Park enjoys milestone moment in Bucs' victory
Veteran passes Nomo for most wins by Asian-born pitcher
MIAMI -- In a year that has seen the Pirates already lose 103 games, historical references have been plentiful. And they haven't been all that positive.
That trend, however, enjoyed a refreshing change on Friday, as the Pirates celebrated Chan Ho Park's ascension in the history books in the Pirates' 5-1 win over the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium.
It was fitting that in Park's most dominant performance of the year, he earned a victory. And this was a career one. Park's second win since joining the Pirates was also the 124th of his career. No Asian-born pitcher to play in the Major Leagues has more.
"One hundred, twenty-four is not great for the Major Leagues, but it's very special," said the South Korean native, who entered Friday tied with Japan's Hideo Nomo with 123 wins. "It makes me think about 17 years ago, when I first came [to America]. I think about the people who brought me here and helped me. I've met a lot of special people through my career, and today, that means a lot."
It meant a lot to Park's teammates as well. Despite joining the club less than two months ago, Park has endeared himself to his teammates, particularly those who have sat with him in the bullpen and culled wisdom from his 17 years of experience. They rewarded Park with an impromptu celebration afterward.
Upon the right-hander's postgame entrance into the clubhouse, they doused him with beer. He was presented with the lineup card and game-used ball, and Park joked that he'd be keeping everything -- including beer-soaked socks and underwear -- as a memento from the night.
"Obviously, that means much, much more than a couple of weeks ago when I had the last win," said Park, who tied Nomo back on Sept. 12. "Honestly, I thought it was going to be tough to get another one this season. Now that I've made it, it's very special. It's great for my family. And it's very special for my fans in Korea."
"To be a part of that was quite a highlight of my baseball career so far," said Daniel McCutchen, who pitched the first four innings on Friday. "He came in and dominated. He's the story of the day. That's a huge accomplishment for him and his country."
Park inherited a 3-1 lead when he took over for McCutchen in the fifth. And the veteran right-hander gave manager John Russell good reason to keep sending him back to the mound. Park struck out the side in the fifth and added three more strikeouts, as he pitched a perfect sixth and seventh.
"He wanted it," Russell said. "He was locked in. We were trying to get him that extra one and it was awesome. He threw the ball great tonight. I can't be more proud of him."
"He's good," added Marlins rookie Gaby Sanchez. "He's tough. He's not an easy guy to go up there against and hit."
Park's dominance on Friday was just the latest in a string of strong performances from him. After being scored upon in four of his first five appearances with the Pirates, Park has limited opponents to just five earned runs in 23 1/3 innings since.
It was during that stretch that Park earned win No. 123, which made major news headlines across South Korea. On Friday, he credited his recent rebound to the comfort he feels as part of a relatively young Pirates club.
"When I came here, the first couple weeks up here it was awesome," he said. "That's how I got my feel back and pitched stronger and was mentally comfortable."
Park was handed a lead that had been carved by two early Pittsburgh home runs. The hot-hitting Pedro Alvarez had the first, sending a line-drive shot off Marlins starter Adalberto Mendez over the center field wall to lead off the second. It also erased an early 1-0 deficit.
"He hit that ball hard," Russell said. "He really did."
Alvarez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with the homer, his fifth blast during that 11-game span. With Alvarez's torrid offensive success over the last month, he now has more RBIs (64) than any other Major League rookie since he was called up on June 16. Only fellow rookie Buster Posey has more homers than Alvarez since that date.
Chris Snyder broke that tie and his own 18-game hitless streak when he followed Ronny Cedeno's fifth-inning infield single with a shot into the second tier of seats in left field. Snyder hasn't done all that much offensively since being acquired at the Trade Deadline, but of his 21 hits in 122 at-bats, five have traveled over the wall.
That two-run Pittsburgh lead swelled to four in the following inning with four straight singles. The bunch included RBI knocks from Brandon Moss and Cedeno.
Starting the game in place of an injured Paul Maholm, McCutchen gave Pittsburgh exactly the boost it needed. Flirting with trouble throughout his four-inning start, McCutchen managed to limit the Marlins to just one run. He stranded six, including the bases loaded in the second.
"September wasn't all that great, so to end on a positive note is good," McCutchen said. "I know they're a very aggressive ballclub and needed to stay out of the middle of the plate. For the most part, I did that. When I needed the big out, I got it."
With the win, Pittsburgh's road record now sits at 17-62, with a pair of games remaining. With at least one victory over the weekend, the Pirates can avoid matching the 1963 Mets for the worst record by a club playing 81 road games.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.