CINCINNATI -- It wasn't until the final series of the season the Pirates' spot in the National League playoff picture settled itself. The games in September received more attention, especially the final three with the Cincinnati Reds, but the wins and losses in April counted just as much. Here are the five most improbable Pirates wins of the season, the games that could have swung in the other direction and altered the Pirates' fortunes.
McKenry's two homers
The Pirates trailed the Reds, 4-0, after two innings April 14 at PNC Park. But two home runs from Michael McKenry helped the Pirates score four runs in the seventh inning and six in the eighth for a 10-7 comeback victory.
McKenry's solo homer off Reds starter Mat Latos in the seventh got the Pirates on the board. He hit another in the eighth off setup man Jonathan Broxton to tie the score at 6-6, and Starling Marte's homer three batters later gave the Pirates the lead.
The PNC Park crowd summoned McKenry for a curtain call.
"Any curtain call is humbling and a blessing," he said after the game.
Gomez in Detroit
Jeanmar Gomez briefly joined the Pirates' rotation in May, but did not complete more than five innings in any of his first five starts. That changed in the sixth, when Gomez went into Comerica Park against the powerful Detroit Tigers lineup and pitched seven scoreless innings May 28.
Gomez put forth as efficient an outing as you'll see, throwing 73 pitches and walking only one batter.
"When you got a guy working quick, keeping the defense into it and throwing a lot of strikes, it makes the game fun," said Neil Walker, who hit an 11th-inning home run to give the Pirates a 1-0 win that night.
Jason Grilli earned the save by striking out Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
Comeback in Anaheim
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took an early lead against the Pirates with a five-run second inning June 23. They led, 6-3, entering the ninth, but a three-run inning, including RBI hits from Starling Marte and Russell Martin, sent the game into extra innings.
After Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen loaded the bases in the 10th, Travis Snider's single and an error cleared them. One more RBI hit from Martin gave the Pirates a four-run cushion, and they needed every bit of it.
Jason Grilli allowed five hits and three runs in the bottom of the 10th, but struck out Mike Trout with runners on second and third to end the game.
"We've got no quit, that's for sure," Martin said after the game.
McCutchen and Fiers
In the 12th inning on May 14, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was out of relievers. The only one he had left was Mike Fiers, who entered in the bottom of the 12th inning to face Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen at that point was 4 for 8 against Fiers with two home runs. He soon made it three, and the Pirates walked off with a 4-3 win.
McCutchen was motoring until the ball cleared the wall because he wasn't sure he got enough of it.
"I hit the crap out of the ball, and they went nowhere [earlier]," he said. "Right off my bat, I didn't know."
Two runs in the eighth inning, the result of a 462-foot homer from Pedro Alvarez that bounced into the Allegheny River, allowed the Pirates to pull into a 4-4 tie against the Houston Astros on May 17, but it looked like their ninth-inning opportunity would fall short.
After two singles and an error, the Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth. Neil Walker struck out looking. On a 3-2 pitch with two outs, Russell Martin lifted a pop fly to shallow right field that would send the game into extra innings. Astros right fielder Jimmy Paredes and second baseman Jake Elmore ran into each other, the ball dropped and the Pirates won.
"We'll take it any way we can get it and move on," said Travis Snider, who scored the winning run.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 30, 2013 4:00 AM