The Pirates made good on their third bases-loaded, no-out opportunity of the night as Pedro Alvarez hit a walk-off single for a 5-4 win over the Dodgers in a back-and-forth game that began as a Clayton Kershaw-Gerrit Cole showdown.
A crowd of 39,404 showed up to PNC Park expecting a pitchers' duel. That made for a playoff atmosphere, and the fans got a great game, but not the kind that was expected.
Gregory Polanco got the crowd going with a leadoff home run, turning Kershaw's first pitch of the night around and depositing it in the center field seats. It ended a 37-inning scoreless streak for the Los Angeles lefty.
The Dodgers took the lead, 2-1, in the third. Joc Pederson doubled and Jimmy Rollins drew a two-out walk. With runners on second and third, Aramis Ramirez made a nice sliding stop on Howie Kendrick's grounder, but first baseman Michael Morse pulled his foot off the bag as the throw came, and both runners scored. There was a brief pause, but no challenge of the call, and for good reason.
The Pirates tied it at 2 in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen, Ramirez and Jung-Ho Kang opened the inning with singles, loading the bases with none out for the first time of the night. Morse lined out and Sean Rodriguez struck out, but Kershaw struggled with Chris Stewart, falling into a 3-0 hole. Stewart took two strike calls that he didn't like, but the last call was one Kershaw didn't like, a ball that sent McCutchen home. Cole fanned to end the inning.
The Dodgers pushed right back again in the fifth, as Starling Marte couldn't make a diving catch and Rollins got an RBI single for a 3-2 Los Angeles lead.
The Pirates pulled ahead, 4-3, in the fifth. Kershaw hit Marte in the back with a pitch, and McCutchen doubled him in. Cutch scored on Ramirez's single.
Both starting pitchers left after six innings. Neither had his best night, though pitchers that talented couldn't help but be effective at times. Kershaw had five strikeouts and two walks, but gave up nine hits and left with the 4-3 deficit. Cole struck out five and walked three. He allowed the three runs on four hits, but wasn't all that sharp, even hitting Kershaw with a pitch in the fifth.
Carl Crawford pinch hit for Kershaw with two outs in the seventh and reached on catcher's interference. He stole second and Rollins doubled him in to tie the score at 4. Rollins had a great night, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
The Crawford run was Joakim Soria's first allowed as a Pirate. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon got through the eighth and ninth innings easily, and Antonio Bastardo struck out Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal to escape a 10th-inning jam.
Kang and Francisco Cervelli singles and a Rodriguez walk loaded the bases with no outs, again, in the eighth, but Luis Avilan, a recent acquisition from the Braves, induced three straight groundouts, including two forceouts at the plate.
Jim Johnson walked Kang to start the 10th, his second inning of work. Cervelli singled, then Rodriguez's bunt found a hole in the infield to again load the bases with no outs.
With the pitcher's spot due up, the Dodgers went to lefty J.P. Howell and the Pirates stuck with their best remaining bench option left in the lefty Alvarez. Pedro stung one, somehow finding a hole in the five-man infield to end the game.
Polanco, McCutchen, Ramirez, Kang and Cervelli each had two-hit games. Cervelli was 2-for-2 off the bench. Kudos to Clint Hurdle for turning to him in the eighth. That's admittedly praising him for doing what he should have done anyway, but using the backup catcher is something a lot of managers hesitate to do unless absolutely necessary.
There's plenty to be happy about with this game. The Pirates took one from one of the better teams in the league, giving them a game up heading into matchups against two more good, if not elite, starting pitchers.