Sorry, Charlie – Small Ball Sucks. Pirates Take Series from Phillies with McCutchen Walkoff


So, the Pittsburgh Pirates took two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies.  Bucco fans are feeling great.  Taking a closer look, did the Bucs luck out?  Should we thank Charlie Manuel for the assist in this Easter Sunday’s rubber match?  Was it bad strategery by Charlie, or just the Pirates doing their early season one-run-win thing?  We do know one thing for sure– the Phillies bullpen provided very little “relief” outside of Jonathan Papelbon in the opener.

The series was an important one for the Pirates.  Coming in, we couldn’t foresee the Bucs taking two out of three from the Phillies  – let’s face it, the Phillies are a solid team with formidable starting pitching.  What we couldn’t foresee was their manager playing an extreme brand of small ball in crucial situations, and some questionable bullpen moves that the Bucs were able to capitalize on.  Thanks, Charlie.

On Easter Sunday, Phillies relievers were in a giving mood as they surrendered six hits and three runs.  We also tip our Easter bonnets to Ty Wigginton and Brian Schneider for getting the Bucs back into this game.   The Phillies had a three-run lead in the seventh inning and gave it away for God-is-Risen-sakes!

Let’s just say that Charlie Manuel had us scratching our heads with his managerial approach in this series.  Not that we are complaining; it’s hard to imagine the Bucs would grab this series after such a poor offensive performance in the opener, combined with the fact that the Bucs were down early in the rubber match and the offense had little answer for Vance Worley early.

The Phillies got the lead thanks to the bat of Hunter Pence.  We teased about his shitty performance in the opener and he made us pay.  An RBI double off the bat of Pence gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead.   The Awkward One would then make it 2-0 bad guys with a two-out, absolute bomb in the fourth inning that sailed way over the North Side Notch.

Want to know the difference in James McDonald this year compared to last?  Go back and watch his approach to Ty Wigginton in that fourth inning after the Pence homer.

No drama.

No storming around the mound.  He just put up his Wilson ball glove and demanded the ball from catcher Mike McKenry.

The Bucco right hander didn’t show the extremely bad body language that has been his downfall in the past.  JMac got ahead on Wigginton 1-2, and then got him to ground out to Pedro Alvarez on a full count to end the inning.

It was a breath of fresh air, and we feel it allowed him to continue pitching effectively.  He kept the Pirates in the game – and when Charlie Morton and A.J. Burnett (who Neal Huntington mentioned on his show could be ready by month’s end) get healthy, JMac proved he should be left in the rotation after his performance today.

Vance “The Vanimal” Worley had a nice two-seamer that had him cruising through the Bucs lineup.  A majestic blast by Alvarez was the only real mistake we saw the shivering Phillies right hander make at PNC.  It was Alvarez’ first hit of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bucs.  Worley threw an 82 mph changeup with little movement, and Alvarez made him pay.  Big time.  How nobody on the crowded riverwalk was brain damaged is a miracle.

As we said last night – looking at this Phillies lineup, it’s interesting to see Charlie manage so small-ballish.  Just look at the sixth inning as an example: the pesky Juan Pierre reached on a bunt single and moved to second base when Alvarez threw wide of the first base bag to Garrett Jones.   What a mess… but…

We laughed out loud when Shane Victorino was asked to bunt Pierre over to third.  Victorino did as he was instructed and the Phillies fast pitch softball team was in business.

However, the great thing was that Pierre never made it off third.  JMac whiffed shortstop Jimmy Rollins on an absolutely filthy spiked curveball.  Pence was then intentionally walked to go after Jim Thome, who was 0-for-2 on the day.  JMac would then get Thome looking on another nasty curveball.  Sorry, Charlie.  Inning over.

In the seventh, we thought it was over for the Bucs.  JMac thought he was still pitching, and headed out of the Pirates dugout, but got awkwardly called back by Hurdle and Jared Hughes came in to pitch.  A leadoff walk from Hughes was followed by another Phillies small ball bunt, which turned into runners on second and third for the Phillies.  Hughes fielded the bunt and threw to Neil Walker, but Walker didn’t see it.

