Pirates 4, Dodgers 1
PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
Neil Walker, Lyle Overbay and Ryan Doumit ripped three run-scoring doubles in a row in the eighth inning Monday night, propelling the Pirates to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park. With the win, the Bucs — holders of the longest consecutive losing season streak in the history of North America’s four major professional sports — improved to 18-17 in 2011 and pulled within two games of the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central standings.
“Timely hitting again,” Walker said. “And fortunately it wasn’t just one run going into the ninth. Lyle had a great at-bat, and Dewey had a great at-bat to give us a little cushion.”
The Pirates played the Dodgers to a 1-1 draw entering the eighth frame, as Juan Uribe singled off starter Jeff Karstens to plate a run in the first and Garrett Jones answered in the third with an up-the-middle single that brought home Ronny Cedeno.
Jones worked a walk off Dodgers (16-20) starter Chad Billingsley to start the eighth and was replaced by pinch-runner Xavier Paul. Billingsley then tried to bust Walker with a cutter in on the hands. With Paul taking off from first, Walker hacked at the pitch and hit a line drive down the first base line, just out of the reach of a sprawling James Loney. Paul, recently claimed off waivers from the Dodgers, came around to score the go-ahead run against his former club.
“I don’t think I hit that pitch if it’s not a hit-and-run,” Walker said. “That ball was off the nob a little bit and I’m just trying to put it in play. Billingsley beat a lot of us left-handers in today and he had pretty good stuff and pretty good control. But sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good,” Walker said with a grin.
Hong-Chih Kuo came on for L.A. to face Overbay, who promptly got ahead 2-0 in the count and popped a double off the right-field wall to score Walker. Doumit followed with a run-scoring double of his own off Kuo, taking a 3-1 fastball the opposite way to right field to put the Pirates up 4-1.
Pittsburgh’s big bottom of the eighth inning was preceded by a controversial double play call and a double-ejection in the top of the frame. Jose Veras plunked L.A.’s Matt Kemp with a 3-2 pitch to start the inning. Uribe then lined a fastball to left field that looked like trouble for the Pirates.
Jose Tabata broke toward the foul line, slid and made what was ruled a catch. Tabata sprang up and fired to Walker, who threw to Overbay at first base to double off Kemp.
Replay, however, suggested that the ball hit the grass before it reached Tabata’s glove. Despite Dodgers manager Don Mattingly’s pleas to third base umpire mike DiMuro, the ruling stood. Veras then got Loney to ground out to end the inning.
Prior to the bottom of the eighth, Uribe got into a heated argument with DiMuro and was tossed from the game. Mattingly came back out and get the heave-ho, too.
“I haven’t seen a replay,” Hurdle said of Tabata’s disputed catch. “I thought a ball was caught, you know, and you just play the game, and you get breaks and you don’t get breaks. You just have to play through them the best you can.”
“You hear the announcers talk about momentum changing uniforms all the time, and obviously that was a momentum shift, I felt, for us, and I think it picked our guys up a bit,” Hurdle said.
“Hey, the umpire said, ‘you caught it,'” Tabata said as Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” — which topped the charts the year he was born — blared in the background of the clubhouse. “I’m looking for the double play now.”
Closer Joel Hanrahan made things interesting in the ninth, allowing a one out single to Rod Barajas and then getting charged with an error in the next at-bat. Pinch-hitter Jay Gibbons grounded to Walker at second, and Hanrahan broke to cover the first base bag. Walker’s throw bounced out of Hanrahan’s glove, however, bringing the tying run to the plate in Jamey Carroll.
Hanrahan recovered with help from his defense. Carroll grounded into a fielder’s choice on a sharply hit ball to third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez then showed that he’s over the right quad injury that kept him in the dugout by making a diving, back-handed stop and gunning out Aaron Miles at first to end the game.
Mike Crotta, Joe Beimel, Veras and Hanrahan combined to pitch 3.1 innings of scoreless relief after Karstens exited the game. Karstens threw 61 of his 90 pitches (67.8 percent) for strikes, including 43 of his 51 fastballs (84.3 percent). He surrendered seven hits in 5.2 innings, striking out two batters and walking just one.
“In the first inning they scratched a run off him,” Hurdle said. “After that, he made pitches, he kept the ball out of the middle of the plate, he changed speeds and he controlled bat speed. He got us deep enough into the game where we could continue to make moves and match up and go forward from there.”
“I didn’t have my best stuff early in the game,” Karstens said. “I think my job was to try and get as deep in the game as I could. I knew we’d fight back, and I can’t say enough about what our offense did, and our bullpen again.”
“We’re playing good baseball,” Walker said. “This is fun. It’s not just one or two guys offensively getting it done, and it’s not just one or two guys going out there throwing shutouts. It’s a total team effort.”
ALVAREZ RETURNS TO THE LINEUP, SHINES IN FIELD
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez returned to the Pirates’ lineup Monday night after a lengthy absence due to a lingering right quadriceps injury. Alvarez was lifted in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the San Diego Padres and missed the club’s next four games with the ailment. Batting seventh against the Dodgers on Monday, Alvarez went 0-for-3 with a walk. He looked healed in the field, however.
“I think the questions as to his health can be put aside,” Hurdle said. “You saw the lateral range both to his left and to his right. Three major league plays tonight at third base, in the seventh inning and back-to-back plays in the ninth inning, as good as you’ll want to see and strong throws on all three of them.”
McCUTCHEN SHOWS OFF VARIETY OF TOOLS
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen’s wheels and arm were on display in the top of the third inning on an 8-4-3 double play. With two outs and a runner on first base, L.A.’s Matt Kemp drove a middle-of-the-plate fastball from Karstens to deep right-center. McCutchen ranged over and made a leaping catch at the wall, banging into the Heinz Ketchup bottle. He then made a perfect throw to cutoff man Neil Walker, who tossed to Overbay at first base in time to get a retreating Aaron Miles.
“Any time the ball’s hit in any of the gaps, I assume that Andrew’s going to catch it,” Walker said. “When he [Kemp] hit it, I thought it had a chance to at least get off the wall or possibly out. [McCutchen] made a great play and fortunately, he didn’t get too excited and throw it all the way to first base.”
SPARSE CROWD SEES PIRATES CAPTURE WINNING RECORD
The paid attendance for Monday night’s game at PNC Park was 11,373. When Hurdle was asked whether it would take more than breaking even to draw bigger crowds, he said, “You answered your own question. I don’t like to talk about attendance. We need to continue to play good baseball and win baseball games.”
Kevin Correia will look to take a share of the MLB lead with his sixth victory on the season, opposing Dodgers lefty Ted Lilly Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m.