Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sometimes It Only Takes One

Well, a slow enough start to this one. The grounds crew rolled up the tarp after a T-storm, the pitchers, Jeff Karstens and Chris Carpenter, came out to warm up, and hey - they were shooed off the field and the tarp was rolled back out. More time for the GMs to bond on the phone, we suppose, while the boomers boomed.

The storm rolled through eventually, and the game kicked off at 10:35. And for the first three innings, it was the calm after the storm. The Bucs had one hit; the Cards three, but a DP and caught stealing took away their thunder.

Pittsburgh found their bats a bit in the fourth, but a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out DP after Jose Tabata's leadoff single made Garrett Jones' knock a wasted effort.

The Redbirds tried the same ploy, leading off with a single, but Jon Jay was caught stealing with two outs; Erik Kratz was 2-for-2 gunning runners, though both calls were bang-bang and could have gone either way. Still, it's the first time this year that Bucco backstops have thrown out two runners.

The last time? September of 2009, when Dewey did it against the Cubs.

Both teams left a runner aboard in the fifth; it was a pitcher's duel to this point, 0-0, with just five stranded runners between the two clubs.

The Pirates tried to strike some two out lightning in the sixth when Neil Walker singled and Jones walked, but Pedro bounced out to first on the first pitch. St. Louis tried to pull some two out magic of their own out of the hat when Jay and Albert Pujols singled, but JK got Matt Holliday to pop to short.

The Pirates put runners on first and second with one away in the seventh, but pinch-hitter Delwyn Young hit a fly to short center, and Erik Kratz was picked off first by Yadier Molina on a set play to end the inning with McCutch up, bad timing for a rookie mistake.

Karstens, who had been kicked or spiked covering first, was lifted after six. He gave up seven hits and struck out two, and matched the Cardinal ace Carpenter pitch for pitch. Now it was up to the Three Amigos again.

Evan Meek got a pair of groundouts to start the seventh, and then walked weak-hitting Brendan Ryan. No problem; with the pitcher up, Ryan went on the first pitch. It was a pitch out, and Kratz nailed his third wanna-be of the night, the first three throw-out game since Keith Osik did it in 1999.

The Bucs went quietly in the eighth, and Meek returned to 1-2-3 the Cards on three weak grounders. Carpenter left for a pinch hitter, and the battle of the bullpens was on - and Tony LaRussa's mix-and-match style.

Lefty Trever Miller came on to face Jones and Pedro; he got them both on weak grounders. Then closer Ryan Franklin took the ball to face Lastings Milledge who had two hits; LM popped out to the catcher.

Joel Hanrahan took the hill for the Pirates. He struck out the side, facing Pujols and Holliday, and took over the team lead in K's with 63 - in just 45-2/3 innings of work!

Franklin set the Pirates down in order in the tenth. Javier Lopez took over for Pittsburgh. A double, bunt, and infield-in grounder gave the Cards that elusive run to win the game in ten, 1-0.

This is the kind of game the Cards are built to win, and the kind the Pirates have to learn to take. LaRussa pulled lefty Colby Rasmus when Lopez took the mound, and his caddy, righty Ryan Ludwick, doubled softly into left.

Molina laid down a perfect bunt to third after the Pirates opted to play it straight rather than run a wheel play. A ball that was intended to be unhittably outside was punched to the right side by Ryan. A diving Neil Walker, playing in, could only knock it down. If he gets it cleanly, they still may be playing; Ludwick wasn't going on contact, but was in safety mode at third.

There are still plenty of lessons yet to be learned by these guys, and LaRussa's teams are a great classroom. Pitching, D, and doing the little things well will win you a lot of ballgames.

The Pirates will send Daniel McCutchen against Jeff Suppan tomorrow.

-- Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports report that "The Diamondbacks and Pirates have spoken about a trade that would send catcher Chris Snyder to Pittsburgh." No mention of who else is thought to be part of the deal. (EDIT - it's being reported that it's a done deal; the announcement will come after MLB approves the cash transfer amount.)

Snyder, 29, is hitting .231 with 10 HR and 32 RBI; that's about his normal production, as he's a lifetime .233 hitter with a little bit of pop.

Snyder is signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012; just enough team control to keep the plate warm for Tony Sanchez. He could also form a platoon with Dewey, though they would be an awfully expensive tandem - Synder will make $5.75M in 2011, Doumit $5.1M.

Whether the deal is completed or not, we'd suspect that if Dewey stays a Pirate, he'll become a platoon catcher with Snyder/Erik Kratz; his health and defense make him too much of a liability to rely on daily.

-- Today will mark the Pirates' first game in St. Louis since May 7, 2009, a span of 449 days. That is the longest gap between two teams at one site in the same division since divisional play began in 1969 (excluding strike-shortened 1981) say the Elias Sports Bureau.

-- Since the All-Star break, the Bucs have ranked 1-2-3 in offensive output in the NL: #1 in runs (73), #2 in average (.286), and #3 in slugging (.445). Not too bad for a truckload of green bananas. With the rugged St. Louis and Cincy staffs up next, the pups will face a good test of how far they've come along.

-- The Bucs may have gotten out of Colorado in the nick of time. The Rox walloped the Cubbies 17-2, and set a new MLB record by getting eleven consecutive hits.

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