Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bucs Can't Find Clutch Hit, Fall 4-2

The Bucs squared up on a couple of balls in the first off Jon Niese, but Juan Lagares in center had both measured. He was perfectly positioned for Josh Harrison's liner, and then leapt to snare a ball off the top of the wall at the 390' mark to take extra bases off Cutch.

Edinson Volquez got a grounder to open, followed by a gapper by Daniel Murphy. Cutch called for it as he and Starling Marte had it measured; Andrew gloved it briefly before running into Marte, and the ball dropped. But the error didn't faze Edinson, who got another grounder and a K to strand Murphy. Talk about your frustrating frame for Cutch, robbed at the wall and then charged with a boot thanks to his running mate's bump in left.

Gaby opened the second with a walk, but the Pirate luck on liners held up. On a 3-2 count, with Sanchez off on the pitch, Russ Martin rocketed one to left; Curtis Granderson took a step or two to glove it, then his strong one-hopper to first doubled up Gaby. No robbery for Marte, as he tapped back to the hill. Volquez walked Bobby Abreu, then Lucas Duda hit a slow roller to third; Josh got it to Clint Barmes, who got the force and then dropped the ball. Again, no sweat for Edinson, who sandwiched another walk between two K he's bringing it tonight, sitting at 94-95 and touching 98.

Neise had an easy time with the bottom of the order in the third, whiffing a pair. To open the Met half, Cutch made one of the best catches you'll see, fully extended in right center to pay back Lagares. Murphy hit a routine grounder to third, but Josh was way off the line in a shift. The bouncer caught the stands and kicked away from Marte for a double. With two outs, he walked weak hitting Granderson after being up 0-2, and it cost him when Abreu spanked one through the shift. After three, it was 1-0 New York.

With one gone in the fourth, JT reached when Ruben Tejada bobbled his soft chopper over the hill. Cutch hit into a one-hop shot to third force; David Wright double clutched to allow Andrew to beat the ball on the back end. Gaby cued one past first to put runners at the corners, but Russ popped out foul on the first base side to end the inning.

Murphy doubled off the left field wall with an out and came around two batters later when Lagares did the same. A walk and a wild pitch - Martin called for a ball in the dirt and got it, but couldn't pick it cleanly - put Volquez in a two-out hole. Wright bounced one to short, and Barmes throw was down the line, but Gaby managed to make the tag to end the music.

In the fifth, the Bucs started with a pair of hard hit outs before Barmes rolled a bleeder through the shortstop hole to turn the order over. Volquez worked his final frame giving up a walk; he's at 105 pitches with six K, a season high, and five free passes. His velocity was great, but his control...well, not so great.

Niese was having his problems, too - he went walk, out, walk, out, walk in the sixth before Marte laced a two-run single up the middle. Terry Collins probably kept him in a batter or two longer than he should, but with the Met bullpen as is...anyway, old Bucco Vic Black got the ball. And what else - he walked The Kid. Ike grabbed a bat for Barmes, and after taking a 98 MPH heater for a strike - and everything Black throws is 98 - he went down swinging at a pair of 82 MPH hooks in the dirt.

It must be contagious. Jeanmar Gomez walked Tejada (.202) to open the NY half and sandwiched two wild pitches around an out. Lagares went full, and then slapped a broken bat single to left on a pretty decent pitch to give the Mets the lead again. Justin Wilson was throwing in the pen, but Clint left Gomez in against the lefty Murphy, and he doubled another run home. Wilson got the ball a batter late; no explaining what Hurdle was thinking, unless Wilson wasn't heated up yet. He got the next two outs, but the Mets were on top 4-2.

Black got the first two Bucs in the seventh, then JT walked and Cutch singled to right center; Abreu cut the ball off to keep Pirates on the corners. Gaby went down without a swing, taking a heater and two curves, both belt high. Wilson tossed a clean frame with a pair of whiffs.

Jenrry Mejia took the hill in the eighth. with one gone, a Marte walk and Walker single put Bucs on the corners, and Pedro at the plate, hitting for Wilson. He fell behind 0-2, worked the count full, then hit a weak bouncer to second for an easy 6-3 DP. Jason Grilli took the ball for Pittsburgh, and after a leadoff single  and stolen base by Tejada, struck out the side, all on chases. He looked up to snuff, with good movement and 93-94 MPH velocity, so he's coming along.

The Bucs did everything but score in the ninth. Josh hit another bullet at the left fielder for the first out after Travis Snider reached on an error. Granderson may have may the game-saver when he ran down JT's drive into the right field corner, making a snow cone grab. Mejia wasn't going to let Cutch beat him; he walked him on five pitches. Gaby banged one deep in the SS hole; Tejada would have had a tough play at first, but instead went to third and forced out the lumbering Snider to end the game.

Lots of hard outs for Pittsburgh tonight, but also lots of squandered opportunities, stranding 11 and going 1-for-7 with RISP. And while people debate the Vinsanity move, Gomez and Bryan Morris are both still in the pen; they should certainly be part of the conversation when Stolmy returns. The quick-hook starting pitching is exposing a weak middle corp of relievers, and it showed tonight. Give Terry Collins and his staff some credit, too - they played their outfielders fairly shallow except for a couple of guys, and it paid off by taking away hits sorely needed. And they made some plays when it counted.

So it's the rubber match tomorrow, followed by seven games in LA and San Diego. Charlie Morton goes against Bartolo Colon in the get-away game.
  • Neil Walker had an error ruled on a ball he hit up the line yesterday changed to a double after league review, so his single tonight ran his hitting streak to eight games.
  • Andrew McCutchen has drawn 40 walks in 50 games.
  • West Virginia C Reese McGuire extending his hitting streak to 17 games.

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