OK, so the most recent weekend storm delayed the game an hour. Not a big deal, and it didn't take any sheen away from the 1960 Bucco welcome; the house was packed and the fans were rockin'. Maybe the current team can see there's still some passion left in Pittsburgh for baseball played the right way. Anyway, on to the game...
Maybe Jeff Karstens was unnerved by all the attention; he gave up a single and double to start the frame. A swinging bunt brought home one run, and with a runner at third, JR brought up the infield. It paid off.
Garrett Jones snagged a hard hit grounder, and double-clutched his throw home. But Ryan Doumit had home blocked off better than Fort Knox's gold and made the tag; the runner still hasn't touched the dish.
The Pirates stole a run in their half. With two away, Andrew McCutchen and Jones drew walks. Lastings Milledge hit a slow hopper up the middle, and beat the throw to first with a headlong slide. McCutchen never slowed down on the play, and his mad dash culminated in a cloud of dust and the tying run. As Steve Blass said, "speed kills." The crowd was back into the game.
The Pirates added a pair in the third, when Neil Walker and McCutchen lined singles and came around on Milledge's triple that Shin-Soo Choo dove for and missed badly. They had runners on the corners and one away for Dewey, but he popped to second; he hasn't had a hit since Tuesday against the Sox, the day he was dropped behind Pedro in the order. (He later singled on a grounder off the pitcher's mitt.)
With Pedro Alvarez, aboard with a walk, on the move, Bobby Crosby lined a shot into right, but straight at Choo. Another chance for a big number gone by the wayside.
But tonight, Thrilledge was a one-man wrecking crew. McCutch walked, Milledge doubled him home, and Pedro got his first hit and RBI with a slicing ground rule double into left, making it 5-1.
Let the good times roll? Nah, that's not the Bucco way. Karstens crossed his Rubicon in the sixth, when a pair of singles came home ahead of Russell Branyan's ninth home run to right that caught the foul pole. The long ball has been his curse this year; that was the eleventh he's yielded in 55-1/3 innings.
JR gave him the hook after that; he went 5-1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits with a pair of walks. DJ Carrasco replaced him, gave up a ground ball single up the middle to his only batter, and JR waved in Javier Lopez.
Lopez got his lefty, gave up a line single to the righty, and Evan Meek got the phone call. JR wasn't going to let this one get away if he could possibly help it; all hands were on deck tonight, even with a day game tomorrow. Meek walked the first hitter to load the bases, but got pinch hitter and regular DH Travis Hafner to tap back to the mound.
By the end of seven innings, the game was approaching three hours, with eight pitchers burned. And the Pirates? They had stranded ten and gone 3-for-13 with RISP. Nothin' comes easy for these guys.
They did add an insurance run in the eighth for Octavio Dotel to work with. With two away, McClutch hit a run-out-from-under-your-hat triple to right center, and Jones almost took off the pitcher's head with a shot into center to plate him.
Milledge came up with a chance for the cycle; he had walked his last at-bat. The bench, led by his running mate McCutch, all started to give him his "focus" sign, two fingers pointed toward the eyes, looking a lot like the Three Stooges in the process.
It didn't work; he was trying to jerk one out and the pitcher threw nothing but changeups and whiffed him. Still, a breakout night for Lastings.
Milledge had three hits, a walk, four RBI and a run scored. McClutch had two hits, three walks, fours runs scored, and a stolen base. Pretty sweet night for the Sunshine Boys, and 38,008 fans left PNC with a good taste in their mouth.
Brad Lincoln will make his third start tomorrow afternoon against Justin Masterson. The Pirates are off Monday, then open a nine-game road trip starting with the Rangers, then to Oakland, and closing at Wrigley Field.
-- The beat guys report that Zach Duke will miss a start with a mild elbow sprain. Wonder if that's what was bothering him last time he had his turn delayed by a couple of days earlier in the month?
-- Jen Langosch of MLB.com tweets that "LHP Jack Taschner has refused his outright assignment to the minors and has declared free agency."
-- If you're curious: Pittsburgh lost 13 straight in 2006, in 1916-17, and in 1890 while losing 14 straight from September 1954 - April 1955. The Pirates also have seven losing streaks of six games or more against AL teams since interleague play began in 1997. We're glad that we don't have to look up those records any more.
The longest losing streak in franchise history of 23 games happened in 1890, when the Pittsburgh Alleghenys were really lousy (23-113). It began with a loss on August 12, 1890, and the twenty-third loss came on September 2, 1890, one day after they were swept in a triple-header. That record should be one for the ages.
-- Steve Pearce is at Indy now for his rehab assignment after a short stay with the Bradenton Marauders. His ankle must be OK; he legged out a pair of infield hits and added a ground rule double.
-- Charlie Morton news: He started at Indy tonight, and lasted 5 innings, giving up six hits, three runs, three walks, and whiffing five. He threw 91 pitches, 55 for strikes, so control is still an issue. Morton didn't figure in the decision.
-- The Indians sent C Adam Davis to the Pirates in a straight cash deal yesterday. Davis hit a combined .216 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 31 games between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron. The 25 year-old Davis was the Tribe's third pick in the 2006 draft.
Maybe this foreshadows a move up to Altoona for Tony Sanchez. Hector Gimenez (.331/10/38) is hitting well there, but at 27 years old, he's long in the tooth for AA ball.
-- Tim Kurkjian of ESPN has a piece about all the good young players entering the league this year; he includes Pedro and Neil Walker in his starting nine.
-- Finally, a bit of Oakland trivia even GW didn't know. Forbes Field's old home plate is in the foyer of Posvar Hall, a Pitt library. We always thought that's where it was when the field existed, but FSN's Steve Blass said that they decided to move it there because its actual on-field location was in the middle of the library's ladies room!