Season in Pictures: June 2012


June 3rd, 2012
Andrew McCutchen is congratulated by Garrett Jones and James McDonald after knocking a two-run homer against Milwaukee. The Bucs started the month on the right foot by taking two of three from the Brew Crew.


June 7th, 2012
Michael McKenry flashes the Zoltan after driving in the go-ahead run in the tenth inning off Aroldis Chapman. It was Chapman’s first earned run of the season, and the Bucs won, 5-4.


June 10th, 2012
Jason Grilli and Rod Barajas celebrate the sweep of the Kansas City Royals. After a Cincinnati loss on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, the Pirates moved into first place.


June 16-17, 2012
Pedro Alvarez enjoyed two two-homer games in a row while the Pirates took the series from the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.


June 21st, 2012
Clint Hurdle congratulates James McDonald on his first career complete game. The Pirates defeated the Twins, 9-1.


June 29th, 2012
Andrew McCutchen is greeted at home plate by Jose Tabata and Alex Presley after his three-run home run in the ninth inning. Cutch went 4 for 5 with three RBI, four runs scored, a homer, a double, and a walk, as the Bucs cruised to a 14-5 victory.

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The ship keeps sinking

It’s been a tough stretch of game the past six weeks for the Bucs, culminating with their record reaching .500 last night, and falling below tonight.  Fittingly, the Brewers completed the sweep with a comeback win that brought the Pirates to 74-75.

Wednesday:

Kyle McPherson made his first career start.  The Brewers got out to an early lead when Norichika Aoki hit the second pitch of the game into the seats for a home run.  McPherson settled down for a few inning, before giving up one more run in the fifth.  He was pulled after 4.1 innings.

Marco Estrada was dominant for seven innings, giving up no runs on three hits.  He was the difference in the game, driving in two runs himself, which won the 3-1 game for the Brewers.

John Axford came in for the save with the 3-0 lead, but couldn’t keep the Pirates off the board as Andrew McCutchen crushed a lead-off home run to the opposite field.  With one out, Pedro Alvarez reached on a broken-bat single, bringing the tying-run to the plate.  But Axford calmed down, retiring the next two batters to get the save.

The Pirates went 0-5 with runners in scoring position, and left six men on base.

Pirates (74-74) – Brewers (76-72)

Win: Estrada (4-6)
Loss: McPherson (0-1)
Save: Axford (30)

BOX SCORE

Thursday:

The Pirates sent Wandy Rodriguez to the mound to restore some order and get the team back above .500.  The Brewers got three runs off Wandy in the first before he even got an out, and wasn’t looking too optimistic.  They got one more in the third, but the Bucs kept fighting.

Cutch smashed his 30th home run of the year – a three-run bomb to CF – and suddenly the Pirates were back in this game.  They loaded the bases in the fourth with two singles and a walk, and Wandy was pulled for a pinch-hitter.  Alex Presley grounded into a fielder’s choice that brought home one run, but there were still runners on the corners.  Presley moved up on a wild pitch, which set a great opportunity for Starling Marte to give the Bucs the lead with just a sac-fly.  He struck out swinging, and Travis Snider couldn’t come through with two outs, but at least the game was tied.

Jared Hughes was the first guy out of the bullpen and overcame an error in the fifth to pitch a scoreless inning.  He got into a jam in the sixth, but Tony Watson came in to retire the last two batters and keep the game tied.

Suddenly, the Bucs exploded and turned the game completely around.  Clint Barmes blasted a solo shot that made it 5-4, but that was just the beginning.  Rod Barajas brought his average back to .200 with a single, and Jeff Clement doubled him over to third.  Marte singled in one run, and stole second off of Jose Veras to put runners on second and third. Snider kept it rolling with a sacrifice-fly, and the Bucs took a three-run lead.

Jason Grilli made a rare seventh inning-appearance, which was the right move against the meat of the Milwaukee order.  He hit Ryan Braun and walked a batter, but got through the inning with the score still at 7-4.  With Grilli done, someone else would have to get the game to Joel Hanrahan, and Clint Hurdle called on Chad Qualls.  We all knew what was coming next.

Qualls threw two pitches and both were hit for singles.  He got the first out, but then gave up a double to Norchika Aoki that scored one run.  Chris Resop came in to get through the inning, but couldn’t get the job done.  After intentionally-walking Braun, he gave up a two-run triple to Rickie Weeks into the notch, and the game was suddenly 8-7 in favor of the Brewers.

Milwaukee got one more run in the ninth, but the Bucs had no chance of coming back against Axford, anyway.  Very, very, very depressing loss.

