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).