Pirates outlast Cards for win in 19-inning game
ST. LOUIS — As rookie reliever Jared Hughes basked in the postgame glow of the Pirates' 6-3, 19-inning win Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals, he was struck by a thought.
“Hey,” Hughes wondered aloud. “Didn't we play a 19-inning game last year?”
It was an innocent question. After all, Hughes did not join the Pirates until early September 2011, more than five weeks after umpire Jerry Meals blew the call in a late-night loss against the Atlanta Braves.
But as Sunday's game against the Cardinals unfolded — with its rallies, near-misses, superb pitching and great defensive plays — the Pirates didn't want to think back to Meals and the disappointing weeks that followed last season.
“We talked about it a little, but we just kinda laughed about it,” said Jeff Karstens, who pitched the first seven innings and gave up two runs. “Ultimately, it was a day of pitching until that last inning.”
In the 19th inning, with the Pirates and Cardinals running out of patience and fresh arms, Pedro Alvarez smacked a solo homer to make it 4-3. Andrew McCutchen padded the lead with a two-out, two-run single.
According to Elias, Alvarez's shot was the latest homer ever hit by a Pittsburgh player. The Pirates are the first team to score three runs in the 19th inning or later since the Montreal Expos got three in the 19th on July 7, 1985, against the Houston Astros.
“A huge win,” Alvarez said. “It took everybody putting in their best effort. It was a grind. When you play 19 innings and lose, it's a bit deflating. To win such a long game, such a well-played game, it gives you a rush of energy.”
Wandy Rodriguez (8-12) tossed two scoreless innings to notch his first win since being traded to the Pirates. The loss went to Cardinals left-hander Barrett Browning (1-3).
“That was a backyard tug-of-war,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “At this time of the season, I don't think you could ask for opportunities to gain more meaningful experience.”
By taking two out of three games in the series, the Pirates stayed two games ahead of the third-place Cardinals in the NL Central. First-place Cincinnati leads the division by seven games.
It was the most innings the Pirates had worked to win a road game since Aug. 25, 1979, when they beat the San Diego Padres, 4-3, in 19 innings. Overall, it was the Pirates' longest extra-inning game, win or lose, since July 26, 2011 — the infamous 19-inning loss in Atlanta.
“We weren't thinking about that,” McCutchen said. “We just kept fighting.”
The Pirates tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth inning by scoring two unearned runs off starter Jaime Garcia. It stayed that way until the 17th, when Pirates took a 3-2 lead.
With one out, pinch hitter James McDonald dropped a single into center field. After a flyout and a wild pitch, Alvarez was intentionally walked. Clint Barmes was hit by a pitch. Garrett Jones hit a slow roller that caromed toward first base for a run-scoring single.
However, right-hander Juan Cruz couldn't nail down the save. Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker singled, and Tony Cruz tied it, 3-3, with a sacrifice fly.
Hurdle had no choice but to use Rodriguez to start the 18th. The left-hander had been scheduled to start Monday against the San Diego Padres.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7811.