Pittsburgh Pirates again fall to Cardinals in extras


3. 33. Final. 2. 4

Jung-ho Kang swatted his first home run of his young MLB career, but it wasn’t enough as the Pittsburgh Pirates were swept in St. Louis, losing 3-2 to the Cardinals in extra innings.

Up until the ninth inning, it had been a pitcher’s duel, with the lone run coming from a Matt Carpenter home run off of Vance Worley in the fourth inning.  It was the lone mistake for Worley, who hurled an excellent line of four hits over six innings.  It had seemed momentarily that the Pirates’ offense was so inept that extra innings would not be needed for the first time in this series.  However, Kang had other ideas.  With the Cardinals’ closer Trevor Rosenthal on the hill for the save, Kang launched the first pitch he saw to the stands, as seen below:

The Pirates could not scratch across more runs in the frame.  Mark Melancon came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth and did a fantastic job in striking out Matt Adams, followed by two fly outs from Jhonny Peralta and Jason Heyward.  And so it was that this epic series against the two NL Central favorites went to extra innings for the third game in a row.

The team traded punches in the extra frames, with the Pirates taking the lead in the top of the 12th with a Pedro Alvarez solo home run, giving Pirate fans hope.  Radhames Liz came in to close it out, but the Cardinals had other ideas, playing some small ball to load the bases before Peter Bourjos hit a sharp ground ball right on the third base line.  Josh Harrison made a spectacular diving play, knocking the ball down into foul territory to prevent a second run being scored, but the Cards had extended the game.  Liz buckled down, striking out Matt Holliday and getting Adams to ground out meekly to escape the jam with only one run scored.

The odyssey that was this series would see even more life.

After a scoreless 13th inning, the Pirates offense sheepishly could not put a man on base, despite the top of the order being up.  Then in the 14th inning, Kolton Wong, a name sure to now live in infamy with Pirate fans if it wasn’t already, walked off on the Pirates with a solo home run off of Liz.

What Stood Out

Harrison continues to struggle mightily, going 0-for-7 with two strikeouts.  Having been moved recently to the second spot in the order to give him more RBI chances, Harrison left four on base.  Andrew McCutchen did not fare much better with a 1-for-7 night.  With the way that the Pirates starting pitching is performing, one can’t help but wonder what the team’s record might be with a compelling offense to go along with it.  It will remain to be seen how Clint Hurdle can refresh Harrison.

Kang’s home run was impressive for a number of reasons.  Not only did it come in a high-pressure situation against a team’s vaunted closer, but it also was on the very first pitch seen.  For Kang to show that much confidence in that situation may just be an indicator that his adjustment period is coming to a swift close, if not over completely.

What’s Next

Thankfully, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a day off before beginning a three game slate back home at PNC Park against the Cincinnati Reds.

Next: Pittsburgh Pirates: April at a glance