|Pirates edge Cardinals 5-3, take 2-1 lead in NLDS|
|Monday, October 07, 2013 12:14 AM|
PITTSBURGH — Pinch-runner Josh Harrison stood on second base in the bottom of the eighth inning and pointed to Pittsburgh Pirates third base coach Nick Leyva.
“I told him to get that arm ready because I’m coming,” Harrison explained.
Moments later, Harrison was streaking across home plate to give the Pirates the lead. Minutes after that, the Jolly Roger that’s been a fixture on the Pittsburgh skyline all summer climbed up the flagpole again.
Harrison scored on Pedro Alvarez’s tie-breaking single Sunday, sending the Pirates to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that staked Pittsburgh to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 NL division series.
Russell Martin followed with a sharp RBI single against reliever Kevin Siegrist, who took over after Carlos Martinez (0-1) faltered.
The go-ahead single was the latest big hit by Alvarez. He homered in the first two games against St. Louis and is 4-for-10 with four RBIs in the series.
Alvarez also kept the Pirates’ famous flag flying high in October. “Raise the Jolly Roger!” is the rallying cry for this wild-card team, now one victory from its first postseason series win since Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and the “We Are Family” gang won it all in 1979.
Heady territory for a franchise that had endured a record 20 consecutive years of losing coming into this season.
Mark Melancon (1-0) picked up the win despite allowing Carlos Beltran’s tying home run in the top of the eighth. Jason Grilli worked the ninth for a save.
Charlie Morton is set to start for Pittsburgh in Game 4 today against rookie Michael Wacha.
Beltran finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs. His 16th playoff home run moved him past Babe Ruth for eighth place in postseason history.
Beltran’s shot temporarily silenced a rocking crowd at PNC Park.
Andrew McCutchen led off the eighth with his second hit, a double to left. But the NL MVP candidate unwisely tried to advance on Justin Morneau’s grounder to shortstop and was an easy out at third.
Harrison ran for Morneau and moved up when Marlon Byrd walked. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny turned to a lefty in Siegrist to face the left-handed Alvarez. The Pittsburgh slugger tied for the NL lead with 36 homers during the regular season but hit just .180 against lefties.
Alvarez singled between first and second. Martin then fouled off a squeeze bunt before lining a hit to left that gave Grilli more than enough cushion.
After blowouts by each club in St. Louis, there wasn’t much room to breathe in front of a frenzied, black-clad crowd.
Martin’s sacrifice fly off reliever Seth Maness in the sixth gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead and turned the game over to Pittsburgh’s “Shark Tank” bullpen.
Tony Watson worked around a 1-out single in the seventh before giving way to Melancon.
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano narrowly escaped damage in the third Sunday when Matt Holliday lined to right with the bases loaded.
The left-hander wasn’t quite as fortunate in the fifth. Jon Jay led off with a single and Pete Kozma followed with a walk. After pitcher Joe Kelly struck out trying to bunt, a double steal set up Beltran’s two-run single.
At 2-all, the Cardinals had matched their entire output against Liriano in their previous 28 innings.
Liriano was matched nearly pitch for pitch by the unflappable Kelly. The 25-year-old right-hander has been rock-steady all season, even as he moved from middle reliever to starter in July.