For the second consecutive night The Pittsburgh Pirates pulled a rabbit out of the hat and walked-off the Cardinals by a score of 6-5, this time on a national stage in ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
The game started off inauspiciously enough. With Francisco Liriano making the start, Pirates fans felt very confident about their chances to take the series. Their patience was tested as Liriano struggled to find the plate in the early going, allowing the Cardinals to strike first in the second inning on a run-scoring double play from Mark Reynolds. However, our first indication that something truly magical happened in the bottom of that frame. Looking back, it should have been our first indicator that something special was to happen on that night.
Liriano smacked a two-run single to the right field corner.
You read that right. Not a bloop. Not a fluke hit. An honest-to-goodness rip down the line. To call Liriano uninterested at the plate would be a compliment. But Liriano sat on a fastball from Cardinals starter Tim Cooney and absolutely drilled it. The resulting 2-1 Pirates lead did not last long, as Jhonny Peralta continued to have no regard for spelling or for Liriano, as he hit a solo home run to left-center in the third.
The Pirates stuck back with a Gregory Polanco single that gave the Bucs a 3-2 lead. The scoring would cease until the top of the 10th, when Yadier Molina and Pete Kozma came around to score on a Randal Grichuk double. The hit came off of Arquimedes Caminero, who endured another rough outing.
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And so it was that the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans trudged to the bottom of the 10th. down 5-3 to a Cardinals team that would bring out all-star closer Trevor Rosenthal to shut the door. A 5-3 lead that felt insurmountable before Jordy Mercer led off the bottom half of the 10th with a single felt absolutely out of reach after consecutive outs from Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker.
As we are quickly learning with the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates, we should never feel that way again.
Starling Marte got the party started with a deep single that scored Mercer from second to cut the lead to 5-4. Jung Ho Kang got his first hit of the night, a sharp liner to center that put runners at first and second. Francisco Cervelli continued to enthrall the masses by completing the game-tying rally with a single of his own that scored Marte. The game was tied 5-5, and Pirates fans exhaled.
Lost in the euphoria was Travis Ishikawa. The once-new-now-returned utilityman impressed many by drawing a four-pitch walk to load the bases.
Bases full of Bucs. Two outs.. Polanco – the much-maligned second year right fielder – at the plate.
One could almost feel the entire weight of the criticism Polanco has heard all year as he stared down one of the best closers in the game, on the best team in the game (standings-wise anyway), in front of the (true) best fans in baseball. Looking back, it was somewhat of a low-pressure situation. The Pirates had already improbably tied the game. The heaviest of the lifting was done.
Many felt that same criticism fall off his shoulders as he took the first pitch he saw into right field towards a hapless Jason Heyward.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had done it. They had completed another late-inning comeback, writing another chapter in their magical 2015 season. The team goes into the all-star break with an outstanding 53-35 record, only 2.5 games back of these overwhelmed Cardinals. The magical ride will take a break for a few days, but kick right back up. The rest of baseball should be aware – you are all on notice.
Best of Pirates Twitter
Seeing as how the team is off for the next four days, let’s break from our usual format and give you some selected tweets from last night. Pirates twitter was in full force again last night, and raged into the early morning hours. Here’s a small sampling:
And of course…