Bullpen, Capps bail out Pirates this time
Freddy Sanchez's bat breaks as he pops out last night in the Pirates' rain-delayed victory vs. Colorado.
Nate McLouth's home run in the bottom of the fifth broke a 4-4 tie last night at PNC Park. The home run is McLouth's sixth of the season.
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The Pirates have no long reliever.
They had planned to have one, but that was before Phil Dumatrait found a long-term place on the disabled list.
And so it was, when the rains poured down on PNC Park early last night and chased starter Ian Snell after just two innings of what would become a 7-4 victory against the Colorado Rockies, manager John Russell knew he would need a lot of bullpen.
A whole lot.
Yes, including Matt Capps.
"He's a competitor, and he wanted to get right back out there," Russell said.
Nate McLouth slugged his sixth home run, suddenly sizzling Brandon Moss had two more hits, and Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young had two RBIs each, but it was, without question, the bullpen and its beleaguered closer that pulled this one out.
The first summoned was Sean Burnett.
• Game: Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (4-3, 2.52) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (3-4, 4.73)
• Key matchup: Matt Murton, now with Colorado, gave Duke fits while with the Chicago Cubs, batting .400 -- 10 for 25 -- with a home run and two doubles.
• Of note: The Pirates' Brandon Moss has followed that 0-for-15 drought with nine hits in his past 16 at-bats, his average rising from .174 to .235.
He had pitched more than an inning only twice in his first 17 appearances but, after a rocky start, limited Colorado to one run over three innings and exited with a 5-4 lead. His pitch count of 46 was 10 more than his previous season high.
"Burny did the job," Russell said.
"I had a lot of adrenaline there at first because I really wanted to go three," Burnett said. "It meant a lot to me to get that done."
Next was Evan Meek: He stranded two in a scoreless sixth and exited with a 7-4 lead.
"Burny getting us through the fifth made all our jobs easier," Meek said.
Then, Jesse Chavez: He zipped through a 1-2-3 seventh, including strikeouts of Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton, and did so with a visible confidence.
"That's how I have to pitch," Chavez said. "We're not going out there scared."
Then, struggling John Grabow: He walked one in the eighth but went otherwise untouched to continue his recent recovery.
Then, the immensely struggling Capps, who blew a save the previous night by allowing all three runs of the Pirates' 3-1 loss, one of the most painful of his career.
Capps drew some boos from the crowd of 24,496 upon entering, and those grew when he handed pinch-hitter Matt Murton a leadoff walk. But he went right after pinch-hitter Seth Smith with two quick strikes and drew a 6-4-3 double play. Tulowitzki grounded out two strikes later, and there were nothing but cheers and handshakes.
"Felt good to get back in the saddle and come out on top," Capps said.
The first step of his recovery, should it blossom into that, began with an unusual afternoon with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.
Kerrigan first pointed out in a 1 p.m. video session that Capps' left shoulder was too closed in his delivery, thus keeping his head too much toward third base. To back that up he took Capps to the bullpen and wrapped a sock around Capps' head to cover the left eye, then asked him to throw a pitch. Capps could not do it, for the simple reason that his right eye had no view of the batter.
So, Capps pitched from the stretch the whole ninth inning last night "for the first time in my career," he said.
He looked plenty relieved.
"I had to really regroup."
As did the entire bullpen: It had six consecutive losses leading into this, as well as a 5.04 ERA and a cumulative load of guilt. But it would be charged with just one run and three hits over those seven innings.
"We've all been struggling," Burnett said, "so this was great to have us all going on a night when we really needed it."
Colorado pounced on Snell to go ahead, 3-0, through two innings, but the Pirates roared back with four in the second, highlighted by Young's two-out, two-run single that brought the lead.
Right after that hit, the storm made for a delay of an hour, 37 minutes, far too long to allow Snell or the Rockies' Aaron Cook to return.
The Pirates broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth on McLouth's solo shot, a liner inside the right foul pole off Matt Belisle's 2-0 fastball.
"Just got my pitch," McLouth said.
Moss opened the next inning with a double to the North Side Notch, extending his 9-for-15 welcome-to-the-season tear. After a wild pitch, LaRoche singled him home. LaRoche went to steal second, pulling the shortstop Tulowitzki to the bag and creating a hole for Jason Jaramillo's single. LaRoche aggressively took third on the play, then scored on Jack Wilson's sacrifice fly, and it was 7-4.
Russell and general manager Neal Huntington met after the game to discuss a potential personnel move for temporary pitching help, in light of all the arms used last night. Only Tyler Yates and Donnie Veal remained in the bullpen.
First Published May 17, 2009 12:07 am