Pirates' Ludwick plays the hero with winning RBI in 9th

Walk-off hit erases closer's struggles in top half of inning


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Joel Hanrahan kept Friday's game interesting, prolonging the result. Ryan Ludwick made it worth the wait.

Ludwick's walk-off single scored Chase d'Arnaud in the bottom of the ninth and gave the Pirates a 4-3 win Friday against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park.

"It felt like it was what I was supposed to do," Ludwick said. "Been awhile since I hit a walk-off. But it felt good."

Pinch-hitter Jason Jaramillo doubled and d'Arnaud ran for him. Ludwick hit Nick Masset's pitch to the wall in center field. D'Arnaud said he started running when he saw center fielder Drew Stubbs' numbers, meaning he was running toward the wall.

"[Ludwick] kept his hands back, got the barrel on it and ended up carrying the center fielder with it," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Ludwick had to barrel through a mob of teammates that rushed the field to congratulate him.

"It's hard to describe that feeling," d'Arnaud said of the celebration. "Overjoyed might be the best word. We're happy for Ludwick, we won the game."

The Pirates bullpen took over and cut down the Cincinnati Reds with well-placed strikeouts, but a bases-loaded hit batsman erased a 3-2 ninth-inning lead.

Hanrahan gave up singles to Chris Heisey and Brandon Phillips in the ninth. Stubbs bunted, but the Pirates got Heisey out at third. Joey Votto struck out, but a double steal put runners on second and third, so Hanrahan walked Jay Bruce to load the bases.

Hanrahan hit Todd Frazier in the wrist with a 98 mph fastball, scoring Phillips and tying the score, 3-3.

"The game is the game," Hurdle said. "There were some stretches where it all looked easy because [Hanrahan] was pitching so well. It's not easy and that's probably what he's realizing right now.

"The volume of pitches is probably what caught up to him tonight more than anything."

Hanrahan eventually earned the win. Bill Bray took the loss for the Reds.

The Pirates improved to 70-87, the first time they won 70 games since 2004.

Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Doumit went 2 for 4. Frazier and Brandon Phillips each had two hits for the Reds.

The bullpen had pitched well, continuing Jeff Locke's productive but short outing. Daniel Moskos got a key strikeout in the fifth, Tony Watson struck out two in the seventh, and Jason Grilli struck out three in the eighth, though one reached on a wild pitch.

"They grew up," Hurdle said of Watson and Moskos. "They're making pitches. They probably have a better feel for that role and those situations now than they did earlier in the year."

Locke pitched 42/3 innings and allowed one run on six hits. He allowed long fly balls that kept his outfielders busy on the warning track -- "He absolutely had to know the exact dimensions of the ballpark," Hurdle said -- and put runners on base in the third and fourth, but kept them from crossing the plate until the fifth.

"I'm still leaving some pitches up and falling behind some guys," Locke said.

Hurdle said Locke needs to throw more first-pitch strikes. Of his 80 pitches, 48 found the strike zone.

"I definitely need to start filling it up early," Locke said.

Watson replaced Chris Resop to face the left-handed Votto and Bruce and send them both down swinging.

"In a one-run game, strike one is huge right there," Watson said. "With the 0-2 [count against Votto] you don't want to get over the white of the plate."

Ryan Doumit singled in the second before Jones smoked a 1-0 pitch over the seats in center field for his 16th home run, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

Locke removed himself from trouble in the third. Ramon Hernandez singled and Paul Janish reached on a bunt single. Locke threw to third base and got Hernandez, the lead runner, on Edinson Volquez's sacrifice bunt attempt, but a Phillips fly ball allowed Janish to reach third. Stubbs flied out to end the inning without any runs scoring


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com . First Published September 24, 2011 4:00 AM


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