PITTSBURGH (AP)—During another horrid ninth inning by a bullpen that can’t be trusted with a lead of any size, manager Eric Wedge probably thought he was watching yet another game get away from the Indians. Maybe his job, too.
Only this time, and the Indians aren’t exactly sure how they pulled it off, this late-inning meltdown didn’t wind up as a loss.
Jhonny Peralta(notes) homered and drove in three runs to support rookie David Huff’s(notes) eight shutout innings and the Indians halted a six-game losing streak, overcoming their latest bullpen collapse to beat the slumping Pirates 5-4 on Tuesday night.
The Indians, who blew a pair of five-run leads and a seven-run lead during their losing streak, led 5-0 going into the ninth before nearly giving up another big lead. The Pirates scored four times and loaded the bases before Adam LaRoche(notes), who homered to start the comeback, flew out to right field on a 3-2 pitch by Kerry Wood(notes) to end the game.
“We knew we weren’t going to get the W the easy way,” Wood said. “It was ugly, but we got it done.”
And they didn’t. LaRoche was mad at himself for swinging at ball four, although he barely missed connecting on the pitch.
“When we’re in a stretch like this, you know it’s going to take a ball bouncing your way or something going your way,” Wood said. “They had me on the ropes, and he just as easily could have not swung at that, walked him and tied it up. I feel like we got a little help with that last at-bat.”
For one of the few times, Cleveland had power, starting pitching and defense in the same game, one that began amid speculation Wedge’s job might be in jeopardy. The Indians dropped seven of eight to fall a season-low 13 games below .500 and they came precariously close to another bad loss.
“Got the last out,” a relieved Wedge said. “That’s the important thing.”
Grady Sizemore(notes) returned from a three-week stay on the disabled list with an inflamed elbow to hit a two-run triple during a four-run second inning against Ian Snell(notes) (2-8) that included Peralta’s two-run single. Sizemore also made an excellent over-the-shoulder catch of Robinzon Diaz’s(notes) drive to the warning track in the fourth.
“The triple, the catch in center field, you could feel his energy out there,” Wedge said. “We’re a different ballclub with him in the lineup, no doubt about it.”
Except for that bullpen.
Matt Herges(notes) replaced Huff and immediately gave up LaRoche’s 10th homer and Brandon Moss’(notes) pinch RBI single. Wood allowed Jack Wilson’s(notes) RBI double and rookie Andrew McCutchen’s(notes) run-scoring single, which ran McCutchen’s hitting streak to 11 games, before walking Nyjer Morgan(notes) and Freddy Sanchez(notes) to load the bases.
“We were dead the whole game,” LaRoche said. “We’ve had so many games go into the seventh, the eighth with four or five hits, and it’s not against Cy Young pitchers. We’ve got to do more damage early and not rely on getting the setup guy and the closer every night.”
Despite the comeback, the Pirates lost their fifth in a row and sixth in seven games to slide eight games below .500 for the first time this season. That’s one reason the first interleague matchup in Pittsburgh since 2003 between the two rival cities drew 19,109, less than half PNC Park’s capacity of 38,496.
The Pirates had only one extra-base hit, Wilson’s double in the fifth, among their four hits against Huff (3-2), who struck out two and walked two in the longest of his nine career starts. His previous high was 7 1-3 innings against St. Louis on June 12.
By contrast, Snell—coming off his first victory in 11 starts—couldn’t make it out of a 50-pitch second inning in which he yielded three hits and walked three. Snell lost his sixth in seven decisions, throwing 41 of 70 pitches for strikes while yielding four runs and four hits in 2 2-3 innings.
“He really hasn’t been very good all season,” manager John Russell said.
Notes: Peralta homered leading off the sixth against Evan Meek(notes). … Despite allowing two hits and walking two in two-thirds of an inning, Wood was credited with his ninth save in 13 opportunities. … Cleveland is 4-9 in interleague play, Pittsburgh is 4-6. … The Pirates’ 67-109 record is the worst since interleague play began in 1997.