Paul Maholm was every bit the equal of Jake Peavy this afternoon. But John Grabow couldn't match up with Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman, and the Pirates lost a great pitching duel, 3-1.
Maholm went seven innings, giving up a run on a hit batsmen followed by a bloop and a bleeder. He gave up four hits and struck out 9 in another top of the rotation style start. Maholm is 7-6 with a 3.79 ERA.
Peavy's line matched Maholm's - seven innings, one run, four hits, 10 K's. It was a terrific game to watch while they were pitching. The Pirate's scratched out their run on a Nate McLouth walk, stolen base, and ground ball single by Adam LaRoche.
The Bucs had a chance to go ahead in the seventh, but fate intervened. With Raul Chavez on first and two outs, Jack Splat sliced a double into right that looked like it might rattle around and chase Chavez home. But it hopped into the stands, Luis Rivas popped out, and that was the Buc's last opportunity.
Grabow came in and gave up an eighth inning long ball to Scott Hairston, his 17th, and a backbreaking ninth inning blast to Josh Bard, his first MLB homer. Hoffman strolled in to pick up his third consecutive save.
John Russell made a two-for-one switch that took LaRoche out of the game after he pulled a rib muscle. It looks like he may miss some time; we'll know more tomorrow.
After looking sharp against the Astros, the Pirates lost 3 out of 4 to the worst team in the NL, the Padres. San Diego must circle their Steel City dates on the team calendar. The Padre's last series loss in Pittsburgh came on July 28-30, 2000, when they dropped two out of three games at 3RS.
Today was a get-away day, and the Buc lineup sure looked the part. Rivas leading off, Chavez catching, Michaels in RF, Mientkiewicz at third...it's hard to come up with a order with those guys, much less one that would threaten Peavy.
And instead of experimenting with a three-headed hybrid of Pearce, Michaels, and Mientkiewicz in RF, we'd like to see some stability in the order and one guy, or at worst a platoon situation, replace the X-Man. If Pearce is the future, throw him in the fire.
While we're back-seat managing, please settle on a closer for the next few weeks, too. Closer by committee is almost always a bad situation. Pick a guy and give him a fair chance.
Our choices would be Denny Bautista as closer, Grabow and Tyler Yates as set-up men, and TJ Beam and Sean Burnett in the middle innings. Jason Davis and Frankie Osoria can clean up after the starters implode in the third or fourth inning.
There was a buzz in the crowd when Freddie Sanchez got yanked after an inning, but it wasn't an under the radar deal. Sanchez had back spasms, and that's what brought on Rivas' unexpected appearance at second base. Sanchez is listed day-to-day.
With the Nady trade and LaRoche's ribs, the pitching better step up. The lineup is suddenly very ordinary.
And we give a GW tip o' the cap to the SD fans in the stands. They're all members of SS Khalil Greene's family, coming down from Butler to see him play. At least they enjoyed the weekend.