Friday, April 8, 2016

Marte Parte - Starling's Grand Slam Rallies Bucs to 6-5 Victory

Well, they pulled up the tarp (and kept it folded nearby, just in case) at about seven, sang the Anthem and tried to sneak in a ballgame between the green blobs rolling across Cincinnati's weather maps. A wintry mix zoomed past, and they played ball, starting just a few minutes late in front of a crowd of dozens. The Bucs left a walk and HBP stranded; Alfredo Simon dodged a couple of snow flakes. A one-out ground ball single, steal and throwing error led to a run on a Joey Votto bouncer to second. Brandon Phillips took a center cut, first pitch heater over the wall to add another against Liriano, whose fastball is sitting at 90 so far.

Pittsburgh quickly got a run back with two outs when the eight and nine hitters, Jordy and Frankie, parlayed a single & double into a score. The Reds 8-9 guys whiffed in a 1-2-3 frame. Starling was left on second in the third after a two-out single-and-error; Simon is getting a lot of mileage from his splitter. Frankie and the strike zone aren't speaking - an infield single and two walks loaded the sacks with no outs in the third. A sac fly, followed by a very timely DP, limited the damage to one run, but Cory Luebke is heating up already. Jordy and Frank singled back-to-back with two gone in the fourth, but JJ left them aboard. Liariano got through the inning, but is at 77 pitches.

A Marte Parte! (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

The Bucs loaded the bases with no outs on an error, walk and beaned batter in the fifth, but only got a run out of it. Fran's force out brought that in, but El Coffee whiffed for the third time, waving at a shoe top 3-2 splitter. Josh's booted grounder to third loaded them again for a second, but Marte was caught off the base taking a turn on the play to end a very frustrating frame. With two gone for the Reds, Phillips singled and went to second on a wild pitch, but never came home. Jordy cut him down at the plate on a ball that deflected off Freese's mitt, the second time in the inning Mercer turned a Freese carom into an out.

It's Jordy's world tonite; he led off with a walk. Liriano, whose day went five innings, gave up three runs on five hits with four walks and three Ks after 90 tosses, was hit for, but the Pirates came up empty against Caleb Cotham. Ryan Vogelsong took the ball. The first batter reached when Freese finally clanged a ball Jordy couldn't recover. That was followed by a five pitch walk, and a long fly moved them up 90'. Billy Hamilton singled in one run, then stole second. But another cut-down at the plate saved any more bloodletting.

Jumbo Diaz toed the rubber. Marte legged out a single with two down and stole second. Fran walked behind him, bringing on the Reds only lefty reliever, Tony Cingrani, to face Polanco. Gregory walked to load them, but Josh went down swinging at a ball in the dirt, running up the LOB count to 11. The Reds got one more off Vogelsong when Phillips, who had walked and moved up on a grounder, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.

That brought in old Bucco Ross Ohlendorf. With two outs, he plunked Jaso, walked Cutch and gave up a Freese infield single (nicely knocked down by Phillips to save a run). That was it for Ohlie; in trotted JJ Hoover. His second pitch was an 84 MPH hanger, a slider down the middle, and Starling drilled it out of GABP for a grand salami, complete with a celebratory bat flip. It was sniffed out by Root's Joe Block, who said before the blow "this would be a great time for his first grand slam." It was.

The Shark gets save #2 (photo Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Neftali Feliz came on (the Reds open with two RH hitters), with S-Rod assuming 1B. He had a struggle with Adam Duvall, but won after nine pitches, and then whiffed the next pair of Redlegs. Blake Wood tossed a clean ninth, and it was time for some Dancin' with Melancon. It was a short trip of the light fantastic; seven pitches later, the Bucs had an ugly win added to the ledger.

Not a lot to say about this one. The new Bucco philosophy of getting runners aboard, even with a sky high strand rate, will eventually led to runs worked again. They're persistent, too - five of the runs came after two were away and the bases empty.

The fielders were again a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly; they could stand a little more of the good and a lot less of the bad and ugly. And the Bucco pitchers could work on that strike zone thing a lot more; our guess is V-Song is hoping for a long rehab for Jared Hughes. But hey, four in a row, and they get to do it again tomorrow afternoon.

  • Big night for Starling Marte. He hit the Pirates first homer of the season (and his first grand slam) and also stole the first Bucco base of the campaign.
  • In his last 15 starts, Frankie has 12 hits with three doubles, a home run and nine RBI. DH, schmee H! He pitches OK, too - Liriano collected his 1,400th whiff tonite. 
  • Tonight was Ryan Vogelsong's first win as a Pirate since September 14th, 2005. 
  • This is the first time since 2003 that the Bucs have opened the season with four straight wins.
  • Jim Callis of picked the Indy Indians as the fourth most talented farm club in baseball.
  • Cubbie or not, it's news you hate to hear: Kyle Schwarber doesn't just have a severely sprained ankle. His MRI showed that the outfield collision with Dexter Fowler also led to torn ACL and LCL. He's out for the season.
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