Hey, PNC was rockin' tonight. There were 25,000+ fired up fans, with a goodly contingent in from Philly, and the crowd was buzzin' from the start.
The first inning between Cole Hamels and Daniel McCutchen started off routinely enough. In the second, though, they began showing their wares. McCutchen struck out the side swinging, all on two-strike changeups.
Hamels did the same - except he allowed a Lastings Milledge single, Dewey walk, and Bobby Crosby single between the first and second whiffs; the K's left runners at first and third. He was down 1-0, with 5 K's in two frames.
Didn't last long; the veteran infielder Wilson Valdez, who's playing because Chase Utley is out, led off the third with a bomb over the 410' mark, his fourth of the year. Amazingly for McCutchen, it was the seventh homer he's given up in just 21 innings.
Jose Tabata led off with a nine-pitch walk, and Pedro doubled him home on a big fly to the Notch. McCutch reached on an error, and the Bucs had runners on the corners and no one out.
But Garrett Jones and Milledge hit tappers to the catcher and pitcher respectively, and Ryan Doumit popped up. Another chance to put some distance between them Pirates and the Phils was stranded; they had first-and-third and second-and-third with one out in back-to-back innings, and failed to plate a run.
The Bucs made amends in the fourth. LaRoche singled with one away, was bunted to second, and Tabata knocked him home. Tabata was caught trying to steal to end the frame, with the added injury to insult of having his hand stomped on by the second baseman.
But he did his job bringing home the run, and was being aggressive on the bases with two outs, all good stuff, especially from a pup.
The Pirates continued inability to make plays cost them the next frame. A high hopper up the first base line by Shane Victorino was fielded by McCutchen, who threw to the wrong side of the base, allowing Victorino to get aboard.
He promptly swiped second, and Greg Dobbs hit a slicing ball up the middle that LaRoche ran down after a hop, and then made a strong, one bounce throw to first. But Jones batted the ball aside like he was a goalie, and the run scored to make it 3-2.
McC got the JR hook in the next frame, when a one-out error by Pedro, who backpedaled on a ball he should have stepped up on, brought up the lefty Raul Ibanez. MCutchen went 5-1/3 innings, gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits with four K's, a much better showing tonight.
Javier Lopez did his LOOGY thing, getting a slowly bounced forceout. The matching-up continued, as JR brought on DJ Carrasco to face righty Dane Sardinha, the catcher. DJ ignored the 38 year-old runner Ibanez, who stole second (his second steal of the year), but got the batter on a routine fly to center.
Evan Meek kept the score the same in two innings of work. He even got his first MLB at bat, laying down a sac bunt in the seventh.
Octavio Dotel took the mound in the ninth, and gave up a ground ball single to Sardinha to start the frame. A bunt and bounce out got him to third, but Dotel caught the dangerous Victorino looking. Hey, that's three out of four for the Buccos; amazing what a little pitching will do.
But they could make it easier on themselves by catching a few balls and bringing those guys on third home; they were 2-for-10 with RISP. But a win is a win, and it's nice to get a couple.
Jamie Moyer faces off against Ross Ohlendorf tomorrow night.
-- JR decided to bat Pedro second, on the theory he'll see better pitches between Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen. Can't say that he goes by the book.
-- Pedro has had 55 plate appearances; 27 of them have been against lefties. We know he'll be an everyday guy for the Bucs, but they could protect him just a little.
It also shows the need for Pittsburgh to find someone with some right-handed muscle unless they want to see lefties as a steady diet. You can only build a lineup around the home field so much; every order needs some balance.
-- If there are no relapses, Neil Walker is expected back this weekend. Bobby Crosby came back today and started at short.
-- Chris Jakubauskas is back at Indy now, and just injured his groin tonight in his first rehab start. Some years you just can't win...
-- Dana Eveland cleared waivers, and will head to Indy.