Karstens Stranded by the Allegheny; Bucs Lose 5-1


12300+ fans at PNC Park.

Pitching was solid.

Plenty of hits.

The key elements of a sweep were right there for the Pirates to break out the brooms and knock out the division leaders.

Nothing was quite enough.

It didn’t happen.

One baserunning blunder

One wild pitch led to two crucial runs

No timely hits

12300+ left shaking their heads

We fast forward to what we want to talk about. Nate struggles against the Cards.  Jeff Karstens is a tough kid.

In the fifth inning and for the third time in the game, Nate McLouth had Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez staring at him from the basepaths. Nate was 0 for 6 in the series. The Cards had to be thinking, we surely can’t be swept by THESE Pirates. 

And just like that another opportunity was earned.   A balk called by second base umpire Randy Marsh put them both in scoring position.

Nate walked.

And then the heads began to shake. LaRoche fouled out and
Robinzon Diaz left them full when, after battling to a full count, he flew out to left field.

Karstens cruised through an easy 123 sixth. It would be his last.  After the game, the soft spoken Karstens said, “my sinker was terrible tonight.  The home run (by Rasmus) killed me.”

That second inning was the killer.  He threw 24 pitches.  15 were strikes.

It was an inning that last year would typically send Pirates pitchers off the plank, drive the fans to the refrigerator or to the beer stand, and make us think bad, bad thoughts.

Beer sales might have went up, I can’t confirm that fact, but Karstens actually pitched better.  He came back out in the third and  he threw ten pitches.  Ten more pitches in the fourth.  Eleven in the fifth.  Nine in the sixth.   Of those forty pitches, thirty were strikes.

After the game, he spoke like a pitcher that knew he wasn’t going to get a lot of runs.  The thing that caught me was this tidbit he added at the end of the interview, “I will be back on the mound tomorrow working on stuff.”

What more can you ask?

I think it is safe to say that Jeff Karstens made this team because he listens to his coaches.  He works hard (he mentioned about noticing the stance of Albert Pujols in various at bats.)  And most importantly, he battles when he doesn’t have his best stuff. 

A bomb like Rasmus hit can shake most pitchers with the experience level of Karstens.  Say what you want about Joe Kerrigan, I say this…whatever ‘it’ is that he has,  ‘it’  is working.

The hits kept coming in the sixth when Eric Hinske laid down a beautiful bunt down the third base line as Thurston was playing back on the dirt. A smiling Hinske stood at first and brought to mind the Mike Lange line after a Penguins goal, ‘ahhhhh, he’s smiling like a butchers dog.’

Unfortunately, the Bucs failed to make it hurt.  Moss quickly went 0-2 and then fanned. And by the time Kyle McClellan entered the game, the Bucs had recorded ten hits. Nine of them singles.

Wilson popped out after also attempting a bunt basehit. Delwyn Young, 4 for 9 as a pinch hitter this year, hit for Karstens and struckout on a check swing which stranded Hinske.

Thus it was up to the bullpen to hold the Cards. Could it happen?

Evan Meek made it look easy early. He got a flyout to the warning track, strikeout in the dirt, and another strikeout on a hard breaking ball.

The door was open for the Pirates after two straight 123 innings by Karstens and Meek.

Nyjer started it off in the seventh with his second walk to go with his two hits on the night. Could they possibly set up Nate again? No.

Sanchez broke his bat and hit a two hopper to the pitcher who stabbed the ball, ducked the bat, and fired a strike to second baseman Schumaker who made a good pivot, but a poor throw to Pujols.  The umpire ruled Sanchez out.  The throw appeared to pull Pujols off the bag, but a replay proved otherwise.  JR trotted out to let the crew know he didn’t agree with the call.

Yes, JR did come out of the dugout.  It’s true.

And with nobody on base after the double play, Nate had a base hit to left field. Arrrrrrrrrghhh. And as it happened all night, McLouth was stranded when 1B LaRoche went down swinging to end the inning.

In the eighth with Meek still on the mound, Jack Wilson made a dazzling play on the outfield grass on a sharp liner by Schumaker, but barely missed recording the out with a bang bang play. A weak hit to right by Robinson set the stage for Pujols with runners on first and second.

Meek threw him two breaking balls for strikes.  Then a crucial wild pitch moved the runners up.

The Pirates had to move the infield in.

Pujols hit a soft chopper that made it back through the middle of the diamond to score both runners making it 5-1 Cards. It pushed Pujols RBI number to 37 on the season and brought Sean Burnett into the game.

Pujols got a huge jump on Burnett and took off for second.  Diaz still nearly threw him out. With runners at first and second after an intentional walk, Brandon Moss made another sparkling catch in right center field and doubled Pujols off second to get the Pirates out of a frustrating inning.

Something that interests only me:  I can only imagine how fast Moss was before the knee injury.  Sorry Nady lovers, but the XMan doesn’t get near that ball.

Bottom of the eighth started when Diaz flewout to the warning track. 3B LaRoche batted for Hinske.  He whiffed.

Moss hit a double off the America’s on Switch/Consol Energy sign.  (You know we wouldn’t have night baseball if it weren’t for the coal that they provide. Thanks Consol Energy.)

The double by Moss chased Reyes.  The hard throwing Chris Perez got Wilson to flyout to center stranding Moss (the tenth runner left on base).

J Chavez bounced back from his rough outing with a 123 ninth inning.

Bring on the Colorado Rockies.

Moss had 7 hits in 12AB in the series

Never make the first out at third base: Diaz getting gunned at third was a tough one to watch. Everyone in the yard could see it coming except Robinzon.

The inning started when1B LaRoche roped one that took a quirky bounce off the wall in right field  for a triple. Diaz singled into RF. Then when a ball bounced off Pujols glove, Diaz struggled finding second base.  He lunged to tag it with his foot.  After he touched it, he didn’t look up at 3B coach Beasley and tried to chug to third. He was dead.

Moss singled which of course would have been the tying run. Wilson hit into DP. Inning over.

Rasmus became number 18 to put a ball in the river. Bouncing of course.  Nobody has matched Daryle Ward.  Yet.

Cards Defense:

The Cards turned the DP ball at crucial times. McLouth in the third, Wilson in the fourth and Sanchez in the seventh. Their DP combo is far from a thing of beauty, but it was effective tonight.

Andrew McCutchen is hot. Heading into tonight against struggling Rochester, in the last six games he was hitting
.314 11 r 6 rbi 7bb.

Playing Rochester certainly helps the stats for Cutch as he added four more hits tonight to boost his numbers.