Hey, they were up to their old tricks. Pittsburgh scored three times in the first inning, thanks to a couple of walks, an Andrew McCutchen knock and a Ryan Church double. Then they shut it down until the ninth, when pinch-hitter Jeff Clement lined one the opposite way for what would become the game winning homer.
Paul Maholm went six innings for the win. It wasn't a clean effort, but he allowed only two Cubbies to cross home while scattering eight hits and striking out four. The third inning was when the Cubs scored, and it could have been worse but for a Church strike to Doumit to gun Aramis Rameirez at the plate for the final out.
DJ Carrasco and Joel Hanrahan held the fort until the ninth, when Octavio Dotel made it interesting. With an out, he walked Starlin Castro on four pitches.
Kosuke Fukudome fell behind 0-2, took three straight balls - Dotel's curve was nasty, but seemed to have a mind of its own - and dropped a soft lob into medium right that rolled to the field box fence along the line. It ended up a triple after a long chase by Garrett Jones, who was stationed in the gap.
The Bucs brought the infield in, but they could have all just walked off the field for all it mattered. Dotel got out of the mess by striking out Ryan Theriot and Marlon Byrd, both swinging through high heat.
So hey, the decision by the brass to stock up on back-end guys who could throw a baseball that actually misses bats paid off again. Not all of their models have held water, but that's one that sure has.
The four guys used to bring a game home - Dotel, Hanrahan, Carrasco, and Evan Meek - have whiffed 90 guys in 79 innings. That's 10.25 K's per nine innings pitched. Nothing like being able to cover up for your own mistakes, hey?
Unfortunately, the top two innings for Bucco opponents are the third and fourth, when they have put up 75 runs against the rotation and run away with games (the next highest inning *sigh* is the first). That's why it's been so hard to get the ball in the hands of the closers. And it's more the pity since the Pirates are such quick starters.
The Pittsburgh hitters' first and ninth inning scoring chart is, well, off the charts. The Pirates have tallied 32 runs in the first - 25% of their offense - and tacked on another 20 platings in the ninth. That's 41% of their scoring in two innings, and would work out to 6-1/2 runs per outing if spread throughout the game.
Ah, stats are fun, even if they are danged lies. Buts there's only one that really means anything, wins and losses. And Pittsburgh is 16-20. Some of their holes may be filled when Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln and perhaps Neil Walker join the club sometime after June, when the specter of Super 2 status has passed.
Alvarez and Lincoln could one day be difference makers. Tabata fills a void at leadoff, and Walker could potentially sit Aki Iwamura down.
Until they settle in - and the results will in all likelihood come later rather than sooner; not everyone greets MLB life like McClutch did - it's gonna be a roller coaster ride.
Ross Ohlendorf will try to put the final nail in Chicago's coffin tomorrow against Ted Lilly.
-- Talk about role reversal: the Cubs were 24-8 against Pittsburgh in 2008-09, but are are 0-5 and have been outscored 32-14 against them this season. The Cubs have now lost seven straight against the Pirates dating to last season
-- Steve Pearce's knee pain is caused by a tightening of his tendon. He'll likely be out for the Cub series, but shouldn't require a visit to the DL.
-- Brian Bass cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Indy.
-- Prospect Starling Marte has a left hand injury that may require surgery, and is scheduled to see a specialist on Monday. Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review tweets that it's a dreaded, power-sapping hamate injury. Marte was hitting .283 at High A Bradenton.
-- Jim Callis of Baseball America projects that Pittsburgh will pick Drew Pomeranz in the June draft if they're willing to shell out the bucks. He's a lefty from Ol' Miss. (The article is subscription only).
The consensus top five players are C Bryce Harper, high school SS Manny Machado, prep RHPs Jameson Taillon and Karsten Whitson, and Pomeranz.
-- Ollie Perez has been yanked out of the Met's starting rotation and placed in the bullpen. He has no remaining options and a fat contract; not all of Littlefield's moves were wacky.
He's 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA, and has walked 28 batters in 31-1/3 innings.