Friday, June 16, 2017

Bullpen Toxic in Ninth; Bucs Drop 9-5 Decision to Cubbies

It took three pitches to get Joe Maddon's clock wound. Anthony Rizzo's long drive was called a homer, then reversed on an ump review. Joe let the blue crew know he didn't like it. They likewise showed their displeasure by bouncing the theatrical Cubbie manager. He should of stuck around. Rizzo eventually walked, followed by a single. After two outs, a walk loaded 'em up. A wild pitch brought in a run and a Wilson Contreras two-bagger on a 1-2 slider made it 3-0; a Cutch-to-Jordy-to-Freeser cut down at third of the catcher stopped the music. The Bucs went 1-2-3 to Eddie Butler, who had his white sleeves chopped off on the hill at the umps request. Chicago opened the second with a two hits and runners on the corners, but Trevor worked out of that one. Cutch walked with two away but was picked off at first, a call made by review that overturned the original decision. The third went quietly for both sides.

It took Trevor a bit to get into the groove (photo Joe Guzy/Pirates) 

The Windy City gang went down in order in the fourth, with a dandy grab by Fraze in left followed by a pair of whiffs. J-Hay singled with an out - yay, a hit! - and a catcher's pickoff gone astray got him to second. It almost ignited an uprising. Gregory hit a loud foul much like Rizzos and Clint asked for a review; for the first time tonight a call was upheld (rightly) and the Bucco surge receded. Williams kept cruising; after five, he has retired 12 straight Cubs. J-Bell got the Bucs on the board with a leadoff long fly that carried over the 410' mark of The Notch. Wade LeBlanc came in for the sixth and kept the outs coming. Fraze opened with a knock and Freeser walked two outs later. Like Williams in the first, the two-out walk came back to bite Butler as J-Bell followed with a triple. Pedro Strop was waved in and gave up an infield knock to Cutch, putting the Bucs up 4-3 before he could smother the fire.

Huddy took over in the seventh and an opening walk was moved up on a grounder. No prob; Daniel finished up with a pair of swingin' K's. Justin Grimm worked a clean frame. In the eighth, it was the top of Chicago's lineup and Clint's New Order dialed up Felipe Rivero. Ian Happ doubled with an out, but Felipe won a 10-pitch battle with Addison Russell, punching him out to end the frame. It would eventually become a key at-bat as it took Rivero out of a multi-inning scenario. Koji Uehara took the hill for Chicago. J-Hay reached on an off-line throw by Russell, diving and twisting under the tag try. Koji served up four outs as easily as three. Juan Nicasio was greeted in the ninth by back-to-back doubles. A single left Cubs on the corners and an intentional walk loaded the sacks for Tony Watson, who gave up a first-pitch knock to John Jay and a two-run bloop single to Rizzo; the game has gone south in a hurry. A two-out double chased home another pair before Jhan Marinez got the call and closed it down. A Cutch double opened and Jordy and Fran added singles against Wade Davis to make it 9-5. A walk to Fraze loaded the bases with an out before J-Hay and Gregory fanned.

Apparently Juan & the 9th inning aren't a good pairing (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Not much to say except bad start, bad finish. The Pirates may want to add Edgar Santana to that back-end mix sooner than they prefer. Tony looks fried, Juan has never thrived in the ninth (see notes) and Felipe can't work for the last six outs of every close game. It may be that not just Clint but the team has to feel their way into closer-by-committee mode. We've been spoiled by Joel Hanrahan/Jason Grilli, Grilli/Mark Melancon, and The Shark/Tony Watson killer closer and set-up tandems under the skipper's old system; the new tactic needs a shake-down cruise to fine-tune everyone's role.

Notes:
  • Cutch (2-of-3, 2B, walk) and J-Bell (2-of-4, HR, 3B, 3 RBI) sparked the attack along with Fran and Fraze who had a walk and knock.
  • The Pirate bullpen is 13-of-23 in save/opps (57%). Last year, it was 51-of-71 (72%).  
  • Juan Nicasio has one lifetime save, earned on May 15th, 2015, as a Dodger when he saved a 6-4 win over the Rox. He is 1-of-8 in save opps over his career.
  • In eight outings, Trevor Williams has given up 11 runs in the first inning of the 25 he's yielded as a starter.
  • Gregory Polanco is in the deep freeze; he's 3-for-32 in his past seven games.
Gregory is in the Arctic at the dish (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 25,420 were at the park with much of the crowd being Cub fans.
  • Clint told the media gang that the team will carry three catchers through the weekend, apparently to make certain that Fran, who is medically cleared from his concussion, stays at 100%.
  • Stew was running the bases at full-tilt (his version, anyway) and should be close to coming off the DL. He's been out since May 30th.
  • RHP Shane Baz, the Pirates first round pick, was officially signed, sealed and delivered in a presser with NH this afternoon before the game. His signing bonus is $4.1M according to reports, just a nudge above the slot value of $4,032,000.
  • Jim Callis of MLB.com rated the Buc draft as one of the league's top five, especially liking the early picks.
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