Things were looking good for the Pittsburgh Pirates today through seven innings. Paul Maholm was cruising along with an excellent start, one day after Kevin Correia gave the Pirates a great start of his own. The offense came through with a few runs, thanks to RBIs by Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, and a solo home run by Garrett Jones. However, things fell apart in the eighth inning, with the Pirates trying to close out a 3-0 lead.
Evan Meek came on to pitch the eighth inning, which usually is a good sign. Meek had a 2.14 ERA in 80 innings in 2010, with a 1.05 WHIP, a 7.9 K/9, and a 3.5 BB/9 ratio. Yesterday he pitched a shutout inning, allowing one hit, and striking out two. That wasn’t the case today. Meek allowed a leadoff walk to Kosuke Fukudome, and put Fukudome on second with a wild pitch. A Starlin Castro double brought the Cubs back to 3-1. Castro scored to make it 3-2 on an error by Lyle Overbay. Marlon Byrd hit a hard grounder to first, which skipped in to the air off of Overbay, allowing Castro to score, and putting the tying run on with one out.
Meek got Aramis Ramirez to fly out to left field, then gave up a single to Geovany Soto, putting runners at first and second. A Carlos Pena fly out to center should have ended the inning, had it not been for the Overbay error. Instead, Alfonso Soriano hit a two-out, RBI single to tie things up. That was it for Meek, who finished with 29 pitches in the inning.
Chris Resop came on and walked Tyler Colvin, loading the bases. That brought up Blake DeWitt, who doubled in two runs, putting the Cubs up 5-3. Resop ended the inning with a ground out on the next batter, but the damage was done. Carlos Marmol came on to strike out the side in the top of the ninth to close out the game for the Cubs.
The Pirates wasted a great effort by their starter today. Paul Maholm pitched 6.2 shutout innings, allowing five hits, two walks, and striking out three. He was very efficient, with 92 pitches, and 63 of those going for strikes. Maholm needed just seven pitches in each of his first two innings, and had another seven pitch inning in the fourth. He was pulled in the seventh with two outs and a runner at third, with Jose Veras coming on to get the final out of the inning.
Maholm was helped out by the Pirates’ offense early in the game. Jose Tabata drew a leadoff walk, and advanced to second when Lyle Overbay drew a two out walk. Pedro Alvarez came through on a 1-2 count, lacing a single in to right field that scored Tabata. Tabata led off the third inning with a single, and this time was brought in on a Neil Walker double to center field, with Tabata scoring from first. Garrett Jones put the Pirates up 3-0 in the seventh inning with a solo home run on the first pitch of the inning.
The decision to leave Meek in for so long was a questionable one, especially since he showed that he didn’t have it early on. Meek started off getting behind with a 3-0 count to Fukudome, before eventually walking him. He followed that up with two balls to Castro, who doubled two pitches later. In all fairness, Meek should have been out of the inning with a one run lead, due to the Overbay error, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that he allowed a walk and two hits before Alfonso Soriano came to the plate and tied things up with an RBI single.
Chris Resop was warming up in the bullpen almost the entire inning, and didn’t do much better after replacing Meek. He got off to a 3-0 count against Tyler Colvin, and eventually walked him. Then, Resop allowed a two RBI double on the first pitch to Blake DeWitt, before getting Fukudome to ground out and end the inning.
The Pirates got a great effort from Maholm, and the offense provided enough support. They just happened to get a bad outing from Meek, who is normally a steady reliever, and that bad outing cost them the win. It’s not the type of game the Pirates can afford to give away.
1. Paul Maholm – Great start by the left hander. Hopefully we’ll see more of that this year.
2. Garrett Jones – Absolutely crushed the home run in the seventh.
3. Neil Walker – He’s off to a great start this season.
1. Evan Meek – Not a good outing for the set-up man.
2. Lyle Overbay – The error in the eighth extended the inning.
3. Chris Resop – Didn’t do well in trying to put out the fire that Meek created.