Jason Bay from All Posters
On the face of it, the Pirates 9-1 win over the Reds this afternoon should qualify as a laugher. But in reality, it was anything but a blowout. The game pivoted on the 6th and 7th innings.
The Bucs were holding a 2-0 lead in a pretty well pitched and played game, thanks to a second inning Ryan Doumit long ball and Luis Rivas two-out double in the third. Then Ryan Freel opened the sixth by reaching on Brian Bixler's throwing error. Why can't Pittsburgh get one stinkin' clean game from short?
After a sacrifice and ground out, Tom Gorzelanny still looked to be in complete control, cruising along on a three hitter, even without a fastball. But Brandon Phillips and Jeff Keppinger both walked on full counts. Edwin Encarnacion came up with the bases juiced, and a hit would make an entirely new ball game out of it.
John Russell, who has shown a great deal of trust in his pitching staff so far (not that he has much choice, given the innings his bullpen have thrown already), elected to let the struggling Gorzo work out of it.
And he did, getting Encarcion on a grounder to Rivas, playing at second today (and he looks much more comfortable there than at short.) Unlike the past couple of skippers, Russell will never be accused of being Captain Hook, and we think his pitchers will respond to that trust. Either that or their arms will fall off.
The Pirates sure took notice and responded in their half of the inning. Nate McLouth led off with a double to left. An out later, Jason Bay legged out an infield hit, and Doumit brought in McLouth with a fly to right. With two away, Xavier Nady blasted his 4th homer, and the game had gotten away from the Reds.
They tried to come back in the seventh. A one out triple and a walk brought Frankie Osaria into the game. He promptly served up a run scoring single, and was looking at two on, one out, with Cory Patterson and Ken Griffey Jr. on deck, licking their chops. He got them both on come-backers, and the Reds had blown their last opportunity to make a run at winning this game.
Two infield singles and a walk led to another Buc marker in their half of the seventh. Then with two away, Bay launched his third dinger of the season, all in the past four days, and the final nail was driven into Cincinnati's coffin.
In those two innings, the Reds stranded five runners. The Pirates plated five runs with two outs. That kind of clutch performance by the pitchers and the batters will turn any game into a laugher.
On the Pirate front: Pittsburgh is back at .500 with a 6-6 mark thanks to the sweep of the Reds (it's so much more enjoyable being the broom instead of the dust!) The Bucs are three behind the Cards, and more importantly, aren't letting the division leaders get too far out of sight.
As to be expected, the Pirates are dropping a bit in the runs side of the NL and gaining ground on the pitching list. They're 6th in runs scored with 54, although only 9th in average, hitting .252. Being 4th in walks, with 46, is helping the cause.
The pitching was the worst in MLB a week ago, but is on the upswing. The Pirates are 13th in the NL in ERA at 4.71 and 14th in runs yielded at 64. You can take those stats a couple of ways - as bad as it is, last year the team ERA was 4.93. Yah, we try to forget, too.
After the Atlanta series threw the staff into a abyss, they're slowly clawing their way back to respectability. Maybe if the Bucs didn't lead the majors in errors, the ascent would be a bit more noticeable.
A not so pleasant thought - Jack Wilson is still hobbling and may need more time to come back than originally thought. Freddie Sanchez' arm is still a big issue, too. We're taking a guess, but it seems likely that once Wilson gets back from the DL, there's a fair chance Sanchez may go on it.
And what were the MLB schedule makers thinking? The Bucs will make 3 trips to the West Coast this year, all solo series. Pittsburgh goes to LA (4/14-16) next, and they don't visit the G-Men (9/3-7) and Padres (9/26-28) until September. San Diego is the Bucs last series of the year, in fact.
On the MLB front: A construction worker told the papers that he buried a Red Sox jersey in concrete while working on the new Yankee Stadium, hoping to put a curse on the Bronx Bombers. The Yank brass laughed it off and denied it all.
But after talking to a couple of other hard hats, they broke out the jackhammers and 5 hours of digging later, they unearthed a David Ortiz jersey. The curse has been exorcised from the Stadium, but a new one may be at hand for the talkative cement worker. The Yankees are considering suing him.