Did Pirates 6-5 Win Erase Question Marks?
By Tom Smith
Pittsburgh Pirates Call of Duty: Bring home a .500 road trip. The Pirates got the big win they needed. They proved to me they are mentally tougher than last season. The Bucs 6-5 victory last evening ties the series. There was a stretch….. when 14 straight Bucs were mowed down by Giants pitchers. But the Bucs bounced back in the eighth inning in large part due to a Giants error. But without timely hitting the Pirates still don’t win this game tonight. The Bucs got big outs defensively at very big times. But the key for me was the pitching of Evan Meek, who shut the door on the Giants.
Meek was able to get out of the sixth inning giving up just one hit and then in the seventh Meek was able to strikeout the leadoff man Edgar Renteria. For five straight innings, the Pirates were unable to do that and luckily for the Bucs, the Giants were able to score just two runs from those opportunities. Meek also got Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huff to complete his seventh inning. Meek was the first Pirate pitcher to get Panda in two games.
In the eighth inning, the Giants gave the Pirates a gift when Edgar Renteria dropped a certain double play. The Bucs made them pay. Garrett Jones delivered three hits with runners in scoring positions and his defense was crucial. Aki Iwamura hit a solo homer in the third. Andy LaRoche hit a solo homer in the ninth for a key insurance run. Octavio Dotel gave up a two run blast to Eugenio Velez, but was able to get his second save after the dust settled.
The King of Havoc tonight: Andrew McCutchen scored three runs, stole two bases, and gave his OPS a serious move upward. He had his game face on during every plate appearance. He made only one out.
Maholm had a phenomenal play. Here is the video.
I was looking for a reliever to just shut the damn door on this Giants team. Meek did that.
Aki is the real deal at the plate. I trust he is getting closer to being completely healthy.
Ryan Church had another rip. Andy LaRoche is back from the dead.
Jones answered my question about how long he would stay in a rut. He battled. He hit with RISP. He looked like he went to see a faith healer last night and took Ryan Doumit with him. Both showed improvement at the plate, especially Jones. I was just thrilled to see Ryan rip a ball from the left side.
I do have one more question, but will save it for tomorrow.
First Inning: Aki Iwamura grounded sharply to short to lead off the game. Andrew McCutchen hit a single through the left side. And on a 1-1 count to Lastings Milledge, Cutch stole second. The Pirates are nine for nine in steals to lead the league. Milledge grounded to the right side on a pitch that was up and in for the second out. Garrett Jones, stuck in an 0-for-12 rut, went with the pitch from Matt Cain that was up in the zone and scalded a double to the left field corner driving in McCutchen from third.
Ryan Doumit worked a walk and the Bucs seemed ready to score with some two out lightning. Jeff Clement didn’t get the weather report and grounded out to short to strand Jones and Doumit. 1-0 Bucs
Aaron Rowand flew out to McCutchen on a 1-1 pitch that was up. Edgar Renteria, who had a career 333 average off Pirate starter Paul Maholm, chased another ball up in the zone on a 2-2 pitch to pop out to shallow centerfield. Pablo Sandaval chased the sinker and grounded to Cedeno to wrap up Maholm’s 123 first.
Second Inning: Andy LaRoche got his pitch to hit on a 3-1 count but just missed centering it and fouled out to Panda. Maholm struckout looking. Ronny Cedeno worked the count to 3-0 before lining out to centerfield.
Aubrey Huff waited on a 2-2 curveball and got under it flying out to Jones in rightfield. Mark DeRosa was stuck in an 0-2 count, but worked a walked. Bengie Molina was in the hole 1-2 after Maholm threw two slooow curveballs (71-72 mile per hour.) Molina refused to walk and flicked a ball off the top of his spikes to the fence in left field. He took second when the Pirates didn’t cover. Unreal.
Maholm struck out Juan Uribe on his 26th pitch of the inning. Andres Torres came up looking for his first hit of the season with first base open, Giant runners on second and third and two outs. Maholm was careful and walked Torres on a full count pitch up in the zone bringing up Cain. Maholm struckout Cain with an assortment of curveballs leaving the bases full of Giants.
Two really good at bats by DeRosa and Molina contributed to the high pitch in the inning for Maholm.
Third Inning: Aki took another mistake pitch that Cain left up and away in the zone and just drove it. 2-0 Bucs. Cutch really showed patience in his second at bat. He looked so relaxed and confident. Feelin a streak coming on? He walked on a full count from Cain. Milledge missed a Cain breaking ball to go 1-2 and then popped up to shallow right. Torres came flying in from right and made a nice sliding catch on a ball that would have been fair if it had dropped. Jones took the first pitch and Cutch took off with a nice jump to get his fifth steal of the season. Jones mashed the next pitch for a single in front of a sliding Torres again. The ball was hit so hard Cutch couldn’t run hard and held at third.
