Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bench Comes Through

Hey, if you ever need the recipe for making chicken salad out of chicken feathers, just call Jeff Karstens.

Replaced in the rotation by Charlie Morton and relegated to the bullpen, what sweet irony to replace Morton an inning into his Pirate career and come away with the win.

The same can be said for Craig Monroe. He might be the sixth outfielder now that Delwyn Young is getting his at-bats in right field. But he came on and scored what proved to be the winning run on a pure hustle play, scoring from second on an infield single and making a couple of nifty grabs in the outfield.

Behind Karsten's sharp 4-2/3 innings of relief and Monroe's aggressive baserunning, the Bucs took a 3-2 win from the Braves.

The Pirates started the game the same way they ended it, by leaving the bases juiced without scoring. They only had six hits, but drew seven walks and stranded a dozen, going 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

But in between, they scraped together enough offense in a well pitched, well played game to claim the victory. Karstens had a lot to do with that, giving up just four hits by using his heater more and curve less.

They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And the Pirates, thanks to Karstens and Monroe, didn't have any weak links tonight.

-- Brandon Moss struck out twice, and with two runners on, was pinch-hit for by red hot Eric Hinske. Hinske struck out.

-- Monroe was thrown out last night with two outs trying to score from first on a double when the Braves put together a pair of on the money throws to nail him with ease. Once bitten, twice shy? Nah.

When Adam LaRoche rolled a two-out ball up the middle that second baseman Kelly Johnson flipped to Yunel Escobar trying for a force, Monroe never looked back on his scamper home. Escobar helped out, falling asleep for a second before he realized Monroe was going home, and his throw home was late and well up the line.

It was almost a carbon copy of the play that cost the Bucs Monday's game, when Freddy Sanchez flipped the ball the Jack Wilson, allowing the run to score.

-- Though there is no official word on Morton's injury, apparently his hammy was tight before the game and didn't loosen up when he pitched, so he was sat down as a precaution. Karstens was warming up during the first, so he was loose and ready. Maybe he's better off when he doesn't have four days to obsess over his next start.

-- Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen made a couple of nice running grabs, and made a couple others look easy. Speed is a beautiful and uncoachable thing.

-- Tyler Yates returned to Pittsburgh, where more tests will be run on his right elbow. Yates had to stop throwing on Tuesday after the pain in his elbow returned.

-- Jose Tabata returned to Altoona tonight after missing time with a right hamstring strain. He didn't last long; after two at-bats, he left the game with a hamstring cramp.

-- Old news, but we forgot to post it yesterday. Neil Walker, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2004, will miss 3-5 weeks because of a dislocated pinky finger.

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