Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bullpen Blues

Brad Lincoln started off by ending an embarrassing streak of five straight games with first inning scores surrendered by the Pirate staff by goose egging the Brew Crew in the opening frame. Lastings Milledge appreciated it; he lined a homer, his third and first in back-to-back games as a Bucco, to jump start the Pirates in the second.

Dewey and Ronny Cedeno took outside pitches into right to put runners on the corners, and Bad Brad helped his own cause by hitting a one-hopper over Prince Fielder, who was holding the runner. Cedeno went to third, and a McCutch sac fly - we hope the other Pirates were watching what he did did with a runner on third and less than two outs - made it 3-0.

The Brewers manufactured a run in the third. Alcides Escobar blasted a belt high heater into the left field corner to start the inning, and a bunt and sac fly later, it was 3-1.

They didn't manufacture any in the fourth, though. Lincoln fell behind Ryan Braun 3-1, and fed him a fastball, down and tight. Braun, apparently setting on the heat, crushed it out of the yard. A batter later, George Kottaras. a .211 hitter batting over .400 against the Bucs, lifted a high and tight heater that dropped just inside the foul pole to tie the game at three.

In the sixth, Pedro untied it. Wolf, who can't break 90 with his heater, fed El Toro five straight fast balls; the fifth was bombed into the second tier in center.

Lincoln made it dicey in the bottom half, walking the first two hitters, Braun and Fielder, but escaped.

He lasted one batter into the seventh. After a leadoff single was drilled past Neil Walker, Javier Lopez came on. Lincoln went six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits, walking a pair and K'ing three.

Lopez did his job, and Brandon Donnelly collected the last pair of outs, stranding Escobar at second. The Bucs nearly had some insurance in the eighth, when with two outs and Milledge aboard, Doumit caught a fastball, but it fell just short of the left field fence into Braun's mitt.

Joel Hanrahan tempted fate in the eighth, when he gave up a leadoff single to Braun and walked Fielder. But two outs later, he had an 0-2 count on carlos Gomez, the weak hitting CF of the Brewers. He wasted a pitch, off the plate and knee high, and Gomez stuck out his bat and softly dropped it into the right field grass beyond Walker and Jones, and it was 4-4.

But the Bucs small-balled a run in the ninth to regain the lead. Cedeno bunted his way on, diving into first to barely elude, in the ump's eye, the tag of Fielder. He was going on a 3-2 pitch to Delwyn Young, who rolled the ball through the hole vacated by the shortstop. McClutch came through with his second sac fly of the game, and it was Octavio Dotel time.

And like Friday, Dotel wasn't up to the task. He gave up a double to Jim Edmonds, got a fly out, and Corey Hart took a took a slider into the seats for a walk-off 6-5 Brewer win. Three one-run losses, two blown by the bullpen, weren't the way the Pirates planned to spend the break.

The Bucs are off for the next four days. Zach Duke will get the nod for Pittsburgh against Houston Friday.

-- The beat guys report that the Pirate rotation after the break will be Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, Jeff Karstens, and Brad Lincoln. Duke will be recalled Friday; we assume one of the relievers will go to clear his spot.

-- Today Anaheim hosts the Futures Game, and Bucco farmhands Gorkys Hernandez (his third) and Bryan Morris are on the roster (Tony Sanchez was originally named to the squad, but is on the DL with a broken jaw). Current Pirates who played in the All-Star event are Pedro Alvarez (2009), Brad Lincoln (2009), Andrew McCutchen (2008), Jose Tabata (2006), Neil Walker (2006), Lastings Milledge (2005), Paul Maholm (2005) and Andy LaRoche (2005).

-- The Pirate farm system had 19 All-Stars selected this year. They are: Eric Kratz (Indy); Chase d'Arnaud, Derek Hankins, Bryan Morris (since promoted) Rudy Owens, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison and Hector Gimenez (Altoona); Nathan Adcock, Tony Sanchez (DL), Noah Krol, Jeff Locke, Quincy Latimore, Brock Holt (DL) and Jeremy Farrell (Bradenton); Ramon Cabrera, Aaron Baker, David Rubinstein and Nathan Baker (West Virginia).

-- A prevalent theory is that the musclemen who participate in the Home Run Derby collapse in the second half of the season, like Sampson after his buzz cut. Well, that's bunk, according to Derek Carty of the Hardball Times, who crunched the pre and post Derby power numbers.

No comments: