Hey, we all know in the long run that it's better to be good than lucky. But every so often, we'll take a bouquet of shamrocks.
The Bucs blew a 5-0 lead by going six innings without a hit, while the Pirate pitchers tried like heck to give the Nats the game. Fortunately for the Bucs, the Nats wouldn't take it, and Pittsburgh escaped with an 8-5, 10-inning win tonight.
Jeff Karstens couldn't hold the lead because the third out proved elusive in the sixth inning. Up 5-1 with a runner on third and two down, he gave up three straight hits and left the game barely ahead, 5-4.
On a day when the overtaxed Buc bullpen had JR-mandated nights off for Jesse Chavez, John Grabow, and Matt Capps, the load fell on Evan Meek and Sean Burnett. They combined for 2-2/3 innings, and only gave up one hit. Of course, five walks and a hit batsman kept things interesting for the 18,579 DC faithful. They threw 59 pitches; 25 were strikes. And that ain't good.
Burney survived a couple of moon shot outs, and almost had one more, but a leaping Nate McLouth couldn't pull down a drive off the wall, Nyjer Morgan couldn't get a handle on the ricochet, and it was a lead-off triple in the Nat ninth. He was quickly wild-pitched in to knot the game at five.
With two down, Tom Gorzelanny strolled in from the pen with two guys on, and as he did the night before, struck out his batter. Given a new lease on life, the Bucs pounded Joe Biemel for a three-spot in the tenth. Biemel, who's spent the last two seasons as a left-handed specialist, was in his second inning, and was way over-exposed, a common occurrence for the Washington relief corp.
He almost got away with it, but with two away, Adam LaRoche jumped his first pitch and lined it into the RF corner, plating Ramon Vasquez and Freddy Sanchez. Brandon Moss followed with a single, and the Pirates took home one they probably didn't deserve after Gorzo cruised through the final three Nat batters.
The three keys to tonight's win were the Nat's inability to stick a dagger in the Bucco pitching (they were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position), sharp Pirate fielding (they turned two very clutch double plays, Adam LaRoche flagged down a probable double, and the OF covered the gaps all night), and a productive middle of the Pittsburgh order, a welcome sight if ever there was one.
The Pirate RBI's all come from the 3-4-5-6 spots: McLouth 1, Big Bro LaRoche 2, Moss 3, and little LaRoche added 2 on his second homer.
But hey, give big props to Tyler Yates' replacement, Gorzo. He's been called to duty twice, and struck out 3 of the 5 batters he's faced, without throwing more than two balls to any of them.
And ya know what? He has as many wins as Karstens so far this season. With Phil Dumatrait still rehabbing on the Gulf Coast, Gorzo may be making a case for himself when Craig Hansen returns. Just sayin'...
-- Morgan returned after three days off, and didn't miss a beat. He made a ridiculously long run to snag a fly late in the game, had a hit, scored a run, and laid down a sac bunt.
-- The Pirate Quiet Man, JR, was warned in the tenth not to come out to discuss a call that went against the Bucs. Gentleman that he is, he stayed cemented on the steps. But as soon as the game ended, he headed to the ump, Paul Nauert, like a heat-seeking missile to get his belated two cents worth in. Atta boy!
-- The Pirates have put together with a four game winning streak, their longest of the season.