Sanchez 6 for 6 in Pirates' win, but Capps hurt
Freddy Sanchez, right, celebrates with Jack Wilson after hitting a two-run homer against the Cubs in the fourth inning last night in Chicago.
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CHICAGO -- Freddy Sanchez's 6-for-6 performance, shades of Rennie Stennett's franchise hallmark, pushed the Pirates to a 10-8 punchout of the Chicago Cubs last night at Wrigley Field, an outcome that should have been among their most satisfying of the summer.
One could never tell it from the reaction afterward.
The clubhouse was almost entirely silent, no music, little talking, in the aftermath of closer Matt Capps being struck on the right elbow by Geovany Soto's line drive in the ninth inning, then being taken to nearby Midwestern Memorial Hospital.
"It's tough right now," Sanchez said. "We're all thinking about Cappy."
Two hours later, according to a team source early this morning, X-rays taken at the hospital showed no fractures or other structural damage, though Capps was experiencing extreme stiffness and soreness in the elbow. There was no immediate prognosis on how much time he might miss, and that is because, in a cruel slice of misfortune, the ball struck Capps almost precisely on the same bone in the back of the elbow that had been deeply bruised and cost him six games earlier this month.
It did so with enough force, according to the source, that the ball's seam marks still were evident well after the X-rays.
With one out in the ninth, Soto returned a 94-mph fastball with such velocity -- "probably 110 mph," by pitching coach Joe Kerrigan's estimate -- that Capps had time only to pull his arms inward to protect himself. The ball caromed off the elbow and all the way to the railing by the Cubs' dugout on the third-base side.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Ian Snell (1-5, 4.88) vs. LHP Sean Marshall (2-3, 3.96).
• Key matchup: Snell vs. Chicago's whole lineup. He is 1-5 with a 5.93 ERA in his career against the Cubs, and is hit especially hard by leadoff man Alfonso Soriano, 9 for 18 with three home runs.
• Of note: The Pirates are 8-15 within the Central Division, 12-7 against the National League's other two divisions.
Capps staggered off the mound, wobbling and circling as athletic trainer Mike Sandoval and manager John Russell rushed onto the field.
"Couldn't even look," catcher Jason Jaramillo said.
"And the shame of it is how he was pitching," fellow reliever Jesse Chavez. "He was just getting back to being Matt Capps."
Capps struck out the side Sunday for a save against the Chicago White Sox, and he was two outs away from another in this one.
Sean Burnett got the final two outs for his first save, part of a fine bullpen showing -- in particular Tom Gorzelanny's quiet fifth and sixth innings -- that overshadowed Paul Maholm's subpar start of seven runs and seven hits in four innings.
But it was the offense, especially Sanchez, that stood out.
His output was highlighted by a two-run home run off Ryan Dempster in the fourth, one in which he somehow reached to pull a 2-2 changeup into the left-field bleachers. He also smacked his National League-leading 17th double into deep center, had four solidly struck singles, scored four runs, had three RBIs and turned a terrific play at second base.
"A great night for Freddy," Russell said.
"Six hits is a good week for some guys," center fielder Nate McLouth said. "That was fun to watch."
The six hits were two more than Sanchez's career high, and he became the first Pirates player with that many since Wally Backman had the same 6-for-6 line on April 27, 1990, in San Diego. No one had as many as five hits since Brian Giles on July 29, 2000, against the Padres at Three Rivers Stadium.
Stennett, another second baseman and also at Wrigley, authored his famous 7-for-7 on Sept. 16, 1975, one that still stands alone in Major League Baseball lore.
"I knew about that, and it's an honor to have something like this happen," Sanchez said.
The only other player in the majors with six hits in a game this season was the Texas Rangers' Ian Kinsler, part of his cycle April 15 in Baltimore.
So much for that 5-for-36 Sanchez lugged to Chicago over the weekend: He has nine hits in his past 13 at-bats, and his average is back up to a Sanchez-like .320, which he credits to shortening his stroke to end an uncharateristic rash of strikeouts.
"I've done that, and I feel really good up there," Sanchez said.
Funny thing is, he nearly did not play. Russell had informed him beforehand that he might be rested, then changed his mind just before having bench coach Gary Varsho fill out the card.
Afterward, Russell approached Sanchez at his stall for a teasing fist-bump.
"Guess I made a good decision," Russell said.
The offense as a whole totaled a season-high 18 hits, this a day after 16 against the White Sox across town. Andy LaRoche and Jason Jaramillo each had three hits, Adam LaRoche two. And McLouth brought the last of the game's six lead changes with his two-run home run -- his team-best eighth -- off Neal Cotts in the sixth, putting the Pirates ahead, 8-7.
Maholm, so efficient early in the season, ran up a pitch count of 94 in those four innings, including 34 in the first, while throwing only 59 strikes and walking three. He has not won in six starts since April 22, his ERA swelling from 2.03 to 4.11.
The Cubs have lost eight in a row.
First Published May 26, 2009 12:24 am