And in the end, it was Captain Russell Martin that made the difference, slamming another dead-centerfield home run in the fifth inning to break a 4-4 tie and then guiding the bullpen through the final four innings to move the club to 33-22 and, after San Diego lost in Washington, sole possession of first place, although just millimeters in front of Arizona.
Also instrumental in the win was rookie Tony Abreu who singled, doubled, scored a pair of runs and knocked in two. His performance as so impressed the Dodgers that when, as expected, Hong-Chih Kuo was recalled from Las Vegas, it was third baseman Andy LaRoche that returned to New Mexico.
No one on the Dodgers will probably admit it, but they didn't make the move until allowing Andy to play his first game in the major leagues against his brother, Adam, who is the Pirates first baseman.
Wolf (7-3), who had allowed only five earned runs in his last five starts, won despite the absence of his patented curve and again struggled in the first inning. He allowed three hits to the first four Pirates he faced and quickly trailed 1-0. It could have been more but Pittsburgh inexplicably scored only once on a double with runners on second and third, an event that played a part in the Dodger win.
Tony Abreu singled and scored on Andre Ethier's double in the second to tie the game but a solo home run by Jason Bay put Pittsburgh up 2-1 in the second.
Abreu did it again in the fourth, following a walk to Olmedo Saenz and a double by Luis Gonzalez with a double of his own for a 4-3 lead. Then with two out and the rookie on third, Rafael Furcal hit a slow ball to the left of the mound and third baseman Jose Bautista fielded it, then fell down without making a throw and the Dodger lead was 4-2.
A two-out, two-run triple off Wolf saw his pitch count pass the 90 mark and also tied the game in the last of the fourth.
Then, with a nod toward Reggie Jackson, Russ Martin, the straw that stirs the Dodger drink, hit his third homer of the road trip, his third longball that cleared the centerfield fence and his sixth of the season, to put L.A. on top to stay.
Then the scoring spigot was turned off and importance of Martin's shot was underlined when the final 16 Dodgers went out in order from that point on, save for a walk to Gonzalez. On the flip side, the Dodgers' staff allowed only two harmless hits over the final 18 batters, striking out nine of them.
Martin has knocked in 38 runs and scored 34 in just a tick over a third of the season completed. Those numbers, if sustained, would give him 100+ ribbies and runs by the end of the season, a unprecedented feat by a catcher.
Billingsley took over for Wolf in the sixth and with his fastball hitting 97 on the gun, he struck out five of the eight Pirates he faced, again serving notice that although Little is loathe to take him out of the bullpen, he eventually will not only moved into it but will, in time, be the No. 1 starter the club has been looking for for some time.
Joe Beimel took over with one out in the eighth to face lefthanded Adam LaRoche and he promptly unloaded a shot off the right field wall that went for a double.
Exit Beimel, enter Saito for an unusual two-inning save attempt.
Super Sammy didn't fail, striking out a pair to leave LaRoche stranded and then working a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 16th save of the year in 16 opportunities and his 25th in succession.
The roster moves came thick and fast for a time yesterday: Kuo back from Vegas, LaRoche down. Brazoban to the disabled list, Hull to the Dodgers. And with Mark Hendrickson struggling and Jason Schmidt pitching well in his first rehab start, the changes will probably continue.
Brazoban was placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder. The medical staff is waiting for the tests to return to see exactly what the problem might be. In his absence, righthander Eric Hull was added to the staff.
Hull is a 27-year-old right-hander with no previous Major League experience, who has a talent for retiring batters without a blazing fastball. He was 2-2, 3.60 in 27.1 innings with 27 strikeouts at Las Vegas this season and righthanders have posted a .219 average against him.
Olmedo Saenz, who was 8 for 10 with two home runs in his career against Pirates starter Zach Duke, replaced Nomar Garciaparra in the starting lineup. Little said Saenz, who came in hitting .552 at PNC Park, might start again during the four-game series. Saenz went 0 for 3 with a walk in this game.
Score by innings Los Angeles 010 310 000-5 Pittsburgh 101 200 000-4 Los Angeles at r h bi ave Furcal ss 5 0 1 1 .299 Pierre cf 4 0 1 0 .275 Martin c 4 1 2 1 .308 Kent 2b 4 0 0 0 .267 Saenz 1b 3 1 0 0 .213 Garciaparra 1b 0 0 0 0 .288 Gonzalez lf 3 1 1 0 .291 Beimel p 0 0 0 0 .000 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Abreu 3b 4 2 2 2 .308 Ethier rf 4 0 1 1 .271 Wolf p 2 0 0 0 .091 LaRoche ph 1 0 0 0 .211 Billingsley p 0 0 0 0 .000 Clark lf 1 0 0 0 .229 Totals 35 5 8 5 Pittsburgh 36 4 9 4 2B- Martin (14), Ethier (10), Gonzalez (9), Abreu (3). HR- Martin (6). RBI- Ethier (25), Abreu 2 (3), Martin (38). SB- Pierre (18). LOB- Los Angeles 5, Pittsburgh 7. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Wolf (7-3) 5.0 7 4-4 2 3 3.68 Billingsley 2.1 1 0-0 0 5 3.68 Beimel 0.0 1 0-0 0 0 3.75 Saito (sv 16) 1.2 0 0-0 0 3 1.52 T- 2:27. Att- 20,164.Dodger Blue Notes-- Luis Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a double. ...Right-hander Jason Schmidt now appear close to returning to the rotation if club officials decide not to send him out for any more minor-league rehabilitation appearances. Schmidt is scheduled to throw a side session in Pittsburgh, and if he feels no pain, he could get the ball Tuesday night in San Diego in place of the struggling Mark Hendrickson. Hendrickson is 0-3 with a 7.18 ERA in his past five starts, but Little still hasn't definitively said that the left-hander is out of the rotation. ...As the Dodgers wait on the Brazoban MRI, trainer Stan Conte said "He felt a distinct pop on the last pitch in the back of the shoulder with a fair amount of pain," said Conte. "A pop with pain doesn't indicate anything good is going on. The exam indicated it's pretty sore and will not be resolved in short time." ...Little started Olmedo Saenz at first base instead of Nomar Garciaparra, not because of anything negative with Garciaparra, but because Saenz was 8-for-10 lifetime against Pirates starting pitcher Zach Duke and has a lifetime .522 average in PNC Park. Mike Lieberthal will be behind the plate tonight and Martin will be back Sunday after a day off. ...Marlon Anderson has been throwing and hitting for more than a week and he's close to a Minor League rehabilitation assignment. ...The Dodgers will have two Andre Ethers on the field on Saturday, June 9, when they face the Toronto Blue Jays. Canadian singer/songwriter Andre Ethier, who bears the same name as the Dodgers right fielder, will sing "Oh Canada" prior to the game. ...Spanish-language announcer Pepe Yniquez missed the game with flu-like symptoms.