Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bucs Let One Get Away; Nats Rally To Take 4-3 Walk-Off Win

Gio Gonzalez opened with a pair of routine outs - Josh and El Coffee have been struggling recently - before Russ and Starling banged out two-strike hits. Gaby tried to make it three in a row, but his liner to right hung up long enough for Bryce Harper to make the grab. Jeff Locke gave up a one-out single to Kevin Frandsen, but otherwise has a quiet frame; neither guy is particularly filling up the strike zone in the early going.

Gio struck out the side in the second; Pedro and Travis Snider both looked at a pair of strikes before they chased the third; Jayson Nix just chased, period. Easy one for Jeff, too. He walked Ian Desmond to open, but picked him off as he broke to second 1-3-6. A tapper and K closed the frame.

Josh singled with an out in the third, and El Coffee forced him at second. Russ drew a walk, and that keyed a big frame. Gonzalez came in with a pair of first pitch fastballs, and Starling dropped a double to left on the first to score Polanco and Gaby singled on the other to bring home two more Buccos to make it 3-0. Locke tossed a clean frame.

Travis beat out a one out chopper up the middle in the fourth, but Locke made a pretty comical effort to move him up and Josh bounced out. Locke had another 1-2-3 inning, and looked good getting the outs, mixing up pitches while working down with his off speed stuff and the top of the zone with his heat.

Gio had a little luck going for him in the fifth. Russ drew a one out walk, and Starling just missed driving a fastball out of the yard as Denard Span ran it down a step or two from the wall in left center. Gaby singled, but Gonzalez got a call on Pedro to K him looking on a pitch that was down and away.

Locke left a couple pitches up to open the Nat half. Desmond whistled a liner to center, then Harper's slicing shot to left center was web-gemmed by Snider, who made a full diving grab, and Wilson Ramos banged one up the middle. Then Jeff pounded the inside, painting the corner to get a punch out of Danny Espinosa, then catching a couple of calls before getting Scott Hairston to go down swinging.

Gonzalez was done after 102 pitches and Craig Stammen took the ball in the sixth. He opened by plunking Nix, but a 4-6-3 DP from Snider and a whiff of Locke ended things quietly.

After an out, Kevin Frandsen singled; Pedro made a great diving stop to save two bases, but yep, missed the throw, though this one looked more like he didn't have a good grip after popping up rather than his usual air mail delivery, ruled an infield single. After a line out, Locke walked Adam LaRoche, and Jared Hughes got the call. He worked the count to 2-2 on Desmond, who caught a break when his foul tip just got under Russ' mitt. But Hughes caught the bigger break when Desmond's liner was a Josh at 'em ball to stop the music.

Stammen put Pittsburgh away without a peep in the seventh. Neil Walker came in to play second, Jayson Nix went to third and Pedro grabbed a Gator Ade. Harper was plunked by Hughes to open the Nats at-bats, but quickly erased on a Ramos comebacker via a 1-4-3 DP. Marte made a great grab to rob Espinosa, and the D came to play tonight.

Gaby singled with an out in the eighth; he's hit nothing but ropes all game. It didn't help; The Kid pulled a curve to first, hit on the nose but nicely picked by LaRoche, for an inning ending 3-6-3 DP. Tony Watson took the bump, and had no luck. He had Michael Taylor struck out on a curve, but Russ carried it out of the zone and Taylor ended up walking. With a big hole on the right side, Denard Span rolled a single through, and then Frandsen broke his bat and dropped a flare into right to plate Taylor.

Tony pounded Anthony Rendon inside, kept him tied up and got a 6-4-3 DP for his efforts. But he must not have read the book on LaRoche; he fed him a fastball inside and Adam yanked it out of the yard, a liner that barely carried over the wall into the bullpen, to tie the game. A grounder ended it, but it's a new game.

Matt Thornton came in for Washington in the ninth and the flamethrower tossed a perfect frame. Justin Wilson climbed the mound for Pittsburgh. He walked Harper, even with a gift strike that had Bryce jogging halfway to first. A pitch bounced off the plate and by Russ to move him up, and then Wilson hit a deep fly to right that kept carrying; Polanco misplayed it and it hit the track for the game winner.

Maybe it was poetic justice that a couple of dinks set the Nats up after the Bucs hauled in so many liners. But the Washington bullpen, short handed tonight, shut the Bucs out for four frames, and Adam LaRoche did his old mateys in with his glove and bat. We hate seeing these August swoons; 2011 and 2012 are still red scars on Bucco Nation's psyche, and let's hope another isn't in the cards.

Edinson Volquez faces Doug Fister in tomorrow afternoon's series closer.
  • Josh Harrison's single third inning snapped an 0-for-13 skid, his longest of the season.
  • Jeff Locke has caught five runners attempting to steal this season. The only NL pitcher with more is Madison Bumgarner with eight.
  • Neil Walker had a scheduled day off. They plan to start him the following three games, then maybe give him another day off (with a travel day added) and set him loose after that, if his back allows. He came in tonight on a defensive switch in the seventh.  We're not really sure coming in cold is the best move, but otherwise, it was Michael Martinez, so...
  • The Pirates have now matched their longest losing streak of the year at four; they last lost four in a row in April.
  • The Bucs are ready to insert Gerrit Cole back into the rotation; now the discussion is about who he'll replace next week.
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