Third game in row with a home run boosts Pirates, 7-5
June 13, 2008 8:00 AM
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
Pirates players and manager John Russell take notice as hot-hitting Ryan Doumit shows a lot of leadership in recent days.
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez makes catch on National Lastings Milledge in the 3rd inning.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It is one thing to pipe up, as Ryan Doumit did four days ago after the Pirates' tumultuous takedown of the Arizona Diamondbacks, brashly declaring, "We let 'em know we weren't going to be pushed around in our own house."
It is quite another to produce.
But that is exactly what Doumit did, showing a bite far louder than his bark in beating up on the Washington Nationals every day since, including the 7-5 victory yesterday at PNC Park: He homered for a third consecutive game and added a single, a walk and three RBIs, finishing the series 9 for 11 with four home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs.
Game: Pirates vs. Baltimore Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Phil Dumatrait (3-3, 3.44) vs. LHP Brian Burres (4-5, 4.96).
Key matchup: All pitchers vs. Baltimore's bats, which are producing at a .301 clip in June, with 57 runs and 13 home runs while going 6-5.
Of note: There could be rallies aplenty in this series: The Pirates and Orioles each have 18 comeback victories, tied for fourth-most in Major League Baseball. Only the Chicago Cubs (21), Philadelphia Phillies (20) and Florida Marlins (19) have more.
"We talk about leadership, and one of the things we say is this: If you're going to lead, you'll have to take some responsibility with that," Pirates manager John Russell said. "It's great that Ryan said something, but he also came out and swung the bat. That's the kind of guy he is, and I see a little more of that in him every day."
So do his teammates.
As Doumit was making that statement Monday, a few nearby players perked up their ears. And, the next day, when the quote was blared across the top of the local sports section, the others heard about it, too. Some even began echoing the "our house" refrain in interviews that day.
"It fired us up a little bit," third baseman Jose Bautista said.
Not nearly as much as the boom of Doumit's bat, though.
"That's what you want to see: He said it, and he backed it up with some huge hits," right fielder Xavier Nady said. "But you know what? We all have to believe what he said. And we all have to back it up. It's our ballpark, and we have to believe we can win here."
The Pirates have done that to this point: They are 21-15 at PNC Park, including 6-4 on the 10-game homestand that just ended with taking two of three from last-place Washington.
The team aspect, for the most part, was all Doumit wanted to discuss yesterday.
Asked about following up his statement Monday with such a flourish, he replied, "We're playing well right now. It's fun right now for a lot of us, and I like what I see."
Those close to him will attest it is no act. When he homered twice Tuesday but the Pirates lost in the ninth inning, he was visibly distraught and, in a rarity, declined to speak with the media.
Pressed on his torrid hitting yesterday, he offered little more.
"Things seem to be going in my favor," Doumit said. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to try to analyze it. I just want to ride the wave."
Others were willing to speak for him, including some from the visiting side.
"It's kind of, like, unbelievable," Washington center fielder Lastings Milledge said. "He's hitting stuff 2 feet off the ground. There's no plan for that. I mean, you just have to hope he misses."
Doumit got started right away yesterday, drilling a Jason Bergmann fastball high above the Clemente Wall for a two-run shot in the first inning.
The Pirates scored two more in the second when Tom Gorzelanny drew a bases-loaded walk and Nate McLouth hit a sacrifice fly, then two again in the fifth on Jason Bay's sacrifice fly and Doumit's two-out RBI single. That made it 6-1.
Meanwhile, Gorzelanny shook off a 34-pitch first inning to go 5 2/3 with three runs and six hits. He hardly was efficient, finishing with 107 pitches, but he had a season-high six strikeouts and stranded runners at third base in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
"I didn't feel great," Gorzelanny said. "But I battled and made some good pitches. The results were there."
To hear Milledge tell it, the Nationals should have been more patient.
"We all knew he had more walks than strikeouts," he said of Gorzelanny. "We kind of let him off the hook."
Gorzelanny would get the win to improve to a staff-best 5-5, but it was not automatic.
Washington pulled within 6-5 on Cristian Guzman's RBI single off Franquelis Osoria in the eighth, but Tyler Yates came on for the final out, a swinging strikeout of Milledge, to strand two more.
Chris Gomez generated an insurance run in the bottom half: He led off with a hustling double, took third on Jack Wilson's bunt and scored on pinch-hitter Jason Michaels' double.
That 7-5 lead would be turned over not to closer Matt Capps, who had pitched four consecutive days, but to Damaso Marte, who had 31 career saves but none since Aug. 27, 2005, while with the Chicago White Sox.
Marte was told right after batting practice that he might close.
"I don't think about the eighth inning or ninth inning," Marte said. "This is what you do: Throw the ball to home plate."
He did that 15 times, got three outs and shook hands, as the crowd of 16,306 stood and cheered.
The Pirates now visit Baltimore for the first of 15 games against the American League and, at 33-34, they will do so with yet another chance at the holy grail of .500: They have not had an even record since they were 7-7 on April 14 and have lost in their past five attempts to reach it.
A victory against the Orioles tonight would mark the latest in a season the Pirates have been .500 since Sept. 1, 1999, when they were 67-67.