Where have you been, James McDonald? The Pittsburgh Pirates enigma struck out nine Atlanta Braves and out-dueled Paul Maholm at PNC Park on Andrew McCutchen Bobblehead Night. Everyone expected the King to return to PNC Park, right? Right?
The first inning is typically the mayhem for McDonald. But not last night.
After his last outing, everyone believed the Bucco right hander was just one more bad outing away from a trip to the DL – surely, something was wrong. Right? Right?
It couldn’t have been further from the truth and JMaKKKKKKKKK was on display in the first inning.
B.J. Upton took a good look at the JMac slider–yeah, the slider returned–for a called strike three. Jason Heyward whiffed at a McDonald curveball, and then the final whiff of the inning–Justin Upton was no match for another slider.
The King had returned.
Maybe the reason why was new catcher, er… third baseman, Russell Martin , who showed McDonald his strikeout reel before the game.
He didn’t have to say anything at all. We just watched all of those strikeouts. It gave me confidence out there. He came up big for me today, pulling me aside and doing that for me. James McDonald.
We watched James McDonald pitch like he did in the first inning for oh, so long last season, but then he vanished in the second half of 2012. And since his All-Star-esque first half of 2012, the JMac we all love and adore was replaced by some evil twin.
And, in true fashion, when McDonald came back out for the second inning, it wasn’t JMac–it was that damned twin.
The confidence seemed gone. Or something. Who knows? It’s JMac.
The right-hander beaned cult hero Evan Gattis to start the inning. Then Chris Johnson doubled off the glove of Starling Marte deep in the North Side Notch in left, which set the table. Instead of bearing down, McDonald walked the bases loaded.
It was all about to end again.
And then it clicked Juan Francisco stuck out on three pitches–the first of four for him on the chilly night at PNC. The King was back in command.
But then, McDonald walked in a run. The wheels were about to come off, right? Wrong. He came back to strikeout the last two batters to end the inning. It all makes sense, right?
When asked after the game what was different in the second, McDonald dropped the bomb.
I pitched out of the stretch. But I felt better today. I had more life. More energy.
McDonald does suck out of the stretch. Unfortunately, he has pitched a lot from the stretch in the past year. But the lack of energy last time out is odd. Hello, is this Five Hour Energy? We have a client for you. But jokes aside, JMac does suck out of the stretch. Big. Time.
The Bucs offense came alive against Maholm, powered by a two-run bomb by Gaby Sanchez–or #Gabulous. The homer put a stop to former ‘hard-luck-Buc’ Maholm’s scoreless inning streak–which ended at 25.2 IP.
The Bucs bullpen got the job done with clean innings. The combination of Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli got the job done. The Bucs’ closer struck out the side in the ninth inning for his sixth save.
JMac touched 93 on the gun, sat around 90. He got 15 swing-and-misses. He struckout nine.
And on Andrew McCutchen bobblehead night, Andrew McCutchen came up big at the plate with a timely double off the Clemente Wall.