Another Night, Another Dramatic Walk Off Win For the Pirates

For the fifth time in their first ten head-to-head contests, extra innings was needed between St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

For the second time in consecutive nights, the Pirates rallied back from an extra-inning deficit in dramatic fashion to defeat the Cardinals, and are heading into the All-Star break only 2 ½ games out of first place in the NL Central.

Francisco Liriano pitched 6.1 innings, giving up two earned runs while allowing five hits, walked four, and struck out six. But Liriano’s biggest contribution came at the plate, when he roped a single in the second inning to the right field wall, scoring Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.

“I knew they were going to throw a first-pitch fastball, so I was ready to swing on the first pitch,” Liriano explained after the game.

But as usual between these two evenly matched clubs, no lead was safe, as Johnny Peralta belted a Liriano slider into the left-field bleachers in the third inning to tie the game at two. Liriano was able to settle in after Peralta homered, retiring 12 of the next 13 batters, and pitching into the seventh inning for the eleventh time this season. After a strikeout of Mark Reynolds to start the top of the seventh, Liriano allowed a single and walk, and was lifted from the game to a roaring standing ovation from the Pirates’ faithful. Jared Hughes and Antonio Bastardo each recorded an out to close out the seventh inning.

The Cardinals tied the game at three off of Tony Watson in the top of the eighth inning. After a scoreless ninth, the Pirates and Cardinals once again needed extra innings to decide the outcome.

The Cardinals took the lead in the top of the tenth inning after left fielder Randal Grichuk doubled home two runs off of Arquimedes Caminero. Things looked bleak for the Pirates as the Cardinals held a comfortable 5-3 lead with All-star closer Trevor Rosenthal taking the mound.

Before last night, Rosenthal had converted 18-straight save opportunities and sported a daunting 0.67 ERA. Rosenthal was responsible for one of the two blown saves by the Cardinals last night, and the Pirates were able to get to one of the Major League’s best closers again tonight.

Jordy Mercer led off the bottom of the tenth with a bloop-single to left field, followed by two quick outs by Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen. Then, two-out lightning ensued at its finest, with three straight singles by Starling Marte, Jung Ho Kang and Francisco Cervelli to tie the game at five. Pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa was then walked on four pitches, loading the bases for Gregory Polanco. Polanco, who had already produced two game winning hits this week, capped off a tremendous week with a line drive single to right scoring Kang to win the game.

Key Moment: There are so many key moments to choose from in tonight’s game, but this play in the top of the tenth cannot be overstated. The Cardinals loaded the bases on Arquimedes Caminero by way of two singles and a hit batsman. Randal Grichuk then ripped a Caminero fastball into the right-center field gap that easily scored pinch-runner Pete Kozma from third and Yadier Molina from second. Mark Reynolds tried to score from first base on the play, but a quick relay from McCutchen to cut-off man Mercer, who then fired a strike to Cervelli, nailed Reynolds at home for the second out. Peter Bourjos then lined a ball up the middle that looked like a sure base hit, but Neil Walker made a diving catch to strand the runner at second base, keeping the Pirates deficit to two runs heading into the bottom of the tenth.

(Photo Credit: David Hague)
Francisco Cervelli saves a run in the 10th inning. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Player of the Game: Francisco Liriano: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO – 1-for-2, 2 RBI

**What an unbelievable home stand for the Pirates, who finished 8-2 and cut the Cardinals division lead to 2 ½ games in the process.

“We finished strong. We continue to pour everything out there – it’s coming from all over the place,” Hurdle said after tonight’s comeback win.

The production seems to be coming from someone different every night, whether it’s from team-MVP Andrew McCutchen, or a depth bullpen arms such as Deolis Guerra. The best teams seem to get production from all 25 players on their roster, and the Pirates have been receiving that production over the last two months.

The Pirates schedule is not easy coming out of the break after they face Milwaukee for three. They follow that with three on the road against the AL-Central leading Kansas City Royals, four at home against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, and two against the surprising Minnesota Twins.

