Phelps' big bashes back Gorzelanny, 5-0
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SAN FRANCISCO -- All through the Pirates' weeklong road trip that concluded yesterday with Tom Gorzelanny's 5-0 shutout of the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, Josh Phelps was among the earliest to report to the clubhouse, among the most eager to take extra batting practice.
Sometimes, for any player, that can feel like an awful lot for an awful little.
For Phelps ...
As he puts it, "You've got to take pride. You have to do everything you can do, especially in the role I have. The more swings you take, the more ready you are."
That might best explain how Phelps, seeing his name on the lineup card for the first time since July 27, belted a two-run home run and two-run triple to account for 80 percent of the offense yesterday.
It illustrates, too, how Phelps, a 29-year-old first baseman and catcher, has batted .409 -- 9 for 22 -- with two home runs in his sporadic total of six starts since the Pirates claimed him off waivers June 22.
Gorzelanny's first career complete game was a gem, one in which he limited San Francisco to five hits and retired his final 17 batters. And the Pirates as a whole took all three games here from the Giants, with the teams flying to Pittsburgh for a makeup doubleheader today.
Still, most of the fuss afterward seemed to be about Phelps.
"That's a hell of an offensive game for him," manager Jim Tracy said. "I'll tell you what: It's really nice, when you decide to give Adam LaRoche a day off, to have someone come off the bench and swing the bat for us like that."
And that, as hitting coach Jeff Manto, described it was "no accident." Manto is the one tossing most of Phelps' extra work in the cages.
"He hasn't let up on any single day since he's been here" Manto said. "He has his own routine, once with me flipping him pitches, another off the tee, then on the field with the team. When you're talking about having players to look up to, this is one of them."
Phelps had a good idea he would start this one, as he was the Pirates' only position player with experience against San Francisco ace Barry Zito, having spent the bulk of his career in the American League.
It did not start well for either.
Zito walked his first three batters of the game, but recovered to fan Jason Bay and got two groundouts -- including a force at the plate from Phelps -- without a run scoring.
Cesar Izturis nicked Zito in the next inning with a two-out RBI single, but Zito settled to put up three zeroes from there.
Jason Bay's one-out single in the sixth brought up Phelps and, as he had begun discussing early in the trip in looking ahead to Zito, his plan was to lay off the patented curveball and wait for the heat.
He did not wait long.
Zito's first pitch was a fastball at the eyes, and Phelps launched it high and over the fence in left-center for a 3-0 lead.
"He was getting us to chase a lot of high fastballs early in the game, and I was able to handle one," Phelps said.
"Not a terrible pitch," Zito said. "Not a great pitch."
Zito tipped his cap.
"Josh Phelps had a big day, too, especially for somebody who doesn't play everyday. He showed me something."
He showed it to reliever Vinnie Chulk, too. Izturis and Jose Bautista opened the seventh with singles and, after two outs, Phelps ripped another high fastball off the fence in center for a triple that put the Pirates ahead, 5-0.
With the way Gorzelanny pitched, that seemed excessive.
He did not allow a hit after Pedro Feliz's leadoff single in the fourth. He needed only 115 pitches to go the distance. He struck out four, and his only walk was intentional to Barry Bonds in the first. And he held Bonds to a single, groundout and popup in his three official at-bats.
"Tom Gorzelanny obviously has had some very, very good games for us," Tracy said. "But what I saw today was probably the best he's pitched for us. He just pounded the strike zone with all of his pitches. And he did it right from the start."
That makes two fine outings in a row for Gorzelanny since missing two weeks to a stiff shoulder. He opened this six-game trip with an 8-3 victory against Arizona in which the Diamondbacks had two runs and four hits in his seven innings.
This was a notch above.
"It feels good to finally get the complete game," Gorzelanny said. His previous longest start was 8 1/3 innings April 17 at St. Louis. "I felt pretty good right from the beginning. I was able to just come out throwing all of my stuff."
The other side noticed.
"He's a good pitcher, and his record is indicative of that," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said.
Gorzelanny improved to 11-6 and has a good chance of becoming the first Pirates pitcher to achieve 15 victories since Todd Ritchie in 1999. No one has had more than those 15 since John Smiley's 20 in 1991.Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Images
Jose Bautista and Cesar Izturis are congratulated by teammate Ryan Doumit after scoring in the seventh inning against yesterday against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
Click photo for larger image.
Doubleheader: Pirates (LHP Paul Maholm 7-14, 4.66, and LHP Shane Youman 2-3, 4.76) vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Matt Cain 4-12, 3.77, and LHP Noah Lowry 12-7, 3.32), 5:05 p.m., PNC Park.
Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7).
Key matchup: Barry Bonds vs. the crowd. Or not. How might he and the fans in attendance react to the video tribute the Pirates plan to show a few minutes before the second game?
Of note: Had this makeup doubleheader not been necessary, this would have been the Pirates' lone off-day in a 20-day stretch. As it is, they will play 21 games in that stretch until the next off-day Aug. 27.
Join Dejan Kovacevic at 1 p.m. to chat about the Pirates.
First Published August 12, 2007 10:30 pm