The legend of mighty Garrett Jones, the Pirates' 28-year-old natural, is growing by leaps and bounds.
He opened last night with a home run in the first inning off Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, then finished it off in the 14th with a walkoff blast off Bobby Howry to account for all of the Pirates' offense in a 2-1 triumph against the San Francisco Giants before 26,709 at PNC Park.
"I didn't plan on having one guy carry us all night, but I'll take it," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "What that kid is doing right now is mind-blowing."
There is more...
Jones has homered in seven of his first 12 games since being promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis.
And in four consecutive games.
And he is the first player in franchise history with so many home runs in his first dozen games since Dino Restelli, who had seven in his first 10 in 1949.
And the last of his blasts last night bounced into the Allegheny River, making him the 27th to achieve that and one of just eight to do so over the seats in right-center, as opposed to pulling it the shorter distance down the right-field line.
And ... well, suffice it to say that even the ultra-soft-spoken, humble Jones conceded to knowing it was gone right off the bat.
• Game: Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.29) vs. LHP Barry Zito (5-9, 5.01).
• Key matchup: Which Zito will show? In his past two starts, he has blanked the Florida Marlins over 8 1/3 innings, then gave up nine runs over 4 1/3 innings to the San Diego Padres.
• Of note: The Pirates' 42 home games after the break are the most in Major League Baseball.
"Yeah," he acknowledged with a grin. "That one felt pretty good. But honestly, it felt best because we got a win, how everyone contributed."
That was mostly what Jones wanted to discuss, and he had cause: For one, the lone personal negative during his dramatic debut has been that the Pirates had been 2-9. For another, his point about the contributions being evenly spread was more valid than the box score might show.
Paul Maholm, with his top performance of 2009, matched Lincecum pitch for pitch in limiting San Francisco to one unearned run over eight innings, striking out seven and retiring 13 in a row. Lincecum allowed only Jones' home run over seven innings and struck out a typical 10.
"For me, this was a good opportunity to get back on track against a great pitcher," Maholm said.
The bullpen was untouched, with John Grabow, a recovered Matt Capps, Jeff Karstens, Joel Hanrahan, Chavez and Evan Meek, with his first career victory, putting up zeroes.
"They're why we won," manager John Russell said.
"We just kept fighting, but our defense was great, too," Hanrahan, formerly of the Washington Nationals, said. "I know now why people talk about the defense that's here. These guys make all the plays."
No one shone more brightly in that regard than LaRoche, who was 0 for 5 at the plate to extend a 2-for-35 nosedive but evidently has not lugged that into the field: His diving stop of a wide throw by Freddy Sanchez on a double-play try in the 13th saved a run. In the 14th, he made a whirling tag to narrowly finish an inning-ending double play.
Still, Jones dominated the accolades.
Russell had spoken beforehand about Jones defying "the critics" who point to his spending an entire decade in the minors, half of that stuck in Class AAA, and Russell reiterated the thought afterward.
"There are always going to be skeptics who say he can't keep it up, but we like what we see," Russell said. "He's a solid hitter, and he doesn't get away from himself. He sees the ball and has tremendous power. If people want to say he's going to end up failing, that's up to them."
In the first inning, Jones worked Lincecum to a 3-1 count, then lasered a fastball at his knees on a minimal-arc line to barely clear the fence in center.
"He's obviously got a hell of a swing," Lincecum said. "He's a big guy, and he's got some power."
"I was waiting for my pitch," Jones said. "I didn't feel like I got a lot of other good swings off him, but that one was. Tim Lincecum is a great pitcher."
Maholm made the 1-0 lead count until the seventh, when Sanchez muffed catcher Ryan Doumit's throw after a runner tried to advance from first on a wild pitch, allowing Randy Winn to score from third. It was Sanchez's second error all season.
The Pirates did not muster another hit until Jones led off the 14th, took Howry's crisp fastball for a called strike, then crushed a slider -- again, at the knees -- deep into the night.
Afterward, his teammates stormed him at home plate, and the bright lights again illuminated his stall for a wave of interviews.
Still keeping a level head?
"Oh, yeah," Jones said. "I just hope we get on a roll winning, keep having good at-bats. That's the approach I'm going to take. Those homers don't mean much when you're not winning."
This victory, which ended a four-game losing streak, was the Pirates' second-longest game of the season, behind a 15-inning, 7-6 loss June 8 in Atlanta. But this was longer in another way: The first pitch was delayed 45 minutes by rain, and Jones' home run came at 11:29 p.m.