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Evan Meek, Pirates Blow 3-0 Lead, Good Start By Paul Maholm; Lose 5-3 To Cubs

The Pirates got off to a good start today, as Jose Tabata and Lyle Overbay drew walks in the first inning and Pedro Alvarez roped a single to drive one home. Zambrano kept pitching Alvarez outside, but Alvarez finally caught on and found a pitch to drive. The Pirates then extended their lead to 2-0 in the third, as Tabata had an infield single and Neil Walker drove him in with an RBI double. Andrew McCutchen then walked, and it looked like the Bucs had a chance to blow the game open, but a strikeout by Overbay and a double play by Alvarez ended the inning.

Clint Hurdle hampered an opportunity to widen the lead in the fifth - Paul Maholm opened the inning with a single to right, and Hurdle (apparently?) had Tabata bunt Maholm over. That's a brutally bad decision, given that Tabata is one of the Pirates' better hitters, doesn't ground into a ton of double plays and had reached base twice already, and the Bucs had two very good hitters coming up after him. Also, as Slick1 pointed out in the comments, it was too early in the game for the Pirates to be playing for one run (as the result of the game ended up demonstrating). As it turned out, neither Walker nor McCutchen got Maholm home, and the Pirates didn't score. (By the way, bunt attempts were a theme of this game - Hurdle and Mike Quade seemed to be in some strange competition with each other.)

Garrett Jones led off the seventh with a solo homer, making it 3-0, and it was at that point that Zambrano came down with a cramp in his hand and had to leave the game.

Paul Maholm pitched 6.2 innings for the Pirates and did a very nice, if unspectacular, job, recording three strikeouts and two walks and throwing a ton of curveballs that the Cubs didn't have an easy time with. The Bucs went to Jose Veras after that, which I thought was strange, given that we hadn't seen Chris Resop yet and Veras pitched yesterday. The idea might have been that there were two outs in the inning at the time, and the Pirates wanted to have Evan Meek come in in the eighth, so they might as well save Resop for an occasion where he at least had to pitch a full inning.

In any case, Veras got his out, and Meek came on in the eighth. Meek walked Kosuke Fukudome, who came home on a double by Starlin Castro. Then, Lyle Overbay botched a pretty routine grounder, allowing Marlon Byrd to reach base and Castro to score. Then there were singles by Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano, and the game was tied. Oh yeah, and then Resop came on. So at least he's healthy. Resop promptly walked Tyler Colvin, missing on a couple of pitches that were outside and just barely low, and then Blake DeWitt hit a pinch-hit double into left. 5-3 Cubs.

After that it was Carlos Marmol in the top of the ninth. Marmol is so nasty it's got to be tempting to just take all the way and hope he pitches his own way into trouble, since he does that sometimes. Unfortunately, he made quick work of Ryan Doumit, Garrett Jones and Ronny Cedeno, and the Cubs evened the series at one.

Meek, who allowed five runs (two earned) was the clear goat here, with honorable mentions for Overbay, whose error came at exactly the wrong time, and Resop, who failed to put a lid on the situation. One bad inning, and seven innings of good play went down the drain. And the source of the problem was largely the bullpen, and specifically a couple of the higher-leverage guys in the bullpen, who are supposed to be among the team's more competent players. Oh well. Ross Ohlendorf pitches tomorrow afternoon.