Monday, May 12, 2008

Games 35 and 36: Pirates 5 Braves 0 and Braves 8 Pirates 1

When you think of magicians, who do you think of? Houdini, David Copperfield, David Blaine, that guy that gave away all the secrets on TV, GOB, Huge Jackman, Christian Bale, Edward Norton, they all probably make the list. After the first game today, Zach Duke should probably make the list. Check this line: 6 innings pitched, 5 hits, 5 walks, and a runner reached by error, but no runs, earned or otherwise. That's ELEVEN base runners in six innings, but not one of them scored. That's some impressive escapism right there. The Bucs were able to combine a three-run double by Freddy Sanchez and a two-run homer by Adam LaRoche with Duke's magic act to take down a relatively easy 5-0 win the opener of today's doubleheader.

With the .500 mark on the line in the second half of the doubleheader, John Van Benschoten took the mound for his first start of 2008. The results ended up being fairly predictable, although I'll admit that I was actually mildly (mildly) either encouraged or intrigued by JVB's outing. I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me. Much of Van Benschoten's troubles are based in his control, but he was actually very good in the control column through three today. To that point in the game, he'd struck out four and walked none. Even his final line showed 50 strikes in 77 pitches. Now, granted, once the Braves got their order up a second time and he'd thrown some pitches, they pounded the crap out of him. That doesn't bother me because I'd already mostly given up on Van Benschoten as a starter. Still, his stuff is considerably better than a guy like Burnett's and I think if he can reign his control in, it might play to a switch to the pen. Of course, that's not much of a comfort when he's not in the pen and he, in fact, started tonight, got shelled, and ended the Pirates' unlikely six game winning streak one game short of pulling back to .500.