It was another long night at the ballpark for the Pirates last night, but this one ended differently.
Jason Bay's two-out home run in the sixth inning gave them a 1-0 win against Cincinnati in a game delayed by rain at the start and interrupted by hail stones and rain in the top of the sixth.
"Very rarely do you see it hail before it rains," Bay said. "Did you notice that?"
And then there was the spectacular lightning show minutes before the hail and rain. That all caused a 62-minute delay, most of it spent by the ground crew getting the infield dried out. The tarp was so sodden that the crew had a difficult time getting the entire infield covered.
- Box score
- Game: Cincinnati Reds vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Bronson Arroyo (0-1, 5.91) vs. RHP Ian Snell (1-0, 3.75).
- Key matchup: Pirates manager John Russell might be tempted to give Doug Mientkiewicz a start tonight. The left-handed batter is 5 for 6 with a home run and three RBIs lifetime against Arroyo.
- Of note: Cincinnati's bullpen was the worst in the National League last year, compiling a 5.10 ERA and permitting hitters to bat .282 against it. Through Thursday, this Reds bullpen had a 2.61 ERA and had held the opposition to a .194 batting average.
For the Pirates, the wait was worth it.
Moments after John Grabow, pitching in relief of standout starter Paul Maholm, snuffed a Cincinnati threat in the top of the sixth, Bay dropped a millstone on the Reds.
He drove a 3-2 fastball from Jared Burton deep into the left-field seats.
"More important, we threw a goose egg on them," Bay said.
Maholm provided most of that goose egg, working 51/3 innings before the hail and rain and lightning ended his evening.
Grabow, Damaso Marte and Matt Capps finished the shutout.
"We've said all along that if we can get deep into the game with a lead, we have quality people in the bullpen," manager John Russell said.
Capps earned his second save with a perfect ninth, although center fielder Nyjer Morgan provided a nice assist.
With two outs, Ken Griffey Jr. drove a ball to deep right-center field. Both Morgan and right fielder Nate McLouth raced for the ball, and McLouth appeared to call for it.
"We both called it at the same time," Morgan said. "The center fielder has priority."
Morgan made a leaping catch on the track to end this most recent marathon.
"I jumped because I didn't want to collide [with McLouth]," Morgan said. "We still clipped each other a little bit."
Morgan was in the lineup to give Xavier Nady a night off.
"It's just like with Bay and the rest of them -- you just can't run them into the ground," Russell said. "He's played every day. He's played really hard for a while. He's played all the extra innings. It's a chance to let him regroup a little bit and get his legs back under him."
Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez turned in a second good start for the Reds. The right-hander allowed three hits and three walks in five innings before leaving because of the delay.
The addition of Volquez and Johnny Cueto, scheduled to start tomorrow, to the Cincinnati rotation is not without significance. About midway through spring training, a National League scout said he'd pick the Reds to finish second in the Central Division "if Volquez and Cueto are in their rotation."
The hailstorm and thunderstorm struck in the top of the sixth with Reds on first and second and Paul Bako at bat with an 0-2 count.
When the game resumed, Grabow succeeded Maholm.
The left-hander put down the inning by retiring Bako on a pop to shortstop and getting pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg on a fly to right.
Bay's home run in the bottom of the sixth gave the Pirates a lead to protect.
The Reds immediately threatened again.
Norris Hopper led off with a single to right. Two outs later, Grabow walked Brandon Phillips.
With Adam Dunn scheduled, Russell brought in Marte, like Grabow, a left-hander.
"We've used Grabow a lot," Russell said. "Marte was fresher, and he was going to pitch the eighth inning anyway."
Marte walked Dunn on a 3-2 pitch. Marte, however, retired Edwin Encarnacion on a pop to shortstop for the third out.
The Pirates missed a good opportunity to pad their lead in the eighth after a leadoff double into the right-field corner by Doug Mientkiewicz off David Weathers. Morgan's ground ball to second sent Mientkiewicz to third.
Freddy Sanchez, however, grounded to third. After Weathers walked McLouth and Bay, Nady, up as a pinch-hitter, flied to right.
The Pirates entered the game with a major-league high 14 errors in their first nine games and added to that total in the first two innings.
Maholm muffed Hopper's game-opening tap in front of the mound for his second error. Shortstop Luis Rivas missed Ryan Doumit's throw to second on a bunt play in the second. That was the fourth error for Rivas, who has had far more defensive experience at second base than at shortstop.
"We've had a few plays where we kind of forced the issue," said Russell.
"A couple other ones are just careless. We talk about it and try to correct it."
First Published April 12, 2008 4:00 AM