Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rangers Play Long Ball

Hey, nothing a quick start to a game; Neil Walker doubled and Garrett Jones dinked him home with a two-out single to center. Nothin' like a fast 1-0 lead.

The only ominous sign early on was that though the Pirates had five hits off Tommy Hunter in three innings, four were two-out singles. Gotta get those innings started a little sooner, guys.

However, Ross Ohlendorf was on from the git-go. He retired the first nine Rangers he faced, six on ground balls, and was avoiding the middle of the plate religiously.

The Pirates tried it the opposite way when Pedro Alvarez and Dewey led off the fourth with singles; Pedro got into third on a risky but successful dash. He scored when Lastings Milledge's roller to first was thrown wide of home, leaving guys on first and second with nobody out and a 2-0 lead.

But Bobby Crosby fouled a pair of bunts and struck out on a slider; Jose Tabata and Neil Walker both roped balls after that, but right at outfielders. The Pirates had stranded six and gone 1-for-7 with RISP in just four frames.

Unfortunately for Ohlie, his heater started to catch the plate in the fourth. With one out, Michael Young belted one into the right field stands, followed by Ian Knsler lining the next pitch, a fast ball, into left; it was held to a single on a nice hustle play and throw by Tabata.

Vlad Guerrero hit another yet heater on the nose, but right at Pedro, who doubled up Kinsler at first. But like so many promising Pirate outings, once a crack shows, the performance is ready to fall apart.

In the fifth, Ohlie gave a double to Josh Hamilton, scorched over Andrew McCutchen's head. He came back to get a ground out and pop up, and then lost it. He walked eight hitter Matt Treanor, a righty, and got the lefty Julio Borbon, who took a changeup over the fence. Two outs, bottom of the order...

An infield single was followed by a wild pick-off throw and another walk; JR gave him the hook. It was the latest in a series of bad starts for the Texan; he lasted 4-2/3 innings, gave up four runs on five hits with two walks (after going through the Ranger order perfectly through three frames) and one K. He's 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA.

The Bucs got one back in the sixth, when a Milledge double led to a Ryan Doumit throw-out at the plate after he was inexplicably waved home by Tony Beasley. Crosby followed with a two-out double to score Milledge, making it 4-3. Another chance squandered.

The Rangers put that run back in one swing when Josh Hamilton lifted a DJ Carrasco cutter into the batter's eye in center.

Carrasco sandwiched a pair of walks around a bunt in the seventh, and Captain Hook came to get him. Javier Lopez did the job, getting a DP roller to end the frame.

He wasn't quite up to the task in the eighth. A leadoff single, a walk, and a base-advancing bouncer ended his night. Brendan Donnelly came on and gave up a sac fly, making it 6-3 with one at-bat to go.

The Pirates didn't cause much trouble in the late going. The Rangers retired nine of the last ten batters, and 6-3 was the final.

The Rangers are now on a nine game winning streak, and the pitching will have to come up big to stop them. It didn't tonight; three homers to go along with six walks is giving Texas too much opportunity.

Paul Maholm takes on Dustin Nippert tomorrow night.

-- The Pirates announced that the Dewey experiment at first has ended, by mutual agreement.

-- Garrett Jones extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

-- This was the first time ever that the Pirates played in the Ballpark at Arlington.

-- Zach Duke, who missed tonight's start, is still being evaluated for his elbow stiffness; he may go on the 15-day DL.

-- Aki Iwamura is still a Bucco; the suits couldn't find any takers, and rather than give up his contract, Aki will report to Indy on Friday. It'll be interesting to see if they play him at second or try to up his value some by returning him to the hot corner. There's been a big vacancy there since last week...

-- Bradenton catcher Tony Sanchez was taken to the hospital today after being struck in the face by a pitch. The CT scan showed what may be two small fractures in his jaw. A specialist is scheduled to review the scans for a second opinion. Sanchez had already missed time earlier this month when he was beaned and suffered concussion-like symptoms.

-- Bradenton shortstop Brock Holt will have surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee, and is out for the season after Pirate officials denied a local newspaper report that he had torn the MCL. Either one was plenty to kiss 2010 goodbye.

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