Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 by Adam Wagner

Capps, Maholm waste Doumit Day

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The Pirates’ pitching was just bad enough to lose on Tuesday night at PNC Park, as the Pirates dropped a crucial 7-6 decision to the Washington Nationals.  Starter Paul Maholm gave up four runs in six and two-thirds innings, while closer Matt Capps lost the game on a two-run home run to Lastings Milledge, who promptly exploded in the Nationals dugout with the type of celebration that Redskins’ fans have been waiting to see out of Antwan Randle El.

Maholm threw very well except for the home runs, getting four strikeouts on 88 pitches.  He did, however, seem to wear out in the seventh inning as he gave up home runs to Dmitri Young, Jesus Flores and Ronnie Belliard (Belliard’s second of the game).  Both of Belliard’s home runs came off of fastballs that he left over the plate.  The other two came off of curveballs, one of which was imminently hittable.

Maholm had a problem with surrendering home runs a couple of years ago, but he had mostly been cured of that except for, evidently, on Tuesday night.  Unfortunately, his issues seemed to spread to the rest of the staff as, for the first time all season, Capps broke the hearts of the Pirates’ fans, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Capps had two outs in the ninth before he left a fastball chest-high over the plate to Nationals’ CF Milledge, who promptly launched it out of the park.  It is worth noting that the pitch was essentially the same one that Capps had thrown one batter before to RF Elijah Dukes who hit a double and scored on Milledge’s blast.  In order for Capps to be effective, he will need to start mixing other pitches in as he may have fallen into a predictable trend.

The Pirates were effective on offense, but the most important player by far was catcher Ryan Doumit who seemed inspired by Monday’s events at PNC Park and blasted two home runs, one in the first and one in the sixth inning, as well as hitting two doubles.  Doumit ended the day with three runs and three RBIs, an impressive stat line that shows just how important Doumit can be to the Pirates when he’s focused.

The Pirates’ starters have been the bane of their offense’s existence all season and the team really can’t afford for the bullpen to get in on the act as they really would become an abysmal bunch.   The Pirates have become a team that can hit but that can’t win, which is definitely not a reputation that they want.

The magic number is now at 48 and this team, despite occasionally showing some encouraging signs over the first half of this season, still has a long way to go before they become a contender for anything, much less reach .500.

(Yeah, I’m a little bit bummed out by tonight’s loss.  It was one of the most painful I’ve ever seen in person.  That guy standing on the rotunda with his head in his hands as soon as the ball left Milledge’s bat?  That was me.

Oh, and the ushers in the grandstand didn’t help any.  My friend and I tried to sit in two pretty empty sections and, after getting by the ushers, were twice approached by the guys and asked for tickets that we couldn’t produce.  Seriously, if there’s nobody in the seats, does it actually matter if someone sits there?  I don’t think so.  Oh, and it makes a better picture for TV, especially since the Pirates aren’t going to sell very many tickets anyways because they find new and ever more painful ways to lose like the way they did tonight.  Okay, I’m done.  Rant over.  Tomorrow’s a new day, the Pirates just have to play one game at a time, insert your favorite sports cliche here.  But, in complete seriousness, that loss completely sucked.)

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