The lineup change manager John Russell made for the game last night changed Freddy Sanchez's fortunes a bit, but did absolutely nothing different for Nate McLouth.
Which was a good thing.
McLouth, batting second rather than his customary first, had three more hits, including two more home runs, and drove in three more runs to help Zach Duke and the Pirates beat San Francisco, 12-6, in front of 12,030 at PNC Park.
Sean Burnett, whose career was derailed by two arm surgeries, made his first major league appearance since Aug. 21, 2004, relieving Duke in the eighth inning.
Burnett allowed two hits, including a three-run home run by former Pirate Jose Castillo, but he was back.
"I was a little overhyped," Burnett said. "I couldn't get my changeup down. Jogging in, a lot of my past came to mind."
"That was neat," Duke said of seeing Burnett in a game. "It's been a long road for him. He's relishing this opportunity. He's just loving life right now."
Sanchez, mired in a 15-for-74 slide over a 17-game span, batted in the leadoff spot for the first time since July 31 and had three hits, plus a walk, scored twice and drove in two runs.
"A little bit of a change," Russell said of the lineup switch. "I think Freddy's a better hitter when he's more selective. We talked about it as a staff. Maybe being in the leadoff spot he might be a little more selective and get himself going a little bit."
Sanchez is a career .346 hitter in the leadoff slot. Batting second, which he has done primarily this season, he is a .252 hitter. Sanchez likely will lead off again tonight.
Duke, who hadn't won since June 12 last season, gave a performance that was a welcome contribution from a starting staff that has been anything but a plus this season.
- Game: San Francisco Giants vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Barry Zito (0-6, 7.53) vs. LHP Phil Dumatrait (0-1, 4.74).
- Key matchup: Zito vs. inactivity. He hasn't pitched since April 27 when he allowed 7 hits, 3 walks and 8 runs in 3 innings against Cincinnati.
- Of note: The Giants bullpen ranks first in the major leagues at stranding inherited runners (91.8 percent through Monday). That figure was 94.1 percent (48 of 51) over a 26-game stretch before last night.
"I'm pretty sure they're not feeling real comfortable right now," Russell said.
"They're not executing the pitches like they need to. The command of the fastball isn't what it needs to be. We've seen signs of it, but until we put it all together you're going to see some innings where they're not real sure what they're doing. We need to correct that.
"The success of our team -- the success of pretty much any team -- is going to be based on starting pitching. We need them to settle down and give us the kind of innings that will allow them to go deeper in games. We need to be better from the first inning on.
"We feel very confident we have good starting pitching. We just need to get them all on the right track."
Flipping Sanchez and McLouth looked as if it would pay immediate dividends last night.
Sanchez led off the first with a single into left-center field. McLouth's single to right sent Sanchez to second, but Jason Bay popped to right and Ryan Doumit bounced into a double play.
Things turned out better in the third.
Chris Gomez had a leadoff single, took second on Duke's sacrifice and third on a wild pitch. Sanchez singled to left, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. McLouth lifted the next pitch -- a high and away fastball -- into the first row of the right-field seats.
Adam LaRoche's home run, following a walk to Xavier Nady, made it 5-0 in the fourth.
The Pirates struck for three more runs in the fifth, which Sanchez began with a walk.
After McLouth flied to right, Bay walked, finishing Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez. Ryan Doumit greeted reliever Brad Hennessey with a run-scoring double.
Nady, hitting .378 in his past 22 games, delivered a two-run double to left, raising his RBI total to 32.
McLouth hit his ninth home run with two outs in the sixth, driving a 3-2 pitch into the last row of the right-field seats.
McLouth also had two home runs in the Pirates' previous home game April 27, a win against Philadelphia.
He is the first Pirate to have multiple-home run games in back-to-back home games since Ralph Kiner did it Sept. 11 and 13, 1949.
"But these were eight or nine days apart," McLouth said.
"It's not like it was two nights in a row. The good thing is we won both games."
The Pirates' final rally began with a two-out walk to LaRoche in the seventh.
LaRoche scored on Jose Bautista's double into the notch in left-center field. Gomez and Sanchez added run-scoring singles.
Paul Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published May 7, 2008 4:00 AM