Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thrill A Minute

Hey, Paul Maholm was a man possessed at the outset of the game, striking out the first two hitters. Then Pujols lined a single to center and Matt Holliday hammered his 22nd over the wall, and guess what - Adam Wainwright was up 2-0 before even tossing a pitch.

The Pirates tried to make something happen in the first. Jose Tabata singled with one away, and Neil Walker drew a free pass. Garrett Jones hit one toward the hole, but Brendon Ryan got to it and forced Walker; it's good to see Jones going with the pitch instead of pulling everything, even when it doesn't work. Pedro got three pitches and sat down. Oh well.

Man, that third out is hard to find for PM. He got a pair of grounders, and then Allen Craig of the .197 average doubled. But he got out of it when Wainwright hit a soft fly to right that Thrilledge tracked down.

With one down, Lastings Milledge lined a single to right; Ronny Cedeno chopped the next pitch to Sir Albert, on the line holding the runner, and it turned into a 3-6-3 DP.

Again, Maholm got a pair of ground outs to start the frame. With two out, he ran the count to 3-2 on Pujols and fed him a heater down the heart of the plate; he doubled into the left field corner. But this time he kept everything down and in on Holliday, and got him to whiff on a slider.

No playing this inning for Wainwright; he put the Bucs away routinely. This time the Cards didn't wait for two outs; Yadier Molina singled with one away. Pedro Feliz then singled to left. Maholm got a K, but Wainwright dribbled a hit that was too soft for El Toro to handle. Ryan grounded out, and the Cards left the sacks loaded.

The Bucs went 1-2-3, and Maholm was back to his old tricks, getting the first two hitters and then giving up a walk, but St. Louis couldn't convert. The Pirates went three up, three down again.

Maholm pitched a clean sixth, and the Buc bats, primed by JT, finally struck. With one away, McCutch doubled, JT tripled, and the Pittsburgh Kid singled him in. An out later, Pedro walked and so did Doumit to juice the sacks for Milledge, who struck out on a curve in the dirt. The challenge - hold the Redbirds at bay and leapfrog the recent two-run wall that's been the curse of Pirate bats this week.

Maholm got two grounders to start the seventh, the plunked Jon Jay on a 1-2 pitch to bring up Sir Albert. In a out of the ordinary move, JR brought in Joel Hanrahan, his closer, to face Albert and pulled a double switch by replacing Milledge with DY. After falling behind 3-0, Hanrahan brought the heat, bringing the count to 3-2 and getting Pujols on a pop on a 99 MPH radio ball.

Maholm went 6-2/3 frames, giving up seven hits and two runs, walking one and striking out four while throwing 113 pitches. He went head to head with Wainwright and held his ground, getting grounder after grounder off the Card bats.

Cedeno fell into an 0-2 hole, but laid off a couple of balls and laced a double into center to start the seventh off for the Bucs. Young did his job by bunting him to third. But McCutch didn't do his, grounding out to short and freezing Cedeno at the hot corner.

In a disciplined, professional at bat, JT spoiled a couple of pitches and worked a walk off Wainwright, and when he wasn't held, he stole second on the first pitch. Walker made it count, lining the next pitch into center to score both runners and taking second on the throw home. Jones rolled a change to Pujols to end the inning, but the Pirates were up 4-2.

JH walked Felipe Lopez on a 3-2 count after a Holliday groundout. He got Molina on a fly to left and Pedro Lopez K'ed. Fernando Salas come on to replace Wainwright. He whiffed Pedro, Dewey popped out, and Andy LaRoche bounced out. Time to see if Evan Meek could close the deal.

Skip Schumaker led off as a pinch hitter, and lined a down Broadway heater into left for a single, followed by Randy Winn rolling an inside slider at his knees to short for an infield single. Aaron Miles bunted them over, and now it was nail-biting time.

Jay placed another ball perfectly to short for the second infield hit of the inning, both from lefties with Cedeno toward the middle, scoring a run while Winn held second. Now it was 4-3 with Pujols and Holliday up.

Meek was feeling it, hitting 96-97. He tried to sneak a two-strike slider past him; he lined it to third. But it clanged off Pedro's mitt, for the third infield hit of the inning and loaded the bases; Cedeno's hustle to snag it and keep the runners station to station may have been a game-saver.

EM got Holliday and Lopez to pop out, and earned his second save, tying him with Hanrahan for the team lead. Who else but the Pirates could concoct a cliffhanger finish with one ball hit out of the infield?

Just enough offense and some good pitching; it's nice to be on the right side of a one-run game a couple of times instead being on the short end, even if it does keep the fat lady guessing.

Jeff Karstens takes on Jake Westbrook in the series finale tomorrow night.

-- Well, the snake-bitten Ross Ohlendorf got the fangs sunk a little deeper yesterday. He has a strained lat behind his right shoulder and may be gone for the year. On his pitching schedule at Indy and likely to replace him is Charlie Morton.

-- Dewey's catching again; guess Chris Snyder's glove isn't overcoming his bat very well in JR's mind. That .222 average is opening eyes - the wrong way.

-- The D-backs released Bobby Crosby. Can Ryan Church be far behind?

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