Ah, it all seemed so familiar. Bucs dig hole, Bucs rally, Bucs lose heartbreaker. And that's how it looked like it would play out today.
Paul Maholm had a mediocre outing, giving up four runs in six innings, one scoring bizarrely when Jason Jaramillo's throw back to him sailed over his head. Remember when Jack Wilson used to back up the mound with a runner on third for just that possibility? But the Pirates answered with three runs in the sixth after two outs on singles by Ronny Cedeno and Jaramillo.
The game sat at 4-4 until the ninth. Jesse Chavez got the first two outs routinely, but fell behind pinch hitter Ricky Ankiel. Ankiel got the pitch he was waiting on, a waist-high heater, and like Albert Pujols the night before, drilled the ball over the center field fence. You could hear the entire park deflate.
But for once, the worm turned. Jaramillo led off the Bucs' ninth with a single, his third hit of the day. Andy LaRoche was called on to bunt him over, but rolled into a force out instead. No matter.
Andrew McCutchen lined one into left, and pinch hitter Ryan Doumit took a Ryan Franklin soft serve and dropped it gently into center, plating LaRoche and tying the game. Franklin got the hook, and Tony LaRussa got the matchup he wanted.
LHP Trever Miller took the hill as Garrett Jones dug into the box. Miller is the ultimate LOOGY, holding left handed batters to a .108 average, and was almost as tough with runners in scoring position, limiting lefties to a .156 average.
And we know Jones' problems in both areas. He was hitting .227 against LHP and .156 with RISP. But what do they say about lies, dang lies, and stats...?
Jones took a hook away and a heater tight, and blasted a 2-0 fastball towards the North Side Notch. It dropped, McCutchen scored, and the Pirates broke their nine game losing streak and Joel Pineiro's 10 game winning skein in one fell swing.
So hey, the inevitable 17th losing season will have to wait on another day. The Cubs come to town tommorrow; odds are they'll be the ones to deliver the historic blow. The pitching matchups are here, from MLB.com.
-- The Pirates had to save a couple of balls today. Neil Walker got his first hit, going 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored. And despite the longball, Jesse Chavez notched his first MLB victory.
-- Charlie Morton will miss his start against the Cubs. He's got a groin tweak, and they plan to push his next appearance back three days to Friday, when he'll open the series in Houston.
-- In his piece for the New York Times, Tyler Kepler calls the 2008 Nady deal with the Pirates a "steal" - and he doesn't mean for the Bombers.
-- The much ballyhooed Jeff Clement may not show up this month. The Bucs aren't worried about starting his clock, but plan to let him rest his strained oblique and get some work in the Fall Instructional League. But he did return to Indy yesterday, so he still has a shot at a locker at PNC.
So who's left to recall when the Indy season ends tomorrow? Probably Brian Bixler and Robby Diaz; Jose Tabata would be a real surprise. C Eric Krantz deserves a chance, but he's not rostered, and SS Argenis Diaz probably hasn't done enough to earn a call.
RHP Eric Hacker is on the 40-man roster, but he's a long shot. He's pitched pretty poorly the past couple of starts, and Jeff Karstens, Donnie Veal, and Jose Ascanio are all supposed to rejoin the roster soon, making the bullpen an awfully crowded place.
Besides, the Pirates have called up Denny Bautista, Chris Bootcheck, Luis Cruz, Steve Jackson, Daniel McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, Steve Pearce, Virgil Vasquez, and Neil Walker in the past few weeks. Half of Indy's July roster will end up at PNC.