Snider's grand slam pushes Pirates to late victory over Cubs
Once Matt Garza got out of the way, the Pirates were in good shape Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs.
Garza held the Pirates hitless into the fifth inning, and his teammates built a 3-0 lead. But when their highly flammable bullpen took over in the sixth, the situation went from a possible Cubs victory to the Great Chicago Fire.
The Pirates sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs. The big blow was Travis Snider's grand slam, which propelled the Pirates to a 5-4 victory.
“It was probably the most calm pinch-hit at-bat I've ever had,” Snider said. “Before the game, (manager Clint) Hurdle talked about situations that come up, whether it's in the first inning or ninth inning, a game's a game. Overthinking those situations never makes it any easier.”
It was Garza's first big league start since July 21, when he went down with an elbow injury. Before the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he would limit Garza to around 85 pitches.
In one stretch, Garza struck out five of six batters. Eight of the other 10 outs he got came on ground balls.
On Garza's 76th pitch, Clint Barmes lined a single to right field — the Pirates' first hit. When Neil Walker led off the sixth, Garza was gone, having thrown 82 pitches.
“It sucks that I couldn't keep going,” Garza said. “I don't train for 80 pitches. I was like, ‘Dude, what?' But they told me it's my first game back and they don't want to overdo it.”
That left it up to Chicago's bullpen, whose 4.11 ERA was fifth worst in the NL.
Facing Hector Rondon, Walker pulled a double down the first-base line. With one out, Garrett Jones dropped a single into left. Russell Martin walked, loading the bases.
Goodbye, Rondon. Hello, lefty James Russell (1-1).
Pedro Alvarez walked, which scored Walker to trim the Pirates' deficit to 3-1. Russell was replaced by Shawn Camp, who had not allowed a run in 10 straight road games.
After Gaby Sanchez flied out, Hurdle rode a hunch and told Snider to hit for Barmes.
“He was the best matchup off our bench,” Hurdle said. “Clint's been swinging the bat better, (but) it was the one leverage situation I thought we could take advantage of. Barmes could've gone up there and thrown out a hit, but you're looking for a little bit more there.”
They wound up getting a lot more. Snider lifted a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right-center.
“Playing with and against Camp for a number of years, I know he gets guys to chase out of the zone,” Snider said. “I got ahead in the count and was able to sit back on a changeup.”
It was Snider's first career grand slam and also the Pirates' first pinch-hit slam since Jason Michaels went deep June 2, 2008, at St. Louis.
The Cubs tried to get back in it in the seventh against reliever Justin Wilson. With one out, Darwin Barney and Ryan Sweeney hit back-to-back singles.
But Wilson regrouped, striking out Julio Borbon and getting Starlin Castro on a grounder.
Mark Melancon tossed a scoreless eighth, and closer Jason Grilli allowed Castro's RBI single in the ninth before recording his 18th save.
Pirates left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez (5-2) worked six innings, allowed three runs and six hits, and struck out five.