The Pirates had lost four in a row; the Indians six. Something had to give, and tonight it was the Pirates, 5-4, thanks mainly to Ian Snell's abysmal outing and David Huff's shutdown performance.
Snell didn't make it out of the third inning. He threw 50 pitches in that frame alone, and ran up six consecutive 3-2 counts. Snell left after 2-2/3 innings, giving up 4 runs on four hits and walking three.
The Buc bullpen held the fort after that, yielding only a Jhonny Peralta homer off of Evan Meek. But Huff, with a 7.09 ERA, was shutting out the Pirates on four hits, sorta like he was channeling Mike Hampton.
There were two big turning points in the ninth, when Pittsburgh staged a gutsy comeback. The first pivotal moment was when Eric Wedge figured he would give Huff a blow after 112 pitches and go to his dysfunctional relief corps for the last three outs.
Big mistake. Matt Herges and Kerry Wood did everything but give the game to the Bucs, surrendering a four spot and leaving the bases juiced for a game-deciding, two-out, full count pitch to Adam LaRoche, who flew out to right.
The second? It was early in the ninth. With no outs, a run in and a runner on first, Andy LaRoche worked the count to 2-1. He swung at an ankle high slider, then bounced out on another. A little discipline, and who knows how that ninth inning rally ends up? But it wasn't to be.
One thing the suits can be thankful for is that with the losing streak and Nate McLouth deal, the fans' attention has been focused on Andrew McCutchen.
He made another nice grab today, extended his hitting streak to eleven games (the best for a NL rookie so far this season), had a big two-out single to bring the Bucs within one, and then stole second to get the tying run in scoring position.
If he finds a little pop in his bat, he'll join Sid the Kid and Big Ben in the Pittsburgh pantheon of Steel City sports heroes. Now if he can only lead the team to the promised land eventually like they did...
-- GW is still wondering what the Bucs are thinking with Steve Pearce. They're putting him in a position to fail by playing him in the outfield, where he butchered a ball tonight.
The suits spent all spring playing him at first, and moved Garrett Jones to the OF so Pearce could continue to play first everyday at Indy. Then they call him up and stick him in the outfield. Pretty poor planning, if you ask us.
-- Quit platooning Brandon Moss, OK? His stroke is back, and you have to find out if he can play everyday or not. Delwyn Young has a sweet bat, but no power and less of a mitt; Pearce can't play the OF, at least not yet. We can't help but wonder if juggling the lineup everyday is part of the Pirates' offensive problems.
-- Hey, old Butler RHP Matt Clement can go home again - just not a baseball guy. He was hired to coach the Butler basketball team, which he played for back in the day, even garnering a few D-1 offers. Clement, his wife Heather, and their three sons live in Butler.