Sunday, May 29, 2016

True Outcomes Give Texas the Series Clincher 6-2

The Bucs opened strong against Martin Perez, with Jordy and Cutch banging consecutive doubles to put Pittsburgh up. Frankie gave up a bloop to start, but settled in for a nice frame. The second went quietly, with the Pirates drawing a walk and the Rangers sitting down without any noise. Freeser drilled a first pitch homer to start the third; Liriano spotted Texas a lead off double then shut them down.

In a pivotal frame, Fran singled and S-Rod doubled to open, but a pair of grounders and a fly kept them off the board. Texas took full advantage of Frankie's double shot of free passes and long flies, especially on the road. Prince Fielder homered and so did Mitch Moreland (he clobbered it), with MM's being a killer with two runners ahead of him via walks. Both homers were 92 MPH fastballs pretty much down the middle and, salt to the wound, to struggling LH hitters. The fifth was 1-2-3 for both sides, with the Rangers hitting into a DP.

Starling kept on keepin' on with another pair of hits (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

In the sixth, Starling and Fran led off with singles; Marte stole third an out later, but again the Bucs left them stranded. Liriano was tapped for a leadoff walk and a pair of walks. Clint decided to let him in, and he almost wiggled out of it, giving up a tally on a sac fly. Matt Bush took over in the seventh and coaxed three bouncers; only Cutch put up a fight, going 11 pitches before drilling a hot shot to third. Rob Scahill took the ball, and more fun: a lead off single scored when the inning-ending K (a blocked slider in the dirt ruled a wild pitch) was tossed into right by Stew.

Tony Barnette got the call in the eighth and was touched by a double by Starling, who died at third. Neftali Feliz came in and worked a quick, quiet inning. Sam Dyson toed the rubber in the ninth and shut the door with a pair of whiffs.

True outcomes (walks, whiffs, HRs, so called because a ball put in play is subject to the whims of the baseball gods rather than the pitcher or hitter) are biting Frankie this year. His walk rate is as high as it's ever been at five+ per game, his K rate is the lowest its been in five years, and his home run rate is double his career norm. If Francisco can't find the dish early to work ahead of guys - and today's foe, Texas, is free swinging and ranks near the bottom in BB% - it's going to become a very long season.

Frankie & the strike zone need to meet (photo: Phil Vasquez/Chicago Tribune)

RISP, of course, is a cherry picking number, tho the Bucs were just 1-for-10 for the second game, and let their recent big frame mojo escape. Pittsburgh is tops in stranding RISP, but the Cubs and Cards are in the bottom seven too, so teams that put a lot of runners on also leave a lot of runners on. Today was pretty much a matter of the bench playing like bench guys; Matt Joyce and Stew left nine runners on the pond between them. Still, the Bucs saw another playoff caliber club and some tough pitching. Now the team has to shower off and face another competitive club, the Marlins, four times in Miami.

  • Fran and Starling each had a pair of hits for Pittsburgh. 
  • Fielder and Moreland's homers were the first Frankie had given up to lefty hitters this year.
  • Justin Masterson saw his first game action after pouring out some sweat in Pirate camp, going five innings for High A Bradenton, giving up two runs on two hits and three walks with eight K after 81 pitches. He's working off rust, and could be in play for a late summer bullpen call if all goes well.
  • Fun fact - Andrew is the only Bucco with 1,000 hits, 150 HR and 150 SB. We checked a couple of guys we thought would challenge - Barry Bonds, (984/176/251), The Great One (3,000/164/83) and Hans Wagner (2,967/101/723), and sho' nuff, Cutch is the only one to hit the trifecta.

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