A statement victory

If you thought Tuesday night’s game was big for the Bucs, Wednesday’s game might have been even more important.  After the win on Tuesday, it wasn’t a must-win, but winning on Wednesday would give the Pirates the season-series win against the Cardinals, which could be extremely helpful in a wild card tie.  Wandy Rodriguez took the bump for the Bucs against one of the best offensive teams in the league, and lead the Pirates to their second straight shutout.

The first batter of the game was Jon Jay, and he drew a nine-pitch walk.  Not a great start, especially with the problems giving up first-inning runs the Pirates have had.  But Wandy buckled down, and got three straight outs to end any chance of a big inning.  Garrett Jones got the Bucs on the board when he smoked a two-out double to drive in Travis Snider, who also doubled.

From there, Rodriguez settled in and started to cruise.  He allowed just three hits and three walks in six innings, but all three walks came to Jay, who saw 24 pitches in those three plate appearances.  The most trouble Wandy got into was in the third when he gave up a walk and single with two outs, but got a flyout to end the inning.

It didn’t take long for the offense to get some more runs for Wandy.  With a runner on second and two outs, Jones drew a walk to bring up Pedro Alvarez.  He showed great patience at the plate, until Joe Kelly left a curveball hanging up and in.  Pedro turned on it, and it sailed high over the Clemente wall for his 26th homer of the year.  Not only did his hot streak continue, but his destruction of St. Louis in 2012 continued.  He’s now hitting .396 with seven home runs and 26 RBI against the Red Birds this year, which has been key to the Bucs winning the season-series.

Cutch led off the fifth with a single to CF, and he really seems to be finding his stroke again.  If he can get hot along with Pedro in September, there’s no telling how good this team could be.  But what he did next was something that is just plain stupid.  With Pedro up, he got thrown out trying to steal second.  Besides the obvious fact that this throws away an out, it also takes the bat out of the hottest hitter’s hands.  With McCutchen on first, there’s a huge hole between first and second, which Pedro could pull into.  Just having Cutch on first makes the Cardinals pitcher have to focus more on him than Pedro, which would give him more pitches to hit.  To make it worse, El Toro doubled into the gap, which would have easily scored Cutch.  Josh Harrison picked his teammate up with a two-out single to make it 5-0, which was the final.

Wandy was done after six innings and Tony Watson was the first reliever out of the bullpen.  After giving up a leadoff single, he got three straight outs.  Jason Grilli pitched a dominant 1-2-3 eighth, and Joel Hanrahan closed it out.

A couple of things stand out about this game and series in general.  The Pirates shut the Cardinals out in the final 21 innings of the series (from seventh inning in Monday’s game on.)  They also outscored St. Louis, who is one of the highest scoring teams with the best run-differential in the league, 17-4 in the three games.  What the Bucs proved to their fans and the rest of baseball is that they aren’t going anywhere.  They’ll be in the hunt through the end of the season, which should make for an unreal month of September.

Two other notes from after the game are that Gerrit Cole was promoted to Triple-A, and Alex Presley is SUPPOSEDLY coming back up.

Pirates (70-60) – Cardinals (71-59)

Win: Rodriguez (9-13)
Loss: Kelly (4-6)


Go Bucs

Bucs rout Cards with Pedro’s help

Tonight was by far the most important game of the season for the Pirates, and man did they show up.  James McDonald pitched a beauty and Pedro Alvarez hit two home runs that travelled a combined 891 feet as the Bucs went on to crush St. Louis by a score of 9-0.

J-Mac got off to a great start, and pitched a 1-2-3 scoreless first, something that he’s struggled with since the start of the second half.  The Pirates got on the board in the first when Garrett Jones hit a sac-fly.  And although they stranded runners on the corners, it was still nice to get an early lead.

With two outs and Josh Harrison on second base in the second inning, Jose Tabata (who has been very good in the leadoff spot since his return) singled to RF.  Carlos Beltran fielded it and made a nice throw home.  Yadier Molina made a nice catch on the short-hop, but Harrison was getting to the plate at the same time.  He lowered his shoulder and barreled right into Molina’s neck/collarbone area.  Obviously, Molina is the best defensive catcher in the game, and to no one’s surprise, he hung on to the ball for the third out.  When he got up, he was clearly woozy and was in no condition to stay in the game.  As far as whether or not the collision was a dirty play or not, it wasn’t.  It simply was two tough players fighting to get their teams into the playoffs.  It may have looked bad because Molina was low and couldn’t brace himself, but it was because of the late and low throw.  So far, there’s no official word on Yadi’s condition, but the concussion test came back negative.  Most Bucco fans hate Molina, but respect the fact that he’s a great catcher.  Any significant time without him would really hurt the Cardinals.

