Ohlendorf impressive in debut

Pitches six effective innings as Pirates rally in eighth and hold on for victory

CINCINNATI -- The radar gun reading on Ross Ohlendorf's first pitch as a Pirates starter was telling -- 88. On a fastball.

That isn't what Pirates fans expected from the right-hander who's supposed to be capable of reaching 98 on that gun.

Isn't what Ohlendorf expected last night, either.

"Warming up in the bullpen, I thought I was really throwing hard," he said. "In the game, I wasn't."

Turned out not to matter all that much.

Ohlendorf showed enough that there's little doubt he'll be in the mix for a starting spot in March.

"I really liked him," manager John Russell said after the Pirates beat Cincinnati, 6-5, on run-scoring singles by Adam and Andy LaRoche in the eighth inning. "It was really nice to see."

  • Box score
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  • Today
    • Game: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 12:35 p.m., Great American Ball Park.
    • Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7).
    • Pitching: LHP Tom Gorzelanny (6-9, 6.61) vs. RHP Josh Fogg (2-7, 7.29).
    • Key matchup: Fogg vs. the sunlight. Fogg has made five appearances, including three starts, in day games this season and allowed 27 hits, including six home runs, and 23 runs (all earned) in 14 1/3 innings.
    • Of note: Nate McLouth lifetime against Fogg is 6 for 11 with three home runs. Backup catcher Raul Chavez is 4 for 5 with three doubles.

Ohlendorf didn't figure in the decision. He worked six innings and allowed seven hits, a walk and three earned runs. He struck out only two, an indication his fastball was subpar.

He threw 90 pitches, including 56 strikes and 34 balls.

"I didn't feel my number of balls was too detrimental," Ohlendorf said. "I'm not sure why I didn't throw harder. Hopefully, the next game will be better, but the main thing is to hit my spots."

Ohlendorf did hit 95 with a few fastballs, but that wasn't what impressed Russell.

"He was aggressive in the strike zone," Russell said. "He has the arm to be aggressive in the strike zone. He has a decent mix [of pitches]. He used both sides of the plate."

Ohlendorf made his only glaring error in the fourth inning after Joey Votto homered with two outs.

Edwin Encarnacion walked and Jay Bruce doubled him to third.

A cross-up in signage with Ryan Doumit wound up being a passed ball that permitted Encarnacion to score the run that tied the score, 2-2.

"That was my fault," Ohlendorf said. "I threw a slider and [Doumit] was set up for a changeup. I don't think I was very clear on the signs with a runner on second."

Ohlendorf was acquired from the New York Yankees, who used him in relief, in the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte trade July 26. He immediately became a starter again -- he'd started before in the minor leagues -- at Class AAA Indianapolis.

In his seven starts there, Ohlendorf also provided evidence that he should be among the starting candidates in March.

He was 4-3 with a 3.47 earned run average and walked only eight and struck out 40 in 462/3 innings.

Rich Donnelly, the Pirates' player development adviser who works almost exclusively watching the team's minor leaguers, saw Ohlendorf pitch twice.

The first time was Aug. 3 against Toledo. Ohlendorf allowed six hits, a walk and three runs and struck out nine in 72/3 innings.

"Toledo was a good hitting team, and he dominated them," Donnelly said. "I'm not big on [radar] guns, but the thing I like about him was he was 96, 97 [mph] the whole game. And he pitched inside."

Donnelly saw him again Aug. 13 two starts later against Columbus. Ohlendorf yielded four hits and a walk and struck out three in eight innings of a 1-0 win.

"Same thing," Donnelly said. "Very few pitches. He pitched inside. He pitched inside a lot. Real high velocity. A lot of hitters had trouble squaring him up.

"Now he's in the big leagues. Hopefully he can do the same that he did there."

There's always the reality of John Van Benschoten, who has been unable to come remotely close in the big leagues to matching his success in the minor leagues.

This is not to say Ohlendorf will be like that. It's just something to remember.

The Pirates won the game in the eighth after the Reds tied the score with a run in the sixth. Votto tripled, getting an extra base when the carom in the right-field corner shot past Brandon Moss. Encarnacion singled in Votto.

In the eighth, Nate McLouth lined a leadoff single to center off left-hander Jeremy Affeldt. The Reds had McLouth picked off first base, but Votto didn't realize that. He started moving toward the plate as Doumit showed bunt, and Affeldt's pickoff throw zipped down the right-field line. McLouth reached third.

After Doumit walked, Adam LaRoche dumped a single into short right field, putting the Pirates up, 5-4. One out later, Andy LaRoche, who looked horrible on the first two strikes thrown by right-hander Mike Lincoln, lined an 0-2 pitch into left-center, scoring Doumit.

First Published September 4, 2008 4:00 AM


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