The Pirate blues with runners on third and less than two outs still hasn't been taken care of. In the first, after a scoreless start by Paul Maholm, the Bucs had runners on first and third, one out, for the clean-up hitter Garrett Jones. Hit it in the air, guy.
Nah. He hit a one-hopper to first; the ball went home and Jose Tabata was called out. Replays showed he was safe without question after backdooring a slide and planting his hand on the plate, but the ump, Bill Welke, missed it. But Jones' job is to get it out of the infield, and he didn't.
The Padres, primed by a misplay by Tabata, cranked it up in the second. A liner hit at him carried over his head for a triple when he misread the ball. But after that, with 7-8-9 up, it was on Maholm.
Oscar Salazar ripped a ball down the line that Pedro dove and gloved, but had no play on after the snag. A walk loaded the bases, and pitcher Kevin Correia singled through the hole with Ronny Cedeno at double play depth and cheating toward the middle.
A sac fly brought in a second run. A double brought home a third; a sac fly another. The inning was set up by another season-long Pirate weakness, the inability to close out the bottom of the order, and it was 4-0 early on.
Tabata's day keep going downhill; after a leadoff single by Maholm in the third, JT bounced into a 4-6-3 DP. Mama said there'd be days like this.
The Bucs started the climb back in the fourth when a walk to Walker and a Pedro infield single and error put runners at second and third. And they paid; Lastings Milledge dropped a two-run single to left to halve the lead, 4-2.
Cedeno stared the fifth with a double toward the North Side Notch and was moved to third by Maholm. Tabata did his job, bouncing out to bring RC home and making it 4-3. Delwyn Young walked, but Walker's drive was brought in just short of the track in left center to end the frame. He may not have a hit yet, but both of his outs were loud.
Maholm got into a pickle in the sixth, when an infield single and ground ball knock followed by a bunt put runners at second and third with two away, but he got Jerry Hairston Jr. to fly out on his 107th pitch. So far, a solid job except for the second, and if that lead off liner was caught...
Now the real test begins for the Pirate pups. San Diego likes to make it a short game; they have the #1 ranked pen in MLB. And the seventh frame was fireman time, with the Bucs down a run.
Brendan Donnelly took the hill in the seventh for Pittsburgh. Maholm went six, charged with four runs on nine hits, two walks and two K's.
BD walked the first Padre on four pitches, Chris Denorfia. He stole second and went to third when JJ's throw tailed into center. Adrian Gonzalez walked on five pitches, and things were looking gloomy. Scott Hairston walked on four pitches, and that was it for Donnelly.
DJ Carrasco was almost equal to the task. Pedro saved a run when he barehanded a swinging bunt and got the force at home. Pinchhitter Wil Venable hit a sac fly, and then Walker and Carrasco teamed up for the final out on a soft grounder past Jones. The insurance run for SD was big, but keeping the game in hand was, too.
How deep is the Padre bullpen? AAA callup Ernesto Frieri, making his third appearance of the season, struck out the side in the seventh.
Sean Gallagher worked the eighth. He walked the first hitter, but before that ol' "uh-oh" feeling could sink in, he picked him off and threw a clean inning. Luke Gregerson came on to face the Bucs in the bottom half. He wasn't quite as sharp; he only struck out one Pirate.
Gallagher stayed for the ninth, and had no problems, walking Adrian Gonzalez on a borderline 3-2 pitch and picking up two whiffs. Heath Bell, with 27 saves and a 1.96 ERA, came on to battle the Bucs in the final frame, and 1-2-3'ed them.
Pretty simple game. Milwaukee takes the close ones by outmuscling teams; San Diego does it by playing clean in the field, taking advantage of opportunity, and owning the last three innings. The Pirates made a couple of mistakes, suffered a blown call, and lost the battle of the bullpens; those made the difference.
Jeff Karstens will face Mat Latos tomorrow night.
-- Neil Walker had a streak of six consecutive multi-hit games, matching a streak put together by Nyjer Morgan in 2008, snapped tonight. Next on the list is Barry Bonds, who had seven straight in 1992.
-- Just thinkin' out loud: if they can find a taker for Ryan Church, Brandon Moss is tearing up in Indy. He's been en fuego the past few weeks, bringing his average up to .260 from the .230's and now with 16 HR and 62 RBI.
-- Matt Pouliot of The Hardball Times has this to say about the chances of trading Aki Iwamura: "The Pirates...would probably pick up most of the rest of his $4.25 million salary in order to get a prospect in return for him. Iwamura has experience at third as well as second, so if he's truly regained his swing, he'd make a lot of sense for the Tigers, Twins, White Sox and others." Knock on wood.