Milledge helps Bucs snap 12-game slide

Milledge helps Bucs snap 12-game slide

PITTSBURGH -- A night that began on a high note ended on a crescendo.

Mired in a 12-game losing streak, the Pirates drew inspiration from returning members of the organization's 1960 World Series championship team and the sellout crowd of 38,008 that was there to see them. Parlaying the energy from a stirring pregame ceremony, the Pirates then found a way to will themselves to a win.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins
Following big nights from roommates Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge, the Pirates savored a 6-4 win that was hard-earned from start to finish on Saturday. The game was delayed at the start for one hour due to rain. And with it, the team was finally free to move on from this miserable two-week stretch.

"Getting the win will get us back in that winning mentality," Milledge said. "We have a lot of excitement on this team."

"That was a fun game," manager John Russell added.

There certainly hadn't been much fun going around recently. But one defeat away from tying the franchise's longest skid since 1900, the Pirates were desperate for a spark. They got two in the first.

There was a brief here-we-go-again sense when the Indians began the game with back-to-back hits to put two runners in scoring position just six pitches into the game. One scored on a groundout, but Garrett Jones wouldn't let Shin-Soo Choo cross, too. Playing in, Jones fielded a grounder, saw Choo break and threw him out with a spot-on throw.

Starter Jeff Karstens then retired Jhonny Peralta to end the inning and keep the deficit at one.

"The ball came right to me and I took a peek at him right away," Jones said. "I saw he took off for home, and so I just fired it home. [Catcher Ryan] Doumit made a tough play on a tough sinking throw."

And from there, McCutchen and Milledge stole the show. By the end of the night, the two reached base a combined nine times, with the duo responsible for five runs scored and four RBIs.

With two outs in the first, McCutchen drew his first of three walks. Jones walked, too, but Cleveland starter David Huff seemed poised to get out of trouble when Milledge followed with a grounder. It was a tough play for shortstop Jason Donald, and Milledge dove safely across the first-base bag.

And as he did, McCutchen kept running ... toward home.

"I knew that there was a chance he'd be safe," McCutchen said. "I put my head down and tried to get in there."

Never hesitating from the moment Milledge made contact, McCutchen made the 180-foot sprint and slid in safely to tie the game up.

"With McCutchen, anything is possible," Milledge said. "He made everything happen on that play and he set the tone for us the rest of the game."

Two innings later, McCutchen scored on another Milledge hit, this one a triple that got past a diving Choo and trickled all the way to the right-field wall. That triple scored two, and Milledge followed it up with an RBI double in his third at-bat. Again, it was McCutchen, who had led off the inning with a walk, scoring on the hit.

"Pretty much every time I was on base, he drove me in," McCutchen said. "I was on base for him every time, and he was able to do it for me. He did a great job tonight."

None of the five pitchers Manny Acta used on Saturday could retire McCutchen, who capped his night off with an eighth-inning triple. Milledge, who is now hitting .408 with runners in scoring position this season, finished a homer short of the cycle and with a career-high-tying four RBIs.

"McCutchen, I wanted to see him bad," Acta said. "That's why I like Interleague, because I heard so much about him, seen him on TV, and he's the real deal. He's a player they can really build around. Actually, anybody can build around a guy like that. He's legit, and Milledge had a pretty good night, too. I'm familiar with him, and he's a guy who has a chance to be a good player, too."

Though Milledge and McCutchen garnered the spotlight, their supporting cast contributed in some critical spots, too.

There was Jones, coming through with a clutch two-out RBI single in the eighth to provide Octavio Dotel with an insurance run. With it, the first baseman extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

There was Pedro Alvarez, who doubled home Milledge in the fifth to extend the Pirates' lead to 5-1. The hit and RBI were both Major League firsts for Alvarez, who had been 0-for-11 since being called up.

"I was just trying not to do too much, keep my eyes on the ball and put a good swing on it," Alvarez said. "Obviously, the first hit is very exciting, but winning is icing on the cake."

And then there was the pitching staff. Karstens breezed through the Indians' lineup through five innings, needing just 49 pitches in the process. His outing would be somewhat marred by Russell Branyan's three-run homer off the right-field foul pole in the sixth, but again, Karstens deserved credit for keeping the club in the game.

"We got a 'W' -- that's all that matters," said Karstens, who picked up just the second win by a Pittsburgh starter since May 19. "I felt like I made one bad pitch, and it kind of cost me a little bit. Tonight was a total team effort."

Russell used three relievers to get through the rest of the sixth, but it worked. Evan Meek induced the inning-ending groundout to strand three Cleveland runners. The bullpen then pitched three more scoreless frames to finish off the Pirates' first win since June 5.

The win was Pittsburgh's first in Interleague Play this season and the first Major League victory for the three rookies -- Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln -- who were all recently called up.

"It was a really enjoyable game to watch," Russell said. "Our guys really played with a lot of life and energy."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.