It's a game Pittsburgh should have lost. But after dodging bullets all night - the Pirate pitchers walked 9, and the 'Stros stranded 14 runners - the way the Bucs gave the game away, 6-4, was tough.
The seventh started with speedster Michael Bourn bunting. Adam LaRoche fielded the ball three or four steps in front of the bag, and tried to tag him flat-footed. It may have been his only play, but Bourn easily dodged him to leg out the hit.
He was bunted to second, and the next batter beat a ball a few feet in front of the plate. Instead of taking the easy out at first, Ryan Doumit took a shot at nailing Bourn at third, but his throw wasn't close to getting the out.
The ensuing bouncer to short should have ended the inning, but instead scored the go ahead run. A double plated another, and the Astros salvaged a game in Pittsburgh.
They say speed kills. Michael Bourn's speed killed the Pirates tonight, mentally, physically, and most importantly, on the scoreboard.
Let's hope Paul Maholm can quiet the Yankee bats tomorrow night and last a few innings. In the past 4 games, the Pirate starters have pitched just 14 innings. The bullpen has been called on 13 times in that span, covering 21 innings.
On the Pirate front: Adam LaRoche was hitting .216 through June 21. Now his average is at .250 after he went 3 for 4 last night with his 10th home run and a double. He is 14 for his past 25 at-bats, with 7 extra base hits (.560).
Little later than usual, but still welcome. MLB Trade Rumors.com says "Like clockwork, LaRoche is having a big July after a slow start. Selling high on him might make sense, but the Bucs haven't given any indication of that."
> Astros pitcher Runelvys Hernandez admitted he was perhaps expecting to get put on waivers Tuesday, a day after he gave up 13 hits and 10 runs in 4 innings at PNC. But the Buc bats only got him sent back to the minors. He did get some brownie points for taking one for the team, after all.
On the minor league front: RHP Ty Taubenheim, who got ripped in his last outing at Indy after a nice spot start for the Bucs, was placed on the DL because of a strained right elbow. The injury isn't supposed to be severe.
> What does Steve Pearce need to work on at Indy? Well, he needs to get comfortable as a 1B/OF. He takes some circuitous routes in the outfield yet. "I think he enjoys first base more," Indian skipper Trent Jewett said. "But he's a young man who wants to play in the big leagues, and he'll play shortstop if someone asks him to."
"We need him to mature a little bit with his approach, because they're not going to throw him fastballs in fastball counts at the big league level," GM Neal Huntington added. "I think he's learning that lesson."
> At Bradenton for the GCL Pirates, IF Jarek Cunningham went 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI in a loss. He's hitting .412.
> Don't worry yet, but all six of the Pirate minor league teams sport losing records. Indy is 43-49, Altoona is 37-52, Lynchburg is 40-48, Hickory is 36-52, State College is 5-15, and the GCL (Bradenton) Pirates are 7-9.
Pittsburgh is 42-47. It's kinda scary that the Bucs have a better record than all but one of their feeder teams.
On the ex-Pirate front: Fox Sports reports: "With the Dodgers' offense ranking among the worst, the club is expected to change hitting coaches at the All-Star break by replacing Mike Easler with Don Mattingly, according to sources that requested anonymity because the move hasn't been finalized."
Guess he knows now. The Hit Man apparently couldn't pass his eye and quick hammer on to the Big Blue.