THE BIG STORY
They came short, but the Bucs battled Friday.
Trailing 11-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the Pirates blew through five Cardinals pitchers in the last two innings and fell just short of one of the best comebacks in PNC Park history.
David Freese put a charge into a ball with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, but it died at the wall in center field. Sean Rodriguez moved to third on the play, and almost came home on a pitch in the dirt that stayed just close enough to Cardinals’ catcher Carson Kelly.
“They play. They continue to play, they continue to fight. They take pride in what they do,” Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates offensive outburst came after pulling Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen in the seventh for Max Moroff and Rodriguez. That was surprisingly a great move offensively. Moroff hit a monster two run home run that one hopped the Allegheny river in the eighth and drew a walk and scored a run in the ninth. Rodriguez drew a walk and scored in the eighth and was hit by a pitch in the ninth.
“It was nuts. It shows we’re never out of a game,” Moroff said. “We were five feet away on Freese’s hit.”
Ironically enough, the game is a paradox of Thursday’s loss, where the Pirates built an early lead but collapsed late.
“When you play teams like this that are fighting, and won’t quit, you have to show up from the start,” Freese said.
HOW THEY SCORED
Tommy Pham and Josh Harrison traded first inning solo shots to right, but the Cardinals went to the races from there. They posted four runs in the fourth on a Greg Garcia single and a Matt Carpenter three run homer. The Pirates got a run back in the second on a Freese home run, but Paul DeJong pushed the lead back to four with a homer to open the third.
The Cardinals chased Trevor Williams in the fourth, getting two more runs on a safety squeeze by Carlos Martinez and a grounder by Pham. Starling Marte ripped an RBI triple in the fifth to make it 8-3, but the Cardinals added two more in the sixth on a single by DeJong and a double by Dexter Fowler. Fowler capped the Cardinals’ scoring in the eighth with a base hit to score Pham.
The Pirates roared back in the eighth, with the recently promoted and even more recently inserted Moroff hitting a 420 foot home run into the river on the bounce to make it 11-5. Josh Bell added an RBI double two batters later, and three batters after that, Elias Diaz added an RBI double himself, making it 11-8.
The Pirates played small ball in the ninth, getting two walks and a hit batter to load the bases with one out. Bell walked home a run and Freese hit a long sacrifice fly to the wall in center to make it 11-10, but Diaz struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Diaz was thrown out trying to stretch his double into a triple in the eighth. While it brought the Pirates back within three, it cleared the bases with two outs in the inning.
“It was completely my call. I sincerely thought that the throw was going to be towards home and I just wanted to take care of that runner and score that runner,” Diaz said. “I tried to take advantage of that, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
TOE THE RUBBER
Williams (5-6) started by falling behind 2-0 to the first three batters he faced. He would face that count five times during his abbreviated 3+ inning outing. He allowed eight runs on seven hits, three home runs and two walks, striking out a pair.
“I thought the command was there but I wasn’t getting the low pitch today,” Williams said. “I had all four pitches working in the zone, but it was just unfortunate that the low ball wasn’t working for me early. Then again, I still have to make pitches when I’m behind in the count. I felt my command was fine.”
Williams threw 11 first pitch strikes to the 17 batters he faced, retiring four on three pitches or less.
He was replaced by Steven Brault, who was promoted earlier in the day after Wade LeBlanc was placed on the disabled list with a left quad strain. He ate four innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out a batter and did not walk any.
Daniel Hudson allowed a run on two hits in the eighth. A.J. Schugel tossed a perfect ninth.
Carlos Martinez improved to 10-9 on a seven inning, three run quality start. He struck out four and walked just one. Seung Hwan Oh picked up his 19th save by getting the final two outs.
Pirates pitchers allowed 17 runs in a nine inning stretch this series (from the 5th inning Thursday through the fourth inning Friday).
LINE OF THE NIGHT
Carlos Martinez: W, 7 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 1 BB. Hitting: 1-2, 2B, RBI, R
HE SAID IT
“I was hoping a little more as I was running down the line more so than my contact. I initially thought it was too high. It made it exciting.”- David Freese on his flyout that was almost game-winning grand slam.
Chad Kuhl (5-8, 4.64) and Michael Wacha (9-5, 3.85) will square off Saturday at 4:05 p.m. in the third contest of the four game series.
1. Bell has driven in nine runs over his last nine games. He’s hitting .423 (11-26) with three doubles, two triples and a home run during that stretch.
2. This was just the fourth time all year the Pirates hit multiple home runs in a game and lost (22-4).
3. Moroff became the 30th player to hit a ball into the Allegheny river. His eighth inning shot was the 44th “river blast” in park history.