It’s difficult to put into words what happened at PNC Park Friday night. Long story short, the Pirates held a 5-2 lead heading into the ninth inning and lost 6-5 after 10 innings.
With two outs in the top of the ninth and a man on second base, Jordy Mercer fielded a ground ball off the bat of Todd Frazier. Mercer fielded low, and threw it into the stands which gave Ryan Ludwick two bases to advance home and make the score 5-3.
“You guys have been watching him play all year long, yeah, he makes the snap-throw from down there,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s done it numerous times, yeah. He just made an error.”
Devin Mesoraco then stepped in two batters later and smacked a ground ball to third base. Pedro Alvarez slid to stab the ball, spin, and gun to first like he’s done many times this season. But the ball glanced off his glove and two runs scored to tie the game at 5-5.
“It was a big-time duel, there’s no doubt. he was leaning out over the plate and continually fouling off balls. We tried to run a ball in I think, from what my perspective was watching it on TV, and he caught enough of it,” Hurdle said. “Pedro laid out for it, it’s off the glove, and it’s in no man’s land.”
In the top of the 10th, Joey Votto homered down the left field line to give the Reds the final run they needed to pull off an improbable and soul-crushing three-run comeback.
“We’ve gotta find a way to finish some things off here and just continue to play,” Hurdle said. “We did a lot of good things tonight, we couldn’t convert it into a W at the end of the night.”
The Pirates did do some things well Friday.
Francisco Liriano pitched eight innings and allowed two runs on three hits and three walks alongside seven strikeouts. His strikeouts Friday carried him over the threshold of 1,000 in his career, and set a Pirates club-record for strikeouts by a staff as his sixth strikeouts was no. 1,193 by the Pirates’ pitchers this season.
Leading off for the Pirates, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker hit solo home runs off two of the first four pitches Cincinnati Reds starter Mat Latos threw. The feat was the fourth time in club history the Pirates started a game with back-to-back home runs.
Tabata finished 2-for-4 with his home run, and drove in another run in the seventh inning to extend Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-2.
On a night of so many positives, the result of the game was arguably the most difficult one for these 2013 Pirates.
Mercer’s throw was the low point but his teammates jumped to his defense.
“Jordy makes that play 99 out of 100 times. You know what, that doesn’t kill us. That doesn’t kill us. We still have an opportunity to win after that,” closer Mark Melancon said. “This is one game, obviously it’s late, we wanted that game, we should’ve won that game, that was our game to win. But it doesn’t kill us.”
Melancon blew his second save this week Friday, but the three runs to score at his expense were all unearned as a result of Mercer’s error.
“It just wasn’t a good throw…terrible throw,” Mercer said. “Obviously, if I make a good throw right there the game is over.”
The tension started when Sam LeCure hit Andrew McCutchen leading off the bottom of the eighth. Clint Hurdle went out to argue that LeCure should’ve been ejected, and Hurdle himself was tossed.
“I don’t understand a warning, if you’re going to warn, you thought there was intent to hit the guy, you should have thrown the guy out. First time he’d been hit, it’s our guy McCutchen that’d been hit,” Hurdle said.
If momentum shifted, it was likely at that moment. Now, the Pirates shift their attitudes to tomorrow.
“A loss is a loss,” Walker said. “We’re going to get back on the horse tomorrow, we believe in everyone we have here.”