05/29/2004 1:05 AM ET
Bucs rally again, sweep Cubs
Mackowiak homer in ninth caps 'amazing' day
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Legendary announcer Jack Buck once said, "I don't believe what I just saw," after watching Kirk Gibson limp off the Los Angeles Dodgers bench to hit a game-winning, pinch-hit home run against Oakland A's closer Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. Friday night at PNC Park, 24,657 understood exactly how Mr. Buck must have felt that night.
|Craig Wilson (center) celebrates with Jack Wilson (right) and coach Alvaro Espinoza (left) after hitting the game-winning home run. (Keith Srakocic/AP)
The Pirates' doubleheader sweep of the visiting Cubs was as improbable as it was exciting. After not winning any games all season in which they trailed after eighth innings, the Bucs rallied from ninth-inning deficits in both games of the twin bill, punctuated by walk-off home runs by Rob Mackowiak in the first game and Craig Wilson in the nightcap.
The unchallenged star of the night was Mackowiak. Just hours after his wife, Jennifer, gave birth to the couple's first child, Mackowiak capped the Bucs' five-run rally in the ninth of the first game with a two-out, grand slam against Cubs closer Joe Borowksi for a 9-5 Pittsburgh win.
Mackowiak did not start in the nightcap, but he once again played the hero's role in the ninth with a game-tying, two-run home run off of LaTroy Hawkins. Wilson gave the Pirates a 5-4 win and a doubleheader sweep with a solo shot in the 10th against Francis Beltran.
"Obviously, having a first child, you're pretty pumped about that," said Mackowiak. "The way the rest of the day happened is amazing. There are no words I could say to explain the feeling I have right now.
"It probably doesn't happen too often where you can hit a home run to win a game and to tie a game against pitchers like the Cubs have. It's not unheard of, but I'll probably never do it again. It was my lucky day, I guess."
Wilson was more than happy to play second fiddle to Mackowiak, one of his closest friends on the team.
"I'm just glad Bob got ahold of his and gave us the opportunity in both games," said Wilson.
Wilson called it the most thrilling night he's had in the big leagues.
"It is probably the most exciting," said Wilson. "A good friend has a kid, goes deep twice in the ninth, we had two walk-off home runs and we won two games. It was a pretty good night."
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon agreed.
"This is certainly one of the best days from a lot of different standpoints," said McClendon. "To have two emotional wins like we did today was just outstanding, not only for the guys in this locker room but certainly for this franchise and our fans. It was nice to do it in front of a big crowd."
The pair of walk-off home runs by the Pirates marked the first time any team had accomplished the feat since J.C. Martin and Ken Berry hit game-winners on the same day for the Chicago White Sox against the Cleveland Indians in 1967.
"That was unbelievable. That breaks your heart," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Especially both ends of a doubleheader -- the same guy ends it and ties it up. I guess it was just his day. That was unbelievable."
The doubleheader sweep was the first for the Pirates against the Cubs since May 8, 1994. The two wins also evened Pittsburgh's record at 22-22, marking the first time they have reached the .500 mark since May 4.
"I like this team a lot. I like what they're doing right now, I like the way they're playing baseball," said McClendon. "I've got guys who are grinders. They've got a lot of heart and a lot of spirit and hope.
"To get back to .500 is certainly nice. These guys have been grinding it out all year, and they've come close a couple of times. I told them, 'Once you get to .500 you can take off from there. But it's important to get there first.'"
Exhausted after the most memorable day of his career, Mackowiak was looking forward to spending a relaxing night with his wife and son, Garrett Matthew.
"I'm tired. It will be nice to go home," said Mackowiak. "I don't know how comfortable the hospital pullout couch is going to be. I'm sure I'll sleep pretty good, though."
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.