Monday, September 1, 2014

Cole Can't Hang On & Bucs Strand 11 In 5-4 Loss To Cards

Ah, the Bucs love fastballs. Josh Harrison opened the game against Lance Lynn with a single. An out later, Cutch banged a ground rule double to left; the hop over the wall cost the Bucs a run. But just briefly; The Kid's two-bagger brought them both home. Russ walked. With two outs, Jon Jay made things exciting when he first misread Starling Marte's deep fly to center (he had problems with Andrew Lambo's ball earlier), but recovered to make a running over the head grab at the track. Jay led off with a single off Gerritt Cole, but a 6-4-3 DP and a whiff by sat them down quickly.

In the second, Cole blooped a single to right with an out. Josh hit into a force and then circled the bases when he was chased home by a Lambo double off the right field wall. Lynn's been laboring; he's at 52 pitches. Yadier Molina was back after a long stretch on the DL, and made himself known with a two-out knock. Daniel Descalso followed by fighting off a high, tight fastball and rolling a single into right, but Jordy made a nice play in the hole for a force to finish the frame.

After two hard-hit outs in the third, Ike and Starling drew walks. A fly to center ended the frame quietly. Lynn opened the frame with a soft roller through the right side, and an out later Oscar Taveras walked. Matt Holliday ripped a 99 MPH heater to center for a double, plating both Redbird runners. That was followed by a strikeout and another walk, but Cole got Molina to bounce out.

Josh doubled to center after a Cole whiff in the fourth. Lambo reached when Matt Adams missed a throw to first, but it evened out when Josh was thrown out going home; that was a chance he should have never taken with an out and Cutch up. It went to review for blocking the plate, but Molina won that decision. Andrew made it moot by whiffing. Cole Train pitched a clean frame, tho Cutch had to go to the track to run down Lynn's shot.

Russ singled with an out in the fifth. Ike went up 3-0, took a couple of called strikes (the 3-0 pitch was ball four) and flew out. Marte singled to center, followed by a short fly out. The Bucs are up to their same tricks; score early and then pile up stranded runners. Jay walked to open the Card half, but with two down, he was erased stealing on a perfect strike to second by Russ.

The Bucs went down in order in the sixth; ditto for St. Louis. The early innings finally caught up to Lynn; he was pulled after 114 pitches for lefty Kevin Siegrist in the seventh, and he served a line drive homer that went 454' to left to his first batter, Cutch. The Kid walked, Russ K'ed, frozen by a hook. Gaby grabbed a bat for Ike, and Mike Matheny waved on Seth Maness. Walker was nailed at second on a hit-and-run; the pitch was so far off the plate as to be a pitchout (and may have been).  Gaby's bouncer ended the frame.

Well, that lead didn't last long. Pete Kozma singled sharply to left, held to one sack by a nicely played ball by Starling. An out later, Cole missed with a fastball down and on the inside half to pinch hitter Kolten Wong and the lefty sweet spot proved true again as he lined a no-doubter over the right field wall. Jay singled to right; a bad hop got past Marte, allowing him to second and Jay then hustled into third when Starling ho-hummed the throw in. Brilliant one play and asleep at the wheel on the next.

That brought on John Axford; Cole was getting hit hard this inning. Taveras walked on five pitches; that's Axford's downside - he can get the K, but can miss the plate, too. Peter Bourjas ran for Taveras. Axford fell behind 3-0 to Holliday, who took the next pitch and then banged a fastball through the left side to chase home the go-ahead run. Axford got his grounder, but it found the hole. That brought Justin Wilson to the hill, and he closed out the frame with the Cards up 5-4.

Carlos Martinez took the hill in the eighth. Starling started off by drawing a walk. Jordy fouled a couple of bunt tries, laid off a chaser, then singled into left. Travis Snider stepped in for Wilson and softly lined out to short center. Josh got fed three hooks off the plate; he swung through the first two and popped the third one up. Lambo looked at the only strike he'd see, a fastball at the belt, and then went down fishing for curves. Martinez has a nasty hook, but you need a little discipline in the clutch, and the Bucs didn't show the least bit. Jeanmar Gomez came in, and worked a one-hit inning.

Trevor Rosenthal took the ball in the ninth against the middle of the Pirate order. He threw soft stuff - curves and change ups - until he had two outs and two strikes on Russ; he was way late on it and bounced one to first that Adams booted. It didn't help; Rosenthal went all heat on Gaby and blew a 99 MPH fastball past him to end the game. It was a very nice win for the Cards, and one that put them in first place as Milwaukee lost today. But it was a brutal loss for the Pirates.

Can't pin it on Clint Hurdle, either. Sure, he could have brought in Wilson instead of Axford or maybe bunted with Snider, but he didn't lose the game. Cole couldn't hang on to late lead, the Pirates lost a couple of unforced runners on the basepaths, and the winning run got to third due to lackadaisical play. 11 stranded runners and 1-for-10 with RISP aren't because of the skipper. Give Lynn and Molina credit; after the Bucs jumped on the fastballs early, they started going to cutters and sliders. They adjusted; the Pittsburgh batters didn't. And that's a pretty common theme.

It's a tough loss, but they're still in the mix of things as Labor Day ends. Pittsburgh is three behind the Cards in the NL Central. The Giants won too, and are four games ahead of the Bucs in the wild card; the Brewers lost and are two games up for the last qualifier; the Braves lost and remain 1/2 game better than the Bucs, sitting fourth in the wild card picture now.

Jeff Locke faces Adam Wainwright tomorrow night.
  • Cutch's 454' homer was the longest Pirate blast of the year and the fifth longest hit in Busch Stadium history.
  • Last night the Pirates selected the contract of RHP John Holdzkom and optioned him to AAA. Chris McGuiness was DFA'd; the Pirates are knee-deep in first basemen. That means Holdzkom was added to the 40-man roster on 8/31, so he is not only a likely call-up, but is post-season eligible. They also officially announced the call-ups of Cole, Tony Sanchez and Pimentel.
  • Ex Bucs: Dilson Herrera went 2-for-4 for the Mets with a homer, triple, three RBI and a GIDP. He also made two errors in field.

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