Bucs break out bats to beat Dodgers

Bucs break out bats to beat Dodgers

PITTSBURGH -- Prior to Wednesday's contest against the Dodgers, Pirates manager John Russell backed his players, saying that Tuesday's flat effort was not an indication that the team had already called it quits on the season.

The lack of intensity was an isolated case, Russell said. The fact that there was no palpable passion or enthusiasm? That would change on Wednesday, he promised.

"Like we told players [on Wednesday], we have to go one inning at a time," Russell said. "I expect that [Wednesday], these guys will come out with a little more fight, a little more fire."

There would, in fact, be no questioning of the effort on Wednesday, as the Pirates came out with slightly more pep in their step, playing with a little more urgency. The result was an overwhelming 15-8 win over Los Angeles at PNC Park, which included the team's biggest offensive outburst of the season.

Russell's report card afterward?

"I thought it was great," he said. "These guys have always shown a resiliency to play hard. We've always been able to bounce back. Guys were into it."

And that -- Russell's last sentence -- possibly summed this performance up better than any other postgame attempt.

"It's hard to show life when you're already out of it," said Adam LaRoche, who led the way with a five-RBI game. "But that's still the whole goal."

A coincidence that the team answered Tuesday's sluggish performance by scoring more runs than they have in any game this season? Probably not.

"You guys saw it the last couple [games], not a lot of life out there," LaRoche said. "To come back today and have a ton of guys on ... this is something to build off of."

"It was great," catcher Ryan Doumit added. "I think our offense showed flashes of what we're capable of doing."

And maybe that's what makes this one more unusual than some of the offensive blowouts in the past. No Jason Bay. No Xavier Nady. But finally, it didn't matter.

An offense that had been lulled to sleep in many respects since those deals went down, incredibly drove in 14 of those 15 runs with two outs, including eight in the seventh behind seven straight hits. Add a walk and a fielding error by Dodgers first baseman James Loney as bookends and the Pirates finished with more runs in that frame than in any other this season.

"That one inning was huge for us," said Andy LaRoche, who broke an 0-for-17 skid in the inning. "Against a team as hot as the Dodgers and just all-around, it was good for everybody."

Pittsburgh entered the seventh tied at 7 with the National League West-leading Dodgers. Two early leads, which showcased Adam LaRoche's second-half surge at its best, had already been squandered.

After knocking a solo homer in the fourth, LaRoche followed that with his third career grand slam -- his first in a Pirates uniform -- one inning later. Two-out hits by Freddy Sanchez and Nate McLouth and a walk by Doumit preceded the towering blast that landed at the foot of the batter's eye in center.

"[It was] just a fastball, little down in the zone and in the middle," LaRoche said. "I feel good right now."

And for good reason. The multihit effort, to which LaRoche would add a seventh-inning single, was his seventh in 14 games this month. The perennial strong season finisher has 21 RBIs this month.

But the story of this game wasn't going to be defined by just one of the 36 players in uniform. After Tuesday night's disappointing effort, a sense of team-wide redemption seemed necessary.

Prior to the floodgates opening in the seventh, the Pirates already had executed on a number of fronts.

The hustle was there, with no better example than Nyjer Morgan turning a routine single into a double and then scoring in the first.

The defense appeared more in tune: Two Los Angeles runners were thrown out on the bases, including a beautiful grab-and-sweep tag by Andy LaRoche to get Los Angeles' Angel Berroa at third after the Dodgers had tied the game in the seventh. The younger LaRoche, who has been chided for his defense in the past six weeks, also turned a pivotal double play in the sixth.

And in the seventh, all fell into place. With his first homer at PNC Park since July 7, Doumit put the Pirates back in front. After two more hits, Andy LaRoche drove in two more, with a much overdue hit.

"You're not lying," he said. "I've just got to try and fight through this funk."

Pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz hustled around the basepaths for his 11th career triple. Pinch-hitter Jason Michaels connected for an RBI single. Morgan added a double to end the string of seven hits. Michaels and Morgan would score on a subsequent fielding error.

"The last two games we played against these guys, they put it to us pretty good," starter Zach Duke said afterward. "To come out and respond like this is a good thing."

Most of the 11,883 in attendance responded with a standing ovation for the club at the end of the inning.

Duke's start got lost in the final score. By no means dominant, Duke battled, and got kudos from his manager for doing so. The left-hander, in his second-to-last start of the season, gave up five runs on 11 hits in five innings.

"Without his best stuff, I thought he competed pretty well," Russell said. "He went after them as best he could."

Indeed, it was effort -- this time spoken of positively -- that proved to be the overriding theme of the night.

"I'm just pleased with the way they bounced back and the effort they gave," Russell said. "It just shows that they are trying to finish off the season as strong as they can."

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