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Postgame: Tony Watson implodes in ninth, Pirates drop eighth game in a row

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Ninth-inning meltdown

This one went from an blowout early, to a stirring mid-game comeback, to a devastating and perhaps lethal ninth inning defeat.

After the Pirates fought back from a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead into the ninth, Tony Watson was one out away from wrapping up his 11th save before a three home run barrage lifted the Cardinals to a 9-7 victory. It was a stunning implosion.

"It sucks to be the losing pitcher on a night where the guys fought back after getting in a hole early and fighting back," Watson said. "It's hard to swallow."

The three home runs in the ninth equals the total number of homers Watson gave up all of last season. The nine home runs he's allowed this year exceeds the last two seasons combined.

"We've got some guys that aren't quite having the season they've had in the past," Clint Hurdle said. "The home run totals are what they are. We're aware of it. The life of late inning reliever is hard. It's hard duty."

The game-tying solo home run came on an 0-2 pitch to Matt Carpenter.

"To be a strike away and to serve up four runs, it's tough," Watson said. "I left a pitch middle up and [Carpenter] drove it. Terrible pitch."

With the loss the Pirates now drop 5.5 games behind the Cardinals for the last wild card spot with 26 games left to go. They've dropped eight games in a row and are in desperate need of a win tomorrow.

"Things aren't going well around here right now," Watson said. "We're losing ballgames. We need to right the ship and get back after it tomorrow and get back to winning ways."

Watson has posted 10 saves and three blown saves since taking over closing duties.

"Do I think he was ready [to become the closer]? Yes, I think he was ready for it," Hurdle said. "Obviously, right now, the pitch execution has been complicated a little bit. So, the degree of difficulty could be more when you make that change in a pennant race. But I think he'd have to answer that, I'm speculating."

On a night that figures to have knocked the air out of their late season wild card aspirations, the Pirates' players were, as you'd expect, already looking forward to turning things around.

"We battled our butts off," Ryan Vogelsong said. "What I've seen in the past is that teams that keep battling, things start working out for you."

Jung Ho Kang hits two homers in return to lineup

The bitter ending overshadows what otherwise was an impressive effort by the Pirates' offense to battle back into the game and the bullpen's work shutting the door for four scoreless innings.

"A lot of things went well for us tonight," Hurdle said. "We got on top. However, at the end of the day, Abner [Doubleday] was on to something when he figured out nine for this thing. It plays pretty strong throughout the league every night."

In his second game back, Jung Ho Kang led the offense with two home runs, three runs and three RBIs. He also played a fine defensive game.

"Holy cow," Hurdle said. "Looks like he is refreshed."