In one of the more unexplained things in the game of baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates can’t find a way to beat the San Diego Padres at PNC Park.
Despite the efforts of Andrew McCutchen and Charlie Morton, the Bucs blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning when closer Mark Melancon allowed four singles, all to right field, as the Padres inexplicably took their third straight from the Pirates 3-2.
For the third consecutive game, the Pirates bats were silenced by a Padres starter.
After Andrew Cashner and Eric Stults shut down the Bucs the first two games of the series, Tyson Ross did the trick Wednesday night.
Ross allowed only three hits through seven innings as once again the Pirates offense couldn’t get anything going against a Padres starter.
Even though the Padres came into the series with only a 27-47 record on the road, you wouldn’t know it from the beginning of this series, as the Padres have now won 14 of their last 15 games against the Bucs at PNC Park.
However it wasn’t for the lack of effort from Pirates starter Charlie Morton, who was nothing short of fantastic.
Looking as sharp as ever, Morton tossed eight efficient innings, allowing only one run and two hits while striking out nine. Morton threw only 99 pitches through the eight innings, 65 for strikes, and had great success keeping the San Diego offense off balance with all of his pitches, especially his curveball.
Morton didn’t allow a hit through four but ran into his only trouble of the night when he walked Jedd Gyorko with one out in the fourth. A single from Chase Headley pushed Gyorko to third, where he scored the game’s first run on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Tommy Medica.
That run nearly stood up as the Bucs couldn’t figure out Ross.
Justin Morneau singled in the second inning, but the Pirates didn’t have another base runner until the seventh as Ross retired the next 16 Pirates’ hitters in a row.
The Pirates needed a bounce to go their way and got one with one out in the seventh.
Ross struck out Neil Walker but Walker was able to reach first base when San Diego catcher Rene Rivera let the third strike go to the backstop.
Then Andrew McCutchen stepped to the plate.
Ross started to unravel as he missed badly with his first three pitches to McCutchen to fall behind 3-0. Cutch had the green light and with one swing of the bat seemed to make all the difference as he gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead at the end of seven.
With the homer McCutchen joined Barry Bonds (1990-92) as the only Pirate players to post three consecutive 20-20 seasons.
At the time it looked like McCutchen’s blast may have sealed up the National League MVP for the 26-year old, which it may still have, but unfortunately it came in a bitter sweet defeat.
Melancon came on to pitch the ninth and allowed a single to Gyorko before retiring Headley and Medica.
Down to their last out, Melancon (2-2) allowed three straight flares to right.
Chris Denofria pushed the tying run into scoring position with a pinch hit single before Logan Forsythe tied it with a pinch hit single of his own. That set the stage for Rivera to single home the winning run.
Dale Thayer (3-5) pitched the eighth for the Padres to pick up the win while Huston Street retired the Bucs in order in the ninth to record his 31st save of the season.
The Bucs will try and salvage a game in this series when they send Gerrit Cole (8-7, 3.33) to the hill to take on the Padres Ian Kennedy (6-9, 4.85). First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 p.m.