Sunday, July 4, 2010

Seventh Inning Fireworks

Hey, the Bucs started off with a couple of well-placed hits and a couple of more small-ball basics, and jumped off to a quick 2-0 lead.

Jose Tabata dropped a humped-back liner just inside the right field line, a step away from the outfielder, to double. Neil Walker legged out a ball up the middle snagged by Jimmy Rollins, but his 360 spin-a-rama throw missed getting The Pittsburgh Kid by a toe, putting runners on the corners with no one away.

Andrew McCutchen popped out - here we go again - but a soft roller to the right side by Garrett Jones scored Tabata and moved Walker to second. He came in when Pedro roped a 3-2 pitch into right, and Walker's hard slide just beat a strong throw home.

The Phils proved that they could play some small ball, too, when Ben Francisco led off with a double and came in on a pair of ground outs.

Jeff Karstens, who had been working behind in the count over the first two innings, had the roof cave in on him during the third. For the third time, the leadoff hitter reached; this time pitcher Joe Blanton, who dropped a soft pop into right.

After a fly out, Shane Victorino lined a double into right, and Raul Ibanez lasered a following single. Ryan Howard bombed a sac fly. It looked like he would escape giving up a pair, but Francisco's bouncer up the line didn't stick in Pedro's mitt; it went for an infield single.

Greg Dobbs crushed one high off the Clemente Wall, and it was 4-2 when the smoke cleared.

The eight hitter led off the fourth with a single, but a 1-6-3 DP on a weak bunt foiled the Phils in that frame. Karstens settled down after that, and cruised through a 1-2-3 fifth and sixth, sweating out a River Walk shot by Dobbs that was inches foul.

The Pirates, in the meantime, hadn't had a hit since the opening frame.

Karstens' luck ran out in the seventh, when Dane Sardinha, batting ahead of the pitcher, cranked a 3-1 fastball into the first row in left field. Karstens did a good job keeping the Pirates hanging around; his command was off all day; he was behind in the count and high in the strike zone.

He left with a line of six innings, five runs, nine hits, and two K's.

The Pirates found their mojo in the seventh, when Pedro led off with his second homer. Ryan Doumit rolled a single into right, and Ryan Church doubled into right; second and third, no outs.

Ronny Cedeno froze on a 3-2 pitch and was called out; he disagreed, but the pitch looked good, at least good enough to spoil. That brought on Jose Contreras.

No problem with the out or pitching change; Delwyn Young picked up Cedeno with a two strike dink double to left, chipping a pitch low and away to the opposite field, giving the Bucs a 6-5 lead.

Tabata smacked a ball through the hole and off Rollins' glove to plate Young, and stole second. Walker drew a base on balls, and a McCutch dribbler advanced them. The Phils brought on young LOOGY Mike Zagurski, and Jones greeted him by banging the first pitch into center, scoring both runners, and putting Pittsburgh ahead 8-5.

Joel Hanrahan threw a clean eighth, and Octavio Dotel gave the 28,698 fans - the Pittsburgh ones, anyway - a grand flourish by striking out the last hitter. For Dotel, it was his nineteenth save, and the win went to All-Star Meek, his fourth.

Pretty good day for Evan, hey? At noon, you're an All-Star, and at 4PM, you have a win.

The Bucs are off tomorrow, and then play three at Houston and three more at Milwaukee before the All-Star break.

-- Evan Meek was selected by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to represent the Bucs in the All-Star game, and he was a great choice with Andrew McCutchen slumping of late. McCutch surprisingly didn't even make the vote-off for the final spot.

Meek is one of 13 pitchers Manuel selected for his NL team, and five are relievers. He becomes the third guy on the current roster to wear an All-Star cap; Zach Duke and Brendan Donnelly are the other two.

-- The last ten Pirate homers have been solo shots; the last one with a runner aboard was on June 8th, by Delwyn Young against Stephen Strasburg. The opponents have the same problem; 7 of the last 8 dingers given up by Pirate pitching have been with the bases empty.

-- BTW, did you ever wonder why Perry Hill left? Ponder the workload of Carlos Garcia - showing Neil Walker how to play second, teaching Andy LaRoche the intricacies of middle infield, working with Pedro, who plays like Richie Hebner with an arm, trying to keep Ronny Cedeno's head in the game, making time for Bobby Crosby and all his infield spots, the continuing education of Delwyn Young, and Jeff Clement getting his crash course before being sent down...just sayin'.

Happy Fourth!

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