Andrew McCutchen's walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth won yet another close game for the Pirates on Sunday, 5-4, to take the series from Philadelphia.
The Phillies grabbed a 1-0 lead on Hunter Pence's RBI double in the first, then widened their lead when James McDonald threw an awful pitch to Pence -- a changeup, I believe -- down the middle and at the letters. Gone. 2-0 Phillies.
In the bottom of the fifth, however, Pedro Alvarez got a terrible pitch of his own and, much to his credit, destroyed it, hitting it over the right-field wall and out of the stadium, probably in exactly the way Pirates fans fantasized about when the Bucs drafted him. 2-1.
In the sixth, James McDonald got into a jam when Juan Pierre bunted his way on and Alvarez airmailed the throw from third, giving Pierre second base and no outs. Shane Victorino sacrificed, but McDonald struck out Jimmy Rollins. The Pirates then made the (strange, in my opinion) decision to intentionally walk Hunter Pence to get to Jim Thome. Pence has owned McDonald in their careers, but that doesn't mean a whole lot, and the intentional walk set up a good matchup for one of the most prolific home-run hitters in baseball history. Fortunately, McDonald struck Thome out too.
In the seventh, Jared Hughes came on and walked Ty Wigginton. Freddy Galvis then sacrificed, but Neil Walker, covering first, missed the throw, and Wigginton headed to third and Galvis to second. Hughes got Brian Schneider and Laynce Nix, but gave up a single to Pierre that drove in two runs.
It was 4-1 Phillies at that point, and it looked like that should have been it. Clint Barmes and Alvarez struck out to start the bottom of the inning, but Alvarez was safe when the Phillies couldn't get the ball to first, and he scored on a double by Casey McGehee. McGehee then came home on Alex Presley's single.
Hallelujah -- offense! The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the eighth when Andrew McCutchen led off with a single. Yamaico Navarro walked, and Matt Hague drove in McCutchen with his first big-league hit, a single to left.
Joel Hanrahan dominated the Phillies in the ninth, giving the Pirates a shot at winning the game in the bottom of the inning. McGehee doubled to start the inning, setting up a situation similar to Saturday's game, where Rod Barajas doubled to lead off the bottom of the 10th.
Presley sacrificed pinch-runner Josh Harrison to third, giving Tabata an opportunity much like the one he had last night, with the winning run on third and one out. He only needed to get a ball to the outfield, but as with Saturday, he failed, this time by strikeout. Luckily, McCutchen came up and drilled a ball to deep center, giving the Pirates their second win of the year, and the Pirates partisans in the small Easter crowd at PNC went nuts.
Whatever questions there might still be about the offense, this was an exciting series, and it was great to see the Pirates battle back. I'd like to thank the Phillies for helping the Pirates in their comeback efforts keeping Jonathan Papelbon glued to the bench for the second consecutive game. One wonders what might have been different if the Pirates had had to face Papelbon rather than Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon.