The Pirates elected to treat us all to something entirely different than Monday’s electric 11-5 blowout win with an extra inning thriller tonight that ended with a game-winning bases loaded single by Ronny Cedeno. There really was quite a bit more that went into the whole thing than that, so let’s start by winding things back to the beginning.
Though the end product was hugely different than Monday’s game, things started off in pretty much exactly the same fashion; Akinori Iwamura drew a walk, Andrew McCutchen singled, and Garrett Jones hammered a home run. Two homers off of the righty Vicenta Padilla is one thing; a bomb to deep center off of a lefty like Clayton Kershaw who was one of the hardest pitchers in the NL to homer off of last year is another. Jones is locked in right now.
Ross Ohlendorf, though, is not. His final line doesn’t look terrible because an Andy LaRoche error cost him a run, but some awesome glovework from LaRoche earlier in the game saved him a run. In his five innings, I didn’t see his fastball above 93 and it mostly sat around 91-92 (according to the FSN Pittsburgh gun), and he walked three to go with only one strikeout. He had nine flyouts to go with just five groundouts and he gave up a home run. Like everything in the season I’ll give Ohlendorf the benefit of the doubt and not draw conclusions from one stat, but he did just about nothing that I would consider to be a positive indicator tonight.
Both teams left a ton of runners on base tonight. I said before the game that I thought that the way to get to Kershaw was to make him throw pitches and draw walks and the Pirates did that tonight, but they didn’t have anything to show for it after Jones’ homer. In all, they drew six walks from Kershaw (though that was really a function of his wildness as he walked Ohlendorf twice) and three more from Dodger relievers to go with their nine hits. Most nights, that’ll net you more than four runs. The opposite is true too, though. Pirate relievers pitched five scoreless innings tonight, but they constantly toed the line walking six and striking out just two. Fortuntately, they only allowed one hit and that was what kept the Dodgers off the scoreboard. Octavio Dotel did an especially impressive tightrope act in the top of the ninth by allowing a leadoff double to Jamey Carroll, bouncing a pitch to send Carroll to third before he recorded an out, then retiring Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp (on a backwards K), and Manny Ramirez.
Two other guys stood out tonight for individual performances. One was Akinori Iwamura for his incredible plate presence. He’s still hitless on the season, but he drew two walks tonight and saw 33 pitches in five plate appearances tonight. Every single time he got up, he forced the pitcher to throw more than six pitches. Just an incredible job by a leadoff hitter. The second guy was Lastings Milledge, who was all over the field tonight. Really. Early in the game he singled with Garrett Jones on base in front of him and when Matt Kemp’s throw went to third base, where he had no chance to get Jones, Milledge was watching and easily took second. In the ninth inning, McCutchen dove in center for Carroll’s double and the ball got past him; Milledge was there to keep the ball from turning into a triple like it easily could have. That play is probably going to get overlooked tomorrow, but it saved the game. Finally in the tenth, his hustle down to first hurried Blake DeWitt into an error and he became the winning run. Just a great all-around effort from Milledge tonight in doing all of the things that people said he’d never do when the Pirates traded for him.
Finally, it’s impossible to overlook Ronny Cedeno’s great game-winning at-bat. He went after two borderline sliders to fall behind 0-2 in the count, the held himself back on a couple close pitches and worked the count to 2-2 over the next six pitches, fouling four balls off, before he got the pitch he was looking for to single back through the infield for the game winner. It was exactly the sort of at-bat that I never expect Ronny Cedeno to have.
Two games, two wins. The Pirates might not win many games where the starter only goes five innings and the bullpen walks six, but they found a way to win this one.