Tonight's game was a tale of four plays, three that Pittsburgh didn't make and one that St. Louis did. And they made all the difference.
Xavier Nady led off the second with a single, and the next hitter, Adam LaRoche, smoked a shot into right. OF Joe Mather, making his MLB debut, dove fully extended and gloved a ball that was destined to rattle around in the corner, drive in a run, and leave LaRoche at second, maybe third. The Cards saved at least a run.
In the home half of the second, Zach Duke fielded a sac bunt, turned to first, and panicked when he didn't see Freddie Sanchez standing on the sack (he was a step away.) He tried to hold the throw, but instead weakly spiked it into right field. It gave the Cards a run.
Down 3-1 in the 7th, the first Card to face Tyler Yates dinked a hump-backed liner into left, a hop, skip and a jump in front of Jay Bay. He hesitated a moment, then charged the ball, dove - and came up empty. It ended up a triple and eventually turned into another run scored.
Later that inning, Raul Chavez air mailed a ball into center on a steal. That runner got to third and became the second run. The Cards tallied a gift wrapped run, maybe two that inning.
Did it make a difference? Well, Jason Michael's bases-loaded double in the ninth made the final 5-4. So yes, they made huge differences. If the Pirates made one of those three plays, they might have raised the Jolly Roger instead of walking the plank again, victims of their own folly.
Todd Wellemeyer and Zach Duke put on a pretty nice show on the mound tonight. It was good to see the Zachster throwing inside, using his fastball along with the slider and curve. He may be finally turning the corner.
But pitching and fielding are joined at the hip. You can't have one without the other, and way too often Pittsburgh has had neither. Before you can win games, you have to learn how not to lose them.
On the hot stove front: Trying to read the chicken entrails for a sign, it seems like the Buc brass isn't planning on breakin' up the Pirates. Sounds more like they're gonna go a piece at a time and try to stock up while remaining somewhat competitive. We'll see - the record will have a lot to do with that, although the position players have been doing their part.
We still think Xavier Nady and Adam LaRoche are goners because of their contracts, and probably Ronny Paulino, Joey Bats and maybe the Zachster and one of the lefty set up guys, too.
We'll know for sure if they choose Buster Posey (who isn't chiseled in stone to catch - he started at FSU as a SS, but we do know Doumits can move, too) or Pedro Alvarez, though we think he may have dropped a bit because of Boras and concerns about his hand after a sub par SEC tournament (3-21, .143.)
Most pundits seem to think the Buc's will take whomever Tampa lets ride, either Posey or high school SS Tim Beckham.
This is almost as much fun as waiting for the Steeler draft!
>Paul Hagen of the Philly Daily News: "Mets general manager Omar Minaya reportedly is making inquiries about available first basemen, leftfielders and righthanded relief pitchers with Kevin Millar, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady rumored to be some of the names under consideration." Maybe they want to give Ollie back.
>Jason Stark of ESPN threw a new name in the trade hopper, Tyler Yates. He thinks he and Damaso Marte are on a lot of MLB buyer's lists. Are the Pirates selling? That's the million dollar question.
On the minor league front: OF Kevin Thompson stole home in Indy's 8-5 loss on Thursday. Nyjer Morgan pulled off the same trick last season at Indianapolis.
>1B Jason Delaney went 2 for 3 with two walks for Altoona last night and is batting .315 for the Curve.
>At Lynchburg, SS Brian Friday went 3 for 5 to lift his average to .319.
>RHP Brad Lincoln, 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA, gave up two runs and five hits while K'ing 5 in a six inning outing and was tagged with his first L. In 16 innings since bouncing back from TJ surgery, he's walked just one batter. 3B Bobby Spain went 1-4 to stretch his hitting streak to 19 games. He's hitting .329.
On the history front: Jimmy “Scoops” Cooney's career was shortlived - just six seasons - but he nevertheless made the history books on May 30th, 1927, while playing short for the Cubs against the Pirates at Forbes Field.
He snared Paul "Big Poison" Waner’s line drive with the hit and run on, and stepped on second to force out Paul’s brother, Lloyd. Cooney then tagged out the Waner brother’s brother from another mother, Clyde "Pooch" Barnhart, to complete his unassisted triple play (that step brother thingie we can't verify, so caveat emptor on that.)
On the ex-Pirate front: Josh Fogg moves back into the rotation for the Reds tomorrow. Bet Phil Dumatrait would look good to them about now, hey?
>KC Royals outfielder Jose Guillen, quoted in the Philly Daily News, on his teammates: "Too many babies in here. They don't know how to play the game. That's the problem here. Now I know why this organization has been losing for a while. Things are going to change here, I can tell you that. I promise you that. Soon."
Sounds like Guillen is trying to worm his way out of a bad situation.
On the high school front: Never let it be said that we are sexist pigs...well, OK, maybe we are. But.........
>Latrobe rode Alexsa Bryson's arm and won the AAAA softball championship yesterday afternoon with a 1-0 victory against Shaler at Cal's Lilly Field. She struck out 17 and hasn't allowed a runner to score throughout the playoffs.
Latrobe was the defending champ - and guess who was the winning pitcher last year, too? Bryson is da man...errr, woman...ah, you know what we mean.
>Ellwood City won a walk-off 5-4 victory against defending AAA champion Belle Vernon. It was a rematch of last year's title tilt. Maybe they'll stage a rubber match in 2009.
>Riverside rolled to a 10-2 victory against South Park to take all the marbles in AA. The title was the Panther's fourth, winning previous crowns in 1994, 1996 and 2001.
>Vincentian took a hard fought 3-2 victory against Leechburg in the Class A championship, scoring the game winner in the 11th on a suicide squeeze. The third time was the charm for them, as the Royals were runner ups in 2006 and 2007.
>Perennial girls powerhouse Perry won the City league crown with a 4-2 victory against Brashear at Pitt's Trees Field.
An old man's musing: We couldn't help but notice during the Pirate's last series that the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati was half empty. We recalled the times when TRS and Riverfront rocked whenever the Big Red Machine and the "Fam-A-Lee" would get it on.
Stargell and Perez. Sangy and Bench. Conception and Mad Dog. Morgan and Scrap Iron. Riveting, no holds barred baseball by two awesome clubs. Whatever happened to those days?