Well, the Bucs are at it again. They go through these maddening streaks where they play just well enough to lose. When they pitch, they don't hit. When they hit, they don't pitch. And so the wheel turns, as it has for the past 16 seasons.
Paul Maholm was given a five run lead; he didn't last five innings. He faced 25 hitters, and twelve reached base. Jeff Karstens, who had been pitching so well out of the pen, gave up a two-run homer. That quickly, a 5-0 lead dissolved into an 8-5 deficit.
In spite of all that, the Pirates staged a ninth inning rally, tying the game 8-8 on Adam LaRoche's long ball. They had runners on first and third with two away, and Brandon Moss smoked one, but right into the mitt of Luis Castillo.
Matt Capps came on in the tenth, and routinely retired the first two hitters on a whiff and pop-up. Then he plunked Fernando Tatis on a 2-2 pitch, and Tatis, ignored at first, stole second. Ryan Church lined a one-hopper into center. Andrew McCutchen's throw was on line and in time to get the runner, but sailed high over Robby Diaz's head, and the Metropolitans were back on top to stay, 9-8.
Tatis and Church got up ten times and banged out six hits, scored six runs, and drove in four. The Mets collected 15 hits and were 7-of-19 with runners in scoring position.
The Pirates were out of comebacks. Francisco Rodriguez was up 0-2 on Cutch, 1-2 on Jack Wilson, and 0-2 on Freddy Sanchez, and got a weak fly, strikeout, and bouncer to earn the win. The Pirates had twelve knocks and were 2-of-13 with runners in scoring position.
No use cryin'; Pirate baseball is awash in decades of spilled milk. The suits have hoisted the white flag for 2009; expect to see a lot of new kids in Pirate unis, and soon, before the market gets too crowded.
But as frustrating as it is, the suits are sticking to their plan. They're building for the future and evaluating what's currently on hand. Hey, in the old Dave Littlefield days, a sniff at being in a race would have netted us Gary Sheffield for Nate McLouth - and Pittsburgh probably would have thrown in a pitcher.
For all the head-banging, Neal Huntington is doing what he said he would. Now let's hope that his player evaluation team is as good as his ability to blow up a club.
The Bucs are off to Florida to visit the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium. Here's the scheduled starting pitchers, from MLB.com.
The Pirates are on the road until after the All-Star game, taking on Florida, Houston, and the Phillies.
-- Garrett Jones fell a single short of the cycle, going 3-for-5 and driving in two while scoring three times. Jones' first hit, a double, came in the Pirates' three-run second. He then tripled home a run in the third, and smacked a solo homer in the seventh.
Apparently Jones is going to get a better look than the Bucs are giving Steve Pearce. JR told John Perrotto of the Pirate Report that: "He (Jones) has the ability to play every day. Whether he does or not remains to be seen because we have a couple of guys in the outfield who are hot in Brandon Moss and Delwyn Young. Garrett is going to get a chance to play, though."
Hey, someone has to bat clean-up when Adam LaRoche leaves, right?
-- La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Twin's Insider reports that: The Twins have released RH reliever Luis Ayala. There was legitimate interest in him from Pittsburgh, and word was that Eric Hinske’s name came up in the discussions. But once Hinske was dealt to the Yankees, trade talks with the Pirates died. Ayala signed with the Marlins.
-- Hey, Jay Bay is gonna have to cough up US-style taxes now. He was among 360 people officially sworn in today as a United States citizen in a ceremony at Faneuil Hall, called Boston's "Cradle of Liberty," as the Red Sox were off.
-- Indianapolis will be represented by RHP Chris Bootcheck (1-2-14 2.91 48K/34IP) and C Eric Kratz (.280 3/20) in the AAA All-Star game.
-- The Bucs did offer a deal to 16 year-old Dominican SS Miguel Angel Sano, as expected, with no figures released. MLB is investigating his age, and he can't ink a contract until baseball declares him kosher.
The Twins and Orioles are still in the hunt, and Baltimore has more long green budgeted for Latin America than either Pittsburgh and Minnesota if a bidding war breaks out.