WASHINGTON -- The music was quiet. The discussions were hushed. And, at his locker, Jason Grilli stared ahead, not even flinching as passing teammates patted him on the back.
The Pirates beat the Washington Nationals, 6-5, but this was a team that was just dealt a crushing loss.
Grilli left the game with two outs in the ninth inning, escorted off the field by head trainer Todd Tomczyk as his right arm hung limp. The National League saves leader and first-time All-Star left the game with what the team has initially described as right forearm discomfort.
"A definite blow," catcher Russell Martin said. "Hopefully, it's not as severe as it can be."
Grilli will be further evaluated today, and often right forearm discomfort is just that.
Pirates (Cole 4-3) vs. Nationals (Jordan 0-2), 7:05 p.m.
Nationals Park, Washington.
But it often is indicative of something far more severe -- season-ending and career-threatening elbow injuries.
His demeanor on the mound and at his locker demonstrates how serious such injuries can turn out to be.
"I know he's been through a lot in his career," said fellow reliever Mark Melancon.
"Hopefully, [it] is nothing."
Grilli, 36, underwent Tommy John surgery after the 2002 season and suffered a catastrophic quad injury above his right knee in 2010 -- an injury that nearly ended his career.
He became a feel-good story after the Pirates signed him off the Philadelphia Phillies minor league roster in 2011 and watched him turn into one of the league's most dominant relievers.
Grilli usually brings smiles to his teammates -- helping to install an aquarium in the Pirates home clubhouse, carrying a karaoke machine on road trips and bringing a Chewbacca costume to a few games.
But nothing could console him Monday night, not even a can of Bud Light somebody placed on top of his stall after his roughest game of the season.
He slumped in his chair with his right arm wrapped in a large bandage. He unbuttoned his jersey but never took it all the way off as it drooped off his right arm.
"I'm just praying that he's all right," Andrew McCutchen said, his locker next to Grilli's.
The Pirates led by three runs when Grilli entered the game in the ninth, aiming to pick up his 31st save this season.
He allowed a leadoff walk before Jayson Werth crushed his second home run of the game.
With two outs and a runner on second, Grilli fired a fastball to Steve Lombardozzi that turned out to be his last pitch of the game. He winced as he called trainers out to the mound.
Vin Mazzaro recorded the final out and picked up his first career save, salvaging a game in which McCutchen hit a pair of two-run homers and Charlie Morton earned his second win this season.
McCutchen belted both homers off Nationals starter Dan Haren, who has allowed a National League-high 21 home runs this season. Haren allowed five earned runs on five hits in five innings, walking one and striking out six.
Morton allowed three earned runs on six hits over 62/3 innings to pick up his second win this year. At times, it looked like his best outing of the year.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle tried to remain as positive as possible after the game, less than 30 minutes after watching his All-Star closer walk off the field.
When asked to describe his emotions, Hurdle replied, "I'm happy we won a game."
"We'll wait and see where Grilli's situation goes," he said.
Should Grilli miss time, however brief or long that might be, Melancon will step in as the closer. Hurdle said the Pirates acquired Melancon, who was also named an All-Star this year, this offseason with the belief that he would one day return to that position.
But Melancon's thoughts were with his close bullpen friend.
"It's just hard to see him get taken out of a ballgame," he said.mobilehome - breaking - pirates
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published July 23, 2013 1:45 AM