Thursday, July 10, 2014

Eddie Goes The Distance As Bucs Salvage Series With A 9-1 Runaway

The Bucs used some two out lightning on Shelby Miller in the first. With two guys gone, Cutch blooped a single and stole second. The Kid walked on four pitches, and Cutch stole third; Walker stayed on first, and that may have cost a run. After falling behind 0-2, Russ took a couple and then lined a single to left to put the Bucs up 1-0. Matt Carpenter opened with a knock off Edinson Volquez, but never reached second.

Pedro doubled to open the second, but the Bucs couldn't cash him in. Jhonny Peralta drew a leadoff walk, but was erased on a strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP which was followed by another whiff. The Bucs went down in order in third. The Cards manufactured a run to tie the game. Kolten Wong opened with a bunt single, stole second, was bunted to third and scored on a sac fly to make it 1-1.

Pittsburgh again went down in order in the fourth. Matt Holliday started the Cards off by cue-balling a soft drop into right for a single and Matt Adams blooped a knock to left. Peralta flew out to the track in right center, moving Holliday to third. But no manufactured run this time. Jon Jay hit one that appeared to deflect off Eddie's glove to The Kid; he bobbled the carom for a wink, but a good feed and turn by Jordy easily doubled up Jay.

Jordy walked to begin the fifth and was bunted up. El Coffee drew a free pass, and Josh flew out to right, moving Jordy along 90'.  Then some more two out magic - Cutch lined a high 1-2 fastball into right to plate Mercer, and The Kid followed with a double to right to make it 4-1. Give Oscar Taveras an assist; he froze when Walker first hit his liner, and that hesitation cost him a chance to catch the ball. Russ followed with another walk, but Ike, who was ahead 3-0, popped out to end the music.

With an out in the Redbird half, Volquez plunked Wong with a curve on a 1-2 pitch. Mark Ellis grabbed a stick for Miller and bounced into a force; a fly by Carpenter that carried to the center field track and Cutch ended the inning at 4-1 Pittsburgh. The spread would grow, as the Cards, who had played excellent defense throughout the series, had a sixth inning where nothing went right for lefty Tyler Lyons.

Pedro started it with a swinging bunt; he hustled down the line and Lyon's throw may have brushed him as Adams couldn't come up with the ball. It was ruled an infield single. Jordy hit one to the box; Lyon's throw to second was off line and both runners were safe. Volquez bunted and popped it up. Carpenter let the ball hit (no infield fly rule for bunts) and went to second. He made a perfect throw to no one, but the Redbirds had the wheel play on (SS goes to third, 2B to first), and the sack was uncovered. His ball sailed into center, but Jay, who was coming in to back up, fielded the ball on one hop and beat Mercer to second for a force. Polanco walked, and the outfield came in, hoping to stop a tag.

Bad idea. Harrison hit one off the track - Jay made a gallant run, but was half a step short - and it bounced into the seats for a ground rule double. Tony Cruz allowed a short passed ball; Polanco zoomed home without so much as a throw and Josh steamed into third. He came in when Cutch flew out to the track in center on a nice running grab by Jay, who has logged a marathon this frame. The Kid popped out, and it was 8-1 when the smoke cleared. Eddie put away the Cards in order.

Martin started the seventh with a single. Gaby hit for Ike and popped out. Pedro hit one right at first; Adams stepped on the bag and ran down Russ for a 3 unassisted DP.  Peralta sled off with a single to right, but a 6-4-3 DP followed by a fly took care of that. Better yet, it was a four pitch inning, putting Eddie at 87 tosses.

The Bucs put a couple of more runners on in the eighth as Volquez walked with an out and Josh singled with two down, but Lyons speared Cutch's one hopper up the middle to end the frame without damage. Eddie tossed a sweet eighth, K'ing the last two hitters, and at 101 pitches should get a shot at finishing the game.

Jasom Motte came in for the ninth, and Russ added another point to the score with a line drive homer to left. With an out, Eddie gave up a ground ball single followed by a 3-2 walk. All eyes turned to the bench. Clint picked up the phone to see if a warming Mark Melancon was ready and then leaned on the railing. The next pitch to Peralata was a sinker; he hit it on one hop to Jordy, and the 6-4-3 DP gave the Bucs the win and Volquez his 114 pitch complete game.

The Bucs took one they had to have, and it keeps things interesting. The NL Central race is shaping into a dog fight, with four teams within 3-1/2 games of the lead and bunched within three games in the lost column. The Pirates are contenders again, and tonight's win should leave them in a good frame of mind for the three game set at Cincy that leads into the All-Star break.

Jeff Locke opens the Red series against Mat Latos tomorrow night.
  • The Pirates last complete game was here in August 2013 when Francisco Liriano beat, yep, Shelby Miller. This was the second complete game of Volquez's career; the other was in 2012 while pitching for the Padres. Eddie is now 8-6 with a 3.65 ERA, so score a point for Neal Huntington.
  • Russ led the Bucs with three hits. Cutch, Josh and Pedro each had a pair to account for nine of the Pirates 10 hits.
  • Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to 12 games, tied for the season's longest with Cutch. Josh's streak is at seven games, while Jordy's string ended at nine games.
  • Russ Martin has thrown out 40 runners since the beginning of last year, tops in the majors.
  • As the Root Sports announcers pointed out, the outfield positioning is counter intuitive. Cutch and Gregory Polanco, both with great speed, play fairly deep, while Josh plays shallow much of the time. Maybe he's on to something...
  • Wednesday Night Baseball on ESPN did a 7.3 rating in Pittsburgh, the highest-rated weeknight game ever in our market for ESPN. Nationally, it drew 1,023,000 viewers, the most-watched WNB on ESPN since August 2011.
  • Ex-Bucs: Chris Dickerson went 3 for 4 tonight and is 7-for-15 since joining the Indians on Monday from Indy.
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