Yasiel Puig’s 12th-inning home run to center field gave the Dodgers a final 6-5 lead late Monday night at PNC Park.
The Pirates were apparently low on available relief pitching, which became apparent as the game wore on. That dearth most effected the Pirates, though, when Clint Hurdle tried to wring all he could out of Gerrit Cole, leading to a Curtis Granderson go-ahead grand slam.
It wasn’t explicit at the time, but the Pirates entered Monday’s game with essentially four available relievers. Felipe Rivero, who had pitched the last two days, and George Kontos, who is dealing with a groin injury, were both unavailable. Dovydas Neverauskas had also pitched the two previous days and was only reluctantly used in the 12th. Jameson Taillon, Tuesday’s scheduled starter, was throwing lightly and apparently would have gone in had there been a 13th inning. (Taillon’s still starting Tuesday.)
Cole, who had a mixed performance, but kept the Dodgers at bay for six innings, started to wear thin in the seventh. Chase Utley led off with a single and Cole walked pinch hitter Logan Forsythe. After Chris Taylor hit into a fielder’s choice, Corey Seager singled in a run, cutting the Pirates’ lead to 3-1, and Justin Turner singled to load the bases for Granderson. Under normal circumstances, it was past time for Cole to be pulled, with him scuffling and in 110-pitch territory, but Hurdle stuck with Cole, and Granderson popped a slider into the right-center-field seats for a grand slam and a 5-3 Los Angeles lead.
The Bucs tied it at 5 in the eighth. Tony Watson made his return to Pittsburgh as a visitor, hitting Adam Frazier with a pitch and striking out Starling Marte. Pedro Baez came in to face Josh Harrison, who doubled to the left-field corner to score Frazier. Baez hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch and walked David Freese. Josh Bell pinch-hit for Jose Osuna and reached on a fielder’s choice, beating out the double-play attempt at first to allow Harrison to score. John Jaso drew a pinch-hit walk to load the bases, but Brandon Morrow relieved Baez, getting Jordy Mercer to fly out.
The Pirates rolled with the pitchers they had: A.J. Schugel after the grand slam in the seventh, Daniel Hudson in the eighth, Juan Nicasio in the ninth. Joaquin Benoit walked the bases loaded in the 10th, but got out of it.
If it wasn’t obvious before, Benoit’s outing made clear the pitching shortage. He even came out to pitch another inning, allowing just a two-out hit in an otherwise clean 11th.
Neverauskas entered for the 12th out of necessity and gave up Puig’s homer on his second pitch of the night.
The Pirates have frequently played a man short on the bench as they waited out an injury in the last few years, which has been frustrating on its own. They haven’t usually been as reckless with their bullpen, but it certainly hurt them this time. The Pirates squandered a good chance against a powerhouse club, albeit one that’s coasting at this point.
They got three homers off Dodgers starter Alex Wood, who doesn’t give up many of those, to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Osuna and Sean Rodriguez, both inserted in the lineup to face the left-hander, but to some grumbling, clubbed back-to-back solo homers in the second. Harrison went deep in the third.
Cole ran into trouble periodically, loading the bases in the second and sixth, narrowly avoiding an Adrian Gonzalez grand slam with two outs in the sixth, as his fly ball died inches from the center-field wall. Justin Turner also hit one to the warning track in the first. Cole finished with seven strikeouts and two walks, allowing eight hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Harrison went 3-for-5 with two runs scored.