Snell's gem helps Pirates nip Phils, snap skid

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ian Snell came to the ballpark in a bad mood,
only to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a much-needed dash of
encouragement in what has been their worst April in 50 seasons.

Snell allowed an unearned run over seven innings to outduel
Brett Myers and end Pittsburgh's seven-game losing streak. Jack
Wilson drove in the go-ahead run in the Pirates' 3-1 victory over
the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.

Craig Wilson and Jason Bay also drove in runs as the Pirates won
for only the sixth time in 24 games during their worst start since
1957. They were coming off an 0-6 road trip to Houston and St.

The Pirates had lost 10 of 11 and 11 of 13 before the
right-handed Snell finally pitched like the top prospect he is
supposed to be, striking out seven and giving up five hits in his
11th career start and second victory. His only other win came when
he pitched eight shutout innings to beat the Astros' Roger Clemens
on Sept. 19.

Snell (1-2) began the game with a 7.71 ERA that was the highest
among the starting pitchers on a Pirates staff with an NL-worst
5.71 ERA. But, unhappy that media commentators are singling out the
last-place Pirates for ridicule, he didn't allow a batter to
advance past second over the first six innings. The Phillies' only
run came after third baseman Joe Randa's error in the seventh.

"I was kind of angry," Snell said. "People think they can
come in here and bully us, and they're talking bad about the team.
My dad called me and said they were making fun of us on TV. I
didn't like that. I needed to go out there and get my swagger

With the Pirates up 1-0 following Craig Wilson's RBI double in
the sixth, Ryan Howard singled to start the seventh and moved to
second when Randa fumbled Aaron Rowand's grounder. After David Bell
bunted the runners up, Howard scored on Mike Lieberthal's ground

"I told myself then to keep my head in the game and keep
throwing strikes," Snell said of the potentially big inning
created by the error.

Snell was lifted for a pinch hitter after allowing no further
scoring, and picked up the victory when the Pirates scored twice in
the seventh against Myers (2-1). Chris Duffy doubled with two outs
and scored on Jack Wilson's single through the hole at short, and
Bay had a run-scoring double.

Despite the Pirates' terrible start, the two Wilsons are hitting
a combined .464 with runners in scoring position -- Jack Wilson is
7-of-12 (.583) and Craig Wilson is 6-of-16 (.375).

"We had three two-out base hits to score runs," manager Jim
Tracy said, referring to the Pirates' season-long lack of hits in
key situations. "You hope it's the start of something."

Tracy feels the same way about Snell.

After being roughed up for 16 runs in his first three starts,
Snell has settled down to allow three runs, two earned, over 13
innings in his last two starts to lower his ERA to 5.79 -- about
five runs per game lower than it was a week ago.

One reason for the turnaround is that Snell, 58-20 in the minors
before being called up last year, is learning how to keep major
league hitters off balance by mixing in more breaking pitches and
changeups with his 96-mph fastball.

"He has such a good fastball that he could overpower folks in
the minor leagues," Howard said. "He had to learn up here. I knew
he was going to try to come up and overpower everybody, but he got
me tonight on a 3-2 backdoor breaking ball."

Myers was excellent over the first five innings, only to allow
three runs in his final two. He struck out eight but gave up nine
hits while pitching with at least one runner on base in all but one
inning. He stayed in to throw 120 pitches -- 20 to the first two
batters, Duffy and Jack Wilson, in a scoreless first inning.

The Phillies also are off to a slow start, 9-13, after being
10-14 in April a year ago.

"I don't think it's anything major at all," Myers said.
"We've got to play better, I guess, execute better and do the
little things right. Hopefully, we can get this month over with and
maybe we'll come out in May and go 30-0 or something."

Damaso Marte followed Snell with a scoreless eighth and Mike
Gonzalez pitched the ninth for his third save in as many
opportunities and his first since April 11.

Game notes
The Pirates are 5-6 at home but 1-12 on the road. ...
Pittsburgh's losing streak was its longest since it dropped nine in
a row from June 5-15, 2004. The Pirates were outscored 34-12 during
their seven-game skid. ... Bell went hitless after having three
consecutive two-hit games. ... Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins singled in
his final two at-bats after being 8-for-50 since April 13.