Through five innings last night, it felt damn good watching Charlie Morton deal against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Bucs were up 3-0 and #ElectricStuff was cruising. It was the best we had seen him pitch in well, a long time.
The Pirates had staked Morton to a lead with a few trademark home runs by Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer.
And then the sixth inning hit like a freight train.
Bases loaded for the Cards. Nobody out. Soft hits everywhere.
Morton threw the ball behind David Freese. But then a shattered bat double play ball got two quick outs. Ahh, it’s all good. The Pirates had a 3-1 lead. John Jay was coming up and Morton fired a knee high…base hit between Pedro Alvarez and Jordy Mercer. 3-2 Bucs.
Up stepped Tony Cruz. Yeh, we don’t miss Yadier Molina in Pittsburgh. Vin Mazarro was doing the neck roll in the bullpen as Morton looked hyper-focused as he jumped ahead on the Redbirds catcher. A soft grounder to ElToro at third ended the threat.
After a Mercer groundout in the top of the seventh, Morton was called back to the dugout by Jeff Banister. The right-handers night was finished.
Morton scattered seven hits, only one for extra bases, and two walks was the line for the eclectic Morton. It did him no justice. Ground Chuck pitched a hell of a ball game when the Pirates really needed him to deliver.
Adam Wainwright didn’t have a great night, but he went seven innings giving up three Pirates runs while firing 122 pitches by our count.
Clint Hurdle summoned Justin Wilson from the Pirates Shark Tank. After a quick out and a hit batsmen, Wilson got two groundball outs including a big one for the last out. It came off the bat of the first pitch swinging, Pirates killer Carlos Beltran.
The eighth inning saw Bryan Morris come in and allow four very hard hit balls. The last one came off the bat of Matt Adams from my hometown, but Neil Walker was positioned absolutely perfectly to snare the ball out of the air.
The Cards had a runner on second with one out and Matt Carpenter at the plate. The left-handed hitting Carpenter blistered a ball down the line.
It was foul.
As Bob Walk was talking about how supportive the clubhouse would be of Marte despite his botched catch, Melancon whiffed Carpenter.
Holy. Huge. Balls.
Beltran stepped to the plate with three hits in six career at-bats against Melancon. Before I could catch my breath the count was 3-0. And a four pitch walk put Beltran on first base. Still two outs.
Up stepped Allen Craig, the owner of the highest batting average with runners in scoring position. Surely that needs to regress to the mean.
It didn’t. Craig hit a flare into right field. Tie ballgame.
Sanchez lead off the tenth with a single up the middle, and up stepped Marte. The Pirates left fielder who felt like a total piece of shit got the job done of moving Sanchez to second base with a bunt down the third base line. Andrew McCutchen hit a ball to deep short and when the throw went high to Craig at first McCutchen slammed into the Cards first baseman.
Craig held onto the ball for the final out. A patented Russell Martin slide might have saved the Bucs superstar from a headache today.
My Cousin Vinny Mazzaro came out to pitch the tenth and promptly walked the leadoff hitter Matt Holliday. On Vin’s first pitch that was up and in on a bunting Rob Johnson, Holliday’s right foot slid out from under him and his knee gave out.
After the Cardinals faithful had caught their breath, Holliday stayed in the game and Johnson took ball two. 2-1.
The feeling of dread set in about this point as southpaw Kevin Siegrest picked his nose in the Cards bullpen. Ball three. On a pitch six inches inside Johnson bunted foul, but on the next pitch Johnson bunted the ball hard down the first base line. Sanchez fielded the ball and threw to the third base side of second base pulling Mercer off the bag.
Two on. Nobody out.
Up came John Jay who was three for four on the night. Joe Kelly came out to pinch run for a gimping Holliday at second base.
The Bucs got a lucky out when Mazzaro cut off the bunt and threw off balance to first base to Neil Walker who made a nice pick to get the out.
After an intentional walk to load the bases, the game came down to Pete Kozma.
I kept saying, the Cardinals have grounded into the most double plays this season as Mazzaro blew a heater past Kozma to even the count at two.
Mazzaro’s 23rd pitch of the inning was high, inside heat and Kozma whiffed.
Up stepped Daniel Descalso, the guy that started the madness with the flyball to Marte. Mazzaro fell behind two balls and no strikes.
My guts churned.
A fly ball was hit toward left field and a smiling Andrew McCutchen glided over to catch the ball in front of Marte. We couldn’t help but smile all the while thinking we should be in bed by now–we had to leave for DC at 5am. It was now almost midnight.
Jeanmar Gomez comes into the game for the Pirates. (How Neal Huntington got Gomez for Quincy Lattimore is beyond me, along with how he has been so effective this season is one of the greatest mysteries in Pirates history. Quincy Lattimore is now a Washington Wild Things outfielder.) Matt Carpenter rips a single into right field where Josh Harrison tracks the ball down and fires a strike to second base.
Carpenter moves to second when Martin tries to catch the ball with the back of his catcher’s mitt. Runner on second nobody out for Beltran.
Carpenter is moved to third by Beltran who pulls a grounder to second basemen Walker. With the pitcher on deck and no position players available, Ray Searage came to the mound. The Bucs then intentionally walked Craig to put runners on first and third with one out.
Up stepped Seth Maness. The Bucs brought five players into the infield by pulling Josh Harrison from right field to play the slo-pitch softball, rover-middle man position. Maness worked a 2-2 count against Gomez. A groundball to Barmes was thrown poorly to Harrison, but JHay was able to pick it off the dirt and turn the 6-9-3 double play.
The poor decision making extends to 12:20. Not real late, but you know…five hours from now….
In the 12th, the Bucs went down 1-2-3.
Gomez did his thing in the bottom of the 12th. Quincy. Quincy Freakin Lattimore.
Andrew McCutchen led off the 13th with a single. A wild pitch allowed him to move to third and Pedro Alvarez got an infield hit to put runners at first and third with one out. Russell Martin hit a hard shot to short, but Cutch didn’t move from third base. Sigh.
Clint Barmes was intentionally walked to load the bases for Josh Harrison. With the Cards middle infielders looking for the double play, Harrison grounded to third base and the 5-3 double play ended the inning.
After a chip shot over the shortstop, Carpenter hustled out a two-out double off Gomez. Beltran was intentionally walked. Craig was up next with the pitcher on deck and he was intentionally walked to bring up the pitcher Maness. Again.
And it worked. Maness struck out looking.
Yeh, it’s getting late. DirectTV just popped up the no activity in four hours message for me.
Jared Hughes was called in to pitch. After getting an out, Clint Barmes booted a John Jay piss rocket. With Hughes taking forever to get the pitch to the plate, Martin had little chance to throw out Jay stealing second base.
A flare by Chambers to left fielder Marte was the walk off winner as Marte threw to the first base side of the plate. Jay was able to slide past Martin who backhanded the catch and swiped the tag, but came up just short giving the Cardinals the win.
Not scoring for 12 innings hurt more than Marte’s poor play.
The Bucs lead in the NL Central was cut to two games.