Doumit came up in an 0-for9 rut and drilled an RBI single into the gap in right center. Rowand cut the ball off quickly and from the replay it looks like Doumit started running hard at near this time. The throw was perfect and Doumit was out sliding into second, although the tag looked a bit late. Clement grounded out to second, stranding Jones. 3-0 Bucs.
Rowand just crushed a double into the left field corner. The pitch was down and in and Rowand was ready. Nice piece of hitting on a great pitch. Renteria saw a steady mix of curveball, change, curveball, change and grounded out to Aki moving Rowand to third. Sandoval got tied up on a curveball. The ball was dying as RF Jones charged it, gloved it and as he rolled the ball popped out. Sandoval had driven in the first Giants run.
Maholm made the top ten for the season when he speared a weak roller off the bat of Huff and threw it jailai style to Clement for the out. Jones gloved another sinking liner for the final out. 3-1 Pirates.
Fourth Inning: LaRoche grounded out, Maholm struckout looking, and Cedeno looked foolish as Cain got the Bucs 123 with eight pitches.
Molina flicked another 0-2 breaking ball into left field for a single. Milledge was playing closer to the line and held him to a single. Uribe bounced one over Maholm’s head, the ball took a tricky hop on the grass and everybody was safe. It was an odd play by Cedeno as it appeared he would have been able to get Uribe at first by using his glove, but he went after the ball with his right hand.
Maholm got his best friend to show up and erase any worries Pirate fans had with a double play ball, Cedeno, Aki, Clement. Cain came up with two outs and worked a 3-1 count before firing the heater down the heart of the plate. It was drilled at LaRoche who picked it off the dirt after his chest helped slow it down and fired to Clement.
It wasn’t pretty, but damn the Giants can hit if you put it anywhere near the plate. The Pirates pitchers have yet to get Molina in the series. He is six for six with two more singles after his outstanding performance against the Bucs last evening.
Fifth Inning: Aki rolled a 2-0 changeup to Huff at first as he was sitting dead red. Cain threw all changeups to Aki. Cutch skied a 1-0 Cain offering for the second out as Torres squeezed it without having to take more than a few steps. Milledge came up swinging and flew out to centerfield. Cain was rolling. In the fifth he threw six pitches for three outs. In the fourth he threw 8 pitches for three outs.
Rowand muscled a base hit past Cedeno on the first pitch to start the fifth for the Giants with their third straight leadoff man reaching base. Renteria lashed a middle middle mistake by Maholm into left field setting the table for Sandoval. Maholm pitched very well to Sandoval forcing a slow roller to Aki. Renteria stopped running to second. He stopped. Aki still tried to turn the double play. It didn’t work. Unreal.
Maholm used his slider very effectively to left handed batters all evening and he threw it on a 2-1 count to Huff. He got the swing and miss. With the count 2-2, Maholm froze Huff and got the strikeout as Rowand stood in disbelief at third. It was a nasty pitch. Two outs. DeRosa the Pirate killer had a 2-1 count, Doumit called for a fastball. Maholm delivered it away and No. 7 went with it. The ball got into the right field corner, but Jones got to it quickly as the Pirates bullpen scattered. Jones missed the cutoff man, but Jeff Clement was backing up and delivered a strike to Doumit. Sandoval took four steps and attempted to deliver the Panda cross body block on Doumit. Ryan deftly applied the tag, barrell rolled to his right effectively shifting his weight away from the signature move of the Panda. Doumit didn’t go for the three count, he simply showed the ball to the ump. The Bucs ran to the dugout clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Sixth Inning: It took only nine pitches this inning for Cain. Roller to first off the bat of Jones. Doumit destroyed a ball and Torres took a few steps and snared it. Talk about defensive positioning. Clement grounded out to second base.
Molina walked to lead off the sixth. Yes, it kept the string of dancing with the devil alive, four innings, four leadoff Giants aboard. That was all for Maholm. Evan Meek came in from the pen. Garrett Jones came in to play first base and Ryan Church came off the bench to play right field. Uribe bailed out of the box, stuck the barrel of the bat in the zone and dropped a single into right field. Molina actually went to third on the play. I had to check my TV to be sure I hadn’t hit slow mo. The Giants pinch hit with John Bowker who Meek struckout. Meek got the cutter in on the hands of pinch hitter Veliz who slowly rolled it to Aki who flipped for the second out while Molina scored to tie the game. Meek looked sharp. He got Rowand to pop out to Cutch in center to strand Uribe. 3-3
Seventh Inning: Sergio Romo came in with his nasty self to face the bottom of the Pirates order. All of his fastballs display the command this kid has. He got LaRoche with the slider again. Eleven Bucs were set down in a row. Ryan Church hit in the pitchers spot. He went inside out on the first pitch grounding out to shortstop Renteria. Romo continues to impress me. Cedeno was the first Bucco to get wood on his slider. It was just foul and set the count at 2-2. He hung the last two sliders, (ever so slightly) but Cedeno couldn’t take advantage. He flew out to left field to end the inning.
