Diaz's two-run single a clutch rarity in taking two of three from Detroit
June 15, 2009 8:00 AM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Freddy Sanchez, front center, Nyjer Morgan (3), Andrew McCutchen, rear center, and Delwyn Young celebrate a 6-3 win against the Tigers yesterday at PNC Park.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Tigers starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis, left, has his hand checked by trainer Kevin Rand in the second inning. Willis walked eight in 32/3 innings.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It had become painfully obvious that everyone would have a hard time hitting Detroit's Dontrelle Willis yesterday, if only because he was having an excruciatingly hard time pitching.
As Pirates manager John Russell put it, "You don't want to swing at a bad pitch, and you don't want to let a good pitch go by."
It surely showed: One by one, his batters either drew walks or took downright awful swings.
Fortunately for the home team, Robinzon Diaz took a simpler approach and delivered the decisive blow -- the only blow, really -- in the 6-3 victory against the Tigers before 27,565 at PNC Park.
"For me, I don't care about how the other pitches go," Diaz said. "If I see a strike, I think I can hit it."
The Pirates took small advantage of the typically erratic Willis in the first inning, scoring three times despite just one hit reaching the outfield: There were three walks, a single to center, a bunt single and a sacrifice fly.
Pretty hollow stuff, but 3-0 nonetheless.
• Game: Pirates vs. Minnesota Twins, 8:10 p.m., Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (4-2, 3.61) vs. LHP Glen Perkins (1-3, 5.36).
Detroit scored once in the fourth off Ross Ohlendorf, but the Pirates finally found a meaningful hit in doubling their run total in the bottom half: They had left bases loaded in the third and appeared set to do likewise this time, until Diaz ripped Willis' 1-1 fastball up the middle for two runs and a 6-1 lead.
Now, that had some teeth.
"Diaz really opened things up," Russell said. "That's the hit we needed."
"It was very important," Diaz said.
The Pirates' batters displayed some of their worst approaches of the summer, even with Willis getting chased after 3 2/3 innings, six runs, six hits and eight walks. They hacked at pitches well out of the zone, swung liberally right after a teammate would draw a four-pitch walk and, in general, were a mess.
That included Diaz, who was part of leaving the bases loaded in the third: He watched his teammates use a single and two walks to load the bases with nobody out, then he swung and missed at his first pitch, popped up the second.
It was a good thing for the Pirates, no doubt, that they faced Willis on this day.
He once was a 20-game winner for the Florida Marlins and a rising star in Major League Baseball, but he is 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA for Detroit, with a ghastly 28 walks in 33 2/3 innings.
And yet, as Russell suggested ...
"It's amazing, one hitter he's right there and two hitters he's not close," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It's hard to figure out, to be honest."
Two starts ago, Willis held the Texas Rangers scoreless through 6 1/3 innings, with just one hit.
"I go one step forward, two steps back," Willis said. "It's unacceptable."
The Pirates had several standouts, with Andrew McCutchen, Delwyn Young and Eric Hinske each reaching safely four times. Young, who is seeing more time in the outfield thanks to his current 12-for-24 tear, had three hits to raise his average to .358.
But they also went 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 overall.
Ohlendorf improved to 6-5, his first victory in five starts, with a line of one run and two hits over six mostly smooth innings.
"I thought Ross did a really good job, especially with all the time he had to spend on the bench during those long innings early on," Russell said.
"Overall, I'm really happy with the way this one went," Ohlendorf said.
Steven Jackson allowed two runs in the seventh, but Sean Burnett, John Grabow and Matt Capps finished it off, Capps recording his 16th save.
Capps had trouble with the mound early in the ninth and summoned the grounds crew, after which he was dominant.
"There were two big holes out there," Capps said. "I'm used to holes, always coming in late, but not like that."
The Pirates took two of three in the series with the first-place Tigers.