Gorzelanny strong as Pirates roll

Gorzelanny strong as Pirates roll

PITTSBURGH -- It's not very often that a pitcher who needs 33 pitches to get his first three outs will have enough in the tank to last through seven.

But then again, Gorzelanny hasn't been the typical pitcher for Pittsburgh this season.

The left-hander didn't let a tight strike zone or an erratic curveball slow him down, as he got the Pirates' home stand off to an encouraging start with a 4-1 victory at PNC Park on Tuesday night.

It's become what the Pirates have expected from Gorzelanny, who has solidly established himself as the ace of the Pittsburgh staff.

"Gorzo has been a little overlooked," said Jason Bay, who finished with two hits on the night. "He's our bonafide guy right now. He's our stopper. It's nice to have that guy you go out there every single day thinking he's going to throw a gem and you'll have a chance to win."

This game didn't have a gem-like start to it, however.

Gorzelanny loaded the bases in the first before inducing a flyout from San Diego's Kevin Kouzmanoff to end San Diego's threat. And from there, he battled, without the luxury of having his curveball to depend on.

"The curveball was not working," said Gorzelanny, who showed no ill effects from a bruised thumb that he had been dealing with since being knocked out of his last start. "I couldn't throw it for a strike. Sometimes I would. Other times I would just launch it, but it's one of those things I've had to work on that all year."

Gorzelanny used the luxury of some low pitch innings -- he needed only eight pitches to get through both the second and fourth -- to extend his start and essentially give a bullpen that had exhausted itself in the last series its second easy night.

"He showed tremendous signs of a mature guy out there," said Tracy, whose club has now won four of its last five games. "It looks like how far are we going to be able to get with him, [but] this guy finds ways. As he goes along, he kept getting better."

Pittsburgh ended up getting 120 pitches from the 24-year-old, though Gorzelanny -- and the crowd of 15,794 for that matter -- thought pitch number 116 would be the last. But homeplate umpire CB Buckner, who called a tight strike zone for both sides all night, didn't pull the trigger on a 3-2 pitch to Mike Cameron, sending the center fielder to first with a two out walk in the seventh.

"I felt like I threw a strike, but I can't do anything about it," said Gorzelanny, whose 2.39 ERA is second-lowest in the Majors. "I had to keep going up there and try to get another out. If you throw a pitch that you think is there you do the best to forget about it and throw the next pitch."

With John Grabow ready in the bullpen, Tracy didn't hesitate to stick with Gorzelanny. And though he admitted to feeling fatigued, Gorzelanny got Adrian Gonzalez to watch strike three go by to finish off the seventh and solidify his sixth win of the season.

"I can see why this guy has a two and a half ERA," said Padres manager Bud Black, whose team came into Tuesday's game tied for first in the National League West. "He's got good stuff. He's got a lot of things going for him."

Though Gorzelanny wouldn't need much support on the night, the middle of the Pirates order continued to come through in the clutch. Freddy Sanchez and Xavier Nady both punched in runs with two-out singles to give the Pirates an early two-run lead. Then there was Jason Bay, who picked up where he left off after a monstrous offensive weekend in Cincinnati.

After being named the National League Player of the Week a few hours earlier, Bay launched a pitch from San Diego starter David Wells, who came into the game having given up only two runs in his previous 15 innings, into the left-field stands for his eighth home run of the season.

"When you're going better it seems like you're hitting more good pitches and you're not fouling them off," said Bay, who has now reached base safely in 17 of his last 19 games. "The big thing for me is that I've done well over the last little bit and we've been winning those games too."

Adam LaRoche turned in a three-hit game, which included an RBI single in the eighth to give the Pirates a little extra breathing room before turning the game over to Salomon Torres in the ninth. Torres didn't need it, however, as he cruised to his 12th save of the year with a 1-2-3 inning.

The night, however, belonged to Gorzelanny, evident by the horde of reporters that greeted him at his locker afterward. The lefty didn't take much time to savor the victory, however, instead choosing to be Gorzelanny, his own harshest critic.

"I need to keep getting better," he said. "I am a long ways from being established. I know there is a lot to work on."

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