The Pirates won their series against the Cardinals with yet another come-from-behind victory in extra innings. Like yesterday, they won 6-5, this time scoring three runs in the 10th inning to win it. This was the biggest, most absurd, and most satisfying regular-season Pirates series I can recall in my lifetime, and I'm in my 30s.
Francisco Liriano struggled with his command early on, and he gave up a walk and a single that led to a run-scoring double play in the second inning to put the Cardinals up 1-0.
Francisco Cervelli hit a one-out triple in the bottom half of the inning, though, and Tim Cooney intentionally walked Gregory Polanco two batters later. That strategy made sense, of course, since Liriano was coming up, and Liriano likes hitting about as much as your mom likes Slayer. But sure enough, Liriano, following the lead A.J. Burnett set yesterday, smacked a line drive to score both runners (although he himself only ended up at first). It was an impressive hit, too, and not just by Liriano standards. 2-1 Pirates.
In the third, Jhonny Peralta tied the game with a solo homer, knocking a changeup to left center. But the Pirates took another lead in the bottom of the fourth as Sean Rodriguez doubled to right and Polanco singled him home.
Both starting pitchers settled down a bit at that point, and the fifth and sixth innings went by uneventfully. In the seventh, Liriano gave up a one-out single to Randal Grichuk and a walk to Peter Bourjos. Liriano left with six strikeouts and four walks over 6.1 innings, and Jared Hughes and then Antonio Bastardo got the last two outs of the inning to preserve the Pirates' lead.
In the eighth, Tony Watson took over, and he didn't have his usual command. He grazed Kolten Wong, then gave up a single to Peralta. He got Jason Heyward to hit a chopper, but it ate Jordy Mercer up, leaving the bases loaded and no outs. Wong then scored to tie the game as Yadier Molina grounded out. Watson ultimately got Mark Reynolds to hit a soft liner and Bourjos to strike out to end the threat, but the damage was done.
At that point, I was pretty sure the game was going to extra innings. The Pirates couldn't get anything going against Kevin Siegrist in the bottom of the eighth, and Mark Melancon was terrific in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Sam Tuivailala got both Rodriguez and Polanco to strike out looking, and pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez popped out.
Arquimedes Caminero came on in the 10th and promptly gave up two singles. He then got an out on a grounder by Molina, but loaded the bases when he hit Reynolds in the hand (or forearm, maybe) with a 98-MPH fastball. Grichuk doubled to right center, bringing home two runs to make it 5-3, although the Pirates did nab Reynolds (who apparently wasn't hurt) at home. Caminero got Bourjos for the third out, but the Bucs were still in pretty dire straits heading into the bottom of the 10th.
Three batters later, it didn't look much better. Mercer led off with a soft line drive for a single, but Trevor Rosenthal got both Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen to grind the Pirates down to their last out. Then, though, Starling Marte singled home Mercer, who had moved up on McCutchen's grounder. Jung-Ho Kang then singled to center, representing the winning run. Up came Cervelli, who grounded a single down the right field line to tie the game.
Travis Ishikawa -- who memorably ended the Cardinals' season with a walk-off homer last year -- then came to the plate. He walked, handing the baton to Polanco ... who lined a single to right to win it, as the PNC faithful went nuts for a second straight day. Heyward fielded the ball and tossed it back to the infield, defeated.
I don't want to make too much of one game, or one series, because baseball has a way of making the games that seem important turn out not to be. But if the Pirates end up winning the World Series this year -- and it's possible -- this is the series we'll point to that told us we knew they could do it. And if anyone had any questions about how good the Pirates are, this series answered them. Amazing weekend.