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Pirates notebook: Watson fills closer's role, earns 1st major league save

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Pirates reliever Tony Watson pitches in the ninth inning against the Phillies on Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, April 25, 2013, 8:45 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — With closer Jason Grilli and setup man Mark Melancon unavailable for Thursday's game, manager Clint Hurdle said Tony Watson would be the closer for the series finale against the Phillies.

Turns out, he was also his own set-up man.

The Pirates took a 6-3 lead in the top of the eighth, and Watson entered to face the heart of the Phillies' lineup. The left-hander gave up one run and got out of the inning.

But Watson nearly didn't get a chance to record his first major league save. With two out in the top of the ninth and Neil Walker at third and Starling Marte at bat, Watson was scheduled to bat next. If Marte had reached base, Watson likely would have been lifted for a pinch-hitter.

“We would have had a tough decision to make if Marte walked,” Hurdle said.

Russell Martin was on deck, and Vin Mazzaro was warming up, “so we were ready to make whatever move we felt best suited to win the game,” Hurdle said.

After Marte struck out, Watson went back out for the ninth. The third-year reliever gave up a leadoff double but got the next three outs for the milestone save.

“Just to come in with a chance to win the series, especially in this place, is a great feeling,” Watson said.

Grilli had pitched in four of the previous five games, and Melancon had pitched the previous two nights.

“There will be a time when he's able to go three days,” Hurdle said of Melancon. “He's already done it once. We're still not out of April, and I really don't like too many three-day-in-a-row appearances per month, let alone two the first month of the season.”

Alvarez vs. the lefties

Pedro Alvarez got the start and went 2 for 5 against the left-hander Cliff Lee. The night before, Alvarez got just his 10th career home run against a lefty when he tagged reliever Antonio Bastardo. It was his first home off a left-handed pitcher since Sept. 16, 2012.

“We'll see where he takes it,” Hurdle said. “We all need to work on getting a little better every night, and Pedro's left-on-left thing, he's working hard on it. He's not happy with where it's at, but a home run I think could build some confidence.”

McCutchen snaps skid

Andrew McCutchen snapped a career-worst 0-for-17 skid with a single in the seventh inning. Prior to that, the All-Star outfielder's longest stretch without a hit was 16 at-bats (Sept. 25-29, 2012 and April 25-29, 2011).

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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