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22 July 2008

How About That 9th!

I haven't had much to say about our Buccos the last couple weeks, but I loved that inning! Sanchez, battling back from injury to hit a 3-run inside the park HR. LaRoche and Bay both hit homers in the 9th as well. The main thing I want everyone to take away from this game is that we are showing the ability to come back with big hits. I think we should keep the whole outfield and infield together and fight for a whole new pitching staff.

Pirates halt skid on ninth-inning breakout
By Rob Biertempfel
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HOUSTON -- A team stuck in a batting funk, such as the one the Pirates have wrestled with since the All-Star break, sometimes needs to try unorthodox measures to break loose.

Like scoring from second base on an infield single.

Monday, Freddy Sanchez's heads-up hustle gave the Pirates a brief lead against the Houston Astros. But in the ninth inning, the Pirates used a more familiar method -- three dramatic home runs -- to score seven runs and hammer out a 9-3 victory.

"It's a huge lift for us to jump on their closer," Pirates manager John Russell said. "Guys have been kind of waiting on that, I think. Now, we again know we can score. That should take some of the pressure off."

Jason Bay tied the game, 3-3, with a one-out, solo homer, his 20th, against Astros closer Jose Valverde.

"He threw me some tough ones before that I barely fouled off," said Bay, who snapped an 0-for-12 slump with the first-inning single that scored Sanchez. "I was able to get one I could handle."

Xavier Nady singled, and Adam LaRoche whacked the first pitch high over the left field wall for his 12th homer.

The Pirates' third homer of the inning belonged to Sanchez, his sixth of the year. Again, it was -- literally -- an off-the-wall play.

With runners on first and second, Sanchez hit a blast to right-center. The ball caromed off the wall and rolled away from right fielder Hunter Pence.

Sanchez rounded third hard and slid home as the relay throw bounced away from catcher Brad Ausmus.

Sanchez's dash was the Pirates' first inside-the-park homer since Chris Duffy did it June 8, 2007, at Yankee Stadium.

"I got fortunate, I guess," Sanchez said. "I got lucky."

It was the sixth blown save of the season for Valverde (4-3). The rally halted the Pirates' five-game losing streak.

"Hopefully, we're over that post-All-Star Game lull that we seem to get into," said Bay, who had four hits.

Tyler Yates (4-2) tossed one scoreless inning for the win.

Pirates starter John Van Benschoten went five innings and gave up three runs (two earned) and six hits. He walked four and struck out four, and lowered his ERA by a point and a half to 8.27.

The last time Runelvys Hernandez faced the Pirates, he was raked for 10 runs and 13 hits in four innings. Last night, he went 51/3 innings and yielded two runs and eight hits, walked two and struck out three.

With one out in the first inning, Sanchez singled to center field. Ryan Doumit hit a roller to first base. Lance Berkman stepped on the bag for one out, but his throw to second was wide and Sanchez was safe.

Bay followed with a bouncer up the middle. Shortstop Miguel Tejada snagged the ball and made a spinning, running throw to first base. Bay beat it out for a single.

Sanchez, meanwhile, never stopped running, and it took Berkman a moment to realize what was happening.

Ausmus took the throw from Berkman in time, but he had to turn to his right to make the tag. Sanchez slid in safely.

Kaz Matsui's one-out double in the third inning was the first ball hit out of the infield against Van Benschoten. With two outs and runners on the corners, Carlos Lee slapped an 0-2 pitch into right field for a single to score Matsui.

The Astros took a 2-1 lead with an unearned run in the fourth. Hunter Pence reached on a fielding error by third baseman Bautista and scored on Ausmus' double.

The Pirates tied it again in the fifth. Nate McLouth doubled and scored on Sanchez's single.

Van Benschoten quickly gave up the lead. Michael Bourn began the fifth with an infield single and scored on Lee's second hit of the game.

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