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When the Arizona Diamondbacks signed journeyman catcher Wil Nieves a few days ago to give Miguel Montero a healthy backup, he came to the team with six career home runs in bits and pieces of nine major-league seasons.
Nieves was probably the last guy the playoff-contending Pittsburgh Pirates thought would beat them, but Nieves got what proved to be the game-winning hit with his two-run home run in the sixth inning. It propelled the Diamondbacks to a win and an important split of the four-game series at PNC Park.
With Nieves providing unexpected power, the Diamondbacks' leading home run hitter, Jason Kubel, hit a pair of home runs. One gave the D-backs a 2-0 lead in the first inning, the other, another two-run shot, gave them an insurmountable 6-3 lead.
Kubel has 25 home runs on the season. He and Aaron Hill, not in the starting lineup in Wednesday night's ejection-fest, combined for five hits and scored four runs.
The Diamondbacks made a winner of Joe Saunders, who continues to be pretty good on the road. Saunders lasted seven innings and allowed two earned runs on seven hits to improve to 6-8 overall, 2-3 in 10 road starts.
Arizona (57-55) continues to hang around in the NL West. With San Francisco's loss, the Diamondbacks moved to four games out of first place and are headed home following a very good 6-4 road trip.
The Pirates took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second and held it until Nieves homered. Wandy Rodriguez, the Pittsburgh starter, came out of the game in favor of Jared Hughes, one of the Pirates' top relievers. But the D-backs jumped on Hughes with three hits and two runs in less than an inning in the seventh.
Willie Bloomquist was a late scratch from the D-backs' lineup due to back problems, replaced in the leadoff spot by Stephen Drew. Arizona headed home after the game to open a short homestand, a three-game series with the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, on Friday.
MVP candidate Andrew McCutcheon went 1-for-4 Thursday to move his batting average to .369.
David Hernandez and J.J. Putz closed out the game with scoreless innings for the Diamondbacks. Putz earned his 21st save, the team getting a hand from manager Kirk Gibson's mom who was in attendance.
Well, it was an eventful one Wednesday but most of the key events were in the Pirates favor with the Diamondbacks coming up just short on a 7-6 rainy day loss. Willie Bloomquist and Paul Goldschmidt each finished the day with two RBIs but Pirates second baseman Neil Walker really stole the show with a huge final line (2-4, one run, five RBI).
It seemed the D-backs were set on turning the tables and taking the lead early in this one after Chris Johnson and Goldschmidt batted home a run each in the top of the first. But after striking out the first two batters, starter Ian Kennedy (4 IP, 8 H, 5 ER) allowed the next two to reach before giving up a towering thee-run bomb to Walker. From there, it was clear the fans were in store for a wild one.
In the third, rookie outfielder Starling Marte would continue his tear against the D-backs with another solo shot that extended the lead to 4-2. But with the possibility of calling the game looming due to the rain, the D-backs sense of urgency kicked in in the top of the fifth. Thanks to the help of a wicked hop on Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the D-backs were able to get two more runs across to tie the game.
Unfortunately, that momentum would be short-lived with Walker stroking a two-run double after the bases were left loaded due to an error by Bloomquist. From there both team would tack on one more run each before things would get extra interesting in the seventh.
Following Goldchmidt's second sacrifice fly of the game, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero were able to reach base due to consecutive throwing errors. Then, with a rekindled sense of hope, Chris Young approached the plate with the bases loaded. Before he could play the role of hero though, Young was caught looking at a called third strike. Clearly, Young felt that it was a little too inside as he responded by throwing his bat down on home plate while screaming in umpire Larry Vanover's face.
Young was instantly ejected but still got his money's worth as he was being physically restrained by manager Kirk Gibson and his fellow teammates. While everyone was focusing on an evidently irate Young, Upton was also tossed by first-base umpire Alfonzo Marquez for voicing his displeasure on the same call.
With two-thirds of his outfield now gone, Gibson was forced to move Bloomquist from second and put Aaron Hill and Jason Kubel into the game after initially giving them an off-day. The D-backs were able to add on one more run in the eighth with another Bloomquist RBI before the door was eventually slammed shut as Joel Hanrahan struck out the side in the ninth.
Arizona will now try to salvage the series tomorrow at noon with Joe Saunders taking the bump against Wandy Rodriguez at 1:05. The D-backs are quickly heading in the wrong direction though with Wednesday's loss marking their fourth loss in five games after a hot start to the road trip.
The Diamondbacks sent Patrick Corbin to the mound looking to stop the hemorrhaging that has suddenly found it's way into Arizona's road trip. The Pirates, looking to protect home field and stay in a race with the Cincinnati Reds, called upon Jeff Karstens to pitch. Both hurlers threw pretty well, but this game was truly a back and forth battle between the hitters.
After a base hit from leadoff batter Stephen Drew, a couple of infield sacrifices by Aaron Hill and Jason Kubel moved Drew to third base. From there, Paul Goldschmidt hit a line drive off of the back of Jeff Karstens, allowing Drew to cross home plate and make the score 1-0.
