Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cole and the Gang Top Cubs 2-1

Gerrit Cole reverted to his first inning blues again. A bloop and a walk with one away set up Nate Schierholtz, who doubled to right. One run came in, btu a second was cut down Marlon Byrd to Neil Walker to Russ Martin. Scott Baker worked a quiet first. The second went by calmly, too, with a 1-2-3 frame by Cole and only a Justin Morneau knock to disturb Baker. The third was another clean frame for Cole; he struck out the side and then singled in the Bucco half, but no one else rallied to the cause.

Anthony Rizzo doubled to open the fourth, but was stranded at third, thanks mightily to a great play by Pedro, who knocked down a liner, picked the ball up and rifled a toss to first. The Pirates went down without a peep; Baker's 89 MPH fastball mixed with an occasional 80 MPH slider have them baffled so far, and he's been challenging them mainly at the top of the strike zone.

With an out in the fifth, Darwin Barney rolled a ball through the right side. Baker popped up trying to bunt, but Cole balanced that out by walking Starlin Castro. Luis Valbuena flew out to Cutch, so no harm. The Bucs hit three flies and sat down. Cole kept dealing in the sixth, striking out two of the Cubs he faced. With an out JT finally hit a fly the cubs couldn't catch, dropping it over the wall between the bullpen and the shrubs in left center. Walker has to be frustrated; after pounding a pair to the track yesterday, he drove another that became a long out. Cutch flew out short of the track, but it was a 1-1 game.

Cole lost Brian Bogusevich on four pitches to open the seventh, followed by a Welington Castillo knock to left. The Bucs played a straight bunt D against Barney, and he pushed a ball up the 3B line to move the Cubbies up a station. Switch hitter Dioner Navarro grabbed a bat. With the infield in, Gerrit worked him with hard curves, then blew a heater past him. Cole got a one hopper to short to escape the jam, and in a rare show of emotion, pounded his mitt and screamed before he walked to the dugout to the crowd's roar. It was his 101st pitch - and he was still clocking at 97 - so that should it for him.

Lefty James Russell came in, and got Justin Morneau on a weak tapper in front of the plate. But The Byrd came through; he dropped a ball just over the railing into the first row of seats between the Xfinity and Trib signs in right center to give the Bucs the lead. Pedro hit a ball on the nose, but the liner hung up and was run down. Dale Sveum then went to a righty, Carlos Villanueva, who got Martin fishing for a slider.

The Shark Tank sent out Tony Watson in the eighth, and he got the Bucs three outs closer with a 1-2-3 frame. Villanueva gave up a shot to Jordy Mercer that was gloved and then walked Travis Snider, who was pinch hitting for Felix Pie, who was a defensive sub for JT. Got it? Anyway, Starling Marte came in to run and presumably stay in left. Garrett Jones came in to hit, and Sveum went to lefty Zac Rosscup. So Clint Hurdle sent Gaby to hit for Jones. Too many bodies in September. Sanchez flew out and Walker singled. That brought up Cutch and a new righty, Blake Parker. He broke Cutch's bat and got a slow roller to short that McCutchen was a quarter step from beating out.

So Mark the Shark is on the hill without a safety net again. After a ground out, he K'ed Bogusevich; just like Thursday night, the ball got away from Martin and a Cubby reached first. But a three hopper to short took care of that; a good feed by Mercer and a better turn by Walker retired Castillo to end the game.

Have we mentioned it's all about the pitching? Cole went seven, giving up a run on five hits with three walks and seven K. He's 8-7, even though the Pirates have scored five runs for him in the past five starts. Forget talk about him being limited in the playoffs. It's September, and he's just won 1-0 and 2-1 games. That's ace stuff. Watson and Melancon (save #15; that's 45 between him and Jason Grilli) were money, and the Bucs took a game that was really well played with lots of action despite the score.

It may be about time to question Clint's love affair with Justin Morneau; he doesn't have an RBI as a Buc and bats against lefties without a thought of a pinch hitter (.215 v LHP). We know he wants to seperate him and Pedro in the lineup, and that's as logic dictates, but maybe they should flip spots.

Should be a dandy pitching match tomorrow afternoon between Francisco Liriano and Travis Wood to close out the series.

  • Cutch's hitting streak ended at 11 games.
  • Pittsburgh had its 19th sellout of the season, drawing 37,534 fans, and tied the PNC Park record for most full houses, set in 2001. 
  • Reds win, Cards lose, and so the Bucs are tied for the lead again with Cincy 2-1/2 games back.Washington also lost, so the magic # for the playoffs is seven.
  • The Bucs are getting ready to return Starling Marte to action, saying he'll have to play with some pain in his hand for the remainder of the campaign..
  • The pain hasn't diminished in Wandy Rodriguez's arm, and the Bucs are shutting him down for the season. He declined a cortisone shot, may have an enriched plasma shot, and is probably not looking at the knife.

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