In last year's first series against the Colorado, the Pirates went 0-4, being outscored 28 runs to 9, or an "average" of 7.00 to 2.25. They followed part of that pattern last night, when they scored only one run. Since the starter was their ace Paul Maholm however, one run could have been all they needed.
There were quite a few nail biting moments, with two out in the third, Troy Tulowitzki hit a double, then advanced to third on an infield single, but Maholm got the third out.
In the sixth, Nate McLouth "manufactured" the Pirates' sole run by hitting a single with two out, stealing second, and barely scoring on a single.
Reliever Tyler Yates, who helped lose Maholm's last start, gave up an infield hit to Scott Smith to start the eighth. Then a fluky bunt single enabled the bunter to take first, while sending the first base runner to third.
The next play was also a fluke. Troy Tulowitzki hit an outfield fly for a double play. In a controversial call, the runner at third was ruled out for leaving the base early when the Pirates sent the ball to third. As a result John Grabow got the third out.
I started writing this account during the bottom of the eighth, having gotten almost this far when Matt Capps appeared to close. I hoped to end it by writing that he pitched a scoreless ninth, and that the Pirates had learned a crucial skill; winning 1-0 games.
But Capps spoiled the ending. He gave up a ground rule double to Ian Stewart, followed by a Brad Hawpe home run. Another double, and a run-scoring single ensued before the inning ended; Colorado three, Pittsburgh one.
The Pirates couldn't come back in their half of the ninth, and what could have been a victory was a late-inning defeat.
The Pirates need to make some late game adjustments.
First Milwaukee, against whom the Pirates were 1-14 in 2008, then Colorado, 2-5 in 2008. Any team can win when things are going their way, but a measure of whether or not a team has improved is how they do in tight situations against opponents that have earlier been tough for them.
In this case, it looks like the Pirates haven't.