Gregory Polanco Does it All in Pirates’ 5-3 Victory Over Rockies

PITTSBURGH — The final piece of the Dream Outfield© appears to have arrived.

Behind Gregory Polanco, the Pirates took the first of a three-game set against the Colorado Rockies by the score of 5-3, raising their record to 78-49, a remarkable 29 games over .500.

Francisco Liriano turned in his 17th quality start of the season, giving up three earned runs in six innings of work, Jung-Ho Kang chipped in with two key RBI hits, and Josh Harrison had a key pinch-hit single that scored that winning run in the eighth inning.

This night, however, belonged to Polanco. Not only did the right fielder provide an offensive spark tonight – three hits, two runs scored, a stolen base and a key RBI base hit in the eighth inning – he also gunned out two runners on the base paths.

In the sixth inning, Rockies catcher Nick Hundley rifled a ball off of the Clemente Wall that off the bat appeared to be an easy double. Instead, Polanco quickly retrieved the ball off of the fence and fired it in to Jordy Mercer at second base. Shocked to see the ball reach Mercer that quickly, Hundley slammed on the brakes, halfway between first and second base and retreated back to first, but was easily thrown out by Mercer on a play that was recorded as 9-6-3.

Then, in the top of the eighth inning with the score tied at three and Rockies’ speedster Jose Reyes on third base with only one out, Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado hit a low line drive to right field where Polanco made the catch running towards the infield. With Reyes tagging up and attempting to score the go-ahead run, Polanco unleashed a bullet to home plate, getting Reyes and preventing the Rockies from taking the lead.

“That’s one of the fastest guys in the league tagging up on the ball, and [Polanco] is one of the few guys who probably has the opportunity to get the guy,” Hurdle said after the game.

Polanco’s two assists were his eighth and ninth of the season, and the Pirates’ NL-leading 29th and 30th outfield assist of the year. It would be no surprise to see the league begin to be more cautious before trying to take the extra base against this trio of Pirates’ outfielders.

“We’ll let them keep testing,” Josh Harrison laughed after the game. “If they keep testing them they’ll keep getting the same result, and I’m cool with it.”

** Francisco Liriano’s outing was serviceable, allowing only four hits, however two of them traveled over the fence. In the fifth inning, Reyes barreled up a hanging change-up from Liriano, striking the left-field foul pole with a low line drive. In the sixth inning, Carlos Gonzalez launched another Liriano pitch, this time a hanging slider, deep into the right-center field seats, just the sixth extra-base hit Liriano has allowed to left-handed batters this season.

“The ball got elevated later in the game,” Hurdle said. “He’s been our one guy that when he seems to make a mistake, they don’t miss it. He got us to a point we could navigate and for the guys out of the bullpen to come in again and be clean like they were.”

This is the 11th consecutive game that the Pirates have won with Liriano on the mound, despite Liriano not having his A-game for much of August – he has a 4.94 ERA and a 4.32 xFIP in 27.1 innings this month. However, Liriano’s ability to keep things from unraveling and keep the Pirates in games has been important to their strong month of August.

“That’s been my plan – Just do whatever I can to keep the team in the ballgame,” Liriano said.

** The Pirates will look for their 24th series win of the season when they send out red-hot J.A. Happ against the Rockies and lefty Chris Rusin. Rusin has a 4.97 ERA and allowed eleven earned runs in just two innings in his last start against the New York Mets.

  • Being at the game, I wasn’t listening to Neverett… I wonder how many false HR calls he had last night. Ball was carrying in center and right. But from section 125 it was pretty clear what was going out and what wasn’t.

    I’m wondering if the ump conference after the Bucs failed to score with bases loaded was about whether Gray’s pitching motion to Polanco was a series of balks. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets away with that next time he faces a bases loaded situation.

    • Last pitch was a super obvious balk, to the point I actually assumed someone called it and it just hadn’t be heard on the broadcast.

  • And how does that trade of Snider REALLY look now ?

  • The throw by Polanco in the 8th was an absolute masterpiece that was nearly ruined by Cervelli due to his inexpilcible positioning. I realize MLB requires Catchers to provide a lane, but Cervelli was 3 feet away from home. If he were positioned properly he wouldn’t have needed to dive to tag Reyes. Thankfully Reyes slid into his diving glove.

    • BallHeadWonder
      August 29, 2015 8:56 am

      Cervelli knew exactly what he was doing!! The ball got to him quickly and because of all the BS about Catchers blocking the plate, made it no doubt that Reyes was out. He knew that Polanco could get the ball to him in a timely fashion!! Just a hellva play by both of them!! Saved the game for us!!

      • Scott Kliesen
        August 29, 2015 9:02 am

        I agree it was a game saving play, but it need not have been so dramatic on Cervelli’s part. If he has his back foot even with front edge of plate he provides lane and catches throw in air ready to make play properly.

        • BallHeadWonder
          August 29, 2015 9:09 am

          We can both agree that Cervelli is full of DRAMA!!! In everything he does!! I think he wants to be on the highlights every nite!! Lol

        • Really, Cervelli making a bad play? I think it was great…He made sure he didn’t get a short hop and had plenty of time to get the tag down. There’s alway a negative on great plays to some people.

          • Good point about where he would receive the throw – at or above the waist, the whole play is in front of him; below the waist he sacrifices vision and movement.

            I like that point of view and also that at .307/.375/.427/.802 with only 4 E’s and a .995 Fielding percentage, while making only $987,000, he can make plays any way he feels like it – just so the end result is still an out. One of NH’s excellent moves last off-season.

        • Scott Kliesen
          August 29, 2015 2:15 pm

          I’m sure it’s a simple case of misjudging how far the throw would travel in the air. And like you said, he was being certain he caught it in the air. I think any knowledgable fan can see he positioned himself too far away from plate when catching the ball compared to the best place to be. To say Cervelli made a helluva play is misrepresenting the facts. Polanco made a helluva play.

    • Hilarious, to say the least.

  • GP missed breaking the game wide open when his vicious line drive went straight to CarGo with the bases loaded.

    • His bat speed is unbelievable, and one of these days those line drives that do not get 15 feet off the ground will elevate to a point where he could follow that path of ‘Cutch to be a 20-25 HR/year guy who can also hit for average.

      I guess this means NH can throw away that long term offer the Pirates made to Polanco after 2013 and 2014. Of course, he is still only in his first year of MLB Service.

      • I hope we DO sign him long term. Then, after we sign him, maybe we can sign Kelvin Beachum?

        (Oh sorry….I get so mixed up in August.)

        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Does Liriano need to skip a start?

    • Yes !!!

    • It is Liriano, he has never been known for his command, on nights when his control is very poor you get starts like that. Skipping a start won’t change a thing.

      • Besides, it’s not like Bucs have a better alternative. If we’re going to start complaining about 6 inning/3 ER starts in a game we won… well, I don’t know where you go from there.

        Wondering if Reyes’ HR was the shortest in PNC Park history?

  • Each of Polanco’s throws was impressive to me for a different reason. The second one, obviously, was a bullet and a perfect strike. Amazing display of an outfield arm. But the first was impressive for the quickness of it, the way he played the bounce off the fence, receiving it with his momentum already starting toward the infield and getting the ball out of his hand quickly.

    That’s some kind of defensive weapon we have out there.

    • He is something special. As the confidence grows, and hopefully the footwork, Pittsburgh may have a new force on this team. He had three hits, and the hardest hit ball off his bat was caught on a great play. Lately, he seems to getting to the ball quicker and under control. The result has been three of the more memorable outfield assists of the season.