Polanco triple keys another Pirates win
Matt Kemp and Gregory Polanco entered the game as the least productive regular hitters at their position. Out of 24 qualified right fielders, Kemp ranked 23rd with a 79 wRC+, and Polanco ranked last with a 75 wRC+.
Tonight, however, they combined to provide most of the offense for their teams. Kemp drove home all of the Padres' runs and Polanco hit a clutch game-winning triple in the bottom of the eighth.
"Real good night at the plate for Gregory," Clint Hurdle said. "A big hit. Just a really sweet swing off of a really good relief pitcher."
Polanco drove a 2-1 pitch from Joaquin Benoit into left-center field that perfectly split the Padres defense and rolled deep into the notch.
"I hit it at the right moment and I was happy because I did my job," Polanco said. "I was very excited because we needed that run and it was late. We've been playing long games and we didn't want to play any more extra innings."
Liriano pitches after long delay
A thunderstorm interrupted the game in the top of the third. When play resumed following a one hour and 42 minute delay, Francisco Liriano returned to the mound and looked shaky. With a man on first, he allowed a walk and then a two-run double to Kemp. However, those would end up being the only runs for the Padres on the night, as Liriano settled back in and threw three more scoreless innings. Overall, he allowed two runs over six innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.
Hurdle said that if the rain delay had lasted a little longer he probably wouldn't have sent Liriano back out to pitch.
"At 10:08 he threw a 95 MPH fastball, and at 10:27 he uncorked one at 93," Hurdle said. "He's strong. He wanted to pitch, and we still felt that we were in a good enough safety zone to send him back out."
Liriano said that he stayed warm during the delay by throwing 12 pitches every 15 minutes in the batting cages.
"I was ready to go still," Liriano said. "I was just trying to find a way to stay loose. It didn't bother me at all."
Cervelli a late scratch
Minutes before the game started, the Pirates announced that Chris Stewart would start instead of Francisco Cervelli.
"High activity from last night," Hurdle explained, when asked about the late switch. "I made the lineup out at 12:30 and then I started meetings and I didn't get to him until late. He wanted to play. I just felt that we were better served giving him a blow."
I'm sure most of you have already seen what happened in the top of the third when a thunderstorm moved through the North Side. But if not, check out this video, which shows Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Sean Rodriguez helping the grounds crew rescue a crewman who got wrapped up in the tarp due to the strong winds.
Hurdle was proud of the players involved in the rescue.
"I caught [what happened] late," Hurdle said. "I'm coming back out and the next thing I know I see Rodriguez and McCutchen on the grounds crew helping out. They did what men do. They wanted to help out and they were right on the spot. Leaders make moves and both those guys reacted. They didn't wait around. Caution in the wind, go out there and try and help."
Rodriguez said that he and some of his teammates were just hanging around to see what would happen because, at first, it looked like a scene out of a "blooper reel."
"Sure enough [though] the tarp wrapped around one of the grounds crew guys and obviously you got to go help at that point," Rodriguez explained. "[We just wanted] to get him out as soon as possible. Some people can be claustrophobic immediately and start to struggle a little bit right away. I was just thinking to pull off as much tarp as possible as I can."
Another save for Melancon
Mark Melancon closed out another Pirates win and picked up his 28th save. The Pirates closer hasn't allowed an earned run in 26 straight appearances, a streak that dates back to May 11.
More misadventures in sliding
In the bottom of the third, Polanco was on first with one out when Neil Walker hit a sharp line drive into left field that dropped just in front of the hard-charging Justin Upton. Polanco was initially hung up between first and second, as he waited to see if the ball was going to be caught. When it dropped in, Polanco took off for second and Upton came up throwing. As the ball approached second it was pretty clear that the play was going to be close. But then Polanco jammed his left knee and right foot into the ground as he slid, which slowed him down and popped him up early. He stumbled to the bag late and was called out. It was yet another out baserunning out directly tied to sliding for Polanco.
The Box of Mystery game was winding down between the second and third innings when the familiar first bars of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" started playing on the PNC Park speakers, and it didn't take long for the fans to figure out why. As attention returned to the field, Clint Barmes was finishing his warm up swings. When he started to walk to the plate, the fans and Pirates players began warmly applauding the team's former shortstop. Barmes recognized his walk-up song immediately and smiled, nodded to his old teammates, pointed to the sky and gave the fans a couple of small fist waves.
Picking up ground
With the Cubs sweeping the Cardinals in a doubleheader, the Pirates gained 1 1/2 games and now sit 4 1/2 games behind St. Louis.
Not the way you draw it up
Out of 164 qualified position players, the leadoff hitters in tonight's game - Polanco and Derek Norris - entered ranked 130th and 146th in on base percentage, respectively.
Polanco OBP = .300
Norris OBP = .288