Paulino subs in to sink Cards
Catcher drives in two runs off bench as Bucs win in extras
ST. LOUIS -- After connecting for just two hits in his past 23 at-bats, Ronny Paulino needed something positive to build from at the plate. But before that could happen, Paulino, who has been relegated to backing up Ryan Doumit as the team's backstop, needed the opportunity to just get an at-bat.
Paulino got both on Tuesday night and came up with the game-winning RBI single in the 10th inning of an eventual 8-4 Pirates win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. All of it, however, came under the worst of circumstances.
Paulino was thrust into the cleanup spot after Doumit went down with a fractured left thumb after one inning. The injury has Doumit out indefinitely, though Paulino dampened the loss, at least for one night, with two run-scoring hits that secured the Pirates' seventh win in their past eight games.
"He's taken advantage of his opportunities when he's gotten to play," manager John Russell said of Paulino. "I think as a tribute to him, he's been working out and even without getting a lot of playing time. He's been ready. He came up big for us tonight, so that's nice to see."
Shortly after Freddy Sanchez led off the 10th with his second hit of the game, Paulino drove him in with his second RBI base hit of the night. Adam LaRoche would cap the extra frame with a bases-clearing double to seal the win, which came as the Pirates began a stretch of 22 straight games against division opponents.
Those hits may have won it, but credit a gutsy pitching performance by Marino Salas for giving the Pirates' offense another crack at the Cardinals' bullpen.
"It was kind of a welcome to the big leagues," was how Russell summed up Salas' outing.
Salas, who had joined the team at noon on Tuesday after earning his first big league callup, was called upon to keep the Cardinals at bay in a 4-4 game in the bottom of the ninth. With Russell having extended Franquelis Osoria four innings on Monday and having used Tyler Yates, Damaso Marte and John Grabow earlier in the game, he was left little choice but to call on the 26-year-old Salas.
Battling nerves, Salas gave up a leadoff walk before trading a base for an out on a sacrifice bunt. Russell opted to intentionally walk outfielder Skip Schumaker, even though it ensured a plate appearance by Albert Pujols, assuming the Cardinals didn't hit into a double play.
Pujols did indeed come to the plate after Salas got a strikeout, but even with a base open, Russell gave his inexperienced righty the green light to pitch to the St. Louis first baseman.
"I wanted to give him every opportunity to make his pitches," Russell said. "I just didn't think it was a good idea to do that. It worked out."
Pujols eventually drew a walk. But Salas induced a two-out, bases-loaded flyout from Ryan Ludwick to keep St. Louis from posting the walk-off win.
"Easy?" Salas quipped. "Yeah."
"I like that situation," he added. "I want to go."
With the Pirates scoring in the following inning, Salas was credited with his first Major League win.
Though the pace of Tuesday's game slowed considerably in the final few frames, starter Phil Dumatrait was a model of efficiency early as he easily tamed what has been one of the National League's best offenses this year.
In what was his third start since moving into the rotation, Dumatrait needed just 55 pitches on his way to allowing just three baserunners. However, a mistake in a 33-pitch sixth that Troy Glaus put in the seats for a three-run homer marred the outing.
"Outside of that one pitch, I felt like I really kept them off-balance out there," said Dumatrait. "I looked at some tape after my last outing, and I saw I was getting tired and leaving some pitches up in the fourth and fifth. Tonight, I made one mistake, but I still felt strong. I never tired.
Dumatrait's night would end after that inning, but the encouraging performance by the reinvented lefty solidified his ownership of the fifth spot in the rotation.
"He's a left-hander as I see as a very important part of our rotation now," Russell said. "If he can be that consistent down in the zone, he's got a lot of weapons."
RBI singles by Jose Bautista and Paulino in the seventh put the Pirates back on top in the following inning before Russell turned the ball over to his bullpen. Grabow, however, stumbled in the eighth.
Pujols, who came in 2-for-6 against Grabow, took advantage of the favorable lefty-righty matchup by launching a game-tying homer.
"He's been the go-to guy all year, and he's been very effective against right-handers," Russell said in defending his decision to matchup Grabow against Pujols. "He is a guy we go to in that situation a lot. He's been phenomenal at it."
Yates did his job, preserving the tie by stranding the potential go-ahead run for the Cardinals at third by inducing a groundout to first.
Also lost by the end of this one was a two-run homer by center fielder Nate McLouth back in the fourth. The homer came amid a 1-for-16 slump and pushed McLouth's season total to 10.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.