It was not a home game for the Pittsburgh Pirates, however you could not tell in the 14th inning. Fans celebrated Chris Stewart’s pinch-hit single and started a Let’s Go Bucs chant after a Sean Rodriguez RBI. When the umpires departed by the tunnel, the Pirates defeated the New York Mets by a 5-3 score in 14 innings Saturday night.
This is the seventh consecutive extra innings win for the Pirates who are also 5-0 against the Mets this season.
It was not an easy victory for the Pirates who led 3-0 going into the seventh inning. To that point, Charlie Morton had been dominant allowing two hits. He ultimately struck out a season-high nine batters.
Going into the game Morton was among those manager Clint Hurdle stated had to step up. Hurdle also told the media that he would get starting pitchers out sooner than usual when trouble arose as he explained in his trust with the bullpen.
Morton encountered a road block immediately when Juan Uribe led off the inning with a home run, his 12th of the season. Hurdle did not have a reliever ready and called down to the bullpen to get Joakim Soria warmed up. Two batters later Travis D’Arnaud reached base on an Aramis Ramirez fielding error, his fifth with the team.
The Mets made Morton, Ramirez and Hurdle pay when Michael Conforto homered on a 2-1 pitch to tie the game.
That was the end of Morton’s night.
The Pirates had spotted Morton a 3-0 lead. Ramirez’s 12th home run and first this season with the Pirates and also scored Andrew McCutchen who walked in the previous at-bat. Jonathon Niese threw a first-pitch fastball exactly where D’Arnaud asked for, however it did not matter as Ramirez took him deep on the pitch.
It was also a good night for Gregory Polanco who reached base in each of his four at-bats on as many pitches. His third inning at-bat lasted the one pitch as his home run hit off the right field foul pole. The homer was his seventh of the season and his second off a left-handed pitcher.
Following the Mets seventh inning, the score remained deadlocked through 13 innings.
Francisco Cervelli led off the 14th inning with a double, his 14th of the season. Starling Marte, who came in as a defensive replacement saw his first at-bats since leaving an Aug. 12 contest against the St. Louis Cardinals. He reached by fielder’s choice. Daniel Murphy attempted to throw out Cervelli at third base, but was unsuccessful while Marte was safe at first.
Stewart then added an RBI single bringing his batting average up to a career-high .299. Rodriguez then saw his pop-up fall for a single scoring Marte.
Mark Melancon pitched the ninth inning and allowed a one-out double to Kelly Johnson. Melancon retired the next two batters to earn his major league-leading 37th save. This was Melancon’s 35th consecutive successful save opportunity.
Joe Blanton [4-2] earned the victory pitching three scoreless innings, while Sean Gilmartin [1-1] took the loss.
Both the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs won earlier Saturday evening meaning the Pirates remain behind in the National League Central by six games but hold a 1.5 game lead over the Cubs for the first wild card spot.
This series concludes Sunday afternoon when Jeff Locke [6-7 4.43 ERA] takes on Matt Harvey [11-7 2.61 ERA]. Locke is 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in two career starts against the Mets. The game will be televised by both Root Sports and TBS.
Of note: The Pirates are now 62-13 this season when scoring three runs or more in a game… Hurdle’s earned his 401st victory as Pirates manager with this win placing him in a tie for eighth with George Gibson for most in team history… The Pirates have now hit a home run in a season-best nine consecutive games and 14 times in the past nine… Polanco has now safely reached base in 31 of his past 33 games and is hitting .392 this month which is a league-best… The Pirates bullpen has won its last 15 decisions… Josh Harrison went 0-for-4 with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians and is batting .083 during his rehab assignment. Jordy Mercer went 1-for-3 with the Indians in his rehab assignment. Vance Worley got the win for the Indians allowing two runs on three hits in five innings while throwing 75 pitches.
Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP Photo