J-Mac kept cruising, and the Bucs started raking.  Cutch doubled off the LF wall in the third, and his swing looked great all day.  Two batters later, Pedro crushed his first home run of the game.  The 422-foot blast traveled over the North Side Notch and the 410 foot sign.  Jake Westbrook, who is one of the more successful sinker-ballers in the game, is tough on lefties.  But Pedro took a down-and-in sinker and crushed it to left-center.

The fifth inning was when the Pirates really busted the game open.  Pedro drove in a run with a double, and Michael McKenry drove in another with a base-hit.  J-Hay, who had an at-bat since the collision, was drilled on the first pitch of his AB.  It was clearly intentional and was a form of retaliation, so both benches were warned.  That’s pretty stupid, and Clint Hurdle thought so, too.  Why should the Pirates be warned for doing absolutely nothing?  Anyway, the inning continued with Clint Barmes knocking in two runs.  The Bucs ended up leaving the bases loaded, but the damage was done.

Pedro’s second homer came in the sixth.  With one out, he absolutely clobbered the pitch 469 feet over the riverwalk for the longest home run at PNC Park by a Pirate.  The crowd was going crazy as he rounded the bases for the 25th time.  They cheered him on for a curtain-call, and he responded by flashing the “Z” to everyone.  Travis Snider tripled in a run in the seventh, which made it 9-0.

McDonald was done after seven great innings.  He gave up just two hits, and struck out six.  His curveball was right on, and he was working quickly.  That’s the J-Mac we saw in the first half, and we need to keep seeing if the Bucs are going to make the postseason.  Chris Resop was the first out of the bullpen and he gave up two hits right off the bat.  He got a huge strikeout, but then the St. Louis pitcher loaded the bases with an infield-hit.  Although the Bucs were up by nine, it didn’t feel too safe against a team that can strike quickly like the Cardinals.  Resop responded by inducing a 5-4-3 inning-ending DP to keep the Cards off the board.  Hisanori Takahashi pitched a quick ninth inning to complete the shutout.

In addition to his 4-5 day with 11 total bases, Pedro also played great defense.  He made a top-ten play on a diving stop, and started a key double play.  This could be the game that sparks one of his unreal hot streaks.

A win wasn’t absolutely needed tonight, but a loss would have been pretty devastating.  Glad to see the Bucs stepped up, and played like they’re fighting for a playoff-birth.  Let’s keep it up.

Pirates (69-60) – Cardinals (71-58)

Win: McDonald (12-6)
Loss: Westbrook (13-10)


Go Bucs

Cardinals win game one

A pretty miserable game which included a rain delay ended with the Cardinals taking the first game of the series.

A.J. Burnett wasn’t great, going 5.2 innings and giving up four runs on seven hits
Kyle Lohse went five innings and gave up two runs.
– Both starters’ outings were cut short by the rain delay.
– Cutch had two hits and and RBI, and looked much better at the plate.
Josh Harrison and Clint Barmes each drove in runs, but the Bucs just couldn’t come back against the Cardinals bullpen.
Jason Motte closed out the win for St. Louis.

Pirates (68-60) – Cardinals (71-57)

Win: Lohse (14-2)
Loss: Burnett (15-5)
Save: Motte (31)


Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates vs. Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals

August 27, 2012 7:05 pm
August 28, 2012 7:05 pm
August 29, 2012 7:05 pm

PNC Park

Probable Pitchers
A.J. Burnett (15-4, 3.63 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (13-2, 2.61 ERA)
James McDonald (11-6, 3.73 ERA) vs. Jake Westbrook (13-9, 3.67 ERA)
Wandy Rodriguez (1-4, 4.86 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (4-5, 3.26 ERA)

Go Bucs

19 inning affair

It only took six hours and seven minutes for the Pirates to take down the Cardinals 6-3.  In nineteen innings, the Bucs used eight pitchers, and they combined to throw 281 pitches.  The game was really a rollercoaster of sadness and frustration, until the Pirates won it in the final inning.  Here’s an inning-by-inning breakdown:

1st inning: Jaime Garcia and Jeff Karstens each throw scoreless innings, and Garcia strikes out the side.

