Pirates count their curses after 5-4 loss

Doumit's dramatic home run undone when Braves win in ninth

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John Bazemore, Associated Press
Atlanta Barves' Yunel Escobar scores on a wild pitch as Pirates pitcher Tom Gorzelanny covers the home plate in the first inning last night in Atlanta.
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

ATLANTA -- Good grief.

The Pirates were buoyant as can be after Ryan Doumit's pinch-hit, three-run home run tied the score in the seventh inning last night at Turner Field. High-fives and handshakes all around.

It was just then, though, that a storm cloud that might as well have been pulled out of a "Peanuts" comic strip passed over the ballpark and halted play for more than an hour.

And it was not long after the skies cleared, as fate would have it, that Jeff Francoeur's bases-loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth nudged the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 victory.

All that was missing, it seemed, was Charlie Brown left muttering on the mound.

"It's a tough one to swallow, that's for sure," Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny said. "You get a big hit like the one we got, you get that momentum ... and the rain comes."

Actually, it appeared they would get doused early.

Gorzelanny was tagged for Andruw Jones' three-run home run in the first inning and Francouer's sacrifice fly in the third. With that 4-0 head start and Chuck James dominating the Pirates once again - six more scoreless innings after he pitched seven at PNC Park May 12 -- it appeared the Braves could coast for a second consecutive night.

But James was out after the sixth, and the Pirates pounced on Tyler Yates in the seventh for one run when third baseman Chipper Jones' throwing error allowed Jason Bay to score on Ronny Paulino's infield chopper.

Then, with two outs and two on, Doumit was summoned to face Atlanta setup man Rafael Soriano, worked the count full and sent a 95-mph fastball high into the seats beyond right-center field.

"A great at-bat off our bench," manager Jim Tracy called it.

It was Doumit's seventh home run, his second out of the Pirates' three by pinch-hitters.

It was no more than five minutes later that rain halted action for 1:12.

"It was a really big lift for all of us," Doumit said of his home run. "But it kind of stinks that the rain came when it did. It killed all of that."

And it was nothing but trouble from there.

As Tracy put it, "We had our backs against the wall the whole game, it seemed."

The Pirates never threatened again offensively and, after Damaso Marte's perfect eighth inning of relief, Shawn Chacon needed a popup by Brian McCann and a fastball to freeze Jarrod Saltalamacchia to leave bases loaded in the eighth.

He nearly escaped the ninth, too.

It opened ominously, with a harsh comebacker by Willie Harris that caromed off Chacon's left leg and landed between first and second bases for an infield single.

Picture a Peppermint Patty line drive taking Charlie Brown for a twirl.

"Tough start," Chacon said.

Harris was bunted to second by Yunel Escobar, and Edgar Renteria popped up for the second out. Chipper Jones was intentionally walked and, after a wild pitch advanced the two runners, Andruw Jones walked to load the bases.

Francoeur drew a 2-1 count, then focused on getting a pitch that would allow him to extend his arms.

"Chacon kept painting the corners on me and, if he threw inside, I was just going to lay off," Francoeur recalled. "But it came over the middle."

It was a flat changeup, too, which did not help. Francouer methodically poked it through the middle of the infield and was mobbed at first base by the time it reached center field.

"I wanted it in," Chacon said of the pitch. "But it wasn't really well located. It happens."

Chacon had been exceptional leading up to the All-Star break, allowing just two earned runs in 13 appearances. But he never looked quite comfortable, especially with his offspeed stuff, after having six days off.

"Yeah, I was rusty, but that's no excuse," Chacon said. "I still had a chance to get out of that inning. I had two strikes on Andruw, and I needed to put him away, not walk him."

"He was one pitch away from doing a spectacular job," Tracy said. "They have a very formidable middle of the order over there."

Gorzelanny failed to get his 10th victory, but there was little dislike about his outing -- four runs, six hits and seven strikeouts that matched his career high -- especially when considering the manner in which the only serious blow was struck: Andruw Jones went after a full-count changeup on the outside corner and sent it the other way over the right-field fence.

"That's just Andruw Jones and what he can do," Gorzelanny said.

The Pirates were left with an 0-2 mark since the break and, more noteworthy, their streak of winning series was snapped at four. If they had won five, it would have been the first time for the franchise since Aug. 24-Sept. 9, 1992.

As someone might say: Augh.

Third baseman Jose Bautista left the game in the second inning when his left hand was lacerated while getting caught trying to steal third base. The injury did not appear serious.

Today

Game: Pirates (LHP Paul Maholm 5-11, 4.76) vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Buddy Carlyle 3-2, 4.50), 1:05 p.m., Turner Field.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Key matchup: Maholm vs. right-handed hitters, who are batting .293 off him, compared to .213 for lefties.

Of note: Carlyle, 30, has spent only 30 games out of his 11-year professional career in Major League Baseball, but he is coming off maybe his finest start: He lasted eight innings July 6 at San Diego, allowing three runs and striking out seven.


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Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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