Pirates 7, Expos 3, 1st Game; Pirates 4, Expos 3, 2nd Game
Pinch-hitter Jason Kendall’s two-run double in the ninth inning carried the Pirates past the Expos 4-3 for a doubleheader sweep Wednesday night—the third time Montreal has been swept since May 28.
The Pirates’ first doubleheader sweep since Sept. 8, 2000, against the Reds—their last twinbill in Three Rivers Stadium—ran their winning streak to four games and the Expos’ losing streak to a season-high six.
Pittsburgh went into the bottom of the ninth trailing 3-2 following Jose Macias’ solo homer in the top of the inning, but manager Lloyd McClendon still had a feeling the Pirates would find a way to win.
“I told our guys we’ve played a lot of good baseball and we deserve to celebrate,” he said. “Let’s go up there and put some good at-bats together, and that’s exactly what they did.”
The Expos have been swept in all three makeup doubleheaders during a 25-day, 22-game trip that ends Thursday. The first two sweeps came May 28 at Florida and June 1 at Philadelphia. They are 7-14 since last playing in Montreal on May 25.
“Baseball delivers some tough blows sometimes, but we’ve got to keep going,” the Expos’ Michael Barrett said. “We’re playing a little bit out of character … and when you do that, everybody tends to put more pressure on themselves.”
By winning the first two games of the three-game series, the Pirates are assured of winning a home series for the first time this season. They were 0-9-1 in their first 10 series at PNC Park, where they are 11-21.
“I think it made us mad,” McClendon said. “It’s hard to believe you’d go this late into the season without winning a home series.”
Macias’ one-out, go-ahead drive came off Salomon Torres (4-1), who had just entered as the Pirates’ fourth pitcher.
But Expos closer Rocky Biddle (3-2) couldn’t hold the lead as Randall Simon and Matt Stairs singled and pinch-hitter Jeff Reboulet loaded the bases with a surprise bunt single down the third-base line.
“That was a perfect bunt,” said Barrett, the Expos’ catcher. “It was a well-executed bunt.”
Kendall, hitless in two previous at-bats as a pinch-hitter this season, then lined a double into the left-center gap that scored Simon and Stairs without a throw.
“Obviously, I don’t do a lot of pinch-hitting, but I talk to a lot of guys who do,” Kendall said. “They said the key is to be patient and wait for the first hittable fastball. He got a pitch up, and I got the good part of the bat on it.”
The Expos took a 2-1 lead on RBI singles by Ron Calloway and Edwards Guzman in a two-run fourth. It was Montreal’s first multi-run inning in 57 innings, or since the Expos scored three times in the ninth in a 7-3 win over Seattle on June 10.
“We’re just flailing away up there,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said.
The Pirates tied it at 2 in the sixth against Expos starter Claudio Vargas on Brian Giles’ one-out triple and Ramirez’s run-scoring single. They had taken a 1-0 lead in the second on Simon’s double and Craig Wilson’s RBI single.
Vargas allowed two runs in 7 1-3 innings, the first time in his last four starts he has yielded more than one earned run.
Pirates starter Jeff Suppan gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out three but didn’t figure in the decision. He has lost six of his last seven decisions.
In the opener, the Pirates bunched five singles in a span of six batters against Livan Hernandez (6-5) in the fourth.
D’Amico (5-7) ended his three-game losing streak, limiting the Expos to six hits and two runs in six innings. He is 3-0 against Montreal the last two seasons, winning twice with the Mets last season.
The Expos put runners on first and second with one out in the ninth against Scott Sauerbeck, but Mike Williams came on to get the final two outs for his 19th save in 22 opportunities. Joe Beimel allowed one run in pitching the seventh and eighth.
Of Hernandez’s five losses, three have been in makeup twinbills. He also lost the first game of the rain-forced doubleheaders at Florida and Philadelphia.
Hernandez gave up six runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings, the shortest of his 14 starts this season. He struck out seven, but was hurt constantly by leaving breaking pitches over the plate.
Pittsburgh chased Hernandez in the fifth on Ramirez’s two-run homer, a line drive that caught the left-field foul pole just as it was about to curve foul. The homer came on a hanging breaking ball. Sanders hit his ninth homer in the sixth, a pinch-hit shot off reliever Joey Eischen.
Sauerbeck pitched in both games and has appeared in five straight games. … The Pirates began the season by winning four straight, but hadn’t won more than three straight since then. … Lofton returned after sitting out two games with a sore foot. … D’Amico won a June start for the first time since June 28, 1997, with Milwaukee. He had been 0-6 with a 9.07 ERA in nineJune starts since then.