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Postgame notes: Bucs walk-off with needed win

Matt Sullivan

Pirates ... back?

Not yet, not exactly. But this was a big win, and one that the Pirates desperately needed. A loss would have been the team's 15th in 20 games and would have dropped them into last place (they are currently just ahead of the Cubs).

Afterwards, Clint Hurdle said that tonight could be the spark that the team has been waiting for. But, he added, there have been at least five other times in which he thought there was an opportunity to get something rolling.

"I've believed all of them could be sparks, this is just the next opportunity to get some momentum," he said.

Marte heating up

Starling Marte provided the walk-off heroics for the Pirates tonight. As evidenced by his bat flip, he knew it was gone as soon as he hit it.

"Yes, I felt it!" he said. "I just kept my head down and knew it was gone."

Pedro Alvarez said the team was "ecstatic," when Marte hit his game winning home run. "You saw on TV how happy we all were."

Since being dropped down from the leadoff spot, Starling Marte is 7-for-12 with two walks and a home run.

"He has had really good, clean, aggressive at bats the last three games that he has played down there (in the sixth and seventh spots)," Hurdle said.

The Pirates manager did not say whether Marte's hot streak would lead to moving him back up in the order.

For his part, Marte said after the game that it doesn't matter where he is batting. "I feel like I do when I leadoff, I don't have to change anything," he said.

McCutchen hits with men on base!?

In a refreshing change of pace Andrew McCutchen batted with men on base in four of his five plate appearances. In the third, Neil Walker, who was back in the second slot, hit a double and McCutchen drove him home with a single. In the fifth, they followed the same script, double-run scoring single.  Walker also got on base in the sixth and the ninth, but McCutchen failed to move him along. However, it was Walker's single in the ninth that set the table for Pedro Alvarez's game-tying two-run home run.

"Neil's done a commendable job there (second position) when we've needed it," Hurdle said. "He seems to be in a really good place right now, it's absolutely what we're looking for to set up the middle of the lineup."

Casey Sadler makes debut

Casey Sadler's major-league debut came against the heart of the Blue Jays' order. In the top of the seventh, he retired veterans Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista before walking Edwin Encarnacion. Juan Francisco then hit a blooper into left field that initially looked like would drop. But Starling Marte ran in about 40 yards and made a sliding catch, ending the inning. After allowing a lead off single in the eighth, Sadler struck out two of the next three batters on his way to a scoreless two innings of work.

In his postgame comments, Hurdle made special mention of Sadler's debut and said his contribution to tonight's victory should not be forgotten.

"We were pitching short tonight and he was able to come in and keep the game right where it was," Hurdle said.

Sadler described his first night on a Major League mound as "surreal."

"It's not something that a lot of people get to feel," Sadler said.

The Pirates' reliever said he kept his emotions in check "with as many deep breaths as possible."

"My heart was racing, it honestly felt like it stopped a few times out there."

@JoeyBats19 Returns to PNC Park

Before tonight's game, Jose Bautista made some interesting comments about his time with the Pirates, then, in his first PNC Park plate appearance since 2008, he doubled down the left field line. Bautista ended up scoring the first run of the game when the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, doubled him home. Later, in the fifth, Bautista drove home a run with another double. He ended the night 2-for-5, with one run scored and two RBI.

Jordy Mercer watch

Mercer went 0-for-4 tonight, dropping his OPS to a league worst .367 (among position players with 70-plus plate appearances). One would think the experiment of making him the everyday shortstop could be numbered. On the other hand, the Pirates don't really have many other options.