Bucs' seven-run seventh sinks Phillies

Bucs' seven-run seventh sinks Phillies

PITTSBURGH -- Maybe it was the unseasonably chilly weather that blew into PNC Park.

Or it could have had something to do with Phillies starter Kyle Lohse, who has been nearly flawless against the Pirates in his career.

But through six innings on Sunday, the biggest question at PNC Park was how could a Bucs offense that had been so hot suddenly have gone so cold. This offense that had averaged more than nine runs a game in the past four days had none. And for that matter, it only had three hits.

However, once the Pirates awoke -- an event that came in the seventh -- they couldn't be stopped. In yet another come-from-behind win, and possibly the most improbable one of an exciting week-long homestand, the Pirates walked home with a 7-4 win over the Phillies in front of 31,27 7fans at rainy PNC Park.

"There were an awful lot of things in that game," manager Jim Tracy said.

Between the elements both on and off the field during a game that ended nearly five hours after the first pitch was supposed to be thrown, that somehow seemed like a vast understatement.

Though they fought a 44-minute rain delay at the onset of the game and then another 1 hour and 27 minutes worth of delays that stopped play two separate times with one inning left to play, the Pirates' biggest foe was Lohse.

The Philadelphia right-hander had pitched a shutout against Pittsburgh back in May when he was with Cincinnati. And his lifetime numbers against the Pirates -- 18 2/3 innings, one run allowed -- coming into Sunday weren't exactly encouraging.

And there was reason to believe Lohse was going to toss another nine scoreless on Sunday.

"It was looking like that," Tracy said. "The guy obviously had our number and we weren't doing a whole lot with him."

But with the "quiet confidence" of the offense that Adam LaRoche talked about after Saturday's comeback win, the Pirates weren't ready to throw in the towel quite yet. Not with a four-run deficit hanging in their way. Not with a nemesis on the mound. Not even when Lohse had notched two quick outs in the seventh.

Xavier Nady stood innocuously on first with two outs, but Jose Bautista and pinch-hitter Josh Phelps kept the inning alive with a single and a walk, respectively. That brought up pinch-hitter Matt Kata, who had the task of doing something off of Lohse that hadn't been done in their last 20 innings against him -- drive in a run.

Kata quickly got ahead in the count, 2-0, and knew what to look for next.

"In a situation with the bases loaded there, the last thing he wants to do is get behind 3-0," Kata said. "I got my fastball and put a pretty good swing on it."

With that swing, Kata then cleared the bases with a three-run double in the left-center field gap. Suddenly, the deficit was merely 4-3.

"Matt Kata obviously a huge at-bat," Tracy said. "It's the difference in the game."

Kata's extra-base hit upped the RBI total for Pittsburgh pinch-hitters this month to 12 and their combined average to an incredible .483 (14-for-29). To put that in perspective, the Pirates had only 18 hits from the bench during the first four months of the season.

"Look at our bench right now versus where it was earlier in the season," Tracy said, with a specific tip of the cap to Phelps and Kata. "These guys have some seasoning to them. They have some veteran status to them. They understand what their role is on the club and when called upon, they're prepared to give what they've got."

With the top of the order then looming, the offense wasn't nearly done just yet.

Six more hitters would come to the plate before the inning ended. Nate McLouth tied the game with an RBI double to right field. Freddy Sanchez followed with a double that hugged the inside of the left-field line to put his team ahead. Then, Nady padded the lead by driving in two more with his second hit of the inning.

"Just a lot of things happened, and what's so intriguing about it is it all happened with two outs," said Tracy, whose team used that seventh-inning rally to notch only its second series win at home since the All-Star break. "There's a lot of good things happening when you do stuff like that at the plate."

Until that seventh-inning outburst, the game seemed destined as a sixth straight loss for Snell. Too often this year, Snell had been the victim of minimal run support, with the team averaging just slightly over two runs in his 10 losses this year.

So when Snell gave up a leadoff homer to Jimmy Rollins in the first and a three-run blast by Russell Branyan in the sixth to put the Pirates in a four-run hole, it looked like that would be all Philadelphia would need.

Snell left after seven innings, and with the way things progressed from there, he may have developed a new rally ritual in the process soon after: "icing and cheering."

That's what Snell was busy doing inside the Pirates' clubhouse while his teammates were stringing together the two-out rally. Snell listened, but he never turned to watch.

"I didn't want to go down and jinx them," Snell said.

Snell had just finished an aggressive seventh inning of his own before heading into the clubhouse to cool down. Showing unwavering belief in his young starter, Tracy didn't hesitate to send Snell back to the mound in the seventh for one more inning.

And after two Phillies reached with one out, Snell stepped up to the challenge. He enticed Aaron Rowand to swing on strike three before sending a fastball down the inside of the plate to catch Greg Dobbs looking and end the inning.

"My manager has confidence in me," said Snell, who broke a string of five consecutive losses since the All-Star break. "That's huge for me. I just wanted to make sure his confidence didn't go down in me."

There's nothing to worry about there as far as Tracy's concerned.

"I've showed that type of confidence in that young man all year long," the manager said. "To hang in there in the manner in which he did, it's just great to see. We're seeing some things from these young starters that we weren't seeing last year."

The come-from-behind win allowed the Pirates to finish the homestand a respectable 4-4. And it should be noteworthy that in three of those wins, the Pirates erased deficits of at least four runs.

"It's a good, hard win," Snell said. "That's something that we need to do more often."

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