Ohlendorf impresses in first win of season
LaRoche's dribbler results in Phillies' error, two Pirates runs
PITTSBURGH -- Baseball can be a cruel game. Pirates fans know this. So does Jamie Moyer, the Phillies' 47-year-old starter.
Look no further than the fourth inning of the Pirates' 2-0 win over the Phillies on Friday, their fourth shutout win of the season. Moyer seemingly dodged a bullet, as one of Lastings Milledge's deeper hits of the year breezed just a few feet west of the left-field foul pole, narrowly missing a two-run home run. Milledge then went down swinging, Moyer's second strikeout in a row, and the game's biggest swing seemingly came and went without any harm done.
Then Ryan Doumit hit a dribbler between the mound and third, Bobby Crosby walked and Andy LaRoche eked out a grounder of his own that died in the grass. Moyer nevertheless tried to make a play on LaRoche's swing, but his throw to first sailed high, and Andrew McCutchen and Doumit came home to score the game's only two runs.
"I knew it was going to be a close play," Moyer said. "I didn't even know if I had a play in picking it up. It was a little deeper than the first swinging bunt. It took a little more time to get there. I felt like it was a do-or-die play."
Making the most of two hits that did not reach the infield dirt, the Pirates won their third consecutive game, matching a season high they have accomplished three times, most recently May 4-6.
They did it before 30,339 fans, improving to 5-0 in front of PNC Park crowds of 30,000 or greater, as a merciless June became nothing but a memory after four wins in five games and two straight to start July. Twenty-three of the Pirates' 29 wins on the season have been by two runs or fewer.
Ross Ohlendorf pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out eight batters to record his first win of the season.
Ohlendorf retired the first seven batters he faced, striking out three, before Dane Sardinha ripped a one-out single to third that Pedro Alvarez couldn't handle. The right-handed Ohlendorf connected on 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes, allowing just five hits. The only walk he allowed was intentional, to Ryan Howard in the sixth. He also hit Jimmy Rollins in the head in the third, though Rollins was unharmed and remained in the game.
Friday marked the third consecutive game a Pirates starting pitcher recorded his first win of the season, as Daniel McCutchen beat the Phillies on Thursday and Brad Lincoln beat the Cubs on Wednesday.
That has happened only one other time after June 1 in Major League history, when the Red Sox's Smoky Joe Wood, King Brady and Doc McMahon each won his first start of the season on Oct. 3-6, 1908.
The Pirates' starting rotation has allowed just four earned runs over the last six games (39 1/3 innings), good for a 0.92 ERA.
"One thing, when you see guys pitch well, I saw Daniel pitch well against this lineup," Ohlendorf said. "It gives me confidence that they can be pitched to, you can get them out, so that's been a part of it. But as a whole, we have been struggling, and I think we're all pitching really well right now. I do think we'll continue to move forward."
Ohlendorf ran into trouble in the fifth after a Raul Ibanez double off the right-center-field wall. He intentionally walked Howard two batters later after throwing a wild pitch, and the Phillies had runners at the corners with two outs.
But Milledge made a tremendous diving catch on a Ben Francisco line drive to right to end the inning and close the door on the Phillies' best scoring chance.
"I was just going to give it a good effort," Milledge said. "The ball stayed on the same plane, so I came up with it. I've been coming up short here in right field because the ball fades a little bit more in right than it does in left. I was happy to get a diving catch and help Ross out, too."
The rookie Alvarez, in the No. 2 hole for the second straight night, extended his hitting streak to five games with a first-inning single to right. He also extended his strikeout streak to 16 games -- his entire short career -- with a whiff in the eighth.
By that point, Joel Hanrahan had already retired the Phillies in order a frame earlier, and Octavio Dotel came on in the ninth to record his third save in as many games, his fourth in five days.
And none of it would have been possible without the three-hit, two-strikeout fourth off a man who was pitching in the Majors before any of the Pirates' first three hitters Friday night -- Jose Tabata, Alvarez and McCutchen -- were born.
"A hit's a hit," said Moyer, who recorded eight strikeouts in six innings. "What are you going to do? You'd like to have them hit it at somebody, but it doesn't always work out that way."
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.