Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pirates Join Slamfest Late, Lose to St. Louis 12-8

The Bucs made some noise against Joe Kelly in the first, but that was about it. With one down, Neil Walker and Cutch had back-to-back knocks, and a two out error by David Freese loaded the bases. Pedro bounced to second, and that ended the frame with a zip. Not so for the Cards. A leadoff walk and Jon Jay single put Redbirds on the corners. AJ Burnett whiffed Matt Holliday, but Jay swiped second, and both runners came in when Carlos Beltran singled and Cutch misplayed the ball to make it 2-0.

Noise again in the second. A leadoff single by Russ Martin was short circuited when AJ's one-out bunt led to a force; that may have cost a run when JT singled to right with two outs. But the Bucs were stranded when Walker whiffed, chasing a slider in the dirt. Burnett tossed a clean frame against the bottom of the order.

Cutch opened the third with a walk, but was erased on Justin Morneau's 6-4-3 DP, and the Pirates had another zero. The Cards had an extra base orgy. Matt Carpenter tripled, followed by consecutive doubles by Jay, Holliday and Beltran, and it was 5-0.

Pittsburgh kept the din up, with a Martin walk and Clint Barmes single with one down. But back-to-back bouncers to second ended the frame and AJ's night as he was pinch hit for, and Kris Johnson took over. Burnett had his shortest outing of the year, going three innings and giving up five runs on six hits, one walk and four Ks on 65 pitches. Johnson worked a quiet fourth. After four frames, Pittsburgh had stranded seven runners; St. Louis two.

The Bucs finally scored in the fifth. Cutch walked, and with two down, Marlon Byrd legged out a single. Pedro softly lined a ball to center to make it 5-1. Martin worked the count full, then watched a hung curve float by for strike three to strand another pair; a couple of pitches prior to that, he had been hit in the hand by a pitch that was called a foul. On a 1-2 pitch, Johnson hit Jay to open the Card half. A fly and a strike 'em out, throw 'em out ended the inning quietly.

Andrew Lambo doubled with an out in the sixth hitting for Johnson and moved to third on a tapper. He was stranded when The Kid looked at strike three, a heater that may or may not have nicked the inside corner, but was close enough to at least spoil. Jared Hughes came on and got three ground outs.

Kevin Siegrist took the ball in the seventh and made Cutch and Morneau look bad, striking them out, and then got an at 'em liner to left from Byrd. Descalso opened with a flare double to left. Pete Kozma beat out a bunt single, and Matt Carpenter roped one into the right field corner; a nice cutoff and throw in by Byrd held the Cards to a run. That was it for Hughes, as Bryan Morris got the call.

He wasn't even a speed bump. Jay poked a liner through a drawn-in infield to plate a pair. Holliday, worked a 3-2 count on pitches inside, then got one away and lasered it into left center to score Jay. Beltran hit one off the end of the bat, and the bloop fell into short center to put Redbirds at the corners. Morris brushed back Molina high and tight on the next pitch - it looked more like a breaking ball that hung rather than a message pitch - leading to an animated chat with the plate ump and bench warnings, but Yadier had the last laugh, launching a three run blast deep into the left center stands to make it 12-1.

Vin Mazzaro climbed the hill and it was more of the same. Matt Adams bounced a single through the right side and Tony Cruz slapped an 0-2 pitch into center for the Cardinals' ninth straight hit. Vinsanity returned to normal after that; two flies to right and a K, with a wild pitch tossed in, ended the frame.

John Axford took the bump. Pedro greeted him with a double to left center, and Tony Sanchez was clocked on the shoulder with the next pitch, earning Axford an ejection. Mike Matheny came out to beef; he was bounced, too. We doubt either ball was a purpose pitch (you can never tell for sure with Axford's control), but ump Tony Randazzo wants to make sure there's peace in the valley.

Jake Westbrook, just off the DL, came in cold, but got Barmes to tap to short; Kozma threw the ball away to allow Pedro to plate. A Garrett Jones roller scored another run, and Josh Harrison capped the frame by dropping a ball into the bullpen to make it 12-5. Kyle Farnsworth took his turn on the rubber, and gave up a hit with a couple of K at the bottom of the order.

Gaby, Jordy and John Buck hit in the ninth, using up the entire Buc bench (Pittsburgh used 23 players), against Westbrook. Gaby was plunked by a slow curve, and Jordy K'ed looking at a curve he quit on that backed up over the corner. Buck and Tony Sanchez singled to load the sacks, and Barmes walked, bringing in a run and a new Card hurler, Carlos Martinez.

He whiffed Jones looking at a back door hook after feeding him heaters, but JT drove one to right for a two run double; only some understandable situational caution by Nick Leyva kept it from clearing the sacks. That rang the phone for closer Edward Mujica, who used two pitches to get Harrison on a lazy fly to left center. Too little, too late, but the Bucs did make the Cards use their pen after falling behind by 11.

Thank you, Cards, for bringing in Westbrook. But the two teams did show their colors; St. Louis bunched their hits, and except for the end, the Bucs scattered theirs. Pittsburgh stranded 12 runners; the Redbirds, just five. And lets hope that Liriano and Burnett struggling is just a bump and not a trend. As Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review noted, they're a combined 6-6 with 5.17 ERA in 13 starts since August. That's no way to carry on a stretch run, especially from the vets.

Jeff Locke and Adam Wainwright meet tomorrow in a matchup of starcrossed pitchers.

  • The Pirates are 1/2 game ahead of the Cards and two up on the Reds after Cincinnati beat the Dodgers 3-2.
  • Pittsburgh allowed nine consecutive baserunners to reach safely in 2009 against the Cubs, but giving up nine straight hits may be a record. The Root Sports guys went back to 1974 and couldn't find any  matches for that performance. 
  • AJ caught a comebacker on the knuckle of his right pinkie in the third but stayed in; hopefully the finger will look OK tomorrow as the Bucs are running low in the rotation tank.
  • Starling Marte worked off a tee using both hands to swing today. Though he's not ready to play yet, Clint Hurdle suggested to the media that Marte may be put back on the active list to at least be available as a runner off the bench. 
  • When this series is over, Pittsburgh goes to Texas and will face Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Matt Garza, missing Derek Holland.
  • Wandy went three innings at Indy and took the 2-1 loss to Durham. He gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits and a K, throwing 48 pitches. Jameson Taillon followed and tossed five shutout frames, surrendering a hit, walking five and whiffing five. Indy is out of the playoffs now, so no rehab assignments remain for DL'ed Bucs (only Low A West Virginia and short season Jamestown remain in the playoffs), and the final splash of AAA call ups should arrive soon.

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