Capps finds extra gear to finish off Reds, 8-6
Ross Ohlendorf now has three wins out of the No. 4 spot in the Pirates' rotation after last night's victory.
Ramon Vazquez hits a two-run single in the Pirates' four-run first inning last night.
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It took three big Os -- Ross Ohlendorf, a resuscitated offense and a whole lot of uh-ohs in the ninth inning -- for the Pirates to put an end to all those zeroes and put down Cincinnati, 8-6, last night at PNC Park.
Ohlendorf turned in his fourth quality start in five appearances, limiting the Reds to three runs over six innings.
The offense, blanked the previous two games, broke out for 13 hits, three from Nate McLouth.
And, oh, those uh-ohs ...
Closer Matt Capps inherited an 8-4 lead in the ninth and found instant trouble, giving up four consecutive hits. One never left the infield and the other three were bleeders, but Cincinnati still had pulled within two, with the tying runs aboard and nobody out.
The crowd of 22,891 grew palpably restless, and they were not the only ones agitated.
"Never seen anything like that," Capps said. "Never in my life."
• Game: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Jeff Karstens (1-0, 5.40) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (1-1, 2.19)
• Key matchup: It takes patience to get to Cueto. He has as many strikeouts as hits allowed -- 26 -- in four career starts against the Pirates. He fanned nine Pirates April 11, but the Pirates chased him with four runs through six innings of a 10-2 rout.
• Of note: The Pirates are 8-2 when the pitchers do not give up a home run, 4-9 when they do. Karstens has allowed four.
"Amazing," Ohlendorf said. "The one ball they hit hard the whole inning was an out."
That would be the first out, Jay Bruce's hold-your-breath screamer toward the North Side Notch that Nyjer Morgan tracked down.
That was all Capps was willing to tolerate, apparently.
"I knew I had to reach back for something extra," he said. "But it wasn't easy."
That was because he had not pitched in eight days, given the lack of save situations.
So, he found his something extra and achieved an inning-high 93 mph on the radar gun to freeze Ramon Hernandez for strike three and a second out.
After yet another infield single loaded the bases, he ratcheted even higher, to 95 mph, for a game-ending swing and miss from Alex Gonzalez.
Capps was not credited with a save because those are for protecting leads of three or fewer runs, but he sounded plenty satisfied with his part in ending the Pirates' four-game losing streak.
"This was better," he said. "To finish off like that ... yeah, I'll take it."
"Give Matt credit," manager John Russell said. "It seemed like every ball they hit found a hole, but he really came back hard."
The offense did likewise after failing to score a run in 22 consecutive innings.
Morgan, Freddy Sanchez and McLouth opened the first with singles, the last of those driving in the drought-breaking run. There would be three more off Cincinnati starter Micah Owings that inning, one when Andy LaRoche was hit by a pitch with bases loaded, two more on Ramon Vazquez's single into the right-field corner.
"It was big," Vazquez said. "Everyone knows we hadn't scored in what seemed like a week. I'm sure it took some of the heat off the pitchers."
So did Brandon Moss' RBI single in the third that made it 5-0.
Ohlendorf gave up a three-run home run to Gonzalez in the bottom half -- a first-pitch slider lined into the left-field foul pole -- but he otherwise went undented despite six hits and two walks.
His consistency so far might be surprising to those who saw him and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan spend much of the spring working on adding to his repertoire. But he is throwing all four of his pitches effectively, including an improving changeup he reserved almost exclusively for Cincinnati slugger Jay Bruce, who went 0 for 3 against him.
"I've been really happy with my consistency," Ohlendorf said. "I feel like I'm able to throw the pitches that I want in the situations I want."
He is 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA.
The Pirates added three runs in the eighth and ninth -- somewhat adding, in the process, to a curious trend in which they scored 10 runs in each of their first three Saturday games -- before Capps' frantic finish.
Sanchez and Adam LaRoche each had two hits, as the top four in the order combined to go 8 for 17 and scored all eight runs.
"It was good for everyone to get back to swinging the bats," Sanchez said.
"I've been saying all along I wasn't worried," Russell said. "You're going to go through spells like we did, but I'm even more confident of our lineup now than last year, when we had Jason Bay and Xavier Nady. We've got people who can hit."
Andy LaRoche, in addition to having two RBIs, played an exceptional game at third, including a barehand grab-and-throw from the grass to nail Ramon Hernandez. Brother Adam made a fine scoop at the other end.
First Published May 3, 2009 12:00 am