Wednesday, September 17, 2014

No Doubt About It: Bucs Romp 9-1

Francisco Liriano didn't look like an ace in the first frame. Mookie Betts led off with a single, and two outs later, Frankie walked Mike Napoli and Allen Craig back-to-back on nine pitches to load the bases. He fell behind Will Middlebrooks 3-0, pumped a strike past him (actually, a gift 3-0 strike call from the plate ump), and then got him to bounce out to escape a self-inflicted jam.

With an out, Gregory Polanco looked like he was ready to rejoin the living by banging a long ball over the Clemente Wall to give the Bucs the lead off Clay Buchholz. Cutch walked, but was erased on a Neil Walker around-the-horn DP. Liriano cruised through the bottom of the order in the second, but that wasn't the case for Buchholz.

After Russ lined out, Starling bounced one to short; Napoli missed the catch at first to allow him to reach. Ike doubled to right to put Bucs on second and third, and Clint Barmes drilled a two-bagger off the fence in left to bring home the pair; both hits were off cutters. Liriano amazingly single to right, leaving gold on the corners, and Josh singled up the middle to plate Ike. Polanco bounced into a force and Cutch went down on a foul-tip changeup, but it was 4-0 Bucs.

Betts walked to open the third, but before it could escalate Xander Bogaerts banged into a 6-4-3 DP two pitches later and Yoenis Cespedes popped out. Through three frames, Liriano has thrown 29 balls to 26 strikes. The Kid joined the HR parade by cracking a hung change into the seats in right; those Clemente Wall fans are getting plenty of souvenirs tonight. The next three Bucs went down quietly.

Frankie walked Napoli to start the fourth, sheesh. After two line outs - one a nice grab by Marte - Rusney Castillo collected his first MLB knock; his fairly garden variety grounder against the shift was stopped on a dive by The Kid, who bobbled the ball and then kicked it, but had it ruled a hit. A routine grounder closed the frame. Buchholz worked a clean inning.

Despite that, Buchholz was yanked in the fifth for pinch hitter Bryce Brentz, who doubled to left. He tagged to third on Bett's fly to right and scored on Bogaert's grounder, ending Liriano's scoreless streak at 20-2/3 IP. A fly finished it off.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright climbed the hill. After a Polanco ground out, Cutch and The Kid had consecutive knocks. Russ joined the parade with a dribbled infield knock up the left side to load the bases. Starling's grounder - he beat out the DP relay - scored Cutch, and the other two trotted home after Ike launched one of the dancers into the shrubs. Clint singled before Frankie flew out with the score 9-1. Wright's ERA went from 0.75 to 3.46 in one frame.

Liriano, of course, walked leadoff hitter Napoli in the sixth, who became the fifth opening hitter to reach base. Craig saved any undue aggravation, though, by rolling a ball to Clint for a 6-4-3 DP, followed by another ground out. Those walks have taken their toll, though - Francisco is at 99 pitches. Matt Barnes got the call for Boston. With two gone, Cutch went the opposite way for a double off the Clemente Wall, but was stranded.

Cutch got the rest of the night off, with Travis going to left and Starling to center as Justin Wilson came on for the seventh. With one down, Christian Vazquez singled up the middle. Daniel Nava pinch hit, and battled for nine pitches before banging a single through the left side. Wilson finally got his grounder, but it didn't help. Betts K'ed after a pesky at bat - he and Nava fouled off nine pitches between them - then a wild pitch moved Bosox to second and third. Bogaerts flew out to short right, and another frame was in the books. Marte singled with one down, but Ike ended it with a DP ball.

John Axford took the bump, Chris Stewart came on to catch, Brent Morel went to third and Josh moved to second in the eighth. Axford hit Garin Cecchini on a 1-2 pitch. Two K and a liner later, he was still on first. Heath Hembree took the ball for the Red Sox, and Clint welcomed hit with his third knock of the night. An out later, Josh doubled to right with Barmes holding at third. Polanco went down looking, a victim of the way wide outside strike zone for lefties, especially during a blowout game. Stew popped out, and it's on to the ninth.

Jeanmar Gomez came out for the ninth and tossed a 1-2-3 frame. Raise It!

For years, the Bucs have been trotting out the minor league audition hour in September; it's nice to see the other side of that coin. 15 hits and three homers don't hurt the cause, either. Win 81 guarantees a second straight non-losing season; aren't we glad that's a non-issue anymore?

Brandon Workman and Gerrit Cole close out the series tomorrow night.
  • With his tenth homer as a Pirate, Ike joined Cutch, The Kid, Pedro, Josh, Starling, Jordy, Travis and Russ as Bucs with 10+ homers. Nine players in one season is a new team record. The last time a NL team had nine players go long 10+ times was in 2007 when both the Braves and Diamondbacks did it.
  • Cutch has had multi-hit outings in six of the last 11 games.
  • All nine Pirate starters, including Frankie, had hits. Five had two or more, led by Clint Barmes' three-knock night.
  • The Pirates have won 10-of-12 games.
  • Tonight's attendance was 34,785.
  • Boston's Rusney Castillo and Bryce Brentz both collected their first MLB hits off Liriano tonight. For Castillo, it was his second MLB at-bat and for Brentz, his first.

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