OK - Zach Duke got through the first without Nyjer Morgan having a meltdown after he lined out to McCutch. A two out Ryan Zimmerman double was left stranded, and the Pirate faithful who bypassed the Clarks and the Ribfest at Heinz Field breathed a sigh of relief.
Livian Hernadez had no drama in the first, either, as he 1-2-3'ed the Bucs. The Zachster matched him in the second. Pedro broke the ice for Pittsburgh with a one-out walk in Pittsburgh's half; he went no further.
The Nats drew first blood in the third when Danny Espinosa - the eight hitter, grrr! - hit his first MLB homer to right. With two away, a double by Ian Stewart that eluded McCutch's stab when his mitt caught on a padded pillar on the wall, and a walk to Zimmerman were stranded when Adam Dunn K'ed.
Ronny Cedeno led off with a double to right, and a Duke bunt followed by an Andrew McCutchen sac fly to right tied the score. The Pirates had some two-out thunder in their sticks. Jose Tabata singled past Adam Dunn, and Walker drew a base on balls. Garrett Jones took a curve away to the opposite field toward the Notch, and the double drove both runners home to claim a 3-1 lead.
Pedro booted a ball to start the fourth, but a 4-6-3 took care of that, followed by a generously called punch out; ump Lance Barksdale was inconsistent tonight, both ways. The Bucs added on when Dewey lifted a fastball over the middle - the first ball Hernandez has thrown down Broadway tonight - into the right center stands, his twelfth of the season.
Duke threw a clean fifth; he's given up three hits with a walk and five K's so far while throwing 79 pitches.
The Pirates broke it open in their at-bat. With one out, JT and The Pittsburgh Kid drilled knocks; back-to-back doubles by Jones, hit off the top of the wall in center, and El Toro, a rope to right, made it 7-1. Hernandez was sent to the shower; Miguel Batista came on, and gave up a RBI single to Dewey before putting out the Bucs fire.
Duke couldn't handle success. A walk, two singles, and another walk brought in both a run and Sean Gallagher to face a bases juiced, no out jam. He looked like he might get away with just another run when he fed a 5-3 DP ball to Pudge, but a broken-bat single and a ringing double cut the gap to 8-5.
Another disappointing outing for Duke (5IP, 4R, 5H, 3BB, 5K) and more inherited runners circling the bases against Gallagher, who had allowed about half (48%) of the previous runners in through August.
Tyler Clippard took over in the sixth and retired the Pirates in order. Wil Ledezema took the hill for the seventh. He retired Nymo on a fly, and then got the hook from JR with righties Desmond and Zimmerman coming up.
Chan Ho Park took over, whom we suppose is now the Bucs' new ROOGY. It worked; he got a K and pop-out. Pittsburgh is the only team in baseball with bridgemen by committee.
Clippard got Walker and Jones, then walked Alvarez. The Nats brought in Sean Burnett; we're surprised that he didn't start the inning with two lefties due up. He gave up an infield single to Ryan Doumit when Desmond couldn't get the soft bouncer up the middle out of his mitt cleanly. Thrilledge pinch hit for John Bowker, and tapped back to the mound.
LOOGY Brian Burres came in with Dunn at bat. He walked him, the only batter he was slated to face, and Chris Resop took the ball. CR K'ed the first two hitters, then walked the next to bring the tying run in the person of Espinosa to the dish. He fell behind him 3-1, but came back to get him swinging. JR, just in case, had Joel Hanrahan warming up.
Cedeno singled to center to start the eighth. DY, pinch hitting, reached out for a curve and rolled it Zimmerman for a 5-4-3 DP, followed by a McCutch come-backer. It was Hanrahan time.
And it was vintage Hanrahan. He struck out two batters and notched his third save. It was surely a sweet one against the team that gave up on him.
The Pirate batters showed great plate discipline against Hernandez, who lives at the edges of the strike zone, and hit balls where they were pitched. They weren't so choosy against the bullpen. But it's a start, and if they can develop that eye for all nine innings, it'll be a big step in turning around their batting fortunes.
The pitchers? Well, they better learn to be aggressive with the lead; the walks almost came back to bite them. And there were still the obligatory fielding gaffes and bonehead baserunning, but eight runs on the board make up for a multitude of sins.
Paul Maholm and John Lannan take the hill tomorrow night.
-- With one more hit, Neil Walker will become the first Pirate switch-hitter to have 100 knocks since Johnny Ray in 1984. Before that, it hadn't been done since 1943 by Jim Russell. Walker extended his personal-best hitting streak to ten games tonight.
-- Walker (99) and Jose Tabata (92) should become the first Pirate rookies to team up for 100+ hits since 1997, when Jose Guillen and Tony Womack went over the century mark.
-- John Bowker got his first Bucco start tonight in right field. The LH was the Giants' starter in RF on opening day.
-- Sunday is a big day for the Bucs - the Billy Maz statue on Bill Mazeroski Way outside PNC Park will be dedicated at 12:45 PM, with Bob Nutting, Bob Friend, and Steve Blass doing the speechifying.
-- While on a rehab stint for a balky knee with AAA Indy, Jeff Clement pulled his left oblique muscle. That probably puts the cap on his 2010 season.
-- Nyjer Morgan must be channeling the Penguins' Brooks Orpik; the old icer is hitting everything he sees. Sometimes that's not so good - while he's appealing a seven day suspension for throwing a baseball at a fan, he just got eight more added for starting a bench-clearing fracas.