PITTSBURGH -- The home run was very important. The run home by Jason Bay was better still.
Bay became the first Pirates player in 50 years to homer in five consecutive games, then ran over Houston catcher Eric Munson to score the winning run on Jose Bautista's short sacrifice fly in the 18th inning as Pittsburgh beat the Astros 8-7 Saturday night.
The game was the longest in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001 and the Pirates' longest at home since a 4-3, 18-inning win over the Cubs on Aug. 6, 1989. The Astros beat Atlanta last year in an 18-inning NL playoff game, the longest postseason game in history, but hadn't played a regular season game so long since a 22-inning win over the Dodgers on June 3, 1989.
"At some point, you don't even know what inning it is," Bay said.
The Astros lost their fifth in a row and have dropped 16 of 22 since starting the season 19-9.
Houston took a 7-6 lead on Willy Taveras' two-out single up the middle in the 17th against Ryan Vogelsong -- the first run since Jeromy Burnitz's pinch-hit homer for Pittsburgh tied it at six in the eighth. But Jose Castillo greeted Mike Gallo, Houston's sixth reliever, with his second homer in as many games to lead off the bottom of the inning. Castillo's fourth homer of the season ended a streak of eight shutout innings by Astros relievers.
Gallo (1-1) walked Bay to start the 18th, then threw two wild pitches -- one while intentionally walking Craig Wilson -- to advance Bay to third. Bay then chose to go home on the short fly ball and was safe when Munson couldn't hold the throw from Taveras.
"I just lowered my shoulder and flew over top of him," Bay said. "I don't know what happened. I was just trying to score."
Gallo took responsibility for the loss, saying of the wild pitch to Wilson: "It's one that got away, and I'm embarrassed about it because I'm a professional athlete and that stuff, that's just knowing your ABCs, and you're not supposed to do that. I let my team down. And it magnifies everything because of the way our road trip is going."
Victor Santos (2-5), the ninth Pirates pitcher and their scheduled starter Monday against Milwaukee, pitched a scoreless 18th for the victory.
Bay is the first Pirates player to homer in five consecutive games since Dale Long became the first in major league history to homer in eight in a row, in 1956. Bay hit the first pitch he saw from Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez in the fifth for a three-run drive that put the Pirates up 5-4, his 15th of the season.
"That seems like three days ago," Bay said. "Like I've said, when you're going well you try to ride it as long as you can."
Bay's ninth homer in 35 at-bats over nine games -- a span that includes two two-homer games -- followed his RBI single in a two-run Pirates first and gave him four RBI for the second night in a row. That Pirates first was helped by two Astros infield errors, by first baseman Mike Lamb on Nate McLouth's easy grounder to start the game and shortstop Adam Everett's two-base throwing error on Bautista's grounder that also scored a run.
Bay also figured in what briefly proved to be the Astros' go-ahead run in the eighth. After reliever Roberto Hernandez walked two and hit a batter to load the bases, Lamb's fly ball to the warning track fell out of Bay's glove for an error as he stumbled backward. Bay recovered to make a strong relay throw to shortstop Jack Wilson, who threw Burke out at the plate on a disputed call that led to manager Phil Garner's ejection.
Because Lamb's drive was long enough to score Biggio even if Bay had caught the ball, the error became meaningless when Burke was thrown out.
Pirates reliever Mike Gonzalez felt the key to the game was Vogelsong, the mopup man in the Pirates' bullpen, limiting the Astros to a run over five innings.
"That was huge. He saved the starting rotation, definitely," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes he'll sit down there seven, 10 days without pitching, and we all feel for him and want him to be successful."
Pirates starter Paul Maholm, who had allowed only eight earned runs in his previous five starts, took a 2-0 lead into the fifth only to have the Astros score four times.
"We'll be tested now, we have to bounce back from this, but that's what you're supposed to do," Garner said.
|Jason Bay knocks over Eric Munson allowing him to score the winning run in an 18 inning marthon. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Willy Taveras, CF||9||2||3||1||0||2||1||.284|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||4||2||1||1||5||2||1||.286|
|Chris Burke, LF||5||1||1||0||0||0||2||.306|
|Chad Qualls, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Brad Ausmus, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.311|
|Trever Miller, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Taylor Buchholz, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Brad Lidge, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|c- Andy Pettitte, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.105|
|Mike Gallo, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Dave Borkowski, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||7||0||1||1||1||1||1||.268|
|Mike Lamb, 1B||8||1||3||2||0||1||2||.348|
|Preston Wilson, RF||3||0||1||1||1||1||2||.266|
