Sometimes, it’s easy to roll your eyes when Clint Hurdle talks about “the fight” in his Pirates.
After all it’s not Little League, where the primary drive comes from getting the opportunity to go to the Dairy Queen if your team wins. Hurdle’s players are professional athletes who are paid handsomely and should be expected to try their best to win any way they can within the framework of the rulebook.
However, when Hurdle talked about the fight in his club early Sunday evening, it was a little easier to buy what he was selling. This time, it did take a lot of fight on his players’ part.
The Pirates rallied from three runs down in both the ninth and 11th innings to beat the Padres 11-10 at PNC Park. Kevin Newman’s bases-loaded walk with two outs in the 11th forced in the winning run and ended a four-hour, 58-minute game, extending an early afternoon start into early evening.
The walk-off walk enabled the Pirates (36-40) to sweep the three-game series and run their winning streak to four games. It was also the first time the Pirates won on a game-ending base-on-balls since Russell Martin drew one off the Reds’ Tony Cingrani on June 19, 2014.
Hurdle called it “one of the best wins I’ve watched in the nine years I’ve been here, for sure. I was there. I got to see it all. Sometimes you need to talk about winning and sometimes you talk about the fight. At the end of the day, you’re judged on the win-loss column, but the fight has been there all year. We’re trying to find ways to win ballgames and today was a day that could have got by us, and we were able to fight through it.”
The Pirates scored three runs off Kirby Yates in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings. Yates leads the major leagues with 26 saves and had not blown one this season until Sunday.
Yet the Pirates appeared done when Francisco Liriano gave up three runs in the top of the 11th as the Padres moved back ahead 10-7. However, the Pirates responded with four runs off Phil Maton and Matt Wisler.
Newman capped the rally with an impressive plate appearance. He fell behind in the count 0-2 yet against Wisler but showed the patience to take four straight balls to draw the walk, enabling Jacob Stallings to trot home with the winning run.
“Ball four and everybody is happy. Strike three and there’s a whole different deal going on,” Hurdle said. “The game-winning run came across and it was a pretty cool feeling for us.”
Newman said the key was not to add any more tension to a pressure-packed situation.
“It’s not as crazy as it seems,” Newman said. “It’s a big situation but at the end of the day it’s just another pitch. I thought the ball was up, coming out of his hand.”
The odd part is Newman brought home the winning run without a hit, despite extending his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with two singles earlier in the game.
“Any way we can do it,” Newman said with a smile. “Whether it’s a walk, a hit, a hit by pitch, whatever we can do to win the game.”
Newman talked further about the situation:
Bryan Reynolds drew a walk from Maton to lead off the 11th and advanced to second on Josh Bell’s one-out single. Melky Cabrera followed with a double to drive home Reynolds while Bell stopped at third with one out.
Hurdle called on Stallings to pinch hit for Liriano. The backup catcher was the last position player remaining and responded with a two-run single off Wisler that tied the score at 10-10.
Stallings is 4 for 5 with seven RBIs with the bases loaded in his career.
“Maybe I need to have the bases loaded more often,” Stallings said with a grin.
The game seemed lost in the ninth when Yates came on to protect the Padres’ 7-4 lead.
However, Newman and Reynolds hit back-to-back RBI singles with none out to make it a one-run game. Starling Marte bunted the runners up and the Padres intentionally walked Bell to load the bases for Cabrera.
Cabrera hit a dribbler down the first-base line. Yates fielded the ball, but with his momentum carrying him away from home plate, his only play was to throw Cabrera out at first base as Newman scored the tying run.
Colin Moran flied out to left to end the inning, but the Pirates went one run better two innings later.
“We never felt like we were going to lose the game,” said Steven Brault, who started and allowed three runs in five innings. “Even when we were down by three runs. There was just always that feeling that we were somehow going to win the game.”
My five thoughts from Sunday can be found here.
• Gregory Polanco, right fielder, is on the 10-day IL with a left posterior shoulder strain.
• Francisco Cervelli, catcher, is on the seven-day concussion IL.
• Jordan Lyles, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with left hamstring tightness. He made a rehab start Sunday for Class AAA Indianapolis, allowing one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and three walks while throwing 84 pitches.
• Jameson Taillon, right-hander, is on the 60-day IL with a right elbow flexor-tendon strain.
• Keone Kela, right-hander, is on the 60-day IL with right shoulder inflammation and is rehabbing at the Pirates' spring training facility in Bradenton, Fla.
• Rookie Davis, right-hander, is on the 10-day DL with a right middle finger blister and is on a rehab assignment at Indianapolis.
• Erik Gonzalez, shortstop, is on the 60-day IL with a left clavicle fracture.
• Nick Burdi, relief pitcher, is on the 60-day IL with right elbow/pain caused by a nerve problem and is rehabbing in Bradenton.
• Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder, is on the 60-day IL with a left calf strain.
The Pirates are off Monday, though they fly to Houston for a three-game series with the Astros that begins at 8:10 p.m. (Eastern time) on Tuesday. Trevor Williams (2-1, 4.12) will pitch against Gerrit Cole (6-5, 3.54) It will be the first time Cole, who is 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA in his last five starts, has faced the Pirates since being traded to the Astros in January 2018. I will be on the coverage for that game and the six-game road trip, which concludes with three games in Milwaukee.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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