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AZ 7, Pirates 8 - Morning, but no glory.

Record: 63-78. Change on last season: +20

Y'know, there's something to be said for these morning starts, especially when they tie conveniently in with me waking at 7:30 am, unable to get back to sleep. You get a lot more done, that's for sure. Well, "more" is a relative term, but there are a record 150+ comments which prove something was being done, even if not necessarily what our bosses might call productive work. ;-)

Of course, plenty to talk about in a 12-innings game that featured two ninth-inning blown saves (both on home runs), 24 hits, 14 walks, five homers and fourteen different pitchers. Oh, not to mention the debut of Dustin Nippert in the big-leagues, before an audience consisting almost entirely of his family. [10,984 of them, according to the official count, though if that was the case, I'd say a lot of them came dressed as empty seats]

Nippert pitched pretty well through the front four innings, allowing only one run. However, an attempted breaking ball got away from him to lead off the fifth, plunking the Pirates' hitter in the back - and, more importantly, apparently doing some damage to Nippert's index finger. He stayed in the game, but was largely limited to fastballs/change-ups the rest of the innings; once the Pirates realised this, that was it, and he left with a 3-2 deficit.

We took the lead back on a two-run shot from Terrero, off the first pitch from the Pirates bullpen in the top of the sixth, after Fogg left the game when he was hit by a Tracy line drive. But the Pirates tied it up again immediately, our bullpen's scoreless streak surviving, curiously, exactly one pitch from Greg Aquino. Pittsburgh took the lead in the eighth, but their closer couldn't hold it, allowing Tony Clark's second home-run of the days, and RBIs 3-5.

However, Valverde was unavailable, having pitched the two games before - including a non-save situation on Tuesday - so we turned to ex-Phillies closer, Worrell. Troy Glaus's 22nd fumble of the year put a runner on base, and Jason Bay (why do I keep wanting to call him Michael?) made it count, tying the game at seven.

Both teams had chances to win in extra-innings. The Pirates loaded them up on three walks from Lyon in eleventh, but our ex-closer escaped. And in the twelfth, Glaus doubled to lead things off, and was sacrificed to third by Ortiz, but neither Terrero nor Jackson could bring him home. There was to be no further chance, as Groom allowed the winning run on two hits and a sacrifice.

I do wonder why we didn't use Villarreal or Halsey in this situation, rather than our LOOGY. Neither had pitched this series, and with an eleven-man set of relievers, as we currently have, one wonders what they are doing down in the bullpen. Halsey hasn't pitched since his last start, August 30th, and isn't scheduled to until at least next Tuesday. Villarreal threw 16 pitches on the 3rd, but that's been it since coming up from Tucson. I know we're going to Denver, where you need two starters per game, but even so...

Thanks to the crew who joined me for the game this morning-afternoon-evening (delete as appropriate). William K; azdb7; andrewinnewyork; Englishdback; Devin; IndyDBack; and a brief cameo by icecoldmo. Pretty much all the regulars, despite the unusual scheduling. Unfortunately, we still couldn't put the S in front of "weep", for the first time since April. Yes, it's been that long: four months, without a series unblemished by loss. And we wonder why we're not in the playoffs.

Heroes and Zeroes, Series 45: vs Pirates, on road
Webb: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 ER
Clark: 2-for-6, 5 RBI, 2 HR
Valverde: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 ER
Groom: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, Loss
Cintron: 1-for-10, 0 BB, 7 LOB
Terrero: 2-for-15, 0 BB, 2 GIDP, 14 LOB

Rare to see a series without a starting pitcher among the zeroes. Instead, it's our hitters who dominate; the bad news is that it's the future which sucked, with Cintron and Terrero both failing to impress, given the opportunity. Cintron was perhaps more disappointing, given the alternative is the looming resigning of Royce Clayton (though he went 2-for-12 with no walks himself), but Terrero was bad in the field, on the basepaths and at the plate, despite his two-run homer today.

On the other hand, Webb continued to be the most reliable of our pitcher, though we could have used his sinkerball in the Rockies. Clark single-handedly kept us in today's game, his only start of the series, and Valverde got the win yesterday...and might have got the save today, if he hadn't been burned out on Tuesday. Ah, the benefits of hindsight.

And baseball might be coming to Europe in 2007, with London, Rome and Paris among venues being considered - they don't reckon it'll be for Opening Day, if it's in London (hello, rain!), but would more likely be later in the season. I think it's a fabulous idea, which I hope pans out, and is a big success.