The Pirates quickly retaliated in the bottom of the first when Gerardo Parra dropped a sacrifice fly, allowing Starling Marte to easily score from third. Luckily, Parra was able to get the force out at second, but the lack of concentration in the outfield is becoming an issue for the Diamondbacks all of a sudden.
Stephen Drew did not stop with the single, though. In the third inning, during his second at-bat, Drew blasted the ball to the stands in right field, giving him his second home run of the road trip and of the season. Paul Goldschmidt then proceeded to slam a double off the wall, pushing Kubel to third base. Unfortunately, the D-backs were unable to more on after Justin Upton struck out swinging and Miguel Montero hit a fly ball to left.
Once again, though, the Buccos were able to match the D-backs' scoring output. Manager Kirk Gibson decided not to issue an intentional walk to Andrew McCutchen, an MVP candidate in his own right. McCutchen should have probably been walked considering he is hitting .443 against left handed hurlers this season, but instead, he hit a single to left field, scoring Travis Snider.
The "seesaw battle" that Mark Grace referred to continued when Drew came through for a third time, hitting a base hit up the middle, scoring Parra from second base. The D-backs found themselves up 3-2 going into the bottom of the fourth inning.
Patrick Corbin managed the game very well, getting himself out of multiple jams, including a bases loaded scare in the fifth inning without letting any runs score. His final line was six innings pitched, two earned runs, three walks and a career high seven strikeouts. Corbin's quality start marks eight straight for Diamondbacks starting pitchers.
But for the second consecutive night, the bullpen decided to collapse. Takashi Saito came on in relief of Corbin only to give up a home run to leadoff batter, Starling Marte on a full count. With the score tied 3-3, Saito let the game spiral out of control by loading up the bases without recording an out. The Pirates went on to score one more run, giving them the lead for the first time going into the eighth inning.
The Diamondbacks mounted a comeback attempt in the eighth, successfully re-tying the game after a single from Montero. From there, newest D-backs acquisition Chris Johnson decided he wanted to go home. With Montero and Upton on base, Johnson nailed a home run to center field, effectively ending the night for the Pirates.
The Diamondbacks decided to tack on a couple more runs in the ninth, with Chris Johnson hitting yet another home run, making that his fifth in seven games with the Diamondbacks.
Get more Diamondbacks coverage over at AZ Snakepit.
On Sunday in the final game of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Henry Blanco injured his right thumb and had to leave the game. It was fairly serious and he went back to Phoenix for an MRI. Since without Blanco the Diamondbacks are without a backup catcher, the team placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained thumb.
Nieves, 34, split the 2012 season between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs. He batted .298 (14-for-47) with 1 homer and 5 RBI in 16 games with the Rockies, and .306 (24-for-111) with 3 homers and 16 RBI in 34 games with the Sky Sox.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-hander is a career .226 (180-for-798) hitter in 298 Major League games with the Padres (2002), Yankees (2005-07), Nationals (2008-10), Brewers (2011) and Rockies (2012).
Nieves was designated for assignment by the Rockies on Aug. 1.
Blanco, 40, appeared in 21 games with the D-backs this season, hitting .188 (12-for-64) with 1 home run and 7 RBI. His season may be over.
Get more Diamondbacks coverage over at AZ Snakepit.
Wade Miley did not allow an earned run in six innings, but the Arizona Diamondbacks could not solve Erik Bedard. Two errors in the fourth led to the first Pittsburgh run and the bullpen allowed another three runs in the eighth as the Pittsburgh Pirates sent the D-backs to their third straight loss, shutting them out 4-0 on Monday night.
Arizona only could muster two hits on the night, but wasted a chance to take an early lead in the second inning. Paul Goldschmidt led off the inning with a double to right-center. Justin Upton moved him to third base with a groundout to second. Miguel Montero then had a chance to drive in the easy run with some contact, but he struck out, and then Chris Johnson grounded out to third to end the inning.
They did not get another baserunner the rest of the game. Goldschmidt got a two-out hit in the seventh inning, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch into another double.
Miley gave up an unearned run in hard luck fashion. Andrew McCutchen hit a blooper to centerfield that Chris Young gave up on and fielded on a bounce. He bobbled and lost the ball and McCutchen hustled to try and take second. Young's throw was misplayed by Willie Bloomquist and the ball bounced away, and McCutchen took third. He scored when Gaby Sanchez grounded out to shortstop.
Pittsburgh added three runs in the eighth inning on the bullpen. With one out, McCutchen and Sanchez singled off of Brad Ziegler. Mike Zagurski relieved him and Neil Walker hit an infield single that scored McCutchen. Travis snider singled home Sanchez as Walker went to third. Rod Barajas capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
Pirates starter Erik Bedard went seven inning and allowed only the two hits to Goldschmidt, striking out five. He improved to 6-12 while Miley, who allowed an unearned run on six hits in six innings, fell to 12-7. They are now 55-54 on the year.
The two teams continue their four-game set on Tuesday.
Get more Diamondbacks coverage over at AZ Snakepit.
The Arizona Diamondbacks will continue to build upon their good road trip as they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for a four game series.