PITTSBURGH -- Throughout this turbulent season and this critical homestand, the Pirates have proven they can't be counted out. Down by a run after eight innings, the Bucs tied it in the ninth and rallied again in the 10th for their third walk-off win since the All-Star break and their 10th win in their last 12 games, a 3-2 victory over the Brewers on Wednesday at PNC Park.
After a pair of walk-offs last weekend against the Cardinals from Josh Bell and Adam Frazier, rookie infielder Max Moroff, who entered the game as a pinch-runner during the game-tying rally in the ninth, played the role of unlikely hero Wednesday night. Moroff's first career walk-off hit sealed a series win against the division-leading Brewers. The Bucs are one game under .500 for the first time since April 29 and within four games of Milwaukee in the wide-open division race.
"It's been a little bit of a snapshot of what's going on. We just keep playing the game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Teams get on rolls and different people continue to show up. This is no different. Different people continue to show up."
Brewers closer Corey Knebel blew his fifth save of the season in the ninth, while former Pirates reliever Jared Hughes took the loss in the 10th. The Brewers' slim lead over the surging Cubs in the NL Central now stands at 1 1/2 games.
"There are 65 to 70 games left. We got a long way to go," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "The season is filled with adversity, and we are going through a little patch right now, but the guys have responded very well and playing still, to me, in a way that's going to win us a lot of ballgames."
Francisco Cervelli's bloop single to shallow right field in the ninth inning tied the game. Facing former teammate Hughes in the 10th, Josh Harrison doubled and advanced to third on John Jaso's flyout. He then scored on Moroff's bloop single to center.
"It's amazing. That's the stuff you see on TV when you're little," Moroff said. "Walk-off home runs or walk-off hits, it's awesome."
The Pirates seem to be getting hot at the right time, as front offices face tough decisions leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Since May 13, Pittsburgh owns a 33-26 record, the NL Central's best.
"As far as we're concerned in here, the approach has been the same. We're just executing better and kind of finding our stride a little bit," Pirates starter Gerrit Cole said. "Still just sticking to the process that we've had all year. Keep trusting it and moving forward."
• Cole looks like Bucs' ace with 10 K's vs. Crew
The late offensive outburst punctuated a seven-inning pitchers' duel. Cole struck out a season-high 10 batters and held the Brewers to one run on six hits in seven innings. Brewers starter Zach Davies was equally effective, allowing an unearned run on eight hits over seven innings. After the clubs traded first-inning runs, both teams' bats were silent until Domingo Santana smashed a go-ahead home run to right field off Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio in the eighth.
• Davies delivers one of best starts in 2017
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
New ballgame: After Keon Broxton leaped at the wall to snag Jaso's flyout to the warning track to lead off the ninth inning, David Freese worked a six-pitch walk. Gregory Polanco then singled to put runners on the corners for Cervelli. Knebel fed the Pirates' catcher four straight fastballs, and Cervelli flared the final one to shallow right field for the game-tying single, his third of the game, that sent the game into extra innings.
"[Cervelli has] got a flair for some dramatic stuff himself," Hurdle said. "It's good to watch him get in sync at the plate, because he can do things, man. There's always a base hit in him."
Gone, Nicasio: Nicasio had not allowed a home run all season until Sunday, when Yadier Molina took him deep. The following homer-less streak was not nearly so long. Nicasio entered the game to pitch the eighth inning. His second pitch was an 85.9-mph slider that found the middle of the strike zone. Santana slammed it a Statcast-projected 403 feet to right-center field. Fittingly, for such a pitchers' duel, it was the first "barreled" ball of the night.
"He's swinging the bat well," Counsell said of Santana. "[Nicasio] is really tough on right-handed hitters, but Domingo's got that opposite-field power."
"It's a blast. This is what makes this game exciting, when you do this type of stuff. We got Bell, Frazier and Moroff? Awesome. Your hair stands up. … This helps the morale, the camaraderie. Anybody walking off for us is awesome, but you get the young guys in one week, you can't beat that."-- Freese, on the Pirates' three walk-off wins in the last week
"We are still ahead. I think that is what guys kind of tend to forget is that we built a lead for a reason. We know that something like this could happen, but at the end of the day, we are still ahead. -- Davies, on the Brewers' four-game losing streak
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cole also set the Pirates' season-high mark with 10 strikeouts. The Mariners are now the only team in the Majors without an individual 10-strikeout performance. The Nationals lead the Majors with 19 individual double-digit strikeout starts.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With two runners in motion, Davies struck out Jordy Mercer for the second out of the fourth inning, and Brewers catcher Jett Bandy fired down to third baseman Travis Shaw to tag Freese, who was ruled out by third-base umpire Mike Muchlinski. The Pirates challenged the call, but it stood after a review that lasted 2 minutes and 5 seconds.
Brewers: Right-hander Jimmy Nelson will get the call as Brewers conclude their four-game series with the Pirates at 11:35 a.m. CT. Nelson faces the Pirates for the second time this season after throwing 30 pitches over three perfect innings in a rain-delayed no-decision on May 5. Following that game, he went 6-2 with a 2.39 ERA in 12 starts before the All-Star break.
Pirates: Right-hander Jameson Taillon will look to pitch deeper into the game as the Pirates and Brewers wrap up their four-game series at 12:35 p.m. ET on Thursday at PNC Park. Taillon worked five innings in his last start and called the idea of such a short outing "gross." He went 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts against the Brewers last season.
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