Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Base Running Brutal, Bullpen Brilliant In 4-2 Bucco Victory

Well, nothin' like a little delay to whet the appetite. At 8:43, the remains of the dark and stormy night had been mopped up, and the ballgame began.

Brandon Cumpton's first few pitches were up and over the dish, but he got Chris Coghlan to fly out to Cutch. Justin Ruggriano followed by bouncing a single through the right side. Anthony Rizzo chased a slider in the dirt for a whiff, and Starlin Castro lined out to center. Brandon's been up with his stuff, but at least the balls are on the black for the past couple of guys.

Jason Hammel walked Josh on four pitches. Gregory Polanco lined a heater to center for the first out. Cutch continued to be Mr. June; he yanked a fastball in the inside black over the wall in left, a high drive that was almost pulled back in but tipped off LF Coghlan's glove, and the Bucs were up 2-0. Ike K'ed looking; his strike zone was stretched quite a bit during the at-bat. Russ singled to right center on a fastball away, but Pedro popped out to end the frame.

Luis Valbueno opened the second by fisting a bloop to center, and Nate Schierholtz followed with a walk. John Baker banged one up the middle, and it was 2-1 with Cubs on the corners. Darwin Barney poked an 0-2 slider that was down and well off the plate softly to second; the only play was to first (well, there was a shot at second, but Josh took the surest out), and it was a tie game. Hammel whiffed and Coghlan flew out, but a walk was the keystone to knotting the score.

With an out, Mercer ripped a 3-2 heater to center for a two-bagger, and a Cumpton knock moved him to third. Josh was plunked with an 0-2 pitch to jam the sacks. El Coffee got his first MLB RBI with a grounder to first that moved everyone up a station. Cutch was intentionally walked to load them up again. Good move; Davis K'ed swinging at a slider.

With an out in the third, Cumpton hit Rizzo. Castro went down fishing for a slider, then Valbueno turned on an 0-2 slider at the knees and middle of the plate for a double to put Cubs at second and third.  he tempted fate by leaving three pitches at Schierholtz's belt, but got a fly out to right center to escape the frame.

Pedro got the green light on a 3-0 count and drilled a fastball away into left for a one-out triple. Starling brought him in with a line shot into center, making it 4-2. Hammel again went full, and Mercer saw a fastball and knocked it into left for a single, sending Marte to third. Cumpton was called out on strikes. Clint sent up Clint Barmes to bat for Josh, who was hit in the hand his last at-bat; we assume it's bothering him (we assumed wrong; it's his ankle that's acting up). Barmes struck out swinging - he was in a hole after a pair of terrible strike calls by plate ump Scott Barry, who is pretty much in his own little twilight zone tonight, and that hurts the disciplined (usually) Pirate batters.

Cumpton tossed a clean fourth with a couple of K against the bottom of the Windy City lineup. Polanco opened with a single to right. Cutch doubled to left, with Gregory holding up at third. Ike can't buy a break; he lined out to second, and El Coffee, off on contact, couldn't throw in reverse quickly enough and was doubled up. Maybe Marte is showing his bud how to run the bases. Russ roped a ball to center, but Ruggiano was there, so the Bucs smoked four balls and end up with a goose egg.

With one gone in the fifth, Ruggiano reached second when Pedro threw the ball away, and Rizzo followed with a walk. An out later, Valbueno singled off Ike's glove (it should have been an error), so the bases are drunk on an error, walk and infield single. Cumpton came up big; he got Schierholtz swinging at a slider to leave the ducks on the pond.

With an out, Starling legged out an infield bleeder and Jordy singled him to third. Travis grabbed a bat and popped out foul; somehow Marte managed to get caught off third on the play for a DP when Mercer make a fake tag to second to try to get in a rundown; we hope that's not from the playbook. And we can't blame Starling entirely for the TOOTBLAN; he was probably as confused as everyone else. Pirate base running is off the charts so far. They've stranded eight runners in five innings and hit into a pair of in-the-air DPs.

Justin Wilson tossed a seven pitch, 1-2-3 sixth. Carlos Villanueva got the call for Chicago - the two starters threw 184 pitches combined in five innings - and walked Cutch with two outs, and he stole second. Davis whiffed for the third time, and there are still nine outs to collect, and now the game's being played in the rain.

Tony Watson took the bump in the seventh, and lost Ruggiano after a long at-bat with one away. He worked Rizzo tight and got him swinging. Tony attacked Castro beautifully, getting two strikes on the inside black setting him up to roll over on a pitch away, grounding softly to third. Russ drew a walk to open for the Bucs and stole second. That just set up another base running blunder; Pedro bounced to short (no shift), and Martin was cut down at third. Marte whiffed chasing high heat and Mercer flew out.

Mark the Shark entered in the eighth, and tossed nine pitches to get a pair of whiffs and a weak grounder. Justin Grimm got the call for Chicago and worked a clean frame. It was Jason Grilli time, and he had to face the 8-91 hitters. he retired them easily, and the Bucs, in spite of themselves, beat the Cubbies 4-2.

The game should have been easier. A couple of fielding gaffes pressured Cumpton needlessly, and the base running bloopers did more to keep the Bucs off the board than Cub pitching, though maybe not as much as plate ump Scott Barry's brutal ball-and-strike calls. Brandon Cumpton again had big problems with location, but got a couple of key outs, which is a positive to build on. The bullpen was brilliant, though, and the Pirates have a chance to take the series tomorrow.

Jeff Samardzija closes the series against Edinson Volquez tomorrow night.
  • Cutch has 13 extra base hits in his last 10 games, the most in that span by a Pirate since Barry Bonds in 1988.
  • Tony Watson has pitched 20 consecutive scoreless outings, covering 20-2/3 IP.
  • According to the TOOTBLAN (Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop) Tracker, the Bucs have tied the White Sox for the most committed this season with 34.
  • Pedro Alvarez has 13 throwing errors; the season record is 18 (thanks, Dave Manel of Bucs Dugout).
  • Brandon Cumpton got his first MLB hit tonight, a ground single to right. 
  • Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register wrote that RHP Mitch Keller has agreed to a contract with the Pirates after being selected in the second round; no figures were given.
  • Ex-Bucs: the White Sox have released AAA OF'er Gorkys Hernandez.

No comments: