Tanner's talk leads Pirates' Doumit to breakout
Members of the 1979 world championship Pirates together with the World Series trophy before Saturday night's game. From left to right, top row, Omar Moreno, Bruce Kison, partially blocked by Chuck Tanner, Kent Tekulve, Bill Madlock, wife of the late slugger Willie Stargell, Margaret Stargell, Don Robinson, and Rennie Stennett,, Bottom row right to left are Dale Berra , Mike Easler, Grant Jackson, Steve Nicosia and Phil Garner.
Ryan Doumit, bottom, slides under Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips with a stolen base in the first inning Saturday night.
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Often, when the Pirates have some commemorative event for a championship team, then win the game later the same day, all kinds of intangible, inspirational connections get made.
To be sure, plenty of those were heard after the 12-2 rout of the Cincinnati Reds last night before 32,570 at PNC Park: It brought a season-best five-game winning streak, and it followed a moving ceremony to honor 22 members of the 1979 Family, highlighted by Chuck Tanner, 80 years old and recovering from heart surgery, getting warmly embraced as all huddled around their World Series trophy.
It was, as pitcher Zach Duke would describe it, "A great moment, for us and for the city."
For Ryan Doumit, it was more.
And not just because he busted out of a 4-for-34 funk with a home run, double, single and three RBIs.
Flash back to a few minutes before 7 p.m., as Doumit, Duke and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan came up the tunnel steps on the way to Duke's warmup. Near the bat rack was Tanner, who is more than just an acquaintance to Doumit, having once pleaded his case to management that Doumit should be the everyday catcher by pounding his fist on a meeting-room table during spring training of 2008.
• Game: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Kevin Hart (4-2, 4.00) vs. RHP Homer Bailey (2-4, 7.53).
• Key matchup: Bailey, only recently a highly touted prospect, has given up at least five runs in five of his past seven starts.
• Of note: For all their woes, the Pirates remain well above .500 -- 33-27 -- at home.
This time, Tanner grabbed Doumit by the elbow, caught his full attention and gave him an old-fashioned earful.
As always with Tanner, it was all positive.
"Chuck Tanner's always been in my corner, and that means the world to me," Doumit said. "And that's what he told me. He told me he believes in me. To hear that from a baseball man who's had all those great players, who won a championship ... man, I can't tell you what a confidence boost it was."
Duke pitched seven solid innings, Garrett Jones had three hits and as many RBIs, and Lastings Milledge doubled, singled and made a diving catch, but the Pirates had to be most pleased by their anchor behind the plate: Doumit is their only position-player mainstay still on the roster after the recent trades, and he is being called upon to deliver not only a big bat but also leadership.
But he was batting .214 entering this one, including a maddening spate of line drives that were achieving little more than knocking the dust out of fielder's gloves. And he had made no secret of his displeasure, saying Friday after a couple of those: "I don't have much of a sense of humor right now."
This one started grimly, too ...
After the Pirates rifled three consecutive singles for a run in the first, Doumit managed a weak comebacker and got an RBI only because he hustled to avoid a 1-6-3 double play. No pouting, though: He stole second and scored on Milledge's single, and the lead was 3-0.
"He still made something happen. You like to see that," manager John Russell said.
Next at-bat in the third, Doumit had more familiar form, lashing a double into the right corner.
In the fifth, after Andy LaRoche's walk, Doumit launched Justin Lehr's 2-1 curve high above the Clemente Wall for his seventh home run, just his second in the past 22 games. The lead was 6-1.
"That felt good," Doumit said.
He led off the seventh with a single past the shortstop, showing he was doing more than pulling the ball. After Milledge's double, both scored on Steve Pearce's single that made it 10-2.
"It's good to get the results," Doumit said. "When you're out there swinging like that, trying to make things happen, yeah, it's nice to see some fall."
"You can't control where the ball goes," hitting coach Don Long said. "You have to stay strong-minded and think about the good at-bat. It's easy for me to say, I know, so it's still nice to see Ryan rewarded for it."
Duke was rewarded, too, with his first victory since July 24, despite consistently pitching well enough to win throughout. He improved to 10-11 -- the next win marks a career high -- against a 3.38 ERA.
A big deal to reach 10?
"It means I'm one under .500," Duke said. "My goal is to get over .500."
He limited Cincinnati's light lineup to two runs and eight hits.
"It was a great night all-around," Russell said. "To have those championship players here, to have them see our heritage, to talk to those guys, then to go out and play like that in front of the big crowd, just a good night."
Another victory today would give the Pirates their second six-game winning streak under Russell, the other coming May 6-12 of last year. Since moving to PNC Park in 2001, the franchise has had one winning streak longer than six, that being the 10-0 tear June 26-July 5, 2004.
Speaking of seriously modest achievements: The Pirates last night passed the Reds to get out of the Central Division cellar.
First Published August 23, 2009 12:00 am