Pirates 9, Padres 8

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—Pittsburgh rookie Brad Eldred is known as Big Country for his 270 pounds and his big swings. He’s quickly learning in the majors that he doesn’t have to hit the ball out of the park to make an impact.

Eldred’s third consecutive double drove in the winning run in the ninth inning, and the Pirates overcame three San Diego homers to beat the first-place Padres 9-8 Wednesday night.

With Rob Mackowiak on first base after walking, Eldred hit a two-out line drive into the right-center field gap. Center fielder Dave Roberts, who entered in the top of the inning, slid to his knees to try to cut the ball off, but it skidded past him to score Mackowiak.

Eldred, called up July 22 after hitting 65 homers in 1 1/2 minor league seasons, has yet to homer in 27 at-bats, but he had a four-hit night and drove in three runs. He had only one RBI coming into the game.

“There’s no better feeling than that, to get a game-winning hit in the ninth,” said Eldred, who jumped his average from .174 to .296. “I knew it was only a matter of time before I started hitting. I really haven’t felt overmatched up here, and I’ve never lost any confidence.”

The Padres insist they haven’t, either, despite losing for the 13th in 15 games. After winning 11-3 Tuesday, they held a team meeting intended to put a miserable 8-18 July behind them, then wasted an eight-run night as Chan Ho Park flopped in his Padres debut.

“It was a tough one to lose,” Eric Young said. “There were some good signs out there, and we’ve got to build on those positives.”

San Diego hadn’t homered in nine games since July 22, only to hit three in the first seven innings—including game-tying homers by Young, a three-run shot in the fifth, and Khalil Greene, a two-run drive in the sixth. Young also had an RBI single in a three-run sixth that put San Diego up 8-7.

Young, out most of this season with a separated shoulder, hit his first homer since Sept. 22 with Texas.

Eldred doubled ahead of rookie Ryan Doumit’s two-run single that restored the Pirates’ lead at 7-5 in the fifth. Eldred’s second double tied it at 8 in the seventh against reliever Scott Linebrink as the Pirates got seven hits and five RBIs from their three rookies, leadoff man Chris Duffy, Eldred and Doumit, who added a two-run single.

Jason Bay, last year’s NL rookie of the year, is encouraged by all the Pirates rookies—especially unbeaten left-hander Zach Duke (4-0), as the NL rookie of the month in July.

“They’re still getting their feet wet, but they still want to do well,” Bay said. “It’s nice to see they’re getting some confidence and doing well.”

Just before Eldred got his game-winning hit, Pades reliever Akinori Otsuka (1-4) appeared confused by what to throw, gesturing to the dugout as if appealing for a pitch to be called. Manager Bruce Bochy said the umpires told him Otsuka was moving too much on the mound before coming set in his delivery.

“There’s a lot of pitchers who have a little rocking motion, but they thought he was moving too much,” Bochy said. “He’s been doing that since he’s been here and I don’t know why it was brought up—this umpiring crew has had him before.”

Jose Mesa (2-6) pitched the ninth inning in a non-save situation for the victory, only the Pirates’ second in eight games.

Park gave up seven runs—six earned—and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings. Park, a former Dodgers pitcher, returned to the NL in a July 29 trade after four mostly unsuccessful seasons in Texas.

“A couple of hits cost three or four runs and that hurts,” Park said. “It was my first outing in 10 days facing hitters and maybe that cost a little bit. It’s not going to be normal after not pitching in 10 days and there were a lot of things going in on my head.”

After former Mariners catcher Manuel Olivo hit his first NL homer in the third off Dave Williams, Bay’s 21st homer and Eldred’s RBI single put Pittsburgh up 5-2. Before Olivo went deep, the Padres had gone 320 at-bats since their last homer by Geoff Blum, the longest streak by any team in the majors this season.

Notes

Pirates RF Jody Gerut left in the seventh with irritation in his right knee. He is coming off knee surgery. … San Diego took a one-game lead in the NL West into the game despite its losing record (52-55). No team has led a division with a losing record so late in a season since Texas (52-62) led the AL West on Aug. 11, 1994, the day before a season-ending labor dispute began. … Olivo hit five homers for Seattle.

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