A must win? No.
A need to win? Most definitely.
"It couldn't have been better," said Jeff Clement, who finished with his first three-hit game as a Pirate. "That was a complete team victory right there. It was a fun win."
"It's very awesome for us because we kept fighting," added Ronny Cedeno. "When we lost seven games, it's kind of frustrating. But we had a different attitude today, and I'm so glad we got a win."
This was a Pirates team that had been victim to brief starts and deep deficits recently, the result of which was seven straight losses. The fact that Pittsburgh had been outscored 53-4 by the Brewers in four games loomed over everyone's head. So, too, did the fact that the Pirates hadn't won in Milwaukee since May 3, 2007. That was 22 games ago.
Now, the only streak to worry about at Miller Park is one.
"That's why baseball is such a beautiful sport," said Doumit, one of just three players that was with the club when it last won in Milwaukee. "You can get absolutely boat-raced one day and come back the next and put a hurting on the same team. This one feels good. We haven't won here in Milwaukee in three years. Everyone knows that."
As has become the recurring script in the Pirates' victories this season, this one wouldn't be complete without some heroics. A home run by Milwaukee's Prince Fielder off Javier Lopez in the eighth gave the Brewers their first lead of the night, and it also paved the way for baseball's all-time saves leader to trot in from the outfield bullpen.
But teams have managed to knock Hoffman around this season, and the Pirates would do the same. Two pitches into the inning, Cedeno tied the game with a solo homer.
"I'm trying to get on base because we're down one run," he said.
The hits continued to fall. First from Andy LaRoche, whose one-out single capped his four-hit night. Lastings Milledge followed with a double, and Garrett Jones was intentionally walked.
Doumit, who came in 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position, worked the count to 2-0 and then clubbed his second career grand slam into the right-field seats.
"My goal was to go up there and hit a sacrifice fly," said Doumit, who also finished with three hits. "I certainly didn't want a pitch down that I could roll over into a double play. I got a pitch I thought I could handle. I put a good swing on it."
For Hoffman, the blown save was his third in six opportunities this year.
"They handed it to me pretty good," said Hoffman, owner of 594 career saves. "The team kept us in a ballgame that was tight, and Prince put us up over top at the end to put us in position to win. I wasn't able to hold it."
The big hit may have come from Doumit, but unquestionably, the big night came from Jeff Karstens. Summoned from Triple-A with the task of eating innings and keeping the game close, Karstens gave the Pirates more than they could have asked or hoped for.
Only 20 games into the season, Karstens became the eighth different starter to take the mound for the Pirates. And who would have thought that a rotation battered by short starts and overall ineffectiveness found an answer -- for one night at least -- from a right-hander who started the season in a Minor League relief role?
Karstens had moved into the Triple-A rotation last week, more out of need than scholarship. He was added to the 40-man roster simply so he could make this spot start. And if he pitches like he did on Tuesday, Karstens' next role will be right here.
The right-hander provided a beleaguered pitching staff a 6 2/3-inning outing that was marred only by the fact that he gave up the lead twice. He allowed two runs and never really got into much trouble in the 101-pitch start.
"My whole mindset was to go out there and be as efficient as possible and get through at least six," Karstens said. "I just took it as an opportunity to come here and pitch and see what happens."
He served up a game-tying homer to Brewers catcher George Kottaras in the seventh, but with what the Pirates have received from their starters in recent days, Karstens' performance was seen as a godsend.
Only one other time in the previous seven games has a Pirates starter pitched into the seventh.
"Outstanding," was how Russell described the right-hander's performance. "We really, really, really needed that. You can't say enough. To come in, have a start like that when we desperately needed one, that goes miles for Jeff. We're proud for him."
It also earned Karstens another start, Russell confirmed. That will come in Los Angeles this weekend.
"He was a breath of fresh air," said Doumit. "The last seven days have been pretty trying for us as a team and he was just what the doctor ordered. It's a testament to him. We needed that. He came up big from that."