Sanchez leaves Cincinnati red-faced in doubleheader sweep
Capps earns two saves as Pirates sweep Reds
August 29, 2007 7:45 AM
Closer Matt Capps, left, puts the exclamation point on the Pirates' Game 1 win last night at PNC Park. He also had a save in Game 2.
Teammates greet Freddie Sanchez, left, with high fives at the plate after he hit his first career grand slam in the fourth inning of the first game of last night's doubleheader against the Reds at PNC Park.
Tom Gorzelanny notched his team-high 13th win in Game 1 last night against the Reds.
By Paul Meyer Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Capps had a night to remember.
"That was fun," the Pirates' closer said. "It was a blast."
And it wasn't Sky Blast.
Capps got a save in both ends of the Pirates' doubleheader sweep against Cincinnati, striking out pinch-hitter Adam Dunn with two runners on in the 6-4 first game, then finishing the 3-2 second game by striking out pinch-hitter Ken Griffey Jr. with a runner on to earn his 15th save.
"Getting both of them was pretty awesome," Capps said. "But to get Griffey on three pitches? He's a guy I grew up idolizing. Awesome."
Key matchup: Harang against Jason Bay, who is 14 for 37 (.378) with four doubles, a triple, four home runs and seven RBIs lifetime against the right-hander.
Of note: Since getting a no-decision vs. the Pirates May 25, Harang is 8-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 16 starts. On the other hand, he also has allowed nine HRs in his past three starts.
Before we get too far here, let's mention that Freddy Sanchez had a lot to do with the sweep which moved the Pirates to within 81/2 games of first-place Chicago.
Sanchez, hitting .386 in August and .312 on the year, went 3 for 3 in the opener with five RBIs -- four coming on his first career grand slam. In the second game, he tripled in the eighth and scored on a single by Adam LaRoche to break a 2-2 tie.
"Freddy's been a model of stability," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "He's hitting more and more like the batting champion of 2006."
Playing pretty good defense at second base, too.
"He's improved in all areas defensively," Tracy said. "He's a very attractive player at that position."
Capps threw 27 pitches in his first-game save.
"They taxed Matt Capps pretty much," Tracy said.
But not enough.
"My arm felt all right [in the second game]," Capps said. "But my legs were pretty much gone. I got kind of wobbly a couple times."
Still, he was fine after yielding a leadoff single to Alex Gonzalez.
Pinch-hitter Javier Valentin flied harmlessly to center. Josh Hamilton lined to left field. Then Griffey Jr. was next -- and last.
Same with Dunn in the opener.
"There was a lot of left-handed thunder on that bench," Tracy noted.
But Capps quieted it.
With runners on first and third and two outs, Dunn stepped to the plate in the ninth.
"Just a little bit of a sticky situation," Tracy acknowledged.
Tracy jogged to the mound to confer with Capps.
The message boiled down to this: "Be aggressive, but don't let him beat you. Yeah, if you walk him, the tying run will be on second base, but we'll take our chances with the next guy."
That would have been catcher David Ross, who also would have been up as a pinch-hitter and been the last position player on Cincinnati's bench.
Thing is, Ross has hit Capps -- 2 for 3 lifetime with a double and home run.
Hence, the "sticky situation."
Capps navigated it well.
He got ahead of Dunn 0-2, threw two balls and then struck out Dunn swinging with a 96-mph fastball.
"Capps is real good right now," Tracy said. "But he has a chance to get even better. There are some things he can do with his pitches. He's not finished yet. But he's awfully special."
The Pirates fell behind, 2-0, in the nightcap when pitcher Bronson Arroyo doubled in a run, then scored on Norris Hopper's triple in the second.
Paul Maholm, who allowed seven hits in the first two innings, steadied and got the Pirates through seven innings.
"Just another fabulous game for him," Tracy said.
The Pirates chipped away, scoring a run in the fifth on Jose Castillo's single and adding a run in the seventh on pinch-hitting sensation Matt Kata's two-out single to left on an 0-2 pitch.
That set the stage for the eighth.
Sanchez tripled on an 0-2 pitch into the notch in left-center field with one out. Then LaRoche softly lined a 1-2 pitch from left-hander Bill Bray into center field for the winner.
Sanchez's slam and Jason Bay's solo home run in the first game gave the Pirates 43 home runs in August. That ties the club record for most home runs in a month, set by the 1947 Pirates, who featured Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg.
Tom Gorzelanny got the first-game win, battling his way into the seventh inning.
"A very gritty performance by Tom Gorzelanny," Tracy said.
"I had to fight myself and fight the Reds," Gorzelanny said. "I'd get into jams and then have to fight my way out of them."
Gorzelanny's 13 wins are the most by a Pirates left-hander since Denny Neagle went 14-6 in 1996.
The Pirates have won 14 of their past 20 games to inch to within 81/2 games of the lead in the National League Central crawl.
"We're still playing significant baseball," Tracy said. [Eight and half games] is not an insurmountable task. Obviously, we've got to win a lot, but we've been playing our best baseball of the season over the past three weeks."