Doug Mientkiewicz congratulates winning pitcher Yoslan Herrera last night at PNC Park.
Xavier Nady rounds the bases after hitting one of the Pirates' three home runs last night against the Padres.
By Paul Meyer Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ryan Doumit's pregame "talk" with Yoslan Herrera was short and to the point.
"Sinker," the Pirates' catcher said, making a downward motion with his hand. "Throw it."
And Herrera did.
The Cuban defector limited the San Diego Padres to six hits and walked one in six scoreless innings and helped the Pirates to a 9-1 win that netted him his first major league victory and the team's fourth win in a row.
"Very happy," Herrera said through his interpreter, bullpen coach Luis Dorante. "There are no words."
Game: San Diego Padres vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: RHP Cha Seung Baek (2-5, 4.66) vs. LHP Zach Duke (4.7, 4.92).
Key matchup: Padres against Duke. The Padres are 12-23 when a left-hander starts against them.
Of note: In his past three starts, Duke has allowed 27 hits and 19 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.
Herrera's first two starts as a Pirate did not go well and resulted in the unsightly 19.50 earned run average he lugged to the mound last night.
Against St. Louis July 12, he allowed 11 hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings. A week later in Denver, he lasted just 1 2/3 innings and yielded eight hits and seven runs.
"His first and second starts, it was like a whirlwind -- take the rubber and see what happens," manager John Russell said. "In his first start, he threw pretty well, but he went with off-speed stuff a little bit [too often]. The second start was a non-factor. He never got anything going."
Herrera really should still be with Class AA Altoona continuing his development, but Phil Dumatrait's injury and Tom Gorzelanny's ineffectiveness have conspired to thrust him into the Pirates' rotation.
"It's a tough situation for him to be in," Russell said. "He was throwing the ball very well [in the minor leagues], and now he's up at the major league level and trying to get major league hitters out."
Herrera fared better last night, although there is this disclaimer: The Padres rank last in the National League in runs scored and next to last in team batting average.
"He was wonderful," Doumit said. "He's always had stuff that moves, but the key in the major leagues is to work ahead in the count."
Herrera, who threw 98 pitches, went to a 3-2 count just once.
"It was a very clean start for him," Russell said.
San Diego starter Clay Hensley took the rotation spot previously occupied by Randy Wolf, who was traded Tuesday to Houston.
The Pirates had a chance for a huge first inning against the right-hander, who made his first start this season.
Nate McLouth walked on a 3-2 pitch. Resurgent Freddy Sanchez poked a single to right on an 0-2 pitch, moving McLouth to second.
It was the first of two hits for Sanchez, who is 14 for 33 since the All-Star break.
"We saw signs of progress before the break," Russell said. "He was putting the ball in play more. We just want him to have good at-bats. If he does that, the hits will come."
Doumit, for whom the hits have come all season, put the Pirates on the board with a double into the right-field corner, scoring McLouth. He nearly got hung up between second and third when Sanchez got the stop sign from third base coach Tony Beasley,, but Doumit was able to get back to second.
Jason Bay, who has 15 RBIs in his past 10 games, lifted a sacrifice fly to center that got Sanchez home and moved Doumit to third. But Doumit remained there as Xavier Nady struck out and Adam LaRoche grounded to first.
Hensley steadied a bit, retiring the Pirates in order in the second and third.
The Pirates disrupted his comfort zone rudely in the fourth.
Bay drove his first pitch into the seats near the North Side Notch. Bay's 22nd home run this season also was No. 139 in his career, moving him past Bill Mazeroski and into eighth place on the team's all-time list. Next up is Frank Thomas (163).
Five pitches later, Nady crushed a 2-2 pitch deep into the left-field seats, marking the first time this season the Pirates had hit back-to-back home runs. Nady's 13th home run extended his hitting streak to 13 games, one short of the career-high 14-game skein he strung together in April.
The Pirates lengthened that 4-0 lead with two runs in the sixth, although they again missed a chance for a huge inning.
Nady's leadoff single and a walk to LaRoche finished Hensley. Left-hander Justin Hampson yielded a single to Doug Mientkiewicz -- hitting .363 over the past two months -- that loaded the bases with no outs.
Chris Gomez, batting for Herrera, forced in the first run, walking on a 3-2 pitch. After Luis Rivas popped out to shortstop, McLouth scored LaRoche with a sacrifice fly to center. Sanchez ended the inning by lining to second.
After the Padres scored a run in the eighth on a single by Adrian Gonzalez, the Pirates put it away in the bottom of the inning.
Mientkiewicz doubled and scored on a two-out single by Rivas, who then scored on McLouth's 21st home run, boosting the center fielder's RBI total to 70.