Simon’s hustle pays off for Bucs
The ball trickled toward foul territory, rolling perhaps three feet from the batter’s box. Jack Wilson waited before he ran, but Randall Simon never paused.
That made all the difference Friday, as the Pirates rallied past the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-3.
The Pirates were trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning when Simon singled to left field against right-hander Matt Kinney (7-9). Jose Hernandez followed with an infield single.
Wilson hoped merely to move the runners up with a bunt, and tapped the ball straight down. He paused, then took off when catcher Eddie Perez picked up the ball near the chalk line before it could roll foul.
“It looked like it was coming back fair, it had that spin on it, so I waited,” Wilson said. “I didn’t want to step on it. So I waited, saw it roll back, then took off.”
Simon hustled down the line from second base, keeping an eye on the home plate umpire.
“I was running hard the whole way,” Simon said. “I’ve seen a lot of balls start foul, then come back and roll fair.
“I know I’m not that fast of a runner, so I went hard all the way. As soon as the bunt hit the ground, it was, you know, Gotta go! You always have to play aggressive.”
Instead of throwing Wilson out, Perez fired the ball to third. It bounced past Keith Ginter, allowing Simon to score. Hernandez went to third and Wilson to second on Perez’s error.
“Simon did an incredible job,” Wilson said. “He could have laid up after seeing me just standing there. But he kept on going, and that made the play right there.”
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon was impressed by Wilson’s heads-up baserunning on the play, winding up at second base.
“That was big,” McClendon said. “When he does that, that gives us an extra run. Those are the type of things — the little things — that help you win games.”
Pinch-hitter Carlos Rivera grounded out, scoring Hernandez. Wilson scored the go-ahead run when Jason Kendall flied out to deep left field.
The Pirates padded their lead with three runs in the seventh against reliever Mike DeJean. With two outs, Abraham Nunez singled and Brian Giles walked. Matt Stairs followed with a home run, his 15th of the season, off the left-field foul pole.
Nelson Figueroa (2-0) pitched well again in his second start since being recalled from Class AAA Nashville. The right-hander gave up two runs on six hits, walked two and struck out three in five innings.
Julian Tavarez tossed two shutout innings for his third career save — his first since April 12, 2000, when he was pitching for Colorado.
Figueroa, who was a non-roster invitee in spring training, tightened his grip on a rotation spot for the rest of this season. And perhaps beyond?
“I like the way he threw last week, but I’d like to see more of him,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said before the game. “I’m not ready to make that kind of commitment (yet).
“He didn’t throw as well as he did in Colorado, but he gave us five good innings and he kept us in the game. He lived on the edge a little bit tonight, but I’m pleased with him because he’s a strike-thrower.”
The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the first. Scott Podsednik reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on Richie Sexson’s two-out single.
Sexson tried to come home when John Vander Wal doubled off the center field wall. But the relay from Giles to Wilson to Kendall was in time to make Sexson an easy out.
Sexson made up for the gaffe with a solo homer leading off the fourth inning.
The Pirates wasted a fine chance to tie the score in the bottom of the fourth. Kendall led off with a single — the Pirates’ first hit of the game — and went to third when Nunez bounced a single up the middle.
Giles swung at the first pitch and fouled out to Ginter.
Nunez stole second. Up came Stairs, who was 4 for 6 with three home runs in his career against Kinney.
Stairs struck out swinging.
Reggie Sanders smashed a hard liner — but directly at Ginter, who barely had to move to snag it for the third out.