Of all times to get first career walkoff hit, Gregory Polanco decided to do it in front of a national audience. His 10th inning single was part of a three-run inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5.
The Pirates will go into the All-Star Break with a 53-35 record and trail the Cardinals by just 2.5 games in the National League Central after taking three games of a four-game series.
“This series has been crazy,” Francisco Cervelli said. “Four playoff like games and I love those type of games.”
While the Pirates ran onto the field to congratulate Polanco, Andrew McCutchen was somewhere else.
“I was stuck in the dugout, I totally forgot. I was screaming ‘yeah’ and everyone else is halfway towards the mound,” McCutchen said. “I’m still in the dugout [with my hands up] and then said ‘oh yeah’ and ran out. So I was stuck at first and I didn’t know what to do, so I kind of forgot.”
Francisco Liriano was the unlikely source of the first two Pirates runs. In the bottom of the second inning, Francisco Cervelli hit his second triple of the season, which came with one out. Sean Rodriguez flew out to shallow right field and Cervelli did not test Jason Heyward’s throwing arm. Cooney intentionally walked Gregory Polanco to get to Liriano, however the move backfired when Liriano batted both runners in with a single.
The Cardinals struck with single runs in both the second and third innings.
In the second, the Cardinals had two men on and one out when Liriano got Mark Reynolds to ground into a double play which limited the damage in the inning, but Jason Heyward was able to score. In the third inning, it was Jhonny Peralta providing the offense for St. Louis when he his 13th home run of the season to left-center field.
In the fourth inning, the Pirates that regained the lead. Rodriguez doubled, recording his first extra base hit in July. Gregory Polanco singled and scored Rodriguez who slid in safely.
Tony Watson pitched the eighth inning and the first three runners reached base. Yadier Molina brought the tying run home on an RBI ground out. A lineout and strikeout allowed Watson to escape without further damage.
It took extra innings once again to find a winner and the Cardinals came through against Arquimedes Caminero.
Peralta singled and Jason Heyward’s single dropped just in front of Starling Marte. Marte tried to throw out Peralta at second but the throw was just late. After the play, Pete Kozma pinch-ran for Peralta. Yadier Molina grounded into a force out, which placed runners on the corners. Reynolds was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Grichuk doubled on the first pitch. Kozma and Molina scored however Reynolds, who was visibly hobbled from being hit in the forearm, was thrown out at the plate. This play later would be noted as very important by several Pirates.
Trevor Rosenthal pitched the ninth for the Cardinals and allowed a run when Marte singled in Mercer, who had led off the inning with a single of his own. Jung Ho Kang singled as well, putting a runner in scoring position for Cervelli. Cervelli came through, going the other way for a single down the right field line. He had gone 3 for his last 20 entering the at-bat. Polanco then came through with a hit to plate Kang.
Arquimedes Caminero [1-1] picked up the win.
“I don’t think it’s my first, it’s my 53rd I’d say,” said Caminero. “Every time the team wins I feel like I win.”
This was Rosenthal’s second blown save of the season, and he took the loss to fall to [1-2].
“To get three off an All-Star closer with the numbers that man has had through the first half of the season and our guys to show up after spotting them two… our guys realize there are no such thing in little things,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Following the All-Star Break, the Pirates will travel to face the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. Charlie Morton [6-2 4.15 ERA] will face Mike Fiers [4-7 3.96 ERA]. Morton is 3-6 with a 4.11 ERA in 12 career starts against the Brewers. He won a decision against the NL Central foe earlier this season pitching 7.1 shutout innings.
The victory gave the Pirates players a boost of confidence heading into the All-Star Break.
“If people didn’t think we were for real, I would think they would now,” Jordy Mercer said. “We’re slowly getting there and we know we’re headed in the right direction.”
“We’ve got one mission, everything or nothing, that’s it,” said Cervelli. “We are family here, we are brothers.”
Photo credit: Pittsburgh Pirates via Twitter