Sunday, September 22, 2013

Locke Rocked; Pen Pummeled As Bucs Fall 11-3

With one gone in the first, Chris Heisey singled off Clint Barmes' mitt and Joey Votto followed with a four pitch walk. Then Jeff Locke lost Brandon Phillips on a 3-2 count. He's not been spraying the ball, but like last night, it's a tight strike zone and he's on the wrong side of the black.

Jay Bruce got a fastball, inside half at the knees, and cleared the bases with a soft double to the gap in front of The Notch. The Bucs and walks just don't mix. They don't sit well with fans, either, as the boos rained down. After a wild pitch, Todd Frazier went yard to left center off a heater, dropping the ball into the first row beside the bullpen, and Locke is digging the Pirates a Grand Canyon sized hole. He got a ground out, then Barmes booted one to keep the inning alive. The lefty got Bronson Arroyo looking, but it sure seems like this will be Locke's last 2013 appearance on the hill for the Bucs.

With an out in the first, Neil Walker drew a 3-2 free pass off Arroyo. Cutch popped out after a long at bat, and Justin Morneau followed with a four pitch walk. The Bucs couldn't make Arroyo pay for his walks, though they tried as Marlon Byrd flew out to the track in right center.

No surprise here; Jeanmar Gomez took the bump in the second. Billy Hamilton bunted for a single and stole second, with the Bucs getting a double whammy of the ump missing the strike call when Martin got up to throw. Not much diff; Heisey doubled to left to chase him home, followed by a Votto knock to put Reds on the corners. Phillips got a sinker down Broadway, and his sac fly to deep center made it 7-0. Bruce lined out the opposite way to JT and Frazier bounced out, but Pittsburgh is behind by a TD already.

Pedro and Barmes singled around a Martin K. Lambo came up to swing for Gomez, and went down chasing a diving slider. Ditto for JT, who went after a slider that was running away. The Bucs are swinging from their heels (Arroyo struck out the side), and that's not the way to nickle and dime their way back in the game. Let's see - down by seven, four runners stranded, and on their third pitcher (Brandon Cumpton) going into the top of the third...sheesh!

Cozart greeted him with a bloop to right. He was bunted to second an out later, and Hamilton put Redlegs on the corners with an infield knock to third; a ball on the ground is a hit for him. Byrd ran down Heisey's fly along the line, and the Reds had their first goose egg. Walker got Pittsburgh on the board when he yanked a change just above the knees over the Clemente Wall, but the next trio of Buccos grounded out.

Cumpton worked a quiet fourth, giving up a single to Phillips. The Bucs spent another frame trying witout success to hit the ball out of the infield. John Buck came in to catch, as Martin reported some discomfort in his left knee, the one that's been bothersome over the past several weeks. The bottom of the Red order went down quietly in the fifth.

Travis Snider grabbed a bat and planted an Arroyo delivery into the shrubs in center. JT was HBP, and The Kid doubled him to third. Cutch inexplicably looked at a pair of strikes, then popped a slider way off the plate to first; it was a rare thrown away at bat by McCutchen. Morneau lifted a sac fly to right before Byrd flew out. Arroyo has given the Bucs ample opportunity to make the game at least interesting, but the Pirates won't take advantage.

Stolmy Pimentel took the bump in the sixth. Barmes made his second error of the game by throwing away Hamilton's grounder to open the frame; his speed really rushes everyone's routine. He stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch with two down, a ball that was thrown behind Phillips, triggering a warning to the benches. A groundout ended the frame and the fans had a little something to buzz about, even giving Stolmy some love when he left the mound. Dusty nursed Arroyo through five, enough to qualify for the win, and brought on Alfredo Simon who tossed a clean frame. The Reds went quietly in the seventh. After two fly outs, Walker drew a walk, and Cutch, after another long at bat, smoked a one-hopper to third.

Vin Mazzaro took his turn in the eighth. After two routine outs, Hamilton dropped a liner into LC and ended up on second. He came in when Heisey poked a single into center. Votto brought Heisey home with a double; the last three balls have been hit pretty solidly by the Reds, and Jared Hughes was sent in. he almost hit Phillips in the knee with a pitch, but he turned enough to bang it into left to put Reds on the corners. Bruce singled in another run before the mayhem ended to make it 10-3. Manny Parra tossed a clean frame.

In a nice move for both Cutch and the home crowd, Clint Hurdle sent McCutchen to center in the ninth, then pulled him for Starling Marte so the fans could give him a last regular season ovation as he jogged to the dugout to the chant of "MVP."

It didn't impress the Reds much as Cozart opened with a double off Hughes, Cincy's 15th hit. An out later, Derrick Robinson singled him home to close out the Cincinnati scoring. Logan Ondrusek drew the mop up duty and struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 finish.

It's kinda scary how closely Jeff Locke's 2013 campaign is an image of James McDonald's 2012 season; from All-Star to afterthought. Let's hope Locke can find the key that J-Mac couldn't. The Buc bats could have hung around early; Arroyo was up in the hitting zone the entire game, maybe having an off day or maybe just pumping strikes with a big lead, but the Bucs couldn't come up with a big hit to make a run. Too bad they couldn't make fan appreciation day a little more competitive.

The Reds unveiled rookie Billy Hamilton, and he's the real deal from what we've seen in this set. We don't know how his body will hold up to an MLB schedule, but his wheels are difference makers. We'll be seeing a lot of him next season, we suspect.

OK, six to go, and it'll be a fight. The Buc rotation will be a four-man gig now, with Thursday off, and those guys haven't backed down from a challenge yet. It's off the the Windy City for three, with Charlie Morton opening against Jeff Samardzija.

  • Neil Walker went 2-for-2 with HR, 2B, and two walks.
  • Some thought that if the weather had cooperated, PNC park might have drawn its first 40,000 crowd yesterday. Not that close today, but a good showing, nevertheless. The attendance of 38,699 made the weekend total of 116,064 the second largest crowd for a three-game series ever at PNC Park. Pittsburgh sold out its 23rd game of the year to bring the season attendance total to 2,256,862, an average of 28,211 and the second highest turnout in Pirate history.
  • The Bucs magic # for a playoff spot is two as the Nats dropped the opener of a DH to Miami 4-2.
  • On his Sunday radio show, GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates will have Jeanmar Gomez stretched out and in the mix for a rotation spot in 2014.

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