Bullish bullpen pushes Pirates past Braves, 4-3

Wilson delivers big hit despite injury, Nady wins it in 10th

ATLANTA -- Baseball can be a rough game, mentally and physically.

But it also can be plenty rewarding, as was illustrated by the Pirates' 4-3, 10-inning victory against the Atlanta Braves last night at Turner Field.

Ask the bullpen about the mental part.

The relievers had given up 15 runs in the first two games, giving up hits and walks left and right. But four of them -- Franquelis Osoria, John Grabow, Tyler Yates and Matt Capps -- turned in 4 1/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit ball to back up Zach Duke.

"Now, that was pretty awesome," Capps said, smiling. "We needed that."

  • Box score
  • Statistics
  • Standings
  • Today
    • Game: Pirates vs. Florida Marlins, 7:10 p.m., Dolphin Stadium, Miami.
    • TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
    • Pitching: RHP Matt Morris (10-11, 4.89 ERA last year) vs. LHP Scott Olsen (10-15, 5.81).
    • Key matchup:: Just for fun, how about a money matchup? Add the salaries of Morris ($10.03 million), Jack Wilson ($6.7 million) and Jason Bay ($6 million), and they top Florida's entire $21.8 million payroll. The New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez ($28 million) does it all by himself.
    • Of note: The Marlins lost two of three to the New York Mets, mostly because their starters never pitched deeper than five innings and were charged with 14 runs. The bullpen pitched 15 2/3. As manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters in Miami, "We're going to have to change that."

Ask Jack Wilson about the physical.

The Pirates' shortstop was clipped in the left calf by a hard slide in the sixth inning and, in the seventh, was forced to leave. But only after still going to the box, despite some discomfort, and tying the score at 3-3 with an RBI single.

"Just playing the game," Wilson said.

He will be evaluated today in Miami, but the injury is not thought serious.

By the time Xavier Nady punched through an RBI single in the 10th to bring the lead, it seemed mostly like icing on a dizzying opening series in which the Pirates spun away with two out of three.

"A very nice effort, all-around," manager John Russell said. "Our bullpen, in particular, did a great job. Every one of them."

Start with the finish...

The score was 3-3 entering the 10th, which pinch-hitter Nyjer Morgan led off with a full-count walk off Chris Resop. He was bunted to second and took third when Jason Bay walked on a wild pitch.

After another out, Nady, now 6 for 14 with seven RBIs, bounced a 1-1 curveball off the mound and into center to bring home Morgan.

"I'm just keeping a good approach," Nady said.

Capps, eager to overcome an uncharacteristically wild opener, looked far more composed in quickly retiring his first two batters. But Mark Kotsay drilled a ball to deep center that hit about a foot shy of the top of the fence.

"Almost had it," Morgan said. "But it stayed in the yard, and that's OK."

Just a triple.

Pinch-hitter Brian McCann bounced softly to first to end it, and Capps had his first save.

"I just wanted to pound the zone, get back to doing what I do best," he said. "Everyone did that tonight. There was a lot to like out there, actually."

Mike Hampton, Atlanta's scheduled starter, had his 2 1/2-year layoff from pitching extended a bit longer by a pulled chest muscle in warmups, so manager Bobby Cox had to improvise with an already weary bullpen.

Taking some advantage of that, the Pirates built a 2-0 lead on three early doubles, five scoreless innings from Duke and two exceptional catches in center field by Nate McLouth.

The Braves finally dented Duke in the sixth, though, to leap ahead, 3-2.

With two aboard and one out, Matt Diaz singled to make it 2-1. The next batter, Kotsay, bounced to Luis Rivas for what might have been a 4-6-3 double play. But Diaz thwarted that with a hard slide into Wilson -- well off the bag, with his spike going into Wilson's left leg -- even as Wilson was spinning away because he had decided not to throw.

Second base umpire Joe West did not rule anything illegal, and the Pirates did not complain, at the time or afterward.

"I've got no problem with it," Russell said. "Jack spinning like that might have been part of it, too. He might have stepped back into it."

"He's just playing the game right," Wilson said of Diaz.

Coincidence or not, that play led to two more unfortunate events for Wilson in the next few minutes ...

Corky Miller's two-out single tied the score at 2-2, and pinch-hitter Brayan Pena's routine grounder to Wilson was muffed for an error that handed Atlanta a 3-2 lead.

After a walk loaded the bases, Duke was done -- three runs, 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings -- and Osoria was summoned to clean up the mess. He did exactly that by freezing Yuniel Escobar with what he called "my straightest fastball" on the outside corner.

The Pirates got that right back in the Pirates.

They had a man at second because of two hustling plays by Ronny Paulino, beating out an infield error, then taking out the pivot man on a double-play try for the next batter, Chris Gomez. After a wild pitch, Wilson lined an RBI single to even the score, then, three strides out of the box, began limping and needed to hop to reach first base.

He exited, but the score was even again after his first hit in 12 at-bats.

Grabow and Yates followed Osoria with dominant relief: Grabow worked around two more infield errors in the seventh to finish with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. Yates added a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout.

"I've been saying all through this that I think we've got the makings of a good bullpen," Russell said. "Everybody did the job."

"I think it's a good shot in the arm for all of us," Grabow said. "We've had a shaky start, but we all pulled together. This is how you do it: We pounded the zone, got ahead of guys and kept things moving."

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . First Published April 4, 2008 4:00 AM


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