Travis Snider cradled his helmet, juking and cutting around the infield as his teammates swarmed him like a punt coverage unit.
Snider was the man of the moment after his walk-off single in the 11th inning gave the Pirates a 5-4 win Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. His moment was made possible by the Pirates bullpen, which shut out the Reds for 10 innings after an injury forced starter Jeanmar Gomez from the game.
"It's been the story of the year for us," Snider said. "Bullpen, starting staff [have] really been picking us up.
"Any time you can return that favor to them, it's a special win."
With the win, the Pirates avoided a sweep. They also broke out of their offensive slump, scoring five runs after two consecutive shutouts.
Russell Martin reached on an error in the 11th and went to second on Pedro Alvarez's walk. Snider singled to shallow right-center field off Alfredo Simon. Jay Bruce's throw to the plate pulled catcher Devin Mesoraco up the third-base line and Martin was safe.
Garrett Jones made extra innings possible by tying the score in the eighth inning with a colossal home run. Andrew McCutchen reached on an infield single with two outs and the Pirates trailing, 4-2. Jones homered into the Allegheny River on the fly, tying the score.
Two innings earlier, Jones came to the plate with men on second and third and one out. He struck out. In the eighth, he took out his displeasure on a 2-1 slider from Jonathan Broxton.
"It was an anger-frustration swing," Jones said.
McCutchen paused between first and second base, knowing it was gone but watching to see if it stayed fair. The ball splashed a few feet past the river walk, right over the head of someone riding past on a bike.
Jones became the first Pirate to reach the water on the fly at PNC Park and the second player to do it. The Houston Astros' Daryle Ward sent one into the water July 6, 2002.
Alvarez's solo home run in the second and McCutchen's RBI single in the sixth provided the Pirates' first two runs.
The Pirates tied the score after trailing, 4-0, in the first inning. Gomez left after the first because of tightness in his right forearm.
"He went to try to get it loose and it wasn't getting loose," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was tight. It wasn't in a good place."
Gomez's injury mandated another long day on the job from a bullpen that had pitched the fourth-most innings in the major leagues and recently had to cover two 11-inning games in three days. Vin Mazzaro started in the second and threw three scoreless innings.
"He was drawing some things up in the dirt because he wasn't completely rested," Hurdle said. "The velocity on the sinker was down, he was adding and subtracting to his breaking ball. He flat-out pitched."
Bryan Morris followed with three innings. Mark Melancon loaded the bases in the eighth but stranded the runners, and Jason Grilli struck out the side in the ninth. Justin Wilson struck out three in two innings and earned the win to improve to 5-0.
The total line: 10 innings, 5 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts.
"My goal was to pitch to contact as early in the count as I could so I could go multiple innings because that's what we needed," Morris said.
It is unclear how serious Gomez's injury is. If the Pirates feel Charlie Morton, who made a rehab start for Class AAA Indianapolis Sunday night, is ready, they could have him take Gomez's turn in the rotation Friday against the Chicago Cubs. Gomez was not available for comment after the game.
Gomez hit Shin-Soo Choo to start the game. On the next pitch, Zack Cozart tripled to the notch in left-center field.
Joey Votto walked. Bruce lined a single to right, scoring Cozart. Todd Frazier singled to load the bases. Xavier Paul's hit scored Votto.
Mesoraco recorded the first out of the inning with a sacrifice fly, scoring Bruce, before Cesar Izturis grounded into a double play.
With two outs and no one on in the first, Reds starter Mat Latos hit Neil Walker with the first pitch of the at-bat, a 96 mph fastball. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson warned both benches at that point.
Mazzaro hit Choo, who leads the league in getting hit by pitches, in the fourth. Starling Marte was hit twice, by Broxton in the eighth and Simon in the 10th, but no action was taken by the umpires.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 2, 2013 9:45 PM