Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Thank you, Colorado Rockies. Nine walks, three errors, and a couple of misadventures in the field, mixed in with eleven Bucco hits, propelled Pittsburgh to a 7-3 victory tonight, breaking the Pirates' eight-game losing skein (and a seven game Coors Field losing streak).

Hey, the Pittsburgh nine didn't really do anything a lot different than they had during the past few days. They stranded a dozen runners, including the leadoff hitter at second twice and a runner on third with no outs once.

The starting pitcher went six innings again. But this time, JR pulled the plug pronto on the weak link from the bullpen - tonight it was Jose Ascanio - and the rest of the gang got through without allowing any further damage.

Between the sixth and seventh innings, Ross Ohlendorf and Ascanio ran up 2-0 or 3-0 counts on nine straight batters, but somehow got away with yielding just two runs. JR made the move of the game when he yanked Ascanio after three hitters for Jesse Chavez.

Chavez, Evan Meek - who faced one batter and left the game with what looked liked an oblique or rib cage injury - and Joel Hanrahan closed the door on the Rox over the last three innings.

It was enough for Ollie to become the first Pirate 10-game winner since 2007, even if he was a one trick pony tonight, throwing a two and four seam fastball until it finally caught up to him in the sixth inning.

And he was bringing the heat; his two-seamer was 91-92 MPH and his four-seamer hit 94-95 all night. But he'll have to come up with a curve or change-up he can drop into the strike zone if he wants to get past a lineup more than once or twice.

The Pirates' running game, with a couple of glaring exceptions, was as aggressive tonight as it's been all year. Ryan Doumit took a couple of chances that turned into a run, and the Bucs stole five bases; Andrew McCutchen had three (guess he took the quiz before the game, hehe).

But twice, with runners on third and no one out, Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge stayed anchored on slow rollers that should have easily scored them. Jones eventually came in; Milledge was stranded.

We assume they were under orders to make sure the ball got through the infield instead of going on contact, the safe bet with no outs and a halfway-in infield. But if allowed to read the play, they would have both touched the plate, probably without throws. Of course, the hitters could have made it easy by lofting a fly to right, too.

But hey - mistakes make a lot more difference when you lose; they're just learning experiences when you win.

And some of the work is paying off. Milledge looks like he's becoming more comfortable in left, and made a possible game-saving grab at the fence, leaping to pull back a ball that was destined for the top of the wall, if not over it. He saved at least a run, maybe two, at a point when the game's momentum could have shifted quickly.

Ryan Doumit was strong catching, blocking everything and framing pitches beautifully. It helped that everyone was throwing fastballs and sliders tonight; there were very few of the soft off speed pitches he struggles with for him to handle.

Delwyn Young is making GW eat crow. Some Perry Hill pixie dust and an above and beyond the call of duty work ethic before games is transforming him into a competent second baseman, something we never thought we'd see, at least this quickly. Give them both props.

Garrett Jones will be a constant in the lineup; Steve Pearce and Brandon Moss will rotate until September, mostly because there are no alternatives right now.

Moss has lost his stroke again, and Pearce refuses to adjust to the soft-and-away stuff he's seeing, insisting on pulling everything instead of driving pitches on the outside half of the plate into center field. The pitchers have the book on him; he should read it, too.

Maybe he thinks the longball is his ticket to the bigs, but it's not working so far. His fielding, though, has been excellent; he has quite a bit more range than the steady but plodding Adam LaRoche.

Anyway, we'd be surprised if we didn't see Jose Tabata in the outfield come September with Jones a fixture at first. The pieces may be starting to fall together.

It'll be an interesting month. The Pirates are said to be looking at a six man rotation came call-ups. Ascanio is one name that's been mentioned as possibly being added to the staff; under the radar Dan McCutchen may be another guy that gets a shot; Eric Hacker is a darkhorse candidate.

McCutchen isn't on the 40-man roster. They could switch Tyler Yates, who is out after surgery, from the 15 day DL to the 60 day to clear some room, but his spot is probably being held for Phil Dumatrait. So where that leaves McCutchen in the game of musical chairs is yet to be seen. We'll find out in 2-1/2 weeks.

The next generation hasn't arrived in Pittsburgh by a long shot yet, but arriving it is.

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