The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

October 7, 2013

Pirates take 2-1 lead over Cards in NL division series

PITTSBURGH — Pinch-runner Josh Harrison stood on second base in the bottom of the eighth inning and pointed to Pittsburgh Pirates third base coach Nick Leyva.

“I told him to get that arm ready, because I’m coming,” Harrison said.

Moments later, Harrison was streaking across home plate to give the Pirates the lead. Minutes after that, the Jolly Roger that’s been a fixture on the Pittsburgh skyline all summer climbed up the flagpole again.

Harrison scored on Pedro Alvarez’s tiebreaking single Sunday, sending the Pirates to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that staked Pittsburgh to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five NL division series.

Russell Martin followed with a sharp RBI single against reliever Kevin Siegrist, who took over after Carlos Martinez (0-1) faltered.

The go-ahead single was the latest big hit by Alvarez. He homered in the first two games against St. Louis and is 4 for 10 with four RBIs in the series.

Alvarez also kept the Pirates’ famous flag flying high in October. “Raise the Jolly Roger!” is the rallying cry for this wild-card team, now one victory from its first postseason series win since Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and the “We Are Family” gang won it all in 1979.

“We’re continuing to surprise a lot of people, I believe. We’re continuing to show people that we’re not done, that we’re not just happy to be in the postseason,” star center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “We’re fighting to win a World Series.”

Heady territory for a franchise that had endured a record 20 consecutive years of losing coming into this season. Six months later, the Pirates are on the cusp of knocking out baseball royalty.

Mark Melancon (1-0) picked up the win despite allowing Carlos Beltran’s tying home run in the top of the eighth. Jason Grilli worked the ninth for a save.

Charlie Morton is set to start for Pittsburgh in Game 4 today against rookie Michael Wacha.

Beltran finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs.

His 16th playoff home run moved him past Babe Ruth for eighth place in postseason history.

“It’s a must-win tomorrow for us,” Beltran said. “Hopefully we can come here tomorrow, take care of business, win and go play the last game at home.”

Beltran’s shot temporarily silenced a rocking crowd at PNC Park. It also set the stage for another dramatic win by the Pirates.

McCutchen led off the eighth with his second hit, a double to left. But the NL MVP candidate unwisely tried to advance on Justin Morneau’s grounder to shortstop and was an easy out at third.

Harrison ran for Morneau and moved up when Marlon Byrd walked. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny turned to a lefty in Siegrist to face the left-handed Alvarez.

The Pittsburgh slugger tied for the NL lead with 36 homers during the regular season, but hit just .180 against lefties.

“I just knew it was going to be a tough matchup,” Alvarez said. “I’ve seen him a couple of times before. I haven’t had much success. He’s a pitcher with good stuff – great stuff. He threw me a couple of fastballs out over the plate.”

One too many, as it turned out, and Alvarez singled between first and second. Martin then fouled off a squeeze bunt before lining a hit to left that gave Grilli more than enough cushion.

The game was a rare nail-biter between two clubs that spent the summer shadowing each other in the race for the NL Central title.

Coming into Sunday, only five of the previous 21 matchups between the two were decided by two runs or less.

After blowouts by each club in St. Louis, there wasn’t much room to breathe in front of a frenzied, black-clad crowd looking for a repeat of Pittsburgh’s giddy 6-2 romp over Cincinnati in the wild-card game last Tuesday.

Martin’s sacrifice fly off reliever Seth Maness in the sixth gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead and turned the game over to Pittsburgh’s “Shark Tank” bullpen, one of the keys to the franchise’s first winning season and playoff berth in a generation.

Tony Watson worked around a one-out single in the seventh before giving way to Melancon.

The Cardinals must win two straight to advance to the NL championship series for the third straight year.

“We’ve been in this situation,” Beltran said. “Last year, I think we were in this situation a lot. So I think we’re fine, man. We want to come here tomorrow, we want to win and hopefully take this series home.”

Pirates starter Francisco Liriano dominated the Cardinals during the regular season, going 3-0 with an 0.75 ERA in three starts against the NL’s highest-scoring team. He was electric against the Reds last Tuesday, shaking off a sinus infection and baffling them with a series of changeups and sliders that ended Cincinnati’s season and manager Dusty Baker’s tenure.

Liriano narrowly escaped damage in the third Sunday when Matt Holliday lined to right with the bases loaded.

The left-hander wasn’t quite as fortunate in the fifth. Jon Jay led off with a single and Pete Kozma followed with a walk. After pitcher Joe Kelly struck out trying to bunt, a double steal set up Beltran’s two-run single.

At 2-all, the Cardinals had matched their entire output against Liriano in their previous 28 innings.

Liriano was matched nearly pitch for pitch by the unflappable Kelly. The 25-year-old right-hander has been rock-steady all season, even as he moved from middle reliever to starter in July.

Kelly welcomed the hostile environment, calling the sea of black-clad fans that awaited him one of the things a kid dreams about.

The reality proved a little more unnerving, at least when Byrd hit a two-run single in the first.

The well-traveled outfielder – who played in 1,250 regular-season games before reaching the playoffs for the first time – has been a welcome jolt both in the lineup and in the clubhouse for the Pirates.

“Just having a heck of a time,” Byrd said.

Notes: Grilli worked around a leadoff single in the ninth. ... McCutchen is batting .538 (7 for 13) and has an on-base percentage of .684 in the playoffs. His five walks rank first in the league this postseason. ... Beltran’s home run was the first by the Cardinals in 10 games at PNC Park this year.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Pens 25 Maturing Jackets pushing Penguins

    Dan Byslma can understand getting outplayed. It happens to even the most experienced hockey teams during the long postseason slog to the Stanley Cup.
    The one thing the Pittsburgh coach can’t abide is getting outworked, something that Bylsma has watched happen far too often in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • pirates25 Pirates fall to Reds for 6th loss in 7 games

    The Pittsburgh Pirates are five games under .500 less than a month into the season but they insist there is no reason to panic.
    Ryan Ludwick lined a two-run double after two Cincinnati batters were hit by pitches, lifting Tony Cingrani and the Reds over the Pirates 2-1 on Thursday.
    The Pirates have lost six of seven, scoring a total of 22 runs in that span. The skid has dropped Pittsburgh to 9-14, a year after they had both their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0423 Blue Jackets rally from 3-0 deficit to take down Penguins

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0423 Reds continue to dominate slumping Bucs

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates cut down by Reds’ Cueto

    April 23, 2014

  • Penguins 0422 Blown leads are troubling trend in series

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0421 Penguins finish hot to grab 2-1 series lead

    Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen scored in a span of 2:13 of the third period to revive the Penguins from yet another two-goal deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0421 Pirates walk off against Reds to halt home skid

    Ike Davis became the first player to hit grand slams for different teams in the same April, and Neil Walker had a winning run single with two outs in the ninth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates twice overcame deficits to beat the Reds 6-5 Monday night.
    Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 before Davis’ fourth-inning homer off Mike Leake.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates Brawl 0420 Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup

    Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
    Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0420a Game 3 pivotal for both teams

    Not so long ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the worst team in the NHL.
    Now they’re heading home for tonight’s Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, hoping to make even more history.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads