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Pittsburgh vs. Houston, 2 April 2007

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6:52 PM I'll be watching the game, at least the first six innings or so, and will be here posting on whatever strikes my fancy.

7:10 And we're off, as Duffy takes the first two pitches. Yay!

7:14 Duffy and Wilson are making Oswalt throw a whole bunch of pitches. Obviously, you can't read anything into that, and Oswalt just wasn't particularly close to the zone in most of the pitches he threw to Duffy, but it's still really nice to see... yeah, ten pitches against Wilson so far.

7:18 And, for the first time, here's Adam LaRoche, and he pops out to left.

7:23 Given that the Pirates are putting an automatic out in the 2-hole, it's nice to know that the Astros are doing the same - Adam Everett, one of the worst-hitting regulars in baseball, went down easily. Simple, quick bottom of the first for Duke, who also got Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman on routine plays.

7:27 Wow, Oswalt is missing a lot of pitches just off the corners, and Pirates hitters, to their credit, are doing a good job laying off them. It may be that Oswalt is just shaking off the rust a little - a month from now, he'll be able to get those pitches in for strikes.

7:29 Jose Bautista gets the Pirates' first hit on a blooper to center.

7:36 Hey, nice play at second by Jose Castillo to make the tag and end the second inning. Don't look for me to write the phrase "nice play at second by Jose Castillo" very many more times this year.

7:38 Seeing-eye single by Zach Duke. The evidence is obviously really sketchy so far, but the Astros' defense does not look good. Chris Burke looks confused in center field.

7:44 Ground-rule double for Burke... and an HBP against Brad Ausmus. This third inning could be a big one for the 'Stros.

7:49 Biggio grounds into a double play to end the threat. As Pat points out, both he and Cory are also liveblogging this thing, which probably means that an incredibly disproportionate amount of attention is being paid to this game, but what can I say? I'm a fan.

7:52 Ouch - Oswalt's breaking balls just made LaRoche look silly.

7:55 The Pirates' hitters have been out there for four innings, and no one has really hit the ball hard yet.

7:58 Duke has only needed 32 pitches to record 10 outs so far.

8:00 Another double play for Jose Bautista and Jose Castillo, who both look pretty comfortable out there.

8:10 Ugh - a two-run jack to right-center for Luke Scott. 2-0 Astros.

8:11 And a double for Burke right after that. Jeez.

8:14 Oswalt hits the ball just out of the reach of a jumpin' Jack Wilson, marking the second time this inning (Bay's attempt to field Burke's double being the first) that a Pirate just missed while jumping for a ball. Maybe the Bucs would benefit from some jumping practice. Anyway, Duffy guns down Burke at the plate for his second assist of the night, and Duke records the final out, ending the rally with the score stuck at 2-0.

8:18 Duffy's on again in the sixth with a leadoff single. Let's see if he runs this time. Oswalt and Ausmus together did a pretty good job shutting down the running game last year.

8:20 Nice. It's moot, as Ensberg flubs Wilson's ground ball to third. The Bucs are in business, with runners on first and second.

8:22 Ugh. Ensberg helps make up for his mistake by starting a double play on a grounder by Bay.

8:24 Oh man, terrible swing by LaRoche, as Oswalt puts up another zero.

8:27 Everett doubles off Duke to lead off the bottom of the sixth. The Astros are getting to Duke a little bit. Incidentally, I just noticed that our old friend Victor Santos was called up to Cincinnati today.

8:30 And a walk to Berkman. Jonah Bayliss is warming up.

8:31 Oh man, great diving play by Jose Castillo on a hard-hit ball by Carlos Lee. That's huge. Everett had taken off for second, so the Bucs doubled him off easily. If Castillo doesn't make that play, the Astros look poised to blow the game wide open.

8:36 Another ground-ball out for Paulino. That's three at-bats and three weak grounders for Paulino, who also hit a ton of grounders last year. I worry that I'll have to get used to a lot of games like this from Paulino this year.

8:43 Easy bottom of the seventh for Duke, and the Bucs have six more outs to try to get something going.

8:48 Impressive pinch-hit homer for Nate McLouth, who just smacked a ball 400 feet the opposite way. Not that it was a particularly spectacular homer by many players' standards, but I can't remember the last time I saw McLouth hit the ball that hard.

8:52 Wilson hits a two-out infield single, and Oswalt's coming out with a one-run lead. I presume Dan Wheeler will pitch now.

8:56 Wheeler retires Bay as the Astros head into the bottom of the eighth.

8:59 And it's Bayliss to pitch the ninth. FSN's gun has his first fastball at 92 MPH, which seems a bit below average for him, but as usual, i's got a lot of movement.

9:05 Damaso Marte comes on to face Berkman, who he retires. It'll be Brad Lidge facing LaRoche, Paulino and Nady in the ninth.

9:11 Yesssss! Nady homers with two outs in the ninth to tie the game. This one's not over yet.

9:13 And Bautista doubles, and the Houston faithful are not happy with Brad Lidge. Ryan Doumit will pinch hit for Castillo, which means that we'll probably get to see our first glimpse of Don Kelly in a regular season game.

9:16 Oh no, I didn't mean I thought he'd be pinch-hitting if Doumit got on. For Pete's sake. Why use Kelly as a pinch hitter with the game on the line? What's wrong with Brad Eldred? Or... anyone else?

9:21 After a foul ball that narrowly missed being a double down the first-base line, Kelly flies out, so we'll head to the bottom of the ninth.

9:24 Matt Capps comes on to pitch.

9:26 The Astros hit a couple of balls fairly hard in the ninth but don't do any damage, and the Bucs will head into the tenth with the top of their order due up.

9:33 Oh, wow. Wilson hits an infield single, and then Bay homers to give the Pirates a two-run lead. Excellent. So after really doing nothing with the bats in the first two thirds of the game, the Bucs look well positioned to win, thanks to three homers in the late innings.

9:40 Wow, it's the tenth inning, the Astros have scored two runs, and as the Astros' announcers just pointed out, Salomon Torres just recorded the Pirates' first strikeout of the evening (against Burke). That's really strange.

9:43 The Bucs win! Overall, this went well. It's hard to argue with the homers, and the fact that Pirates pitchers only walked one batter the whole game. Still, Bucs hitters only walked twice, and Pirates pitchers only struck out one batter. They also didn't do a great job keeping the ball on the ground, although Duke seemed to get key grounders when he needed them. The Bucs didn't hit against Oswalt, but then again, he's Oswalt. Overall, this was a very nice start to the Bucs' year.

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Here's the box score. And here's the lineup:

CF Chris Duffy
SS Jack Wilson
LF Jason Bay
1B Adam LaRoche
C Ronny Paulino
RF Xavier Nady
3B Jose Bautista
2B Jose Castillo
P Zach Duke

7:05 PM, FSNP, WPGB

Zach Duke (0-0, 0.00) vs. Roy Oswalt (0-0, 0.00).

It's Opening Day and I'm back! Thanks so much to Bryanzane for steering the ship while I've been gone. It wasn't an easy assignment - I missed a lot. Let me see if I can catch up:

Bryan linked this earlier, but Humberto Cota, Brad Eldred and Ryan Doumit all made the team. Jose Castillo will start at second in Freddy Sanchez's absence. Here's the final roster. Other than Eldred and Cota, the only players who got spot who didn't seem highly likely to get them when Spring Training began are relievers Jonah Bayliss, Juan Perez and John Wasdin and infielder Don Kelly.

Bayliss, who has electric stuff and is, in my opinion, more fun to watch than any other current Pirate pitcher, is a good choice. Perez is on the team partly because he's a lefty and John Grabow is injured, although he Perez also may stick around once Grabow comes back.

As for Wasdin, personally, I'd rather see a more promising and younger pitcher - Jesse Chavez or Josh Sharpless, maybe - on the team, but Wasdin had a great camp, pitched very well in Class AAA last year, and can work multiple-inning stretches, so maybe he can be helpful as an innings-eater. Kelly is a mistake, and I'd honestly rather see Yurendell DeCaster on the team. But since Kelly will probably be sent to the minors when Sanchez returns, it isn't really worth worrying about.

Surprisingly, neither Jose Hernandez nor Luis Matos made the team. As little as I like Hernandez, I don't really see the logic in keeping Kelly over him - Kelly didn't have a much better spring, and his minor league record is so incredibly undistinguished that I can't see what the Bucs might be thinking, beyond the fact that Kelly is a local boy. Again, though, it's not worth worrying much about.

Am I caught up now? Probably not - I feel a little dazed at the amount of news I just read in the last hour and a half or so. I'll be back in the saddle in the next 48 hours or so, though.