On a gorgeous day at The Great American Ballpark, Nyjer Morgan lead off the game with a hustling double off the end of the bat. Not so fast….the Pirates stranded their only scoring threat. And then didn’t get near second base again. Frustrating. Aaron Harang held the Pirates to three hits.
Harang got himself in trouble with his fastball in the past. It looks like he isn’t in love with it anymore. And that meant trouble today for the Pirates who weren’t able to catch up with his assortment of off speed pitches. Harang took advantage of a strike zone the size of your favorite Shopping Mall’s Easter Bunnies head. He painted the ‘corners’ throughout and we commend him for taking advantage of it. The Pirates didn’t get many hits, but more frustrating was the balls that were hit were mostly hit very weakly.
The Reds jumped on the scoreboard when Brandon Phillips took an 88mph fastball that stayed over the heart of the plate into the seats off starter Ian Snell for a 2-0 Reds lead. Unlike the Pirates, the Reds had a few chances, but couldn’t bust it open as Snell pitched better as the game progressed.
In the second, Harang didn’t top 82 mph in getting ahead on each of the Pirate batters. 1-2-3 inning for Harang.
How many walks given up by Harang against the Mets?
Bottom third Snell began to look strong. He quickly got up 0-2 on Taveras then threw a 91 mph heater that sawed him off. One down
He then issued a walk and Joey Votto came to the plate. Snell worked away and then a 92mph heater got a swing and a miss. He went away twice more before he got Votto to full count with an 87mph swing and a miss. Snell hit the 50 pitch mark and his next fastball, 93mph, Votto put off the wall in left.
Brandon Phillips then grounded out on the first pitch to LaRoche at third. Snell struck out Jay Bruce to get the Pirates out of the jam with the following mix of speeds…92 swing and miss, 81 foul, 94 fouled back, 82 away, and then the K came on a 77mph pitch Bruce couldn’t catch up to. Snell got Pirates out of it
Snell looked great in the fourth. Three pitch strikeout. Four pitch strikeout, and then Gonzalez battled after getting behind 0 2 in count, fouling off three pitches before he lifted the ball to the warning track in left where Morgan grabbed it.
Harang continued the soft tossing (or the radar gun was off?)and as he hit 50 pitch mark, Brandon Moss cracked a two out single to left. Harang rarely threw faster than 85 in his first 50 pitches and Wilson hit one of the faster balls, (89mph) thrown by Harang into left field for the third out.
Snell walked Harang to start the bottom of fifth. Harang was moved over by a Taveras bunt. Dickerson then dropped a single in front of McLouth for a single. A missed cutoff on the McLouth throw allowed Dickerson to take second on a close play and nice tag by Freddy Sanchez putting runners on second and third.
Snell continued to throw in the low 90s to Votto with first base open mixing in a 77mph change to take the count to 2-2. A 93mph heater made it full and then an 83 mph nasty slider made Votto look silly with a Phil Mickelson like lob shot swing and a miss.
First pitch 83mph slider to phillips for strike one before falling behind 3-1 with Craig Hansen and Sean Burnett warming in the pen. Snell threw his fifth breaking ball in a row, an 83mph slider, and it caused a swing and a miss. Full count. He threw another 84mph slider and Phillips hit a check-swing comebacker in front of Snell who hustled off the mound and threw to LaRoche for the final out.
After a strikeout to Bruce to start the sixth inning, Encarnacion banged a single up the middle on Snell’s 100th pitch of the afternoon.
Hernandez took ball one, then a 90mph strike, he swung and missed on an 84mph sinker to make it 1-2. Hernandez then reached for a Snell 86mph slider hitting it up the middle. Jack Wilson dove, snared the ball and flipped it to Sanchez who had to reach out far to his left before pivoting and throwing the ball with some zip to LaRoche for a double play that will run for a long time on the jumbotron in Pittsburgh.
Snell and the Pirates were out of another jam.
In the top of seventh, McLouth battled Harang and his pinpoint control and on a 2-2 pitch he popped to third. Ryan Doumit hit the first pitch hard right at Phillips. And Adam LaRoche became seventh Pirate in a row to be sat down by Harang when he struck out swinging.
Craig Hansen entered the game in bottom of seventh. He got two quick outs before Taveras popped an inside out swing into left center for a single. Taveras, the AL stolen base leader last year with the Rockies, stole second without a throw from Doumit. Hansen then went 3-0 on Dickerson, before battling back to 3-2 with a nasty breaking ball. Hansen then made the questionable choice of throwing the pitch again and the rookie walked.
Sean Burnett quickly came in from the bullpen to pitch to Votto. He struck Votto out looking after some entertaining pickoff attempts of
Taveras and a few fine defensive plays by Doumit on pitches in the dirt.
I shook my head most of the eighth as Harang sent the Pirates down in order. Again.
Then Jesse Chavez came in for the Bucs and before you knew it, Bruce was on first and Phillips on second. Encarnacion hit a blooper into left, easily grabbed by Wilson who threw to Sanchez to double up Phillips. By then, Bruce was already at second, and Sanchez threw to LaRoche to complete the first triple play since 1993. ”I didn’t know it was a triple play,” Phillips said. ”I thought it was a bloop to left, and I was running to touch home plate.”
I really shook my head at some of the Reds decisions in this series.
Today was a game that scares me. Pitchers on the comback trail entirely shut us down in the past week. Harang struck out nine batters and didn’t issue a walk. That worries me.
Nyjer had a single in the ninth, his fourth multi-hit game of the week. It wasn’t enough as he was stranded by the Pirates. Again. McLouth struck out for the third time to end the game.
Bring on the Astros