Lobstein settles down, delivers clutch relief

Pirates left-hander deals two scoreless frames to pick up win in extras

Lobstein settles down, delivers clutch relief

PITTSBURGH -- Six of the first seven pitches Pirates reliever Kyle Lobstein threw Tuesday night were called balls. He walked the first batter he faced all season, Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday. Nervous?

"A little bit of nerves going on, first appearance of the season," the left-hander said. "But I was able to settle in and felt good after those first couple batters."

It showed on the mound. Lobstein recovered from his shaky start and threw two key scoreless innings in extras, picking up the win as the Pirates beat the Cardinals, 6-5, in 11 innings at PNC Park.

"Unbelievable job," starter Jonathon Niese said.

Lobstein was an unheralded addition to the Bucs' bullpen this offseason, acquired from the Tigers for cash in late December. The left-hander entered Spring Training with a chance to win a bullpen job, but it seemed like he was ticketed for the Triple-A Indianapolis rotation.

Even in the final days before camp broke, when the Pirates only had 12 pitchers in camp, general manager Neal Huntington cautioned that Lobstein might be optioned to Triple-A if the Pirates made a late addition.

But Lobstein, 26, made the cut and proved his worth right away. He ended the 10th inning Tuesday with a ground-ball double play and struck out the side in the 11th, fanning Brandon Moss, Matt Adams and Kolten Wong to set up Jordy Mercer's walk-off single.

Mercer's walk-off single

"We saw a guy that can command the ball, move the ball around the zone and change speeds," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's what he was able to do on the start of pitch seven and through the next two innings."

After five innings, the Pirates and Cardinals found themselves in another bullpen battle. They traded zeros from the sixth through the 10th, and Lobstein put up the final one in the 11th.

"We hung in there. Their bullpen was doing good, too," Lobstein said. "That can get you down a little bit, but you keep persevering, bide your time and keep plugging at it.

"Especially nights like this -- cold, getting quick innings -- you want to keep that momentum going and just try to build off of that. One way to do that is throw strikes. Early strikes, throw a lot of strikes and try to get quick outs."

Lobstein is a starter by trade, and he was stretched out to pitch multiple innings this spring. How much longer could he have gone on this chilly night?

"Definitely could have gone a few more," Lobstein said.

"Nine," closer Mark Melancon chimed in from a neighboring locker.

"At this point, I'm just happy we won," Lobstein said. "Felt good to celebrate and go out on the field afterward."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.