It was a game that mirrored Friday night’s game, and, though Saturday’s game took longer to determine a winner, the outcome was the same: a Pittsburgh Pirates win over the Oakland Athletics. Although, tonight, the final score was 4-2, and it took 10 innings.
Tonight’s win means the Pirates are now 4-4 on the season in extra inning games and have won two of their past three series (after dropping four in a row); this is the first time the Pirates have won a road series since a trip to St. Louis on May 6-8.
Though Pittsburgh starter Chad Kuhl held the A’s to two runs allowed on seven hits in six innings of work, he had six fly ball outs versus five ground ball outs — something that’s uncharacteristic of the left-handed starter who embraces the Pirates’ philosophy of keeping the ball down in the zone while opposing hitters beat sinkers into the ground.
The scoring started in the third inning when Oakland took an early 2-0 lead on a Jed Lowrie sacrifice fly and a Josh Reddick single. But the Pirates showed some mettle and pushed back to eventually walk out of O.co Coliseum with the win.
Down 2-0 heading into the fourth, the Pirates knew that they had to get back in the game and that they had a limited amount of time to do this — Pittsburgh had a 2-34 record when trailing after six innings. With two outs, Oakland’s starter Rich Hill had left fielder Starling Marte in a 3-0 count. But Marte didn’t lay off the next pitch and singled on a fastball, scoring Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Marte has hit safely in seven of his past eight games and is batting .418 in 14 interleague play this season.
One pitch later, the game was tied when second baseman Josh Harrison doubled, his 13th of the season, scoring Marte.
Reliever Daniel Coulombe (1-1) pitched the 10th inning for the A’s and allowed a leadoff single to Pirates catcher Erik Kratz. Coulombe then trailed 2-0 in the count to Jordy Mercer, but the Pirates’ shortstop hit a sacrifice bunt. Coulombe likely had a play at second base but didn’t turn toward the base, instead taking the sure out at first.
With Kratz standing on second base, first baseman David Freese hit a first pitch changeup into left field, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Coulombe then intentionally walked McCutchen to face pinch-hitter Adam Frazier. Frazier singled and Freese appeared to score, but he was ruled out at home plate, a call that was confirmed after a crew chief review.
After the review, Pittsburgh DH Gregory Polanco singled on the first pitch, scoring McCutchen and giving the Pirates the two-run lead.
Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon pitched the bottom of the tenth and got into a jam with runners on first and third base, but he got all three outs by strikeout to secure his 23rd save of the season.
Melancon was just one of the bullpen guys to come in and do a good job Saturday for Pittsburgh. Once Kuhl departed, the Pirates’ relievers kept Oakland off the scoreboard. Juan Nicasio (6-6) earned the win after getting the call to pitch the ninth inning. He allowed one hit but struck out two batters in his relief appearance. Since joining the Pirates’ bullpen, Nicasio has pitched five shutout innings while allowing two hits.
Now, at about the halfway point of the season, the Pirates stand at 40-41, 11.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs for first place in the NL Central.
Sunday will mark the final meeting in a three-game series — and the Pirates will have the chance to sweep the A’s. Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano (4-8, 5.33 ERA) will face Oakland’s Daniel Mengden (1-3, 2.81 ERA). Liriano is 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA in 15 career games (13 starts) against the Athletics.
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