Thursday, May 10, 2012

Game 30: Pirates vs. Nationals Recap

Nothing was going to match the drama that the Pittsburgh Pirates displayed on Tuesday night when Rod Barajas used his first home run of the season to walk off the Washington Nationals. But the Pirates sure did try to make things interesting throughout the entire game on Wednesday.

Much was made in spring training about how lucky the Pirates were to have about seven guys that could be placed into the starting rotation if needed. It is now possible that the seventh of those men will be needed depending on how severe the injury to Erik Bedard is. Bedard left after just three pitches in the second inning due to what was reported to be back spasms. Compared to Bedard's injury issues in the past, that seems rather minor but it is also unpredictable.

If Bedard has to miss some starts, the man who replaced him in this game will likely get the call and that is Brad Lincoln. This is somewhat of a make or break year for Lincoln who at age 27 doesn't have all the time in the world to figure it out in the minors anymore. Lincoln has been excellent to this point of the season and he continued that on Wednesday. He only gave up one run and that was when former Pirate Xavier Nady singled in Bryce Harper who reached third base off of a throwing error by Pedro Alvarez.

When Lincoln gave up the run, the Pirates already had a three run lead, a large part in thanks to Lincoln. In the third inning, he was struck out by Ross Detwiler but the ball got away from Wilson Ramos and allowed Lincoln to reach first base. Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, and Andrew McCutchen followed with consecutive singles to score two runs. Then with McCutchen on second, Casey McGehee hit a ball into the hole at shortstop. It would have been a long throw to first base to get McGehee but McCutchen gave Ian Desmond what seemed to be a break by heading for home plate. But instead of immediately throwing home, Desmond started running towards home plate and McCutchen wound up safe.

McCutchen seems that he has broken out of the slump that was plaguing him before he got sick last week. He went 4-for-4 in this game with three singles and he homered for the second straight night. The home run gave the Pirates some much needed cushion after some shaky innings by the bullpen.

Juan Cruz gave up his first run of the season in the seventh inning. Desmond led off with a double and advanced to third on a throwing error by Barajas. Later, Chad Tracy hit a sacrifice fly to pull the Nationals within one run. Jason Grilli also had some struggles in the eighth inning. He loaded the bases with just one out in the inning but he was able to strike out Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel consecutively to end the inning. Even Joel Hanrahan had a shaky game again after blowing the save the previous night. He put two runners in scoring position with one out but was able to get out of it to earn the save.

The shaky pitching by the back end of the bullpen which was considered a strength of this team is concerning. But the fact remains that the Pirates have one consecutive games for only the third time this season. They will go for the series sweep on Thursday night but that won't come easy. Stephen Strasburg will be pitching for the Nationals and we all remember his Major League debut when he struck out 14 Pirates.

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