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Pirates pull off rehearsed 'Rudy' play

PITTSBURGH -- The final run of the Pirates' 3-0 Friday night victory appeared to be a result of answered opportunity.

With men on first and third and none out in the eighth, Neil Walker hit a foul popup about 100 feet beyond first base as both runners tagged up, and when Adrian Gonzalez made an over-the-shoulder catch, Gaby Sanchez took second as Andrew McCutchen scored.

Yet, as hard as it may be to believe, that was a rehearsed play that only needed the ball to be hit to the right spot.

"McCutchen scores as Gaby takes off to draw a throw -- which wasn't even needed this time, but we practiced that play all spring and finally had a chance to use it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "[First-base coach] Rick Sofield came up with that. That's our 'Rudy' play."

Yes, there is a reason that play is called "Rudy" -- and it has nothing to do with the play itself, or with the movie of that title, for that matter.

In Sofield's own words: "Mickey Mahler, the left-hander, was teammates on the [1981] Angels with Bruce Kison, a big practical joker. Mahler liked to get on the umpire's good side by developing a first-name relationship, but he didn't know the guy he'd be throwing to this one day.

"So Mahler asked Kison the name of the plate umpire, and Kison says, 'That's Rudy.'

"First inning, close pitch is called a ball and Mahler spreads his arms and says with a smile, 'Hey, Rudy. C'mon.' Mahler doesn't get a call on any close pitch. He throws a fastball right down the middle and the umpire calls it a ball. Mahler is going, 'Come on, Rudy! Give me a break!'

"And the umpire taps the catcher on the shoulder and says, 'Tell him I'm going to keep calling balls as long as he keeps calling me Rudy.'"

Sofield said the actual name of the umpire that day has been blurred by the passage of time.

"But, ever since," Sofield said, "that's been my backup when I don't know what to call someone or something: Rudy."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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