** Is Gregory Polanco finally turning the corner? He had three hits tonight, including two off of lefties, and now has an on-base percentage of .362 in July. Polanco seems much more comfortable at the plate, and has been putting up a ton of quality at-bats over the last week – he has seven walks in the last six games.

**Starling Marte says that he still feels some pain in his side, but he is getting better everyday. Marte is looking forward to taking full advantage of the four-day break, and believes it will give him a chance to start the second-half fully healthy.

**Just how evenly matched are the Cardinals and Pirates? They have split the first 10 decisions, with a cumulative score of 39 to 38 in favor of the Cardinals. The Cardinals are tops in baseball with a 2.67 ERA, while the Pirates are second in baseball with an ERA of 2.84. The Cardinals have scored 355 runs this season, while the Pirates have scored 356.

These two clubs face-off nine more times this season, and if the first ten match-ups were any indication of what’s to come…Buckle Up.

Analysis

  • If anybody thinks this game was not a momentum change in favor of the pirates, there’s something wrong. The pirates needed this like a crop needs rain, they just let the cards know who’s boss that boost of confidence cannot be underestimated. So rrrrhhh! Me buccos and have a great all-star week.

  • I was down on Hurdle for burning both Hughes & Bastardo in one batter scenarios. But Clint’s BP management looked great compared to Matheny’s leaving Rosey in there to get shelled.

    Having grown up a Mets fan, last night kinda reminded me of both Game 6s in 1986 – the marathon vs Astros and the Buckner game (no error/passed ball on Cards part, but a furious 2-out rally when Mets were down to last strike several times).

    I don’t know if Bucs can overtake Cards. Scheduling is definitely favoring Cards to serve and hold and they’ll get key contributors back shortly. But, what these two games did was provide confidence to the players they can come back against anyone, with or without Cutch’s help.

    • STL fans are railing on Matheny for his bullpen usage most of this year.

      As for the Liriano swing, it was kinda a gifted pitch. Liriano still took a step back and toward 1B, but the pitch was an inside FB so it puts his barrel right on it. Lesson learned: Dont throw Liriano any FB on the inner half. He’s gonna guess FB more often than not.

      • It’s hard to get on Matheny for anything considering what he’s done but the way he manages the bullpen seems to really work for 9 inning games but if the other team ties it up and there’s extras involved, you’ve suddenly burned 4 of your best relievers in the 7th and 8th for example. It’s (almost) a way to back Hurdle’s use of one pitcher an inning.

        • I’ve seen a good deal of STL fans not love the fact that STL uses more than 1 arm so specifically. Matheny seems to go back and forth between adhering to strict matchups with Choate, and trusting certain guys to stick the entire inning. When it burns him, fans say it.

          It does make me appreciate a team that at least tries to make it known that each guy should be able to go an entire inning. He might not always get used for that entire inning, but be able to do it. Hughes gets used situationally but its clear they trust him for an entire inning.

  • Wabbit_Season
    July 13, 2015 10:58 am

    Morning all.

    Whotta weekend. I do believe the worm has turned. These teams are so closely matched that I think the injury bug finally did enough damage to the Cards that we’ve got the edge.

    They will get Holliday back, but not Matt Adams, who routinely kills us. And their pitching depth doesn’t look as deep as ours. AND I’m wondering how the whole Rosenthal thing is going to play out going forward as several of our guys have good numbers against him. That is a big psychological blow.

    The Cards are faltering and the Bucs are surging. Did I see some ludicrous stat that had us winning 13 of the last 16? That’s what the Cards were doing early but couldn’t (really it was impossible to) maintain. And we went from 9 back to 2 and a half back in two weeks?

    The message has been sent.
    Plunder the Central!
    __________________________
    “Please Jacques! Not this one!”
    -Wabbit

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 13, 2015 9:28 am

    Just insane that the Pirates could do that two nights in a row….Cards must be mentally spent, after two grueling series on the road in Chicago and Pittsburgh. The second half in the NL Central should be quite a race.

