Friday, September 19, 2014

Russ Belt Rallies Bucs To 4-2 Win

Jeff Locke's off speed stuff didn't do him any favors in the first. Ryan Braun doubled off a knuckle curve with one one, moved to third when another curve got past Russ and scored when a 1-2 change that spun down the middle of the dish to Jonathan Lucroy was spanked into left to make it 1-0 Brew Crew. With two outs for the Bucs, Cutch ripped a triple to The Notch off Yovani Gallardo but was stranded when The Kid bounced out.

Jeff used up a few more pitches in the second (nine in the first, 20 in the second), but cobbled together a 1-2-3 frame with a couple of whiffs. with two gone in the Bucco half, Gaby dropped a slider softly into right for a knock. He was stranded when Jordy flew out to right. Gallardo has picked up some corners, but has left a few heaters down the middle that the Bucs haven't squared up on.

With one out in the third, Carlos Gomez was nicked with a curve but was quickly nabbed by Russ trying to steal. Braun bounced out to Josh for another quiet inning. With one gone, Josh rolled a 3-2 fastball up the middle for a knock. After Starling went down looking at a hook, Cutch legged out an infield knock on the right side. Walker fought him for nine pitches, but became the third strikeout victim of the frame; Gallardo went heavily off-speed this inning and picked the corners well.

Great fourth by Locke - four pitches, three grounders to Josh, who already has seven assists. Travis singled to right with one away. Gaby bounced a curve to short; after the force, Rickie Week's relay sailed past first, allowing Sanchez to reach second. Jordy was walked intentionally before Locke went down. He looked at a fat fastball sandwiched around a pair of swings at curves in the dirt to bring the count of Pirates stranded to six.

Weeks led off the fifth by drilling a tight fastball into the bullpen to make it 2-0.  Two outs later, Gallardo bounced a single up the middle and Gomez was plunked for the second time. The bullpen stirred in the middle of Braun's at bat. Locke jammed him eight straight times, finally getting a pop out to Gaby to escape the frame without any additional damage. The top of the order looked lost; Gallardo has eight strikeouts already, half looking, and gotten lots of soft contact.

Lucroy opened the sixth with a single. A-Ram rolled over on a hung change and banged into a 5-4-3 DP, then Khris Davis K'ed for a calm frame. Pittsburgh didn't get a ball out of the outfield in their half.

Locke came back out and got three fly outs for an easy seventh. He's only at 82 pitches and throwing well, but he's due up this frame. Gaby bounced a curve to third and Aramis Ramirez's throw was off line to put Sanchez on first. Jordy worked the count full with a good eye, then K'ed swinging at a shoe-top slider. Ike came up to hit for Locke, and Gallardo stayed on the hill despite the matchup and 105 pitches. Good call; Ike whiffed on a foul tip. Josh bounced out, and there were only six outs left.

John Holdzkom took the hill in the eighth. He walked Braun with two out and left him aboard. Jonathan Broxton took the ball for the Brew Crew to face the Bucs' 2-3-4 hitters. Starling caught just enough of a slider down and away to roll it up the right side for an infield knock. The Brewers challenged the call and they lost - Marte is that fast, and barely beat Broxton to the sack. Cutch K'ed chasing shoulder-high heat trying to tie the game. The Kid took a fastball away to left for a single, with Starling holding at second. Chase d'Arnaud came in to run for Walker.

He didn't really need to; Russ slammed a 1-1 heater over the middle three rows into the right center seats as the park erupted, playoff party style. Travis followed with a knock, and was replaced by Gregory Polanco. Andrew Lambo grabbed a bat for Big John, and Jeremy Jeffress, a righty who throws in the upper nineties, came on and gave up a single. Jordy sat down, swinging through 97 MPH heat. Ike added an insurance run when he rolled a single up the middle. Josh whiffed on a curve to end the music with the Bucs up 4-2.

The Shark came in for the save, with El Coffee staying in right and Clint Barmes taking over second base. Three grounders did it; Melancon got his 31st save and Big John Holdzkom got his first MLB winner. Lots of good story lines for this team.

Give Jeff Locke lots of love for this win. One first-inning hook and a fastball that he wanted in a little more were his only costly pitches as he was both efficient and effective tonight. The bullpen was up to its old tricks and Russ was clutch. Buc-tober is that much closer after this dagger strike to the Brewers' hopes.

Edinson Volquez takes the bump opposite Matt Garza tomorrow night.
  • John Holdzkom's streak of six straight outings with a K was broken tonight when he got three garden variety outs in the eighth.
  • Pittsburgh was 0-7 going for five wins in a row before tonight. They did their usual way. Tonight was their 40th come-from-behind win, cutting their magic number to five.
  • Yovani Gallardo tossed his first 10 K game since July 15, 2012, also vs the Pirates. His previous high this season was eight, which he reached three times, once against Pittsburgh.
  • Tonight's attendance was 37,974, the Pirates 21st sellout.
  • Charlie Morton was achier than usual throwing between starts per GM Neal Huntington, so Vance Worley will get the Sunday start against Wily Peralta.

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