LaRoche, Capps finally close deal

BALTIMORE -- Adam LaRoche got a second chance in two games to be a hero yesterday -- and this time he was rewarded.

Matt Capps went one better than LaRoche and had a third chance in two days to close a game -- and finally succeeded.

Crazy stuff at Camden Yards.

"I've never seen anything like these last three games," Pirates manager John Russell said. "Unbelievable. Two teams that keep coming back at each other. It was an amazing series."

The Pirates managed to salvage one of the three games yesterday -- and break their seven-game interleague play losing streak -- when LaRoche lined a run-scoring single off left-handed closer George Sherrill in the 10th inning to provide a 5-4 victory.

"Just a wild series," LaRoche said. "It feels like we could have lost all three games, and it feels like we should have won all three games."

  • Game: Pirates vs. Chicago White Sox, 8:11 p.m., Wrigley Field.
  • TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
  • Pitching: RHP Ian Snell (3-6) vs. RHP Javier Vazquez (6-5).

In order, the Pirates lost the opener Friday night, 9-6, after holding a 6-1 lead in the third inning.

They lost, 8-7, Saturday night after going ahead, 7-6, in the top of the ninth on LaRoche's two-run home run off Sherrill. Capps yielded two runs in the bottom of the ninth, blowing his second save in five games.

Yesterday, Capps made it three blown saves in six games, allowing a tying, two-run, two-out, opposite-field home run to Brian Roberts in the ninth.

After LaRoche's single in the 10th, Capps went back out for the bottom of the 10th, giving him the opportunity to lose three leads in three innings in two games.

However, in this third time, he was charmed.

The right-hander blew away the Orioles in order, then pumped his first in triumph. Or relief.

"I wanted to go back out there," Capps said. "I felt good. I felt real good. I'm a little bit snake-bit, and it's not a fun feeling. But I've always been pretty good about leaving yesterday, yesterday."

Or in this case, leaving the ninth inning, the ninth inning.

"Quick turnaround," Capps conceded.

Yesterday's drama began building in the seventh after the Pirates had staked starter Paul Maholm to a 4-2 lead.

Nate McLouth's 15th home run and Jason Michaels' two-run single produced three runs in the third. Jose Bautista singled in a run in the fifth.

Maholm allowed solo home runs to Guillermo Quiroz in the fifth and Aubrey Huff in the sixth. When Maholm walked Oscar Salazar to begin the seventh, Russell brought in John Grabow.

Recently, going to the bullpen has meant only bad stuff for the Pirates.

In the five previous games, the relievers combined to allow 21 hits, 12 walks and 13 runs in 141/3 innings.

"We've been scrapping a little bit lately -- especially the bullpen," Grabow said.

Grabow made the seventh inning worse immediately by walking Quiroz on four pitches.

He did retire pinch-hitter Melvin Mora on a fly to center and struck out Roberts with a changeup.

But then Jay Payton flared a 1-2 pitch into very short right-center field.

Just before the pitch, Pirates coaches had moved McLouth from shading to left-center to shading into right-center -- a move that paid off.

"It was a slider away, and I saw [Payton] kind of reached for it," McLouth said.

McLouth sprinted in, unsure if he could get to the ball. But at the last second, he dived and made a grass-top catch.

"Luckily, it hung up there long enough," McLouth said.

Damaso Marte struck out three Orioles in the eighth to get the Pirates to the bottom of the ninth.

Enter Capps.

Salazar, whose home run off Capps tied the score in the ninth Saturday, this time hit a routine bouncer to Bautista, who permitted the ball to play him and muffed a short hop for an error.

Capps set down pinch-hitter Luke Scott on a fly to right, then struck out pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez, whose single beat Capps Saturday night.

That brought up Roberts, who drove a 1-0 pitch into the left-field seats.

"It wasn't really that bad a pitch -- a fastball down and away" Capps said. "I didn't know he had that kind of pop."

The Pirates quickly rose off the mat in the 10th.

Sherrill walked Jason Bay on five pitches. Ryan Doumit, as quiet in this series as he was noisy against Washington, grounded a single to right that sent Bay to third.

LaRoche, perhaps breaking out of what had been a 7 for 51 slide two days earlier, lined Sherrill's next pitch into right field for a lead-producing single.

Capps was impressed.

"It shows the fight and eagerness of everybody on this team wanting to be the guy," he said.

As did Capps going back out for the 10th.

"He's our closer," Russell said. "I'll take my chances with him any day."

Or any inning.

First Published June 16, 2008 4:00 AM


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