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LAD@PIT: Walker's double breaks the tie in the eighth

PITTSBURGH -- Everyone in the Pirates' clubhouse said what they were supposed to, lauding Jose Tabata for an eighth-inning catch that very much turned into a game-changer at PNC Park on Monday night.

But the winks, the grins, the inflection of the players' voices gave it all away. They all knew there had been no catch. And they didn't care.

That so-called catch loomed large in the outcome, as the Pirates followed it with an offensive burst in the bottom half of the eighth to break open a tie game against the Dodgers, lifting the team to a 4-1 win in front of 11,373 fans at PNC Park. The victory gave the Pirates their first three-game winning streak of the season and bumped the team's record to 18-17.

It was fitting, too, that Neil Walker -- the hometown kid who has endured every losing season with the Pittsburgh fans -- keyed the rally that put the Pirates above .500 this late into the season for the first time since May 29, 2004. On that date, Walker was a senior in high school, days away from being made the organization's first-round Draft pick.

"We're playing good baseball," said Walker, whose eighth-inning double drove in the go-ahead run. "This is fun. And it's not just one or two guys offensively getting it done. It's not just one or two guys going out there and throwing shutouts. This is a total team effort."

Just minutes before Walker's big hit, a relatively uneventful game turned animated when the Pirates were aided tremendously from a call by third-base umpire Mike DiMuro. One day after Andrew McCutchen's catch was called a trap, Tabata's trap was ruled a catch.

Though replays showed Juan Uribe's line drive to left bouncing into Tabata's glove, DiMuro ruled Uribe out. Tabata then threw to Walker, whose relay to first completed the double play -- the second DP started by a Pirates outfielder in the game.

"At the moment, I thought I caught it," Tabata said, unconvincingly. "You see how it changed the game."

Walker smiled when asked the same question: "It was a great catch. Great catch by Jose."

"We had one the other day where we didn't think it was a trap and they called it a trap," starter Jeff Karstens said. "Sometimes those things take care of themselves. I would imagine it went our way this time."

The ruling certainly ruffled the Dodgers. Uribe had to be restrained by teammates as he went at DiMuro before the Pirates came to bat. He was ejected, as was Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who had two lengthy arguments with DiMuro.

"First and third, nobody out, tie game -- it changes things, that's for sure," said Mattingly, ejected for the first time as a skipper. "You feel like you're going to score a run there. The momentum was on our side of the field. It changes the game right there."

Crew chief Tim Welke had used instant replay to confirm Garrett Jones' double in the first inning. But baseball hasn't instituted wide-spread replay, meaning the only video Welke could examine in this instance was postgame in the umpires' locker room.

"It was a very difficult call," said Welke, who added that none of the umpires had a good enough view of the catch to overrule DiMuro. "It looked like it ended up being a trap into a light glove, a tough play. Close play."

The Pirates snatched up the momentum provided by DiMuro and parlayed that into a big offensive inning. Walker stepped to the plate after Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley walked Jones, who had driven in the Pirates' only run up to that point.

Manager Clint Hurdle inserted Xavier Paul to pinch-run and signaled for a hit-and-run on Billingsley's second pitch to Walker. Forced to swing at a pitch that Walker said afterward he never would have swung at, he lined an RBI double down the right-field line.

"Sometimes," Walker said, "it's better to be lucky than good."

Billingsley was done after that pitch. The Pirates' offense was not. Lyle Overbay and Ryan Doumit followed with their own RBI doubles off Hong-Chih Kuo to right to push the Pirates' lead to three. It was the second time in as many games that the Bucs had scored three runs to take an eighth-inning lead.

"It's a game of adrenaline, it's a game of momentum," Hurdle said. "Obviously, that [call] was a momentum shift for us, I felt, and it picked our guys up a little bit."

Joel Hanrahan -- with the aid of two strong defensive plays from third baseman Pedro Alvarez -- closed the door in the ninth. The save was Hanrahan's 11th in as many opportunities this year.

Pittsburgh's three-run eighth handed a win to Jose Veras, who pitched the scoreless eighth. He and three other relievers covered the final 3 1/3 innings after Karstens tossed the first 5 2/3.

Karstens grinded through a 28-pitch first, but he limited the damage to one run on three hits. That's as much damage as the Dodgers could do all night. Add in Karstens' performance, and the Pirates' rotation has allowed only five earned runs in its last turn through the rotation (32 1/3 innings).

"Just knowing that I didn't have my best stuff early in my game, I fought through a lot of pitches," Karstens said. "I knew my job was to try and get as deep as I could. I knew we would fight back."

Michael Crotta got Karstens out of trouble to end the sixth, and Joe Beimel escaped a jam in the seventh. That inning ended as McCutchen, who had already turned one terrific catch into a double play, made a grab in deep center on a ball off Andre Ethier's bat.

The loss was the fifth in six games for the Dodgers. The Pirates, on the other hand, have won six of their past eight. Comments