Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pirates Shoot Themselves In Both Feet, Drop 3-1 Decision To Royals

No seat for Jason Vargas and Gerrit Cole in the first; both tossed clean frames.

The Pirates appeared to draw first blood in the second  when Starling Marte drilled a first pitch fastball to the LF wall; it appeared to hit the top and bounce over for an HR, but drew an ump review. It was overturned and Marte had to be settle for a double. After an out, he stole third and Pedro walked. Brent Morel worked the count to 3-1, and then Vargas called for the trainer with a sore elbow. Joe Blanton came in; no rest for the KC pen that had to eat five frames last night. Two pitches later, Morel was gone, fishing for a curve that bounced in front of the plate. Pedro swiped second with Stew up, but he missed a full count slider, and so the HR that wasn't bit the Bucs. Cole tossed a clean frame.

Blanton K'ed the first two Bucs before The Kid reached on an error, but Cutch's bouncer was fielded cleanly to end the frame. Alex Rios doubled with two down, but no damage came of it. JHK singled with one gone in the fourth. Pedro got a couple balls to hit, but whiffed on them to become the Bucs seventh K, then Kang was thrown out trying to steal. Cole Train rolled through another calm frame, thx to Starling, who threw out Eric Hosmer trying to turn a single into a double.

No help for the Cole Train tonight (photo: Mark Zarrilli/Getty)
Stew singled with one gone in the fifth. S-Rod fouled off a pair of balls down the middle, then bounced a curve to third for an around the horn DP. Bad call as he beat the relay,and the Bucs challenged and won. Didn't help; Gregory bounced out. It's one of those Bucco frames; Blanton was leaving balls over the plate and the Pirates couldn't do a thing with them. Kendrys Morales was hit in the leg with a heater to open for the Royals, but a quick 5-4-3 DP erased him. Good thing as Omar Infante followed with a double, but Cole got Rios to fly out to keep KC off the board.

Ryan Madson replaced ol' Joe in the sixth, and Cain ran down The Kid's shot into center, followed by a couple of routine rollers. Cutch slipped coming out of the box and grabbed his hip, but remained in center. Cole retired the Royals in order, and at 83 pitches has an inning or two left in the tank. Kelvin Herrera toed the rubber in the seventh and sat the Bucs down on eight pitches. Gerrit work a quick 1-2-3 frame; he's been an ace tonight.

S-Rod singled with an out; Herrera is a flamethrower, but likes to go to his change with two strikes, and Rodriguez was ready. Gregory took a couple of borderline pitches and drew a walk. After a quick team chat on the mound, Kelvin got The Kid on a fly to left, and Wade Davis came in to face Cutch. the count went full before Cutch waved at a cutter to end the frame in a battle of All-Stars (Davis has a 0.44 ERA & averages 10.5/K per nine).

With one gone, Infante reached on a muff by Walker; the ball rolled between his legs. Rios lobbed a single to center; Cutch threw to third, resulting in Royals ending up a second and third; not a very good sequence by the Bucco fielders. It cost a run when Jarrod Dyson dinked a single to right; both runners scored and Dyson went to second when El Coffee couldn't come up with the ball cleanly.

Arqimedes Caminero came on, and Dyson promptly swiped third and scored when Alcides Escobar dropped another soft hit into right; the Royals haven't squared up a ball this inning, but are finding grass and room to run, thx to the Bucco defense. Arquie got the last two outs, but there's not even any shouting left to this game.

Greg Holland took the ball, and Starling greeted him with an infield knock. JHK doubled on the next pitch, but curb your enthusiasm; Marte was thrown out at home while down 3-0 - not his fault, though; he was waved in by Rick Sofield. Pedro whiffed again. Travis Ishikawa kept the pulse going ever so slightly by singling home Kang, Stew walked and S-Rod beat out an infield dribbler. Gregory had the chance to be a hero; instead he became the Pirates 12th strikeout victim, not putting up much of fight for the four pitches he saw.

It's nice to be gritty; it's nicer to make routine plays and decisions, and the Pirates didn't do either tonight. The key wasn't the ruling on Marte's reversed homer; it probably was the right call. It was allowing Joe Blanton to toss 3-2/3 IP without putting a dent in him. He was sharp and stayed away from the middle of the plate for his first two frames, then served up meatballs that the Pirates refused to take advantage of; they couldn't even produce loud outs. Not sticking to Baseball 101 in crunch time, though, is much more worrisome. Clint preaches fundamentals, but his team doesn't hear the sermon on too many occasions.

Charlie Morton takes on old bud Eddie Volquez tomorrow night to see who claims bragging rights for the series.

  • Stew has a nine game hitting streak, remarkable for a back up player.
  • Sean Rodriguez snapped an 0-for-16 streak.
  • Gerrit Cole was trying to become the first Pirate pitcher with 14 wins before August since Dock Ellis in 1971. Ellis was 15-4 through July.
  • This was the first time Pedro started against a left-handed starter since August 16th, 2014 against Gio Gonzalez of the Nats. Prob a good call; he only faced a LHP once.
  • The ruling on the home run that wasn't: Kauffman has a short railing above and behind the fence; Starling's ball hit the fence padding on top and bounced into the bullpen over that railing. That made it a double; if it would have bounced off the railing instead of the fence under it, it would have been a HR.
  • Frankie's pitching session went well today, so he's still on track to pitch Thursday against the Nationals.
  • Matt Goldman of the Daily Dish catches up on some Pirate trade rumors.

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