Friday, April 29, 2016

Juan-derful; Nicasio & Two-Out Lightning Carry Bucs To 4-1 Win

Good start for Juan Nicasio; two quick whiffs and a steady inning marred only by a Joey Votto two-out single. Dan Straily had an easy frame, too. The Reds opened the second with a double; Juan whiffed the next three. Pittsburgh started with a knock and walk, but Gregory chased an ankle high change and banged into a 4-6-3 DP. Josh went after a couple of sliders well off the dish, and then missed a change to end it.

Juan Nicasio - bullpen, hah! (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Juan added another K in the third. Jordy singled, was bunted up and JJ walked after starting in an 0-2 hole. Cutch fanned, but a soft lob into right by the Freeser made it 1-0. Eugenio Suarez saved Straily's bacon, taking away a hit from Starling with a diving grab to stop the music. Votto walked to start the fourth, but no damage; Josh made a sweet layout and flip to stop things from escalating. Fran took a stroll to begin the Buc half; he was doubled off first on a Gregory liner to first. Josh took away some sting when he dropped a 3-1 heater over the Clemente Wall to make it 2-0.

An infield squibbler put the Scott Schebler aboard in the fifth and he was bunted to second. No prob; Juan didn't allow a ball out of the infield; ditto for Straily. Nicasio picked up a couple of more whiffs in the sixth; his velo is still strong and he's at just 81 pitches. Starling doubled with an out, but with two gone was caught trying to steal third; not a real heads-up play with Gregory up. 1-2-3 in the seventh for Juan; he gave up three hits with a walk and eight K on 97 pitches in that span, and his velocity sat at 94-95 most of the game. Guess that'll calm down the talk about moving back into the pen.

JJ Hoover took over for the Reds. Straily did a commendable job against a team that's been strokin', mixing up pitches, speeds and locations nicely. Not so for Hoover; Jordy singled with two outs (and one of those was spanked) and Matt Joyce took a fastball deep the other way (actually, it barely cleared the wall just inside the foul pole, traveling 334', but hey...) to give the bullpen a four run cushion.

Matt Joyce says bye-bye (photo via Pittsburgh Pirates)

Hold your breath; here come the relievers: Tony Watson gave up a leadoff double. It took him 10 pitches but he fanned Billy Hamilton, and then polished the eighth off routinely after that. JC Ramirez took the hill and put up a zero. Arquimedes Caminero came in, and Votto greeted him with single. He served up triple digit heat to get the next two guys, then Tucker Barhart turned a 102 MPH heater into an RBI double, a ball that Cutch misread - it went off his glove - or it would have been game over. So in came The Shark.

Pity to waste him here, but Arquie was his own worst enemy, falling behind all four hitters 2-0 and taking his slider/splitter out of play. It took MM two pitches to get a pop, and the Bucs start the homestand off with a 4-1 victory.

Nicasio was tough, and all four Pirate runs came after two were out, three on long flies, so today's win was due to strong pitching and clutch homers, a departure from the usual shootout. We'll take it.

  • Jordy Mercer has reached base safely in 11 straight games. He and Starling paced the attack with two hits apiece.
  • Josh has an eight game hitting streak, and broke a stretch of 379 at-bats without a homer.
  • Tony Watson appeared for the 344th time, the fourth most appearances by a Pirates lefty. He's behind Wilbur Cooper (469), John Grabow (390) and The Candy Man (345). 
  • 29,938 came out for the game; not only did they get a Fran tee shirt and a win, but a rare sub-three hour contest. It lasted 2:41.
  • Neftali Feliz has a maintenance day off tonite. He worked three of the last four coast trip games and tossed 76 pitches, so his arm could use a little extra ice time.
  • Jared Hughes was at PNC Park; he could be activated as soon as tomorrow.
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