Monday, July 13, 2015

Pirates gain ground on Cardinals with unlikely win

By Bill Allmann
July 13, 2015

Pirates vs. Cardinals
The Pirates' Gregory Polanco (25) gets a hit in front of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) to drive in Jung Ho Kang with the game-wining run in the 10th inning on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won 6-5 in 10 innings. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

PITTSBURGH — After the St. Louis Cardinals scored two runs on Arquimedes Caminero in the top of the 10th inning, it looked as though the Pirates would gain no ground from of an outstanding series with the first-place Cardinals.
But the story, at that point, was yet to unfold. Jordy Mercer led off the bottom of the 10th with a single, but Neil Walker’s drive to deep center field was caught at the wall and Andrew McCutchen grounded out to third base with Mercer advancing to second.
That, however, would be the last out that Cardinals all-star reliever Trevor Rosenthal would record. Starling Marte singled to right field to score Mercer. Jung Ho Kang followed with a single to center field and Francisco Cervelli’s single down the right-field line scored Marte to tie the game. Pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa walked to load the bases and Gregory Polanco hit the first pitch he saw into right field for the game winner. It was Polanco’s first career walkoff and earned Caminero, who had looked to be on the hook for a loss, his first major league win.
It wasn’t just the ending that was back and forth — the game started out as back and forth as Saturday night’s had ended.
The Cardinals scored in the top of the second when Mark Reynolds grounded into a double play and Jason Heyward scored. The Pirates answered in the bottom of the second when Francisco Cervelli hit a one-out triple, and after a short fly to right by Sean Rodriguez, the Cardinals intentionally walked Polanco to get to Francisco Liriano. Liriano foiled that strategy with a two-run single into the right field corner for a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead.
The lead didn’t last, though, as Jhonny Peralta lined a 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats in the top of the third inning to tie the game.
The Pirates regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Rodriguez doubled to right field with one out and Polanco followed with a single to bring him home. The Cards tied the game in the eighth inning when Yadier Molina grounded to third base with the bases loaded, scoring Kolten Wong, who reached base when he was hit by a pitch.
That set the stage for the extra innings as the teams with the best records in the National League battled every step of the way — the two teams combined to use 13 pitchers.
In the top of the 10th inning, the Cardinals had the bases loaded with one out when Randall Grichuk lined into the right-center field gap. Two runs scored, but the Pirates limited the damage as Mark Reynolds was thrown out at home on a throw from McCutchen to Mercer, who relayed to Cervelli. Peter Bourjos then lined to Neil Walker and the deficit proved to be not too much to overcome.
Polanco — For the third time in a week, Polanco provided the game winning hit as the Pirates finished an 8-2 homestand. He singled to right field on the first pitch he saw from Rosenthal with the bases loaded and two outs. It was his third hit of the game and his first career walkoff.
5 — Of the 10 games that the Pirates and Cardinals have played, five have gone extra innings. All were decided in walkoff fashion.
* After extending the bullpen with Saturday’s 14 inning fray, the Pirates optioned Steve Lombardozzi to Indianapolis and recalled Wilfredo Boscan, the Indians’ scheduled starter for Sunday. In addition, left-handed starter Jeff Locke was available in the bullpen with the next four days off.
* Mercer batted in the leadoff position for the first time in his career in the regular season. He did bat there a few times in spring training.
* Corey Hart is on his way back to Pittsburgh after his rehabilitation stint in Indianapolis. He may not be ready to return to action, however. General Manager Neal Huntington reported that his shoulder is now fine but knee problems have surfaced and he will be evaluated when he gets to Pittsburgh.
* Pirates minor leaguer Josh Bell (Altoona) played first base for the USA team in the MLB Futures game. He hit a two-run homer — the game’s only home run — as the USA defeated the World 10-1.
* McCutchen’s hitting streak ended at 18 games, the longest hitting streak of his career. One more game would have matched the Pirates’ longest hitting streak since 2008 — Nate McLouth’s 19-gamer.
* Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth, although he didn’t figure in the decision. He has now allowed just one earned run in his last 37 appearances, covering 36 2/3 innings.
* Liriano, who entered the game with a .057 batting average and no runs batted in, drove in the first two runs. He started the game with three total RBI in his nine-year career.

The Pirates will enjoy four days off for the All-Star break, with the exception of A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, McCutchen and Melancon, who will play in Tuesday’s game in Cincinnati. Pittsburgh will return to action Friday in Milwaukee with Charlie Morton as the scheduled starter. The 31-year-old right-hander is 6-2 with a team-high 4.15 ERA (but still better than 10 other starters in the National League) and is scheduled to face Mike Fiers. The 30-year-old right-hander is 4-7 with a 3.96 ERA.

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