Friday, April 15, 2016

Bullpen Blows Up Again; Braun & Brewers Bash Bucs 8-4

Jeff Locke walked the first batter, an omen, but a nice DP primed by a Josh glove flip cleaned that up, and it was a quick 10 pitch frame. Jimmy Nelson also tossed a 1-2-3, 10 pitch opener. The second started with another walk, followed by a single off Jeff's foot. Fran was called for batter interference, and a DP bled in a run. No such luck for the Bucs. Marte opened with a single, and was running when Fran hit a ball up the middle. With the Brew Crew converging on the base for the steal, the shoulda-been knock was turned into a 4-3; a pair of pop ups ended it 1-0 Brewers.

Same ol' in the third, with a lead off walk to Keon Broxton, who's still looking for his first hit. A tapper moved him up. He was called out stealing third, but on review, he got the base - nice throw by Fran, but a high tag by Freese. The infield came in and a chopper got through. A stolen sack and single put runners on the corners and an out later, a walk loaded 'em, but he escaped. A two out boot put JJ aboard, and Cutch blooped a single. They were stranded on a smoked Freese at 'em ball to center.

Starling brings one back (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Locke was ahead of Scooter Gennett 0-2 but walked him to start the fourth. A bunt and wild pitch moved him to third; a two out single scored him. Starling singled to lead off and stole second. The ball got away briefly, and he was nailed trying for third after a go-stop-and-go; another Bucco zip went up.

Jeff did it a little differently this inning; he whiffed the first two batters before walking someone. That was followed by a blooper to right, stolen base and an intentional walk. Rob Scahill came on to face Nelson and fanned him. Locke went 4-2/3 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits, seven walks (one intentional), a wild pitch and four whiffs on 97 tosses. Josh walked, stole second and swiped third with two outs as JJ walked. They too were left aboard; it's 3-0 after a long five innings.

The Lobster got the ball and gave up a double and 460' Ryan Braun bomb after two were gone and the sacks empty. Freese walked to open; he died at third. The Brew Crew is shifting more, and it's helped them tonight. The fans got something to cheer about when Starling stole an Aaron Hill shot, pulling back his ball that was dropping into the seats, saving a Lobstein goose egg. Josh became the third straight Bucco hitter to lead off with a walk. Jordy tried to hit into a DP, but the Brewer infield botched it, leaving Bucs on the corners. It cost when Matt Joyce took the next pitch yard, bringing on Michael Blazek. After a pair of quick outs, back-to-back doubles by Freese and Marte made it 5-4.

Matt's homer made a game of it for a minute (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Neftali Feliz toed the rubber, got two quick outs, then gave up a single followed by Braun's second homer, another blast to the batter's eye in dead center. Tyler Thornburg got the call and kept the plate clean. AJ Schugel worked the ninth. with runners at first and third with no outs, he whiffed a pair. Then he walked a pair, losing them both on full counts before getting a third K to make it 8-4, and Jeremy Jeffress finished it out.

The Pirates had a decent bullpen with Jared Hughes and Juan Nicasio; with both out (Hughes is hurt, Nicasio is starting) the lack of depth and the weak bottom half is glaring. Loading up on starters and hoping to flip them into relievers is starting to look like a fail, and with the short starts from the rotation, the guys are getting exposed way more than they should. We'll see if this is just an early season speed bump or a year long issue; the campaign could turn on which way the bullpen ends up.

  • Starling Marte had three hits and a gem web grab tonight. 
  • The Brewers 2-3 hitters, Jonathan Villar and Ryan Braun, went 6-for-11 with a double, two homers, five RBI and two runs scored.
  • Pittsburgh pitchers walked 10 batters; four scored.
  • Tongiht's attendance was 24,280.
  • Ray Searage was absent tonight for personal reasons. Euclides Rojas served as the pitching coach and Scott Mitchell, one of the Bucco pitching coordinators, taking over the pen.
  • John Kuchno, 24, was promoted to Indy from Altoona. The righty reliever had seven saves last year for the Curve, but looks like a depth replacement.

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