Monday, September 8, 2014

Locke Down: Bucs Take Opener Against Philadelphia 6-4

Starling singled to open the match against Kyle Kendrick, and Travis followed with a smash to wall that Ben Revere ran down, making over-the-shoulder robbery look easy. Cutch then singled, but The Kid was caught looking, and Russ banged a ball to the track in right center where Marlon Byrd hauled it in. Jeff Locke had an easy frame, throwing strikes and showing a strong change up.

With one gone in the second, Jordy yanked a change into the left field corner for a two-bagger. A Brent Morel lineout to left and Locke whiff left him there. Locke was dealing, punching out Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd before getting a hopper to second.

Starling opened the third with a double to center. Snider K'ed, fishing for balls in the dirt. Cutch rolled over and bounced to short; Walker grounded out to first. When Kendrick is near the plate, he's getting blistered, but he's not near it that often. The Bucs really helped him out with some poor discipline this inning. They've left a runner at second every inning with either one or no outs each frame and are 0-for-7 with RISP already. Jeff didn't seem to notice; he pitched another no-stress inning.

Russ opened the fourth with a whiff, chasing a cutter way off the plate after taking the first two strikes. Two grounders later, the Bucs sat down. Locke made his first mistake of the night with one out, leaving a heater down the middle and Jimmy Rollins banged it to right for a triple. A grounder froze Rollins at third. Howard slapped a change up into the second base hole and The Kid, playing deep in the shift, had to dive to stop the ball and had no play, allowing the run to score. Byrd turned on a fastball and doubled to left to put Phils at second and third before Darin Ruf K'ed.

Morel opened the fifth with a soft drop to center; Locke bunted into a force out. He didn't have to exert any energy on the basepaths, though, as Starling took a sinker at the knees and drove it over the left center wall for the Bucs answer. Travis and Cutch followed with walks; the Philly run seems to have sharpened their focus a little at the dish. The Kid K'ed looking on a pitch that was low to everyone but Todd Tichenor. Russ rolled over on a cutter and popped to third; the Pirates still haven't plated a runner from second yet, or even moved one to third. Jeff got back on the bike and tossed another clean frame.

Kendrick put the Bucs away in the sixth routinely, as did Locke. KK K'ed the first two Bucs in the seventh and got a rollover grounder; Pittsburgh batters have had a pretty terrible approach all night to him, letting first strike meatballs go by and then chasing. Polanco went to right to replace Travis while Locke continued a gem, adding two more whiffs; he's got nine tonight.

The Phils left Kendick in at 111 pitches, and the eighth may have been a mile more than he could go. Cutch reached second on a single and error thanks to a slow roller up the left side that was tossed away, and came home on The Kid's single to right. Russ rolled one through the right side on a hit-and-run to put Bucs at the corners. That brought in lefty Jake Diekman. Gaby hit for Ike and his sac fly brought home another duck. Jordy drove a 3-2, 99 MPH fastball into the right field corner for a triple, and the Pirates were running away at 5-1. A visit to the mound didn't help; Morel went into the left field corner with a heater for a double and went to third on a bobble.

The Phils replaced a guy who had been serving change ups and slow sliders all night and brought in a fireballer; guess the results were predictable. Luis Garcia trotted in to replace Diekman, and Andrew Lambo grabbed a bat instead of Locke. Garcia K'ed Lambo and Starling swinging with the Bucs up 6-1.

Jared Hughes took the bump. After an out, he gave up a ground ball single and then plunked a batter. Revere bounced one to Jordy; he booted it as the Bucs refuse to make any game easy. Cesar Hernandez came out to hit and Tony Watson came in to pitch. A sac fly brought in a run, with the runner on second, Domonic Brown, taking third. Chase Utley somehow yanked a sinker away into right; his triple scored a pair and restored a pulse to the Phils. Then Howard got nicked by a 1-2 pitch, with Tony Gwynn Jr coming in to run. They stayed put as Byrd bounced out, but Mercer's error opened the gates for Philadelphia to make it 6-4.

Justin DeFratis climbed the mound in the ninth. With an out, Cutch singled into the shortstop hole, but was stranded. Mark the Shark came out with Phillies' 6-7-8 hitters due up. He put them away 1-2-3, with a great play by Morel to help him along.

This was the first-half Jeff Locke, throwing strikes and being aggressive (one run, three hits, nine whiffs, NO walks), and one the Bucs could sure use this month. Plate ump Todd Tichenor's corners went mainly to the pitcher tonight, which helped Locke, so we'll see if the strike-throwing Jeff shows up next start. The Pirate batters need to wake up, too - the home run/big inning thing is nice, but chipping away when there are runners at second and third makes life much easier, especially to the bullpen. Even with their big inning, the Pirates ended up 2-of-13 with RISP.

Edinson Volquez takes the bump opposite David Buchanan tomorrow night.
  • Tonight was Cutch's third straight three-hit game. Starling also had three hits and was a triple short of the cycle, while Jordy and Brent Morel chipped in with a pair of knocks.
  • Starling Marte extended his hitting steak to eight games in his first at-bat.
  • Jeff Locke's nine K's ties his career high from 7/26/13 at Miami.
  • The Bucs have won four in a row again; let's see if they can finally get over the hump and take that fifth. 
  • Atlanta lost and the Brewers were losing in Miami at this posting, so the second wild card gap is a little bigger after tonight's win. The Giants are off, and Pittsburgh is three games behind them for the home wildcard position.

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