Josh Harrison Finishes Off the Brewers With a Walk-Off

PITTSBURGH — Starling Marte was hit by a pitch in the shoulder on Thursday, and he came down with a stomach illness yesterday. Josh Harrison was more than ready to step in and hold down left field over the weekend in Marte’s absence.

Harrison went 9-for-19 in the Brewers series, and he closed the book on the series with his fifth career walk-off hit, a single into left field scoring Pedro Florimon and giving the Pirates a 7-6 win. Clint Hurdle played the cards that he was dealt correctly this weekend, and he may have breathed life into a player one year removed from his first All-Star game, who was coveting playing time after return from injury.

“He does a lot of things to help us win games,” Manager Clint Hurdle said after the game. “It’s fun to watch. He brings energy, attitude, and an edge.”

Before Harrison had the opportunity to walk it off, Pirates relievers needed to be on their best today with Francisco Liriano exiting the North Shore contest in a much quicker fashion than expected.

Liriano had his second shortest outing of the season, lasting only 2 1/3 IP and forcing the Pirates to go to plan B with their relievers this afternoon. The Brewers were able to capitalize on Liriano trying to work middle-in to the righties in the middle of the lineup.

Afer robbing Francisco Cervelli of a home run in the second inning with a perfectly timed jump at the fence, Brewers’ left fielder Khris Davis completed a three-run swing in score in the top of the third with a two-run shot off of Liriano into the center field bushes. Liriano left a 1-1 fastball a little close to the middle of the plate for comfort, and Davis made him pay.

Ultimately – after the dust settled – Liriano gave up five runs, four of them earned, before Joe Blanton came in to relieve him. From that point on, it was the bullpens’ job to stop the bleeding and give the Pirates’ offense a chance to get back in the game.

Seven relief pitchers took the hill for the Pirates, and they combined to only allow one run in 8.2 IP following Liriano’s exit.

“They’ve stepped up and have continued to feed off of each other all year long,” Hurdle said of his relievers. “It was very impressive from a host of guys. They all made pitches and took ownership of their innings. We continued to scratch and claw on offense to get back into it, and we finished it off.”

Antonio Bastardo, who contributed with one scoreless inning of work, says that they are always have each others’ backs.

“We play a lot of games in a row, and things don’t always go the way you want,” Bastardo said, “but we keep pushing each other and playing. We do our best every time we go out there. Everybody backs up one another.”

The scratching and clawing began in the bottom of the fourth, with a bases loaded, 2-run scoring double by Travis Snider, who was making his second start since rejoining the club. Jordy Mercer then hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Francisco Cervelli, to make the score 6-4.

Snider, who said that the bench players of this team have continued to “meet the demands of the game” whenever given the opportunity, was ready to “give it his best shot when his name was called”.

“It was a good battle for us to get over that deficit and tie it up,” Snider said. “The bullpen did a great job locking it down, and putting us in a position to win.”

It wasn’t until the seventh that the Pirates completely closed the gap, with back-to-back RBI singles by Andrew McCutchen and Jung-Ho Kang that tied the game at 6 apiece.

In the top of the 11th inning, Josh Harrison misplayed a fly ball for the second out of the inning; however, it was Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer who came through with an outstanding 4-6-3 double play that gave Harrison the opportunity in the bottom of the frame. With runners on second and third, Harrison delivered with the single to left.

“Anytime you are in a situation to win the game, you want to be the guy,” Harrison said. “If you’re not the guy, you’re rooting for the guy that is up there. There have been a lot of us this year that have come through, and that’s what makes us so good.”

Today, Harrison was “the guy”.

**Pedro Alvarez, or “Daydro”, hit his 23rd home run of the season in the second inning. It was his ninth homer in day games this season. He has started 27 out of 40 Pirate day games this season, and his home run rate is much better during the day than night games. He is currently on the rate of hitting a homer once every 10.6 at-bats during the day compared to once every 21.6 at-bats at night.

**The Pirates have not lost a 4-game series all year. They are 5-0-4, winning three of four vs. San Francisco, Washington, St. Louis, Miami, and now Milwaukee.

** The Pirates have won 13 of Francisco Liriano’s last 14 starts, including each of his last ten games at PNC Park.

**Home is the place to be. The Bucs are 49-22 at home this season (.690). Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have a better home record at 47-21 (.691).

  • It’s a shame he doesn’t play 81 games a year in wrigley before they got lights. He might be a good player. Then again, he would still have to play defense. I need john dreker’s insane research skill to find out who the last mlb 1B to have 20 errors in a season was…I’m guessing maybe in the 70s?

    • Perpetually a tease, 2nd Half Alvarez has been as valuable as 1st Half darlings Adam Lind and Mitch Moreland…but still the worst defensive first baseman in the league.

  • We all cringe at that first series of the year in Cincy a little more everyday…lol.

    O well, over 162 games…it is showing the signs of evening itself out.

  • What an incredible baseball club. This series punctuated the argument for the Pirates being the deepest team in Major League Baseball, and I don’t think it’s particularly close right now. Deeper than the $300m Dodgers, deeper than the resilient but thin Cardinals, deeper than the stars & scrubs Blue Jays. Folks who don’t get a chance to watch much baseball outside of Pittsburgh are missing out on what an incredible team Huntington has put together.

    If there’s any downside, it’s that this club may also be trending towards the “my sh*t doesn’t work in the playoffs” narrative. Short series playoff format is inherently more prone to dominant individual performances, and baseball in general is inherently skewed toward the pitcher. Getting a dominant Liriano and Cole at the same time will likely be needed for the Pirates to advance.

    • Not just the deepest team…but possibly the deepest organization in baseball. That’s what is exciting. They’re truly on a path the Cards started on YEARS ago. I agree with you 100%.

      • Barely registers that Walker is having a poor second half and has been downright awful over the last month, or that Marte has significantly regressed at the plate and on the bases, or that Polanco is back to struggling again over the last month, or that Mercer’s still showing less power than most good-hitting pitchers.

        Even the “black hole” position, aka 1B, has the 3rd best option starting the majority of the games over the last week.

        Just doesn’t matter. Rodriguez, Harrison, Snider, Stewart, Morse…somebody’s always there to step up.

    • I can only drool thinking of a rotation with Glasnow and taillon in it and josh bell in the middle of the lineup. Every year is different but on paper next year looks so promising. Can’t think much about that though, catching the cards would be incredible.

  • Cannot overstate the benefit of a deep and very strong BP. Almost a complete game by 7 different guys and only 1 ER, 1 W, 8 K’s. A very big win for the Buc’s in this 4 game series where the Pirates won games started by Nelson and Jungmann. Clutch hitting up and down the lineup.

    • There are a couple of other factors at work with this ball club that don’t show up with the advanced stats theme of analysis. First, to a man the players mention the unity among the team and the fact that people in competition for playing time pull for each other. Newcomers to the club describe it as something unique to their experience. Winning comes first. Second, home crowds at PNC are intensely supportive. They go way beyond your normal MLB baseball crowd and you can feel and see it at the park. The players constantly mention it as a factor in their post-game interviews. If we can get the home field advantage against the Cards there is no reason this club can’t go deep in the playoffs. Winning the division would be huge…..obviously. There is a clear path to do so, and they can start by taking two from the cubbies tomorrow.

  • Bucs magic number for clinching a playoff spot is at 9. My expectations are gonna change a whole lot if they win the division.

    • The Pirates may well be in a position where taking 2 of 3 from the Cards will pull them even…and that is incredible. Not having to sweep but having the chance to pull even…that is what we needed. And the crazy thing is that we should’ve won Thursday to be only 1.5 games back. There is NO room for error but at least we should have a shot

  • If the Pirates can manage to get the central deficit to 1 or 1.5 game heading into the StL series…this could actually happen…winning the division. Not impossible.

    • Absolutely they can win it………………..and too many people on this site gave up on that possibility three weeks ago. Heading to the park all day Tuesday because I want to see Happ and Cole put some distance between us and the Cubs and gain on the Cards. Bucs are getting stronger and the Cards are showing some cracks.

      • I was one of those doubters, but it’s not that the Cards have been losing bit HOW they’ve been losing. I mean “the best pitching staff in baseball” has been getting rocked. We scored against them…then the Cubs…and the Reds. That is what has me thinking it’s possible…the Cards pitching has begun to falter

  • Dodgers at .691 at home would make taking 1 of 3 a success, right?

    That’s not a great thought to end the night with.

    • They swept the Dodgers just last month. The Pirates match up very well against the Dodgers and Mets. I think they can take 2 of 3 in LA.