The Pirates 6’7″ right hander was able to get Schneider and Nix, but with two outs Hughes didn’t get the last out of the inning in Juan Pierre.

The Phillies non-roster invitee to spring training laced an in-on-his-hands, two-strike, 93 mph Hughes fastball to left field for a two-run, two out single.  Hughes would then walk Victorino.   The Phillies sent Pierre and the Flyin’ Hawaiian on a successful double steal, setting up second and third for Jimmy Rollins.  On his 30th pitch, Hughes K’d Rollins on a foul tip that Mike McKenry squeezed for the final out of the inning.

But the Bucs wouldn’t roll over.  After the Buccos faithful bellowed out ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the Pirates offense would come to life, thanks to some shitty Phils defense/ bullpen.

It started slowly as Clint Barmes – who still needs to get his first hit in black and gold – struck out against Phillies reliever Mike Stutes.   Alvarez followed up his bomb to the riverwalk with a check swing whiff, but as he half-hustled to first base, catcher Brian Schneider threw wide to Ty Wigginton–who had replaced Thome for some reason–and Wiggy dropped it.  Alvarez was safe.

After a McKenry pop out to Pence, El Toro came around to score on a Casey McGehee two-out RBI double off the top of the Clemente wall.  Out of the box, McGehee looked surprised and didn’t get a great jump, but the ball just carried and took a huge carom high above the old school scoreboard.  Victorino had to come over to field the ball and bobbled it before getting it to the infield.

With the horn of the Gateway Clipper Majestic echoing through PNC Park, Alex Presley ripped another clutch two-out single to right field which plated McGehee and put the Bucs down just one run.  Presley stole second, but was stranded by Jose Tabata.

Evan Meek made a successful first appearance of the season, touching 93 on the stadium gun.  Meek struck out Hunter Pence.  He got Placido Polanco to fly out to Presley in left, and Wigginton flew out to Cutch in center.

We absolutely love the Phillies faithful’s hatred of Kyle Kendrick.  When Kendrick came in to pitch the eighth inning, we just smiled and hoped the Bucs could end it in the eighth so they wouldn’t have to face Jonathan Papelbon.  Sure, we are dreamers, but damn if it didn’t sort of work out – thanks to Charlie’s managing.

Andrew McCutchen, who had a huge day, ripped a single on a 2-2 pitch from Kendrick.  Neil Walker flew out to left and Nate McLouth came up to pinch hit.  All game long Clint Hurdle struck gold with his moves.  Hurdle pulled McLouth back and had Jamaico Navarro pinch hit.  Navarro called time twice, and with a 2-2 count Cutch stole second setting up a full count for Navarro.  For the second time in two days, Navarro laid off a Bastardo pitch in the dirt to put two Buccos on base, with only one out.

Unfortunately, Clint Barmes couldn’t have a productive at-bat.  After yet another Barmes whiff, Hurdle told Pedro Alvarez to come back to the bench, and up came Matt Hague.

Right on cue for Hurdle, the Bucs Hit Collector rookie got his first ML hit to tie the game for the Bucs.  Hague’s first hit came off the nasty Phillies reliever who pitched so damn well in the first half of 2011.  It’s nice to see Matt Hague finally free.

While the Bucs relievers cruised – with the exception of Jared Hughes – the Phillies kept getting ripped.  After Joel Hanrahan cruised through the bottom of the Phillies lineup, Charlie sent David Herndon to the mound.  Thanks again, Charlie.

Casey McGehee welcomed Herndon with a leadoff double.  Josh Harrison pinch ran and was moved to third base on a sac bunt.  Jose Tabata struck out and up came Andrew McCutchen.

Why Cutch was allowed to hit is mind boggling, but we love it.  Cutch was on an absolute mission in this game.  It’s cool that only the Pirates fans noticed.  Uncle Charlie, do you want a sausage?

Surprisingly, Cutch fell behind 0-2.  It looked like Charlie was a genius.  But with the flick of the wrists, Cutch changed it all.  He crushed a ball over Victorino’s head in center, the baseball slammed high off the center field wall.

Two days—two walk offs.  BUCN.