Bucs ride rookie to win in slugfest
Eldred hits game-winner in ninth, goes 4-for-4 with three RBIs
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Brad Eldred took his lumps during his first two weeks in the big leagues.In the Bucs' 9-8 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, "Big Country" showed the 23,274 fans on hand at PNC Park why he is considered Pittsburgh's top power prospect since Aramis Ramirez. Eldred went 4-for-4 with three RBIs, including a RBI double with two outs in the ninth inning off Padres reliever Akinori Otsuka (2-3) to lift the Pirates to their second win in their last eight games. "I felt comfortable at the plate and I felt like I was taking good swings," said Eldred, who lifted his season average from .174 to .296. "Getting that first hit in my first at-bat really relaxes you a little bit sometimes. It was just nice, easy swings, really." Eldred had similar slumps upon being promoted to Double-A and Triple-A before rebounding to put up good power numbers. Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon hopes that Eldred's big night on Wednesday was a sign of good things to come. "Hopefully, he gets on one of those infamous tears that I've been hearing about," said McClendon. "It would be nice to see one of them." The game-winning hit was redemption for Eldred. He had struck out twice with the potential winning run in scoring position in the ninth inning since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on July 22. "I knew it was just a matter of time with me getting the opportunities," said Eldred. "Tonight, I had another opportunity to do it and I came through." Eldred was mobbed on the field by his teammates after delivering the clutch hit to the gap in right-center field. "That was unbelievable," said Eldred. "That's why you play the game to get that kind of hit in the bottom of the ninth and have your teammates come out there like that." It's safe to say that a slugfest was probably the last thing anyone on hand Wednesday night at PNC Park expected to see. However, in what was a seesaw affair, a Bucs team that ranks at or near the bottom of the National League in every significant offensive category managed to hold off a Padres team that went deep three times on Wednesday after not hitting a home run in the previous two weeks. Each of the three rookies who were in Pittsburgh's starting lineup made significant contributions at the plate. Center fielder Chris Duffy went 2-for-4 and scored a run, and catcher Ryan Doumit knocked in a pair of runs with an RBI single in the fifth inning. "That was big for us," said Jason Bay, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. "Obviously, right now it's more about learning and getting your feet wet. At the same time you still want to do well and prove that you belong. Success breeds confidence. The better you do the better you are going to feel. It's nice to see those guys do well. Bay also had a big night at the plate. The All-Star outfielder scored three runs, knocked in a pair, and hit his 21st home run of the season. Pirates starter Dave Williams came into the game in search of a team-leading ninth win, but he had trouble keeping the ball in the yard against San Diego. Padres catcher Miguel Olivo cut the Pittsburgh lead to 3-2 with a solo home run to begin the third. It was the first San Diego long ball since July 22, a 320 at-bat homerless stretch that was the longest in the big leagues this season. Williams blew a 5-2 lead when he served up a three-run home run to Eric Young in the fifth inning, one batter after committing an error that allowed Padres starter Chan Ho Park to reach base on a sacrifice bunt attempt. "Our offense gave me an opportunity to keep [the Padres] off the board when it was 5-2," said Williams. "I screwed up the bunt play and gave them the opportunity to jump back in the game. They were able to capitalize on it." Williams allowed five runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks in five innings. "[Williams' outing] wasn't very good," said McClendon. "Our starters have to do better than that. David never really found a rhythm." The Pirates answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame on Doumit's two-run single. "Doumit has been struggling and he got a big two-out, RBI base hit for us," said McClendon. "He got jammed on that pitch. But for him, that looks like a line drive in tomorrow's paper. "Any positive results are going to really help our young players." The Padres continued their long-ball barrage in the sixth inning when Khalil Greene smacked a two-run shot off Bucs reliever Brian Meadows. Young added an RBI single later in the frame to hand Pittsburgh its fifth blown save of the season, and first since June 15. Undaunted, the Pirates evened the score at 8 in the seventh inning on Eldred's RBI double down the left-field line. Pittsburgh closer Jose Mesa (2-6) tossed a scoreless ninth inning for the win. It was a rough night for players who were acquired just prior to the trading deadline. Park, who came over from the from the Texas Rangers on July 30 in exchange for Phil Nevin, was tagged for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings in his Padres debut. Pirates right fielder Jody Gerut, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 31, left the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with left knee irritation. His availability to play will be determined on a day-to-day basis. Gerut had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee last September.
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.