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There’s magic left...in a Moroff walkoff

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I had a story written, where Gerrit Cole had an ace performance but couldn’t best Zach Davies...and then the Pirates roared back against all-world closer Corey Knebel to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, setting the stage for Max Moroff’s improbable game-winner.

Cole did allow a run in the first, allowing a leadoff double to Domingo Santana and a one-out single to Jesus Aguilar, but looked in total command as he didn’t allow a homer or a walk while striking out 10 of the 27 batters he faced in seven innings.

Zach Davies also allowed a run in the first when Starling Marte and Josh Harrison started the inning with singles, Marte then scoring on Andrew McCutchen’s sacrifice fly.

That was all she wrote for either team until the eighth when Santana took a Juan Nicasio change-up high and deep the other way, into the seats in right field to give the Brewers a late 2-1 lead.

At the time many may have thought game over. Jacob Barnes set the Pirates down in order in the bottom of the frame, and had their 4-5-6 hitters ready to face the Brewers closer Knebel, owner of a 1.62 ERA and a 16 strikeouts per 9 inning rate.

Everyone jumped to their feet when pinch-hitter John Jaso drove the first pitch deep to center, but Keon Broxton pulled it in with his back up against the fence. However, with two outs still to spare the Pirates weren’t done. David Freese worked a walk and Gregory Polanco’s ground single to right sent pinch-runner Max Moroff to third with the tying run. Francisco Cervelli, who already had a walk and two singles on the night, then flared a 1-2 pitch to right to even the score. Still with only one out, Knebel did retire Jordy Mercer and Adam Frazier, but it broke his streak of 46 consecutive games with at least one strikeout of a batter.

Tony Watson had an easy tenth and the Brewers then sent out former long-time Buc Jared Hughes to hold the fort. Marte struck out on a pitch near his foot, but Josh Harrison drove a ball to center that bounced into the bullpen for a book-rule double. After McCutchen was intentionally walked, Jaso again flied out the center, sending Harrison to third. That brought up the oft-derided rookie Moroff, who had stayed in the game to play second. Despite a .115 batting average and a 30% K-rate. Moroff dropped a soft fly into center for the game winning single.

The victory gave the Pirates their third win of the series with one to go Thursday afternoon, and put the team into third place, only four games behind the Brewers. Jameson Taillon (5-3, 3.06) will go for the sweep against Jimmy Nelson (8-4, 3.27) at 12:35 p.m.