Thing looked bleak again for the Mudville nine. After an unexpectedly sharp effort by throw-in starter Jeff Karstens, the Pirates took a 2-2 game into the bottom of the eighth.
JR brought in Javier Lopez to get the golden lefty-on-lefty match-up against Prince Fielder, who foiled the strategy by launching a bomb over the Brewer dugout and a 3-2 Brew Crew lead going into the last inning.
Hell's Bell's blared over the speakers, and Trever Hoffman and his 594 saves sauntered onto the mound. Ronny Cedeno greeted him with a blast into the left field stands, and the nightmare at Miller Field was moments from ending.
Hoffman K'ed Andrew McCutchen, but an Andy LaRoche single, a smoked double by Lastings Milledge, and an intentional walk to Garrett Jones set the stage for Ryan Doumit. Dewey crushed a heater that was up and on the outside part of the plate, and the 22 game losing streak came to an end by a 7-3 count. That 595th save will have to wait for another day.
There were heroes galore. Karstens went 6-1/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits, throwing 101 pitches after making just one start in Indy. Joel Hanrahan cleaned up a jam in the seventh, and Brendan Donnelly did the same in the eighth. DJ Carrasco closed out the game with a clean ninth frame.
Beside LaRoche's four hits (he's hitting .400), Doumit had three, with a double and homer. Jeff Clement had three hits, too, also collecting a two and four bagger. Milledge had two hits, and his ninth inning double set the table for Doumit.
The only bad sign was another dismal day at the dish with runners on; the Pirates were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, with Doumit's grand slam the only base-clearing knock.
But some of that was due to the Brewers, who played the field much more solidly than generally given credit for. Ryan Braun ran down a liner slicing away from him cracked by Aki Iwamura, and Jim Edmonds flagged down a Jones drive with an over-the-shoulder grab, both with two runners aboard.
Tomorrow is the get-away game, and Paul Maholm will climb the hill. We'll see how the Pirates play now that Karstens and Doumit knocked that 800-pound gorilla off the team's back and the players can breath again.
-- LaRoche has been unconscious stroking the ball lately. We think some of it has to do with him batting in the two hole, where he seems to be more patient at the dish. He had some success in that spot late last season; it's a good move by JR and one we hope he sticks with for awhile.
Even with the pitcher batting eighth, the order has been producing some hits; if it gets a some production from the Jones-Doumit-Clement trio, it's fairly solid.
-- One of the Brians, Burres or Bass, will probably get the start Thursday. Karstens, after tonight's performance, will likely pick up another start on Sunday.
-- Jeff Karstens was the eighth different pitcher to start for the Pirates so far this season. You have to go back to 1953 for the last time the Pirates used eight different starters during the first 20 games of the season.
-- The Pirates snapped a seven game losing streak with tonight's win, a spell that saw them outscored by a gruesome 72-12 margin.