Pirates take walk-off win thanks to HBP

Pirates take walk-off win thanks to HBP

Pirates take walk-off win thanks to HBP
PITTSBURGH -- Among Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's many favorite sayings is this one:

"For athletes, nothing inspires confidence more than a little success."

Then what about a lot of success? What does that get you?

Maybe a pitchers' banquet that shows no signs of abating. Following Kevin Correia's 6 1/3 innings of tenacity, the Saturday night main course at PNC Park again was the Pittsburgh bullpen, which added 2 2/3 innings to a growing string of zeroes, as the Bucs walked-off on the Cubs, 3-2, when Matt Hague was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth.

Jose Tabata had triggered the winning rally with a leadoff single off Rafael Dolis, and walks to Josh Harrison and Neil Walker eventually loaded the bases before Hague, the inning's sixth batter, was hit on his lower-left ribcage by the 2-2 pitch from the right-hander.

"Yeah, it hurt. First, the hit hurt, then I got to first base and people kept punching me right where it'd hit. But I love it," Hague said of driving in his first career walk-off hit.

Well ... the first getting-hit walk-off. It looked the same to the sellout crowd of 38,132, which witnessed the Pirates improve their record before home houses of 30,000-plus to 31-17 since the start of the 2009 season.

Joel Hanrahan worked a three-up, three-down ninth for his second victory in as many decisions. It improved the bullpen's collective record to 10-4, in contrast to starters' 12-20.

This was the Bucs' 22nd one-run affair, 48 percent of all the games they have played. They've won 13 of them, including four in walk-off fashion.

Apparently, it will take more than camouflage uniforms, which the Pirates broke out Saturday night for the onset of Memorial Weekend and will again wear Sunday, to conceal their offensive identity.

"Maybe we gotta get some more hit-batters," said catcher Rod Barajas, noting that two of them had bookended the Bucs' meager attack.

Their first run, in the third, was scored by Tabata, who'd reached base by being hit by a Paul Maholm pitch. And while the two hit-batters underscored their offense, the Bucs erased two runners at the plate to keep the Cubs' scoring under control.

Correia allowed five hits and two runs in the quality start, with two walks and two strikeouts. But he remained with only one win in his eight starts.

Correia, who had often worn the camouflage threads with the San Diego Padres, a naval-city club that regularly sports the look, clearly was comfortable in them.

"We wore them on a weekly basis," Correia recalled. "But the opportunity to wear it is always great, and everyone on the team was pretty excited to be able to pay this tribute to our troops."

Maholm's bend-but-don't-break routine was familiar to his ex-mates. The former longtime Pirates starter needed 94 pitches to get through five innings but stranding eight runners on base allowed him to keep the damage of four hits and five walks to two runs.

Pedro Alvarez's defense again came into play before his bat. With men on second and third and two outs in the third, Starlin Castro chopped a ball to Alvarez, who didn't appear to have a play on the speedy batter. He didn't need one there: Taking off reflexively from third with two outs, Maholm was tagged out on Alvarez's barehanded rocket to Barajas.

"I was surprised how hard he threw that ball," Barajas said. "That's instincts. You can't teach that."

"A big-league play, to grab that ball and throw a rocket home. And for Rod to have the presence of mind to cover," Hurdle said of the play that kept the game scoreless.

Until, that is, Alvarez came up in the bottom of the inning -- Maholm had intentionally walked Andrew McCutchen to get to him -- and roped a single to center to score Tabata from second. Another run scored on Walker's sacrifice fly, but the Pirates missed an opportunity at a rare big inning when Clint Barmes bounced into a hard-force with the bases loaded to end the inning.

"We will take wins anyway we can get them," Hurdle said. "That [ninth inning] was the third time we loaded the bases, and you like to think that's the last time you need to do that."

Alfonso Soriano hit a solo homer into the center-field stands, ending the Cubs' scoreless Pittsburgh stay at 12 innings, and a two-out uprising in the fifth got the Cubs even. David DeJesus doubled and Castro followed with a tailing drive into the right-field corner that proved too challenging for newbie right fielder Harrison, going for the game-tying triple.

That 2-2 tie was preserved by catcher Barajas' steely block of the plate in the sixth to punctuate a precise Harrison-to-Walker-to-home relay on Adrian Cardenas' pinch-hit double into the right-field corner. Catcher Blake Lalli, who had taken off from first, still hasn't reached the plate, winding up shipwrecked on Barajas' shin guards while being tagged out.

Walker thus scored a clear decision over Lalli, his former Pine-Richland High School teammate. Walker, who stole a base on Lalli in the second inning, clearly had an easier time throwing him out than the other way around.

"Hey, I had to test him," Walker said. "And, as I remembered, he's not very fleet afoot."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com 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.