David Freese's five RBIs lead Pirates' 5-4 victory
Swinging a bat in the on-deck circle, the Pirates’ David Freese saw New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway throw up four fingers and give Elias Diaz the intentional walk.
The bases were loaded, the score was tied and Freese said to himself, “Here we go.”
“I was ready. I was just ready to hit.”
And he proved it, driving a pitch from relief pitcher Tim Peterson into the right-center gap to score Josh Harrison and lead the Pirates to a 5-4 victory in front of an announced crowd of 26,356 at PNC Park. Freese drove in all five runs — he had a two-run homer and a two-run single earlier — and he said he couldn’t remember ever doing that before in his life.
It was the third walk-off hit of his 10-year major-league career, the first that did not leave the park. He homered with the Los Angeles Angels in 2015 and, famously, with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series to beat the Texas Rangers.
“I’ve had one in each uniform I’ve worn,” he said. “I’m 3 for 40.”
This one was big for the Pirates (54-51), who needed a victory after losing two in a row after their 11-game winning streak.
“If we wouldn’t have won that game, it would have been tough. (Thursday) night was sloppy, kind of a mess,” he said of the 12-6 loss to the Mets. “It was nice to get this one.”
It was tough to get.
The Pirates trailed 3-0 after the first inning when Michael Conforto hit a three-run homer against starter Ivan Nova.
“I threw a good pitch,” Nova said. “I didn’t get it low enough.”
Freese’s homer in the second and single in the fifth gave the Pirates a 4-3 lead, but Nova walked two batters to open the sixth.
At that point, Edgar Santana replaced Nova and committed an error to load the bases. Then, Santana neglected to back up home plate when left fielder Jordan Luplow’s throw sailed over Diaz’s head at home plate after Jose Reyes flied out.
“Basic baseball play. Fly ball, we back up home,” Hurdle said. “We were out of position, and it cost us.”
But what mattered most to Hurdle was Santana managed to get out of the inning with no further damage and pitched a scoreless seventh.
“He went back out and made pitches. He didn’t carry (his mental error) around in his pocket,” Hurdle said.
Kyle Crick and winning pitcher Felipe Vazquez (4-2) cleaned up the next two innings, allowing Freese to be a hero.
He had struggled in previous seasons against right-handed pitchers — Peterson is a rightie — but he watched video in the offseason to fix the problem. He’s hitting .289 against right-handers and .370 against everyone in July.
“Hopefully, it saved my career a little bit,” said Freese, 35.
Freese stepped up when the Pirates were playing without three injured starters: Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Josh Bell, who left the game in the second inning with left side discomfort. Plus, the Pirates wasted several opportunities earlier, stranding a total of seven runners in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“One thing these guys have done all year long is they show up,” Hurdle said. “They depend upon one another.
“If it doesn’t get done one inning, you try to set up the next inning for it to get done.”
Freese was the best example of that.
“These are the dog days I guess,” he said. “It’s tough out there. Bodies are dragging a little bit. But we are in the hunt (for a wild-card berth). That’s what’s cool.
“I don’t know what (Pirates management) is going to do with moves that need to be made or whatever (at Tuesday’s trade deadline).
“Having three guys down, but active, is tough, so I’m sure something will happen. But we have to keep stepping up.”
Freese knows at his age and salary his time in Pittsburgh is running low.
“I don’t know how much longer I’m playing here, this is my last year here or whatnot,” he said. “I hope it’s not my last year.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.