    I am concerned about the bullpen – for the most part, Hughes, Watson, and Melancon have been pretty consistently good. You cannot say that about anyone else in the bullpen. Caminero may throw 100, but he looks very hittable. I’d like to see an upgrade – getting a LH and RH reliever.Other than getting a platoon bat, I don’t see us solving first base or RF in trades this month.

    • Hughes, Watson, and Melancon have been so outstanding over the past 3 years that they make decent guys like Bastardo and Caminero look bad in comparison. The circle of trust is a small one, and the Pirates are lucky to have 3 guys in it; most teams have one.

    • How many bullpens can say “outside of our 3 best arms, we still have some ideal options”? There always seems to be this idea that if you dont go 5 deep with consistently reliable arms its a problem. Upgrading the pen is something most teams think they need to do.

      Hell, STL is in a worse spot currently with their pen as they have only 2 consistently reliable arms and a LH specialist.

      • Get used to seeing Tuivalala. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s their 7th inning guy by Sept.

        • Which really isnt a ton different than Caminero, just younger. Throws hard, lot of Ks, too many walks, good deal of HRs. Not a terrible option to be sure but he’s not gonna put the fear into any team.

  • After Rosenthal walked Ishikawa on 4 pitches, I was saying to myself, please don’t swing on first pitch Polanco, even if it’s middle middle. Glad Polanco thought otherwise. Shows he has tremendous confidence going right now. We’re watching a young player come into his own right before our very eyes.

  • What a series! The comeback wins can only help the confidence. Whatever we do at or before the trade deadline let’s hope it does not upset a team chemistry that is obviously in a very good place. Prospects for an obvious need should not do that. Kang is showing to be a very clutch performer in the field and at the plate………..is he eligible for rookie of the year voting at his age and experience?

  • taylor26554
    July 13, 2015 6:43 am

    If Polanco can turn it on in the 2nd half. What an outfield! Best in the majors!! LETS GO BUCS!!

    • Polanco has quietly become the leader on the team in SB’s with 17, and more importantly, 2nd on the team with 34 Walks (‘Cutch- 46), and 2nd in W/K Ratio (34/67) which means his pitch recognition is improving. At the beginning of the season he was getting fooled on a lot of low, out-of-the-zone breaking pitches, which he is now laying off.

      • Polanco is such a wild card on the upside. His pitch recognition is already very good. I believe he can and should bunt more to get on base because he is such a threat. There is still a raw side to his fundamental game. At times he seems slow to field balls and set himself up for quality throws, and his slides remain awkward where he catches the plate with his back foot instead of his lead foot. But there is no mistaking the talent and the youthful enthusiasm. We may be seeing something very special this summer and fall and you can feel it at the ball park. There were people with tears of joy in the stands when A.J was rounding the bases.

        • Wabbit_Season
          July 13, 2015 10:49 am

          Michael T:

          I get what you’re saying about Polanco looking raw. I think part of what you’re seeing is that he’s really a big guy. And SO fast. His stride is mammoth, so it looks slow when, in fact, he is covering acres with each stride.

          Dude scored from first on Liriano’s single into the corner vs. perhaps the best right field arm in the business.

          He is big and fast. Like a giraffe. I wonder who the P2 inmates would compare him to physically and tools wise.
          ______________________
          “Ah! Redcap! Bring another cart around boy and be quick about it. I’m a heavy dipper!”
          -Wabbit

          • That was a nice play but in all fairness I do not think there was another player on either team that would not have gotten a double on that hit by Lirano

      • Darkstone42
        July 13, 2015 3:34 pm

        Walk rate up, strikeout rate down, if he start to limit the pop-ups he’s going to turn into a true leadoff man soon. As long as he keeps putting the ball in play, that batting average is going to climb, and he walks enough that he can be a leadoff guy without a .300 average. Plus that speed.

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