The Pittsburgh Pirates scored five runs in the sixth and held off a ninth-inning rally by the Chicago Cubs to claim a 5-4 victory Tuesday night in the first of a three-game set at PNC Park.
Winners of nine of their last 11, the Pirates (27-18) sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, twice loading the bases against the Cubs bullpen. With two out and Chicago up 3-1, Travis Snider came in to pinch-hit for shortstop Clint Barmes and blasted a 2-1 changeup from reliever Shawn Camp over the right-center field wall to clear the bases.
It was Snider’s third home run of the season and his first career grand slam. In fact, it was the Pirates’ first pinch-hit grand slam since Jason Michaels hit one in June 2008 against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Bucs lefthander Wandy Rodriguez got the win, allowing three earned runs on six hits, striking out five, and walking none in six innings. He improved his record to 5-2 on the season. Rodriguez has the lowest ERA of any Pirates starter (3.40), and he leads the team in wins.
Righthander Matt Garza gave Chicago a solid outing in his season debut. Garza allowed just one hit, struck out five, and walked only three on 82 pitches over five shutout innings. He had not pitched since shoulder surgery cut his 2012 season short last July. Garza carried a no-hitter into the fifth, when Barmes singled with one out.
In of top of the ninth, Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro singled to right field to drive home Darwin Barney from third. Then, Jason Grilli settled down in relief and got first baseman Anthony Rizzo to go down swinging to pick up his MLB-leading 18th save of the season.
Chicago took a 3-0 lead at the top of the second. With two out and runners on first and third, second baseman Barney singled to left to score Alfonso Soriano from third. Garza helped his own cause when he doubled to right to drive in catcher Wellington Castillo and Barney.
The Cubs (18-26) will send righthander Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 3.49 ERA) to the hill at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, while the Pirates will counter with lefthander Francisco Liriano (2-0, 1.64 ERA). The game will be broadcast on ROOT Sports.
From The Clipboard: Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Astros was the Bucs’ sixth shutout of the season. Pittsburgh had a total of 10 shutouts in 2012….In a salute to Pittsburgh’s quest for a fourth Stanley Cup, the Bucs coaches and players will don Penguins jerseys this weekend on their road trip to Milwaukee and Detroit….Clint Hurdle’s crew have turned five double plays in the past two games, including a season-high four on Saturday against Houston….Kent Tekulve will represent the Pirates at the 2013 Draft on Thursday, June 6 at the MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, New Jersey.