It wasn't pretty, but the Pirates finally pulled one out for Ian Snell last night. Snell was dominant again, as he breezed through six innings against the Cardinals. Snell finally ran into some trouble in the 7th, and after allowing one run, faced a bases loaded, one out situation. It seemed obvious that Jim Tracy would go to the bullpen, and television cameras watched him as he stood at the dugout steps. But Tracy sat back down and allowed Snell to face left-handed Skip Schumaker. You can definitely make the argument that this was a poor decision, but I will not argue with results. Snell bore down, induced a pop-up, then retired Dave Eckstein on a groundout to end the threat. Snell's final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 6 K, 4 BB. It appeared to be the ultimate escape, but would be surpassed by what transpired in the 9th.
Torres came on to try to nail down a 3-2 victory. An error, a sacrifice, a bad bounce off the 3rd base bag, and a hit batsman left Sully and the Pirates in a dangerous situation. Chris Duncan, who won a game with a long ball against Torres in Pittsburgh last week, was at the plate with the tying run at 3rd, winning run at 2nd and one out. But ice water poured through Torres' veins, and Duncan popped to shallow left. The Cardinals chose not to test the weak arm of Jason Bay, because Mr. Albert Pujols was coming to the plate with the game on the line. I just checked, and it turns out that Pujols has a career Success with the Game on the Line Rate of 1,251.82%. For those of you that are not up to date on your Sabermetrics, that is very good. But Torres now had liquid nitrogen running through his veins, and Pujols popped his second offering to Jose Bautista. Game, set, match.
The Pirates' offense continued to struggle despite the win. They were able to push three runs across in the 3rd, but continued to waste opportunities the rest of the game. In the 2nd, a pop-up and a double play quickly erased a lead off single from Ian Snell. In the 3rd, a lead off triple produced nothing. In the 5th, a one-out triple netted zero runs. With the lack of firepower in the lineup, the Pirates must take advantage of these opportunities. One positive was that Adam LaRoche seemed a bit more comfortbal at the plate. He only had one hit, but at this point I am encouraged if he simply looks decent swinging the bat. UPDATE: LaRoche added a three-run homerun today. The Pirates lead the Cards 5-1 in the 7th.
Ian Snell continues to impress me. I mentioned during the Astros series that I wasn't as high on him after last season as many others were. I am looking forward to shoving my foot deep into my mouth all season because of those feelings. He has looked phenomenal since the beginning of spring training.