From the moment the baseball left Jacob Stallings’ bat in the bottom of the 10th inning at almost 92 mph, Kevin Newman’s mind raced while he carried the potential tying run Monday night:
Score. Tie the game. Don’t let someone else decide the outcome.
Pittsburgh Pirates third-base coach Joey Cora had the same idea, waving Newman toward home while St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jose Martinez was winding up to throw.
Umpire Mike Estabrook and replay review officials had the final call, however:
Newman didn’t believe it, probably still doesn’t.
“It seemed like he tagged me a little high, and I thought my foot was in there,” he said. “It’s frustrating. They thought they didn’t have enough to overturn it. Seems like from what we saw that they might have been able to.
“Not up to me, but definitely a tough one to not go your way.”
In any case, Newman and his teammates must wear the 6-5 loss, their eighth in 10 games since the All-Star break.
The Pirates (46-53) are only a half-game ahead of last place in the National League Central and 5 ½ from third.
“It’s been a little disconnected,” manager Clint Hurdle said of his team’s recent efforts.
There is plenty of blame to toss around, but Hurdle refused to point at Cora. Who knew that Adam Frazier, the next batter, would hit a fly ball to right field that would have been deep enough to score Newman from third? Instead, it was the last out of the game.
“I got all my coaches’ backs when they make decisions,” Hurdle said. “Split second to make the decision, trying to win the game.
“We have reports on every outfielder, arm strength and accuracy. We play on those. Good throw. I guess after the replay review, he was out.”
The play wasted what looked like another dramatic comeback. The Pirates entered the inning down 6-2, but scored three times before anyone was out on back-to-back doubles by Starling Marte and Josh Bell and Jung Ho Kang’s 10th homer of the season.
The bottom of the 10th was only one decisive moment in a game played before 13,096 at PNC Park.
The Pirates stranded seven runners in the first four innings, five in scoring position and four in the final two. In the first inning, Colin Moran and Corey Dickerson struck out with the bases loaded. In the ninth, Bryan Reynolds struck out to strand two more runners.
“We had multiple opportunities again to finish this thing off in nine,” Hurdle said. “We get a good push in the first inning, who knows how the script’s written the rest of the game? “You put yourself at the mercy of the game when you don’t take advantage of the opportunities when they’re there.”
Still, the score was tied, 2-2, in the top of the 10th when Clayton Holmes, the fifth Pirates relief pitcher of the night, gave up a two-strike grand slam to Paul Goldschmidt, who hit a three-run homer off Michael Feliz to beat the Pirates, 6-5, on Wednesday in St. Louis.
Hurdle had few options when he turned to Holmes, who entered the game with a 5.52 ERA. Relief pitchers Feliz, Francisco Liriano, Richard Rodriguez and Kyle Crick had thrown four hitless, scoreless innings, but that’s about as far as the Pirates can stretch their bullpen.
Hurdle said Felipe Vazquez was not available after pitching the past two days, and Chris Stratton had thrown two innings Sunday. Plus, Keone Kela, who was reinstated from the injured list Monday, was suspended for two games for violating the Uniform Player’s Contract.
Unless Hurdle called on rookie Luis Escobar, who ended up finishing the inning when the Cardinals loaded the bases again, Holmes was the team’s best option.
“Clayton showed the ability to get anybody out when his command’s in place,” Hurdle said. “He’s one pitch away from getting a groundball or getting him out. He didn’t make a pitch. Goldschmidt hit it out of the ballpark.”
Holmes said he didn’t have command of his sinker.
“I couldn’t execute the pitches I needed to do,” he said. “Not a good feeling to let your teammates down, the coaches, your fans. You feel it.”
Probably the worst result was losing the game, despite what Hurdle called “a gritty performance” by starting pitcher Trevor Williams.
Two days earlier, Williams was scratched from a start because of severe flu symptoms.
Williams threw the first five innings, leaving the game tied, 2-2, after allowing only five hits and one earned run.
“I thought he gave us 100% of whatever percent he did have walking in the door,” Hurdle said.
“I wish I could tell you I was at 100%,” Williams said. “I got everything prepared as well as I could to go out there and give the team a chance to win and give the team some distance.”
He didn’t want to say how close he was to 100%, but he did know this:
“You have to give 100% of your 80, you got to give a 100 percent of your 60, you have to give 100 percent of your 95.
That’s something that’s instilled in us as pitchers and ball players.”
Meanwhile, the Pirates’ postseason hopes have all but disappeared.
“It’s hard, it’s tough. You deal with it and get ready to play (Tuesday),” Hurdle said. “Because the games are going to keep coming. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you along the way.”