How can you not be romantic about baseball?
Sean Rodriguez, a guy who’s been through a lot the last several months, got sent back to a city that loves him this weekend. He rushed back to a welcome that outsized just his production on the field.
Then, hours later, he won the game.
Rodriguez jumped on a Buddy Baumann two-seam fastball, driving it into the left-field bleachers for a walk-off home run, giving the Pirates a 5-4 win over the Padres in 12 innings and their first series win in a span of five tries.
Rodriguez entered the game in the eighth inning in a double switch that also brought in Felipe Rivero. Rodriguez took the field mid-inning to a spirited welcome. The cheers were much louder for him than Rivero, the baddest dude on the team and the most exciting one for a home crowd to watch this year.
Rodriguez’s hustle, and eventually his production, in a previous two-season stint had endeared him to Pittsburgh, and the city hadn’t forgotten him. To say Sunday’s return was fitting would be discounting how above and beyond the crowd, and Rodriguez’s homer, went.
The heroes of the game were supposed to be Jose Osuna and Jameson Taillon, before Rivero cracked in a long outing, sending the game to extra innings.
Osuna cracked a pair of doubles in the early innings, his third-inning hit driving in three for a 4-0 Pirates lead.
Taillon got everyone all hangry again, struggling in the first inning, conceding two runs, before settling in to a dominating groove, not allowing a hit in the third through sixth innings, setting San Diego hitters down with a curveball that was pretty sharp in this outing. (I almost forgot: Andrew McCutchen made a heck of a catch at the wall in the first.)
He struck out eight, walked two and allowed the two runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Wade LeBlanc cleaned up for Taillon after a couple seventh-inning singles, getting a double-play ball from pinch hitter Yangervis Solarte.
With the Pirates sitting on a 4-2 lead, Rivero came on to get the final out of the eighth. He struck out Wil Myers to open the ninth, but that took 10 pitches. He walked Hunter Renfroe and gave up a single to Austin Hedges, laboring through the inning. After a flyout, Rivero walked pinch hitter Hector Sanchez to load the bases, then Manuel Margot singled to left to score two runs, knotting the score at 4.
That runners on first and second with two outs, but, fortunately, Joaquin Benoit had his first clean outing with the Pirates, getting a Carlos Asuaje flyout to end the ninth-inning threat, then tossing a 1-2-3 10th.
Dovydas Neverauskas capably got through the 11th and 12th, picking up his first Major League win when Rodriguez hit his homer.
Before the 12th, the Pirates had scored all their runs in the third. Chris Stewart led off with a grounder that got through both the third baseman and shortstop. Taillon couldn’t move him over with a bunt, then Starling Marte (who finished 3-for-5 with two doubles) singled and Josh Harrison lined out. With two on and two outs, McCutchen got the Pirates on the board with a single to left. Clayton Richard hit David Freese with a pitch to load the bases, then Osuna, who had already doubled an inning before, slapped one just inside the right-field foul line to clear the bases.
Interestingly enough, Osuna had the chance to win it in the 10th, after the Padres issued back-to-back intentional walks to load the bases for him with one out. Relief ace Brad Hand came in and Osuna bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.
He must have been saving the heroics for Rodriguez, which was awfully nice of him.
Because it was a heck of a day for Sean Rodriguez.