Just a few minutes had passed since Brandon Moss' RBI double in the 12th inning pushed the Pirates past the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-6, last night at PNC Park, and Adam LaRoche, still huffing and puffing, sweetly summed up the evening's most stunning development ...
"I ... am ... beat."
- Game: Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Jason Davis (1-4, 5.90) vs. RHP Brad Thompson (5-2, 4.61).
- Key matchup: In Davis' previous start, Aug. 20, in St. Louis, the Cardinals crushed him for eight run and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. That included three hits by leadoff man Skip Schumaker.
- Of note: Catcher Raul Chavez has picked two runners of second base (Albert Pujols and Alfonso Soriano) and one off third (Alex Rios).
Small wonder: The roster's most laborious runner scored all the way from first base.
LaRoche worked a full-count walk off St. Louis rookie Chris Perez, and Moss came up determined to show similar patience. He got ahead, 2-1, then fouled off three consecutive pitches before getting ball three.
"Just fastballs and sliders, back and forth," Moss recalled.
Was he guessing what would come next?
"No, just waiting for the pitch."
Meanwhile, at first, crazy thoughts were crossing LaRoche's mind.
"I was going to steal right before the count went full on Brandon," he said.
"Seriously. Albert was leaving the bag early, and I thought about it."
With the count full, it became academic: Albert Pujols was back off the bag, and the outfield went back to no-doubles depth.
Moss infiltrated that by lining a slider off the base of the short fence in right-center.
"Perfect place," Moss said.
"What are you going to do?" St. Louis shortstop Aaron Miles said. "It's the one spot on the field where they can hit the ball and score that runner from first."
But score he did: LaRoche broke with the count and was about two-thirds of the way to second, which might be the only reason he was able to reach home without a throw for the Pirates' 12th victory in 16 extra-inning games and, remarkably, their 10th in the past 11.
He was mobbed by teammates as the crowd of 17,132 stood and cheered, before the mob turned to Moss, who had been in a 3-for-34 slump.
"Good to see him come through," manager John Russell said. "Hopefully, it will get him going a little."
"It felt great," Moss said. "Honestly, just to go up there after some of the at-bats I've had, it felt good just to have a good at-bat like that."
Ryan Doumit had three RBIs and a key caught-stealing of a St. Louis runner in the top of that inning, Nyjer Morgan had three singles and a fine sliding catch, and LaRoche had two RBIs.
Still, the pivotal play aside, it was the bullpen that won this one: Seven relievers -- Denny Bautista, Sean Burnett, Tyler Yates, John Grabow, Matt Capps, Jesse Chavez and Craig Hansen -- combined for eight scoreless innings in relief of Ian Snell, who exited after the fourth with a 6-2 deficit.
Bautista gave up three hits in the Cardinals' fifth, but they had just two hits in the final seven innings.
"We've got a lot of good arms out there, and some more power arms now with Chavez and Hansen here," Burnett said of the bullpen. "This is the kind of night where we had a chance to prove something to management, I think, and it was a good step. A lot of us are auditioning for jobs next year."
Notable in the group were extended outings for Yates and Capps, with Yates fanning half of his six batters and Capps pitching a perfect ninth and 10th.
Hansen, whose control was so erratic a month ago that management reluctantly sent him to the minors, earned the victory by getting through the 12th for his fourth consecutive scoreless appearance.
"I'm just going out there and playing baseball," Hansen said. "Not trying to overthink things."
It helped Hansen that, with one out, Doumit caught Ryan Ludwick trying to steal, just before Brendan Ryan's single.
The game might have ended much earlier if not for an unusual confrontation between the Pirates' Jason Michaels and home plate umpire Paul Emmel in the fifth inning.
With men at second and third and two outs, Michaels drew three balls from Russ Springer. The fourth pitch, well low and well outside by any standard, was called a strike by Emmel. Michaels took a few slow steps toward first before returning to the box, visibly displeased. The next pitch, also low and outside though not as much, was called strike two. Finally, Emmels rung up Michaels on a close one.
Michaels spun toward Emmel and shouted something that drew an immediate ejection, then fired his batting helmet into the grass. Those two and Russell talked for nearly the entire inning break, albeit with cooler tones.
"Unbelievable," Michaels said.
Michaels plans to appeal any fine he receives for the ejection.
Jason Davis will come out of the bullpen for a spot start this afternoon as the Pirates go for their first three-game winning streak since winning four in a row July 21-24.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .