Cutch hurt in controversial extra-inning loss
D-backs walk off when relay throw to first hits off baserunner's arm
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks did something Sunday that Andrew McCutchen could barely manage: walked off.
And they did so because Nick Ahmed did not wait for the final to become official before starting in with the celebratory high-fives. Ahmed dished out his first high-five while sliding into second on a potential 10th-inning-ending double play and, as a direct result, the D-backs had a 3-2 win over the Pirates.
A couple innings earlier, the Bucs suffered an even bigger loss. Andrew McCutchen, even as he was drilling a game-tying sacrifice fly, injured himself, had to be helped off the field and immediately departed the game with what was announced as "left side discomfort."
A different sort of discomfort was shared among all the Bucs in the 10th.
With Tuffy Gosewisch on third and Ahmed on first with one out, Andy Marte hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Jordy Mercer, who perfectly fed new Buccos second baseman Jayson Nix to trigger a DP.
"Everything was perfect, a tailor-made double play," Mercer recounted. "Everything was going smoothly. A good feed, a good exchange. Everything was great."
Until Nix's relay smacked off Ahmed's upraised left arm. Gosewisch scored from third. The D-backs, milling in front of their dugout, didn't celebrate. The Bucs, in front of theirs, didn't hang their heads.
No one seemed certain the play had been legit and the run had counted.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle certainly was on the field, essentially telling second-base umpire Lance Barrett, "Really?"
But the play stood. The indelible loss was in the "right" column. A 5-5 road trip was over.
"The rule book states interference can only be called if the runner alters his slide to try to prevent a throw," Hurdle noted. "In [the umpire's] opinion, he did not alter his slide -- he said he threw his hands up the way most guys do when they go into slide, unfortunately in direct line with the ball. I felt there was an extra effort in getting his hands up in the way."
Ahmed agreed to the "extra effort" part, but only in a hustle sense.
"That's the way we're taught to slide and to play the game," Ahmed said. "Go in hard and late. It wasn't a dirty play in my mind, at all. I just slid in hard and the throw hit me in the arm."
"The guy has to do something obviously, willfully, intentionally to break up that double play. Guys slide into second base all the time with their hands up," said crew chief Ron Kulpa, adding that he had never before seen a game end in that manner.
Neither had Nix.
"I don't think I've ever seen a play like that before, at any time, " said Nix, who out of the corner of his eye could "see maybe a little more [arm] than normal. Maybe a little higher … his arm was just in the same spot where I was throwing the ball."
Mark Melancon, the fourth reliever working behind starter Francisco Liriano, had enabled the crazy finish by surrendering a one-out double to Gosewisch, who advanced to third on the fourth-ball wild pitch as Ahmed walked.
Trevor Cahill had bamboozled the Bucs for seven innings, belying his record (1-8 with a 5.59 ERA) by turning them away on one run for seven innings that included a walk and seven strikeouts.
Brad Ziegler's entrance from the Arizona bullpen brought the Pittsburgh offense to life. Josh Harrison led off with a single and motored to third on Gregory Polanco's double down the left-field line. McCutchen's fateful sacrifice fly tied it at 2 -- minutes before Polanco was nailed trying to score from second on Michael Martinez's grounder to short.
The loss of McCutchen was instantly felt: The next time his batting order spot came up with a man on third and less than two outs -- in the 10th -- pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez got the assignment, and he was struck out by Evan Marshall.
"Another guy got the opportunity to come up and get something done," Hurdle said. "We had opportunities at the end of the game to get on top and stay out of the [controversial game-ending] situation, and weren't able to capitalize."
The Pirates' only run off Cahill was driven in by Martinez -- on a second-inning grounder to second with men on second and third and one out.
The next inning, Arizona tied it at 1 with an identical run, the grounder that time off Ender Inciarte's bat. The difference was that the D-backs did not stop there -- Jordan Pacheco's ensuing single turned it into a two-run inning and a 2-1 lead.
That was all off Liriano, who turned in his third straight quality start, and fourth consecutive strong performance. The lefty allowed the two runs and four hits in six innings, bringing his line in those four starts to four earned runs in 25 innings, with seven walks and 29 strikeouts.
In short, pretty much what he was giving the Bucs throughout last season.