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Pirates ride big 8th inning to 5-2 win over Padres

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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

For the second straight night, Gregory Polanco had a crucial eighth-inning hit to key a Bucs victory. After playing from behind for much of the game, the Pirates' three-run eighth led to a 5-2 win, a sweep of the Padres and a fifth straight win.

Charlie Morton struggled in the early going, retiring the first two batters he faced but giving up a first-inning homer to Matt Kemp and then a second-inning RBI double by Melvin Upton Jr. Morton looked pretty discombobulated, but he recovered and managed to only give up two runs over six innings.

The Pirates grabbed one run in the second, thanks mainly to Jung-Ho Kang's baserunning -- Kang got all the way to second on a grounder deflected by shortstop Alexi Amarista. It wasn't at all obvious that Kang would get the extra base, and he deserves credit for hustling all the way. Kang then moved up on a grounder and then came home on a sacrifice fly to shallow left. It wasn't clear to me that going home was the right move, but Will Venable's throw was off-line, and the Bucs cut the lead to 2-1.

Other than that, though, the Pirates couldn't do much against Andrew Cashner, who put together one of those lengthy batters-retired streaks that have been so common over the past couple weeks, both for Pirates pitchers and their mound opponents. Cashner retired 15 batters in a row until Neil Walker doubled to lead off the seventh.

After that double, Andrew McCutchen walked, and Walker headed to third on a fly ball. Then Francisco Cervelli grounded into a force out, and Walker came home to tie the game.

At that point, despite some things that had gone wrong (Morton was uneven, and Pedro Alvarez's two-error performance tonight was characteristically brutal), it felt like the Pirates' bullpen and offense would find a way to win. And sure enough, the Bucs finally got to Cashner in the eighth. Travis Ishikawa (pinch-hitting for Deolis Guerra, who'd pitched two strong innings of relief) walked with two outs, then scored as Polanco hit a line drive to right. Then Walker walked against reliever Brandon Maurer, and McCutchen singled to left to score Polanco. Kang followed with an RBI single of his own to give the Bucs a three-run cushion.

Antonio Bastardo pitched the ninth and picked up the save, giving Mark Melancon, who had pitched three of the previous four days, a day off.

With the sweep, the Bucs appear to have left their weird historical home struggles against the Padres in the dust. They now head into a key series against the Cardinals on an obvious roll. Here's hoping the NL Central is a tossup by the All-Star break.