For two decades, Arthur Rhodes has turned fellow lefties’ legs to jelly at the plate. And Garrett Jones, batting all of .160 against left-handed pitching this season and having gone hitless in nine career at-bats against Rhodes, looked like his next victim.
But the “Colossus” left a pitch over the heart of the plate in the bottom of the eleventh inning, and Jones hit a colossal, walk-off home run.
Jones bashed Rhodes’ breaking ball into the Allegheny River on a bounce, giving the Pirates a 5-4 win over the Cardinals at PNC Park Tuesday night. Pittsburgh has now won back-to-back games for the first time since July 24-25 and clinched its first series win since taking two of three from the Reds from July 18-20.
“Arthur Rhodes, he’s tough,” Jones said. “I’ve always had trouble facing him. I just got a pitch up. It was a hanging curveball, and I was able to get the good part of the bat on it.”
“A lot of drama,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Dripping with drama, dripping with baseball….a big win for our club.”
The Pirates (58-63) led 3-1 after Andrew McCutchen belted a Chris Carpenter curveball to the base of the left field rotunda for a three-run shot in the third inning. But Carpenter clamped down, finishing with 10 strikeouts and just one walked issued in seven innings pitched.
St. Louis (65-58) tied the game at three apiece in the sixth, as Albert Pujols smacked a Jeff Karstens fastball off the outside corner over the Clemente Wall for a solo shot and David Freese hit an RBI double to score Lance Berkman. In the ninth, the Cardinals took the lead after Jon Jay hit a line-hugging double to left field off Joel Hanrahan and later came around to score on a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly.
Neil Walker evened the score in the bottom half of the frame, sending a first-pitch fastball from Cardinals closer Fernando Salas just over the right-center field wall for his first home run in a month.
“He’s getting better pitches to hit, and he’s not chasing as much,” Hurdle said. “He’s getting better reads, and therefore better swings.”
McCutchen misplayed a Holliday line drive that contributed to a St. Louis run in the second inning, breaking in on the ball as it zipped over his head, but he made up for the miscue by saving the game in the top of the eleventh.
Pujols, whom the Pirates intentionally walked in both the seventh and ninth innings, singed a high fastball from Chris Resop that looked destined to land in the North Side Notch in left-center field and score Rafael Furcal from first base. McCutchen, shaded toward right-center, motored over, made a gliding catch to end the inning and flashed a big grin.
“I had to run a little more after he hit it,” McCutchen said. “I was just caught in the moment. We were playing hard, and it felt real good to be able to have another opportunity to win the game.”
Does that grab rank near the top of McCutchen’s ever-expanding defensive highlight reel?
“Nah man, I didn’t even have to dive for that,” McCutchen said. “It was a good catch, but that’s not gonna be a top 10 play because I’m not diving and getting dirty on the warning track.”
That’s because McCutchen has the range to make impossible plays look routine, Hurdle said.
“There’s not many guys in the game who are gonna catch that ball,” Hurdle said. “That might be as much distance as I’ve seen him close from when the ball is off the bat to where I see him. For him to close like that…you can’t teach that.”
“That guy can fly,” Karstens said. “You don’t call him the best center fielder in baseball for no reason.”
TABATA ACTIVATED, ALVAREZ OPTIONED
The Pirates activated outfielder Jose Tabata from the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday night’s game. Tabata, sidelined since June 26 with a left quadriceps injury suffered while running out an infield single against the Red Sox at PNC Park, led off and started in left field on Tuesday.
To make room for Tabata on the active roster, third baseman Pedro Alvarez was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Alvarez has a .548 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 213 major league plate appearances in 2011, serving a DL stint for a right quadriceps injury in late May and then remaining in the minors before Pittsburgh recalled him in late July.
With Indianapolis, Alvarez has a 1.048 OPS in 76 plate appearances.
RHP Kyle Lohse (10-7, 3.37 ERA) opposes LHP Paul Maholm (6-13, 3.60 ERA).