Sunday, June 8th, 2008 by Adam Wagner

Snell, Grabow drop games to D’Backs

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The Pirates have not had luck at PNC Park over the last two nights, losing 3-1 to the Diamondbacks on Friday and then 4-3 on Saturday.  This series promised to be interesting, as Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny, who started on Friday and Saturday respectively, have been struggling as of late.  Both pitchers managed to have somewhat effective outings with some downsides to each start.  Unfortunately, neither one was able to beat their opposition, Arizona’s double ace combination of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren.

On Friday, Snell looked almost dominating for the first time in a while, striking out nine batters over five innings.   Snell had to work for his outs, going for the full count on seven of 16 Diamondbacks to start the game, meaning that his 107 pitch count after the 5th inning forced him out of the game despite the strikeouts.  Snell gave up two runs, one unearned, in his five innings of work.

The start was possibly the beginning of a return to normalcy for Snell, as he did look confident at times on the mound.  His fastball hovered consistently around the 92 mph range, but it’s imperative that he goes deeper into games.  By working only five innings and seemingly looking for a ton of strikeouts, Snell was taxing the bullpen.  That cannot be done in the future, as part of what made Snell good last year was that he consistently went six or seven innings deep into games.

It was nice to hear that he had his “swagger” back on the mound, or thought he did.  Snell pitches best when he is angry or confident and as long as he isn’t playing “I suck” mindgames with himself, he’ll be a solid pitcher for the Pirates.

Of course, the Pirates’ offense was no help to Snell, looking particularly anemic against Webb, who only threw 95 pitches over seven innings, getting 15 ground balls.  Jason Bay hit an RBI double in the sixth for the Pirates’ lone run.

It was unfortunate that the Pirates couldn’t take more advantage of some of the opportunities that they had, as they couldn’t bring Nate McLouth home despite his being on third base with one out in the first inning, got runners on base with two outs from every inning between the fifth and the eighth (only scoring once) and couldn’t take advantage of Brandon Lyon, who is one of the worst closers in baseball, in the ninth inning.

Saturday’s game looked like it was going to get out of hand from the very beginning, as Gorzelanny gave up three quick runs in the first inning on a Conor Jackson single, a Chris Young double and a Mark Reynolds sacrifice fly.  The three runs would hold for much of the night, but the Pirates slowly chipped away at the lead as McLouth doubled Adam LaRoche home in the third inning, Jason Bay hit his 14th home run of the season in the fourth and McLouth, refusing to allow Bay to keep the team lead, followed with his 14th in the fifth.

It was important for Gorzelanny to rebound from his horrid start, which he did effectively by throwing six more strong innings despite only striking out one hitter the entire night.  Gorzelanny, like Snell, needs to get back on track in order for the Pirates to be successful due to their status as the co-aces of the team, at least at the beginning of the season.  Both pitchers have the ability to be successful, they just need to convince themselves that they can do it mentally.

John Grabow was the cause of the loss tonight, throwing a changeup over the heart of the plate for Diamonbacks’ catcher Chris Snyder who hit a home run, putting Arizona up 4-3, a lead that would hold for another half inning.

The Pirates, for a second consecutive night, played just well enough to lose, an unfortunate occurrence that, hopefully, they will be able to turn around.  The magic number is now down to 49. (If I had told you at the beginning of the season that the Pirates would be 29-33 on June 8th, but would be in last place, would you have believed me? I wouldn’t have.)

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