There’s just no quit in these Buccos. For the second straight game, the Pirates overcame a four-run deficit to topple the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. This time they needed some ninth-inning heroics in the form of Colin Moran’s two-run, go-ahead homer to help provide the Pirates with an improbable 6-5 victory.
After Starling Marte and Josh Bell started the inning with singles off of White Sox closer Nate Jones, Diaz hit a deep fly ball to right field that landed just on the inside of the foul line and bounced over the wall for a two-run ground rule double.
Moran immediately followed with a two-run homer to right center field to put the Pirates ahead. Felipe Vazquez wrapped up the game with his seventh save as the resilient Bucs hoisted the Jolly Roger for the 21st time this season.
It was the third time this season that the Pirates have won a game in which they trailed by at least four runs. They accomplished that feat once last year.
Entering the ninth inning, In the bottom of the eighth, Fangraphs projected that the White Sox had a 97.7-percent chance to win the game. By the time Moran’s ninth-inning shot had landed in the stands, it had fallen to 18.2 percent.
In the context of the game, Pittsburgh’s late-inning offensive outburst seemed to come out of nowhere.
White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez easily flew threw five scoreless innings until Jordy Mercer disrupted the righty’s flow with a leadoff home run in the sixth. It was Mercer’s second homer of the season (he hit his first home run on Saturday in Milwaukee).
Two batters later, Gregory Polanco launched a first-pitch fastball into the right field stands to cut Chicago’s lead to 4-2. The 103-mph liner just narrow stayed fair as it flirted with the right-field foul pole. It was Polanco’s seventh home run of the year.
Outside of those two blunders, Lopez was great. The righty struck out six and pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his 21 career starts as he allowed two runs on three hits in 7.1 innings of work.
On the flip side, Pirates starter Trevor Williams had a frustrating day. The righty allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks and needed 92 pitches to get through five innings of work. Those four runs came on two separate two-run homers, a second-inning shot from Tim Anderson and a fourth-inning blast by right fielder Daniel Palka.
Steven Brault threw two scoreless innings in relief of Williams before Richard Rodriguez gave up a run in the eighth. Despite allowing his second run of the season, allowing Chicago to take a late three-run lead, Rodriguez wound up earning his first career win as a result of the Pirates surprising ninth.
Earlier in the day, Joe Block tweeted that the most recent Pirates teams to start 20-16 have made the postseason.
Over the last 30 seasons, in the first 36 games, #Pirates have started 20-16 or better 5 times:— Joe Block (@joe_block) May 9, 2018
1990 - Postseason
1991 - Postseason
1992 - Postseason
2013 - Postseason
2018 - ??
Yea, 20-16 is an arbitrary marker. And there are still a lot of questions as to how well this team will stand up to the rigors of a full major league season. Will this lineup be able to stay hot for the long run? If it doesn’t, is the pitching staff good enough to carry the load?
Right now, however, those things don’t matter. These are the kinds of games that good teams seem to win — games where the chips seem to fall in their favor, even against overwhelming odds.
It’s unclear whether or not this Pirates club is a “good team.” But they are sure as heck fun to watch.
The 21-16 Pirates will head now head back to Pittsburgh where on Friday they will welcome Andrew McCutchen and the San Francisco Giants to PNC Park for a highly-anticipated three-game series. It’s shaping up to be a doozy.