Pirates' three runs in 10th lead to victory over Nationals
Adam LaRoche watches his two-run go-ahead double against the Washington Nationals during the 10th inning of last night's game in Washington.
Starter Jeff Karstens delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of last night's game.
Nyjer Morgan smiles in the dugout after leading off the baseball game against the Washington Nationals with a double last night in Washington. Morgan scored later in the inning.
Washington Nationals' Willie Harris, right, steals second base as shortstop Jack Wilson awaits the throw during the second inning of last night's game in Washington.
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WASHINGTON -- This was winning the hard way.
The Pirates frittered away a five-run lead.
They went 20 batters without a hit.
They rested the overworked stars of their bullpen, using set-up men Evan Meek and Sean Burnett until the score was tied in the ninth inning with two out and two Washington Nationals aboard.
So what happened on the path to an 8-5 triumph in the 10th inning against the worst bullpen to date in major league history?
Well, the Pirates got Tom Gorzelanny to earn his first victory in relief since 2001 at Kansas University, and they got four runs from the Brothers LaRoche, who hardly ever have hot periods, let alone hot nights, at the same time.
"It's great," said Andy LaRoche, whose third-inning, two-run homer gave the Pirates that 5-0 lead a couple of hours before big brother Adam clunked a two-run double to jump-start a three-run 10th. "A win is a win, no matter how bad it is, how ugly it is."
• Game: Pirates vs. Washington Nationals, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (3-1, 3.51) vs. LHP John Lannan (2-3, 4.00).
• Key matchup: Maholm dominates Washington cleanup man Adam Dunn, who is 3 for 25 with 10 strikeouts against him. The three hits were singles.
• Of note: After making five errors in the first three games, the Pirates have made the second-fewest -- 12 -- in the National League since April 9. Only the Philadelphia Phillies have fewer in that span, with 10.
The Pirates' fourth consecutive victory -- their longest such streak in 99 games, since July 21-24 --came without a hit between the third and 10th innings, without a recuperating Ryan Doumit and without heavily worked relievers John Grabow and Matt Capps.
"We swung the bats well," manager John Russell said of the Pirates, who wasted none of their eight hits as they went 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
"We had to. It's tough to keep that team down."
The Nationals, despite a potent offense that started the night with the third-most runs scored in the National League, are relatively atrocious late in games. Even though they rallied with three in the sixth off starter Jeff Karstens and one in the ninth against Burnett on a wild pitch -- "something random you don't see very often," he explained. "It bounced [in front of catcher Jason Jaramillo and] into the stands" -- the Pirates' three-run 10th made sure the Nationals ended this night 0-20 when trailing after eight innings.
Washington, loser of six in a row and nine of its past 10, watched its woeful bullpen lose for a second consecutive night and fall to 1-14 for the season.
Ex-Pirates reliever Joe Beimel (0-3) was the fall guy last night, allowing the Nationals to reach extra innings with a solid ninth but then giving up a single to Ramon Vazquez, intentionally walking Freddy Sanchez, then yielding the two-run double to Adam LaRoche and a run-scoring single to Brandon Moss to lose yet again.
According to Stats, Inc., the Nationals' bullpen -- blowing saves in 13 of 19 opportunities thus far -- began the night as the worst in baseball's vast history with a 6.68 ERA.
Moss had three RBIs on two hits -- in the first on a two-run double, and in the 10th on a single scoring Adam LaRoche -- and "I didn't hit a single ball good. You're not going to complain very much, though," when it equals almost half his previous total of seven RBIs and extends his hitting surge to 14 for 25.
"Everybody's clicking at the same time right now," Moss added.
The Brothers LaRoche were. Andy hit his second homer of the seasonafter Moss failed to drive in Nate McLouth standing at third base.
Adam got his first hit in 15 plate appearances on a solidly struck ball that eluded Washington right fielder Adam Dunn in the corner for a double, scoring Vazquez and Sanchez.
Then came Gorzelanny, who had not won as a Pirates pitcher since starting and beating the New York Yankees June 24.
He reported from Class AAA Indianapolis Sunday to replace a disabled Tyler Yates with one thought: "Just want to do whatever they need me to do."
Last night, they needed him to get out Willie Harris, whom he struck out much the same as he did Dunn -- with two out, two on. Then, in the 10th, he set down the Nationals in order on 11 pitches.
The victory had meaning for him.
"Absolutely, absolutely," Gorzelanny said.
"I had a very tough year last year. [This] does help. Coming up and doing this is definitely a good stepping stone."
First Published May 20, 2009 12:17 am