Saturday's Game - Paul Maholm left with the Bucs up 4-1 after six innings; the bullpen gave it all back and a bit more. Quite the reversal from May. It looks like another long month.
Friday's Game - About nine o'clock, PST, AT&T Park was rocked by an earthquake registering 4 on the Richter Scale. But that was nothing compared to the earth-shaking performance of Zach Duke, who threw a complete game, six hit shutout against the Giants tonight.
Duke had been taking baby steps towards regaining his 2005 form in the past few starts, but this was a giant stride in his come-back. It was his first win since June 9th, and his first road win since last season.
His bacon was saved in the first when Brian Bixler made a highlight tumbling stop far to his left and got a force out, saving a run.
In the third, it looked like the same ol', same ol', for the Zachster. A walk and a couple of singles juiced the sacks with no one out, and Pirates fans were nervously fingering their calculators, preparing to add up the upcoming damage.
But a grounder to Andy LaRoche triggered a 5-2-3 DP, and Duke never looked back.
He scattered three singles over the last 6 frames, and backed by a strong performance by the middle of the order (Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit and Adam LaRoche combined for 10 hits, and Brandon Moss drove in three runs), Duke cruised to a mail-in 7-0 win.
Doumit ended a streak of seven consecutive hits in the ninth, when he flew out to center, jumping his batting average to .330. And they didn't want to start him in April!
Duke threw 112 pitches, 71 for strikes, and got 17 ground outs to go with 4 K's. It's the formula he needs to succeed, and he had it down to a science this evening, even if against a September lineup.
The Bucs cashed in when opportunity knocked, scoring 4 runs on sac flies. Not that opportunity wasn't pounding out a steady crescendo - the Bucs had 15 hits, and every player had at least one knock, including Duke. And Pittsburgh still managed to leave 10 guys stranded.
But San Francisco is a treat for the Pirates - they've won 14 of the past 16 games against the G-Men, abusing them much like Chicago and Milwaukee abuse the Pirates.
In other news, Jack Splat's finger still looks like a fat knockwurst, and there's no timetable for his return.
Freddy Sanchez has been told that he'll require two to three months without any throwing before his achy-breaky rotator cuff will fully heal. He wants to finish out the season, but will see lots of rest days with the expanded roster.
The Bucs finished up their Latin signings today, hauling in a class of seven players. The most touted of the group are Mexican OF Exicardo Cayones and Dominican SS Jodanelli Carvajal.
Do you think the Pirates have problems drawing warm bodies to PNC? Florida attracted a crowd of 600 for its Thursday afternoon game against Atlanta. No bobbleheads, we'd wager. (The official attendance was 11,211, based on tickets sold - that means there were 10,611 no shows).