Yesterday, things were looking good for the Pittsburgh Pirates heading in to the 8th inning. They had a 3-0 lead with their star relievers, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan, in line to close out the last two innings. That never happened, as Meek struggled, and the Pirates gave up five runs in the inning. That brought on Carlos Marmol, who mowed down the Pirates’ in the ninth inning for the save.
Today, the Pirates came in to the ninth inning down 4-3, with Marmol coming to the mound again. This time, things went differently. On a full count, Garrett Jones laid off a low slider to draw the leadoff walk. Neil Walker followed that up with a single, putting runners at first and second. After Lyle Overbay bunted the runners over, it set the stage for a crazy play with Pedro Alvarez at the plate.
Alvarez hit a slow roller past Marmol, to Starlin Castro at shortstop. Castro tried to make a running throw to first, and ended up pulling Carlos Pena off the bag. Jones scored easily on the play, and Neil Walker, displaying some aggressive base running, beat a throw to the plate to give the Pirates a 5-4 lead.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from there, though. Joel Hanrahan came on to close out the ninth inning, and after striking out Reed Johnson, Hanrahan allowed a single to Castro, who went 3-for-4 on the day. The game looked to be over when Hanrahan got Darwin Barney to hit an easy double play ball to Ronny Cedeno. However, Cedeno threw wild to second, allowing Castro to move to third, putting the tying run in scoring position with one out. Cedeno got another chance on the next play, with Hanrahan getting a ground ball by Marlon Byrd, and thanks to a nice, quick turn by Neil Walker, the Pirates were able to close it out with a successful double play this time.
It was a bit of a crazy game for the Pirates, and one that they arguably shouldn’t have won. The Pirates had 16 hits on the day, but only managed five runs. The offense wasn’t exactly on fire though. They also struck out 13 times. Every player in the lineup recorded both a hit and a strikeout. All 16 hits were singles, so there wasn’t much power at work either. There were also some questionable decisions.
The first came in the sixth inning with Ross Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf wasn’t having the best day, although he wasn’t as bad as his Spring Training performances. After three easy innings, he ran in to trouble in the fourth. Darwin Barney, Marlon Byrd, and Aramis Ramirez all singled to lead off the inning, putting the bases loaded with no outs for Carlos Pena. Pena launched a double to right field that barely stayed in the ball park, and which brought in two runs. That tied the score at 2-2, with the Pirates getting their runs off of two-out RBI singles by Pedro Alvarez and Ronny Cedeno.
Ohlendorf managed to escape the fourth inning without any additional damage, but ran in to trouble again in the fifth. He entered the inning with a 3-2 lead, thanks to an RBI single by Lyle Overbay in the top of the inning. Ohlendorf allowed a leadoff triple to Starlin Castro, followed by a sacrifice fly to Darwin Barney, which tied the score at 3-3. He again ran in to trouble, allowing two, two-out walks to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, before escaping the inning with a groundout.
The questionable decision came when Ohlendorf was sent back out to start the sixth inning, despite struggling in each of the last two innings. It was a decision that immediately backfired, with Ohlendorf allowing a leadoff home run to Alfonso Soriano, giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead. Ohlendorf allowed another triple to Starlin Castro, with two outs, but got Darwin Barney to fly out, ending the inning.
The other questionable call came in the eighth inning. The Pirates had the bases loaded with one out, and Jason Jaramillo at third base. Jose Tabata flied out to right field, on a ball that wasn’t hit deep enough to guarantee a run, and to Tyler Colvin, who has a strong arm. Jaramillo was sent to the plate, and was easily gunned down by Colvin, ending the inning. You could argue that Jaramillo shouldn’t have been sent there. I’d argue that it was the right call, and that it was bad fortune that Jaramillo happened to be the guy at third base. In any event, the Pirates managed to pull out a win today, despite sending Jaramillo, and despite leaving Ohlendorf in to pitch the sixth inning.
Michael Crotta made his Major League debut today, and looked very impressive. He got a perfect inning, needing just eight pitches to retire Byrd, Ramirez, and Pena. He struck out Pena with a 95 MPH fastball that had a ton of movement, displaying the skill of his sinkerball. It was an impressive outing for Crotta, and while you can’t make much out of one inning in relief, his stuff could definitely provide a pleasant surprise in the bullpen this year.
1. Pedro Alvarez – The second RBI in the ninth inning was more due to the aggressive base running by Walker, and the poor throw by Castro, but Alvarez did come through with the hit, and came through earlier with a two-out, RBI single. He also made a great play to throw out Carlos Pena, ranging from the shortstop position to make a running throw on a bunt down the third base line.
2. Jose Tabata – Tabata has been a hitting machine in the first three games, with a 3-for-5 performance today, and two runs scored.
3. The Bullpen – Crotta, Jeff Karstens, and Joel Hanrahan combined for three shutout innings, and outside of the error in the ninth when Hanrahan was pitching, everything looked easy with those three on the mound.
1. Ross Ohlendorf – Ohlendorf started off strong, but struggled in his final three innings. He escaped a few jams, and didn’t show the best control, allowing eight hits and four walks in six innings.
2. The Defense – One of the biggest problems in the first three games has been the defense. That showed up today on two occasions. Once in the ninth with Cedeno (who did have the RBI single earlier, and went 2-for-4), and the other when Matt Diaz allowed a triple to Starlin Castro, on a play that should have only been a double.
3. Jason Jaramillo – Jaramillo had a single in the eighth, but didn’t look strong the rest of the game, going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. He also had the play at the plate, which wasn’t totally his fault, since it was a product of aggressive base running (which also led to Walker scoring).