Turner Field | 7:10 | Duke vs. Mike Hampton | Box
Have I mentioned that Xavier Nady would be MVP if the season ended now? He drove home the game winning run in the 10th as the Pirates stole the rubber match against Atlanta.
It wasn’t a pretty series. The Pirates bullpen imploded in the first two games and the defense was unattractive tonight, committing three errors and letting one run score in a way in which John Houseman wouldn’t have approved – it was unearned.
Jack Wilson committed one of the gaffes but tied the game up in the 7th but then promptly left with a calf injury. Freddy Sanchez left earlier in the game, presumably – as noted in the comments – with shoulder issues.
Zach Duke went with the “pitching to contact” philosophy. He struck out one – the pitcher – and walked one, while allowing 10 hits in 5-2/3 innings. The pen allowed just one hit over the next 4-1/3.
The 10th inning was one for the ages. Nyjer Morgan pinch hit and walked. Luis Rivas moved him up with a sac bunt. Jason Bay walked. Royce Ring relieved Chris Resop. But Resop stayed in the game in left field, shades of Teke – again as noted in the comments. Ring struck out LaRoche. Resop came back in and gave up the game winning stroke to Nady.
Nady’s hit made a winner of Tyler Yates who would’ve been the winner Opening Day if not for some ninth inning Keystone Cops routines by Pirate pitchers and fielders. 2-1 after three games and the Pirates have yet to put forth a solid complete effort. Could be worse.
Bobby Cox will be holding open tryouts for Braves bullpen positions. I think he tried to summon Rick Camp, Gene Garber and Joe Boever tonight. And was that John Rocker warming up?
With both Sanchez and Wilson out, I’m hopeful that the Pirates won’t see a steady dose of Chris Gomez and Rivas up the middle. I recall the 1987 Cubs who had Mike Brumley and Paul Noce fill in during the month of June when both Ryne Sandberg and Shawon Dunston were felled by injuries.
It wa supposed to be Paul Maholm tonight. He was scratched because of a stiff back and so Zach Duke will fire for the Bucs. Hopefully that won’t be a sign of things to come for Maholm in 2008.
Speaking of injuries, Mike Hampton will pitch his first game since August 2005. He has not faced the Pirates since 2003. To give you some perspective, MVN wasn’t even around in 2003. So, that was a while ago. As a team, the Pirates have 56 at bats against Hampton and Chris Gomez has 23 of them. Matt Morris has 12 ABs against Hampton. So, yep, the rest of the club is basically seeing him for the first time. In five at bats, Xavier Nady has four hits and a double off of Hampton.
As everyone recalls, Hampton signed an 8 year contract with the Rockies worth $121 million following the 2000 season. Over that span he has won 53 games, about an average of $2 million per win as he is due to make $15.6 in 2008 in the final year of the contract.
It would be fair to say that Duke scuffled last year. He didn’t fool many people last year or blow too many away as his K/9 ratio was less than 3.5. It showed in his record and ERA – 3-9 with an ERA+ of 79. For his career he is 1-2 with a 3.43 ERA against Atlanta. Jeff Francouer is 5-8 against him. The current Braves team is hitting a robust .333 collectively against Duke. As a former colleague would say, I sense danger.
As a Pirates fan in Dayton, OH who doesn’t have time to make MLB.tv worth the investment, I’d like to say that I miss the days when the WTBS showed nearly every Braves game. When I saw the Pirates schedule for 2008, I assumed I would be able to watch at least two of the three games on the tube. No dice.