Monday, September 22, 2014

Frankie, Cutch & the Pen Team Up To Chop Bravos 1-0

The Bucs got - what else - a two out walk from Cutch off Aaron Harang; he also K'ed the first and last batter. Frankie walked two of the first three Braves he faced, but worked out of that jam even though Emilio Bonifacio swiped a pair of sacks.

The Bucs opened the second with back-to-back knocks by Russ and Starling, but three straight whiffs calmed that uprising. Christian Bethancourt led off with a pop single to short right that clanged off The Kid's mitt. An out later, a wild pitch moved him to second, where he died.

Harang put away the Bucs in order in the third; at least they hit the ball. He's got good sink on his fastball and his slider is tight with a lot of dive so far and he's had enough movement to get away with balls over the dish. Frankie went 3-2 on the first two Bravos, but caught them both swinging at sliders. Freddy Freeman saw four straight sliders; he lined the last one into center for a knock. Justin Upton K'ed; lotta sitting down going on so far.

Russ singled with an out in the fourth, and a short fly and whiff kept him on first. Bethancourt walked with one gone. He was forced at second on Andrelton Simmon's tapper, and Simmons got to third on BJ Upton's knock.  Liriano threw four balls to Harang, but was fortunate enough to have him swing and miss three of them to get out the inning.

After making Jordy look bad with sliders to open the fifth, Harang gave up the best contact of the night when Frankie made BJ Upton break a sweat running down his liner to left center. Josh followed with a single, with Travis flying out short of the track in right. Phil Gosselin walked with an out, but a strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP ended the frame.

Cutch got ahead 2-0, got a fastball above the belt, and lined it over the wall in left to make it 1-0 to lead off the sixth. Two grounders later, Marte tried to copycat, but his drive to left was gloved in front of the 380' mark. Frankie worked a clean frame, likely his last as he's at 101 pitches.

Harang pitched a clean seventh with a couple of hard outs. Jared Hughes took the ball for Pittsburgh and tossed an easy inning. Jordan Walden took over in the eighth and struck out the side. He's the guy with the jump in his delivery that looks illegal to everyone but the umps (he's been in the league for years, so it must be OK, just sayin'...) Big John Holdzkom climbed the hill - it's Tony Watson's night off. Freeman singled with two down, and a foul pop on the next pitch ended the music quickly.

Craig Kimbrel took the bump in the ninth and tucked the Bucs in. Mark the Shark got the call for the fifth time in six games. After two easy outs, Melancon mishandled Simmon's dribbler to keep the Braves on life support; it may have spun out of his glove. Pinch runner Jose Constanza went to first and remained there as BJ Upton went down swinging at a curve. It was another nailbiter, but as long as they're wins...

Sort-tossing Harang might have pitched the best of the last three games against the Bucs, but he was helped by a lot of chasing. Two runs in 27 innings with two wins of three isn't very sustainable. There are only six games left, and this isn't the time to go into a hitting slump. But it is a good time to have sizzling pitching, so there are two sides to that ice and fire coin.

Gerrit Cole faces lefty Alex Wood tomorrow night.
  • Russ has a 13 game hitting streak (his personal best is 15 games), equaling the longest this year by a Buc; Josh also went 13 straight. Speaking of Josh, he has a 10 game streak going on now.
  • Cutch leads all NL center fielders in extra base hits (66), home runs (24) and total bases (284).
  • Pittsburgh starters have three straight shutout starts and 23 straight shutout innings. The last time Pirates starters had a scoreless inning streak of 23+ was June 30-July 2, 1997 (24 IP). The Buc staff as a whole has surrendered six runs in the past seven games.
  • The magic number to clinch a post season spot is two; for a home game, it's six. Milwaukee was off, the Giants play later and St. Louis is taking the Cubs to the woodshed right now.

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