The Pittsburgh Pirates came off the all-star break needing to stockpile wins to stay in a tight National League Central race, so the last-place Colorado Rockies were a welcomed foe.
Although the Pirates fell behind in each of the three games at PNC Park this weekend, they completed a thrilling sweep with a 5-3 comeback victory Sunday afternoon.
Pittsburgh (52-46) climbed into third place in the Central with the win – and within two games of first-place St. Louis. The Pirates, who have the best home record in the NL at 32-20, jumped past Cincinnati over the weekend as the Reds were swept by the Yankees.
Even though they had rallied for wins in their first two games against the Rockies, the Bucs appeared to be heading for defeat when they fell behind 3-0 after 1 1/2 innings. Home runs by Josh Rutledge (two-run) and former Pirate Michael McKenry (solo) did the damage against starter Jeff Locke.
But Locke wouldn’t allow another run for the rest of his six-inning effort, while the Pirates bats chipped away at the deficit. Jordy Mercer, who played hero Saturday night with a walk-off double, delivered a pair of runs in the bottom of the second with a single up the middle.
Mercer was one of four Pirates with multiple hits on the day, along with Neil Walker (three hits) and Josh Harrison (two), both of whom scored on his two-RBI hit against young Rockies starter Tyler Matzek. The most unlikely of the multi-hit brigade was catcher Chris Stewart, though.
Stewart should’ve driven in the tying run with his double inside third base in the second, but umpires ruled his hit went out of play when it lodged under the wall padding in foul territory. Mercer came all the way around from first on the play, but instead of scoring he was forced to return to third, where he was stranded two batters later.
Stewart got a second shot at the equalizer against Matzek in the sixth with Mercer at second and two outs. The backup backstop came through with a looping liner to left that hopped into the stands for a book-rule double and a 3-3 score.
Pittsburgh grabbed the lead in the seventh when Harrison led off with a single against reliever Matt Belisle, stole second and scored on Andrew McCutchen‘s bullet single to center field. McCutchen was caught stealing soon after, but Walker eased that pain with a solo homer to center, his 14th of the season.
From there the game was in the hands of Tony Watson and Mark Melancon. The Pirates’ twin bullpen aces delivered the goods, as each pitched a perfect frame to lock up the team’s second sweep of the season – and second in their past four series.
Pittsburgh out-hit Colorado 12-8, although they struggled to string good at-bats together against Matzek, who struck out eight. Rutledge, McKenry and Drew Stubbs paced the Rockies (40-58) with two hits each.
The Pirates will see a more challenging opponent arrive at PNC Park on Monday, when the Dodgers fly in for a four-game set.