Diamondbacks outlast Pirates in 16 innings, take final 2 of series
The Pirates must be enjoying playing baseball, because lately, nine innings haven't been enough.
After playing 14 innings Tuesday and 12 on Thursday against the Cardinals, the Pirates played a season-high 16 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday — with the same disappointing result. Adam Eaton's two-run double in the 16th gave Arizona a 4-2 victory Sunday before the 15th sellout crowd of the year at PNC Park.
It was the Pirates' seventh loss in nine games, and their lead in the NL Central is one game after the Cards defeated the Cubs, 6-1.
The Pirates scored one in the first inning and another in the third to take a 2-0 lead off left-hander Wade Miley. The Diamondbacks scored two off Charlie Morton to tie it in the sixth.
The game remained deadlocked until the 16th inning. Left-hander Kris Johnson, who was recalled from AAA-Indianapolis earlier in the day to provide a fresh arm in the bullpen and made his major league debut in the 11th inning, walked A.J. Pollock to lead things off. Didi Gregorius singled, and with one out, Wil Nieves grounded out to third, advancing both runners into scoring position. Eaton then delivered his winning hit, which just eluded a sliding Andrew McCutchen.
Johnson (0-1) threw 82 pitches in six innings.
“It was a little nerve-racking at first,” Johnson said. “I know we're in a pennant race, and to come into a tie ball game with the bullpen taxed, I just tried to go as deep as I could and save the bullpen. That was the main thing.”
It was the 17th time this season and third time in six games that the Pirates played extra innings — not good news for a team with a weary bullpen.
The Pirates left the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th — Russell Martin flied out to right field to end the inning — then went down in order in the 13th, 14th and 15th.
The Pirates head west for three against the Padres, who swept them in San Diego last year, and four against the Giants.
The Pirates had an opportunity to score the go-ahead run in the eighth. Starling Marte reached on a bunt single to lead off, and Jordy Mercer sacrificed Marte to second. Miley intentionally walked McCutchen to face Martin, but the inning ended when Martin struck out swinging and Marte was caught stealing third.
“I felt we could push an opportunity to get Russell Martin to the plate to swing to win the game, and Pedro Alvarez,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Unfortunately, we never got to Pedro.”
Morton, making his 100th career start, struck out the first four batters he faced and gave up two hits in the first four innings.
Morton found trouble in the sixth and seventh. The Diamondbacks scored twice to tie it in the sixth — Aaron Hill, who, like Eaton, had four hits, delivered an RBI single — but Morton wriggled out of trouble in the seventh. He loaded the bases with one out, but Martin Prado lined out and Paul Goldschmidt struck out swinging.
Martin's RBI double gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Mercer had a run-scoring double in the third.
The Pirates mustered a mild threat in the bottom of the 16th. Garrett Jones walked with one out. Jose Tabata grounded out, and J.J. Putz intentionally walked Neil Walker to pitch to Johnson, who batted because the Pirates were out of position players. He struck out.
“I could have used another pitcher, but what would we do if (Gerrit) Cole gets hit in the wrist by a ball?” Hurdle said. “We don't like to use our pitcher that's starting tomorrow, in case something would happen to him in that situation. The risk wasn't worth the reward to me at that particular point, taking a starting pitcher. And Johnson has handled the bat probably as much as anybody that we had available.”