Bucs come up on wrong end of wild one
Capps blows save in the ninth of game with five lead changes
BALTIMORE -- Leave it to Jose Bautista to describe the Pirates' wacky 8-7 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
"It was crazy," Bautista said. "I've never been in a game like this."
The Pirates had leads of 2-1, 5-4 and 7-6, but still couldn't pull out the win.
For the second time in as many nights, Pittsburgh lost a late lead to Baltimore. After Adam LaRoche, who began Saturday in a 7-for-51 slump, hit a two-run home run off Orioles closer George Sherrill (2-1) in the top of the ninth, the Pirates (33-36) had a 7-6 lead.
With their closer, Matt Capps (0-2), on the mound, the lead looked safe for the Pittsburgh. But Capps allowed a first-pitch home run to Oscar Salazar, who was playing only because Melvin Mora had fouled a ball off his knee in the first inning. It was Capps' second blown save in his past five chances. With one out, Capps walked Freddie Bynum, who then stole second.
One out later, Ramon Hernandez came to the plate. Hernandez hit a fly ball down the right-field line and Xavier Nady -- who earlier in the game hit one of the longest home runs in Oriole Park history -- tried to catch it but ran into the wall, jamming his left shoulder. After a delay of several minutes, he left the game and was replaced by Jason Michaels. Three pitches later, Hernandez lined a 3-2 pitch to left-center field, scoring Bynum, and the Pirates had their second difficult defeat in two nights.
"It's tough," LaRoche said. "It feels like the first two games here we should have had."
Capps felt as if he should have been out of the inning.
"The 2-2 pitch -- I thought it was there, but I guess [home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom] saw it different," Capps said.
As for the game-winning pitch?
"I wish I could have it back," Capps said.
Earlier in the game, it looked as if Zach Duke was going to pick up his third straight win for the first time since his rookie season of 2005. After Nady hit his long home run in the second and Freddy Sanchez hit one in the fourth, the Pirates led, 2-1. The Orioles (34-33) tied it in the fifth, and Alex Cintron's two-run double in the sixth gave Baltimore a 4-2 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Bautista -- who started his big league career in Baltimore as a Rule 5 Draft choice in 2004, but was let go after just 11 at-bats -- hit a three-run home run off Matt Albers for a 5-4 Pittsburgh lead. The Pirates' John Grabow allowed a two-run home run to Nick Markakis in the bottom of the seventh, and the Orioles led, 6-5.
Before the game, Pittsburgh manager John Russell had said he was happy his bullpen was rested, because he was worried they might be overworked. He didn't use Capps, Grabow, Tyler Yates or Damaso Marte in Friday's game. Once Duke exited with the 4-2 lead, he thought his club was in fine shape.
"We had the right guys in there," Russell said. "It just didn't work out."
LaRoche was happy to break out of his slump. He sat out Friday's game and was the designated hitter Saturday. Russell felt that a turn at DH would allow LaRoche to focus on hitting. He experimented with a new stance, but discarded it for the game.
"I went back to the old stance and had a couple of hits," LaRoche said. "Maybe that will spark something."
Duke allowed four runs on nine hits and was one of the few pitchers who didn't allow a home run.
"I did all right," Duke said. "I had some bad pitch selections toward the end. ... We battled back. It was a tough one to lose."
"I feel terrible for Capps," LaRoche said. "The good thing is he wants the ball again tomorrow. That's one guy you don't have to worry about. He'll be begging for a save opportunity tomorrow."
Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.