First-inning woes continue for Snell

PHILADELPHIA -- Ian Snell recovered from a rough -- and almost game-over -- first inning and pitched well enough to get a win last night.

Trouble was, Philadelphia's Brett Myers was better against the Pirates' sputtering offense and the Phillies gained a 4-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 45,060 at Citizens Bank Park.

In the first inning, Snell threw a staggering 37 pitches and threw first-pitch strikes to six of eight batters. Yet he escaped having allowed just two runs.

"It seems like the first inning is the one that gives him the most trouble," Pirates manager John Russell said. "Once he gets out of it, he's fine.

"His last few starts, we've seen a lot of very good signs of him turning the corner. His velocity's very good. He's had much better action on his slider. He's throwing the ball where he wants to most of the time."

But ...

"Then he'll have an inning or two where he'll have a little bit of a setback," Russell said.

Such as last night's marathon first inning.

"It's still one inning at a time right now, one game at a time," Russell said. "He hasn't gotten there yet, but it's encouraging what he's doing. If he gets back on, he can have a pretty strong finish."

  • Game: Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 1:35 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.
  • TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
  • Pitching: RHP Jason Davis (1-1, 2.57) vs. LHP Jamie Moyer (10-7, 3.78).
  • Key matchup: Moyer vs. the calendar -- again. How long can this guy keep performing well? Moyer, 45, will make his 575th career start today. He has 240 major league victories.
  • Of note: Moyer allowed three runs or less in each of his previous 11 starts, yielding only 22 earned runs in 681/3 innings.

Snell's performance in the first inning brought a quick end to two streaks.

Pirates pitching had worked 21 consecutive scoreless innings. The Phillies had gone 23 consecutive innings without scoring.

The Phillies ended those streaks in the space of two batters.

Jimmy Rollins, who is a stunning 12 for 19 lifetime against Snell, opened with a line drive into the right-field corner for a triple. Shane Victorino's double off the right-field wall gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead and ended yet another streak. They had been hitless in 23 consecutive at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Snell struck out Chase Utley, but Ryan Howard, who was 1 for 10 lifetime against Snell at game time, dropped a run-scoring single into center field.

Snell struck out Pat Burrell, but then the game almost got away from him. He walked Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs, loading the bases and setting himself up for first-inning debacle.

It almost happened.

Chris Coste drove a 3-1 pitch to deep left field that Brandon Moss caught a step from the wall.

"[Coste] hit it off the end of the bat," Snell said, explaining why the ball didn't have quite enough oomph to leave the park.

Given that reprieve, Snell zipped through the second and third innings.

"I told myself after the first inning, 'My team needs me. Keep battling and stay focused,"' Snell said. "I wanted to keep the ball down in the zone and let them get themselves out."

In the fourth Snell demonstrated the inconsistency that has plagued him almost all season.

The startersIan Snell gave the Pirates a fourth consecutive quality start last night. The starting staff's numbers since Tuesday:CategoryNo.Innings29Hits allowed19Walks8Strikeouts25Earned run average1.55

Dobbs lined a leadoff single into center field. Snell struck out Coste and then went 3-1 on Myers, who was trying to bunt, before throwing a second strike that Myers bunted back to Snell.

Snell's throw to second almost pulled Luis Rivas off the bag, but the shortstop was able to get the force out.

Rollins, who seemed way too comfortable against Snell, lined a single into right that sent Myers to third. After Rollins stole second without a throw, Snell walked Victorino.

Then the right-hander showed what the Pirates hope will someday be vintage Ian Snell. He struck out Utley on three pitches, finishing the rapid wipeout with a wicked slider.

Snell followed that with perfect fifth and sixth innings, which greatly enhanced his efficiency. He threw only 64 pitches from the second through the sixth innings.

However, Rollins hurt Snell again in the seventh, winding up with a leadoff triple when his drive caromed off the wall and past Steve Pearce. Victorino's single through a drawn-in infield scored Rollins and ended Snell's evening.

The Pirates have scored three or fewer runs in six of their eight games since the Jason Bay trade. And they have scored only seven in their past four games, in which they've allowed seven runs. They're 2-2 in those four.

Paul Meyer can be reached at 412-263-1144. First Published August 10, 2008 4:00 AM


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