Bucs rally in ninth, win in extras to cap sweep

Bucs rally in ninth, win in extras to cap sweep

Bucs rally in ninth, win in extras to cap sweep

ANAHEIM -- Pedro Alvarez again went "boom." Much later, the Pirates went "broom," sweeping their historical West Coast problems convincingly under the rug.

Travis Snider's bases-loaded single in the 10th turned into a bases-clearing play on left fielder J.B. Shuck's fielding error, igniting a four-run inning as the Pirates converted a dramatic ninth-inning comeback into a 10-9 victory over the shocked Angels on Sunday at Angel Stadium.

"I was getting real hungry. Couldn't stop thinking of those steaks," said Snider, the noted Seattle gourmand who didn't want to delay his homecoming -- the Pirates' next stop is Safeco Field -- any longer. "It was impressive to see the boys coming back, and in the 10th, I wanted to make it happen."

The day's emotional roller coaster threatened to eject the Pirates in the bottom of the 10th, when the Angels jumped Jason Grilli for five hits -- one more than they'd had the first nine innings - and three runs before he ended it by striking out Mike Trout with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

"At the end of the day, the gunslinger got it done," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, attaching a new nickname to his closer. "A big team victory."

It capped a strange day that had begun with Hurdle pleased to be able to rest both Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin. How did that go? The pair entered the game in the ninth and wound up going 3-for-4 with three RBIs.

"I had a great off-day," a smiling Martin said after his pinch-hit double was featured in the middle of the three-run tying rally in the ninth, and his RBI single capped off the four-run 10th. "A typical AL-style game. We took advantage of some mistakes and did enough to win."

In the top of the 10th, the Bucs had loaded the bases on Alvarez's double and walks of Neil Walker and Gaby Sanchez before Snider's single off Kevin Jepsen scored Alvarez -- and also Walker and Sanchez when the ball went through Shuck to the wall.

"I had a chance in the ninth," said Snider, who had fouled out with runners at the corners when the Pirates still trailed, 6-3, "so I wanted to help there. And then the ball gets through ... insurance runs are always good."

The comeback added extra sizzle to a milestone win on several levels. It completed the Pirates' first-ever Interleague road sweep, as well as their first sweep in a West Coast city since 2007.

"We swept a series on the road from a dangerous team, and that will only add confidence down the road," Hurdle said. "This was a cool thing to do. Another nice thing to knock off the list of things we wanted to accomplish."

Not to mention the improvement in the Bucs' record to 46-30, a season-high 16 games over .500.

Completely throttled for the preceding five innings by Los Angeles starter Joe Blanton and lefty reliever Scott Downs, the Pirates jumped Angels closer Ernesto Frieri -- who entered having retired 22 men in a row -- for the three tying runs in the ninth.

Walker worked a leadoff walk and took third on a single by Sanchez, but the foul out by Snider and McCutchen's bounce into a force only exchanged two outs for one run.

Then Martin's pinch RBI double and Starling Marte's run-scoring single tied the game at 6.

"I pushed in all the chips in the ninth," said Hurdle.

The manager did go all in: Martin entering the game cleared his bench of catchers, since Michael McKenry had started and rookie Tony Sanchez was used as the designated hitter; furthermore, when McCutchen batted for Tony Sanchez and stayed in the game as the center fielder, the Pirates lost the DH spot, a chancy proposition in an American League park.

But it turned out all right -- the only time the pitcher's spot in the batting order came up, Clint Barmes hit for Mark Melancon in the 10th and successfully sacrificed -- and the stirring rallies wiped out the one nightmarish inning that had undermined Charlie Morton.

The good news for Morton, making his third start back from Tommy John surgery, was that he kept making the Angels hit the ball on the ground, his trademark.

Unfortunately, that was also the bad news for Morton. His sinkers worked to elicit the usual ground balls, but the gloves on the other end of them weren't working. Every single one of the Angels' five runs in the second scored on a grounder -- only one of which escaped the infield.

The first run scored when Walker threw wildly past first on Erick Aybar's infield single. The second run scored when Alvarez muffed Chris Iannetta's grounder. Shuck rolled a single into left for the third run. The final two runs scored as Trout bounced into a force and Peter Bourjos upended shortstop Jordy Mercer to break up a possible double play.

"That's the nature of the game," said Morton, who wound up making 99 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. "That can't make me shy away from being aggressive, just because some balls sneak through. If I get ground balls, I'm accomplishing what I need to do, even if the results aren't good."

Blanton fared better at overcoming his own tendency -- surrendering Alvarez home runs.

In his first career at-bat as a No. 3 hitter, Alvarez crunched his 19th homer. It was his fourth home run in 10 at-bats against Blanton, and gave him long balls in four consecutive games.

Blanton survived a two-hit second inning and allowed two runs in the third on three more hits before settling down. He retired the last 14 men he faced before being relieved by Downs with one out in the eighth.

First Major League at-bats are always notable, but Sanchez's in the second inning came with a side of amusement: He drove a 1-2 pitch from Blanton into the out-of-town scoreboard in the right-field wall. Literally into the scoreboard, as the ball lodged in a crack under the Colorado-Washington panel. Not so funny: The ground-rule double cost Sanchez an RBI, halting Walker, running on contact from first with two outs, at third base.

According to Sanchez, fellow rookie Duke Welker told him, "That's not what you want to do with your first hit. You'll never get that ball back."

But thanks to an enterprising Angel Stadium worker and his ladder, Sanchez's ball was dislodged between innings, so he has his keepsake.

And Welker got his own memento seven inning later, when he made his own big league debut by relieving in the eighth. The 27-year-old right-hander, the Bucs' second-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, introduced himself with a few 97-mph fastballs against Aybar, unleashed one at 99-mph at Iannetta and worked a 1-2-3 frame.

Another rookie, Ryan Reid, had preceded Welker with 1 1/3 shutout innings in relief of Morton, Reid and Welker. In a big victory.

As Hurdle is apt to put it with one of his favorite sayings, "I didn't have that."

But he and the Pirates have win No. 46.

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.