Thursday, June 12, 2014

Volquez, Cutch Cage the Cubs 4-0

And of course it started raining 15 minutes before opening pitch and of course the tarp was nicely rolled up instead of covering the infield. They got it unrolled just in time for the storm to pass through. The game time was pushed back to 7:25.

Weird start. Emilio Bonifacio hopped Edinson Volquez's second pitch routinely to short, took a turn out of the box and collapsed in a heap. He walked back to the dugout with help, but verrrry slowly. (It was later announced that he had a ribcage injury, so the swing is what got him.) Junior Lake then lined one that went off Jordy Mercer's mitt for the game's first hit. Anthony Rizzo drilled one to Cutch, and Lake was caught stealing to end the frame. Jeff Samardzija worked a 1-2-3 frame, getting Starling Marte and Cutch swinging.

With one gone in the second, Luis Valbueno grounded a knock to right. Nate Schierholtz poked a sinker away to Pedro, who got the force at second thanks to a nice snag by Jordy. John Baker flew out to center on a 3-2 pitch to finish things. With one gone, Russ spanked a cutter to right center for a two-bagger. Pedro went down, swinging through three fastballs at the letters. Jordy flew out to left, and it's zeroes after two.

Darwin Barney opened the third with a single up the middle, and Samardzija moved him up with a two-strike bunt. Eddie was no where near the dish against Chris Coghlan, who took Bonifacio's spot, walking him on four pitches. Lake went down hacking on three pitches and Rizzo whiffed swinging at a curve.

Who'd a thunk it? Clint Barmes turned on 95 MPH heat and banged it into the LF corner for a leadoff double and was bunted to third. The Bucs did it again. Gregory Polanco lined out to medium right, and Barmes, not exactly a burner, tagged and was nailed at home; Nick Leyva bet that  Shierholtz's throw wouldn't be on the money in a game that figures to be low scoring, and he lost the bet. Actually the throw was well up the third base line, but it wasn't even close; Barmes didn't get down and ran right into the tag.

Volquez tossed a clean fourth. With an out, Cutch doubled to The Notch. Ike lined a single to right; Cutch had to hold at third. Russ dinked a slider down and away off the chalk in right for ground rule double. Pedro let a couple of high ones go by and was intentionally walked after that to load the sacks. Jordy fell behind 0-2, laid off a slider, and lifted the next one to center for a sac fly. The Bucs ran a successful double steal with Barmes up, setting up another intentional walk. Maybe Clint was hot to turn the order over as Edinson went down on three pitches. It's 2-0 Pirates.

Baker drew a seven pitch walk to open the fifth and Barney followed with his second hit, not exactly the way you'd like a guy to come out after he was handed the lead. A bunt moved the Cubbies to second and third. He stayed on the outside black to Coghlan and got him to pull a fly ball to right, the runners holding. (Polanco's arm + catcher at third = no tag). Lake swung through a hook and Eddie escaped the jam.

Samardzija left an 0-2 fastball over the plate to El Coffee and he banged it into center for a knock. Starling got an 0-2 slider under the knees but middle of the plate and he rolled it into left for a single. The next pitch was a fastball at the belt to Cutch; he doubled to The Notch once more, driving in a pair, but again that base running - he was thrown out at third with no outs trying for a triple; he beat the throw easily but came off the bag after his pop-up slide. The Bucs challenged the out call, but it stood; he may have beat the rap but it was deemed too close to overturn. The inning finished quietly after that, with the Pirates on top 4-0.

Starlin Castro singled up the gut with one away in the sixth. Valbueno followed with a double to put Cubs at second and third. He whiffed Shierholtz swinging at a slider in the dirt and got Baker on a grounder; Rick Renteria has to be sick watching these opportunities fly off the board. It's not easy posting a four man lineup. It's raining again, but should blow through quickly. Samardzija had an easy frame against the 6-7-8 hitters.

Marte made a great grab to rob Barney to start the seventh, but Samardija crossed Volquez up by doubling to right center. No prob; Eddie got two routine grounders and stranded another one.

Travis grabbed a stick for Eddie and doubled into the RF corner. That was the swan song for Samardzija; LHP James Russell took the bump. He whiffed Polanco, who is getting the rookie strike zone; he may want to  a bit more aggressive instead of falling constantly behind in the count. With the lefty gone, Brian Schlitter got the call.

Then it rained some more, delaying the game as the tarp was rolled back out. It was rolled up around 10, and rolled on the field again ten minutes later. The men in blue scheduled the continuation for 11PM. Some get-away day. Anyway, Schlitter got a pair of routine outs after the game started up again.

Tony Watson came on for the eighth. He was a little more money than usual, striking out the side. Wesley Wright appeared for Chicago, and Gaby greeted him with a double high off the short left field wall. Like Travis the inning before, he was left aboard. He did join the duet club - the Pirates have smacked seven doubles tonight, the most in a game since 7/18/2010 vs the Astros.

Jared Hughes made a rare ninth inning showing, and liked it, getting the Cubs routinely in a quiet ending to a 4-0 win. Oddly, this is the first shutout the Bucs have hurled since Opening Day, and Samardzija was the victim then, too.

Volquez was tough when he had to be, though his location was off and on; whether his focus or the Cub's collection of Mario Mendoza hit-alikes was the reason for the shutout is up in the air. But a goose egg is a goose egg, and nine of them will get you a win almost every time. Eddie's holding up his end, with a 4-5 record and 3.89 ERA.

Jeff Locke faces Nathan Eovaldi tomorrow night as the Bucs travel to Miami.
  • The Buc bench has a little different look tonight. The Pirates called up IF Michael Martinez, 31, and RHP Casey Sadler was sent to Indy. Sadler was no surprise; Martinez got his ticket to Pittsburgh because Robert Andino, Blake Davis and Chase d'Arnaud aren't on the 40-man roster (not that any of them are particularly on a fast track). MM was hitting .229 at Indy and in parts of three seasons has hit .187 in the show for Philly. 
  • Cutch now has 15 extra base hits in his last 11 games. The last Pirate to be that smokin' hot was Ralph Kiner in 1947. Additionally, Andrew now has 47 career multi-extra-base hit games, one more than Andy Van Slyke had in his Bucco career. Oh, he also has an eight game hitting streak.
  • Pittsburgh is 7-3 versus the Cubs. 
  • Tony Watson's streak of 21-2/3 IP without a run is the longest since 2011 for a Pirate, when Charlie Morton went 24 scoreless.
  • The Pirates haven't announced a Sunday pitcher; the tea leaves are pointing at non-roster pick up RHP Vance Worley, now at Indy.
  • Injury update: The Kid was in the locker room, so he's recovering as expected, Josh's ankle is improving to the point where he could pinch hit and Gerrit Cole has a bullpen scheduled for tomorrow after tossing on flat ground for three straight days, so they're all on track. No Frankie news yet.
  • SS Cole Tucker, the Bucs' first pick, came to town and made his signing official today.
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