Thursday, June 24, 2010

Only In Horshoes...

Scott Feldman started off the way every pitcher dreams of, by striking out the side on the first. His problem was the guys that actually hit the ball; he was down 4-0 before the Rangers could get to the bat rack.

Jose Tabata singled, Andrew McCutchen walked, and Garrett Jones singled in a run. But punchouts of Neil Walker and Ryan Church had them anchored at first and second with two away. No problem; Pedro brought them both home with a double over third base, and Dewey singled him in.

Lastings Milledge looked at strike three - you gotta be alert with Joe West calling balls and strikes - but a 4-0 start is just what the doc ordered for the struggling Pirates.

The Bucs gift-wrapped a run for the Rangers, and only a nice job by Jeff Karstens kept them to one tally. Bobby Crosby muffed a routine grounder, and Milledge misplayed a fly into a double. But Karstens got a pop up and two weak bouncers to limit the damage.

One thing we've noticed about Pedro is that he pulls up on balls hit toward the hole, conceding them to the SS. It led to a one-out single in the third; the big guy will have to learn to be more aggressive at the hot corner, one of many lessons he has yet to absorb.

The Bucs got another run in the fourth, thanks to breaks both good and bad. Dewey started off with an infield single when the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag. Milledge lined a single into right, and a Crosby bunt loaded the bases when the ump ruled the second baseman didn't touch the bag; replays were inconclusive.

Bases loaded, no outs - all good, right? Well, no. Tabata hit a ball right on the nose, but also right at the left fielder. A Walker sac fly brought in a run, and when Josh Hamilton dropped the ball while trying to make the throw in, the runners advanced.

But Joe West rung up McCutchen on a pitch that didn't look close to the plate. Hey, we'll take the run; two big innings in a game is just too much to expect.

The fourth is apparently the frame of reckoning for Pirate pitchers; Karstens began grooving the ball, and a single, double, and two flies to the track later, it was a 5-3 game. Almost every ball was tattoed.

But Karstens hadn't hit the wall yet, just a bump, and he got through the fifth handily. Not so the sixth; a single and walk sandwiched around a strikeout was enough for JR; he called for Brendan Donnelly to go after the bottom of the order.

Well, part of it, anyway. BD whiffed the righty Matt Treanor, and Captain Hook called on Javier Lopez to deal with lefty Julio Borbon. Lopez got a comebacker tapped to him.

The Bucs refused to add on. They put the lead runner on five times in the first seven innings, but two DP's and two caught-stealings help put a damper on the fast starts. And five is a bad number to be stuck on against a team that averages six runs per game at home.

As Evan Meek quickly proved. He struck out Elvis Andrus, but West missed the call (no surprise there), and he singled two pitches later. Then Michael Young hit one into right, fair by inches, and Milledge took a bad route, dove and missed it, allowing the ball to roll for a triple. A hung curve and single later, and it was a 5-5 game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Andrew McCutchen made a sweet sliding catch at the track to save extra bases; Borbon made one just as clutch in the ninth, when with runners on the corners and two away, he flat outran Walker's drive to the fence.

Steven Jackson came on in the ninth, and the knock against him is his control. With one away, he walked Andrus, Young got a ground ball single through the hole with the infield cheating toward the middle for a DP, and Bad Vlad roped a two-out liner into left on a 1-2 pitch - and it was well off the plate - to win it for the Rangers.

For the Pirates, they may have lost it when they couldn't take full advantage of loading the bases with nobody away in the fourth, or the two balls Milledge misplayed (and the wind may have caused both botches; Hamilton in left for the Rangers had problems with a couple of flies that looked like they moved on him), or the Crosby boot, or walking the most accomplished runner on the team...

Games are determined one pitch, one swing, one catch, one call, at a time. They say victory has a thousand fathers. Well, so does defeat.

Brad Lincoln will face Ben Sheets in Oakland tomorrow night.

-- The pitcher-go-round: LHP Justin Thomas and RHP Steven Jackson got the call to replace sore-elbowed Zach Duke and Dana Eveland, who allowed nine earned runs on 15 hits in 9-2/3 innings with Pittsburgh. It's the third time Eveland has been designated for assignment this year.

One of the call-ups will go back Friday to make room for Saturday's starting pitcher. It's lookin' a lot like Daniel McCutchen (4-5, 3.86 ERA) will go on the weekend, as Charlie Morton pitched tonight (and well) while Brian Burres threw last night.

We'd expect them to keep Thomas; he's a second lefty to replace Jack Taschner and been brilliant at Indy. The 26-year old southpaw was 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA, putting up a line of 19 hits, 3 walks (he's beaned more, with four) and 34 K's in 34-2/3 frames. His WHIP is an unreal 0.635.

-- We missed it on TV (maybe it wasn't shown or maybe we were on a beer run) but the beat guys reported that Lastings Milledge had some words with Gary Varsho on the bench, presumably about the bad routes to fly balls, and an animated one-way discussion with Bobby Crosby after the pair missed a hit-and-run; somebody got their signs crossed and Milledge was easily thrown out at second.

Doesn't sound like a huge thing, though one never knows how the management will take an outburst. We're surprised with their play of late that their hasn't been a little more growling; maybe the team's as laid back as their skipper.

-- Garrett Jones had a twelve game hitting streak broken last night; he started on a new one in his first at-bat tonight.

-- The Pirates have dropped their last 14 games away from PNC Park, dating to May 25th. They're 2-10 in interleague play this year, beating only the Indians. And they go to Oakland after tonight's game; they're 0-6 against the A's. Of course, Oakland has lost 6 of the past 7 games, so some streak has to come to a halt.

--It'll look like a softball game Saturday at Oakland. It's 70s throwback night, so the Bucs will be in black and gold and the A's in Kelly green and gold. Maybe Pedro can channel Pops.

-- Charlie Morton pitched a complete game victory tonight, giving up a run on two hits with four K's and a walk.

-- The Pirates promoted reliever Dan Moskos and OF Alex Presley to Indy. Neither is a reach, as both have been sharp at Altoona and deserved the call.

-- Tony Sanchez will get surgery for his broken jaw. It will cost him most, if not all, of the remaining 2010 season. So much for fast tracking him this year, hey?

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