The ninth inning of this one may feel important right now--Yadier Molina gift-wrapped three runs for the Pirates with an inexplicable string of poor defensive decisions, and then John Grabow and T.J. Beam made the bottom of the inning way too exciting--but the real story here was Ian Snell. Snell looked as good as he has all year: his fastball touched 97, and his slider was so filthy that Skip Schumaker struck out on a pitch that almost hit him in the knee.
During the broadcast, Bob Walk had a good point about the Pirates' recent, uh, turnaround:
July: .802 OPS
August: .652 OPS
July 5.74 ERA
August 3.78 ERA
Obviously, a lot of that has to do with trading Jason Bay and Xavier Nady and adding Jeff Karstens to the rotation, but it isn't just that; that doesn't explain Snell's start tonight, or Paul Maholm's good recent pitching, or Jason Davis. On the other side of the ball, Ryan Doumit and Nate McLouth have hit very poorly, which may be partly because Bay and Nady aren't there to protect them, but it's also probably partly just fatigue. Some of the offense's poor performance also probably has to do with the Bucs facing a number of very good pitchers (Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Edinson Volquez). Either way, these are trends to keep an eye on.