Craig Monroe homered twice and had six RBIs, and Ian Snell pitched seven-plus scoreless innings in the Pirates' 10-0 blowout of the Atlanta Braves this afternoon at PNC Park.
Those were Monroe's first two home runs after he tied the franchise record with eight in the spring, and it was his fourth multiple-homer game in the majors. He also became the first member of the Pirates to have six RBIs in a game since Jose Castillo did it May 30, 2006, against the Milwaukee Brewers.
"It's nice to be able to come off a good spring where I made some big adjustments and come in here and do every little thing I possibly can to help this team win," Monroe said "And I look forward to continuing to help this team coming off the bench."
It was only his second start of the season.
How did he stay sharp?
"I'm staying the course with my process, staying with my plan every time I go up there. I got the result that I wanted by doing that today."
Monroe eliminated a trademark leg kick this offseason, with help from Rudy Jaramillo, the Texas Rangers' highly respected hitting instructor. But Monroe still declines to discuss other specifics of that "process."
"Not yet. I'm continuing to work on it. I've made some drastic adjustments, and I'm going to have to trust them."
Manager John Russell employed Monroe largely because the Pirates were facing left-handed Jo-Jo Reyes, but he has made clear -- and reiterated today -- that Monroe will face right-handers, too.
"He had a great day, obviously," Russell said. "He's capable of that. He has the ability to drive the ball."
Snell allowed four hits and three walks, only once allowing a runner to reach third, in improving to 1-2. He might have gone the distance, but Russell was concerned that he had sat quite a bit during all the Pirates' rallies, and that his pitch count was at 94.
"Ian did a great job of attacking the zone," Russell said.
He also had one highly embarrassing moment, walking off the mound after two outs in the third--a strikeout of Jordan Schafer -- thinking the inning was over.
"Never struck anybody out with my changeup," Snell said. "I felt so dumb out there."
The Pirates moved ahead, 1-0, in the second on doubles by Ryan Doumit and, one out later, Andy LaRoche, the latter marking his second RBI in as many games.
Atlanta's freshly promoted starter, Jo-Jo Reyes, kept the Pirates mostly quiet until the four-run sixth: Freddy Sanchez lined a one-out triple to center that got past an over-sliding Jordan Schafer and rolled to the track. Nate McLouth followed by rapping an RBI single off Reyes' leg and up the middle. Reyes intentionally walked Doumit. But, after striking out Adam LaRoche, his first-pitch sinker to Monroe was crushed into the visitors' bullpen beyond center field to make it 5-0.
The Pirates added four more in the seventh, all against Buddy Carlyle, all after two outs: McLouth singled, and Doumit's third double scored him. Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked, and Monroe sent Carlyle's 1-0 slider into almost exactly the same place as his first blast for a 9-0 lead.
With that, the crowd of 20,755 sought and received a curtain call, a rarity for a baseball game in Pittsburgh.
Andy LaRoche finished with three hits, including two doubles.
The Pirates, now 6-5, and Zach Duke will go for their first sweep of the young season tomorrow.
Check PBC Blog for details.