Bullpen recovery vital to Pirates' 5-2 victory
Brandon Moss helps make it 5-1 in the sixth with an RBI fielder's choice.
Ross Ohlendorf allowed only two hits in six innings to win for the fourth time this season.
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Ross Ohlendorf had another smooth start, Freddy Sanchez was slick on defense, and the Pirates' suddenly resurgent offense smacked five doubles in a 5-2 flattening of the St. Louis Cardinals last night at PNC Park.
And none of those was appreciated more by the 10,494 on hand than Sanchez's astounding diving stop on Albert Pujols, well to the shortstop side of second base, in the seventh inning.
"Unbelievable play," outfielder Brandon Moss called it. "One of the best I've seen all year."
But maybe the part that should have stood out was the bullpen.
Sure, they were handed a generous four-run lead in the seventh. But, with how things have been dragging along for their three main arms -- Tyler Yates, John Grabow and Matt Capps -- this combined contribution surely was no afterthought.
- Game: Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, radio: : FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Jeff Karstens (1-1, 5.19) vs. RHP Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 3.50)
- Key matchup: Karstens vs. the home run. One of every five hits he has allowed -- 5 of 25 -- has cleared a fence, though he contained the New York Mets in his most recent start.
- Of note: Since making two errors in the opening three games, third baseman Andy LaRoche has one in his past 28. And that came on a low throw this past weekend in New York that first baseman Eric Hinske probably should have scooped.
Yates, charged with eight runs over six appearances, pitched a scoreless seventh despite a double.
Grabow, scored upon in six consecutive appearances, zipped through the eighth with a strikeout and two lineouts.
And Capps, working back from that bruised elbow, bailed out Jesse Chavez in the ninth to record his sixth save, first since April 22.
Chavez had put two aboard with one out and a 5-1 lead, and Pujols, Capps' first batter, lashed an RBI single moments after a towering drive had just gone foul.
Capps apparently was unshaken.
"I told myself I really didn't care what Albert did, so long as I didn't walk him and put the tying run on board," Capps said.
Next was Chris Duncan, and he swung at Capps' first-pitch fastball to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play and end the Pirates' second victory following that eight-game losing streak.
"That's the way it should be," Yates said of the trio finishing the job. "All three of us have been struggling, but we all got it together here."
No one has struggled of late more than Grabow, who was uncharacteristically wild over the weekend in New York and questioned his mechanics. On this night, he threw eight pitches, seven strikes.
He credited two side sessions with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.
"I wanted to get in there and get some confidence for myself and help the team win," Grabow said.
The pitching was no less efficient at the outset, though that has been the norm: Ohlendorf improved to 4-3 by limiting St. Louis to one run and two hits over six innings. He would have lasted longer -- the pitch count was 88 -- but manager John Russell lifted him for a pinch-hitter in a key offensive situation.
Ohlendorf leaned on his fastball more than usual but still mixed it up for specific situations, something he is doing as well as anyone on the staff.
The finest example of his finesse -- and focus -- came in the second inning: Duncan struck out swinging after seeing nothing but changeups. Yadier Molina grounded out after seeing a fastball, slider and sinker. Colby Rasmus saw three types of pitches and singled. But, even as Ohlendorf was mixing sliders and fastballs to Khalil Greene, he nailed Rasmus with his fourth pickoff throw to first.
"Each start, Ross is getting a little better," Russell said.
"What I use depends on the day, the batter," Ohlendorf said. "I feel comfortable with all my pitches."
A quick 1-0 lead came when Sanchez doubled and, one out later, Adam LaRoche did likewise off the top railing of the Clemente Wall. First base umpire Lance Barksdale initially ruled a home run, but the crew reversed that after using instant replay, and LaRoche was sent back to second.
Turned out to be historic: It was the first time in Major League Baseball history that a home run was reversed after 13 total reviews -- the rule was implemented last year -- and it was the first review of any kind at PNC Park.
"I would've been shocked if it had stayed," LaRoche said. His home run Tuesday ended a 1-for-30 slide. "When they called it back, I said to myself, 'That's about right.' Just life in general."
No one argued, as the video evidence was conclusive.
St. Louis' Skip Schumaker homered to tie in the fourth, but two more doubles in the bottom half gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead, Moss and Jack Wilson going back to back.
Three more runs were added in the sixth, still off starter Joel Pineiro: Robinzon Diaz was hit by a pitch, then alertly took third base on Andy LaRoche's single that caromed off third baseman Joe Thurston's glove. Moss' forceout scored Diaz.
Russell sought a knockout punch, so he pinch-hit Eric Hinske for Ohlendorf, but Hinske bounced out. Nyjer Morgan, up next, bounced a ball through the middle for two runs, and it was 5-1.
Sanchez made two other fine stops, ranging far to each side to take away potential singles.
The Pirates will go for the sweep of the first-place Cardinals tonight.
"Things are looking up for us," Grabow said. "It's a good feeling for the clubhouse right now. We were pretty low there the last two weeks. Now, we got a taste of winning. Let's keep it going."
First Published May 13, 2009 10:43 pm