PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Bucco bats remained quiet combining for just one run on four hits off the St. Louis Cardinals pitchers at PNC Park on Friday night in the 4-1 loss. They entered game action with a National League worst .205 team batting average. After plating a run on two hits in the first frame, the Bucs scattered just two hits over the next eight innings with two walks.
Whether it was the Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, or the Bucs approach at the plate, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said after the game that it’s usually a combination of both.
“[Lynn] was very aggressive. He was very efficient with his pitches,” Hurdle said. “Nothing that really kind of whacked us out. He just hit his spots. He was very aggressive. A few of the pitches we had to hit, we didn’t do much with. You get an inside the park homer the first pitch, drop a single on the next guy, then you have two more the rest night. We have our work cut out for us tomorrow when we go after [Cardinals right-hander Jake] Westbrook.”
Lynn tossed 7.0 innings to pick up his third win on the season. The bullpen of Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte threw two perfect frames with three strike outs.
“Throwing strikes,” Alex Presley said of the Cardinals’ Lynn. “I thought we had some good at-bats. It’s just one of those things where we couldn’t scratch across. We’ve played a bunch of games like this already. We just need to score some more runs.”
The lone run that scored by the Pirates came in the first inning. Alex Presley took a 1-0 pitch off the wall in center field for an inside the park home run to start first. Cardinals’ Skip Schumaker jumped to make the catch against the wall but missed. Schumaker, who had just came off the disabled list prior to the game, had the wind knocked out of him and was removed from the game as a precaution.
“Last year in Triple-A I had one. But yeah, it’s pretty rare,” Presley said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I thought I’d get a triple for sure when I saw him miss it. He got hurt out there, couldn’t get up, so that helped my chances a bunch. It’s just one of those things.”
Hurdle had no doubt that Presley would make it home. The outfielder touched home plate standing up.
“After the bounce, I think it was a done deal,” Hurdle said. “He got the right kick. He had both outfielders close to the wall. I didn’t think there would be much of a contest. It was an exciting way to start.”
It marked just the second inside the parker at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The other was hit by infielder Jack Wilson on July 2, 2004 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Presley was the first Pirate to hit an inside the park home run since infielder Freddy Sanchez hit one at Houston on July 21, 2008, and the first one done leadoff since Omar Moreno on June 21, 1980.
“You want to start off and try to score runs. And that starts with the leadoff guy,” Presley said. “I expected us to have a good night offensively, but it’s just the way it goes.”
Right-hander Charlie Morton allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits over 5.0 innings in his second start of the 2012 season. He walked three and struck out six while throwing 93 pitches, 59 strikes.
Known for his sinker, Morton’s best pitch on the night, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said, was his curveball.
“I think it was effective in inducting weak contact and getting swings and misses,” Morton said. “It’s a really good pitch for me. I just don’t use it. I pitch to contact. And today, I felt like it was good enough that I could go after guys with it. I had good enough command with it, so I threw it. I never doubted my curveball. It’s just another weapon to have.”
Carlos Beltran reached first base on an error by Morton to start the second frame. Beltran scored after Yadier Molina ripped a one-out RBI double down the left field line. Molina advanced to third base on the error by shortstop Clint Barmes. On the relay throw from Presley, Barmes, who was attempting to get Beltran out at home, threw the ball into the ground.
“I think it was a mixed bag,” Hurdle said on Morton’s outing. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be a real good thing when his best command pitch is his breaking ball. He had six three ball counts tonight. He went through a stretch where six out of eight hitters, he [threw] six pitches. When he was good, he was very good. He also had nine guys on three pitches or less, 14 out of 23 first pitch strikes. There was some in-between. Some inconsistency with command that elevated the pitch count. All in all, he walks out of the game without his best outing. He competed well. He kept us in the game.”
Lynn leadoff the fifth inning with a base hit to right field. After retiring his next batter, Morton issued his third walk to Matt Carpenter. Outfielder Matt Holliday grounded into what looked to be a double play, but was called safe at first. The play turned out to be costly as Carlos Beltran hit a RBI single up the right side to take the 2-1 lead.
“I think I could have done a lot better job of being more aggressive. That’s what it came down to,” Morton said of his three walks. “Just having the mentality of being more aggressive. In games like this, I’m going to have three ball counts. I’m going to have games where I walk three. It’s going to happen. I think I did a good job of minimizing the damage.”
The Pirates bullpen took a beating over their three-game last series in Arizona combining to pitch 16.0 innings. Starters James McDonald (4.0 innings), Jeff Karstens (1.0 inning), Erik Bedard (5.0 innings), weren’t able to pitch deep into the ballgame. Even with the day off on Thursday, Morton was hoping to pitch deeper into the game to give the ‘pen some much needed rest.
“Obviously the bullpen worked a lot this past road trip,” Morton said. “It’s the kind of thing where, not only normally do you want to come in and you want to work in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning, but especially in game like today when you come off the road trip and the guys down in the bullpen have been working hard down there. You want to give them a little breather.”
After working out of a jam in the eighth inning, righty reliever Jared Hughes allowed two runs to score in the top of the 9th. With one out, Daniel Descalso took a 2-1 sinker for a solo-homer to the seats in right field. Hughes next batter, pinch hitter Shane Robinson, reached first on the error by second baseman Neil Walker. Robinson scored on a RBI double by Furcal down the left field line.
With the 4-1 loss, the Pirates fall to 5-8 on the season.
- Relief — Evan Meek: IP; Jared Hughes: 3IP, 4H, 2R, ER, HR
- Meek retired the Cardinals in a row in the sixth, needing just five pitches in the frame.
- The Pirates committed four errors in the game, two from shortstop Clint Barmes, one from second baseman Neil Walker and one from pitcher Charlie Morton.
- Jose Tabata leadoff the fourth frame with a base knock into left field –his second hit off righty Lance Lynn. Tabata had just one hit in his 26 at-bats prior to tonight’s game.
- The Pirates bullpen entered game action ranked second in the National League with a 2.18 ERA. They trailed only the San Diego Padres (2.03)
- In their first 13 games of the 2012 season, the Pirates have yet to score or allow more than five runs in any contest.