Snell, Pirates cut short in 6-1 loss to Cubs
The Cubs' Kosuke Fukudome hits a solo home run against the Pirates in first inning last night in Chicago.
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CHICAGO -- Ian Snell was not fooling the Chicago Cubs.
And then he was.
And then he was not.
A large part of what has made Snell so maddening for so long to the Pirates, well before their 6-1 rain-shortened, five-inning loss last night at Wrigley Field, is his inconsistency. He can dominate one start, throw a dud in the next. Embarrass a superstar, lapse against the opposing pitcher.
"He's working hard, and his arm's healthy," manager John Russell said. "He's just not putting the ball where he needs to put it. You saw the results."
This outing, in which Snell allowed six runs, eight hits and four walks over five innings, had it all ...
He got two quick outs in the first from Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot with nothing but strikes, then fell behind Kosuke Fukudome, 2-1, and gave up a home run on a flat fastball.
With two aboard in the second, he struck out Ryan Freel, gave up an RBI single to pitcher Sean Marshall, then struck out Soriano to end it.
• Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (5-4, 2.77) vs. RHP Carlos Zambrano (3-2, 4.64).
• Key matchup: Duke might want to start avoiding leadoff man Alfonso Soriano, who has tortured him -- .560 average, 14 for 25, two home runs -- while drawing just two walks.
• Of note: The Pirates are 7-13 when Jason Jaramillo catches, 8-7 with Robinzon Diaz. They had been 6-5 with Ryan Doumit before his injury.
Two pitches brought two quick outs in the third, but he walked Milton Bradley and fell behind Micah Hoffpauir before an RBI double off the ivy in right.
He zipped 1-2-3 through the fourth, then allowed his first six batters to reach in a root-canal two-run fifth in which Chicago pulled ahead, 6-1. Even there, he finished with a strikeout and double play.
Get the picture?
Snell was good in small spurts but not good enough, and that has been the story of his 2009: He is 1-6 with a 5.43 ERA, his 40 strikeouts barely exceed his 30 walks, and his most recent victory -- the only victory -- came April 18.
"Bad pitches, walks and bad pitch selection," Snell said of this start. "It's going to happen. It won't be the last time. But I'll bounce back. I'm not too worried about it."
He was asked to clarify what he meant by the pitch selection.
"We just kept doubling up on certain pitches we shouldn't have thrown. Instead of throwing in, we threw away. Just being stupid. It cost us. That's it."
Robinzon Diaz was Snell's catcher. Diaz declined comment when asked if the game plan called for Snell to pitch inside, something Snell seldom did.
"Don't want to talk," Diaz replied, politely.
Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and his catchers work closely with pitchers on highly targeted plans aimed at each batters' weaknesses, but it was unclear if that was what Snell meant, either.
"I am trying, I think, too hard to win games, instead of letting myself just go out there and pitch," Snell said upon being pressed further. "I'm thinking a little too much, every at-bat, to every hitter, about how to trick them or whether or not to throw what I believe in. I mess up when I do that."
Russell's stance was simple: Snell needs to get back to being as aggressive as he was early in the season.
"I thought it was indicative of his start when he got those two one-pitch outs, then gave up a run," Russell said. "That's a situation where he's got to be more aggressive and put the ball where he wants it to go rather than just throw it up there."
So, what will it take?
For one, as Snell himself indicated, he has to pitch inside.
"He's got to use both sides of the plate, and I don't think he pitched in much tonight," Russell said. "You could tell they were very aggressive from the first inning on."
For another, it will take more efficiency: Snell needed 98 pitches for those five innings.
"Ian's a high-pitch-count guy, anyway," Russell said. "If he gets into too many deep counts, that will hurt, too."
Finally, it will take concentration: Snell lost a game earlier this season on a home run to a pitcher, and a pitcher stung him again last night.
"I don't lose focus," Snell replied when asked about that. "It's just frustrating when throw a pitch there, and it should be a strike, but it's a ball. Then, you get confused about where the strike zone is. Then, you keep pounding the same spot, don't get the call, and you give up a hit or walk the guy."
That was a reference to the work of home plate umpire Jeff Nelson.
The offense, after erupting for 34 hits in the previous two games, had little say in this one: Diaz's RBI single in the fourth pulled the Pirates within 3-1, but that was it. The team total was four singles and two walks, with two of those hits adding to Freddy Sanchez's 10-for-14 tear.
The game was called by umpiring crew chief Tim Tschida after a delay of just one hour, two minutes due to heavy rain, just after it became official. This despite local radar showing that the rain was due to pass within an hour.
The decision was met with mild grumbling in the Pirates' clubhouse.
"There's nothing you can do about that," Russell said. "They made the call."
The Cubs broke an eight-game losing streak.
First Published May 27, 2009 12:01 am