Barajas' big fly gives Bucs walk-off win

Barajas' big fly gives Bucs walk-off win

Barajas' big fly gives Bucs walk-off win
PITTSBURGH -- Want to play that game? OK, here's the Yin to your Yang.

That appeared to be what the Pirates and the Nationals were saying to each other all Tuesday night, when the Bucs got in the last word as Rod Barajas' two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth gave them a 5-4 victory at PNC Park.

It was the last act of high drama, which saw Andrew McCutchen get out of a sick bed to deliver his first homer, and A.J. Burnett arise from an unprecedented pratfall to shine.

Yes, this was the same Mr. Barajas who had been booed harshly by the crowd of 10,323 after his previous hitless at-bat had left him hitting .127, with not a single RBI.

"I was in a situation where I was able to get them back on my side," said Barajas. "Hope they'll give me a little leeway, and I can have a couple more weeks to get things going in the right direction."

Barajas' first homer of a trying season came off Henry Rodriguez, who had surrendered a one-out single to Alex Presley, and ushered him to third by burying consecutive breaking balls in the dirt for wild pitches.

On deck, Barajas took note while Rodriguez was fanning Yamaico Navarro for the second out.

"I was pretty confident. I know he throws hard," Barajas said of Rodriguez, "and I consider myself a fastball hitter. After seeing two breaking balls in the dirt, I figured chances were he wouldn't throw that again and would come hard. And I was ready to let it go."

"[Rodriguez] usually has good command of his curveball, and that kind of got him in the jam," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "I still thought he was going to get out of it. Obviously, Barajas knows that he is going to get a fastball. He gets out in front and that's the ballgame."

The ballgame went on Rodriguez's first pitch to Barajas, into the left-field corner, as everyone in the park went bonkers, stoked by the walk-off win, maybe stoked even more because of who delivered it.

"Pretty exciting, wasn't it?" manager Clint Hurdle asked rhetorically. "Did you think he'd hit one? There was a lot of mixed opinion in our dugout whether to let him go up and hit. [Barajas' slump] can't go on forever, so I figured, 'What the heck, he's hit one before.'"

Adam LaRoche had given the Nats a 4-3 lead with his own two-run homer, off Joel Hanrahan, with none out in the top of the inning. The homer marked the 1,000th homer in Nationals history.

"Never a good night for that to happen," said Hanrahan, who had converted his prior five save opportunities. "But we had the other guys bounce back. Barajas hears the boos earlier and comes back with a walk-off homer, so that's pretty awesome."

On the mound to remove Hanrahan with the save situation gone, Hurdle chatted up the gathered:

"We'll hold them," he told them, "and we'll find a way to score two, and it'll be really exciting here late."

The Bucs had taken a 3-2 lead on Neil Walker's tie-breaking sacrifice fly in the eighth.

McCutchen thumped his first homer of the season, a third-inning blow soon followed by Garrett Jones' tying solo shot, but the Bucs were unable to reward Burnett's return to excellence.

The Pirates had tried to sign free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson this past offseason, and when they couldn't, were happy to end up with Burnett in a trade.

They were still happy Tuesday night, when Burnett allowed six hits in eight innings, with the icing of 10 strikeouts.

Both McCutchen, who had had the stomach flu, and Burnett, whose problems have been up in the strike zone, recovered nicely.

Contrasting his 2 2/3-inning, 12-run outing on Wednesday in St. Louis, Burnett tenaciously kept Washington down after surrendering solo runs in the third and fourth innings.

"I was just sharper tonight," said Burnett, particularly pleased that his breaking ball began to click in the middle of the game. "I was able to find the hook that I had in the past, and it paid off. Seemed like everything Rod put down was a '2,' and I've been around him long enough to know not to shake him off."

McCutchen was returning to the lineup after having taken most of the previous week off to deal with the weight-loss effects of his illness, and before the game talked about feeling "like my normal self."

Then he went out and hit like him, too. McCutchen picked on Jackson's 2-2 pitch to go to straightaway center with his first home run in 135 at-bats, dating back to Sept. 13.

Three batters later, Jones pulled his fourth home run. Within the space of four batters, the Bucs matched the previous total of homers Jackson had allowed in 31 2/3 innings.

The two long balls neutralized Washington catcher Wilson Ramos' solo homer in the third, and a fourth-inning RBI single by Rick Ankiel that scored Bryce Harper.

The 19-year-old outfielder led off that fourth with a double, albeit his only hit in four at-bats.

Besides Harper's introduction, the other intrigue surrounding the Nationals was them playing their first game since a forced roster change. Jayson Werth went on the disabled list with the fractured left wrist he suffered Sunday, and Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder inflammation) came off it.

In a strange way -- considering they are a couple of headliners -- the Pirates would've preferred having both in Washington's lineup. Zimmerman came in as a career .135 (7-for-52) hitter against the Bucs' current pitching staff, and Werth is not much better at .180 (11-for74).

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.