2nd inning: Bucs get a leadoff single, but can’t get anything going.

3rd inning: Garcia picks up his sixth strikeout, Karstens has a no-hitter going.

4th inning: Karstens gives up a two-run double to Carlos Beltran, but is able to strand him at third.

5th inning: Both teams go down 1-2-3, Garcia continues mowing the Bucs down.

6th inning: Pirates finally get something going.  Clint Barmes singles, and Karstens reaches on a misplayed bunt.  Jose Tabata lays down a bunt, moving both runners up.  Josh Harrison gets the Bucs on the board with a sacrifice-fly, and Cutch ties it up with an infield single.

7th inning: Another leadoff single gets erased by a double play for the Pirates.

8th inning: Karstens is done after seven innings.  He gives up two runs on two hits, and strikes out four.  Jason Grilli pitches a 1-2-3 inning.

9th inning: Kevin Correia comes out of the bullpen and gives up a leadoff single.  He retires the next three batters, and sends the game to extra innings.

10th inning: Mitchell Boggs gives up two two-out walks, but Garrett Jones strikes out to end the inning.  Correia pitches another scoreless inning.

11th inning: J-Hay hits a one-out triple, and Cutch is intentionally walked.  Neil Walker makes a pinch-hit appearance and grounds into an inning-ending DP.  Chris Resop sets the Cardinals down in order.

12th inning: Joe Kelly enters for St. Louis and throws a 1-2-3 inning.  Resop pitches his second inning of relief.

13th inning: Tabata draws a two-out walk, and gets picked off by catcher Yadier Molina.  Resop pitches his third and final inning.

14th inning: Joel Hanrahan enters the game.  With two outs and a runner on first, he throws a wild pitch that advances the runner to second.  Molina walks, and the runner gets to third on ball four.  Tabata makes a nice running catch in foul territory to end the inning and keep the game going.

15th inning: Kelly sets the Pirates down in order again, and Jared Hughes gets the game to the 16th.

16th inning: Jones leads off the inning with a double, but gets thrown out at third when Tabata lays down a poor bunt.  Hughes pitches another inning of relief.

17th inning: James McDonald pinch hits with one out, and strokes a single to CF.  With two outs, he gets to second on a wild pitch.  Pedro Alvarez is intentionally walked, and Barmes gets hit by a pitch to load up the bases.  Marc Rzepczynski replaces Kelly, and Jones drives in a run on an infield single off the mound.  Tabata lines out to end the inning, leaving the bases loaded.  Juan Cruz comes in for the save, and immediately serves up two singles.  He gets a lineout, but then gives up a game-tying sacrifice-fly.  He gets out of the inning, and we head to the 18th.

18th inning: Fernando Salas strikes out the first two batters, and Jordy Mercer doubles with two down.  Rod Barajas – the last position player for the Bucs – pinch-hits and pops out.  Wandy Rodriguez, who was scheduled to start the series-opener in San Diego tomorrow, comes in.  With one on and two out, pitcher Adam Wainwright pinch-hits for the Cardinals.  Wandy walks him, but strikes out Skip Schumaker to end the inning.

19th inning: With one out, Pedro takes southpaw Barret Browning deep to make it 4-3.  Barmes singles, and after a flyout, Tabata doubles.  Barmes should have scored, but he wasn’t looking at his 3B coach and had to hold up at third.  J-Hay walks to load the bases.  Cutch makes them pay as he ropes a two-run single to RF, and the Bucs go up 6-3.  Wandy comes back out, and sets the Cards down 1-2-3 to earn his first win as a Pirate.

Some stats about the game:
Michael McKenry and David Freese both go 0-8.
– Both teams combine to leave 26 runners on base, and go 4-19 with RISP.
– Pedro’s bomb was the first and only by either team in the series.  It was also the latest home run (by inning) hit in a game since 2000.

It’s pretty incredible that even though the Steeler game had just started at 8:00, most people were still locked into the Bucco game as the extra innings went on.  There’s no doubt that this team has been struggling and underachieving in August.  When teams go on a late-season playoff push, there’s usually some sort of turning point.  This game could absolutely be it.  A reverse Jerry Meals, maybe…?

There should also be a few roster moves to accommodate for all of the relievers (and starters) that were used.

Pirates (67-54) – Cardinals (65-56)

Win: Rodriguez (8-12)
Loss: Browning (1-3)


Go Bucs