Game #99: Bucs Offense Comes to Life in the 9th

Minute Maid Park | 8:05 | Van Benschoten vs. Runelvys Hernandez | Box
The Pirates entered the 9th inning trailing 3-2. Against Runelvys Hernandez they had managed just two runs. They had amassed 12 hits, but only one went for extra bases. Then someone opened a crate of spinach and Popeye emerged. With one gone in the 9th, Jason Bay cracked a solo homer to tie the game. Extra innings perhaps? Nope. Xavier Nady singled and Adam LaRoche followed with a two run homer (note to self: propose that LaRoche be nicknamed “Mr. July”) to break the tie. Slim leading going into the bottom of the 9th? Nope. After a Jose Bautista single and a walk to PH Jason Michaels, Jack Wilsonsingled in another run. Not done yet. Freddy Sanchez drilled a pitch that took a weird bounce off the wall and went for an inside the park homer. A seven run 9th inning. Three homers. Come from behind. All good stuff. All much needed.
It was already a weird game before the offensive explosion. Neither Hernandez or John Van Benschoten were torched. Hernandez gave up two in 5-1/3. JVB went five and gave up three runs. Only two were earned thanks to a Bautista error.
The relief pitching was shaky. Sean Burnett relieved JVB and found himself yanked after loading the bases with one out in the sixth with the Astros up 3-2. John Grabow relieved Burnett and whiffed Lance Berkman before inducing an inning ending fly out from Carlos Lee. In the 9th it was Jose Valverde who was victimized for six of the Pirates seven runs.
Tyler Yates got the win with a scoreless 8th inning. For the offense, Bay had four hits and two runs knocked in. Sanchez drove in four with three hits. Nady and Nate McLouth each had three hits.
My pregame prediction of double digit runs for one team almost happened thanks to the Pirates 9th inning display.

Pre-Game Thoughts
I don’t know if you’ll see a worse pitching match up all year. Both starters have ERAs in the range of 10.00. I predict that at least one team will reach double figures in runs.
Runelvys Hernandez was clobbered by the Pirates on July 7th. Hopefully, he is just what the doctor ordered for the Pirates slumbering bats. Hernandez has not pitched since that game on July 7th.
The Pirates are 26-50 overall against him. Luis Rivas is 8-16. Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit homered off him earlier in the month.
John Van Benschoten’s first career win came against Houston. That was back in 2004. He started against Houston on July 9th and looked awful – six walks and seven hits in 4-2/3. The offense got him off the hook.
The Astros are 12-34 off of JVB. Geoff Blum has a homer. Lance Berkman is 3-6. Michael Bourn is 3-5.

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