It's customary for the home team to sponsor give-away days, with bobbleheads and the such. But tonight, Pittsburgh provided the honors, giving away outs and runs that eventually led to a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Astros.
In the third inning, pitcher Roy Oswald bled an infield single. With two away, Jeff Keppinger smoked a one hopper to Delwyn Young at third; it went right through his five hole to score Oswald. Bobby Crosby, who knows how to play the hot corner, was on the bench because JR values lefties against Oswald more than fielders behind Paul Maholm.
The sixth was even more frustrating. Michael Bourn singled off Maholm's glove; Aki Iwamura had a play if the ball got past the pitcher cleanly. Keppinger bunted, and Young barehanded the ball and airmailed it into the seats.
Maholm came back to whiff Lance Berkman for the first out. Carlos Lee fisted a ball just inside the left field line, and a sliding Ryan Church couldn't come up with it, letting a pair of runs in. Why Church and not Lastings Milledge, who may have had the wheels to run the ball down? Once again, because of JR's leftie-righty thing.
Hunter Pence went down for the second out, and then Pedro Feliz got the eventual game winner when his fly dropped inside the right field line, eluding a diving Garrett Jones. That's four runs that could have been zero if there was a lefty pitching for Houston.
The Bucs made some noise in the seventh, when Jones hammered a two-run shot and Jeff Clement, who pounded the ball all night, added an opposite field solo dinger. But the Bucs had just four hits all night, and went down quietly over the last two innings.
We understand JR's predicament; he needs some offense badly. But it's not a little league team. You can't be putting players all over the field in positions that are totally unfamiliar to them. We've never seen Church in anywhere but right because of his speed, and Young tries, but he handles third like a guy that's played there maybe six times in his life. It sure ain't second.
The difference in the game wasn't the pitching; Oswald was hit harder than Maholm. But his fielders made the plays they should have, and in Bourn's case, made three or four web gem grabs, flat outrunning Pirate shots and leaping to take away a possible Ronny Cedeno homer. And that's why Houston won; they caught the ball. Guess that learning to win curve is a little steeper than we thought.
-- It looks like Chris Jakubauskas will go tomorrow. Kevin Hart pitched for Indy, so the list is down to one now.
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