Walk-off homer, Doumit miscue sink Pirates
First baseman's error looms large in seventh straight defeat
DETROIT -- Brendan Donnelly may have served up the game-winner, but after the Pirates' 4-3 loss to the Tigers on Saturday night, it was Ryan Doumit who sat at his locker, head down.
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Doumit had been out of the game for three innings by the time Detroit's Carlos Guillen took Donnelly out of the park with a 10th-inning solo homer that sent the 34,507 at Comerica Park home celebrating. Yet, Doumit wanted no misunderstanding as to who should shoulder the blame.
"I ruined it for them today," Doumit said, holding nothing back. "I took this one on the chin. It's all me. It's a play that's as routine as it gets. It has to be made. I botched it."
This play came in a lengthy seventh that saw reliever Evan Meek fall one catch short of finishing off some masterful escape work. He inherited a 2-1 lead from starter Paul Maholm but allowed consecutive singles to begin the frame.
Still, with runners on first and third, he recorded a big strikeout and then caught Detroit's Austin Jackson in a rundown between third and home for the second out. Brennan Boesch stepped to the plate next and hit a chopper to the third-base side of the mound.
Meek pounced off the mound to snag the ball, spun and threw to Doumit, who was making his third start of the season at first base. Meek's throw was low -- though it never touched the dirt -- and Doumit couldn't make the pick.
Both Detroit runners scored on the three-base error.
"Since you first start playing baseball and your dad is your coach, the first thing they say is, 'Keep your eye on the ball,' " Doumit said. "That's all it was. I just didn't keep my eye on the ball. It was a perfect throw from Meek. It was a big situation. I just took my eye off the ball, and that cost us."
Said Boesch: "That's the whole point of running hard. If you're playing the game the right way and put pressure on the defense, sometimes you can create a mistake or stuff like that will happen."
Concussion-like symptoms from earlier this week have forced the Pirates to be cautious with Doumit, which is why he hasn't returned behind the plate yet. The decision to put him at first was done out of the need to keep his bat in the lineup. However, it has been obvious over the past three nights that he doesn't feel particularly comfortable there yet.
"The big leagues is tough, especially when you don't have the reps that you need," Doumit said of the position change. "Does this one [stink]? Yeah. Am I going to lose sleep over this? Yeah. I feel bad for Maholm. He pitched a gem. We finally had a lead against a really good team. Keeping your eye on the ball is the basics, and I didn't do that."
After the inning, manager John Russell made a defensive switch and took Doumit out.
"It's unfortunate," Russell said afterward.
While Doumit maintained responsibility for the Pirates' seventh straight loss -- marking the second time this year they've lost that many in a row -- he had some company in Donnelly.
In the game to try to push it into the 11th, Donnelly lasted a mere three pitches. The first two were out of the zone, which put Guillen in position to think fastball. And when Donnelly left one over the plate, Guillen didn't miss.
"I didn't have my best stuff, but my job right there was to get through one more inning and extend the game," said Donnelly, who hadn't been tagged with a loss since May 1, 2007. "I made a bad pitch. He hit a homer. I feel the weight of that on me right there."
Guillen had been 1-for-10 with a single against Donnelly, who has allowed a run in each of his last three relief appearances.
Though Pittsburgh's offense didn't make much noise late, Jose Tabata did singularly spark a game-tying rally in the eighth with his aggressiveness. After Doumit's error put the Pirates down, 3-2, Tabata lined a one-out pitch into center that appeared to be a routine single.
But the recent callup sprinted out of the box and made a gutsy choice to go for two bases. He slid in safely.
"We needed the run," said Tabata, "so when I hit the ball I thought, 'Maybe second base.' "
Tabata wasted no time stealing third, putting him in position to score when Neil Walker squirted a ball through a drawn-in infield.
"It was great," Russell said. "He really was aggressive. The top three guys, they're going to be able to do some things for us."
The run was the Pirates' first since Garrett Jones' solo shot had put the club up, 2-1, in the fourth. Ryan Church drove in the other run with a double in the second.
The Pirates' late-inning falter cost Maholm the chance to be the team's first pitcher to win consecutive starts since Zach Duke did so at the beginning of the season. Though Detroit had runners swarming all over the basepaths, Maholm successfully stranded eight and allowed just one run in his 104-pitch, six-inning effort.
Double plays with the bases loaded in the second and fifth were especially critical.
"I wouldn't say I was at my sharpest, but anytime you face a lineup like that, you're going to have your work cut out for you, and you're going to battle," Maholm said. "It was mainly just sticking with it, going after them and knowing that when you need to, you're going to make the pitch."
Though the outing may not have earned him any style points, Maholm continues to show the most consistency of anyone in the rotation. He has pitched at least six innings in all but two of his 13 starts.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.