Tike Redman's tying single and Alvarez's sacrifice fly sparked
Pittsburgh's three-run rally in the eighth inning against two
All-Star pitchers, and the Pirates won their ninth in a row at home
by beating the Florida Marlins 4-2 Saturday night.
The Pirates remain under .500 at home (20-22), but their winning
streak there is their longest since they made a frantic but futile
run at the NL East title in 1978 by winning 24 in a row from
mid-August until late September.
Pittsburgh has won eight of 11 against Florida the last two
seasons, including five in a row in Pittsburgh, and 14 of 18
overall. Florida dropped its ninth in 13 games and slipped to .500
(45-45) two games into a key 10-game road trip.
"We've got to figure out a way to beat these guys," Juan
Marlins starter Carl Pavano stranded eight runners and took a
2-1 lead into the eighth, but star closer Armando Benitez came on
after Jason Bay doubled with one out. Benitez (2-1) had pitched 11
consecutive scoreless innings spanning eight games.
"You're going against two power pitchers. ... You don't get a
good feeling when the pitcher they bring in is throwing even harder
than the guy they take out," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said.
"It didn't look good, so it was a very big win for us."
Six of the first seven hitters to face Benitez reached base in
only his third blown save in 33 chances. He held batters to an .083
average during his scoreless streak.
"It wasn't my night," Benitez said. "I feel sorry for Pavano,
because he threw a good game. But I don't have any excuses."
Redman's run-scoring single up the middle tied it, and walks to
Randall Simon and Bobby Hill loaded the bases ahead of pinch-hitter
Alvarez's sinking liner that left fielder Jeff Conine caught at his
shoetops for a go-ahead sacrifice fly. After another walk, to Jason
Kendall, Jack Wilson singled in another run with only his second
hit in 18 at-bats.
"I talked to (Phillies outfielder) Bobby Abreu before I faced
Benitez last week in Miami, so I had a little bit of an idea what
to do at the plate," Alvarez said. "Bobby settled me down, and he
gives me a lot of tips. We became friends in winter ball in 1996
and we talk almost every night."
McClendon passed over veteran infielder Chris Stynes to go with
Alvarez, a .238 hitter who had only 47 career at-bats before facing
one of the NL's top closers.
"I agonized over it," McClendon said. "But Stynes' numbers
against Benitez weren't good, and I thought Tony would put the ball
in play and have a good at-bat. I just felt he would come
Pavano repeatedly worked out of trouble while allowing eight
hits in 7 1-3 innings, and his single set up Florida's only scoring
against Kip Wells on Miguel Cabrera's two-out single in the third.
The two-run inning was a veritable breakout for the Marlins, who
have scored only 379 runs in 90 games -- the second fewest in the
Wells gave up five hits, walked one and struck out six in six
innings, but has won only once in 10 starts, a 3-1 victory over
Florida on July 5.
Pittsburgh also scored in the first on Kendall's leadoff double
and, two batters later, Craig Wilson's run-scoring grounder.
Cabrera, Florida's right fielder, injured his right hand running
into the wall trying to catch Bay's long drive in the eighth. The
extent of the injury wasn't immediately known, but McKeon said he
couldn't have batted in the ninth.
"He couldn't swing the bat," McKeon said. "When he jumped, he
came down and grabbed the fence and did something to his index
finger. ... He probably didn't have to jump, but that's the way it
went all night."
It didn't feel like midsummer on a rainy, 64-degree night
as many fans wore jackets. ... Florida is 19-35 in Pittsburgh. ...
Jack Wilson singled in the third to stop an 0-for-14 slide. ...
Pavano had won his last three road starts.