Pirates 9, Dodgers 5
PITTSBURGH (AP)—Craig Wilson dislikes being a bench player. He wishes he weren’t being mentioned weekly in trade talk. So he’s doing the one thing a bench player can do to get regular playing time, and that’s force his manager to play him.
Wilson hit a pair of two-run homers, including a go-ahead drive in the seventh inning that was his third homer in two games, and the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied for a 9-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
The Pirates came back from three runs down against the Dodgers for the second night in a row—they won 7-6 Tuesday—and did it again with home runs. They have eight homers in two games, four in each game, and 17 in 10 games after ranking 12th in the NL with 139 homers last season.
Pittsburgh had hit four homers in a home game only four times since PNC Park opened in 2001, only to do so on successive nights.
“I’m not saying we’re Murderers Row,” Wilson said in a reference to the power-heavy 1927 Yankees. “But, if a pitch is there, we can put good swings on the ball.”
Wilson, starting because first baseman Sean Casey sat out the last two nights with a bruised rib cage, followed Jason Bay’s leadoff walk and stolen base in the seventh with an opposite-field drive into the right-field seats off Hong-Chih Kuo (0-1) to make it 7-5.
Wilson led the Pirates with 29 homers in 2004, but missed two long stretches of last season with hand injuries and finished with five homers in 197 at-bats. He began this season on the bench after the Pirates added Casey and right fielder Jeromy Burnitz, but has homered in four of his 20 at-bats.
“You always want to play,” Wilson said. “You want to be out there. All you can do is to try to do well when you’re in there.”
He doesn’t have to convince manger Jim Tracy of his value.
“He’s got himself a backer here,” Tracy said. “I’ve made him aware: ‘You will find yourself on the field.”’
Freddy Sanchez must be trying to follow the same strategy. Playing because third baseman Joe Randa had soreness in his abdomen, Sanchez hit a solo homer in the fourth and Jack Wilson and Craig Wilson followed each hit two-run shots against Brett Tomko in a four-run fifth that temporarily put the Pirates up 5-3. Jack Wilson also homered Tuesday as the Pirates rallied three times from three-run deficits.
“We’ve given up a lot of long balls, and it’s purely missing location,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said.
Tomko beat the Pirates twice with complete-game performances for the Giants last year, but he said he got away from what he did successfully then. Catcher Sandy Alomar cited Jack Wilson’s homer on an 0-2 pitch that was supposed to be up and in but stayed over the plate.
“I strayed a little bit away from our game plan,” Tomko said. “I’ve faced these guys a lot and had success against them. I know how I’ve pitched these guys in the past, and it’s up to me to stay with what’s been successful.”
Salomon Torres (2-1) allowed three consecutive singles in the seventh, but got Jason Repko to hit into an inning-ending double play to pick up the victory for the second night in a row. He worked two scoreless innings Tuesday.
As usual, the Dodgers scored in the first inning—they have 19 runs in the first and 31 in the other eight innings—and, as usual, they had trouble holding a lead. They are 4-5 despite repeatedly handing their starting pitcher an early lead.
This time, Jose Cruz Jr. hit a solo homer in the first and Jeff Kent and Olmedo Saenz had run-scoring singles during a two-run third that made it 3-0 against left-hander Paul Maholm. Maholm was lifted after giving up five runs in 5 2-3 innings and has a 7.71 ERA in two starts.
Los Angeles answered the Pirates’ four runs in the fifth by tying it at 5 in the sixth on Cody Ross’ pinch-hit RBI double and Rafael Furcal’s two-out single — the Dodgers’ sixth hit of the game against Maholm with two outs. But, as it did Tuesday, the Pirates’ bullpen shut down Los Angeles in the closing innings.
Pirates starting pitchers have a 6.88 ERA. … Craig Wilson is 5-for-11 with three homers against Tomko. … Jack Wilson also had a sacrifice fly in a two-run eighth, giving him nine RBIs in five games. He drove in 52 last season. … Kent’s RBI in the third was his first since he had four RBIs on opening day against the Braves. … The Pirates stole four bases from the sixth inning on, three against Kuo, with Jason Bay getting two steals.