Monday, July 4, 2016

Bucs Take Opener Behind El Coffee & Jon Niese 4-2; Taillon to DL & Brault Up

After about 90 minutes of rain delay, the Bucs and Cards took the field to play some ball.

The ol' DP came in handy in the first. Carlos Martinez walked JJ to start the game, but got a 4-6-3 from Gregory; Jon Niese walked Matt Carpenter to open the Card half, and he was erased on a strike 'em out, toss 'em out DP with Matt Holliday up. Both sides exchanged hits in the second and the third went quietly, with Martinez being the only baserunner with a single. Pittsburgh went quietly in the fourth; St Louis got one harmless single. Niese hasn't really been all that sharp despite the good results; he's been up in the zone and riding a stretch of at 'em balls so far. But whatever works...

Jon had to dodge some bullets, but the results were strong (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Freeser singled to open the fifth; Josh followed with a seeing-eye rap after given new life on a missed third strike call. Jordy's knock loaded 'em for the 8-9 hitters; Kratz K'ed on three pitches and Niese bounced into a DP. It's early and scoreless, but Jon has been getting squared up on, and it may have been a spot for a squeeze or a pinch hitter with Nicasio fresh in the pen. An infield single opened the Card half; Martinez's one-out single, his second hit, set up the top of the Redbird order. Matt Carpenter singled in one run. A tapper put Redbirds at second and third, but another grounder kept them there.

In the sixth, the Bucs struck; JJ doubled, Gregory went yard and just like that, the Pirates were up 2-1. Starling added a single and stolen sack, but was left aboard. A two out single and a boot by Jordy created a jam for Jon. Arquimedes Caminero answered the call after the error; Adam Frazier went to second as part of a double switch. Arquie fanned Matt Gyorko as Jordy sighed in relief. Jordy opened the seventh with a soft knock to third and made to second with two gone. Good enough; JJ's 3-2 knock drove him in, though Jaso was lost trying to get into second when Martinez cut the relay home. The Cards got a single that caused no damage against Caminero.

JJ is heating up after a chilly June (photo John Roth/USA Today)

Seth Maness took the ball in the eighth and Gregory greeted him with his second bomb of the day, this one an opposite field liner. Cutch reached when Maness dropped a throw to first. A two-out single and walk loaded the sacks, but Kratz whiffed for the third time, and has left seven Buccos aboard today. Juan Nicasio scaled the bump and struck out the side. And not just K'ed them - he tossed an immaculate inning, nine pitches, three whiffs.

Sam Tuavailala worked the ninth quietly. A one out walk brought on Neftali Feliz and caused a domino effect of shifts - Fraze went to RF, S-Rod to 2B, Freeser to 1B and JHK entered to play 3B. After getting the second out, Matt Carpenter doubled in a run to make it 4-2 before Feliz closed it out.

Very nice way to open the set, winning a matchup that was heavily tilted on paper toward St Louis. Niese, like Frankie yesterday, hasn't turned the corner, but did take a step toward getting back on track. Still, three groundouts in 5-2/3 IP isn't his game, tho he did keep the ball in the yard. The win finally got the Pirates back over .500.

But it wasn't all good; right after the game, the Bucs announced that tomorrow's starter, Jameson Taillon, was headed to the 15 day DL with shoulder fatigue. Sheesh, can't catch a break, and that diagnosis can cover a whole lot of arm ouchies. Lefty Steven Brault, not the widely anticipated Tyler Glasnow (he pitched for Indy two days ago), gets the call up. The Bucs have to make a 40-man roster move by tomorrow to clear space for Steven, who himself has just pitched one game since finishing rehab.

  • Juan's immaculate inning was last matched for Pittsburgh by Ross Ohlendorf on September 5th, 2009, also against the Cardinals. Jeff Robinson is the only other Pirate twirler to toss an II, on September 7th, 1987 against the Cubbies.
  • This was El Coffee's first multi-homer game in the show. Gregory is still hobbled with a game leg and is running gingerly; props to him for sucking it up for a big series. Freeser, JJ and Jordy joined Polanco with two hit afternoons.
  • The bullpen's scoreless innings streak ended at 34-1/3 innings today.
  • After a horrid stretch, the Pirates have made a U-turn, winning five straight and 8-of-10.
  • Good news: Gerrit Cole (strained right triceps) will begin his rehab assignment Tuesday at Indy. If all goes well, he would be lined up for the Sunday start against the Cubs.
  • Ryan Vogelsong will throw a sim game tomorrow, and Fran will catch for him.

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