Pirates down Brewers in 10 innings; Harrison's hit scores Ngoepe with winning run
How many golden scoring chances could the Pirates squander Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers?
In the second inning, they failed to get a run off back-to-back doubles. In the sixth, they hit three straight singles with none out and again came up empty.
"We put ourselves in a hard place," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Nobody's a fan of bad baseball."
Finally, they came through in the 10th. Josh Harrison's RBI single lifted the Pirates to a 2-1 victory. It was Harrison's seventh career walkoff hit.
"It never gets old," Harrison said "Typically, we wouldn't want to be in that situation to have to do a walkoff. But any time you can come through for your team, it's exciting."
Gift Ngoepe began the 10th by poking a single into left field off reliever Carlos Torres. Ngoepe went to second on a wild pitch and to third on Jose Osuna's fly out to center fielder Keon Broxton.
"I've played against Keon before," Ngoepe said. "I know how his arm is, so I thought I'd challenge him. When he kind of landed (on his) back (foot), that made me sure I could go."
Harrison lined the first pitch over the head of right fielder Domingo Santana to win it.
"Gift did a good job starting that inning off," Harrison said. "Osuna did exactly what he's supposed to. They made my job easy. All I had to do was get a pitch I could handle."
Starter Gerrit Cole wound up with no reward for working seven sublime innings. The right-hander gave up a run on two hits, walked two and struck out eight. The only blemish was Hernan Perez's solo home run in the fourth inning.
"(Cole) had a lot of good stuff going on," Hurdle said. "The fastball was live, and it had good finish. Limited three-ball counts, ahead in counts. Retired 10 hitters on three pitches or (fewer)."
Cole's used to the lack of support. Going into the game, the Pirates were averaging 2.3 runs scored when Cole pitched, the seventh-lowest mark in the majors.
Saturday was the fifth consecutive start in which Cole has allowed two or fewer earned runs. In those games, he is 1-2 with two no-decisions.
Brewers righty Matt Garza scattered eight hits over seven innings, allowed one run and struck out four.
Although the Pirates hit consecutive doubles off Garza in the second inning, a pair of glaring baserunning blunders kept them from scoring.
With one out, Francisco Cervelli doubled off the top of the Clemente Wall. John Jaso followed with a liner toward the notch in left-center field. Nick Franklin and Broxton gave chase, but the ball landed several feet beyond their reach.
Although both outfielders were running with their backs to the infield, Cervelli, who last week missed four games with a sore right foot, stayed at second base instead of going halfway to third. When the ball dropped for a double, Cervelli was not able to score.
"When the outfielders are hunting the baseball, you want to work your way down the line," Hurdle said. "If they catch it, you can go back. If they don't catch it, you score. We hit a ball off the wall and a back into the notch and didn't score. That's not good."
Jordy Mercer hit a sharp liner to left fielder Franklin. Cervelli tagged up, but Jaso took off for third base as if there were two outs.
Jaso was doubled off second. The Brewers completed the double play before Cervelli touched the plate.
"Just a brain fart," Jaso said. "It happens."
Perez led off the fourth by launching a 1-0 fastball from Cole into the left field bleachers.
"I think he's hitting something like .133 on (pitches on) the inner half (of the zone)," Cole said. "Sometimes, they just put good swings on it."
The Pirates tied it in the bottom of the inning. Josh Bell doubled, moved to third on Andrew McCutchen's fly out, and scored on Gregory Polanco's grounder.
After starting the sixth with three straight singles, the Pirates again failed to score.
The three hits loaded the bases with none out. McCutchen's weak bouncer netted a double play as Josh Harrison was forced out at third and Cole was tagged out by catcher Manny Pina.
Polanco shattered his bat as he hit a roller to second baseman Jonathan Villar, who dodged the spinning lumber and focused on fielding the ball for the out.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.