Friday, June 24, 2011

Game 75 Recap - Pirates 3, Red Sox 1




You want to talk about high leverage situation and big time adrenaline and you were watching the Pirates and Red Sox tonight. The Bucs pulled away with a 3-1 win over the Sox in front of over 39,000 fans at PNC Park.

There are so many different ways that I could approach breaking down this game but I am just going to go with whatever works.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

You know you wanted to do that too. This was a total team win for the Pirates. Defense, pitching and timely hitting got the job done and you really can’t complain about too much.

The night actually didn’t start very well for Bucco starter Paul Maholm as he had a hard time finding the plate in the first inning. I don’t know if it was because the Sox were in town or if it was the packed house, or both, but he just didn’t look right and that had me worried. He walked Jocoby Ellsbury before getting an out, followed by a single to set up runners at the corner with one out. Maholm then got Kevin Youkilis to hit a chopper to third base that would score the run. Paul was able to get out of the inning allowing only one run, which was really a win in my book.

The Pirates finally got on the parade in the third inning. Ronny Cedeno started the inning off with a bunt single (!) and moved to third on a Michael McKenry double (thanks to a terrible dive effort my Mike Cameron). Maholm then drew a walk (!) and Jose Tabata followed with an infield hit (kind of) to score Cedeno. Chase d’Arnaud followed, in his second career at bat, with a double play to score McKenry and give the Bucs the early lead.

Maholm continued to pitch well and the Pirates responded by tacking on another run when Lyle Overbay singled home Neil Walker for the two run lead, which is all the Pirates needed.

The pen was, once again, lethal and go the ball to Joel Hanrahan who converted the save. Shocking, I know. Did you hear that the Hanrahan guy is pretty good? I think he is OK.

Game. Blouses.

Thoughts:

This was really an electric night to be at the ballpark. There were a ton of Red Sox fans at the game and they were very vocal throughout the entire night. It was much like the Phillies series, but from what I hear there might have been more Sox fans there than Phillies fans. The fans at the park were nothing less than outstanding tonight. Boston fans tried to get loud but the Pirates fans would just get louder. What might have been the best part of the night happened in the sixth inning. To preface this I will say that every time Youkilis came to the plate all the Sox fans would give a Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuk. It was loud and you could really hear it on TV. Well in the sixth inning he turned a sure fire DP ball into an error which let Neil Walker get to third base with no outs (where Walker would score later in the inning) and as soon as he booted the ball all the Pirates fans gave a Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuk mock chant and it was awesome.

When I talk all the time about the offense being consistent you might not understand what I mean. I am not talking about getting 15 hits every night or hitting a lot of home runs or even scored 10 runs a game, I am talking about consistency. Consistency means having one through eight being able to go up there and not be an automatic out. Tonight the bottom of the lineup was just as effective as the top and it showed. In the third inning it started with Cedeno and McKenry and in the sixth it was Walker and Overbay. Consistency throughout the lineup is so crucial when you are a struggling offensive team and it was huge for the Pirates tonight. The Pirates only got nine hits but they made the hits count. Overbay and Jose Tabata were the only Pirates with multiple hits (two hits each) and it was a nice team offensive effort. It wasn’t one guy, it was everyone. It was good base running and situational hitting that put them in a position to win.

Maholm usually doesn’t get much run support so he knows that he has to be good. Paul wasn’t great tonight, but he gave the team a chance to win. How many times do I say that in game recaps? It is a lot, but that is what you want your starting pitchers to do. Getting complete game shutouts is great, but those aren’t easy. If you can hold some of the best hitting teams to under three runs you are probably going to win. Like I said earlier it wasn’t easy for Paul. He was rough around the edges early on but he really settled down from the second inning on. He scattered six hits in 5.1 innings and threw 103 pitches while walking three, but it wasn’t a bad start. Paul got his record to 4-8 and his record still doesn’t show how good he has pitched this year. The ERA is down to 3.21, which is excellent for a starter.

On the topic of pitching you can’t look me straight in the eye and tell me that this bullpen hasn’t been sensational as of late. The Pirates had to make up for 3.2 innings that Paul couldn’t get through and all they did was give up three hits and no runs. They were wildly efficient and you can’t appreciate efforts like this enough. Chris Resop is a frequent whipping boy by some Pirates fans (for reasons I have yet to see) but all this dude does is come in and get big outs. Paul leaves a runner on first and one out in the sixth and Resop falls behind the next hitter 3-0 only to battle back and get a double play. End of inning. Jose Veras is another that Pirates fans get fearful of when he comes in. He comes in and gives up hits to the first two batters he faces and then just shuts the door. Veras is a guy that is either going to be good or bad, there really isn’t much in between with him. I think you could tell that Veras had the good stuff tonight and he really did. He froze Marco Scutaro with a slider and then got David Ortiz to ground out with runners on second and third and two outs. That is a ballsy performance.

I left out one guy in my previous paragraph, and that was on purpose. Tony Watson is my player of the game. I know you can point a lot of fingers at a lot of different guys but Tony Watson was just called up like two weeks ago and all he does is get outs. Watson was in the game after Resop and had to face the top of the Red Sox order. After the Sox got a leadoff single Watson got Ellsbury to line out to left field and then he walked Dustin Pedroia to put two runners on for the best hitter in the league, Adrian Gonzalez. This is the highest leverage situation you can be in as a pitcher and a young rookie has to get out of it, and he does. Watson gets Gonzalez to pop out to McKenry before leaving the game to let Daniel McCutchen to get the last out. There is no two ways about it, Watson getting Gonzalez out is the play of the game for the Pirates.

d’Arnaud made his major league debut tonight and did a pretty decent job when you consider he was being thrown into the fire against one of the top teams in the league. He secured his first ever hit, a triple nonetheless, in the game and made the plays he had to in the field. I am not sure what the Pirates have in store for the kid for the rest of the season but I am intrigued. He is extremely fast and puts the ball in play but we will have to see how long of a look he gets.

I must touch on catcher Michael McKenry and not because he had a double in the ball game. I think he has been head and shoulders better behind the plate than anyone the Pirates have thrown out there this season. He receives the baseball so well and tonight he was getting Paul strike calls. He has been good blocking the baseball and as he starts to get more comfortable working with the staff he will continue to grow. I touch on this because people often overlook this kind of stuff. It is so important to have a good, fundamental, catcher and that is what McKenry is. He is all that was advertised when we got him from the Red Sox and I am glad he is on the team and that he can hold his weight offensively also.

Another huge game for the Bucs tomorrow as they take on the Sox in the second game of the series. Buckle up.

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