Ohlendorf 'lucky' after liner to head in 6-2 win

Pirates' McCutchen has scare, too, while Jones homers twice


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DENVER -- Anyone who thinks baseball players are not tough ...

How about Ross Ohlendorf?

Struck in the head by a line drive in the first inning and knocked out of the game, he was back at Coors Field by the sixth after a brief hospital visit, then shaking hands with teammates on the field after the Pirates' gritty 6-2 victory against the Colorado Rockies Wednesday night.

A CT scan at nearby Rose Medical Center cleared Ohlendorf of any trauma to the brain, and the doctors' diagnosis was a deep bruise and some abrasion on the upper right portion of the head. He said he felt "just fine" after the game, but the team plans to monitor him for concussion symptoms.

How about Andrew McCutchen?

He briefly reinjured his right shoulder while crashing into the center-field fence for a fine catch in the fifth inning. But he stayed in the game to add a single and double to his 3-for-4 day, then made a sliding catch in the ninth with a four-run lead.


Today

Game: Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 3:10 p.m., Coors Field.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (6-8, 4.13) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (15-2, 2.75).

Key matchup: Colorado's cleanup man, Troy Tulowitzki, is 6 for 11 vs. Maholm, with a home run and two doubles.

Of note: Jimenez, a Cy Young favorite, has dominated the Pirates in four career starts, with a 1.61 ERA, .186 opponents' batting average and 21 strikeouts in 28 innings.

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"We've got some tough guys in here, man," closer Octavio Dotel said. "It was an unbelievable night."

That might not be hyperbole, and that is without even mentioning that Garrett Jones homered twice in going 4 for 4 with three RBIs. Or that six relievers backed Ohlendorf with 8 1/3 innings and one run allowed, headlined by newcomer Sean Gallagher's three zeroes right after Ohlendorf's exit.

It all started out so much worse.

With one out in the first, Ohlendorf's ninth pitch of the game was a 93-mph fastball that Colorado slugger Troy Tulowitzki hit with enough force that the carom off Ohlendorf's head made an audible thud, then popped high into the air and landed all the way in shallow right field.

The follow-through of Ohlendorf's delivery had him twisting away from the liner and, when it struck him, he momentarily took to his left knee. But he was walking off the mound and watching the ball even before it landed. The only sign that anything was amiss his right hand on the cap.

Manager John Russell, athletic trainer Brad Henderson and the Pirates' infielders rushed to the mound, as a hush fell over the 35,128 in attendance.

"It was scary," Russell said.

"You can't imagine how it feels to see that," catcher Erik Kratz said.

For the opponent, too: The hit by Tulowitzki scored the game's first run, but he knelt at first base, both hands on his helmet.

Afterward, Tulowitzki sent a message to the Pirates' clubhouse seeking Ohlendorf's phone number.

"That's pretty nice," Ohlendorf said.

All concerned agreed that Ohlendorf was fortunate the ball continued in a semi-forward direction because that was the best indication he was not hit squarely.

"I think Ross got, obviously, very lucky," Russell said. "It was more of a glancing blow. But still, it shook him a little bit, and it was hard enough to make him a little woozy. We'll have to evaluate where he is over the next couple days, but we're hoping for the best."

Ohlendorf, who never before had been hit by a ball like this, described no concussion-like symptoms: "My head doesn't feel as good as it did before it got hit, but it doesn't feel bad at all."

It was, remarkably, the second time one of the Pirates' pitchers was struck in the head by a liner: The other happened to Chris Jakubauskas April 24 in Houston, also in the first inning. But Jakubauskas was hit very squarely, as evidenced by the ball going right back toward the batter, the Astros' Lance Berkman. Jakubauskas needed two months to recover from a concussion and currently is in the minors rehabilitating a hip injury.

"It didn't hit me like Jakubauskas," Ohlendorf said. "It's obvious that it didn't hit me as hard as it could have. I do feel like I got pretty lucky."

Ohlendorf went so far as to try to persuade Russell to stay in the game, though that went nowhere.

"I wanted to," Ohlendorf said. "I felt like I could have, but I don't know that I should have."

"You don't take a chance with something like that," Russell said.

Russell could not characterize whether Ohlendorf might make his next start Monday in Pittsburgh, but Ohlendorf said, "I definitely expect to."

McCutchen's incident looked ominous in its own right.

He backtracked elegantly to catch up with a deep drive by Colorado's Seth Smith, but the shoulder went hard into the fence, and McCutchen came down with the ball visibly angry as he clutched the shoulder. It was the same one with the sprained AC joint that cost him six games last week.

Russell and the athletic trainers again sprinted out, but this time the player was successful in sending them back.

"It's really just the same feeling I've had in the past week if I was to hit it or jerk it," McCutchen said. "I kind of gave it some time, and it went away. It's something I can play through. Certain things like that play, maybe you want to avoid, but it's going to happen in the game of baseball."

And why slide for the catch that robbed Ian Stewart to open the ninth?

"Aw, no chance I'm letting anything drop," McCutchen said, smiling.

Russell said the Pirates would monitor McCutchen, too, especially given the matinee today.

"He came through it OK," Russell said. "We'll see how he's doing before the next one, but it's good that he came through it."

Gallagher, after a brief visit from Kratz to make sure the Ohlendorf incident did not affect him, had by far his best showing since joining the Pirates early this month: He pitched three scoreless, hitless innings with four strikeouts, and he looked plenty confident in doing so.

"Great job," Russell said. "He found a rhythm there."

"It was just my location with everything," Gallagher said. "It all felt a lot better."

The offense came early, as the Pirates chased Colorado's Aaron Cook with five runs in 2 1/3 innings: Jones homered to open the second, off Cook's 1-2 sinker and well beyond right-center. And there were four more runs in the next inning on a string of a walk and five hits. The hits included a two-run single by Neil Walker and RBI singles by Jones and Pedro Alvarez for a 5-1 lead.

Jones' other home run came in the eighth, off an 0-2 curve by left-hander Randy Flores, very high and deep to right, to make it 6-2.

"I felt like I was quick, short to the ball," Jones said. "Definitely a good feeling."

Jones leads the Pirates with 14 home runs, 60 RBIs.

The Pirates have won two in a row on the road for the first time since May 14-15 at Chicago, with the only other occasion a three-game streak April 27-29 in Milwaukee and Los Angeles.


Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more online at PBC Blog . First Published July 29, 2010 4:00 AM


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