Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bucs Blow Their One Big Chance, Go Down 2-1 To Padres

It was a brutal first inning for Francisco Liriano. After giving up a lead off single, hit batter, RBI single and another single to leave the bases jammed with no outs, he got a force at home. Frankie gave up another run on the not-often-seen sac fly DP, authored by Gregory Polanco. A run scored on the fly ball, but El Coffee tossed out the back runner from first when he tagged for second. Still, 2-0 even with the good D. The Bucs halved it against Eric Stults when Josh singled, stole second and came in on Russ' knock.

Both clubs went down in order in the second and third. Frankie put away the Friars in the fourth, and Starling Marte was stranded after a two-out double in the Bucco half. The Padres went down without a peep in the fifth. Jayson Nix opened with a single. Michael Martinez lined out and Frankie couldn't get a bunt down, but Josh followed with a single off the pitcher's glove. Jordy couldn't cash in, rolling over on a change and tapping it back to the box.

Frankie has been unreal since the first; he's allowed one ball out of the infield since then, and the sixth was no different. The Bucs got another two-out knock from Marte, and again he was left stranded. Liriano's streak ended at 20 straight outs with a two-out walk to Yasmani Grandal, but another grounder ended the frame. Nix opened with a knock and was bunted to second by Martinez. Pedro came up to hit for Frankie, and the Padres sent in lefty Alex Torres. El Toro skied out to center. Nick Vincent took the ball to face Josh, who rolled over on a slider and bounced back to the mound. The SD pitchers have been working the Bucs soft and away and succeeding; Pittsburgh refuses to go the other way.

Jared Hughes came on in the eighth. With one gone, Will Venable singled and stole second; the call was challenged, and he was rightfully and righteously rung up. Hughes then walked Everth Cabrera, and he stole second without any debate. Then Yangervis Solarte walked; Jared's having a tough night at the shop. Ray Searage came out for a little chat. Didn't help; Tommy Medica got hit in the head by a pitch; fortunately, he walked off the field under his own power. Jared came back to whiff Jedd Gyorko, but we have to wonder if the short bullpen is why Hughes got a long leash.

Kevin Quackenbush took over for San Diego and was greeted with a single by Jordy. Russ took one of those Friar outside deliveries and whacked into right for a double, putting Bucs at second and third with no outs. Ike hit for Gaby, and the Padres caught a break when he lined out to second on a 3-1 fastball. Marte went down chasing high cheese that would have been ball four. Polanco couldn't pick them up, flying out to short right, and the Pirates ignored opportunity's knock.

Justin Wilson worked a clean ninth as the bottom of the Buc order hopes to conjure up a little late lightening. Joquin Beloit came on, and there's nothing soft about his stuff. He blew 96 MPH heat past The Kid - good to see him back in business - and Michael Martinez went down chasing a change up. It seems odd that Clint hit for Nix, who had two hits, instead of Martinez, but that's what playing short does. Travis Snider at least hit the ball, tapping back to the mound.

The Pirates had one good shot in the eighth, but couldn't get a fly ball. And with the lineup as it is, they have to focus on some small ball to get them through this stretch. A better approach wouldn't hurt, either; trying to pull soft tossers who live on the outside edge isn't a very good bit of game planning by the hitters.

Still, some good news - Frankie looks legitimately back, and The Kid must be near returning to the lineup. The Pirates wouldn't toss out his potential back-dated DL time if they didn't think he was close to full-time duty. After tomorrow's match, it's a four game home-and-home set with the Tigers to begin a tough schedule running into early September, so time is ticking down.

Charlie Morton closes out the series tomorrow afternoon against Tyson Ross.
  • Josh Harrison's 13-game hitting streak is the longest by a Pirate this season. Josh, who injured his hand last night, was wearing the Starling Marte "oven mitt" on the bases tonight.
  • Tonight marked the 12th time in 21 games since the All-Star break that the Pirates were facing a left-handed starter. They did so just 12 times in 95 games prior to the break.
  • The Pirate streak of winning 19 straight games after scoring in the first inning was snapped.
  • The Bucs drew 38,614 for Fireworks Night (too bad the Bucco hitters didn't join in), their 14th sellout.
  • Bill Brink of the Post Gazette tweeted that Brandon Cumpton is healthy and was scratched from his start last night in case the Pirates needed to reinforce the bullpen, per Clint Hurdle. The Bucs are a man short in the pen with Cutch and The Kid's health issues unresolved.

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