PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t a big crowd, but all 9,883 in attendance at PNC Park on Wednesday night were on the edges of their seats in the ninth inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ matchup with the Washington Nationals.
The Pirates were ahead 7-5 when Renegade blasted over the sound system as closing pitcher David Bednar trotted in from the bullpen in left center field.
Often times when Bednar comes in for the save, it’s a sure thing. The Pirates’ relief ace has converted 34 of his 37 save opportunities for the Pirates this year.
While Bednar ultimately sealed the deal in giving the Pirates a 7-6 win over the Nationals, it looked almost certain that the Pirates would be trying to break a tie, or even have to come from behind in the bottom of the ninth.
“Just wanted to make it interesting. Obviously that’s not the goal,” Bednar said. “You want to make it quick. Once you get guys on, it’s just like we want to put a stop to it and come away with a win. Once we got to first and third with one out, it was finding a way. Whatever it takes, finding a way.”
The inning began with a fielding error from defensive replacement Alika Williams, who dropped a popup in foul territory down the left field line. Williams was brought into the game to play shortstop and made an uncharacteristic miscue.
The extended at-bat to Travis Blankenhorn ultimately resulted in a walk, opening the gates to a potential ninth-inning rally.
After a Luis García single, it was another miscue in the field from a usually sure-handed defender that looked problematic for the Pirates.
Pinch-hitter Keibert Ruiz chopped one to first baseman Alfonso Rivas. A run would have scored regardless, but Rivas hesitated, didn’t record an out and allowed Ruiz to reach.
The Nationals eventually loaded the bases with one out when another pinch hitter, Ildemaro Vargas, drew a walk against Bednar.
As the lineup flipped over, Bednar dialed in.
Bednar struck out Nats leadoff hitter CJ Abrams with a 98 mph fastball down the middle with a 3-2 count. He then induced a flyout to Lane Thomas on the very next pitch.
The Pirates’ bench took a collective sigh of relief. Despite some spotty control and high-pressure situation after high-pressure situation, Bednar got the job done.
“I think it speaks to who he is and really how talented he is because that’s probably the least fastball command we’ve seen him have since he’s been here. Scattered all over the place,” said manager Derek Shelton. “You don’t see him walk guys and the fact that he was able to reign it back in and makes a big pitch, the 3-2 pitch to Abrams and then was able to come back to Lane Thomas, the top of the order, those two guys are good hitters and the fact he was able to rein it back in was really important.”
Not all of Bednar’s 34 saves this season have been clean innings. He’s had to deal with traffic on the basepaths, but he seems to have a knack for performing like an escape artist.
Because of the track record, confidence doesn’t fluctuate much.
“I really wanted to win. I’m really happy we won. Just like anybody, you go, ‘Oh shoot. Oh shoot. Alright, but we have Dave,” Quinn Priester, who was credited with the win, said. “There’s never a doubt with him. I’ve seen him pull us out of even worse situations. We’ll always have faith in him.”
It didn’t go the way he or the Pirates would have wanted, but Bednar completed the job.
That’s David Bednar, though. He’s a Pittsburgh kid. It’s a town with a reputation with a blue collar population and hard workers. For Bednar, his hard work in a laboring ninth inning paid off.
“I think at the end of the day, no matter how it happens all that matters is getting the job done and securing a victory for the boys and they were grinding all game,” he said. “It doesn’t always have to be pretty, but at the end of the day it’s about getting the job done. It doesn’t matter how it looks. Obviously you want the clean ones way more. At the end of the game, sometimes that just happens. That’s baseball. Sometimes you have to dig deep and get the job done at any cost.