PITTSBURGH -- The Rockies had every reason not to throw a strike to Jose Tabata. And it had little to do with the fact that the Pirates outfielder had already drilled his first homer of the season hours earlier.
Fourteen innings, five hours and 11 minutes into a Friday night game that started in front of a PNC Park crowd of 29,192, the Pirates' bench was bare. So, too, was the bullpen, which was short one man because of Evan Meek's sore shoulder.
Intentionally walking Tabata would have brought the pitcher's spot to the plate with two out, and manager Clint Hurdle would have had no choice but to send up Garrett Olson, who had just finished his second inning of work.
To Olson's relief, it never got that far. Instead, the Rockies took their chances against Tabata and were left in a position to be second-guessed when Tabata drilled a high fastball off the right-field wall to give the Pirates a stirring 4-3 walk-off win for their first home victory of the season.
As reliever Chris Resop so aptly said afterward, "Everything fell in place tonight. It was our night."
That doesn't even begin to describe the drama that unfolded.
Tabata's walk-off double gave Pittsburgh its first run in eight innings and sealed a methodical comeback that saw the Pirates erase an early three-run deficit. Josh Rodriguez, who had entered the game as part of a double switch in the 10th, came around from first to score on the hit off reliever Franklin Morales.
"I'm looking for one pitch," Tabata said. "I'm thinking if he throws a fastball, I'll [take] a good swing. When he threw the pitch, I swung the bat. I stayed with my approach, middle-away, and [you] see what happened."
Asked his reasoning for pitching to Tabata, Rockies manager Jim Tracy said, "To walk him into scoring position -- you know something, I know they have somebody over there that maybe takes a swing and [does] not have to hit the ball very far at all to end up winning the game that way, also."
Whether or not he was fooled by Andrew McCutchen standing in the on-deck circle during Tabata's at-bat is something no one in the Pirates' locker room could know for sure. But be sure that some thought that might have been the case.
Was McCutchen a decoy, sent out in hopes that the Rockies would forget who was actually up next?
"We put [McCutchen] up there just to help with a play at the plate," Hurdle said, brushing off the notion that there was more strategy than that.
While Tabata's hit set off an on-field celebration, it specifically ensured that a terrific night by the club's bullpen would be rewarded. Called on in the third inning because of an injury to starter Ross Ohlendorf, the bullpen strung together 11 1/3 scoreless innings.
"I don't even think words can describe what we did tonight," said Jeff Karstens, who started the bullpen's work with his 3 1/3-inning appearance. "Just guy after guy came out; the situation didn't matter, they just kept pitching. We were able to get out of it."
"My goodness," added Hurdle. "That's a good hitting team over there. Our guys stepped it up tonight, every single one."
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 11 1/3 scoreless innings was the longest by any Pirates team since the start of the 20th century.
"Give credit to the other side of the field," Tracy said. "They kept competing, and they kept doing the things they had to do to give themselves another opportunity and another at-bat with the game tied."
It wasn't as easy as the string of zeroes might appear. Karstens, Mike Crotta, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan worked innings four through nine fairly cleanly, allowing only two baserunners to reach scoring position.
The most impressive relief work, though, came once the free baseball began. Resop entered in the 10th and got into immediate trouble. A double and wild pitch had Jonathan Herrera standing at third with no outs.
A leaping grab on a line drive by Ronny Cedeno recorded out No. 1. A key strikeout followed after a walk. Another walk loaded the bases for Ty Wigginton, who turned on a pitch and lasered it down the third-base line. Pedro Alvarez dove to his right, gloved the ball and throwing from one knee got Wigginton at first to keep the game tied.
"Beautiful," Hurdle said of the play.
"If I can't produce at the plate, I want to at least be able to save some runs," Alvarez said. "That's what happened today."
The Rockies ran themselves out of a rally in the 11th, and Resop proceeded to pitch a perfect 12th to cap his three-inning outing. It marked the first time this season, including Spring Training, that the right-hander had pitched on back-to-back days.
"Believe it or not, I actually felt all right," Resop said. "I felt OK. I really did."
Next in was Olson, who worked out of a bases-loaded jam of his own in the 14th, his second inning of work. In all, six Pirates relievers stranded 12 Rockies runners.
"The bullpen, as a whole, should just feel awesome about tonight," said Meek, who was not available due to some shoulder tightness. He tried, though, admitting he offered to start warming up once starter Kevin Correia became the team's next option.
Ohlendorf's early exit added to the work asked of the bullpen in what was the club's eighth game in eight days to start the season. Ohlendorf, who gave up an early three-run blast to Jason Giambi, said he felt his right shoulder tighten on a pitch in the third. He threw a few more before motioning to the Pirates' dugout.
"I felt like I needed to come out," said Ohlendorf, who had a similar shoulder injury last season that cost him more than a month.
The steady relief work allowed the Pirates to scratch their way back into the game against Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa. The club used an RBI groundout by Matt Diaz, a solo homer from Tabata and a two-out RBI single by Jason Jaramillo to even the game by the end of the sixth.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.