Hey, it must be early bear hunting season. Pittsburgh squeaked by the Cubs 3-2, powered by Garrett Jones and Neil Walker homers, and are now 7-1 against the team they couldn't beat for the past two seasons.
Sweet Lou Pinella shook up his lineup, giving Marlin Byrd, Carlos Lee, and Aramis Ramirez the night off in hopes of generating some small ball offense, but it didn't pan out.
It started off as one of those days; both sides left two on in the first, as Jeff Karstens and Ted Lilly wiggled out of minor jams. The second frame was quiet.
Not so in the third; a Kosuke Fukudome triple was followed by a Xavier Nady homer, putting the Cubbies up 2-0; Lastings Milledge almost cut the gap in half when he doubled, but was he was thrown out at third before Karstens' slow jog made it home. Never make the first or last out at third, Lastings; run hits out, Jeff; another run given away.
In the fourth, Karstens got out of a self-inflicted pickle when he walked a pair, but left them stranded. Jones then led off with a rocket into right, his seventh homer, to cut the Chicago spread to 2-1. Both teams left a runner in scoring position in the fifth; that's eight guys marooned in RISP situations by the two squads in five innings.
Karstens left after six innings, with two runs, six hits, three walks and three strikeouts added to his stat sheet. Javier Lopez and Joel Hanrahan kept the Cubs at bay, and it would be Neil Walker time.
Lilly walked Andrew McCutchen with one away, and Sweet Lou came out to give him a pep talk. Didn't work. Lilly had schooled Walker his last two at bats, whiffing him both times. He tried to sneak a heater past the youngster this time, but Walker took it into the left center seats - ironically, it dropped right in the lap of a Cub fan - for his first MLB homer and a 3-2 Pittsburgh lead.
Octavio Dotel mowed the Bruins down in the ninth, and the Bucs are settling in nicely at home. For Dotel, it was his twelfth save, and Hanrahan notched his second win.
It was a night for the pitchers; the Bucs had six hits, two by Jones, while the Cubs collected seven, four by ex-Bucco Nady, who went 4-for-4. Another player worth mentioning was Starlin Marte, the Cubs 20 year old shortstop, who made three web gem plays tonight.
Zach Duke and Carlos Zambrano get it on tomorrow.
-- The Pirates are now 14-0 when leading after eight; so far Octavio Dotel and table-setters Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan have been all that for the back end of the bullpen.
-- The Pirates also extended their streak of having fewer than ten hits to ten games.
-- Steve Pearce has had his boot removed yesterday and is walking around with just a splint; that's an encouraging sign that his ankle wasn't completely mangled. Jeff Clement has been hitting the ball pretty well in the meantime, so it may be a platoon situation at first when Pearce returns.
-- Jim Shonerd of Baseball America had this to say about Altoona pitcher Bryan Morris: "He has the ceiling to be a No. 2 given his two plus pitches if he can maintain his control." We're not sure if he means pitch command or self-control, but hey, they both work...
-- Altoona Curve RHP Tim Alderson was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. He was 2-0, giving up one run in thirteen innings with ten strikeouts. He's 4-2 on the year with a 4.75 ERA. Good to see him back on track.
-- Bradenton Marauder 1B Calvin Anderson was named the Florida State League Player of the Week. He was 14-for-26 with 2 doubles, 1 HR and 8 RBI in seven games. His line so far this season is .287/4/26.
-- Dallas Jackson of Yahoo!Sports has this to say about the Pirates draft day selection: "The Pick: Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss; The Buzz: The Pirates could do better for their farm system to take Manny Machado here, but his signability has come into question. That, and the Pirates have been taking more major league-ready players early and Pomeranz will be ready quickly."
-- A bit of history: on this day in 1965, Bob Veale struck out a Pirate record 16 against the Phils at Forbes Field in a 4-0 win on a rainy night. And GW was there, with some high school buds.