Worth the wait: Alvarez rescues Bucs
Day after game-tying homer, rookie belts clutch walk-off in 10th
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates could not lose Saturday night. Not with their seventh sellout crowd of the season on hand, not with their one-win starter pitching as well as he had all year, not with their newest position player going deep for the first time in a Pittsburgh uniform.
Yet there they were in the 10th inning, down to their last out, trailing by two with two men on base.
And there Pedro Alvarez was at the plate, one night after creating a violent shift in the atmosphere with a three-run home run to right field in an eventual loss to the Rockies.
That one tied the game.
This one won it.
Alvarez lifted a three-run homer off Huston Street in the 10th to give the Pirates their most gratifying win of the season -- an 8-7, extra-inning, walk-off decision before 38,147 mesmerized fans at PNC Park who watched four hours, five minutes of stomach-turning baseball.
This one was worth the wait.
"Running around the bases, I don't think it could have been any louder," Alvarez said, "or the place would have collapsed if it were."
Alvarez's 10th blast of the year came on an 0-1, 83-mph changeup, landing above the Clemente Wall and sending his feet around the bases, his helmet into the air and his teammates into a frenzy at home plate, where they finally could celebrate being on the right side of a game that has taken so many negative twists on them all season long.
"I think the baseball gods finally looked down on us and said, 'Enough is enough,' " Pirates manager John Russell said.
Alvarez's game-winner followed two of his earlier hits in the game, both singles.
It overshadowed a second straight game-changing three-run homer in the sixth inning, this one from new catcher Chris Snyder -- his first with the Pirates -- to make it 3-1.
It masked a second straight rough ninth-inning performance from Joel Hanrahan, who gave up a game-tying three-run homer to Ian Stewart that ruined Hanrahan's chance at a second save and Ross Ohlendorf's chance at a second win.
And it came after a strenuous eight-pitch at-bat from Garrett Jones, who kept the inning alive by fouling off consecutive full-count changeups off Street before drawing the walk and setting Alvarez up to win the game.
"That was a hell of an at-bat to fight him off and work a walk right there to get Pedro to the plate with a chance to win," Russell said. "I couldn't say enough about what kind of at-bat Garrett had."
The Pirates were in that position all along because Ohlendorf struck out six over six-plus innings and held the Rockies to just four hits and one earned run on the night.
The right-hander was taken out for Wil Ledezma after his 98th pitch, a Brad Hawpe single to right that Lastings Milledge mishandled on the ground, turning it into an extra base. The gaffe was Milledge's first error since Sept. 18, 2008 -- a stretch of 156 games -- and it ended in an unearned run when Miguel Olivo hit an RBI groundout off Chris Resop two batters later.
Ohlendorf also saw more action than usual off the mound -- in a good way. Ten days after taking a Troy Tulowitzki line drive off the head in Denver and exiting his start against the Rockies in the first inning, Ohlendorf had success at the plate. He laid down a two-strike sacrifice bunt to perfection in the fifth and singled in the sixth for his second hit of the season.
Jones provided much-needed insurance in the following inning, however, leading off the seventh with his team-leading 16th home run of the season to make it 4-2. A wild pitch on a third strike to Jones in the eighth allowed Delwyn Young to score the Pirates' fifth run.
All nine Pirates starters -- plus the pinch-hitting Young -- recorded hits on the night.
The Rockies got on the board early, as Carlos Gonzalez led off the fourth inning with a triple that bounced off the right-center field wall. Tulowitzki followed with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 1-0.
Colorado then knocked around Hanrahan, who allowed three hits to the first three batters he faced in the ninth, culminating in Stewart's three-run homer to tie the game at 5.
Hanrahan entered Friday having given up five runs over his past 27 innings (27 outings), but he has now allowed five runs over the past two games. His ERA, which was 3.40 prior to Friday, is now 4.20.
Sean Gallagher did not fare much better, surrendering a two-run home run to Todd Helton in the 10th that seemingly knocked the life out of a disappointed building.
"It's been a long time," said Helton, who had not homered since June 15. "But the odds were in my favor I was going to hit one sooner or later."
It was not late enough, not with Alvarez getting a chance to hit in a two-run game with two on.
"He's one of those guys who really wants to be on the stage -- in a good way, not in a cocky way," Russell said. "He wants to be the guy."
Faced with the same situation Friday, Alvarez tied the game at 3 with a rip to right field before the bullpen collapsed.
On Saturday, all was forgotten with one swing from the 23-year-old rookie's bat.
"It's pretty unreal," he said. "I can remember one other time hitting a walk-off home run, and obviously here on a Saturday night, a packed house, in the big leagues -- nothing can beat that, maybe except Game 7 of the World Series."
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.