Not since the heartbreaking 19-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves in 2011, which began the slide for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, had the club played a game that lasted this long. The Bucs have played just four extra-inning games in the 2012 season, the longest lasting 12 frames. That was until Pittsburgh and St. Louis battled through 19 innings, six hours and seven minutes to notch their 67th victory of the season. It was arguably their biggest win of the season. If you need belief that this year might just be different for the Pirates, that might have been it.
After the Pirates tied the game up at 2 in the sixth inning, the Pirates and Cardinals battled through 10 scoreless innings until Pittsburgh rallied in the 17th.
For the first time in the game, the Pirates loaded the bases. It all started after pitcher James McDonald hit a single into center field. With two outs, the Cardinals chose to intentionally walk Pedro Alvarez to get to Clint Barmes for the final out. The move backfired after Joe Kelly plunked Barmes with a pitch to load the bases. St. Louis went with the left-on-left matchup, but Garrett Jones hit an infield single, which deflected off the pitchers glove and rolled to second base to push home the go-ahead run.
The Pirates called upon Juan Cruz, who was originally deemed unavailable, due to pitch count in his last two innings, and he gave up back-to-back singles to start his inning of work. With one out, Tony Cruz hit a sac fly to tie the game back up at three.
As the bullpen and bench continued to dwindle, Manager Clint Hurdle had no choice but to call upon Monday’s starter Wandy Rodriguez to pitch in relief. The left-hander tossed a scoreless 18th to send the game into the 19th frame.
That’s when things turned for the Pirates. With one out, Pedro Alvarez launched his 23rd long ball of the season to retake the lead, 4-3. But the Bucs, despite the lengthy game, didn’t stop there. Clint Barmes singled and Jose Tabata doubled before Josh Harrison walked to load the bases. Andrew McCutchen came through with a big two-run single to drive in two insurance runs, before the Cardinals were able to end the frame.
Rodriguez came back out to pitch the 19th, and this time, it ended much different from their heartbreaker last season. The lefty retired the Cardinals 1-2-3 to notch his first win since being traded to Pittsburgh.
The last time the Pirates won an extra-inning game in St. Louis that lasted at least 16 frames was April 20, 1986 at St. Louis.
The Pirates bullpen was impressive in the extra-winning victory. Jason Grilli, Kevin Correia, Chris Resop, Joel Hanrahan, Jared Hughes, Juan Cruz and Rodriguez combined to toss 12 frames allowing just one run on nine hits, three walks and struck out 11.
Karstens Impressive After Making Adjustments
Jeff Karstens said after allowing four earned runs his last trip to the mound at PNC Park on Tuesday, that he hasn’t pitched terribly, but also not well enough to win since coming off the disabled list in early June. During those seven starts, Karstens posted a 3.79 ERA, and after picking up the loss over his seven inning outing against Los Angeles, the right-hander said he was going to tighten up some things.
Among those was tinkering with his curveball. The breaking pitch was huge for him and his success during the 2011 season. It’s also been big for him at times this year as well. However, Karstens said the curve has given him trouble recently, falling behind in the count with it, and getting himself into some hitter’s counts.
The right-hander made some adjustments over the last several innings his last start, and said he figured out what he needed to do better. And it continued into his start on Sunday in St. Louis. Karstens looked sharp against the Cardinals holding them to just two runs on two hits over seven frames. He was efficient with his pitches, needing just 29 over his first three innings and 16 over his final two.
Karstens only had base runners in two of those seven innings.
After retiring his first batter on one pitch to start the third, a three base error put Karstens in a jam. Rafeal Furcal hit a dribbler back to the mound, but Karstens’ throw to first sailed into right field allowing Furcal to wind up on third base on the error. But the right-hander was able to put up a zero. Pitcher Jamie Garcia lined a pitch into the glove of Josh Harrison at second base for the second out, and Jon Jay grounded out to first to leave the runner stranded.
Karstens allowed his first hit to start the fourth frame. The right-hander followed that by issuing a walk, then Carlos Beltran took a slider down the right field line to drive in a pair. Karstens was able to keep the Cardinals to just the two runs. With one out, Yadier Molina battled through a 14 pitch at-bat before the right-hander got him to ground out to second for the second out of the inning. Skip Schumaker chased swinging on a curve to end it.
Rotation Now TBA for San Diego
The Pirates set their rotation for the series in San Diego, which starts on Monday before the game started on Sunday. However, Monday’s starter, Wandy Rodriguez was used in the 19-inning game, deeming him unavailable to start tomorrow. There is no word yet on who the Pirates will use to fill in his spot.
A.J. Burnett will start on Tuesday and James McDonald on go on Wednesday.
Manager Clint Hurdle decided to move back to a five-man rotation early. Kevin Correia was pushed back into the bullpen. He pitched two scoreless innings on Sunday in his second relief appearance of the season.
Pending Roster Moves Coming
With a lengthy game like the Pirates had, there could be a roster shuffle prior to the game on Monday in San Diego. The bullpen is taxed, so the club could decide to recall some fresh arms to help out in relief.
The Pirates also will need to have a starter against the Padres. If they look to Triple-A, left-hander Justin Wilson would be the likely candidate with his normal five days rest. Wilson is also already on the 40-man roster and is Major League ready.
Jordy Mercer is expected to be placed on paternity leave for the birth of his first son. The Pirates will need to fill his spot on the roster. Also reliever Chad Qualls is expected to return from the bereavement list tomorrow, so could fill as a fresh arm in the bullpen.
— Starling Marte was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday due to a strained right oblique. Marte was pulled from the game and replaced with Yamaico Navarro in left field after experiencing the discomfort on his right side when running the bases in the fifth frame. After undergoing tests, and having trouble communicating between pain and discomfort because of never being injured before, Hurdle decided to place him on the DL after he showed up to the field more sore on Sunday.
— Neil Walker continues to take steps forward after suffering a dislocated right pinky finger. Walker pinch-hit from the left side in the Pirates game on Sunday afternoon.
— Jordy Mercer pinch-hit in the 14th inning in the pitchers spot and connected for an infield single. Mercer is expected to go on paternity leave after the game for the birth of his first child with his wife Kasey. Paternity leave lasts for three days, so Mercer will return to the club before the homestand in Pittsburgh starts on Friday.