Hey, for seven innings it was one heck of a ballgame. Bucs up 1-0, Paul Maholm and Jorge De La Rosa pitching beautifully, guys snagging baseballs all over the lot.
But after 103 pitches, Maholm sat down, and Tyler Yates took over. Bedlam ensued.
The first batter singled, and then a two strike bunt turned into a base hit when Robinzon Diaz's throw was wide of first. The runner kept going; Andy LaRoche came in to field the bunt and watched the play unfold; the end result was no Pirate infielder covered third.
First and third, no one out. A soft, sinking liner to left was speared nicely by Nyjer Morgan. He took a quick look towards home at the tagging runner, and tossed the ball to second. But hey, on appeal, plate ump Scott Barry rang up the runner for leaving the sack early, no matter that replays showed he didn't. Double play.
John Grabow came in to end the inning, and the Buc bullpen dodged its first bullet, but Pittsburgh looked that gift horse in the mouth. Big mistake.
In the ninth, Matt Capps was greeted with a couple of blasts; a leadoff double that bounced into the stands and a home run that dropped into the same. He'd give up another run on three more hits. Maholm gave up five hits in seven innings; Yates and Capps gave up seven knocks in two frames.
Capps still has his swagger, but until he gets his offspeed stuff over the dish, guys will sit on his pretty flat fastball. And that ain't good.
OK, how about Ryan Spilborghs contribution to the win? The left fielder reached into the first row to pull a rare Jack Splat homer back in, saving a run. Then he made an over the shoulder catch of an Adam LaRoche drive to the wall that saved two more tallies. That's three runs, and the final was 3-1.
The Bucs didn't show what it takes to win. They were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position; the only RBI came from Craig Monroe, starting for Brandon Moss. They stranded 13 runners in all. And of course, the day that Morgan, Freddy Sanchez, and Nate McLouth only reach base twice, the 4-5-6 hitters come through with five hits.
The bullpen is now 1-7, with only six saves in 10 opportunities.
And Perry Hill has to be pulling his hair; besides leaving third uncovered, the Bucs failed to cover first on a slow roller that Capps was lucky enough to get a tag for the out; thankfully, the Rox catcher was running.
The team's not in a funk because of bad luck or injuries; it's self inflicted. The defense has held up, as has the starting pitching, but without some run production and a bullpen to close out games, the Pirates will continue to sputter. GW thinks they're a better team than they're showing, but until they turn potential into performance, they're the Same Old Bucs.
-- The Buc run was manufactured by McLouth's legs; he singled with two outs, stole second and came sliding in on Monroe's single.
But small ball didn't work in the seventh, when Diaz's lead-off double went for naught when young LaRoche bunted foul twice before striking out. GW's question; if the guy's already on second, why not let LaRoche try to knock him in?
That's no guarantee, of course, but the runner is already in scoring position. Why would you waste an out to set up Jack Wilson and the pitcher with the RBI opp?
-- The Pirate's recent defensive alignment has Morgan playing in the gap towards the North Side Notch. It's been pretty effective, but tonight a couple of balls dropped in that Morgan may have run down in a more traditional set-up. They were against Capps; maybe he just wasn't hitting the spots.
-- Final word on Capps - it seems that he comes out throwing heat and doesn't use an off-speed pitch until the third batter or so. As we've said, his fastball doesn't have much movement; maybe a first-strike slider or two-seamer is what the doctor should order.
-- Young De La Rosa threw a fastball that registered between 92-95 MPH and a six-o-clock curve that was clocked at 74. When he has his control and gets ahead of guys, the kid's a killer pitcher.