Sunday, June 5, 2016

Little Things Add Up To Late 5-4 Loss To Halos

Given the splish-splash morning, the game started pretty much on time (and it would end up a very nice afternoon). Not much luck for Cole Train in the first. A couple of loopy singles put Halos on the corners, and Albert Pujols' sac fly made it 1-0. The Bucs evened it up off Hector Santiago. Jordy walked, Gregory singled and with two gone, the red hot Starling's flare to right made it 1-1.

It was a clean second for Cole, thx to an infield hit being overturned upon challenge. Pittsburgh opened with a Matt Joyce walk and Stew single. They were bunted up, and Jordy, in an 0-2 hole, worked another walk to juice the sacks. A Josh pop gave Santiago some hope, but he followed by losing Gregory and plunking JHK on the foot on an 0-2 pitch to plate a pair. He escaped further damage when Starling banged a bullet to center that hung up for Mike Trout. Gerrit gave up a Kole Calhoun double in the third, but put up another zero, abetted by a diving grab by Joyce. Stew turned the order over with a two out knock.

The Cole Train ran out of gas an out too soon (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Cole wasn't hurt by a walk/SB in the fourth while the Pirates went down quietly. Gerrit tossed a clean fifth. Santiago was hit for after 90 pitches, and Javy Guerra took his spot on the hill. JHK welcomed him with a single, moving up a notch on a wild pitch. A fly moved him to third. An out later, MJ was intentionally walked and it worked as Stew flew out. Cole Train cruised through the sixth, assisted by a couple of hard hit balls that didn't find grass. Cole singled and Jordy doubled him to third off Jose Alvarez to start up the Bucs. Josh knocked in one run. Gregory whiffed on a full count on a borderline call, then JHK hit into a DP on a comebacker. The Bucs apparently haven't gotten the productive out memo.

A one out infield single broke up Gerrit's streak of eight straight retired in the seventh. It cost an out later when CJ Cron drilled a low slider that caught too much plate for an RBI double (ball hit the wall but was catchable; Marte showed his inexperience in center on that play) and that was followed by another two bagger that brought in Neftali Feliz. He stopped the bleeding when Starling atoned by making a web gem, diving grab to preserve the lead. Ol' Bucco Deolis Guerra climbed the bump and struck out the side.

Tony Watson is also looking for some redemption in the eighth after yesterday's clunker, and he was tossed to the meat of the Angel order. Calhoun singled to open. Tony worked Mike Trout tight and got a pop, corralled over the shoulder nicely by Jordy. But no atonement today; he tried some high cheese on an 0-2 pitch to Pujols, and Sir Albert dropped it into the LC seats. He whiffed the next pair, but now it's 5-4 LA. Guerra got a pair of grounders, then the Angels went into full tilt boogie subbing, swapping out a couple of players and bringing on Huston Street to face Jordy, who became the third ground ball out of the frame.

Stew had a pair of knocks today (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Jared Hughes toed the rubber and surrendered a two down double that didn't hurt; a couple of well hit balls by the Halos were turned into outs (one very nicely snared by Jordy) as three of the four batters Jared faced had 100 MPH+ exit speeds on the balls they hit. Gregory walked with an out, and JHK followed with a double to left, chasing El Coffee to third. Fly ball, plz! Well, not quite yet. Figgy came in to run for Jung Ho and Starling, pretty wisely, was intentionally walked to get to S-Rod. He got a slider away on the first toss, a ball begging to be lifted to right, but he rolled over on it, and the 6-4-3 DP ended the day.

The Pirates had bases loaded with one out and first and third with no outs, and neither resulted in a run. Tony Watson couldn't get the ball down and paid for it again. The Halos had a runner on first with two outs and plate a pair thanks to a misplayed fly. A lot of little things added up to a loss that shouldn't have been, as they have during the current 7-of-9 loss streak. Pittsburgh went 2-for-12 with RISP and stranded 11; those aren't very predictive numbers, but do point out that there was sufficient opportunity to put it away.

Part of it, of course, is health and to a degree, circumstance. Stew and S-Rod are depth, but they're not Fran and JJ, who has been AWOL due a recent spate of lefties without Freeser available this series. The bullpen has been better, but while some starters are in the minor league pipeline, the FO has been curiously quiet addressing the pen, which has the third highest xFIP in baseball at 4.51, with an ERA of 4.12 (3.56/3.23 in 2015).

Tony is living dangerously at the top of the strike zone (photo J Meric/Getty)

So we'll see where they stand at the All-Star beak. They have 33 games to go, and against a very chippy schedule - Mets (home and home), Cards (seven games), Cubs (two series), Giants, Dodgers, and Mariners, with Oakland as the only soft spot (and that's an away series) and the turnaround game at Colorado. So this stretch may make or break their post season chances.

  • JHK and Stew each had a pair of hits today.
  • A must see: Marte's catch in the seventh
  • This is the Pirates first loss of the year after leading after seven innings (now 27-1); they also lost only one seventh inning lead last year.
  • S-Rod whiffed twice and left six runners aboard. JHK, Starling and Josh each left four runners on, though they at least picked an RBI apiece.
  • Albert Pujols padded his visiting players HR lead at PNC Park when he hit his 30th bomb out of the yard.
  • The Pirates offered no updates on the conditions of Cutch, Fran and Freeser.
  • For those on the Jameson Taillon watch, Neil Huntington said on his Sunday radio show that JT will start at least once more for Indy; he's due on the hill 6/8.
  • Deolis Guerra is the only 2015 Buc on the Angels; the Pirates have a pair of last year's Halos with Matt Joyce and David Freese.

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