Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Meet You In St. Louis - Bucs Roll 6-2

Well, Pittsburgh's fourth river reached flood stage this afternoon - a river of black-shirted fans, pouring across the Clemente Bridge and into and around PNC Park. We'll see how the nine guys on the field play, but the tenth man sure showed up.

Frankie was into it; a strike out to open, and two soft grounders afterward carried him through a clean frame on just nine pitches. Johnny Cueto had a pretty routine go of it, too. He walked Cutch with two down, and Morneau lined to right to end the first without a score. Liriano changed it up a bit in the second, getting a sot grounder, K, soft grounder to sit the Reds down.

Marlon Byrd made his first post season at-bat count; he banged a hung 2-1 change into the left field stands to give the Bucs the first score. Pedro lined out to the front of the track in straight center, and with the full house chanting "Cueto," Russ Martin dropped a high heater a couple of rows deep in left to make it 2-0. Clint Barmes lined out to a sliding Choo, and Starling Marte followed with an excuse me check swing single to right. But Todd Frazier stopped the bleeding, going head-over-heels into the camera well to snag Neil Walker's foul pop and end the frame without further damage.

In the third, it was three Reds up, three grounders, and three Reds down. Cutch started things off with a broken bat infield single just past Cueto. Frazier ran down Morneau's soft lob, and then Byrd hit a one hop rocket to Zack Cozart; instead of a DP, it went off his wrist to put Bucs at first and third. Pedro then did a very un-Pirate-like thing; he lofted a ball to medium center, and the sac fly brought in McCutchen without a throw. Martin singled into the SS hole; a diving Cozart knocked the ball down, but did have a play. Pittsburgh left two more on, though, as Barmes hit a chopper to second for the force, and the frame ended 3-0 Buccos.

The long wait didn't help Liriano, who plunked Choo and gave up a knock to Ludwick. He navigated past Votto and Phillips, but Jay Bruce hit a one hopper the opposite way past Pedro into left, with Barmes cheating toward second, and it was 3-1. Frazier got a collective gasp when he hammered a ball barely outside the LF foul pole. But it was just a loud strike, and he K'ed on the next pitch. Still, it was a pair of lefties were on either end of the score, and that's not supposed to happen to The Cisco Kid.

With one down, Marte hit a hooking laser inside third; it caught LF ump Tim Timmons, but still went for a double. And that was it for Cueto; LHP Sean Marshall took the ball. He fell behind Walker 3-0, ran the count full, and then watched The Kid bang one off the wall in left to chase home Marte. Cutch was walked intentionally and Morneau walked unintentionally. That brought out Dusty again, to call on JJ Hoover to face The Byrd. He tried for a second straight at bat to hit into a DP, but this time Phillips bobbled the ball; all the Reds could get was a force out as Walker scored. Pedro bounced out, and it was 5-1 after four.

It was another long wait for Frankie between innings; the game has taken about an hour and 35 minutes so far. Cozart fell behind 1-2 but eventually walked to open the fifth. Hanigan flew out to medium right, and Frankie got Chris Heisey to bang a 3-2 pitch to Pedro; the around the horn DP iced the inning. Alfredo Simon climbed the hill for the Reds. Barmes singled past short with an out and was bunted to second, but Marte hit a high, lazy fly to center to end the frame.

The Reds sent up the top of the order in the sixth. Ludwick doubled to right center with an out, a tailing ball that Cutch almost ran down, and was held to two bases by a great back-up and quick throw by The Byrd. Liriano hitched up his pants and K'ed Votto, then finished off Phillips with a routine roller to second.

Cutch laced a one out single, and that brought Dusty out again; he's wearing a path between the dugout and the mound. Lefty Manny Parra got the call with Morneau up. He dropped a single into left, just in front of Ludwick. But Choo ran down a liner to left center by Byrd and Pedro whiffed. The Bucs have a four run lead, but they've stranded eight runners already; a big hit or two, and they'd be running away instead of allowing Cincy to hang around.

But that's all they're doing so far. Frazier doubled off the bullpen fence in the seventh with an out when Liriano tried to sneak a fast ball past him. But no sweat; a pair of grounders kept the Reds off the board for another frame. Logan Ondrusek took the bump. He tried to blow a 96 MPH heater down the middle past Martin and it didn't work as planned; Russ bombed it into the left field stands. The rest of the inning went routinely, with the Bucs now up 6-1.

Frankie was done. He went seven innings, giving up a run on four hits and a walk, punching out five on 90 pitches. Tony Watson opened the eighth for the Bucs. After an out, he pounded Choo inside with heat, then got cute and left him a breaking pitch up. Choo may or may not have cleared the railing of the Clemente Wall with his long fly - a fan tried to catch the ball at the railing- but the ruling on the field was HR, and it stood as replay was inconclusive. Tony Watson had not allowed a HR to lefty, and Choo had not hit a HR off a lefty this season until now (if he indeed did). Then Ludwick cued a ball just inside the RF line to make it a moot point. Byrd had the carom from the railing measured, but another fan reached out and touched the ball - neither, ahem, made the catch - and it was a ground rule double. A pair of grounders to Morneau at first put out the Reds' fire.

Walker reached off Sam LeCure when Joey Votto dropped his grounder to first. But no damage was inflicted. Cutch flew out short of the track in center and Morneau bounced into a 6-4-3 DP. The crowd rose to its feet for the ninth and Jason Grilli rose to the occasion. He pitched a perfect frame with a K, a fly to short left and a bouncer to second. Raise the Jolly Roger - the Bucs are off to St. Louis after winning a postseason game for the first time since October 13, 1992.

Nothin' to it - score some runs, get great pitching, play tight defense, and welcome to the NLDS.

  • Hey guess what? The PNC Park attendance record was set tonight with 40,487 amped fans in the house (except for those in red).
  • Russell Martin is first catcher to homer for three different teams in postseason play (2008 Dodgers, 2012 Yankees, 2013 Pirates). He's also the second Buc with a multi-homer playoff game. The other was Bob Robertson, who had three against the Giants in 1971 during Game 3 of NLCS.
  • It's no real surprise that the Pirates played long ball tonight. They hit 27 HR vs the Reds in 2013, their highest regular-season total vs Cincinnati in history of the rivalry. It was, though, the first time the Pirates have hit three HRs in a postseason game at home since Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
  • This was the sixth time the Reds and Pirates met in the playoffs. The only teams to meet more often in the post-season were the Dodgers-Yankees (11) & Giants-Yankees (7). 
  • Since 2010, the Reds have lost seven of nine playoff games.
  • NLDS Game 1 vs. St. Louis is Thursday at 5:07 PM on TBS, and Game 2 is Friday at 1:07 PM on the MLB Network. The Pirates and Cardinals will meet in the postseason for the first time ever.
  • Not related to this playoff, but possibly to ones down the road: Jamestown Jammer OF'er Harold Ramirez was selected as the top prospect in the New York-Pennsy League by Baseball America. The 19 year old put together a line of .285/5/40 with 23 stolen bases in a league dominated by college players.

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