Anyway, bad start for Tony; he walked Juan Baez, missing with a full count sinker. After getting ahead of Luis Valbueno 0-2, he walked him for the sixth free pass surrendered to Chicago. Wildness is one problem; he's escaped a couple of extra-base bullets when balls hit off him went foul. He did toss a sinker past Jorge Solter for the first out. A soft, broken bat tapper to second by Chris Coghlan moved the runners up a station with two away. Tony jumped on top of Chris Valaika 0-2 and eventually caught him looking *whew*.
Pedro Strop took the ball in the eighth. After a pair of grounders, The Kid walked, but JT, in a pretty uninspired at-bat, went down on three pitches. Watson came back on after 26 pitches last frame; 37 is the most he's tossed this season in a single outing. With two gone, Matt Szczur got enough of a change off the plate with the end of the bat to drop the ball softly into center. Arismendy Alcantara bounced out on Watson's 38th pitch, a pretty efficient job this frame.
Hector Rondon took the ball in the ninth and worked a quiet 1-2-3 frame, stabbing Travis Snider's two out grounder ticketed up the middle to end the inning. Mark the Shark came on to face the middle of the Cub order as Gregory Polanco took over in right. Seven pitches, three outs.
The heart of the Pirate order came up in the tenth against Brian Schlitter. Cutch went down swinging after three fastballs, all pretty much right there. Russ sat down after missing another heater; for a fastball hitting team, this isn't a great inning so far. Marte took a heater the opposite way for a knock. It was a situation where he had to try to get to second, and Marte did, but was nailed to end the frame.
Melancon came back to the hill. Clint has to try to win this one, so no problems, but it'll be an interesting second game if it turns into a grinder, too. Valaika singled with an out and stole second on a backdoor slide that evaded the tag. A Ryan Kalish grounder moved him to third, where he was stranded when Melancon got a 3-2 swing-and-miss fastball past John Baker.
Lefty Wesley Wright climbed the bump in the 11th. Ike lined out to short; he's hit a couple of balls hard the opposite way today without any luck. The Kid turned on a fastball away and drilled it into left for a double. Polanco walked, laying off the southpaw Wright's chase pitches. Brent Morel hit for Barmes, which uses up all the Pirate shortstops; we assume Morel will stay at third and Josh head to short.
Morel walked on five pitches, and Josh cashed in a run when Wright inexplicably gave him an 0-2 heater down the middle that Harrison spanked into center. Tony Sanchez hit for Melancon and lifted a fly deep enough to plate Polanco (an airmailed throw home helped). Morel went to third on the throw home. Kyuji Fujikawa got the call to face Cutch, and jammed him on the first pitch for a pop out.
Well, the big September story line is Big John Holdzkom, and out he came looking for his first MLB save with Josh at SS and Morel at the hot corner. Szczur popped out to short left; Josh appeared to twist his ankle after the nice grab, spinning to throw the ball back in. Out he went; in came Chase d'Arnaud. Thank God it's September. Alcantara took a called strike three, passing on a 3-2 heater. Baez took three swings at Holdzkom's 95 MPH cutter and came up empty all three times. Big Bad John.
Halfway to a good day, even though the lineup may be a bit threadbare with Josh, Mark the Shark and Tony all presumably on ice. Clint Hurdle managed like it was September, and a team that's used to grinding it out squeezed out another win. Francisco Liriano takes on Felix Doubront this afternoon in round two; starting time 5:45.
- John Holdzkom - two appearances, two innings, five whiffs, one save.
- After going 60 outings without working over an inning, Mark Melancon recorded his second straight multi-inning appearance. He won one and lost one.
- This was the sixth time Tony Watson has worked multiple innings in a game in 66 appearances.
- The Cubs are 22-16 since July 28th after they got rid of some pitching and replaced it with some hot young bats. And they will have their say in the race, even if not as a playoff team. Chicago plays all but three of their remaining games against current October contenders.
- The Pirates have hit .176 with RISP while scoring three or fewer runs seven times in the last 10 games, not including this make-up (five runs in 11 innings, 2-for-10 with RISP).