Rewind: Pirates vs. Giants, Game 3

Everyone knows that the San Francisco Giants do well in their new home. Whatever the name—Pacific Bell, SBC, AT&T—the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to like it, too. The good road play continued Saturday for a team that has been dismal away from home, and two good young pitchers opposed each other on the mound. A low-scoring but disappointing game was the end result.

Pittsburgh is just bad, and has been for years. Regardless of the talent they can assemble at any one time, they remain at the bottom of their division. These games, where poor teams come in for a four-game series, are contests the Giants should win.

A quick look around the diamond at this Pirates team and it becomes clear that the team’s record is one thing; facing the likes of All-Star Jason Bay, National League leading hitter Freddy Sanchez and Sean Casey, who lives to hit in this ballpark, it’s about containing the dangerous players on the other side. In short, it becomes just another series.

The Pirates have a trio of young pitchers who are stars in the making. Zach Duke lost a heartbreaker Thursday night, no fault of his own as he disabled San Francisco’s bats through six innings. Former first-round draft pick Paul Maholm goes against Jason Schmidt Sunday.

Ian Snell rounds out this pitching three-headed monster, and he’d pitched his way out of early season troubles with four straight wins coming into his match up with left-hander Noah Lowry.

Both Lowry and Snell have uphill battles when they pitch; Lowry missed a month with an oblique strain suffered in his first start of the year, and he suffered through a few bad weeks in May after coming back from the injury.

Snell’s problems would be bad enough, but he has the unenviable task of pitching well for a bottom-feeding team. Still, good pitchers get it done when it counts, because that’s what good pitchers do.

Saturday’s affair went quietly. Snell and Lowry pitched well, and they went deep into the game. Snell’s seven-inning effort gave his Pirates the basis they would need to win. A pair of Joses delivered the offense; second baseman Castillo and super utility man Bautista, playing centerfield this afternoon but sure to play another position tomorrow. Lowry surrendered solo home runs to each, and pitched well save for the blips on his pitching radar.

Those two runs hurt the Giants, beyond the opposition putting up two unanswered runs. Both home runs came out of nowhere. Lowry served up the Castillo shot in the second inning with two out, and Bautista led off the sixth inning by sending a pitch over the wall in left. The Pirates managed three hits off the Giants lefthander but two made it count.

The Giants could have gotten to Snell. He was in trouble right away, after a leadoff walk to Randy Winn. He advanced to second on a groundout and then to third after Steve Finley flied out to center. Moises Alou also walked but Mark Sweeney struck out to end the inning. Second inning, same result: leadoff walk to Ray Durham, one-out base hit for Todd Greene, but a poorly executed pop bunt by Lowry seemed to deflate the hopes of getting the runners in. Lowry is usually so good at the handling the bat, and it didn’t matter that Winn flied out to left following that poor display.

The biggest failure on the afternoon came in the eighth inning. Former Giant Roberto Hernandez was in to face pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino, who did nothing useful to start the inning as he lined out to the shortstop.

Winn doubled and Omar Vizquel collected a base hit, and with one out and runners in scoring position it was the ideal time for a good hitter to step in and get the job done. That job went to Steve Finley, who has seen his batting average tumble since a hot May.

It might give Giants fans solace to blame Vizcaino for starting the inning off with an out, but it doesn’t matter either way. The fact of the matter is this Giants offense is just not executing when the team needs it.

Saturday’s loss makes two good pitching performances in a row wasted, Lowry’s this afternoon and Morris’ much needed eight-inning effort Friday night. That the Giants have to bank on Jason Schmidt to salvage a split against the awful Pittsburgh Pirates on tells the story better than any article, quote or video highlight can. They should be rolling into Sunday’s game with a series win on their minds. Instead they have heads full of frustration clouding a game they really need to win. Player of the Game: What if…yeah, but…if only…pick one, and it’ll describe Noah Lowry’s day. Hard luck losses are the worst to endure, and today he had the stuff to win. He’s not completely blameless in the loss but he deserved to have his offense pick him up, for the eight-inning effort he put in.

Notes: Umpire Laz Diaz must have an itch in his trigger finger. Maybe Freddy Sanchez has a big head thanks to his league-leading .342 batting average. The two worlds collided when Sanchez objected to a called third strike in his first at-bat in the second inning. Diaz was working the plate this afternoon and immediately tossed Sanchez from the game. Sanchez did not get his money’s worth for the ejection, not staying to yell or kick dirt or throw equipment…Saturday’s game was not televised in the Bay Area. No Barry Bonds, and a bad visiting team equated to no reason to carry the broadcast…More Bonds talk: he’s not expected to play in the finale of the series due to a sore left side. He won’t try to play until the team lands in Arizona for a three game set.

Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom and first where she's had the honor to write for the Giants on Love/hate mail can be sent to, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.

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