Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell has had to wait a while to follow up his first career complete game.
After missing a start, Snell returns to the mound on Saturday when the Pirates continue their three-game road series with the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
Snell (6-4, 2.63 ERA) burned his right index finger on a stove after preparing a grilled chicken salad, and the Pirates decided to skip his start on Tuesday.
“We’re erring on the side of caution,” manager Jim Tracy said. “If he tears skin off, we risk losing him for a long period of time. And I don’t think that’s in our best interest.”
Snell threw a seven-hitter in an 8-1 win over Texas on June 13 - his first complete game in 52 career starts. Over his last three outings, the right-hander has allowed just three earned runs in 24 innings to improve his ERA to the fourth-best in the National League.
“You can’t say enough about the job our starting pitcher did tonight, as he has been doing since the start of the season,” Tracy said of Snell. “He was absolutely terrific. When he’s commanding three pitches like he was, the task at hand on the other side of the field is obviously very, very difficult.”
In Friday’s series opener, the Pirates (31-42) dropped their third straight game, falling 5-4 in 11 innings. However, they avoided a third straight shutout and ended a 20-inning scoreless drought with an RBI double from Freddy Sanchez in the opening frame.
Jason Bay added just the second homer for Pittsburgh in its last nine games. Closer Matt Capps returned after serving a three-game suspension for hitting Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder with a pitch back on May 5 and allowed one hit over two scoreless innings, although he didn’t factor in the decision.
Los Angeles’ Orlando Cabrera drove in the winning run after Chone Figgins tripled in the 11th. Cabrera also homered and finished with three RBIs for the Angels (47-27), who have won seven of their last nine to extend their AL West lead to seven games over Oakland and eight over Seattle.
“I don’t think there’s a shortstop in our league playing better than Orlando - from the defensive side to his clutch hitting,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Leadoff man Reggie Willits also earned praise from Scioscia after the rookie’s career-best four-hit effort lifted his season average to .347 - third in the AL behind Magglio Ordonez and Ichiro Suzuki.
“Reggie’s having an incredible season,” Scioscia said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that from the day we adjusted some things and inserted him in the lineup every day, we found some chemistry that we were looking for on the offensive side.”
Los Angeles has scored at least five runs in each of its last five games.
Angels starter Kelvim Escobar (8-3, 2.97) owns the sixth-best ERA in the AL. The right-hander gave up three runs in seven innings of Sunday’s 10-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers - the 11th time in 13 starts this season he allowed three or fewer earned runs.
Escobar has never faced the Pirates, but is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in three interleague starts this season.