eight games ahead of Washington in the wild card.)

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