Sunday, June 11, 2017

Nova, Rivero School the Fish 3-1

The first trio of Fish batters ran up three-ball counts against Ivan Nova and he had to spin 17 pitches, an ungodly total for the strike-meister, but it still ended up a 1-2-3 frame. With two gone, Jose Osuna and Freeser singled. Eli fought an eight-pitch battle with Jeff Locke, winning big by doubling the pair home. Gotta love two-out lightning. Ivan used a dozen pitches in the second to strike out the side. The Bucs went down in order too. The third was clean both ways. A single and later error on a potential DP ball put Nova in a  fourth-inning jam, but a bullet drilled right at Freeser ended the threat. Cutch tripled with two gone in the Pittsburgh half, but J-Bell's left side bouncer left him aboard. Ivan retired Miami in order in the fifth; the Bucs again tried to start two-out trouble with a Fraze knock and J-Hay walk followed by a double steal, but Osuna fanned. The Pirates may want to try to get a hit or two to start an inning; it makes life easier.

Bossa Nova was brilliant, giving up one hit in six frames (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

It was another quiet frame in the sixth for Nova. The Pirates banged out back-to-back-to-back singles with an out to load the bases and bring in Brad Ziegler. Jordy singled to chase a run home; the balls have all been spanked which is why it's been a frustrating station-to-station journey. The frustration continued as JJ, pinch-hitting for Ivan, hit into a 3-2 DP that even Cutch's leapfrog over the catcher couldn't prevent. Since his knee tweak, Ivan, even at just 77 pitches, has been pretty much a six-inning guy and Juan Nicasio took the ball. The Marlins opened the seventh with a bunt single for their second hit of the day. Marcell Ozuna lined out to left; the Bucs tried to double up the runner, Christian Yelich, but J-Bell botched the rundown allowing the runner to get to second. No sweat; Juan kept him there. Drew Steckenrider climbed the bump. Consecutive one-out raps with a throwing error mixed in led to an intentional walk to Freeser and the bases were full of Bucs. Eli K'ed and Cutch grounded to short on the next pitch. The Pirates have left the bases juiced with one out in back-to-back innings; the guys need a serious shot of killer instinct.

Huddy worked the eight and gave up a leadoff home to Ichiro followed by a Dee Gordon knock. He got a pair of routine outs and Felipe Rivero, who has quickly become Mr. Four-Out Save, was called in. The double-switching began: J-Hay went to right, Max Moroff to second and Jose Osuna found a spot on the pine. Felipe closed it out on a grounder. Kyle Barraclaugh was waved in for Miami and tucked the Bucs away. Ditto for Rivero v the Marlins. He used nine pitches to earn his second Pittsburgh save.

Felipe - so good he must be illegal or fattening (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Well, it was a game that shouldn't have been close; some days the Pirates shoot themselves in the foot so much that they need a walker. But the reconstituted back end was up to the task and the Bucs salvaged a split with the Fish. It doesn't get easier; the NL-West leaders, Colorado, are next on the menu.

Notes:
  • Jose Osuna, Eli and Cutch had two hits; Freeser chipped in with a knock and a walk.
  • 22,925 warm bodies caught the contest live today. It was a 2-1/2 hour game so they'll have plenty of time to loosen up for the back end of a Bucs and Pucks Sunday.
  • Neal Huntington on his Sunday radio show said all the right things about Tyler Glasnow and Tony Watson. We think his most telling statement was "...we needed to have Clint maximize his chance to win and not chase the save; to use those pitchers he feels best about using in any situation, as opposed to 'I have to get my closer the save so I have to use this guy in that inning and that guy in this inning.' Clint was excited about that." Makes us wonder if the ol' skipper was stuck in a one-man closer role by rote or because that's the way the organization preferred to operate.
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