- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PITTSBURGH (AP) - All the Pittsburgh Pirates talked about the last couple of seasons was how good their mostly young starting pitching was going to be. The results never came close to meeting the expectations.

Right now, the Pirates’ pitching is exceeding all predictions, and others are noticing _ including the team with the major leagues’ best record.

The Florida Marlins’ seven-game winning streak ended with a thud Monday night, thanks to yet another excellent performance by a Pirates starting pitcher. Ross Ohlendorf limited the Marlins to two singles over seven innings and the Pirates won 8-0, their third shutout victory in four games and their fourth in seven home games this season.

All those zeros added up to a modest but encouraging 7-6 start for the Pirates. Maybe they’re not playing as well as the Marlins _ Florida is 11-2 _ but this much-improved pitching has the Pirates believing their season won’t effectively be over by Memorial Day, as it often is.

“I was really happy with the way it went, especially considering how well they’ve been playing,” said Ohlendorf (1-2), a former Yankees reliever who won for the first time in eight starts with Pittsburgh since late last season.

Already, the Pirates have twice as many shutouts as the two they had last season, when their 5.10 ERA was the highest in the NL and the third worst in franchise history. No wonder they finished 67-95 during a record-tying 16th consecutive losing season.

Now, all this good starting pitching is holding down the innings for what was a badly overworked bullpen last season. It’s also taking the pressure off an offense whose power and production slipped badly late last season, causing the Pirates to lose 41 of their final 60.

“We don’t feel like we have to put up seven or eight runs a game,” said Adam LaRoche, who went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs. “It’s great. We know if we put up a couple, we have a chance to be in the game and we haven’t had that luxury in the past.”

They put up a lot more than a couple against the Marlins, who lost for the first time in seven road games. Nate McLouth drove in four runs with a single and a three-run homer, and the Pirates were aggressive on the bases with three steals.

The Marlins totaled 16 runs in their previous two games and had scored at least two in each of their previous 12. But they didn’t advance a runner past first base after Ohlendorf got out of a first-inning jam in which the first three Florida batters reached base, helped by an error on shortstop Jack Wilson.

“I don’t think we put a good swing on him (Ohlendorf) the rest of the night,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He had a good sinker tailing into right-handers. I think he broke four or five bats.”

Marlins left-hander Andrew Miller (0-1) went on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique injury after allowing four runs and five hits and throwing two wild pitches in 4 2-3 innings. He developed the problem 10 days ago but, until Monday, believed it was improving.

Not being able to throw his fastball harder than 87 miles per hour changed that opinion.

“It’s just not getting any better,” he said. “I didn’t have that second gear when I wanted to put somebody away.”

Reds 4, Astros 3

At Houston, Joey Votto hit a go-ahead, two-run double in the seventh inning to lift the Reds to their third win in four games.

Bronson Arroyo (2-1) allowed three runs and nine hits in seven innings. Arthur Rhodes got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth by striking out Hunter Pence. Francisco Cordero then pitched the ninth for his fifth save in five tries.

Geoff Geary (0-2) took the loss.

Nationals 3, Braves 2

At Washington, highly touted pitching prospect Jordan Zimmermann won his major league debut, throwing six strong innings in a rainy Nationals victory.

Zimmermann (1-0) allowed two runs and six hits, with three strikeouts and a walk.

The paid attendance of 12,473 set a new low for the team since it moved from Montreal to Washington. Drizzles all afternoon and into the evening resulted in a delay at the start of 2 hours, 10 minutes. There was also a 33-minute delay in the eighth, and only dozens of fans were still around when Joel Hanrahan pitched the ninth to earn his first save in three chances.

Jesus Flores drove in two runs off Derek Lowe (1-1).

Matt Diaz homered for Atlanta.

Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 3

At Phoenix, Mark Reynolds homered and doubled and Miguel Montero added a three-run homer for the Diamondbacks.

Reynolds hit a solo homer _ his third _ in the second inning and added an RBI double in the fourth off Jason Marquis (2-1), who is 0-4 lifetime at Chase Field.

Ian Stewart hit his third homer for the Rockies, who have dropped seven of eight.

Jon Garland (2-1) went 6 2-3 innings, allowing one earned run and six hits. He walked two and struck out five.

Chad Qualls worked a perfect ninth for his third save in four chances.

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