Pirates (74-75) – Brewers (77-72)

Win: Manny Parra (2-3)
Loss: Resop (1-4)
Save: Axford (31)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs…meh

Offensive showcase ends with sweep

It’s hard to think of three worse ways to lose and get swept out of Milller Park.  After two rough games on Friday and Saturday, the Brewers beat up the Bucs again on Sunday with a final of 12-8.

With two outs in the top of the first Gaby Sanchez drove in a huge run to get an early lead. Looking pretty good, right?  Well, James McDonald came out and walked the first batter he faced on four pitches.  There’s your indicator that this would be the bad J-Mac.  After the next batter reached, Ryan Braun destroyed a first-pitch fastball for a three-run homer.

Just when it looked like this was going to be one of “those” games, Michael McKenry led off the second with a home run to make it 3-2.  After two innings, the Pirates had forced Yovani Gallardo to throw 44 pitches, so at least both pitchers were struggling.  But just like that, the Brewers got three more runs in the bottom off the second.  A solo home run by Jeff Bianchi and a two-run shot by Rickie Weeks made it 6-2.  The strange thing about J-Mac’s first two innings was that there wasn’t an in-play out recorded.  All six outs came on strikeouts, and three balls left the park.

The offense continued in the third when Gallardo walked two batters to load the bases.  With two outs, The Fort drove in two more runs, answering back once again.  Unfortunately, McDonald came out for the third and gave the runs right back.  Carlos Gomez clobbered the fourth Milwaukee homer of the game, making it 8-4.  J-Mac’s day was done after just 2.2 innings.  He gave up eight runs on six hits and struck out six.  Chris Leroux came in for his 2012 debut and got the last out of the third.  With all of these home runs to this point, the only thing missing was a pitcher hitting one out.  And that’s exactly what Gallardo did to lead off the fourth.  By now, Bernie Brewer was getting fatigued.  Aramis Ramirez knocked in two more runs later in that inning.

Somehow, the Bucs just wouldn’t go away.  Gaby hit a two-run bomb in the fifth, cutting the lead to 11-6.  Later in the inning with two outs, Brock Holt, who picked up his first major league hit in the fourth and looked great in the leadoff spot all game, bounced an RBI-single up the middle.  Justin Wilson was the next reliever out of the bullpen, and pitched the first scoreless inning for the Bucs.  Cue the comeback, right?

Garrett Jones continued the slugfest with a home run of his own in the sixth.  That made it 11-8.  Wilson came back out for another inning and gave up three straight hits, with the third one being an RBI-single for Ramirez.  Keep in mind that while all of this was going on, the Brewers were stealing bases at will.  With two on and still no outs, Chris Resop came in to clean up the mess.  He got a forceout, strikeout, and popout to strand both runners and keep the deficit at four.  No one will remember this, but it was an awesome job by Resop to get out of the jam.

Resop and Tony Watson, along with the late-inning guys in the Milwaukee pen really restored order in the last few innings.  The majority of the scoring was done against the starters.  We’ve seen McDonald struggle badly, especially in the second half.  But this has to be his worst start of 2012 and possibly his career in Pittsburgh.  There’s really nothing to say about it.  He’s just inconsistent, and it’s brought down the Bucs since the midway point.

The first two batters in the ninth reached against Manny Parra, which brought in John Axford.  He shut down any chance of a comeback in the ninth with two strikeouts to end the game and get the save.

Even with the sweep, the Pirates didn’t lose much ground in the standings.  St. Louis and Atlanta both struggled all weekend, so the Bucs are very much still in the race.  The Astros and Cubs will come into town next, and if the Pirates lose either one of those series, it very well may be time to hit the panic button.

Pirates (70-63) – Brewers (65-58)

Win: Kameron Loe (5-4)
Loss: McDonald (12-7)
Save: Axford (23)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Terrors at Miller Park continue

Although it looked like the Bucs were turning it around against the Brewers in 2012, this series seems to be reverting back to the 2009 Bucs-Brewers games.  Despite a great pitching performance, the offense couldn’t pick up the slack, and Milwaukee walked-off to win the series.

A.J. Burnett – who has struggled of late – turned in an impressive start.  He actually had a no-hitter going after five innings, but wouldn’t factor into the decision.  Pedro Alvarez got the Pirates on the board with his 27th home run of the year – a solo shot to left-center off of Marco Estrada.  The Brewers tied it up on some absolutely horrible defense in the third.  Carlos Gomez walked to start the inning, and stole his way to third.  Rod Barajas had no chance to throw him out, and wasn’t helped by the fact that A.J. barely holds runners on.  With Estrada at the plate, Gomez broke for home on what looked like a straight steal.  The pitch got right by Barajas, which allowed Gomez to tie the game.

