July 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Karstens (27) pitches against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
This is becoming old hat. I actually think people now expect the Pirates to win every game. That isn't likely to change with the Cubs coming to town tomorrow.
This one didn't start out well. Jose Reyes opened things up with an infield single, but Jeff Karstens picked him off with a beautiful move before settling into the stretch position. Good thing. Emilio Bonifacio followed with as good a push/swinging bunt as you'll ever see, slapping it toward short out of the lefthanded batters box, leaving Jordy Mercer no play. Carlos Lee walked to put runners on first and second and Logan Morrison followed with a hard shot to first which Casey McGehee turned into the inning's second out at second base. Karstens, however, couldn't find the bag on the return throw and Morrison was safe. It was hard to tell from the replay if Karstens was late getting over or if there was some miscommunication, but we have seen a lot less of these types of plays this season.
With runners on the corners Justin Ruggiano worked a full count walk to load 'em up and bring up Greg Dobbs. Dobbs lifted hit a 71 mph curveball to right and the scoreboard flashed a Z -- as in zero. Two hits, two walks and a force play, so the first five batters of the game reached base while only one out was recorded. No runs. Quite the opposite of the Pirates fourth last night where they scored four without a hit.
The Bucs came to bat and for the third game in a row Alex Presley started things off by reaching base and scoring the team's first run. This time Andrew McCutchen did the honors after Presley stole second. 1-0 Pirates.
From there this one really did settle into being a pitchers' duel. The Pirates got got two hits in the second, but Jeff Karstens struck out with runners at second and third and Anibal Sanchez then retired the next 11 batters in a row. Karstens, who threw 28 pitches in the first, rolled to the seventh giving up only one more hit and facing the minimum 15 batters.
In the seventh Morrison opened with a single. After a Ruggiano K, Dobbs hit a ball to left that Alex Presley dove for and was originally ruled a catch. However, the umpires conferred after the play and correctly ruled that Presley trapped the ball. Dobbs was awarded first but Morrison was unable to advance due to the call. On the next pitch, Karsten got the tailor-made 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Final line 7IP, 5H, 0R, 2BB, 3K 92-62. Very Karstensesque.
The Bucs got insurance in the bottom half. Casey McGehee opened with a double and #Daydro Alvarez went down and hit a 1-0 curveball ten rows into the right field bleachers. Sanchez knew it the moment the bat touched the ball. On the pitch prior to the homer, Pedro had a swinging bunt roller just in front of the plate that the catcher let roll foul. Bob Walk commented that we'll have to see what happens, "but they are going to regret that if he hits the next one in the stands." Five seconds later -- boom. 3-0.
The next nine Pirates went down in order, striking out seven times, but it didn't matter. Jared Hughes came in (somewhat surprising that Hurdle didn't go to Grilli) and worked a 16-pitch, one strikeout, 1-2-3 eighth and Joel Hanrahan followed with a 15-pitch, one strikeout, 1-2-3 ninth. 47-0 when leading after seven innings. No drama. Lots of broom waving.
Cincinnati beat Milwaukee 2-1 and has now won 11 of its last 13. The Reds haven't missed a beat with Joey Votto sidelined. The Pirates will open their three game set with Chicago at 54-40, 0.5 games back of the Reds.