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Watson brings out eighth-inning hammer for Bucs

PHOENIX -- There is no truth to the fable that in 1939 playwright Eugene O'Neill wrote "The Iceman Cometh" in a moment of premonition about a future left-handed relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nevertheless, Tony Watson keeps playing the part, and he particularly brought down the house Saturday night.

Watson's icy response to a harrowing eighth-inning threat maintained a 1-1 tie in a game the Bucs would take, 2-1.

Clint Hurdle called the eight-pitch sequence that got Watson out of a second-and-third occupied, one-out jam "the big play of the night."

"He stepped up and got things done," the manager said.

Watson had entered the 1-1 game and quickly found himself in "not exactly the situation I saw unfolding when I came out of the gate."

An infield single, a legitimate single and an infield grounder placed two men in scoring position. Powerful Mark Trumbo was coming up. Aaron Hill was on deck. Watson himself appeared to be in the hole.

Pitching coach Ray Searage paid a mound visit, but the subject of intentionally granting Trumbo the open first base never came up.

"No. Right away, we got with Ray and said we got a plan to get him out," Hurdle said. "We felt we were in an advantage situation with our guy on the mound. We bet on our guy."

Searage's only advice: "Don't give in. Go after him. You got that open base if you fall behind."

Watson gave that little chance of happening.

"I wanted to go hard-in. I knew he'd be swinging, that he'd be aggressive," Watson said. "I didn't want to help him out with a changeup."

Trumbo swung through a pair of 94 mph sinkers, and popped the third sinker into first baseman Pedro Alvarez's glove in foul territory.

"We went right at him, and tonight we won," Watson said.

"There is nobody he doesn't challenge," Hurdle said of the workhorse reliever who was making his 214th appearance since the start of the 2012 season. "He's been pitching this way for two-plus years. He's cool. He's got a slow heartbeat. He's not going to get rattled."

Hill was a little more stubborn, evening the count at 2-2 from an 0-2 hole before The Iceman fanned him on the fifth pitch.

Drama over. Cue the winning rally with two outs in the ninth that presented Watson with the victory.

"We got a lot of confidence right now, great chemistry," Watson said of a 10-8 Pirates team that is distancing itself impressively from a season-opening sweep in Cincinnati. "Everybody's in it, on the top step of the dugout. This was a nice, big team win."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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