PITTSBURGH (AP)—On a night two promising Pittsburgh Pirates rookies played key roles, it took their oldest player to finish off one of their infrequent victories since the All-Star break.
Jose Mesa, getting his first official at-bat in 867 career games just to stay in, got four outs for his 23rd save to complete a combined three-hitter by five pitchers in a 5-3 Pirates victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
Dave Williams limited Colorado to one hit over six innings and rookies Ryan Doumit and Brad Eldred drove in all but one of Pittsburgh’s runs as the Pirates won for only the third time in 11 games since the break.
But it’s likely to be Mesa’s first at-bat, with one out and a run in following Jack Wilson’s bases-loaded walk in the eighth, that his teammates will remember most. He struck out but took a good swing early in the count, just missing Dan Miceli’s fastball.
Mesa homered frequently during batting practice in spring training and said he hoped to bat for the first time. He went to the plate two other times in his career, but walked and put down a sacrifice bunt, and thus had no official at-bats.
“My first at-bat, and the guy struck me out, too,” Mesa said. “I was just trying to put the ball in play. But pitching 1 1-3 innings, I don’t mind that. I’m willing to do that. We’ve been using the bullpen a lot lately and I’ve been fresh.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Mesa wouldn’t have batted with a one-run lead.
“If Jack hadn’t gotten on, I probably would have pinch-hit for him,” McClendon said. “But with a two-run lead and my closer in there, I felt pretty good.”
Mesa gave his manager a scare in the ninth, putting two runners on before getting Luis Gonzalez on a fly ball to deep center to end the game. The inning before, Mesa struck out Garrett Atkins with two on and two runs in on Dustan Mohr’s two-run double off Rick White.
“I thought that was the key sequence in the game and I wanted him in there,” McClendon said.
Williams (8-7) failed to pitch past the sixth for the ninth consecutive start and struggled with his control by walking three and hitting a batter, yet still had his best outing in more than a month. The only hit he gave up was Desi Relaford’s double in the fifth, which led to Danny Ardoin’s RBI grounder.
“He held us to only one run—and I don’t know why,” said Relaford, as baffled as anyone that Williams was as effective as he was.
The loss assures the Rockies, who own the majors’ worst road record at 10-39, of finishing their current 10-game trip to Cincinnati, Washington and Pittsburgh with a losing record. They had won three of five since losing three straight against the Reds and could have had their first non-losing road trip of more than four games by winning Saturday and Sunday.
The Rockies’ road record is the worst in the majors to this point in a quarter-century.
Eldred, called up from Triple-A Indianapolis before Friday’s game, added a run-scoring single for his first career RBI following Williams’ leadoff double and Jason Bay’s RBI double in a two-run fifth. Eldred, one of five rookies on a team that didn’t start the season with any, walked twice and scored a run.
“It’s nice to have an influx of rookies,” McClendon said. “But the most important thing is to have them perform. It’s nice to see those guys being productive.”
Kim allowed just four runs in 17 innings in his previous three starts before giving up seven hits and four runs in seven innings. Kim had made 16 starts since June 4, 2003, when he was with Arizona, without lasting seven.
Kim (10 starts) and Williams (18 starts) haven’t pitched into the eighth inning this season despite making a combined 28 starts. … The Pirates have won 14 of 21 against Colorado at PNC Park. … The standing room-only crowd of 37,778 was the Pirates’ largest at home since they drew 38,016 on opening day against Milwaukee. … Williams was 0-for-20 before he doubled.