Thursday, September 11, 2014

Frankie In Complete Control As Bucs Roll To 4-1 Victory

Good starts for AJ Burnett; two K's on the knuckle curve and a quick grounder. Francisco Liriano was on, too, pitching a clean frame. Frankie walked the lead off batter, but a whiff and 4-6-3 DP cleaned up. With an out in the second, Russ singled, then Starling got plunked. Ike drilled a ball up the middle, scoring Martin and chasing Marte to third. Alas, that would be it as Jordy bounced into a 6-4-3 DP.

Travis Snider walked with two away in the third and went to second on a wild pitch, but Cutch popped out to end it. Starling had to leave the game (we assume being plunked on the arm was the cause) with Gregory Polanco going to right and Travis to left. Cesar Hernandez opened with a bunt single, and Freddy Galvis rolled one up the middle. AJ K'ed trying to bunt, Ben Revere lined a heater away to left, where Travis gloved it and Maikel Franco whiffed as Frankie worked through it.

The Kid drew a walk to open the fourth and a Russ roller moved him up 90'. El Coffee's grounder advanced him to third, and he stayed there as Ike whiffed. Marlon Byrd gave the few fans a thrill, flying out to the track in right center and a couple more punch outs closed it out. The fifth was routine for AJ and Frankie; Liriano has eight K's and Burnett has notched five.

Travis poked a two-strike sinker into center to get the sixth rolling. Cutch lined a double to left to put Buccos at second and third. The Kid followed with another two bagger to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 edge; Cutch took a bad read and retreated to the bag to tag, thinking it might be caught. Russ made it moot, fighting for eight pitches before drilling a shot to the wall in left that was brought in nicely by Darin Ruf, scoring Cutch and moving Walker to third on the sac fly.

El Coffee dropped a single into RF over the drawn in infield, and AJ's penchant for the big inning has bitten him tonight. Polanco stole second, but Ike had a bad at bat, getting ahead 3-0 before looking at a pair of sinkers over the dish and then chasing a knuckle curve, allowing AJ to intentionally walk Jordy. Frankie went down, but has a 4-0 lead to work with now. AJ should be done at 107 pitches.

And he was; Cody Asche hit for him and K'ed on three pitches. Revere legged at a ball rolled to the shortstop hole and a wild pitch moved him to second. Franco drew a five pitch walk, but Francisco settled down, getting Byrd on a pop and Howard swinging.

Luis Garcia took the bump in the seventh. After two routine grounders, his next pitch was a 96 MPH heater at Cutch's head. Sheesh, no cause for a buzzing tonight. Cutch tried to pay back, shooting a one hop bullet back at Garcia, but he made the grab and finished the inning. Frankie came in with a full count heater down the middle to Ruf, who launched it to the track in center where Cutch hauled it in. Carlos Ruiz reached on a single when his liner ticked off Jordy's leather. Liriano came back to get a pair of routine outs, but labored mightily through the frame.

Lefty Antonio Bastardo took the ball in the eighth, and The Kid greeted him with a single. Martin's sharply hit grounder moved him up a station. Polanco flew out fairly deep to left center; his eye is coming around and he's beginning to make more solid contact of late. Gaby hit for Ike and bounced out. Frankie came out with 96 pitches already tossed, and he used 10 more to sit down the Phils.

Miguel Gonzalez got the call in the ninth, and with one gone, Andrew Lambo, hitting for Frankie, slammed a double. Chase d'Arnaud came in to run, and a Josh fly moved him to third. Snider flew out to strand him.

Jared Hughes took the ball, and Byrd welcomed him by bouncing one past Josh for a single. That was followed by a wild pitch and walk; that's hardly the way to close out a game, and Clint went with someone who knows how to finish, Mark the Shark. After a K, Carlos Ruiz singled to left to bring in a run. Melancon tossed four more pitches, and the game was officially in the books.

Frankie Liriano went eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, two walks and whiffing a dozen with his trademark slider hitting on all cylinders, never allowing a runner past second. It's tough to lose with an outing like that, and the Bucs ground out enough runs to make it easy.

After a disastrous start to the road trip at St. Louis, the Pirates bounced back to take 6-of-7 to keep September relevant. The Cards lost, the Giants won, Milwaukee is up by four and Atlanta is off, so both the wild card and NL Central races are still up for grabs. Pittsburgh is two back in the loss column to St. Louis and 1-1/2 games up on the last wild card, and with things that close, any outcome is yet possible over the last 16 games.

The Cubs' Tsuyoshi Wada and Gerrit Cole mix it up in Pittsburgh tomorrow night to open the Buccos' last homestand of the season.
  • Dave Schoenfield of the Sweet Spot thinks Cutch ranks right up there with Mike Trout and trots out the stats to back his claim.
  • Since the beginning of last year, Starling Marte has been hit by a pitch a major league leading 41 times. he left tonight's game due to "left arm discomfort" after AJ caught him with a pitch. It also ended his 10 game hitting streak.
  • This was Frankie's third double-digit K performance of the year. He had 10 against the Cubs on Opening Day and 11 against the Giants on July 29th and 12 tonight. His career high was 15 as a Twin in 2012.
  • Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors looks at Josh Harrison as a contract extension candidate.
  • Grim news: Miami's Giancarlo Stanton was carted off the field after being hit flush in the jaw by Mike Fier's fastball and an ambulance took him away. Fiers hit the next batter (in the hand) - it appears both were unintentional - and the benches emptied. Later, Carlos Gomez became the sacrificial lamb as he was clocked.

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