Monday, June 28, 2010

Thank God For the Cubs!

Well, Paul Maholm made it out of the first today, though the second gave him a little problem. A-Ram singled to lead off the inning and made it to third after Geovany Soto doubled on a pop fly just inside the right field chalk with one out.

The two-bagger came with a little drama when Lastings Milledge kneed Bobby Crosby in the process. Hey, you RF's, give the second basemen a little love! It'as not like there are that many on the roster to spare.

A slow roller to third brought him in, and almost set up a big frame when Pedro threw it wide trying to cut down the lead man at home, leaving runners at second and third. He made amends when he held the runner on the next ball hit ball to him, and Maholm closed out the frame without further ado.

At any rate, we found out that Andy LaRoche doesn't have the 2B position down yet; Delwyn Young got the call to replace Crosby in the third after he exhibited the dreaded concussion-like symptoms trying to run out a grounder.

The Bucs took a two-out gift in the third when Jose Tabata singled, stole second, and trotted home when Andrew McCutchen's liner got lost in the lights and was turned into a triple instead of a hard hit out. Garrett Jones got that when he roped one to center that hooked back to a sliding Marlon Byrd.

And actually, Randy Wells was trying to help out the Bucs; he walked four in the first four innings. But with 5 K's, there weren't many balls being put in play to move those runners along.

The game became a pitching duel; Wells left after six, and two relievers held the Bucs off the board in the seventh. Maholm got himself in a pickle, though. With one out, he gave up a ground ball double over first, followed by an 0-2 rope into left. But with runners on the corners, he got a 6-4-3, with Young turning a perfect pivot.

The Pirates made some noise in the eighth, getting runners to second and third with two gone. But Pedro went down swinging against Andrew Cashner's 98 MPH heat.

They tried it again in the ninth. Dewey led off with a single, was bunted to second, and pinch hitter Ryan Church walked. Then Tabata almost doubled into disaster off Carlos Marmal; his slicing ball landed at the base of the wall, but Doumit was heading back to second to tag up!

He beat the throw home by a half step; Dewey didn't even slide. That, on top of last night's escapades, might have driven JR to the brink. But score he did, and the Pirates took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Maholm was sharp tonight, working his heater and curve with great command. He went eight innings - and did the bullpen need that break! - giving up a run on seven hits, with 2 K's and no walks.

Octavio Dotel took the hill for the ninth. The start was a little dicey; he fell behind Aramis Ramirez 3-1, and after a couple of fouls, drilled him in the shoulder. But then he got down to business, and nailed the next three Cubbies swinging, on a slider and two heaters.

So hey, the streak is broken.

Jeff Karstens faces Ted Lilly in the second game tomorrow night.

-- Neil Walker passed his MRI but still has concussion-like symptoms. he'll be examined by a specialist tomorrow. The Pirates will have to make a decision soon. They can't play two men down if Crosby and/or The Pittsburgh Kid are hurt for any appreciable amount of time, and they are starting to run short of second basemen, too. Maybe Aki's in Indy sticking pins into voodoo dolls; how else can you explain the sudden rash of crashes?

-- Paul Maholm broke a 38 at-bat hitless streak dating back to last year when he fisted a ball into left in the fifth frame, just in front of a charging Alfonso Soriano. He also became the first Pirate starter this year to work more than seven innings, 76 games into the season - how's that for a streak?

-- The Pirates are now 8-2 against their long time tormentors, the Cubbies.

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