Pirates fall to Braves in 15 innings, 7-6
Braves' Jeff Francoeur scores past Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo on a single off the bat of Braves' David Ross in the 15th inning early Tuesday morning in Atlanta.
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ATLANTA -- It began a duel at roughly 300 feet, center fielder past vs. center fielder future, Nate McLouth vs. Andrew McCutchen.
It ended close to midnight, after 4 hours and 46 minutes, after 16 pitchers pitched and two more pinch-batted or pinch-ran, after every position player but backup Pirates catcher Robinzon Diaz got into the game. And it ended with a infield-dust cloud of confusion: The Pirates felt they forced out the Braves' Jeff Francouer at the plate, though home plate umpire Brian Knight ruled that catcher Jason Jaramillo lifted a foot off home, for a 7-6, 15-inning loss tagged to ... Jeff Karstens, the guy scheduled to start 43 hours later in the third game of a four-game series?
"The ball beat him," shortstop Jack Wilson said of his throw home on a bases-loaded, one-out grounder by one-time Pirates catcher David Ross. "You know, I could've made a better throw on the play, to stay on the inside part."
"We thought his foot was on the plate," added Pirates manager John Russell, whose team rallied from deficits of 2-0, 5-1 and 6-3 to send it into extra innings, with significant help from McCutchen. "Game ended, you can't really argue. We argued a little bit. One of those things."
• Game: Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves, 7:10 p.m., Turner Field.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (5-5, 4.85) vs. RHP Derek Lowe (6-3, 3.40).
• Key matchup: Lowe has won all six career starts against the Pirates, has a 2.72 ERA and has held batters to a .199 average.
• Of note: The Pirates are 17-5 when shortstop Jack Wilson gets at least one hit in a game.
"On replay, it's hard to tell," Karstens said. "I watched it. It's either way."
Meantime, the other confounding matter was Karstens' availability. He lost Friday in Houston. He lost in relief last night, after throwing "a little bit" on a usual side-session and then going down to the bullpen, warming up and throwing 18 pitches barely a day and a half before he's scheduled to start again. There was an undercurrent of buzz in the Braves clubhouse even before this game that Charlie Morton, the former Braves minor leaguer acquired in the McLouth deal last Wednesday, would be summoned to start the third game.
Yet Russell maintained of Karstens: "He should be all right. It's kind of a side day for him."
"We'll see what happens," offered Karstens (2-4), who pitched 31 consecutive starts between his most recent relief appearance, Sept. 25, 2007, as a New York Yankee in Tampa Bay. "You should be ready to go every day, that's the way I look at it. I didn't get the job done. Our relievers did a hell of a job, and I blew it."
The final outcome, at least through the first seven innings of a 6-6 contest, seemed almost secondary. Turner Field last night was transformed into a stage for a singular performance by the Gold Glove All-Star traded five days ago and the anointed Next One in the rebuilding block future recalled from Class AAA the same night. Each had three hits through seven innings. Each scored two runs and drove in another. Each put on a performance of his individual strengths.
McLouth, 27, traded for top Atlanta prospects Gorkys Hernandez and Morton plus another minor leaguer, clubbed a home run to center field, stole a base, scored twice and sprayed his first three hits, in order, to right, center and left fields.
McCutchen, 22, summoned from Indianapolis and showing cool far beyond his fifth major league game, conked and sped to two triples, drove in pinch-hitter Eric Hinske tie the score, 6-6,in the seventh and scored twice.
The former's 3-for-7 night gave him a better Atlanta introduction than his 2-for-11, .182 opening before his old club hit town.
The latter's 4-for-7 night gave him a glistening .400 batting average. It gave him three triples to tie all National League rookies in that category. It gave him five RBIs in less than a week, a pace that should have him leading all NL rookies there, too, within a month.
"Came from Triple-A just doing the same thing," McCutchen said. "It's working out for me right now. I mean, you always want to have a good start. I didn't know how it was going to go."
"I think it's his makeup," Russell said of McCutchen's big-league start. "He's got a calm demeanor about him, a lot of confidence in what he does. I think he's kind of been in the spotlight for a few years now. Probably questions of when and why and all that. He's been grilled about it already. I think that's a thing that's helped him since he's gotten here, to handle it."
First Published June 9, 2009 12:11 am