Marino Salas from Pirates.com
Let's face it, this is the kind of game the Pirates have made their reputation on - as losers. We know the script too well. Fall behind, rally, and ultimately fall short. But it was not to be tonight.
They went ahead 2-0 on Nate McLouth's homer, then the Cards came back to take the lead when Phil Dumatrait, cruisin' along for five innings, walked a pair and gave up a two-out, three run long ball to Troy Glaus that barely cleared the fence in the sixth.
The Pirates came right back to regain the lead when Jay Bay and Ronny Paulino stroked doubles and Jose Bautista singled. The Cards tied it in the eighth when John Grabow inexplicably threw three consecutive change-ups to Sir Albert Pujols, who deposited the third one into the seats.
The Bucs loaded the bases in the ninth with two out and Mr. Clutch, Chris Gomez, at the dish. He promptly popped out.
So who does John Russell trot out of the pen? None other than Marino Salas, who has spent his entire ten year baseball career in the minors. He walked the first batter, who was bunted to second. Then Russell ordered the next hitter intentionally walked - which, unless the following batter hits into a DP (he didn't), guarantees that Pujols gets up.
Which he did. Salas walked him, too, after Paulino went out to tell him not to throw his fastball to Pujols with a 3-1 count. The curve missed. But all's well that ends well, and Ryan Ludwick flew out softly to Xavier Nady with the bases juiced to end the inning.
Of course, there were a couple of defensive moves made by Russell to help Salas along. He had Doug Meintkiewicz go to third and Gomez to short. Now there's a Gold Glove left side of the infield.
The Bucs, perhaps inspired by Salas' Houdini act, erupted for a four spot in the tenth, keyed by Paulino's go-ahead single and capped by Adam LaRoche's bases-clearing double. Thank goodness it isn't April any more!
So hey, a good start to a key stretch of games. Doumatrait didn't get the decision, but all three games he's started as Matty Mo's replacement have ended up Pirate wins.
And Salas, getting his first MLB win in his first appearance after a decade long apprenticeship, certainly deserved the W tonight.
Paulino had a couple of hits, two RBIs, and a very sweet pair of blocks on balls in the dirt in the ninth. And he didn't even start. Ryan Doumit injured his thumb on an awkward stab in the very first inning. The Post Gazette reports that it may be fractured; we'll find out tomorrow.
We'll enjoy tonight.
On the Pirate front: The Pirates brought up reliever Marino Salas from Class AAA Indy to take JVB's place in the pen. Salas, 26, was one of two minor-league pitchers the Bucs got from the Brewers for Solly Torres in the off season.
Salas was named Indianapolis' player of the month for April. He has a 0.77 ERA and has given up 17 hits and seven walks in 23 1/3 innings while striking out 20. Indian pitching coach Ray Searage has virtually remade his delivery this year.
Salas throws a heater in the 93 MPH range and also boasts a change up. He's said to be especially effective against right handed hitters, a sort of mirror image of Damaso Marte.
Salas had to be added to the Pirate's 40-man roster, which now has one opening left.
Jack Splat is supposed to suit up for Altoona Thursday, four days earlier than he had expected. He'll play about a week to get back into game shape. He could return to the Pirates as early as May 23. Finally.
And a quick look at the stats shows Damaso Marte with 18 appearances covering 18-2/3 innings so far this season. Last year, he had 65 outings, lasting only 45 innings. The Bucs have been true to their word to stretch him out this year. It'll be interesting to see if they resign him or dangle him as trade bait.
Dumatrait must be wondering whassup. His first start was suspended for a 1/2 hour when the lights went out, and he got yanked before he could get his five innings (and first victory) on the books. Now he gets pushed back a day, right into a rain delay at St. Louis that stalled the start by a 1/2 hour. His biological pitching clock must be completely screwed up by now.
On the ex-Pirate front: A couple of short-time Buccos are on the Card roster. Cesar Izturis is the Redbird's SS, batting .240, and lefty Ron Villone has pitched 14-1/3 innings with 14 K's and a 1.26 ERA out of the pen. You may recall that Villone was our opening day pitcher in 2002 (or not - we try to forget, too.)
Helene Elliott of the LA Times sadly reports that Dock Ellis went on the waiting list for a liver transplant yesterday after being diagnosed with cirrhosis. To see what he's been up to and the fight he's now facing, read "Dock Ellis Is Trying To Strike Back At A Tough Foe."