Huge hits from Gregory Polanco and Jung-Ho Kang keyed the Pirates' wild 8-7 win over a fading Twins team on Tuesday.
Charlie Morton was erratic, walking four, but if he teetered on the edge of disaster, he never quite fell. The Twins got one in the first thanks to a throwing error by Aramis Ramirez, then another in the fourth as Eddie Rosario led off with a triple and came home on a groundout.
The Pirates answered in the top of the fifth. Francisco Cervelli and then Travis Ishikawa kicked off the inning with a pair of ground-ball singles, and then Trevor Plouffe's error on Jaff Decker's bunt attempt brought home Cervelli. (Decker, by the way, was in the game because Starling Marte was scratched due to illness.) Polanco -- and get ready for some Gregory Polanco in this game -- then spiked a hard liner but was robbed of a hit by shortstop Eduardo Escobar. But then Neil Walker hit a hard grounder to Escobar, who tried to get Ishikawa at home. It was a close play, but Ishikawa was ruled safe, and the call was upheld upon review.
The Bucs took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth when Ishikawa singled home Kang, but the Twins tied the score in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI triple by Aaron Hicks.
The seventh inning preceded uneventfully, but the game blew open in the eighth. Pedro Alvarez and Cervelli singled, and after a poor pinch-hit appearance by Sean Rodriguez that led to a strikeout against Brian Duensing, Decker drew a walk. Polanco doubled off the wall in right, clearing the bases with a big, and impressive, hit against a lefty. Walker then brought home a run with a single to right. 7-3 Pirates.
Game over, right? Well, no. Tony Watson gave up five straight hits in the bottom of the inning, capped with a ground-rule double by Escobar, and left with the game tied at seven. Mark Melancon got the last two outs of the inning, though, and then up came Kang with one out in the ninth. Kang teed off on Glen Perkins' hanging slider, flipping his bat majestically as the Pirates took an 8-7 lead. Melancon held the Twins off in the ninth.
Polanco and Kang, along with Marte, really have carried the Pirates' offense these past couple weeks. Not bad for a couple of relatively new players, one of a recent target of fans' ire and the other a player who until recently didn't even have a starting job. A month ago, the Pirates were supposed to be looking for ways to upgrade on Polanco; now, he's hitting the ball hard in one plate appearance after another. The same goes for Kang, who had a .600 slugging percentage in the past 14 days heading into tonight's game.