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Andrew McCutchen bails Pirates out twice in 6-5 victory

Joe Robbins

Andrew McCutchen hit game-tying and game-winning solo homers as the Pirates overcome their recent pitching struggles to beat the Reds 6-5 in 11 innings Saturday.

Just like last night, the Pirates built a four-run early lead, only to blow it in the middle-late innings. The Bucs got one in the first, one in the third and two in the fourth while Charlie Morton cruised, and it looked like they were headed to an easy victory. But not so fast! Morton began the sixth inning with a four-pitch walk to Zack Cozart, then gave up a two-run bomb to Chris Heisey. Then it was a single to Billy Hamilton and a walk to Ramon Santiago, and then a three-run shot to Todd Frazier. The Frazier homer was exasperating, because the previous pitch should have been a called third strike. (The strike zone was an issue throughout the game.) As it stood, the Reds only needed five batters to turn a 4-0 deficit into a 5-4 lead.

Anyway, Jared Hughes pitched the seventh and Mark Melancon the eighth. (Yes, behind by a run, because apparently you can use Melancon then but not in a tie game.) Aroldis Chapman was unavailable because he'd pitched the previous four days, and so the Reds turned to Jonathan Broxton. McCutchen greeted Broxton with a leadoff homer to center to tie the game, and the Pirates had new life.

Not that they wouldn't try to strangle themselves. Tony Watson pitched a scoreless ninth, and then the Pirates turned to Ernesto Frieri in the tenth, because apparently it just wouldn't be a close game without Frieri entering in a key situation and making a hot mess. Frieri began the inning by walking Santiago and Frazier, mostly with pitches nowhere near the strike zone, before giving way to Justin Wilson.

This is where the game began to turn. Wilson gave up a single to Jay Bruce, but Gregory Polanco grabbed the ball in right field and made a terrific throw to nab Santiago (with Russell Martin also deserving credit for applying the tag). After intentionally walking Devin Mesoraco, Wilson dominated Ryan Ludwick and Brayan Pena with the bases loaded, steamrolling them both with righteous, mitt-popping fastballs.

That gave Andrew McCutchen another opportunity, and did he ever take advantage, crushing a J.J. Hoover slider to left with two outs to make it 6-5 in the 11th. Jeanmar Gomez entered to get the save (!) in the 11th and gave up three hard-hit balls, but all of them were outs, and somehow the Pirates came out ahead. Hey Pirates roster (and Clint Hurdle) -- you owe Andrew, Justin, Gregory and Russ dinner tomorrow.