Cutch stroked a one-out double to CF in the fourth, but couldn’t get knocked in.  Burnett did a nice job to retire Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart with a runner on second and keep the game tied.  In the sixth, the Bucs got their only big opportunity against Estrada.  With the bases loaded, Pedro came up.  At the moment, he’s the guy you want up there in that situation.  With a full count, he fouled off four straight pitches before taking strike three on the corner.  A questionable call, but too close to sit back a watch, especially after fouling off four straight.

Estrada finished the seventh with four hits given up and ten strikeouts.  Definitely an impressive start, but the Bucs could/should have hit him.  In the Brewers’ half of the seventh, Burnett walked Hart with one out.  After a groundout moved him up to second, Gomez struck again with a go-ahead RBI-double.  That knocked A.J. from the game after a 6.2 inning-two hit-nine strikeout-start.  Jared Hughes got the last out of the inning, and A.J. would have to hope for a no-decision.

Brock Holt made his ML debut as a pinch-hitter and drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the eighth.  He was sacrificed over to second, and with two outs, Cutch came up.  He splintered his bat, but got a ball to drop into shallow CF for a single that tied the game.  The RBI was also his 80th of the season.

With the game now tied, Jason Grilli looked to get the game to the ninth with the same score.  He gave up a swinging-bunt single that turned into a double thanks to Barajas throwing the ball away.  Just when things started to look bleak, Nyjer Morgan stepped up. He’s been known to do some stupid stuff, and this time was no different.  He decided he was going to bunt for a hit rather than just getting one down to move the runner to third.  This backfired, and he struck out bunting.  Grilli got a foulout, and then walked Ryan Braun intentionally to get to Ramirez.  Not that Ramirez hasn’t killed the Pirates, but facing him with a force-out intact is much safer than facing Braun with just a runner on second.  He fell behind 0-2 before popping out to end the inning.  Fantastic work by the SACK man.

John Axford came in for the ninth, and we all saw firsthand last weekend how shaky he’s been.  After getting two quick outs, he gave up a single.  Michael McKenry and Gaby Sanchez had great ABs and walked to load the bases for Alex Presley.  After taking ball one, he looked at three straight strikes, right in the zone.  Absolutely atrocious, and we all knew what was coming next.

Clint Hurdle gave the ball to Joel Hanrahan despite the tie game, which was the right move.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as the second pitch he threw was crushed over the wall by Corey Hart for a walk-off home run.

This is one of those sickening losses.  It just sucks.  But when you give up four easy stolen bases and then strike out looking with the bases loaded twice, you kind of deserve to lose.   It’s just a shame that A.J.’s two-hitter was wasted.

Pirates (70-62) – Brewers (64-68)

Win: Axford (5-7)
Loss: Hanrahan (4-1)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Stupid Brewers

After a great series against the Cardinals, the Bucs headed to Milwaukee.  The first game of the series didn’t go the Pirates’ way at all, but there were a few silver linings.

Jeff Karstens‘ start was cut short when he left after just getting one out due to a hip injury.  Aramis Ramirez drove in two runs and Corey Hart hit a two-run homer.  Kyle McPherson pitched 1.2 innings of relief and gave up a run.

From there, it was mostly downhill.  Offensively, the Bucs had a few opportunities but couldn’t cash in.  Josh Harrison‘s leadoff double in the third was wasted, and he later popped out with runners on second and third with one out.  Garrett Jones hit his career-high 22nd home run, and Gaby Sanchez scored after a double.  Alex Presley knocked in a run in the ninth, but it was too late by then.

Kevin Correia pitched four great innings of relief, which really kept the Pirates in the game.  Jared Hughes pitched one scoreless inning, and after seven innings, it was still a close game at 5-2.  After the first three relievers kept the Bucs in the game, Hisanori Takahashi came in and got rocked.  He gave up four runs in the eighth, including a two-run to Ramirez.

Despite the rough loss, Presley looked good at the plate, going 2-4 with two RBI in his return.  Pedro went 2-3 with a walk, and looked great in his plate appearances.  A lineup without Cutch or Walker clearly has trouble scoring runs.  The rosters have been expanded, and we’ll start September baseball tomorrow.  Time to get going.

Pirates (70-61) – Brewers (63-68)

Win: Mark Rogers (3-1)
Loss: Karstens (5-4)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs