Friday, August 5, 2011

Padres Pound Pirates 15-5

Well, that Chicago series didn't work out so well. Let's see if the Bucs can be a little bit more rude to their new guests, the Padres, and rev it up for the big road trip to follow.

Jeff Karstens started by getting Cameron Maybin swinging. Jason Bartlett flew out to medium right, and Chase Headley went down swinging, too. Nice ten-pitch opener for JK. It would be the only 1-2-3 inning for either team tonight.

McCutch got the Buccos going with a ground single through the left side. Garrett Jones ripped a first pitch curve into right for a double, McCutch holding at third. Neil Walker hit a little flare past short to bring home a run and put runners at the corners. Ryan Ludwick lined a first pitch heater into left to chase home Jones.

Aaron Harang got a quick pick me up when Pedro rolled a hook to second to start a 4-6-3 DP. Dewey bounced out to first, and after one the Bucs had a 2-0 lead.

Karstens got ahead of Jesus Guzman 0-2, but a fastball on the outside black got bounced up the middle for a leadoff knock. Orlando Hudson took a 3-2 sinker and drilled it to the bullpen fence in left center for a double; now the Padres were on the move. Will Venable singled to right on a first pitch heater to score Guzman.

A short wild pitch on a slider moved Venable to second. Kyle Blanks popped up, freezing the runners at second and third. The eight hitter, Luis Martinez, went after a 2-0 slider and grounded it to Pedro; Hudson plated as he threw across for the out to tie the game at twos. Harang hit a fly to left on the first pitch to end the frame.

Xavier Paul opened with a bunt single. A pick off throw missed the mark, and Paul scooted to third on the error. Ronny Cedeno singled on the line to right, and the Bucs answered the Padre challenge with another run to regain the lead. Karstens moved RC up a notch with a bunt.

McCutch flew out short of the track in right, and Cedeno tagged to third. Jones battled Harang, finally drawing a ten pitch walk, but to no avail when Walker hit an 0-2 curve into center for a routine fly out. It was 3-2 Bucs after three.

Karstens hung a change to Maybin, who sent it off the wall in center for a leadoff double.  Bartlett bounced out as Maybin went to third. Headley rolled one to Walker, and the grounder tied the game as the Padres played small ball to perfection. Guzman pulled a slider to third; Alvarez couldn't handle it and the error allowed him to reach base. Hudson bounced out to Walker, but the game was even again.

Ludwick opened the third with a bouncer up the middle for his second hit. Pedro quickly erased him by hitting into a 4-6-3 DP. Dewey caught a 2-2 heater belt high and over the outside half and knocked it over the wall in right center. His fifth homer of the year gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead. Paul rolled one into the right field corner for a double, leading to an intentional walk of Cedeno.  Karstens went down swinging.

Venable rolled a grounder into left to open the fourth. Blanks knocked one through the left side to put runners at first and second. Martinez dropped the first pitch into center for the third straight knock, scoring Venable. Harang was swinging with two strikes; his roller to Cedeno was turned into a force out of the lead runner at third.

Maybin dinked a swinging bunt; Dewey couldn't get to it in time and the bases were loaded. JK got ahead of Bartlett 0-2, but eventually lost him after nine pitches to force home the go ahead run. Headley got a first pitch sinker down the middle; he bombed it over the wall in center for a grand slam, his fourth long ball, and it was 9-4 Padres as the Pirate pitching woes continued to mount. Anthony Watson came in from an overworked bullpen and finished the frame.

Karstens went 3-1/3 innings, giving up nine runs on nine hits with a walk and 2 K's. His command was off, being up and over the middle tonight, and the Padres were helped by some dinks that fell, too, a perfect storm. Still, it was only the second time in 19 starts that he had allowed over three runs.

After a McCutch fly out to right, Jones took a slider off the shins and lined it into center. Walker followed with a ground single to right. On an 0-2 pitch to Ludwick, Harang tried to waste a high heater; it got spanked into center to load the bases. Pedro continued his tough night at the dish; he bounced a curve to second for a 4-6-3 DP, his third twin killing of the night, all on hooks; he's stranded six batters in three at bats and the fans are letting him have here at PNC.

After an out, Blanks dropped a 1-2 heater that was above the belt barely into the seats up the left field line; it was 10-4 Padres after his first long fly of the season.

Dewey opened for the Bucs with his second hit, a bouncer through the left side. Paul got ahead 3-1 and fouled off three pitches well outside the strike zone, but eventually allowed Harang to walk him. Cedeno flew out to right, and Steve Pearce grabbed a stick. He hit into a force at second, pulling a slider to short. McCutch flew out in front of the Notch to end the frame.

One big difference so far? Even with 3 DPs, the Bucs have already stranded nine. The Padres have left two runners on base. Jason Grilli took the hill.

Maybin bounced one to short; Cedeno threw it away and Maybin rolled into second. Bartlett walked on five pitches. Grilli threw a heater past Headley for the first out. He got the second when he teamed up with Walker to pick Maybin off second. Guzman swung through a heater to end the SD sixth.

Joe Thatcher climbed the hill for San Diego. He retired the first two Bucs, then Ludwick drew an eleven pitch walk; looks like he has something to prove to his old squad. Pedro went down swinging; the Padres are schooling the youngster tonight.

Hudson led off the seventh with a 3-2 walk. Venable got a fastball at the knees and drilled it into right center for a triple when Paul lost the ball. Blanks K'ed, but a Martinez ground out plated Venable to make it 12-4. It wasn't over; Aaron Cunningham homered, dropping a fly into the first row in left center, his first of the year, followed by Maybin walking on a 3-2 pitch. Bartlett lined out to second and it was 13-4 Padres; they have more runs than hits so far tonight.

Eric Hamren came on for the Padres. The first two Pirates went down routinely, and RC lined a two out single into center. Matt Diaz batted, took a 3-2 curve to draw a free pass, and McCutch followed the same blueprint. Jones walked on four pitches, with Hamdren just outside the black working him away. That brought on Luke Gregerson to face The Pittsburgh Kid. He didn't give him anything to square up on, working the edges of the zone, and got him on a tapper to the mound. It's now 13-5 Padres.

D-Mac got back on the bike for Pittsburgh. Headley led off with a pop single over Pedro's head into short left. Guzman was fed a slider down the heart of the plate; he whacked it into the left center field stands for his fifth homer of the year. he nailed the next three hitters, but not before it was 15-5 San Diego.

Ludwick started the eighth with a single up the middle, his fourth hit and fifth time on base. Dang if Pedro didn't hit another off speed pitch to second; this time the Padres could only get El Toro as Ludwick steamed into second. Doumit and Paul went down routinely, and one more inning to go.

Darn, still no Matt Diaz sighting on the mound; Joe Beimel came on for the ninth. With one out, Maybin beat out a roller to third. That was it for San Diego, which trotted Ernesto Fieri out to finish up. After striking out the first two hitters, he walked McCutch on five pitches; the Bucs have had a runner on every inning tonight. Frieri walked Jones on four pitches. He nailed Walker on a short pop to left, and the 3-1/2 hour contest came to merciful end.

San Diego stranded six runners all night; the Pirates left 16 on base. Some clutch hitting probably wouldn't have made a difference in the final outcome, but it sure could have kept it a little interesting.

Hey, the team's strong early performance was fueled by its pitching, and when it went south, so did the game results. Whether its the innings catching up or Sabermetric regression - the home run rate was way low and stranded rate way high until the Philly series - if the Bucs want to stay competitive over the final weeks, the arms will have to pick it up again.

As for Pedro, we still feel he's best off learning his craft here, where the adjustments come fast and furious. He came up and laid off the stuff away early in the count, so the pitchers pumped first strike heaters in to get ahead. El Toro got aggressive earlier in the count as a response, and the pitchers began working him heaters just off the plate and soft stuff down to start him off and take advantage of his attack mode. It's punch - counterpunch in the bigs, and you can't do the dance unless you're in the show to learn the tempo.

Corey Luebke takes on Paul Maholm tomorrow.

  • Tonight's attendance was 37,766 fans. It was the Pirates 13th sellout; the record is 19 at PNC Park. If you're wondering about the strong numbers even in the tailspin, most tickets are sold a week or two in advance, so the results of the Bucco losing streak won't show up until probably the next homestand.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review pointed out that Pedro joined some good company tonight; Ralph Kiner and Roberto Clemente also hit into 3 DPs in a single game for the Bucs, along with Jeff King and Bill Brubaker.
  • Derrek Lee is still out of the lineup with a bruised hand after being plunked Wednesday night.
  • Jose Tabata will start his rehab assignment tomorrow at Indy.

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