Pirates manager John Russell summarized Tom Gorzelanny's performance succinctly yesterday.
"He had a quality start in bad conditions," Russell said.
Gorzelanny slogged through rain and chill and a tweak of his back to give the Pirates 61/3 effective innings and lead them to a 9-1 victory against Cincinnati in a game at PNC Park that wasn't a laugher until the bottom of the seventh inning.
"It was a tough day to play," said Nate McLouth, who continued his anything-but-cold start with a double, two walks and two runs scored. "I can imagine as a pitcher it was tough to throw strikes. The ball gets slippery."
Gorzelanny, though, walked only one batter -- pitcher Johnny Cueto in the third inning -- through the first five. Gorzelanny walked two in the sixth, then left after walking pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg in the seventh.
"By the seventh, you really could tell the field was taking a pretty good hit," Gorzelanny said. "The mound was slick."
Slick, too, was the left-hander.
He allowed four hits and a run while pocketing his first victory and carrying the Pirates to their first three-game sweep of the Reds at home since July 23-25 of 2004.
"We worked hard between starts," said Gorzelanny, who lasted just 2 1/3 innings against Chicago last Monday. "We wanted to stay in the [strike] zone a lot more, be confident and attack the hitters -- the mentality I had last season."
- Game: Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (0-0, 2.13) vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.13).
- Key matchup: Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent is 1 for 11 lifetime against Duke. Left fielder Juan Pierre is 3 for 17.
- Of note: Pirates have lost 14 of their past 18 games at Dodger Stadium.
Gorzelanny, a 14-game winner in 2007, had few anxious moments until the sixth.
After Ryan Freel reached on shortstop Brian Bixler's error, Norris Hopper bunted to the right side. Gorzelanny made the play at first base, but then bent down near the mound.
It turned out to be just a brief tightening of his back.
"One of those freak things that happen," he said.
One out later, Gorzelanny walked Brandon Phillips and Jeff Keppinger, but he retired Edwin Encarnacion on a bouncer to second to end the threat.
Gorzelanny gave way to right-hander Franquelis Osoria in the seventh after Paul Bako's one-out triple and the walk to Hatteberg.
Freel singled through the middle on an 0-2 pitch to cut the Pirates' lead to 5-1. Pinch-hitter Corey Patterson bounced to the right side, moving the runners to second and third. That brought up Ken Griffey Jr., which produced the final meaningful at-bat of the dreary day.
Russell did not bring in a left-hander to face Griffey Jr., which seemed to indicate the Pirates would pitch around him and leave Osoria in to face the right-handed hitting Phillips.
On a 3-1 pitch, Griffey Jr. tapped weakly to Osoria for the third out.
That capped a rather horrendous offensive series for Cincinnati. In the three games, the Reds put 41 runners on base. Only four scored. The Reds were 6 for 35 with runners in scoring position.
In the eighth, third baseman Jose Bautista made the defensive play of the game.
With Phillips on first base and no outs, Keppinger smoked a wicked smash headed for the left-field corner. However, Bautista made a diving stop of the one-hopper to his right and began a spectacular double play.
"I just reacted," Bautista said. "It's one of those all-out plays. Either you get it or you don't. I just got it on that one."
The Pirates began their offensive against Cueto slowly.
The rookie right-hander was impressive in his first two starts, walking none and striking out 18 in 131/3 innings.
"He's going to be good for a long time," Jason Bay said.
He was pretty good yesterday for five innings.
Ryan Doumit led off the second with his second home run.
With two outs in the third, McLouth drew Cueto's first walk and scored on a double into the left-field corner by Luis Rivas.
The Pirates didn't strike again until the sixth.
McLouth drove a leadoff double deep into left field. One out later, he moved to third on Bay's single off Phillips' glove, then scored on Doumit's sacrifice fly.
Xavier Nady's home run two pitches later gave Gorzelanny and the Pirates breathing room at 5-0.
First Published April 14, 2008 4:00 AM