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04/14/10 2:55 AM ET
Jones leads battling Bucs to victory
Eighth-inning error, stalwart bullpen help Pirates win
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Garrett Jones delivered with the bat Tuesday night and then sealed a win with his glove. But the Pirates' 6-5 win over the Giants at AT&T Park was much more defined by a team-wide resiliency than it was by one big hit and one final play. It was a battle from start to finish, a game that featured a gutsy starting performance by Paul Maholm, critical execution from the offense, two highlight-worthy plays and just enough from an already weary bullpen. Not until Jones laid out at first base to make a diving grab on Pablo Sandoval's line drive with two out in the ninth was anyone sure that this one would really end up in the win column. "Great win," manager John Russell said afterward. "That was a great job by everybody." "We definitely needed that after a couple of tough losses," added Jones, who shifted from right field to first in the sixth inning. "We battled all the way through." What the Pirates especially needed was a quality start from Maholm. His outing wouldn't be as long as everyone had hoped for, nor was it pretty. Maholm's ability to keep his team in the game against an uncharacteristically patient San Francisco offense set up what transpired once he handed control to the 'pen. "It was a battle," said Maholm. "Some days you're like that and every pitch you're trying to make sure it's not over the heart of the plate and you're keeping the team in the game." Russell pulled Maholm after he walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth, and Maholm lost his chance for a win three batters later when reliever Evan Meek allowed the inherited runner to score. Still, it was 3-3 at the end of the sixth. An offense that has recently endured so many early, insurmountable deficits knew it was still in the game. And a bullpen that had been on mop-up duty much of this road trip buckled down to pitch four meaningful innings for a change. Meek responded with a perfect seventh and, pitching for the third time in four days, Brendan Donnelly tossed a 1-2-3 eighth. Donnelly's inning preserved a lead that Pittsburgh seized with a gift in the top half of the frame. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen reached base for the third time in the game with his eighth-inning walk, though it looked like the free pass would be for naught when Lastings Milledge followed with a chopper right back at reliever Jeremy Affeldt. It was as routine an inning-ending double play as there is. Only, shortstop Edgar Renteria inexplicably missed Affeldt's accurate throw to second. No outs were recorded. One pitch later, Jones drove in the go-ahead run with a single through the right side of the infield. "Mechanically, I don't think the swing was perfect, but the execution was good," Jones said. "That's the name of the game -- hit it where they're not. I was able to squeak that one through." The single was Jones' third of the evening, all of which came with runners in scoring position. He had already driven in the Pirates' first run back in the first to snap an 0-for-12 skid he carried into the night. "Those guys picked us up," Russell said, lumping catcher Ryan Doumit, who had an RBI single early, into a category with Jones. "That's what we've been looking for out of them. I think they were really anxious to get going and they had a really good night." An offense that managed to hang three runs on Giants starter Matt Cain early, before he settled into a middle-inning groove, didn't stop there. It tacked on two more critical runs in the ninth. Andy LaRoche's solo homer and Aki Iwamura's second RBI of the game gave the Pirates a three-run cushion that they needed every bit of during a hold-your-breath-type ninth from closer Octavio Dotel. After allowing a leadoff double, Dotel immediately fell behind Eugenio Velez. Dotel's reaction? Don't walk the pesky outfielder. "I would rather this guy hit a home run than walk this guy in that situation," he explained. "If I get him out or whatever, I just start the inning over. All you've got to do is battle there and fight." Dotel served up the home run all right, a two-run shot that easily cleared Levi's Landing in right field. The new Pittsburgh closer responded aptly, though, getting the next three in order to seal the team's second win of its current road trip. That last out, of course, came with a huge assist from Jones, who needed every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to make the grab. "Just tall enough," he joked afterward. "I barely saw it off the bat. Luckily it went right in the glove." "Everyone came together and did their job," added Meek. "Everyone contributed. Everyone did something." Dotel's second save of the season sealed a win for Meek, though what Maholm did on the mound and with his glove was certainly every bit as critical in the process. Though he gave up three runs and needed 94 pitches to make it through five innings, Maholm came up big when he needed to. He struck out second baseman Juan Uribe on a nasty curve with two runners in scoring position in the second, an inning that ended with three runners stranded. Maholm then got a double play with two on and no outs in the fourth on his way to putting up a zero in that frame, too. And sandwiched between that, Maholm just might have made the team's best defensive play of the season. His diving stop deep on the infield grass and subsequent glove flip while midway through a backward somersault muffled a Giants rally in the third. "That's instinct," Maholm said after the win, appearing to still wonder himself how he recorded the out. "And you won't see it again either. I'll live on that one for a while."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.