Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eighth Inning Turning Point

Brad Lincoln didn't exactly get all the proud papas in the stands excited in the first inning; he was down 2-0 before the Bucs got to the plate. A walk to Shin Soo Choo was followed by a Carlos Santana (he has more hits than the band!) homer.

He threw 32 pitches, and had trouble keeping them down; the Pirates were saved from a big inning when they caught an out call on a stolen base that looked to be a good swipe. But Lincoln, a self-described strike thrower, has to learn to get the ball down and use all three pitches; his heater isn't that great to be his bread-and-butter pitch.

Justin Masterson, with a slider and sinker, came in with a rep as a ground ball machine, and that's what he was in the first. His problem was nobody could catch and throw with much success.

Jose Tabata started off with a soft roller to third that went for a single and error when the throw eluded Russell Branyan at first. Neil Walker rolled a grounder through the right side, putting runners on the corners.

Andrew McCutchen chopped one to the mound, but Masterson's throw got by Branyan. Garrett Jones then rifle a shot up the middle, and the Bucs had runners on first and second, no outs, and a 2-2 count on the scoreboard. But we know how these promising innings end, hey?

Masterson then took things into his own hands, K'ing Lastings Milledge on three sliders and a sinker, and then punching out Pedro on another sinker. He finally got a grounder to go his way 37 pitches later when Jason Jaramillo rolled into a 6-3 inning ender.

The same duo bit Lincoln again in the third, and much in the same way. He hit Choo on a 1-2 pitch, and Santana roped a doubled into right center to bring him home.

Bad Brad dodged a bullet in the fourth, when the 7-8 hitters singled and doubled with one away. The pitcher hit a fly to medium right, and Milledge threw a laser home to nail the tagging runner and keep the score at 3-2.

Masterson and Lincoln both left after six. The Bucs had two runs on five hits and a walk off the righty, along with seven K's. Lincoln gave up three runs on eight hits, with a walk, hit batsman, and a pair of whiffs. Lincoln mixed his pitches much better after the early going, but was still upstairs too much; he only got five ground outs in six frames.

Javier Lopez came on in the seventh, and did what no other pitcher has done this series: retire Carlos Santana. He had five hits and three walks in his previous eight plate appearances this series, and Lopez caught him looking.

The Pirates had another golden opportunity in the seventh, and did manage to milk a couple of Tribe miscues into the tying run. Jaramillo singled, and a Bobby Crosby bunt was thrown wildly to first, putting runners at first and second.

Andy LaRoche laid one down to get the guys to second and third, but Tabata tapped back to the mound for the second out. But a pitch in the dirt got away from Santana, who tried to pick the ball instead of smothering it, and JJ came in to make it 3-3.

Brendan Donnelly started skating on thin ice immediately in the eighth, when he was smoked for a single and double to start the frame. The 29,800+ fans got a little entertainment when JR was ejected for arguing the double, claiming it was foul (although it hit the chalk).

But a short fly into center, a roller to second with the infield in, and a grounder to short was enough to keep the score tied. The Bucs caught a break with Austin Kearns being the lead runner instead of one of the Tribe's speed merchants; a faster runner may have taken a shot at home.

The Pirates charged into the eighth. McCutch walked and Jones singled him to second. A Milledge bunt put runners at second and third, and set the table for Pedro. The Indian's brought in lefty Tony Sipp, and he quickly got ahead 0-2 on a pair of hooks.

But he hung the third one, and Alvarez ripped it to the track in right for the go-ahead sac fly. A walk and Crosby single put the Bucs up 5-3 with three outs to go.

Octavio Dotel didn't need the insurance run; he breezed through the ninth, striking out the last two hitters. For once, the Bucs took advantage of opportunity; let's hope it becomes a habit.

The Pirates are off tomorrow, and then go to Texas, where Austin native Ross Ohlendorf will face Tommy Hunter Tuesday night.

-- Bobby Crosby started again at short. At first, we thought it was just a message being sent to Ronny Cedeno, but it may a changing of the guard. We'll see if Crosby's stick plays well enough to win him a starting gig. Of course, there's always the chance that he's being showcased, too, with Andy LaRoche replacing him the new jack-of-all-trades.

-- Garrett Jones extended his hitting streak to a personal best eleven straight today with his first inning single.

-- Steve Pearce is tearing it up on rehab at Indy; he is en fuego going 5-for-7 with an RBI, 4 runs scored, three walks, a double, and a stolen base. That makes for a logjam when he returns to the big club. If Milledge or Milledge/Church become the RF mainstays and Jones gets a full-time gig at first, Pearce is the odd man out. Let the dealing begin!

-- The Pirate bullpen has made 211 appearances, just over 3 outings per game. They're pitching at about the same rate as the train wreck year of 2008, when the relievers also appeared 3+ times per game (it was 2.82 outings/game last year).

JR has made calls to the pen that seem odd at first blush, but so far he's done a good job of spreading out the work so that the guys aren't too burned out when the dog days roll around.

He has six pitchers who have made between 24-33 appearances, so nobody is in line to see 90 outings this year, a credit to him and the pen's depth. Now if the starters could get into the eighth or the bats pile up some runs...

-- Bradenton SS Brock Holt has a torn MCL, according to Alan Dell of the Bradenton Herald. He's expected to miss six weeks and probably will need surgery. The 22 year old, a ninth round draft pick in 2009 from Rice, was injured in a collision with second baseman Anderson Chourio. He was hitting .351 before the head-on for Bradenton.

There may be hope; other reports say it's not torn and requires rest, not the knife. So we'll see how it plays out.

(Will and Ron wish all the dads out there a Happy Father's Day...and hey, shouldn't it be celebrated every day?)


WilliamJPellas said...

What IS it with our minor league middle infielders??? How many of them just in the past couple of years have had really serious injuries? I'm beginning to think they've caught whatever our first round pitchers used to get. (Still get?)

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, it does seem like a curse, Will. Holt, Brian Friday has been out since 6/9 with a sprained ankle; Jarek Cunningham is just coming back after missing 2009 to knee surgery...but on the bright side, Jimmy Negrych, in a small sample, is tearing up at Indy. And Clement is getting his eye back.

Still, no immediate help, and the injury list does clog the pipeline. Of course, when you bring up 3/4's of your AAA infield, Alvarez, Walker, and Pearce, it doesn't leave much at Indy but a vacuum.

WilliamJPellas said...

I still say Negrych is a major league hitter, though a man without a position and one who won't hit for much power. But man, oh man, can he ever rip line drive after line drive after line drive. Jim Leyritz lasted many years as a "bat off the bench"; I think Negrych is cut from the same cloth.

Maybe the Bucs would consider Negrych at 3B if Pedro eats his way off the bag and moves to first? (In that scenario Jones would stay in RF). In any case, I think the team needs to make some kind of effort to find some role for Negrych somewhere. He's too good a hitter to waste.

Ron Ieraci said...

Delwyn Young hits arbitration next year, Will; that could be Negrych's opening.