April 8, 2009

Bucs 7, Cards 4 -- Game progression

Todd Wellemeyer never looked comfortable Wednesday night versus a Pirates lineup that swatted single after single, 17 in all, a dozen off of him.

The Cards' third starter of the new season seemed to have difficulty with his release point, most of all, and on many pitches, the grip itself, as if squeezing.

Wellemeyer gave up five runs in 5.0 IP, none in the first inning, although there was an infield single and a crushed ground rule double to center field by Ryan Doumit.

Pirates' starter, LHP Zach Duke, cruised through his first frame, after walking Colby Rasmus in a good leadoff bat that forced Duke to toss 10 pitches, got Khalil Greene to ground into a DP. Duke than established himself with a K looking on Albert Pujols.

A goodly portion of the Bucs' damage came in the second inning when they scored four runs on a combination of five singles and a couple walks. What may have halted the momentum was a heads-up defensive play in which right fielder Ryan Ludwick corralled a single and fired toward home, keeping the throw low enough so that cut-off man Pujols could cut off the ball, which he did and instantly fired over to second baseman Brendan Ryan, who snuck in behind base-hitter Doumit as he rounded first base, taking the throw from Pujols and slapping down a tag on the surprised Doumit.

The Cards answered only one of those Pirates' runs, Rick Ankiel singling home Ludwick, who had reached on catcher's interference, then stole second.

Jack Wilson singled home Brandon Moss in the third to re-establish the Bucs' four-run lead.

Meanwhile, Duke rolled on for Pittsburgh, getting Ryan, Rasmus, and Greene all to fly out, 1-2-3, in the third inning.

Both starters pitched through the fourth unscathed.

Wellemeyer gave up a couple more singles in the fifth, but had to take on five batters total in order to get out of that frame.

The Cards nicked a run off the Pirates' lead in the bottom of the fifth when Ryan sac-flied Ankiel home on a tag-up from third base.

The game at 5-2 in favor of the Bucs, Cards' manager Tony La Russa brought in reliever Brad Thompson. Freddy Sanchez jumped on the new reliever with a leadoff double, followed by a two-run homer by Nate McLouth, bouncing the ball in the Cardinals' bullpen, extending their lead over the Cards, 7-2.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Cards were able to answer one of the Pirates' runs. K. Greene drew a leadoff walk. Pujols pushed Greene to second base with a single, and after a Ludwick fly out, Yadier Molina hit a sac-fly to center, bring Greene home to cut the Pirates' lead to 7-3. The inning was deflated when Ankiel struck out.

Cards' reliever Thompson took five Bucs to get through the seventh inning unscathed.

Duke started the seventh inning, but was lifted for Bucs' reliever John Grabow, who polished off the inning to keep the four-run Pirates' lead intact.

Trever Miller relieved Thompson in the eighth, and would've gone 1-2-3 on McLouth, Doumit and Adam LaRoche, except for a past ball which created a drop third strike and whereby LaRoche reached. Miller then got Monroe to fly out to end the Pirates' eighth.

Grabow continued to relieve into the bottom of the eighth, walking Pujols, but then getting Ludwich to strike out, Molina to fly out, and Ankiel to pop out.

Miller was permitted to relieve into the ninth, but was lifted for Ryan Franklin, who struck out Hinkse and threw a ground out fielder's choice.

The Pirates brought on Tyler Yates to shut down the Cards in the ninth, but was greeted with a double off the bat of David Freese. Joe Thurston back-to-backed the Freese double, scoring his predecessor, but making a baserunning mistake by trying to stretch his two-bagger into three when the Bucs' left fielder threw behind him. Thurston was thrown out at third base when an alert first baseman, LaRoche, hustled up the errant throw and fired to third. When Yates walked Chris Duncan on a full-count ball that looked like a strike, the Pirates brought in closer Matt Capps. Colby Rasmus had a great at bat, but flew out on a nice grab at the center field wall by Nate McLouth. Green line out to end the game.