Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Rookies raise Bucs to sole possession of first place
Shorstop Chase d'Arnaud's plus-minus for the night was four and rookie reliever Tony Watson pitched 2 2/3 inning of no-hit ball out of the bullpen as the Pirates' four pitchers allowed the Cincinnati Reds just three hits to move into first place in the NL Central with a 2-0 win in front of a resilient 22,016 fans at PNC Park that waited out two rain delays.
The Pirates haven't led the NL Central this late in a season since July 17, 1997. That statement itself is pretty awful, but the Bucs and their fans are relishing the role as Cinderella story and the rest of baseball is starting to take notice.
d'Arnaud, much maligned for his weak .224 average and suspect errors in his first 20 games, stopped two Reds from scoring with a sensational stab up in the middle with the bases-loaded in the first inning. The rookie vaultled the ball out of the palm of his glove to second baseman Neil Walker just in time for the force out to end the inning.
In the fourth inning, d'Arnaud singled to lead off the inning and then used his speed to stretch Walker's single to the gap to third base with Walker advancing to second, putting two runners in scoring position, rather than second and first. Instead of Andrew McCutchen's grounder beginning a double play, it was an RBI which scored d'Arnaud. Matt Diaz's sac fly plated Walker and the Bucs had a 2-0 lead. Both McCutch and Diaz deserve credit as well, considering both noticeably just focused on getting the runs in, rather than trying to do too much. On his advancement to third base, d'Arnaud slid head first into Reds third baseman Miguel Cairo's leg and appeared woozy after the play.. He the left the game an inning but said he was fine, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Watson has certainly earned his spot on the roster since his promotion to the big leagues to replace Jose Ascenio on the roster June 7. In his longest career outing on Monday, he navigated through the powerful Reds lineup after relieving starter Charlie Morton, who returned after the second rain delay to pitch five innings for a desperate Pirates bullpen. The Bucs used seven pitchers in Sunday's 11-inning win over Houston and manager Clint Hurdle said relievers Chris Resop and Jose Veras were unavailable.
The trade rumors begin again last night and continue this morning. The latest is the Mets' willingness to pick up most of All-Star Carlos Beltran's $6 million salary for the final two months of the year for a mid to top-tier prospect. Pundits like ESPN's Buster Olney and John Kruk have begun with the public national media pressure for the Bucs to make a move.