Shortstop John McDonald's error on a ball hit by Jason Michaels gave the Pirates a 1-0 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays in 12 innings last night at PNC Park.
The Pirates had the bases loaded with no outs. McDonald tried to throw to the plate on Michaels' ball but never did field the ground ball.
The ending came after a superb seven-inning duel between starters Zach Duke and Roy Halladay.
The game marked the beginning of Cito Gaston's second stint as Toronto's manager. He succeeds John Gibbons, who was fired yesterday.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi flew into Pittsburgh yesterday morning and informed Gibbons of the move at 12:30 p.m.
"From our standpoint, we've underachieved," Ricciardi said. "We know we have a better team than this. Right now, we want to see if we can spark this team, and we think Cito is the guy to do it."
- Box score
- Game: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Jesse Litsch (7-3, 3.70) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (4-5, 4.45).
- Key matchup: Pirates hitters vs. Litsch's control. Litsch has walked only 13 batters in 822/3 innings.
- Of note: Litsch was 4-0 with a 2.08 earned run average in six May starts. In three starts in June, he is 0-2 and has allowed 28 hits and 11 runs in 172/3 innings.
Gaston, 64, had been a Blue Jays ambassador and special assistant to team president/chief executive officer Paul Godfrey.
Gaston managed the Blue Jays from 1989-97 and directed them to World Series championships in 1992-93.
Also fired yesterday were hitting coach Gary Denbo, third base coach Marty Pevey and first base coach Ernie Whitt.
Gene Tenace, who played for the Pirates in 1983, is Toronto's new hitting coach. Dwayne Murphy takes over as first base coach and Nick Leyva is the new third base coach.
The Blue Jays were swept in Milwaukee and brought a five-game losing streak to PNC Park. They also had lost 13 of their previous 17 games.
"I know John Gibbons very well," Pirates manager John Russell said. "I always respected him. I thought he was a very good manager. I know a lot of the players liked him. It's got to be somewhat difficult, but I'm sure they'll move on."
Duke turned in perhaps his best start of the season. In his seven innings, he allowed six hits and a walk and threw 64 of his 97 pitches for strikes. He has provided at least six innings in 10 of his past 11 starts.
Despite his good work, it was almost as if the left-hander wasn't supposed to get a win.
The Pirates had two scoring opportunities while he was in the game and barely missed converting each.
A rare walk by Halladay to Doug Mientkiewicz began the Pirates' fifth. On a 2-0 pitch to Wilson, Mientkiewicz broke for second, and Jack Wilson dropped a single into short right, enabling Mientkiewicz to reach third.
Raul Chavez hit a slicing fly ball into medium-depth right. Alex Rios caught the ball running toward the foul line. With Duke up next, there was no question third base coach Tony Beasley would send Mientkiewicz, who couldn't beat Rios' strong, on-target throw.
In the seventh, singles by Adam LaRoche and Mientkiewicz, 8 for 20 lifetime against Halladay, put runners on first and second with no outs. Wilson sacrificed, and the Blue Jays walked Chavez intentionally, loading the bases.
Chris Gomez, who was 4 for 10 against Halladay, pinch-hit for Duke. Gomez was unable to check his swing at a 2-2 breaking pitch low and away and struck out. Nyjer Morgan lined a 1-1 pitch that appeared headed for center, but the ball struck Halladay just above his right temple and caromed on the fly to third baseman Scott Rolen, who caught it for the third out.
The Blue Jays expect Halladay will be able to make his next start against Cincinnati.
The Pirates had lost five of their first six interleague games, losing two of three in Baltimore last weekend, then getting blown out of three games against the White Sox in Chicago.
"Any pitch we threw that was decently hittable, they crushed," Wilson said. "They didn't just hit it -- they crushed it. You take your hat off to those guys. They swung the bats."
That wasn't the case last night.
This was just the second game in the eight-year history of PNC Park that was scoreless through nine innings. The first was against Atlanta Aug. 28, 2002. The Pirates won that one, 1-0, in the 10th.
First Published June 21, 2008 4:00 AM