Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bucs Score Early & Often, Hang On For 9-8 Win

The dark and stormy night never materialized, and Wandy took the hill on a pretty nice evening. He got the Orioles in order, too, after surrendering a leadoff single and stolen base. For their part, the Bucs looked like they showered off last night's horrendous thumping.

Josh Harrison led off with a walk and an out later came around on Cutch's double off the center field wall. Pedro singled him to third and they both came around on a Starling Marte triple, a soft flare that landed in right field on an 0-2 pitch. Ike Davis followed with a knock to plate another before Chris Tillman's nightmare on Federal Street ended with the Bucs up 4-0.

But it is Wandy on the hill, and Nelson Cruz lined a high fastball into the left field seats. JJ Hardy doubled and Jonathan Shoop beat out a dribbler to third to put Orioles on the corners. With an out, Tillman bunted with two strikes (sac only; no squeeze); Wandy's throw to first pulled Davis off the bag and the bases were juiced.

Nick Markakis lifted a sac fly, also moving Shoop to third. Manny Machada got a full count heater down the middle and doubled off the Clemente Wall to chase home another run. Adam Jones walked. Chris Davis fought off a pitch on the hands and check-swinged a soft infield single to knot the score. Cruz whacked a low curve that kicked off the third base bag and two more runs scored as he ended up on second. That brought a merciful end to Wandy's night; he was bad, unlucky, and had thrown 61 pitches as Vinsanity took over and K'ed Hardy. The 4-0 lead was that quickly turned into a 6-4 deficit.

Wandy didn't have his command at all and gave up some smoked balls, but like last night, a big inning was strung together with a pair of infield singles, an error and a walk; everything seems to snowball. But it looks like one of those nights. J-Hay walked again and Neil Walker lined a ball off Chris Davis' mitt (ruled an error) into the right field corner to send him home. Cutch singled to put runners at the corners, and Pedro knocked The Kid in to tie it.  And that was it for Tillman as Brad Brach took the ball.

Marte bunted for a hit to load the bases, and Ike singled in the lead run. Jordy rolled into a DP, but in this wacky game, that just brought in yet another run. After nearly an hour and a half, the second inning was finally completed with the Bucs up 8-6.

After an out in the third, Mazzaro walked Caleb Joseph, the eight hitter whose BA is under .100. He was bunted to second, but Markarkis flew out to fairly deep to right to end the frame. Brach tossed a clean inning. Vinnie lost Davis on a walk with two down in the fourth, but came back to whiff Cruz swinging at a 3-2 slider. The Pirates went down quietly; Brach used his splitter effectively during the frame.

Vin worked a quick fifth. His fastball command was erratic, but he's got a sharp slider tonight. Tony Sanchez walked with two down. JT hit for Mazzaro and whiffed fishing for sliders. Justin Wilson climbed the bump in the sixth. Markarkis singled off Wilson's throwing arm with an out. He was checked out and stayed in the game, retiring the next two O's routinely. Or did he - the Orioles challenged the out call at first that ended the inning, but the ruling stood on a bang-bang ring-up. Lefty Brian Matusz trotted out of the pen. With two gone, Cutch doubled to The Notch on a drive that was close enough to a four bagger that it took an ump's review to see if it left the yard. He stayed put as Pedro popped out.

Davis opened the seventh by going the other way with a 96 MPH heater and doubling to left, bringing on Bryan Morris. Cruz greeted him with a single to left; O's were on first and third. Hardy followed with a single to left on a fat 1-2 delivery to make it 8-7. Shoop bunted Hardy to second, and pinch hitter Steve Clevenger walked. Steve Pearce came to the dish. Morris fed him a pair of 2-2 fastballs down the middle; Pearce fouled off the first one and singled on the second. That tied the game, but J-Hay's throw home nailed the lead run as a silver lining. Markarkis walked to load the bases again as the Bucco bullpen phone rang. Machado K'ed, missing two more balls down the middle as Morris escaped through no fault of his own.

Ryan Webb came in for the bottom half; Marte pushed a bunt past him for a leadoff single. Ike singled him to third, but Jordy couldn't cash him in, popping out to short right. Tony Sanchez picked him up. poking a slider away into right to plate Marte and make the score 9-8. Travis Snider grabbed a bat and killed the inning, banging into an around-the-horn DP.

Tony Watson took over in the eighth. Jones, the first hitter, worked him for 10 pitches before K'ing. Davis got plunked on the elbow and eventually made his way to first. Cruz looked at a sinker for the second out, and Hardy bounced out to end the inning.  Webb had an easy time against the Bucs and it was time for some dancin' with Melacon in the ninth. For a change, he's got the bottom of the order to deal with tonight. And he dealt, putting them away on 10 pitches with a pair of K. It was his seventh save, and - this hardly seems fair - Bryan Morris got the win.

Nice to get the win, but it doesn't address the worsening problem the Pirates have with their rotation. With Brandon Cumpton and Jeff Locke waiting at Indy, Wandy and Edinson Volquez surely have to be on a short leash.

The Washington Nats come to town tomorrow for a four-game set.

  • The 3-6 hitters - Cutch, Pedro, Starling and Ike -  went 11-for-17 with a double, triple, six runs scored and six runs driven in.
  • As Jim Rosati of The North Side Notch noted, the Buc bullpen has been handed 21 leads and blown 11 of them.
  • Baseball is a funny game - 5-of-6 runs Wandy gave up were unearned, and his ERA actually dropped tonight, not that 6.75 is much to write home over. The funny part - it was his error that opened the floodgates.

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