Clement's 'tough day' part of Pirates' 6-5 loss
The Giants' Freddy Sanchez slides past Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit in the fifth inning Sunday at PNC Park.
Left fielder Lastings Milledge dives but can't make the catch on a ball hit by the Giants' Juan Uribe for a run-scoring single in the ninth inning Sunday at PNC Park.
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Baseball can be terribly cruel.
It can give you exactly what you want, then rip it right out of your hands like it was never there.
Look at the Pirates' 6-5 loss to San Francisco on this Sunday afternoon before 24,068 at PNC Park: Delwyn Young was down to the game's final strike, and he delivered a dramatic, pinch-hit, two-run home run to tie. But the Giants took it right back on Freddy Sanchez's sacrifice fly in the 10th.
Or, simply, look at Jeff Clement.
Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 12:35 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Dana Eveland (3-4, 6.45) vs. RHP Carlos Silva (7-0, 3.12).
Season series: Pirates, 7-1.
Key matchup: Everyone vs. Silva, who is coming off an 11-strikeout showing against St. Louis in which he pitched seven scoreless innings.
Of note: The Cubs vs. Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, who have hit a combined .509 -- 27 for 53 -- this season vs. Chicago, with four home runs and 17 RBIs.
No player on the roster has put in more hours, sunrise to sunset, minicamp to now, than this 26-year-old first baseman given his first real crack at the majors. And no one seems more eager to embrace that chance.
In the morning, he smiled wide when he saw his name on the lineup card, despite a .197 average.
"Couldn't be happier," Clement said.
Should have seen him afterward.
He went 0 for 5, and it was agonizing on all levels: He stranded a runner at third with one out. He struck out. He grounded out with runners at second and third and one out, advancing no one. He popped up softly to the pitcher. And, by far the worst, he ended the game by striking out with the potential tying runs in scoring position.
Manager John Russell would have pinch-hit for Clement there, except that Ryan Church was unavailable again because of a stomach illness.
As that third strike skipped away briefly from the catcher, Clement trudged toward first as if he wanted to dig a hole into the dirt.
That average now: .189.
"It's obviously a tough day," Clement said, visibly struggling for words. "If I pull through, we win the game. I came up in a lot of big situations, and I've got to deliver. I let my team down, and it doesn't get much tougher than that. It's frustrating."
For the Pirates, too, no doubt. Management invested $3.3 million in the Jack Wilson trade in large part to secure Clement from Seattle's system, and it then made an unwavering commitment to make him the everyday first baseman despite little experience or success in the majors.
It remains to be seen how much longer that will last: With top prospects Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata arriving at some point soon, two position players obviously will have to go. Releasing Aki Iwamura would cost the Pirates all the rest of his $4.85 million salary, but Clement has an option and could go to Class AAA Indianapolis without going through waivers.
For now ...
"We're still sorting out first base," Russell said. "We like the progress Jeff has shown at times, we like what we saw of Steve Pearce before he got hurt, and Garrett Jones' natural position is first if we end up with a good situation in the outfield. There are a lot of pieces that have to fall in place."
The pieces appeared to be in place for a rare victory against two-time defending Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, as the Pirates patiently worked counts to end his day at seven innings. Jones belted a two-run home run, his team-high eighth, into the center-field seats in the fourth, and Lastings Milledge lined an RBI single that brought a 3-3 tie in the sixth.
Moreover, Ross Ohlendorf turned in a third consecutive quality start of six innings and three runs, this despite eight hits and three walks.
"There were a lot of baserunners, but I limited the damage," Ohlendorf said.
The bullpen, in a rarity, did not.
In the ninth, Javier Lopez, who had not given up a run in his previous 12 outings, failed to catch Clement's accurate throw while covering first on Pablo Sandoval's grounder. It was an error on the pitcher, and the leadoff man was aboard.
"I turned my glove the wrong way," Lopez explained.
Milledge had saved the bullpen with a diving catch the previous night for the final out, but he was unable to glove Juan Uribe's sinking liner to left, and it was an RBI double to put the Giants ahead, 4-3. A sacrifice fly later added an insurance run.
Clement and Andy LaRoche made quick outs against San Francisco closer Brian Wilson to open the bottom half, but Ronny Cedeno snapped an 0-for-20 streak with a single, and Young crushed a full-count slider high over the Clemente Wall to tie.
"Just saw my pitch and hit it," Young said.
The celebration was short-lived.
The Pirates' closer, Octavio Dotel, came on for the 10th and immediately gave up Andres Torres' double to right. A wild pitch advanced him to third, and Sanchez's sacrifice fly to center made it 6-5.
Torres taking third, by the way, was one of eight bases the Pirates gave away to San Francisco, including Lopez's error, a throwing error by Jones and, ugliest of all, five stolen bases for the Giants against the pitching staff and catcher Ryan Doumit.
Dotel, who needed that bailout from Milledge the previous night after loading the bases, said of Torres' key stroke in this one, "What can I say? He hit a good pitch."
"We battled," Russell said. "And we got some big hits, too, but we needed one or two more."
The Giants took two of three.