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Game #68 vs. White Sox; Return of Van Benschoten

PNC Park | 7:05 | Van Benschoten vs. Mark Buehrle | Box

Over 36,000 fans showed up on Saturday night to watch the Pirates lose, 6-1. When John Van Benschoten left the game in the sixth inning, the packed house rose to its feet, giving the feel-good story a standing ovation for his efforts.
At first glance, Van Benschoten’s line—5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K—seems good, not great.
When you learn that both of those runs would’ve been avoided if Adam LaRoche hadn’t thrown away a double-play chance, the line looks even better. And that’s exactly what happened.
JVB retired the first four White Sox batters before walking Jermaine Dye in the bottom of the second. Alex Cintron then lined a single to right, putting runners on first and third for Rob Mackowiak.
LaRoche was holding Cintron on first, so he was in perfect position to field the grounder Mack-a-whack sent dribbling down the first base line. Adam gloved the ball, stepped backwards to the bag and released a nonchalant throw home. The ball sailed wide of Ryan Doumit, and Dye scored easily from third. He should’ve been dead to rights, and Van Benschoten should’ve been out of the inning.
No error was charged because a double play can’t be assumed, and no runners took an extra base on the throw.
Top prospect Josh Fields took advantage of the fourth out, doubling into the left field corner to plate the Sox’ second run.
All things considered, it was a solid debut for JVB. He was one out away from turning in a quality start. It seemed as if his fastball still has a little life, and his breaking stuff certainly broke. His overhand curveball had tasty movement, touching 72-75 mph on the radar gun. Coupled with a low-90s fastball, it proved to be an effective out pitch.
Unfortunately, the offense didn’t back him up. Adam LaRoche and Ryan Doumit accounted for five of the Pirates’ nine hits. Jose Castillo went 0 for 4, but did record two productive outs.
The bullpen, per usual, was awful. John Grabow, Dan Kolb and Tony Armas combined to throw 3.1 innings, allowing six hits and four runs.
The Bucs will play for a series split on Father’s Day.
Recaps
Pirates.com
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
SI.com
Pre-game Thoughts
On September 10, 2004, John Van Benschoten threw eight innings of one-run ball. He allowed five hits, walked a batter and struck out three. The Astros lineup he faced featured Craig Biggio, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent.
He earned his first career win in dominant fashion.
On September 18, Van Benschoten made his next start—this time against Tom Glavine and the New York Mets. He lasted just one-third of an inning, yielding two hits and six earned runs. According to Pirates.com, he tied a club record that night by issuing walks to four consecutive batters.
It would be his last appearance of the 2004 campaign.
Later, he complained of stiffness in his right shoulder. In January of 2005, he underwent reconstructive surgery to repair his “labrum, a rotator cuff debridement and thermal shrinkage.” He missed all of that season rehabbing, and threw only 22.2 innings in 2006.
Tonight, Van Benschoten will make his sixth major-league start. He’s still looking for that elusive second win.
A former first round pick out of Kent State University, JVB knows that if he’s going to make a name for himself, it’s likely now or never.
His pedigree isn’t overwhelming. In college, he was known as much for his bat as he was for his arm. In 90 career minor-league starts, he compiled a 3.58 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. If he doesn’t come back at 100 percent, he’ll likely only be able to stick in the bigs as a reliever.
Still, in 66 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis this year, Van Benschoten put together a 2.73 ERA. His peripheral stats were weak—1.35 WHIP, 1.5 K/BB—but he did what it took to get batters out.
On one September night nearly three years ago, John Van Benschoten proved that he had what it took to throw at the highest level.
Tonight, he’ll get a chance to show us he’s still got it.

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Game #67 vs. White Sox

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