|Russ Springer, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|d- Lance Berkman, PH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.296|
|Dan Wheeler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Eric Bruntlett, LF||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||.310|
|Eric Munson, C||8||1||3||1||1||1||6||.304|
|Adam Everett, SS||7||0||1||0||1||0||6||.212|
|Wandy Rodriguez, P||3||0||0||0||0||2||4||.045|
|Orlando Palmeiro, RF||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.194|
|e- Jason Lane, PH-RF||3||0||0||0||1||0||2||.201|
|a-struck out for Qualls in the 12th|
|b-grounded out for Miller in the 15th|
|c-grounded out for Lidge in the 17th|
|d-was walked intentionally for Springer in the 8th|
|e-flied out for Palmeiro in the 9th|
|2B - Willy Taveras (6, Capps), Mike Lamb (4, Maholm), Eric Bruntlett (4, Santos), Eric Munson (3, Maholm)|
|SF - Morgan Ensberg (1), Mike Lamb (1)|
|SH - Adam Everett (1)|
|RBI - Willy Taveras (12), Craig Biggio (17), Morgan Ensberg (36), Mike Lamb 2 (9), Preston Wilson (24), Eric Munson (7)|
|2-OUT RBI - Willy Taveras (8), Mike Lamb (7), Preston Wilson (11), Eric Munson (5)|
|SB - Willy Taveras (8, 3rd base off Vogelsong/Paulino), Jason Lane (1, 2nd base off Marte/Paulino)|
|CS - Craig Biggio (1, 2nd base by Maholm/Doumit)|
|Team LOB - 19|
|DP - Ensberg-Biggio-Lamb, Miller-Everett-Lamb|
|E - Adam Everett (3, Wild throw), Mike Lamb (2, Misplayed grounder)|
|Dan Wheeler (BS,1)||2||1||1||1||1||1||1||5.06|
|Mike Gallo (BS,1; L,1-1)||1||3||2||2||2||0||1||5.87|
|IBB - Castillo by Wandy Rodriguez, Bay by Chad Qualls, C. Wilson by Brad Lidge, C. Wilson by Mike Gallo|
|WP - Brad Lidge (4), Mike Gallo 2 (4)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Wandy Rodriguez 70-45, Russ Springer 16-10, Dan Wheeler 34-21, Chad Qualls 29-16, Trever Miller 38-27, Brad Lidge 37-20, Mike Gallo 30-19, Dave Borkowski 6-4|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Wandy Rodriguez 9-4, Russ Springer 1-2, Dan Wheeler 2-3, Chad Qualls 5-1, Trever Miller 2-4, Mike Gallo 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Wandy Rodriguez 28, Russ Springer 5, Dan Wheeler 8, Chad Qualls 10, Trever Miller 9, Brad Lidge 9, Mike Gallo 8, Dave Borkowski 1|
|Nate McLouth, CF||8||1||1||0||1||1||3||.240|
|Jack Wilson, SS||8||1||3||0||0||0||3||.299|
|Freddy Sanchez, 3B||8||2||1||0||1||1||4||.324|
|Jason Bay, LF||7||2||3||4||2||1||0||.309|
|Craig Wilson, 1B||7||0||3||0||2||2||2||.284|
|Jose Bautista, RF||8||0||1||1||0||3||7||.208|
|Jose Castillo, 2B||7||1||1||1||1||1||0||.281|
|Ryan Doumit, C||4||0||1||0||1||1||3||.213|
|Ian Snell, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Damaso Marte, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Jose Hernandez, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.163|
|Ryan Vogelsong, P||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.500|
|b- Humberto Cota, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.222|
|Victor Santos, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.118|
|Paul Maholm, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.056|
|Matt Capps, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|John Grabow, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|c- Mike Edwards, PH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.200|
|Salomon Torres, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Roberto Hernandez, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|d- Jeromy Burnitz, PH||1||1||1||1||0||0||0||.234|
|Mike Gonzalez, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|e- Ronny Paulino, PH-C||4||0||1||0||0||1||3||.308|
|a-singled for Marte in the 12th|
|b-grounded out for Vogelsong in the 17th|
|c-walked for Grabow in the 6th|
|d-homered for Hernandez in the 8th|
|e-hit into fielder's choice for Gonzalez in the 10th|
|2B - Ryan Doumit (5, Rodriguez)|
|HR - Jason Bay (15, Rodriguez), Jose Castillo (4, Gallo), Jeromy Burnitz (8, Wheeler)|
|SF - Jose Bautista (2)|
|SH - Jack Wilson (5)|
|RBI - Jason Bay 4 (43), Jose Bautista (6), Jose Castillo (16), Jeromy Burnitz (26)|
|2-OUT RBI - Jeromy Burnitz (17)|
|SB - Jason Bay (5, 2nd base off Lidge/Munson)|
|CS - Jose Bautista (1, 2nd base by Rodriguez/Munson)|
|Team LOB - 18|
|Outfield Assists - Jason Bay 1|
|DP - F. Sanchez-Castillo-C. Wilson|
|E - Jason Bay (1, Dropped fly), Ronny Paulino (6, Wild throw)|
|Matt Capps (BS,4)||0.2||2||1||1||0||0||0||5.01|
|Victor Santos (W,2-5)||1||1||0||0||1||0||0||5.30|
|IBB - Everett by Paul Maholm, Berkman by Roberto Hernandez, Biggio by Ryan Vogelsong, Munson by Victor Santos|
|HBP - Burke (by Roberto Hernandez)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Paul Maholm 104-54, Matt Capps 15-9, John Grabow 6-4, Salomon Torres 14-8, Roberto Hernandez 30-13, Mike Gonzalez 32-21, Damaso Marte 26-15, Ryan Vogelsong 55-34, Victor Santos 19-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Paul Maholm 7-4, Salomon Torres 1-2, Roberto Hernandez 1-1, Mike Gonzalez 1-2, Damaso Marte 1-3, Ryan Vogelsong 6-7|
|Batters Faced - Paul Maholm 27, Matt Capps 4, John Grabow 2, Salomon Torres 3, Roberto Hernandez 7, Mike Gonzalez 6, Damaso Marte 8, Ryan Vogelsong 18, Victor Santos 5|
|Attendance - 31878|
|Game Time - 5:49|
|Temperature - 75|
|Umpires - Home - Field Culbreth, First Base - Bill Welke, Second Base - Tim McClelland, Third Base - Marty Foster|