Melancon blows save as Pirates drop 3rd straight to visiting Padres
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
Andrew McCutchen produced heroics worthy of an MVP winner. Charlie Morton was dominant for eight innings.
That should have been enough Wednesday night for the Pirates to knock out the Padres.
It was not.
The Padres scored two runs in the ninth inning to pull out a 3-2 victory, beating the Pirates for the third game in a row.
With 10 games left in the season, the Pirates still have a grip on a playoff berth. But they trail the Cardinals in the NL Central, and the Nationals are putting on a last-gasp charge for the second wild-card spot.
“You hate for something like this to happen at this point in the season,” McCutchen said. “It does hurt a little bit. But you've got to treat it like any other game. Show up tomorrow and be ready to go.”
Closer Mark Melancon was unable to hold a 2-1 lead in the ninth. He served up four singles to right field, the last three coming with two outs.
“We put some right-handed batters up there, knowing (Melancon) is so tough on lefties,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “We tried to get the ball out over the plate a little bit and not do too much. Try to get the ball on the right side of the diamond. All those guys went with the pitch.”
Pinch hitter Logan Forsythe tied the game with a line-drive single. Rene Rivera flared a hit, sending Chris Denorfia home with the winning run.
“They found holes,” Melancon said. “I could've made my pitches better, and the results probably would've been different. But sometimes, you just tip your hat. That's the way it is.”
Padres starter Tyson Ross suffocated the Pirates over the first six innings. In that span, the right-hander yielded one hit and did not allow a runner to reach second base.
With one out in the seventh, Neil Walker reached first on a strikeout-wild pitch. As Ross fired a 3-0 pitch, McCutchen had a look on his face that said, “Enough.”
“That's how I felt,” McCutchen said. “Enough of that whole situation. The past few games haven't been what we wanted them to be. I told myself if I got a good pitch to hit, I was going to drive it. Put a foot down.”
McCutchen launched a 93 mph fastball into the right-center field seats to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
With chants of “MVP!” echoing around the North Shore, the crowd of 27,640 demanded a curtain call. Over his past 22 games at PNC Park, McCutchen is batting .397 with eight doubles, two homers and 10 RBI.
The blast made McCutchen just the second player in franchise history to record three straight seasons with at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. The first to do it was Barry Bonds from 1990 to '92.
The Pirates wasted a brilliant effort by Morton. The right-hander worked eight innings, gave up one run on two hits and walked three. He matched his career high with nine strikeouts.
With one out in the fourth, Jedd Gyorko walked and reached third on Chase Headley's infield single.
Rookie Tommy Medica hit a sharp bouncer to third. Pedro Alvarez chose not to throw to the plate, but instead threw to second base to force Headley. Walker had to rush his throw to first, and it short-hopped Morneau. Medica was safe and Gyorko scored to make it 1-0.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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