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Without 'pen, Bucs' walk-off not possible

Without 'pen, Bucs' walk-off not possible

PITTSBURGH -- It may have been Ronny Cedeno's line-drive single that sent the Pirates spilling onto the field with the season's first walk-off win -- this one a 4-3 victory over the Dodgers -- but Wednesday's four-hour affair was defined by much more than one 10th-inning single.

A bullpen that many predicted could be Pittsburgh's strongest asset showed its collective resolve during a five-inning span, treating the 31,061 on hand at PNC Park to a show in which the Pirates' relief corps went toe-to-toe with a Dodgers club whose bullpen was best in the Majors last season.

And it won.

"Everyone in our bullpen is capable of getting guys out in big situations," Bucs starter Ross Ohlendorf said. "You saw that tonight."

Cedeno's game-winning single with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th came after a string of five Pirates relievers combined to put up five zeroes in relief of Ohlendorf. They did so despite walking six, largely by keeping a potentially potent Dodgers lineup hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position.

It wasn't always pretty -- there was only one 1-2-3 inning sandwiched in those final five frames -- but the end certainly justified the means.

"You watch guys pitching and everyone's battling," said Evan Meek, who started the parade of relievers with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. "It's only the second game, and you see what we have down there and guys aren't even at their best yet. Our bullpen is going to be very good."

No better was the group's resolve evident than during a 23-pitch top of the ninth. Manager John Russell turned to closer Octavio Dotel to pitch the frame, handing him a 3-3 tie to keep in check. However, Dotel fell into trouble almost immediately.

A missed diving attempt by center fielder Andrew McCutchen put Dodgers pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll on second to lead off the inning. Carroll then scooted to third on a wild pitch Dotel threw to the backstop.

With a runner on third and no outs, Dotel never blinked.

A weak groundout kept Carroll in place before Dotel froze outfielder Matt Kemp with a 93-mph fastball placed beautifully on the inside part of the plate for out No. 2.

"You've just got to relax yourself as much as you can and go pitch-by-pitch," Dotel said of the precarious circumstance. "I tried to relax myself and make pitches. The main thing is not to panic. That's the key."

Up next was Andre Ethier, a left-handed hitter whom Dotel really wanted to have nothing to do with. He walked him on five pitches, preferring to take his chances with the right-handed Manny Ramirez. Ramirez, hitless in seven previous at-bats against Dotel, grounded out weakly to end the inning.

"I think that shows the young guys that when you have the ball in your hand, you can still get guys out no matter what the situation is," Russell said. "We got into some jams and made big pitches."

Dotel came off the mound pumping his fist and was greeted heartily by his teammates in the dugout.

"If you watched that inning closely, he never panicked," Meek said of Dotel. "He knows the game is on the line. He knows a runner is on third base. He knows he's facing a great lineup. But you still make your pitches. That's what a veteran guy does. He's figured it out. He knows how to control himself. That was impressive."

"One of the main things the Pirates did was try to bring veteran guys to the bullpen and that's what we're supposed to show -- what we did today," Dotel said. "That's what we're looking for. We're just trying to give our guys a chance to try and win games."

Finally, after stranding 10 runners in the previous eight scoreless innings, the Pirates would do just that, though it took a gift from second baseman Blake DeWitt to spark the 10th-inning rally. DeWitt fumbled a routine Lastings Milledge's grounder, allowing him to reach to lead off the frame.

"That's a play I should make 100 times out of 100," said DeWitt. "It cost us. No excuses, I just didn't make the play."

After a Jeff Clement sacrifice bunt and two walks, Cedeno stepped up, noticeably anxious. And reliever Ramon Ortiz made him look bad. Cedeno swung through two sliders from Ortiz, but he extended the at-bat by fouling off four more pitches and laying off two more.

"I was talking to myself saying, 'Just relax, put the ball in play,'" Cedeno said. "I just kept thinking, 'I can do this, I can do this.'"

On the ninth pitch, he did, driving a fastball into the left-center-field gap to score Milledge and incite a mob scene near first base. The walk-off hit was the first of Cedeno's career, giving the Pirates a series win and their first 2-0 start in four seasons.

Cedeno's RBI was the first for the Bucs since the first, when Garrett Jones picked up where he left off on Monday. Jones took Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw deep for a three-run homer, in turn becoming the first player to go deep three times already this season.

"I was just looking to attack the fastball and get a good pitch to hit and not miss it," said Jones, who has now hit seven of his 26 career homers against left-handers. "He left that one middle in and a little up, and I got just enough for it to carry out."

Ohlendorf carried that lead into the fifth, but gave up three runs (two earned) in that frame. That would be Ohlendorf's final inning as he would be taken out for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half of the frame, leaving the game in the most capable of hands.

"It's hard to be too upset with how I pitched when we win, though I would have liked to have pitched deeper into the game," said Ohlendorf, who allowed four hits and walked three. "The first game was a lot of fun to win big, but walk-off wins like this are probably the most exciting."

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

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