Pirates ride hot bats to win over Yanks
LaRoche, Doumit, Sanchez lead 19-hit attack with three apiece
PITTSBURGH -- As much as the Pirates wanted game No. 77 of the season to be like the 76 that came before it, there was no way it was going to be.
A sellout crowd of 38,867, the third-largest total in PNC Park's almost eight-year history, made sure of that. So did a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Pirates great Bill Mazeroski, a sight that electrified those already in the stadium. So did the presence of the Yankees, for it's not every year that the storied New York club comes to town.
In fact, it had been 48.
But on this Tuesday night, one that had been hyped for months, the Pirates responded with a statement of their own, masked in the form of a 12-5 win over the Yankees.
"We're not going to lay down for anybody," starter Tom Gorzelanny said.
"Nobody's intimidated," added first baseman Adam LaRoche.
It was as if the club stepped onto the field with a purpose. Pittsburgh was ready to make a statement.
The Pirates (37-40) came into the series having played the Yankees twice in Interleague Play. Not one of those games -- all at Yankee Stadium -- ended with a win. Pittsburgh had been outscored, 49-19, in those six contests. The Pirates had been the only team in the Majors to not beat the Yankees in a regular-season game.
But the setting was different this time. The daunting task of having to play inside the arches of Yankee Stadium was left out of the equation. And this year's club didn't buy into the hype of playing arguably baseball's most storied franchise.
And then there were the fans.
Jason Bay compared the atmosphere to that of the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
"It was a blast," Bay said. "That atmosphere, you feel it sometimes in other stadiums, but that was awesome."
Jose Bautista likened it to playing winter ball down in the Dominican Republic in the offseason.
"We try not to let a certain team or a certain game get us out of our routine," Bautista said. "But when you step out on the field and feel the energy, it's totally different."
The club responded with a performance that kept that crowd cheering until reliever Franquelis Osoria got Alex Rodriguez to ground out to end the game.
"It's nice to see everybody elevate their game, but that's how we need to play every single night," Doug Mientkiewicz said. "If you can't bring a little extra giddyup under those circumstances, you shouldn't be playing."
It didn't take long for the Bucs offense to let the Yankees (41-36) know that they were not here to be outshined.
After Nate McLouth led off the game with a double, Freddy Sanchez knocked him in with a single to left and stretched that into a double when left fielder Justin Christian fumbled the ball. A poor throw by Christian to second allowed Sanchez's gamble to pay off.
The Pirates second baseman, who would finish with his first three-hit game this month, would then score on a two-out single by LaRoche.
That aggressiveness set the tone. It also sent a message.
"It was big for us," Bay said of the two-run inning. "And it was big for [Gorzelanny]."
Staked to that 2-0 lead, Gorzelanny would labor through six innings that were at times painful to watch. They were even more distressing to endure.
"It's just brutal," he said afterward. "You can call it ugly. It was really ugly."
A line score of three runs on six hits and five walks may not even illustrate that enough. Gorzelanny would throw just 47 of his 99 pitches for strikes, enduring periods where his control was strikingly absent.
He walked an opposing pitcher, who had never had a Major League at-bat before Tuesday, twice. He'd throw 10 straight balls at one point, eliciting a hearty helping of boos from a notably intense crowd.
Yet somehow the damage never seriously mounted, in large part due to two critical double plays made behind him.
"It was definitely a lot of ugly situations, but I had to make the pitch when I could," said Gorzelanny, now 6-6. "Luckily, we got them to [hit a] ground ball."
While Gorzelanny played the role of Houdini, his offense took it to New York righty Darrell Rasner (4-5) early and often. Every Pirates starting position player would have a hit before the night ended, with each of the first six in the batting order collecting at least two.
Ryan Doumit made his return to the lineup after missing five games because of a slight concussion and responded with a 3-for-5 night that included his 10th home run. Bautista would go deep with a two-run shot and has now homered in five of his past nine games. LaRoche had a three-hit night that included two RBIs and his third career triple.
And most importantly, the run barrage never slowed down. The Pirates tacked on runs in six of eight innings on Tuesday, with five of those innings seeing at least two runners cross the plate.
"You'd like to score as many runs as you can, because they're obviously a threat at any time," Pirates manager John Russell said. "It was a great win for us."
In other words, this game lived up to the hype.
"I think it's just one of those days where everything was perfect," Bay said. "We had a lot of hits, scored a lot of runs, had a nice crowd. If you could write it up, this is how you would want it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.