Dontrelle Willis continued his long slide into the pitching abyss, and it's a good thing for the Pirates. They violated about every rule of baseball at the plate, but still came away with a 6-3 victory in front of some Penguin honorees, Lord Stanley's Cup, and 27,000 fans.
If the Bucs had any discipline at the dish, the game would have been over in the first inning. As it was, they scored three times - two were walked in - by a wild Willis. But they wouldn't take a strike, and squandered a great chance to ice the game before it had barely begun.
They left two more on in the second, and had the bases loaded in the third without scoring; in fact, they would have the bases juiced in four different innings.
They put up three more in the fourth, capped by a Robby Diaz two-out, two-run single. Then, instead of going for the throat, they went on cruise control. Willis walked eight in 3-2/3 innings, but the Bucs would strand 14 and go 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Fortunately, the Big O was on. He went six, giving up a run on two hits and two walks to win his sixth game. But with a lead to play with, Ohlendorf and the bullpen walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. Not exactly how you want to ice a game.
But a win by any other name...and hey, the Battlin' Bucs are only four games back; no one wants to take charge in the Central. We wonder what the suits will do if the race is this close in July? There would have to be a lot of explaining if they ran a fire sale again.
The Pirates play mainly interleague the rest of the month, and then interdivisional until mid August, with a couple of Central series sprinkled in the mix. There's a lotta baseball to be played until then, but it could set up a real rarity in these parts - a September that means something. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?
The Pirates are off to Minnesota, opening Tuesday night. Here's the pitching matchups from MLB.com.
-- Charlie Morton is going to miss his scheduled start Tuesday. The rest of the rotation will just move up a day, since Monday is an off-day, and he'll go Saturday against the Rockies.
-- Ryan Doumit was cleared by team doctors on Friday to resume baseball activities. He began by throwing on flat ground on Saturday and did so again from a distance of about 45 feet today. He'll slowly begin increasing that throwing distance over the next few weeks.
Doumit also began taking dry swings on Saturday. He's hopeful that by the end of the week, he'll be able to hit off a tee. From there, he'll work toward being able to take batting practice.
-- Tyler Yates' latest medical tests confirm that he doesn't have nerve or structural damage to his elbow, but there's still no schedule for his rehab or return. He says he only has pain when throwing from a mound. That's not a good report.
-- Phil Dumatrait will start working off a mound at Pirate City. Looks like he's working on earning a September call-up.
-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette put together his revised list of the Pirates Top Ten prospects after the Nate McLouth deal.
-- Lynchburg RHP R.J. Rodriguez (4-1, 11 saves, 3.27 ERA) was added to the Class A Carolina League All-Star team, joining OF Miles Durham and C Kris Watts. The 24 year-old from Miami was originally signed by the Padres in 2006 from Bethune-Cookman.
-- Speaking of Lynchburg, their big guys had a good night. RHP Bryan Morris (0-1, 4.66) allowed one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking three. 3B Pedro Alvarez smacked his 11th and 12th home runs, a grand slam and a three-run shot, and went 2 for 5 with a walk and seven RBI. All-Star C Kris Watts hit his fourth home run, a three-run shot, and went 4 for 4 with a triple and walk.
The Hillcats won 16-5.
-- Looks like Rene Gayo is going to have his hands full trying to reel in super prospect Miguel Angel Sano, a 16-year-old SS from the Dominican Republic. Other teams thought to be in the chase are the Yankees, Indians, Cards, Orioles and Twins. It's thought that his signing bonus will be in the $3-4M range.