PNC Park – Russell Martin hit an eighth inning RBI single to complete a Pirates comeback in which they were down two runs on two different occasions on Wednesday night.
The Battlin’ Bucs trailed 2 – 1 after an inning, 3 – 1 after 2 ½ and 4 – 2 after 3 1/2, but they stayed resilient as they answered each Cardinal run with one of their own to make it 3 – 2 and 4 – 3.
It was an off night for Jeff Locke as he faced 5+ batters in each of the four innings that he pitched. The Cardinals got on the board in the first when they recorded three straight one out hits to make it 1 – 0. Daniel Descalso would then hit a two out RBI single to make it 2 – 0.
They would extend their lead to two in the third and fourth innings with a sac fly by Tony Cruz and an RBI single by Matt Holliday.
Locke would allow ten hits and four earned runs in the four innings of work, but was able to keep the game within reach as he stranded multiple runners on base in three of the four innings he worked. It was a different sight compared to previous outings, but manager, Clint Hurdle didn’t think anything of it. “Probably, this is the most on/off we’ve seen Jeff and for me and anyone on the coaching staff, it’s not to be unexpected. I think six ground ball’s found room. He was pitching to the edges, not getting back into counts. 17 out of 23 first pitch strikes so strike one was there and then the ability to really get the ball glove-side of the right handers like he’s done so efficiently – that didn’t play out tonight.”
The Pirates would start clawing away right away as they scored one in the first after a Starling Marte walk and advancement to second on a ground out. Pedro Alvarez would then knock him in with a RBI single.
They would score again in the fourth when Neil Walker took a 0 – 1 curveball into the Clemente seats to make it 3 – 2. After the Cardinals answered with a run in the fourth, the Bucs would claw once again with single runs in the fourth and fifth to tie things up. Alex Presley reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a Clint Barmes RBI double.
Marte would play small-ball again after leading the fifth off with an infield single. He would steal second then move to third on a Walker grounder back to Wainwright. Gaby Sanchez would then tie it with a sac fly to center.
The Pirates would go ahead for good in the eighth when Neil Walker led off the eighth with a single. He would move to second by tagging on a deep fly ball to left. Russell Martin would follow with a sharp single into left center to give the Pirates the lead. The great base running by Walker proved to be the difference in the game. “It was a good baseball play,” said Hurdle.
The resiliency of this team has been their backbone all season and Clint Barmes stressed it as their main success. “We’ve shown it all year. I mean, you look at all the games we have come back on early on, being down, just finding ways, scrapping, trying to find ways to score runs. Our pitching staff, obviously, has kept us in games and kept us close which has been huge. I think it says a lot for the group of guys in this clubhouse with where we’re at right now at this point and it should be a lot of fun in the second half.”
Mark Melancon would finish the five inning outing by the Shark Tank (Mazzaro and Watson pitched two scoreless innings each) with a 1-2-3 ninth and his sixth save as a Pirate.
The Pirates move to a season-high 23 games over .500 at 65 – 42 and extend their NL Central lead to 2 ½ games over the Cardinals.
Final Score: Pirates 5, Cardinals 4.
Locke (ND): 4 IN, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 IBB, 6 K’s. 89 Pitches (57 Strikes)
Wainwright (ND): 7 IN, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K’s, 1 HR. 108 Pitches (69 Strikes)
The Pirates will look for the rare five game sweep tomorrow night at 7:05.
(RHP) Charlie Morton (PIT): 3 – 2, 3.59 ERA
(RHP) Joe Kelly (STL): 1 – 3, 3.44 ERA
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(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)