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Starling Marte's grand slam saves Pirates from tough night, preserves Bucs' undefeated record

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

At, oh, let's say 9:55 or so, the Pirates were bundled up in crummy Cincinnati weather, playing an error- and walk-riddled baseball game they didn't have much business winning. Francisco Liriano walked four batters in three innings. Ryan Vogelsong was involved. There were two outs and no one on in the eighth inning. It was 5-2. The Bucs had had runners on base nearly the entire game, and little to show for them. They were going to lose to a bad Reds team. Nothing looked particularly good, other than the fact that no one was really there to see it.

And then, by 10:07 or so, everything had changed. Ross Ohlendorf nicked John Jaso with a pitch, then walked Andrew McCutchen. Then he gave up an infield single to David Freese to load the bases. And then in came closer J.J. Hoover to face Starling Marte. Hoover threw a 93-MPH pitch for a ball, then left a slider hanging for Marte to belt to deep left. And suddenly the complexion of the game had changed completely.

The Pirates were suddenly set to preserve their undefeated record and take over sole possession of first place in the NL Central (well, at least until the Cubs finished their game against the Diamondbacks). The Reds were suddenly set to continue being the Reds. And Vogelsong -- who'd been dubiously inserted into a close game two innings earlier, and who'd given up two walks and two runs -- was suddenly set to win his first game as a Pirate since 2005.

It wasn't pretty, but that's how it worked out. Neftali Feliz worked a clean eighth and Mark Melancon picked up the save to preserve a 6-5 win, giving the Pirates a 4-0 record on the season. The Bucs won despite leaving 11 runners on base, despite messy performances from Liriano and Vogelsong, despite some ugly defense from Freese, and despite having to face Ross Ohlendorf, the sort of ghost from their past who, five years ago, would surely have enjoyed a gift-wrapped opportunity to ruin a game for them purely out of spite. Now, no. Baseball's funny like that.