Pirates outlast Brewers for 9th consecutive win
As he rounded third base, carrying the run that enabled the Pirates to outlast the Milwaukee Brewers, 2-1, in 14 innings Sunday, there was one thought on Gaby Sanchez's mind.
“This has gone on long enough,” Sanchez said. “I'm tired. This has been a long day.”
The marathon victory extended the Pirates' winning streak to nine games and gave them a two-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central. The Pirates also have won five in a row against the Brewers, against whom they went 4-11 last season.
With the season halfway over, the Pirates' 51-30 record is tops in the majors. They have won their past nine one-run games at PNC Park. It's their longest such streak at home since they won 13 one-run games in a row in 1977 at Three Rivers Stadium.
Russell Martin's pinch-hit, one-out single set in motion Sanchez's dash from second base to home plate. But that was the second sprint of the game by Sanchez.
It all was set up by Sanchez's first stolen base in more than a year and only the 10th steal of his six-year career.
“It surprised me a little bit,” Martin admitted. “He got a great jump. Smart baseball.”
Sanchez began the 14th inning with an infield single off Francisco Rodriguez (1-1). With one out, Sanchez swiped second — his first stolen base since May 6, 2012, when he was with the Florida Marlins.
With Sanchez on first base and one out, the Pirates were down to their last position player and had Tuesday's starting pitcher warming up in the bullpen. The last thing manager Clint Hurdle wanted was another epic, 19-inning game, like the team endured each of the past two seasons, so he did not hesitate to give Sanchez the green light.
“If he gets thrown out, it's not a man left on base — and we had enough of those,” Hurdle said, referring to the 12 runners stranded by the Pirates. “Once it gets late like that, you've got to take some chances. And Gaby's always heads-up.”
Rodriguez doesn't have a quick delivery to home plate, so Sanchez was confident.
“I knew (Rodriguez's) time to home is slower,” Sanchez said. “I knew if I got a good jump, I'd be able to steal a base.”
After Sanchez stole second, Jordy Mercer walked.
Martin, the last position player on the bench, bounced a pinch-hit single up the middle. Carlos Gomez got the ball in shallow center field and fired on the run, but the ball sailed over catcher Martin Maldonado's head. Sanchez scored sliding.
“I was able to truck it home,” Sanchez said, laughing.
Tony Watson (2-1) tossed three scoreless innings for the victory. That capped another outstanding performance by the bullpen.
A 2 1⁄2-hour rain delay in the second inning ended starter Charlie Morton's outing after just two innings. Morton allowed two hits and one unearned run.
Vin Mazzaro tossed five hitless innings, strangling the Brewers on 44 pitches. Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon combined to go through the 11th inning.
“We knew we were going to have to cover some innings,” Watson said. “Everybody went out there and competed, stayed aggressive. I was just trying to keep Jeff Locke out of the game.”
Locke was warmed up and ready to pitch in the 15th. Even though Locke wasn't needed, Hurdle said the lefty put in enough work that he will not make his scheduled start Tuesday.
The Pirates will discuss how to juggle their rotation, perhaps calling up a new starter, Monday, which is an off day.