PITTSBURGH - JUNE 13: Paul Maholm #28 and Michael McKenry #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates talk on the pitchers mound during the game against the New York Mets on June 13, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Paul Maholm did what he usually does, keeping runs off the board and keeping the Bucs in the game despite a lack of offensive support, and the Pirates won 3-1 in their series finale against the Mets.
The baserunning in the first inning was ridiculous. Jose Tabata singled to start the inning, and then Xavier Paul singled. Tabata went to third with no outs and was out easily, but the umps made an obstruction call on Jose Reyes that wouldn't have been called 99 percent of the time. The Pirates caught a break, and they got another single, from Neil Walker, to take advantage of it. But then ... wait for it ... Paul got picked off.
I know the Bucs have a terrible offense (all the more so with Andrew McCutchen getting the day off, which is itself pretty silly given how young and healthy he is, and how badly the team needs him right now), but the kind of silly gambles the Pirates take on the bases sometimes remind me of when my brother was at the Meadows playing poker with a guy who said he was down to his last $50. When my brother heard that, he looked the guy straight in the eye and said, "Dude. Stop playing." These baserunning blunders are costing the Pirates runs they can ill-afford to lose.
More positively, new catcher Michael McKenry made his debut and made an immediate impact. Mike Pelfrey failed to lay down a bunt with one out and runners on second and third in the fifth, and McKenry threw a strike to second and caught Daniel Murphy in a rundown, thus helping shut down a Mets rally in a high-leverage situation in a 1-0 game. (Other quick impressions of McKenry: he's very squat but is a reasonably quick runner, even if he isn't exactly fast. He looks confident and sure-handed behind the plate.)
Brandon Wood in the bottom of the inning hit a line-drive solo homer to left, widening the Pirates' lead to 2-0. (Wood also had a nice double play earlier in the game.) 'Course, 10 straight batters had made outs before him, and 10 straight made outs after him.
When your starter pitches seven scoreless innings while only allowing three hits and two walks, as Maholm did tonight, it's easy to worry a bit less about some of the team's offensive problems, at least for a while. Maholm, after posting six zeroes in his last start, now has two in a row in which he hasn't allowed a run.
Jose Veras came on in the eighth and immediately allowed a walk and a single. As nasty as Veras was at the beginning of the season, he's really struggling now. Unfortunately, some of the Pirates' relievers are too (Dan McCutchen, in particular, seems to have finally realized he's Dan McCutchen), so the Bucs might have to leave Veras in high-leverage spots for now, unless Tim Wood or someone else steps up. Speaking of Wood, the Pirates brought him in and he allowed a line drive. Jose Tabata made a sliding catch and doubled the runner off first, and the Bucs got out of the eighth with only one run allowed.
The Pirates picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the inning when Ronny Cedeno and Andrew McCutchen (who had entered the game an inning or so earlier) hit one-out singles, and Tabata had an infield single of his own. Xavier Paul struck out against Tim Byrdak, but Neil Walker had a long plate appearance that resulted in a bases-loaded walk. D.J. Carrasco then came on, and it would have been great if the Pirates had a better option than Matt Diaz to face the righty with the bases loaded, but alas, they really didn't. Diaz flied out to end it. Fortunately, Joel Hanrahan came on in the ninth and was his usual electric self. Pirates 3, Mets 1.