By John Perrotto
Photo: David Hague
Clint Hurdle has a soft spot for bench players. The Pirates; manager can’t help it.
“I can’t relate to a guy like (All-Star center fielder Andrew) McCutchen. I don’t have any hardware,” Hurdle was said early Wednesday morning after his team outlasted the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-8 in 15 innings at PNC Park.
So Hurdle was thrilled that the last man on the Pirates’ 25-man roster, utility infielder Pedro Florimon, delivered the game-winner triple with two outs in the bottom of the 15th.
“I was that player later in my career,” Hurdle said. “You show up, you get ready to go and when they tell you to go you go. You don’t get to play much and when you do you need to play well because the game is usually on the line.
“For (Florimon) to come up and do that, it’s gratifying to see. It’s gratifying for him, too, for the all the work he put in to get back to the major leagues.”
Florimon has spent most of the season at Class AAA Indianapolis and is just 2-for-19 (.105) in 16 games with the Pirates. Yet the 28-year-old came up big in a clutch spot to give the Pirates their fifth win in six games and allow them to draw within five games of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central and extend their NL wild card lead to three games over the Chicago Cubs.
Florimon said it was the first time he had ever ended a game with a hit at any level during his 10-year professional career. He delivered off rookie left-hander Keith Hessler, hitting a drive off the right-field wall, after Francisco Cervelli hit a two-single for his fourth hit of the game.
“I was so excited when I saw Cervelli score,” Florimon said with a smile. “I was trying to put a good swing on the ball and make something happen. If feels good to do something for the team and helping the team win.”
Florimon entered the game as a defensive replacement at shortstop for Jung Ho Kang, who moved to third base, to begin the ninth inning with the Pirates leading 8-6. However, the Diamondbacks pinned just the second blown save on closer Mark Melancon, who has 36 saves, when first baseman Sean Rodriguez allowed Paul Goldschmidt’s two-out grounder to roll through his legs for a three-base error with two runs scoring on the play.
Florimon said it was not difficult, though, to maintain his focus during the five-hour, 11-minute game that ended at 12:19 a.m.
“I’m prepared every time for whatever might happen,” Florimon said. “I stay focused every time.”
–Left-hander Francisco Liriano did not get the win despite leaving in the eighth with an 8-3 lead as the Diamondbacks scored three runs in that inning then tied it in the ninth. He did remain unbeaten in nine starts since his last lost June 20 at Washington.
Liriano allowed five runs and six hits in seven-plus innings, though he retired 13 straight batters between the third and seventh innings after giving up three runs in the first two innings.
“That’s as clean as five innings as he’s pitched all year,” Hurdle said.
–Cervelli tied a career high for hits by going 4-for-7. He also had a four-hit game on June 5 at Atlanta and on Aug. 29, 2010 while playing for the New York Yankees against the Chicago White Sox.
–Right-hander A.J. Burnett threw a handful pitches off a mound in the bullpen prior to the game for the first time since going on the disabled list July 31 with a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow. There is not yet a timetable for when might be able to face hitters in a simulated game.