Sunday, April 15, 2012

Game 8: Pirates vs. Giants Recap

The road woes continue for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Pirates are only one loss away from suffering the same fate at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. This time it was a different aspect of the game to haunt the Pirates. The bats didn't exactly wake up but they scored three runs which is exponentially better than most of their games this season. This time it was their bullpen and their defense that got them in trouble.

For the first time in awhile, the Pirates gave their starting pitcher an early lead. That was significant since it was Charlie Morton who would be making his first start of the year after hip surgery in the offseason. Barry Zito was coming off his first complete game shutout since 2003 but his magic didn't carry over to this game initially. Andrew McCutchen and Casey McGehee hit back to back singles with two outs in the inning and Rod Barajas walked to load the bases. Neil Walker delivered a single to score two runs which was only his second hit of the young season.

The lead was important because Morton struggled to find it at first. In the second inning, he allowed a run scoring triple to Nate Schierholtz after a single by Hector Sanchez. Two batters later, Emmanuel Burriss singled to tie the game for the Giants.

Zito was able to settle down after the first inning against the lackluster offense of the Pirates. But in the fifth inning, his defense let him down which allowed for another run for the Bucs. With Alex Presley on first, Jose Tabata hit a ground ball towards Pablo Sandoval at third base. Sandoval let the ball roll under his glove which allowed Presley to advance to third. Brandon Crawford retrieved the ball and attempted to throw Tabata out at second but instead committed another error to allow Presley to score.

Shaky defense was the theme of the day though and the Pirates would give their lead right back. Morton allowed another triple, this time to Angel Pagan who after this game is now 9- for-12 in his career against Morton. With two outs, Sandoval came to the plate looking to redeem himself. He hit a comebacker right at Morton which was in his glove but bounced out. Morton attempted to recover and throw Sandoval out but instead threw into right field and the run scored to tie the game yet again.

For whatever reason, baseball managers seem to be reluctant to put in their closer during non-save situations despite the fact that he is usually the best pitcher in the bullpen. Clint Hurdle hasn't always followed that strategy as he used Joel Hanrahan quite often in non- save situations last year and even three times so far this year. However, in this game, Hurdle went with Chris Resop who wouldn't record an out. Burriss and Ryan Theriot started the inning with consecutive singles. Resop then intentionally walked Pagan to load the bases for Melky Cabrera. And Cabrera did exactly what the Pirates wanted him to do. He hit a ground ball right at Clint Barmes who was playing in. Barmes made a horrendous throw towards home but one that Barajas still should have come up with. But he didn't and Burriss touched home plate to give the Giants the walk off win. 

The Pirates will attempt to avoid being swept for the second series in a row on Sunday when last year's road warrior, Kevin Correia, will take the mound.

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