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.