Pirates' struggling offense comes alive in win
Garrett Jones (46) celebrates with teammates Steve Pearce and Delwyn Young after hitting a home run in the third inning last night against the Brewers at PNC Park.
Delwyn Young breaks up a double play against Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar.
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Such a statement might have seemed blasphemous three months ago, while a 17-game losing streak to the same team was amidships, but: Maybe these Pirates should play Milwaukee more often.
After a four-game losing streak, an 11-of-12 losing skid and a 18-of-22 stumble since last they saw the Brewers, these Pirates continued their recent mastery of Milwaukee with a 9-5 victory last night at PNC Park
It marked the third Pirates' victory in their past four meetings.
Most important, though, for one night it provided the Pirates with a relatively complete game.
They flashed some defense, with three double plays in the first four innings and two dandy Andrew McCutchen catches in the final two innings.
They showed some offense, with their biggest inning in anywhere between 400-plus and almost 700 innings, and got home runs from Garrett Jones, Ronny Cedeno and Andy LaRoche.
• Game: Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (10-8, 4.30) vs. LHP Manny Parra (8-8, 6.64).
• Key matchup: Ohlendorf is becoming more comfortable by the day at PNC, where he is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his past six starts.
• Of note: Closer Matt Capps' most recent save before last night came July 31. He has had two opportunities since then.
And they displayed a solid bullpen effort, with Joel Hanrahan (two walks and a run), Jesse Chavez (one hit), Jeff Karstens (one walk) and Matt Capps holding a lead and finishing off a rare triumph of late. In fact, before this 1-2-3 ninth, Capps last polished off a victory on July 31, against Washington.
"Let's build on this one," said starter Kevin Hart, who notched his first Pirates victory (4-2) since arriving from the Cubs July 30. "Let's get it rolling."
"We were scuffling, just trying to get runs, just trying to hold games, and things weren't going our way," McCutchen said of the Pirates' dog days of August. "Just to be able to go a whole game, keep our composure ..., it'll calm us down a little bit."
Milwaukee needed all of two batters and four minutes to take a lead. Felipe Lopez tripled into the right-field corner, then five pitches later on a single by Craig Counsell. The thing about the Brewers of late: They score in bunches, but they give up runs that way, too. They've tallied five runs in each of their past six games -- and lost half of those.
The Pirates tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the second, when LaRoche homered into the left-field seats.
Then the previously parched Pirates bats embarked on a feeding frenzy.
In one inning, they surpassed their total of the preceding four losses. In fact, in one inning, they equaled or surpassed their total output of 79 of their previous 106 games this season -- and 17 of their past 20.
Delwyn Young opened with a full-count single. Jones followed with his 13th homer of the past seven weeks, and only his second with a man on -- the other, July 27, was also a two-run job. After a Ryan Doumit groundout there came three consecutive singles from Steve Pearce, LaRoche and Lastings Milledge, his driving home Pearce. Cedeno hit a liner that Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun dropped, forcing out LaRoche at third for the inning's second out. No matter, for starting pitcher Hart clunked his second consecutive single of the game, this one scoring Milledge. McCutchen's double off the left-field wall scored Cedeno, and the Pirates had themselves a five-run, seven-hit, bat-around inning off Carlos Villanueva (2-10), who, it shouldn't go unnoticed, has won just once in his past nine starts.
The numbers grow more stunning when you consider:
• 401 innings have passed since they last scored more runs in an inning, with six June 24.
• 405 innings have passed since they last batted around, June 23 also against Cleveland.
• 699 innings have passed since they last belted more hits in an inning, with nine May 17 against Colorado.
The Brewers cut the lead to 6-4 on homers by Prince Fielder and Mike Cameron through the sixth, but the Pirates again did something rare recently.
"We kept adding on," manager John Russell said, "and that was really important."
While allowing the Brewers to creep closer after leads of 6-1 (to 6-4) and 7-4 (to 7-5), the Pirates added a run in the bottom of the sixth and two more in the seventh.
Ramon Vazquez, pinch-batting for a 2-for-2 Hart, doubled down the left-field line and scored on a Young single. Then, after two Hanrahan walks with two outs led to a Brewers run in the top of the seventh, the Pirates padded their advantage some more with a two-run Cedeno homer -- immediately following a Milledge single and stolen base -- for that 9-5 final cushion.
The beleaguered bullpen, tagged for 13 earned runs in the four-game losing streak preceding this, finished it off from there.
"You go out there and get a five-run lead, take a deep breath and start pounding the zone," Hart said.
It remains to be seen if these Pirates can breath easier now and go for a second consecutive win. They have managed to piece together such a teeny-weeny roll only one other time, July 31-Aug. 1, in their 27 games since they won the opening two after the All-Star break.
First Published August 18, 2009 12:00 am