Down a run in the bottom of the thirteenth inning, Pirates’ center fielder drove the first pitch he saw from Fernando Rodney, a center-center fastball, into the bullpen beyond the center field fence as the Pirates pulled off an improbable comeback, giving them two win in three games against visiting Oakland.
After two straight shaky outings, Pirates’ starting pitcher Jordan Lyles turned in another gem, much like when he allowed a total of one run over his first three starts of the season.
The Pirates were the first to jumped on the scoreboard when in the bottom of the second inning the hot-hitting Josh Bell led off with a double nearly 400 feet into the Northside Notch in left center field, and after a ground out by Melky Cabrera sent him to third, Bell scored easily on Colin Moran’s sacrifice fly to right.
Both pitchers were in a groove, otherwise tossing zeroes through six innings. Hard throwing Oakland starter Frankie Montas allowed only five hits in six innings, with no walks and five strikeouts.
Lyles took a slim 1-0 lead into the top of the seventh, but ran into trouble with two outs when Nick Hundley lined a double into the left field corner and came around to tie the game on a single to left by Robbie Grossman, once a Pirates prospect who was traded away many years ago.
With the score tied, the teams traded zeroes for another five innings. Kyle Crick, Felipe Vazquez and Francisco Liriano allowed only a single hit over four innings fo work, but the Pirates’ bats could do no better against the Oakland bullpen, as four relievers put together a stretch of six hitless innings.
Former Cardinal left-handed reliever Tyler Lyons, just called up to replaced the injured Jameson Taillon, made his Pirates’ debut with an easy twelfth, but the strike zone eluded him when he came back out for the thirteenth. Eight straight balls put the first two runners on base. Chad Pinder then hit a grounder to second. Shortstop Cole Tucker took the throw for a force at second for the first out but his slow relay allowed Pinder to avoid being doubled up at first base, and putting the lead run at third with only that one out. With injuries and workload depleting the Pirates’ relief staff, it was up to Lyons to work out of the jam, but Kendry Morales looped a single to center to give Oakland a 2-1 lead. Stephen Piscotty then lined a double to right, scoring Pinder with the third run, but the slow footed Morales could only reach third. With Oakland having used all their bench players, Jurickson Profar was walked intentionally to load the bases for pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, owner of a career .051 batting average. Petit worked the count 2-1, then lined a ball up the middle, but which struck the pitcher’s leg and caromed directly to Jung-ho Kang at third, who stepped on that base and threw to first for an innings ending double play.
But still, it seemed the horse was well out of the barn. Veteran Fernando Rodney, the oldest player in major league baseball at 42 years of age, came on to close it out. Pumping low 90’s fastballs, he got Elias Diaz to ground out, but then Cole Tucker lined the first pitch he saw past the shortstop and into left field for a single. Kang, who despite his struggles ranked second on the Pirates in home runs, represented the tying run. After fouling off a couple fastballs, he layed off enough pitches to draw ball four. With runners at first and second, Adam Frazier immediately lined a single to center, scoring Cole to bring the Pirates to within 3-2. while the potential game tying runner Kang raced to third. Oakland called time to have a conference with the pitcher Rodney, and when play resumed Marte drilled the very next pitch 390 feet into the centerfield bullpen for the game winning homerun, the Pirates prevailing by a final score of 5-3.
Having won four of their last five games, the Pirates’ record is back above .500 at 16-15, in fourth place, 3.0 games behind the division leading St. Louis Cardinals.
They have an off day on Monday, then will resume their home schedule at 7:05 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday evening as the Texas Rangers’ right-hander Adrian Sampson (0-1, 3.58) is scheduled to face the Pirates’ Steven Brault (0-1, 8.31)