Pirates' Capps after blowing lead: 'It was all me'

Three early home runs, Wilson gem wasted in 8-7 loss to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Capps sat at his stall, forehead planted in left palm, eyes glaring, sweat still beading down his face.

If a closer in baseball has the loneliest job in sports under the best of circumstances, one can only imagine how isolated Capps felt last night after throwing away a four-run lead in the ninth inning of the Pirates' excruciating 8-7 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

"It was all me," Capps would say upon turning from his stall to face the media. "A bad night by me, all the way around. There's no other way to look at it, no other way to put it, no other way to write it. I stunk. Flat-out, it's embarrassing."

No one would dispute any of those points, certainly not after nearly everyone else on the Pirates' roster contributed to what had been shaping up as an ultra-satisfying smackdown of the World Series champions.

Garrett Jones, Delwyn Young and Andrew McCutchen homered.

Those, plus four doubles, chased Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.

Jack Wilson made one of Major League Baseball's finest defensive plays all summer.


Game: Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 1:35 p.m., Citizens Bank Ballpark.

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

Pitching: RHP Virgil Vasquez (1-2, 4.50) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (5-0, 3.04).

Key matchup: Happ has been dominant everywhere except his home field in Philadelphia, where he has a 5.06 ERA and has given up 13 home runs in 64 innings.

Of note: Today marks the 12th anniversary of the last noteworthy game in Pirates history, the combined no-hitter of Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon at Three Rivers Stadium.

Ross Ohlendorf turned in a solid start, and the bullpen took it through eight with a 7-3 lead.

And then ...

Capps, clearly confident from having recorded 13 consecutive saves and from having the big lead, went right at pinch-hitter Matt Stairs with five fastballs in a row. The fifth was sent into the right-field seats, and it was 7-4.

"A 3-1 fastball is exactly what he's looking for," Capps said. "With everybody else, it's just poor execution and planning on my part. I elevated the ball, got behind in the count, everything."

Jimmy Rollins walked, and Shane Victorino flied out to deep center, but Chase Utley sustained the rally with a single to left.

Next was slugger Ryan Howard, and the capacity crowd of 45,209 rose to its feet and roared in anticipation.

First pitch was a wasted slider, the second a low fastball. Against most others, it would be a good pitch.

"That's where he prefers it," Capps said, shaking his head.

It showed: Howard belted it, as only he can, with astounding authority high over the 409-foot mark in left-center for a tying three-run home run.

The Phillies kept coming.

Raul Ibanez doubled, and Jayson Werth was intentionally walked before Pedro Feliz singled off the back of Capps' leg to load the bases.

Paul Bako, owner of a .174 average, sliced a 2-2 fastball through the gaping hole in the left side, and the game was over.

"You could sense in the dugout the whole inning that guys were in attack mode," Bako said. "When I got up there, the hard part was already done."

The reaction in the Pirates' clubhouse focused more on the Phillies' exceptional lineup and bandbox ballpark than Capps.

"They're an explosive offense, and no lead is safe here," manager John Russell said. "Matt missed his spots a little, and they took advantage of all of them."

"When a team starts hitting like that, it can get contagious," Grabow said.

"Honestly, it's the park," Wilson said. "They built that roster for this park. When you've got four 20-home-run guys like they do, they go up to the plate feeling like they can hit it out every time up."

The Pirates burst ahead, 5-0, through two innings, and their first seven hits went for extra bases. The franchise had not achieved the latter since June 7, 1977, against the San Francisco Giants.

Jones' home run, his second in as many nights and fourth in 10 games since being promoted, came in the first inning and clanked off the second-deck facade well beyond right field.

Young followed Doumit's double later that inning with a liner to the left-field seats for his fourth home run. That marked another rarity: The Pirates had not gone deep twice in the first inning since Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay did it Sept. 17, 2005, off the Cincinnati Reds' Aaron Harang.

In the second, McCutchen sent a two-run shot of his own beyond left-center, his second home run.

Ohlendorf took it through 5 2/3, charged with three runs and five hits while displaying markedly better zip and command of all four pitches. That included an upgraded fastball, regularly registering at 93 mph.

He explained that, in working with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan after his previous start in which he seldom hit 90 mph, he adjusted his back leg to get more drive on the ball.

"I definitely felt like I was throwing better," Ohlendorf said.

As for Wilson's gem ...

With Rollins on first and nobody out in the seventh, Victorino blooped a ball that appeared certain to fall in the vacant grass between Wilson and Jones in shallow left. But, with his back to the infield and sliding on one knee, Wilson snagged it over his shoulder.

Almost in the same motion, he leaped to his feet and bulleted a throw to first baseman Adam LaRoche that nailed the speedy Rollins off the base for a double play.

Not many visiting athletes hear cheers in Philadelphia -- it took Mario Lemieux scoring a goal upon returning to the ice the same day as his final cancer treatment -- but Wilson heard a smattering, following an audible gasp.

"It was phenomenal," Russell said.

To hear Wilson tell it, steering clear of the much larger Jones was a small victory in itself.

"If I didn't, I'd be in the hospital right now," Wilson said. "I just stayed with it."

The Pirates are in a 3-10 slide heading into their final game today before the All-Star break.

Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog . Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . First Published July 12, 2009 4:00 AM


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