Thursday, June 12th, 2008 by Adam Wagner

Ian Snell, Once and Future Ace

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Ian Snell is back, but this is not the same angry Ian Snell that we all saw before.  No, this Ian Snell is some type of overly relaxed pitcher who cares about the team winning which should, of course, be the prime goal of any pitcher.  For Snell, though, it’s something of a shift in philosophy.  Before, even this season, it was always Snell in the individual matchups, with the most prominent being Snell vs. Albert Pujols.   Now, Snell seems to have shifted his focus to the team and their success, which comes when he pitches well, like he did Wednesday night in the Pirates’ 3-1 victory.

Also vital to the victory was Ryan Doumit’s third home run in two games.  Doumit, who went 3-for-4 and is now up to .358 is quickly becoming the face of this Pirate team.  He is a player who has potential and grit and who wants to win and is increasingly able to capitalize on that to the benefit of everyone around him.  Doumit could become the franchise’s anchor at catcher, answering questions at one of the most important positions of the diamond on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

The Pirates did struggle a bit on offense, not blowing the game open in the first inning after Jason Bay hit an RBI double to put runners on second and third with one out, failing to get out of the inning with any more than a 1-0 lead.  They then failed again later in the game when Adam LaRoche (who really is struggling) and Jose Bautista struck out with the bases loaded, preventing the Pirates from getting any more than one run out of a potentially breakout inning.  In order to beat good teams, the Bucs need to capitalize on those opportunities, going for the kill when it is possible and not failing as they did on Wednesday.

Fortunately, Matt Capps was up to the job, something that he wasn’t on Tuesday night.  Pitching for the fourth straight game, Capps bounced back from his first blown save of the year to walk Ryan Langerhans, get Christian Guzman to line out to right field and then coax Elijah Dukes, he of the rally-beginning double and near fight with Nats’ manager Manny Acta of Tuesday night, to hit into a ballgame ending double play.

Capps’ resiliency is admirable and his ability to bounce back from hardship just affirms his status as one of probably the best closers in all of baseball.  Capps has the stuff and the guts and the Pirates just need to continue getting him the opportunities to close out games and he’ll keep doing it with flying colors.

Tomorrow, the Pirates have a 12:35 game against the Nats, a rubber match that should be deciding whether they are going above .500 but will instead decide whether or not they’ll be at that tantalizing one game under or not.  Jason Bergmann, who has not been great, will go for Washington while Tom Gorzelanny, who has stunk, will go for the Pirates.  Hopefully Gorzo can follow in the steps of co-ace Snell and snap out of his very own funk.

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