By CHRIS ADAMSKI Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Travis Snider took a pregame pep talk from his manager to heart. Relaxed and with a clear head, he delivered a crucial sixth-inning home run for the second time in five games.
Snider, a graduate of Jackson High School in Mill Creek, a pinch-hit grand slam to help the Pittsburgh Pirates spoil a strong return to the mound for Matt Garza with a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
Garza allowed one hit over five shutout innings in his first outing in 10 months, but the Pirates pounced on a Chicago bullpen that is 10th in the National League in ERA by sending 11 men to the plate in the sixth.
Snider, who homered for the first time in nine months in a win over Milwaukee on Thursday, hit his first career home run with the bases loaded. It was the first Pirates pinch-hit grand slam in five years.
“Tonight was probably the most calm pinch-hit at-bat I’ve had,” Snider said. “(Manager Clint) Hurdle gave a good speech before the game just talking about situations that come up, whether it’s in the sixth inning, the first inning, eighth inning, ninth inning — the game’s the game. And over-thinking those situations isn’t going to make it any easier for you if you don’t get a hit. So I just tried to go up there and be patient.
“I got ahead of the count and was able to sit back on a changeup.”
Wandy Rodriguez (5-2) allowed three runs on six hits over six innings for the Pirates, who have won nine of 11.
Darwin Barney went 4-for-4 for the Cubs, who have lost three of four.
Snider’s second homer was the first pinch-hit grand slam by a Pirates player since Jason Michaels on June 2, 2008, at St. Louis. It came off of Shawn Camp after Hector Rondon and James Russell (1-1) had combined to load the bases. Pedro Alvarez walked to drive in a run.
The Pirates did not have a hit against Garza until Clint Barmes singled to right with one out in the fifth.
Garza had been sidelined since July 21 because of a stress reaction in his right elbow and, later, a strained upper back muscle.
“He was really good,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He had a really good slider. His command, for it being his first time back, was outstanding. Even when he missed, he didn’t miss by much. His velocity was good, too, consistently at 93-94. He was just outstanding.”
Limited by a pitch count, Garza threw 82 pitches.
“I felt great out there,” Garza said. “I had some butterflies and the first couple of innings flew by. I had to kind of stop myself at one point and just slow down but it was fun. It was a long, long time and it’s nice to not only come back but pitch well. You don’t want to spend that much time working to get back and then pitch poorly.”