Pirates 4, Braves 3

There were a number of interesting stories in this one:

-P- Jack Wilson was pulled from the game with a calf problem after he came up lame while running out a single. I don't know how long he'll be out, but he did look like he was legitimately hurt. Freddy Sanchez had already been pulled from the game for more innocent reasons, so the Pirates had a middle infield of Chris Gomez and Luis Rivas. If Wilson has to go on the DL, hopefully Brian Bixler will be called up and allowed to start; I don't want to see Gomez or Rivas starting for any substantial period of time.

-P- I'm told that Sanchez was removed from the game at John Russell's "discretion." Well, that apparently took Russell's entire supply of discretion, because he let Zach Duke pitch forever in the sixth even though Duke seemed to be running up 2-0 or 3-0 counts against every batter he faced. Duke then let a string of batters reach base, leading the Bucs to allow all three of the Braves' runs in the sixth. Duke clearly should've been removed after Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur got on in that inning; I have no idea what Russell was thinking. Duke ended up throwing 117 pitches, including about 35 after he clearly had lost it. That ranks right up there with any dumb thing Jim Tracy ever did to Tom Gorzelanny, and it's worth watching going forward.

-P- Before that, though, Duke pitched decently. He didn't exactly rack up strikeouts, and that's definitely a source of concern, but his fastball had some life, and he didn't walk anyone.

-P- Mike Hampton was pulled before the game with a strained chest muscle, meaning his return from 263 arm surgeries has been postponed.

-P- In the tenth inning, Bobby Cox brought in Royce Ring to face Adam LaRoche, but instead of taking pitcher Chris Resop out of the game, he moved him to the outfield, then brought him back to the mound after Ring struck LaRoche out. I know these kinds of things happen every so often, but I've never seen it. It was pretty cool, like something out of the climax of a bad baseball movie.

-P- Several guys played well: Ronny Paulino made a good stop on a ball in the dirt and actually hustled down the line to reach on an error, although he also missed a chance to blow the game open by striking out with the bases loaded early on. Nate McLouth made a couple of fantastic catches; he looks great in center. And Tyler Yates looked good again, throwing 96-97 MPH fastballs by Chipper Jones like Jones had just been called up from the minors or something.

The Bucs managed to score a run in the 10th on an RBI single by Xavier Nady. Nyjer Morgan nearly undid that by missing a ball at the wall in center and allowing Mark Kotsay to come around for a triple, but Matt Capps managed to shut the door.

Like the first game, this one was as exhausting as it was exhilarating. This series leaves me with pretty serious questions about the Pirates' pitching, in particular, and I hope Wilson's okay, but I certainly feel satisfied from an entertainment-dollar perspective.

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