Saturday, June 12, 2010

Make Your Breaks

Hey, the Pirates came out in their Pittsburgh Crawfords uniforms tonight; maybe some of Negro Leaguers' legendary skill would rub off on them. It didn't; guess you need real Pittsburgh Crawfords for those suits to work their magic.

After an uneventful opening frame, the Tigers tried to hand the Pirates a big inning in the second, but the Buccos refused to cooperate. Garrett Jones singled, and while stealing second came around on a Ryan Church double that was blasted so well that Jones scored even after sliding into second.

Andy LaRoche hit a bleeder that the shortstop double-clutched for an infield single. Ronny Cedeno tried a safety squeeze with runners on the corners, but pushed the ball to the mound. The pitcher glanced at the runners, spun to first, and ate the horsehide when no one covered the bag. Bases juices with one away.

But Jason Jarmillo couldn't make the Detroit infield pay; he bounced into an almost predictable 4-6-3 DP.

Maholm gave up a pair of ground ball singles and walked a guy to open the second; he was 3-2 on four consecutive batters going back to the first. He got away with giving up just a run thanks to great play by Ryan Church and some bone-headed running by the Tigers.

Gerald Laird blasted a ball into right center, and Church ran it down before bouncing into the wall. Carlos Guillen, at second, took off for third and then ran back to the bag and tagged, only to be thrown out at third by the relay team of Church and Ronny Cedeno.

The next batter doubled, but Maholm limited the damage to one run. Still, 48 pitches after two innings is not a good omen.

The Bucs retook the lead in the fourth on Garrett Jones ninth homer; Dewey followed with a double that missed going yard by a foot or so, and three outs later was still standing on second. Opportunity knocks; the Pirates don't answer.

Maholm's lack of a punch-out pitch cost him the chance to go deep tonight; he had eleven and thirteen pitch at bats against him. That's two innings of work against two hitters.

He lasted six frames, giving up one run on eight hits, walking three, K'ing two, and stranding eight, twice getting DP balls with the bases loaded. He did what he does best; keeping the team in the game.

God knows why he bothered. Two huge blunders in the seventh, a mental error by Evan Meek and a physical one by Ryan Doumit, put the Tigers up 3-2. Meek gave up back to back singles to start the frame, putting runners on the corners.

He K'd the next hitter, and got a come-backer from the next. But rather than take the gimme DP and trot back to the dugout, he ran down the runner at third.

The following batter hit a one hopper to the left of the mound, Meek snagged it and threw to first - and through Doumit. Two runs scored on the day's second throw that Dewey missed, the first being a botched pick-off toss.

Jose Tabata gave the Bucs renewed life with a one-man show in the eighth. With one away, he lined a 99 MPH heater from Joel Zumaya into left center for a routine single, and legged it into a double. He then stole third by a mile, forcing the infield in. Neil Walker rolled one past it into right, and it was a tied game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Bobby Crosby came in to replace Dewey at first. And wouldn't you know that Jaramillo caught a foul ball between the legs?

Not only did he gut it out - he was almost in tears as he returned to the bench after the inning, and we can commiserate with the pain - but threw out a runner on a pitch-out. And hey, does anyone know who Pittsburgh's emergency catcher even is?

Joel Hanrahan pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, but was almost bit by the same bug that got Meek. He knocked down Austin Jackson's eighth inning leadoff grounder, and then flipped the ball over Crosby's head. Jackson stole second and went to third on a fly, but Hanrahan K'ed Brennan Boesch to send the game into extra frames.

Didn't last long, though. The Bucs were thwarted when McCutchen's drive was hauled down at the fence with Tabata aboard to end their tenth inning.

Brendan Donnelly came on to face Carlos Guillen in the bottom half of the frame, fell behind 2-0, and threw an 89 MPH heater right where a lefty likes it, thigh high and inside half. At least that's where Guillen liked it, as he roped it on the line over the right field wall to give Motown the walk-off 4-3 victory.

Hey, the Tigers had tons of opportunity they didn't cash in - Detroit was 2-for-14 with RISP - but in the end, the Bucs gave it away. It's been the tale of the first half of the season; maybe the second half, with new faces and an everyday lineup, the team can begin to find ways to win games instead of ways to lose them.

Jeff Karstens will face Armando Galarrago in the series-ender tomorrow afternoon.

-- Among the upcoming moves, don't be surprised if Eric Kratz, who's hitting .313 with five homers and 22 RBI for Indy and has a good defensive rep, doesn't get some consideration for a call up to take Jason Jaramillo's spot. Jamarillo hasn't been hitting a lick, and has two options left, though it would cost a move on the 40-man roster.

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