Pirates drop 6th consecutive game as late rally vs. Cardinals falls short
For a while Friday night, it seemed any ball hit to the outfield was going to clear the fence.
In the ninth inning, however, when the Pirates desperately needed a home run — or any kind of hit at all, actually — they came up short.
Trailing by eight runs in the eighth, the Pirates tried to piece together an improbable comeback. They loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but couldn't get a ball to drop on the outfield grass or behind the wall.
The St. Louis Cardinals hung on for an 11-10 victory.
"It was nuts," said Max Moroff, who mashed a two-run homer that bounced into the Allegheny River. "It shows that we're never out of a game. We were five feet away from winning that game on Freese's out."
David Freese's fly ball in the ninth is the one that didn't get away. More about that in a bit.
Over the eight innings before Freese's near-miss, the Pirates and Cardinals combined for six home runs. All of them went over the 21-foot-high Roberto Clemente Wall in right — a fitting tribute on what would have been the Hall of Famer's 83rd birthday.
Josh Harrison and Freese hit solo home runs off Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez.
In the eighth inning, Moroff knocked a Mike Mayers fastball 420 feet over the seats. Moroff became the 30th batter to reach the water.
"It bounced in? Didn't reach in the air?" joked Moroff, who at 5-foot-10 doesn't look the part of a slugger. "I hit that really well. Fastball right down the middle. Got the barrel to it."
Moroff's tape-measure shot sparked a five-run rally in the eighth against Mayers, who was called up before the game from Triple-A Memphis.
Things got frantic in the ninth. Matt Bowman walked two batters and plunked another to load the bases with one out. Left-hander Zach Duke walked Josh Bell to force in a run.
In came Seung Hwan Oh, who has struggled to keep a grip on the closer's role all season. Freese smacked a fastball 374 feet to center field.
Unfortunately, at that spot in center, the fence is 375 feet from the plate.
"I thought it pushed the wall," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He got a good pitch to hit, and he put a good swing on it."
Tommy Pham caught the ball inches from the wall. The sacrifice fly scored Moroff scored to make it a one-run game.
Adam Frazier was intentionally walked. Rookie Elias Diaz struck out swinging to end it.
"My mindset was to compete, have a good at-bat and watch out for that pitch that would score the runner," Diaz said through an interpreter. "Unfortunately, I missed two strikes down the middle. That was my fault."
Losers of six in a row, which matches their longest skid of the season, the Pirates have fallen 61⁄2 games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.
The Cardinals are 11⁄2 games back, having climbed five games in the standings since July 14.
Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams (5-6) absorbed the worst start of his career. In three-plus innings, he gave up eight runs on seven hits, walked two and struck out three.
"I wasn't getting the low pitch today," Williams said. "My command was fine, and I had all four pitches working in the zone. It's unfortunate that the low ball was taken away from me early."
With umpire Pat Hoberg using a high strike zone, Williams tried to adjust on the fly.
"It's tough." Williams said. "I'm a sinkerball pitcher. I need that pitch called to get swings below the zone. I hate climbing higher with the sinker because then it doesn't sink as much."
Williams gave up a three-run homer to Matt Carpenter and solo shots to Pham and Paul DeJong.
Over 25 outings (19 starts) this season, Williams has allowed 12 homers. This was the first time he had served up three in one game.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.