First Impressions

First Impressions

As first impressions go, the one Ian Snell made Wednesday night wasn't what he had in mind when he took the mound at Citizens Bank Park. <br><br> It wasn't much of a homecoming, either.

On a night when Snell's return home coincided with his first major league start for the Pirates, he was hit hard in an 8-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the first game of a doubleheader. The Phillies completed the sweep by scoring seven unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings for an 8-3 victory.

The first loss meant the Pirates couldn't match their 75 wins from last season. The second ensured them of a fifth-place finish in the NL Central. They must win two of their final three games to avoid a 90-loss season.

Snell, a 22-year-old rookie right-hander, gave up all eight runs while allowing 11 hits and five walks in five-plus innings.

"I was a little excited," said Snell, who grew up about an hour away in Dover, Del. "Pitching at home, with my family here ... I was overanxious and overthrowing a little bit."

In the days leading up to the game, Snell tried to downplay the start, saying he would leave only four tickets for family members. That number swelled to 16 and didn't count friends and former Caesar Rodney High School classmates who made the trek to watch Snell pitch.

So perhaps it was more than just any other game.

"This is a first for me," said Snell, who admitted to never having such a severe case of the nerves before.

His youthfulness showed in the second inning when the Phillies scored five runs and had eight batters reach safely before an out was recorded. The onslaught wiped out the Pirates' 3-0 lead, built on Ty Wigginton's three-run homer.

It wasn't the way Snell wanted to end a season that featured an 11-7 record and 3.16 ERA at Altoona and an inclusion on the Class AA Eastern League postseason All-Star team.

"It gives me something to work on in the offseason," he said. "I'll go home, take some time off, rethink everything and get back on the mound. I'll work my catcher, locate better and calm myself down."

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