Nate McLouth drives in what proved to be the winning run in the top of the 11th inning last night at Great American Ball Park. Jack Wilson scored on McLouth's hit.
By Paul Meyer Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CINCINNATI -- John Russell watched two bunt attempts fail -- not to mention two leads disappear last night -- so when he had a third chance to order a bunt, he disdained.
And that third time was the charm.
Instead of bunting in the 11th inning, Jack Wilson sliced a ball into right field that eluded a diving Ken Griffey Jr. and turned into a triple. That scored Xavier Nady, who opened with a pinch-hit double. Wilson then scored on Nate McLouth's single, and the Pirates withstood yet another Cincinnati rally in the bottom of the 11th to finally get a 6-5 victory.
"Games like this are usually decided by something out of the ordinary," Russell said. "This time we decide not to bunt and get two runs."
Game: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:10 p.m., Great American Ball Park.
TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: RHP John Van Benschoten (1-2, 8.31) vs. RHP Daryl Thompson (0-1, 3.60).
Key matchup: Each lineup vs. the unknown. Van Benschoten has never faced the Reds; Thompson, who has made only two major league appearances, has never faced the Pirates.
Of note: Though he seems to be gaining a bit more presence in the Pirates thinking, Van Benschoten, at age 28, still hasn't given the organization much at the major league level since being its top draft pick in 2001. His big league stats: 2-12 record, an 8.72 ERA and 101 hits and 54 walks allowed in 76 1/3 innings.
Which was a very good happenstance.
"Nerve-racking," Wilson said of playing in games like this. "No lead is safe here."
The Pirates led, 3-1, in the eighth inning, having received a solid -- albeit brief -- start from Zach Duke and fine relief from Denny Bautista, John Grabow and Tyler Yates.
However, Damaso Marte allowed a tying, two-run home run to Brandon Phillips in the eighth.
The Pirates scored a run in the 10th on Jason Michaels' two-out single, but beleaguered Matt Capps yielded a tying run in the bottom of the inning. That was his fifth blown save in three weeks.
Capps was in immediate trouble when Adam Dunn led off the Cincinnati 10th with a double into the right-field corner. Pinch-runner Corey Patterson advanced to third on Griffey's fly to deep center. Phillips hit a ground ball down the third base line that Bautista couldn't field on his backhand side. Patterson scored, but Wilson made a great hustling play to retrieve the ball down the left field line and throw out Phillips at second, defusing the rally.
Against David Weathers in the 11th, the Pirates came out swinging.
Nady, being rested by Russell as a starter, smoked his lead-off double into left-center field.
Russell could have had Wilson try to bunt Nady to third but quickly reviewed what had transpired. Wilson had bunted into a force play in the ninth inning with the score tied. Freddy Sanchez had struck out trying to bunt with two on and no outs in the seventh.
"At that point in the game, with the way it was going, playing for one run hadn't done us a lot of good," Russell said of his decision in the 11th.
Wilson purposefully hit the ball to the right side and wound up with his triple when the ball bounced past Griffey.
"We needed that bounce," Wilson said.
McLouth, in a 1-for-19 funk at game time, drove in what proved to the winner with his single into left-center field.
Back for secondsAdam LaRoche has raised his average from .221 to .235 since Friday as the first half of the season gave way to the second. His numbers the past four games:CategoryNo.At-bats
Runs batted in
Russell entrusted that lead to Romulo Sanchez, called up Sunday from Class AAA Indianapolis. The right-hander yielded two hits, a walk and a run and needed a great catch from McLouth for the second out but managed to get his first major league save.
Duke worked five-plus innings and allowed just a run, but he remains winless in his past 12 road starts since getting a victory May 27, 2007, in Cincinnati. The left-hander had a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning, the Pirates having scored a run in the fourth on Bautista's double and two more in the sixth.
Jason Bay began that sixth inning with a walk. Ryan Doumit singled into center field, chasing Bay to third. Doumit alertly took second when Jay Bruce's throw to third was too high to be cut off.
Adam LaRoche doubled on a 3-0 pitch from Edinson Volquez. Bay scored easily, of course, but Doumit almost ran through a stop sign at third base. Doumit put on the brakes and slipped down. He seemed a certain out as he tried to get back to third base but somehow eluded Edwin Encarnacion's tag.
Encarnacion argued the call by umpire Chad Fairchild and was almost immediately ejected.
Doumit did score on Doug Mientkiewicz's sacrifice fly to left.
Duke promptly walked Jerry Hairston Jr. and Dunn to begin the bottom of the sixth. Griffey's single loaded the bases, prompting Russell to remove Duke, who had thrown only 77 pitches.
"Two walks and the bases were loaded," Russell said. "And we had a very fresh bullpen."
Denny Bautista got Phillips to bounce into a fielder's choice, Hairston scoring. Grabow relieved Bautista and retired Joey Votto on a tap in front of the plate. Jose Bautista finished the inning by making a good diving play on Jeff Keppinger's hard grounder for the third out.
A final word about Mientkiewicz, who made just his sixth career start in right field.
In the second inning, he ran a long way to make a sliding catch of Encarnacion's fly just inside the foul line that would have fallen for a double. Moments later, Mientkiewicz chased down David Ross' double in right-center field and helped throw out Votto at the plate, giving him his first career outfield assist.