Monday, May 16, 2016

Bucs Use Quick Start To Barge Past Bravos 8-5

Good start for Jon Niese; he did give up a lead off walk, but nothing came of it. Same can't be said for Williams Perez. He issued a free pass to JJ and gave up back-to-back one out infield singles to Gregory and Freeser that loaded the sacks. A wild pitch plated a run and the other Buccos moved up a station. A grounder brought in one more score and Matt Joyce knocked in a third run. Payback is only fair; the Bravos started off the second with an infield knock off JJ's glove. That was followed by a walk. Niese wiggled out of it against the bottom of the order. The Bucs managed a two out single by Jaso. Both pitchers are ground ball guys; so far, only one out has been registered by an OF'er.

Nick Markakis banged a double to open the third; Jon hasn't gotten the "get the first guy out" memo yet. Still, he kept the Bravos off the scoreboard again. Gregory started it off with a leg hit, a liner that was knocked down by the second baseman but not corralled in time to catch El Coffee. Consecutive knocks by Freeser and Fran chased Polanco home, through Rick Sofield's stop sign. Joyce flew out deep to center, moving Freese to third. He tallied on Josh's grounder. Jordy was walked to get to Niese; it worked.

Jon Niese dodged some raindrops tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

For the fourth time in four frames, the lead off Brave reached, this time on Jaso's missed pick; he's having his first rough day in the field tonight (the error was originally charged to JJ; later it was given to Jordy) A quick 6-4-3 DP cleaned that boot up. Good thing; ol' Bucco Chase d'Arnaud tripled; he was stranded. Perez had a quick 1-2-3 inning. Jon fanned a pair in an easy fifth. Joyce got yet another Bucco infield hit with two gone and touched home ahead of Josh's opp field triple to make it 6-0.

The sixth opened with a Freddie Freeman double to left and Jeff Francoeur followed with a homer; no Houdini this frame. Niese shut the door after that, but at 97 pitches is likely done for the night. Perez tossed a clean frame, and at 94 pitches may be done, too.

Neftali Feliz, who hasn't pitched since May 8th, toed the rubber in the seventh. Niese went six IP, with two runs on five hits and two walks with six K. Neftali knocked off the rust with a quiet frame. Alexi Ogando took the ball and was welcomed by a soft lob to left by Gregory, who promptly stole second. He got to third with two gone, and he had an easy trot home after Matt Joyce launched a baseball into the seats behind the Clemente Wall.

Cory Luebke was welcomed back rudely in the eighth, giving up a single and double. An out later, Kelly Johnson homered, and geez. Jared Hughes sprinted in and gave up a single before shutting the gate.Jordy started the Bucs off with a knock; Cole Figueroa came to bat and Eric O'Flaherty, who had spent the spring with the Bucs, answered the phone. Cole won the lefty matchup, singling off the SS's glove, followed by an S-Rod knock to juice the sacks. But the Bucs, who have had big problems cashing in with the bases loaded and no outs recently, left them all aboard.

Gregory had three hits and scored three times tonight (photo Mike Lomoglio/Sports Illustrated)

So of course Mark the Shark was called on because it's a save opportunity (and because Clint prob wants to win the game). He closed it out without any drama, using 13 pitches to sit down the Braves.

The Pirates didn't exactly pound Perez; the first run that scored was on via a walk and four of the next five Buccos to touch home were aboard via infield singles. Still, they took advantage by keeping the line moving and putting some productive outs to use before flexing their muscles later. Niese dodged some bullets; the Bravos were 0-for-9 w/RISP before the homer, but it was a good sign that 16 of his 18 outs were whiffs or grounders.

On the other hand, Pirate pitching still has issues with lead off guys reaching base and long balls, not to mention the bullpen continuing to shoot itself in the foot. Mark Melancon gets all those cherry-picked saves because the other guys can't hold on to huge leads; he may be the only reliever who Clint trusts. And don't ask about the blown no out, bases-loaded chance. There are a lot of positives to be taken from tonight's game, but they're still not clickng on all cylinders.

  • Matt Joyce and Gregory Polanco had three hits each while Josh added a pair. Matt scored twice with three RBI, Gregory plated three times and Josh drove home two.
  • Cutch is 0-for-12 after his eight game hitting steak ended. He K'ed twice tonight and left five runners stranded.
  • What a diff a year makes. After leading MLB in 1B errors in 2015, the Bucs, thanks to call reversal, have yet to boot one at first this season. 
  • Alen Hansen got his first MLB at bat pinch hitting for Niese; he went down swinging.
  • It was a match of the resistible force vs the moveable object; Francoeur's homer was the Bravos 10th; Niese has given up 11. The Braves are last in team HR; Niese is tied for first in HR allowed. Tonight, btw, was Atlanta's second multi-homer game of the season. The other was on Opening Day.

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