'Pep' talk sparks late rally

Players respond after berating from Russell

NEW YORK -- Yesterday, it wasn't the Mets who were amazin' at Shea Stadium.

It was the team in the other dugout.

"It's amazing," Pirates manager John Russell said. "They don't quit. It's been a very good characteristic of this club. We find a way late in games to do something to either win or make it very interesting."

The Pirates did both yesterday, rallying from a 5-1 deficit after six innings to stun the Mets, 7-5, with three runs in the ninth inning.

  • Game: Cincinnati Reds vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
  • TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
  • Pitching: RHP Edinson Volquez (13-5, 2.93) vs. RHP Jeff Karstens (2-0, 0.00).
  • Key matchup: Karstens vs. expectations. This will be his first start at PNC Park. Fans might expect too much from Karstens after his first two dazzling starts, including that perfect game bid Wednesday against Arizona.
  • Of note: Volquez has demonstrated signs of fatigue recently. In his past four starts, he has allowed 30 hits and 15 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings.

"A lot of fun," Russell said. "It's gut-wrenching, but it's good to watch them grow."

Especially after getting "spanked" by their manager about the third or fourth inning after the Pirates seemed disinterested in the game they had to play.

"I knew it was coming," Doug Mientkiewicz said. "It needed to be said."

Russell, peeved by errors, other misplays and a baserunning gaffe by Steve Pearce, walked up and down in the dugout in front of his players, telling them in no uncertain terms that they hadn't been too darn amazin' at that point.

"The manager kind of let us have it," Chris Gomez said. "He was making some valid points. It did look like we were going through the motions. He just let us know that wasn't acceptable. It's about being professional and playing nine innings."

"The first three innings, it didn't seem like we were here," Russell said. "We didn't play very good baseball. We weren't focused. But we got it back together and regrouped a little bit."

That was an understatement.

The Pirates, playing a makeup of an April 28 rainout, could have simply marked time until their bus would take them to the airport after they were well manipulated by Pedro Martinez through six innings.

But Martinez left after the sixth, and the Pirates went from being awful to being amazing.

Reliever Joe Smith walked Gomez to begin the seventh. Freddy Sanchez batted for Zach Duke and drove in Gomez with a double. Nate McLouth, back at leadoff partially because Sanchez didn't start, was next. Left-hander Pedro Feliciano came in to face him. McLouth, on his own, tried to bunt for a hit and was thrown out at first, but Sanchez advanced to third.

Luis Rivas drew a walk. Mientkiewicz, hitting .347 since the end of May to raise his average to .293, lined a run-scoring double into right field. Ryan Doumit's sacrifice fly brought the Pirates within 5-4.

In the ninth, right-hander Aaron Heilman, trying to fill in as the Mets' closer while Billy Wagner's on the disabled list, got the first out but didn't get another.

Rivas grounded a 3-2 pitch through the left side for a single. Mientkiewicz walked on a 3-2 pitch. Doumit drove the next pitch into the gap in right-center field for a long single that tied the score. Heilman hit Andy LaRoche with a pitch to load the bases and bring left-hander Scott Schoeneweis into the game.

With the infield playing in, Brandon Moss scalded a ball that second baseman Damion Easley short-hopped and turned into a force at the plate.

That brought up Pearce, who had a bad at-bat in the fourth inning. After Martinez walked LaRoche and Moss to load the bases, Pearce swung at the first pitch and popped up. "I was more set [in the ninth]," Pearce said. "I didn't want to let the team down after the fourth inning."

Schoeneweis fell behind 3-1, then made a pretty good pitch with a fastball, but Pearce laid off, and the count went full. "He'd been throwing a lot of balls and I wanted to work the count," Pearce said.

The next pitch was a fastball up and Pearce lined it into left-center field, driving in the final two runs.

It remained for John Grabow to finish off this bit of magic.

"The team really battled," the left-hander said. "You don't want to let anybody down."

Carlos Beltran led off the Mets ninth with a single to left, but Grabow struck out Carlos Delgado. He then went 2-0 on Fernando Tatis. Grabow took a deep breath and threw another fastball.

"I think that surprised him -- a fastball in that situation," Grabow said.

Tatis bounced it to Rivas, who began a game-ending double play.

"Baseball is baseball," Mientkiewicz mused. "You have a chance to redeem yourselves over nine innings."

Told the Pirates have done that a lot this season, Mientkiewicz agreed.

"But," he said, noting the trades of Xavier Nady and Jason Bay, "it's different because we don't have the horses we did."

True. But the ponies did just fine yesterday.

Paul Meyer can be reached at 412-263-1144. First Published August 12, 2008 4:00 AM


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