Giants pitchers had sat down 13 consecutive Pirates going all the way back to Doumit’s single + hustling out.
Meek got Rentria to strike out. He came at Sandoval with a heater which he fouled back. Meek then threw a nasty 82 mph hook that nearly made Panda bite his tongue off, a breaking ball was left over the heart of the plate and luckily for Meek he was late on the swing. He kept it at 0-2 with a 95 mph heater that was fouled back. A ball missed in the dirt. Foul ball. Count still 1-2. Heater up high fouled back. Meek is all over the heart of the plate. Meek got Sandoval’s bat to break on a grounder to Jones who gloved it as Meek jumped over the maple flying at him. Meek caught the Jones toss and touched first for the second out as Panda came hard down the first base line. Aubrey Huff didn’t come close on a 1-2 breaking ball from Meek. It was Meeks third strikeout.
Eighth Inning: Aki grounded out. Jeremy Affeldt was on the bump and walked McCutchen. Milledge hit a comebacker to the mound and the perfect throw was dropped by Renteria.
It brought up Jones who struggled mightily last season with runners in scoring postion. Not on this night. Jones made the Giants pay for the miscue. He got his third hit with runners in scoring position, this one a single through the right side and McCutchen scored easily. Milledge went to third setting up shop for Doumit. But Doumit hit a 2-1 pitch from the left hander right at Uribe who flipped it to Renteria to start the inning ender. 4-3 Bucs.
Set-up man Brendan Donnelly came on to pitch the eighth. He started DeRosa with a strike. A foul ball showed me that LaRoche was guarding the line at third base. With the count 2-2, DeRosa fired a fastball perfectly down the middle and Doumit held onto the foul tip. Molina came up trying to keep his perfect night in tact once again. He had a double, single, walk, and scored a run. His average was 476. Donnelly jumped out 0-2. His command of the zone was exactly opposite where Doumit would set up on multiple occassions. After the 1-1 pitch was inside when Doumit was set up outside, Doumit came out to the mound for a quick chat. Donnelly became the first Pirate to get an out on Molina in two games when Molina swung and foul tipped an 86mph pitch up high in the zone. Doumit held on and the Bucs set-up man was fighting through his outing. Uribe was taking some serious hacks and worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off several pitches that Donnelly left in the aorta of home plate before grounding out to LaRoche.
Ninth Inning: The Pirates had Bobby Crosby bat for Donnelly and he struckout on an off speed pitch. Andy LaRoche crushed a 2-0 slider right on the number 15 above LaRoches belt to deep center field. There was no doubt about it. Church hammered a 1-0 pitch that was on the outer portion of the plate. The ball didn’t stop until it got to the wall and Church surprised everyone when he kept chugging around second base. The hit was ruled a triple. ahem.
Cedeno came to the plate 4-for-9 with RISP. He is beginning to show some patience at the plate. He didn’t show that despite his hot first week of hitting. On several at bats we noticed he would battle back from poor counts. Cedeno held up on two check swings that allowed the count to get to 2-2 before he flew out to shallow center. Aki delivered that two out lightning the Bucs have been looking for lately with a single up the middle. It was a fantastic piece of hitting on a 68 mph ‘pitch’ that I still haven’t determined. McCutchen flew out to center as closer Octavio Dotel threw his final warmup in the bullpen.
Nate Schierholtz had a leadoff double on a 1-2 breaking ball from Dotel. Guess where? The left field line. Dotel fell behind 3-0 to the worlds skinniest man Velez before coming back to make it a full count. Dotel left it over the heart and it was sent above the bricks by Velez for a two run home run. 6-5 Pirates. Eugenio Velez had three RBI for the Giants in two at-bats. Rowand really made Dotel work fouling numerous pitches back before he flew out to Cutch in center. Renteria flew out to deep short on a nice play by Cedeno who raced back to get the out as Milledge was playing deep in left. Heads up play Ronny.
So it would come down to Panda. Very fitting. He worked a 1-1 count and Dotel dropped in a 77 mph breaking ball for a strike and it fooled Sandoval. Panda didn’t get fooled a pitch later when he ripped the 1-2 for what appeared to be a sure double. But Garrett Freakin Jones dove to his right and snared the rocket and the Bucs had tied up the series with a 6-5 win.
Evan Meek got the victory with two solid innings of work. He went two innings, gave up one hit and struckout three Giants. The breaking ball was his out pitch once again. And it was filthy.
The Pirates played like a team on a mission tonight. I can’t wait to see them this weekend.