PITTSBURGH -- Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg has won most of his career matchups against Pirates infielder Josh Harrison. But when Harrison has won the at-bat, he's also won the game.
Harrison delivered his second game-ending hit off Thornburg in as many seasons, racing around the bases on a ninth-inning triple and an error for a 3-2 Pirates win at Miller Park. It conjured memories of last Sept. 13, when Harrison yanked a single to left field off Thornburg for a 7-6 Pirates win in 11 innings.
Those are Harrison's two hits in five career at-bats against Thornburg. All told, Harrison has six career walk-off hits.
"Some guys get presented with that opportunity more than others," he said. "It's not a situation any of us practice being in. We just go up there. Like Clint [Hurdle, Pittsburgh's manager] says, 'The game doesn't know it's important.' That's the biggest thing. We tend to think the second at-bat is bigger than the first or vice versa. But at the end of the day, they all count just as much."
Harrison's Little League homer came two pitches into the bottom of the ninth, after the Brewers had rallied in the top of the frame for a tying run against All-Star closer Mark Melancon. Brewers third baseman Hernán Pérez tied the game with a two-strike, two-out single.
With Thornburg on in relief, Harrison wasted no time reclaiming the lead. He hit an 0-1 fastball to the wall in center field, where Kirk Nieuwenhuis couldn't make the catch. While Harrison put his head down and kept running, Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett fielded the throw to the infield and relayed to third. The baseball struck Harrison and caromed into the Pirates' dugout for an error.
"As they were relaying, I was running over there thinking we definitely had a shot at him," Gennett said. "If the throw was a really good throw I think we might have had him. It would have been close either way."
Said Harrison: "I thought I was going to be safe. … I was going to make them make perfect relays. The odds of that happening two games in a row, I was going to take my chances."
On Sunday in Washington, Pirates catcher Eric Fryer tried to go first-to-home on a double in the 16th inning, also after a Melancon blown save, and got thrown out on what several Pirates have described as a perfect relay. "[Harrison] is going to push the envelope," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "He's going to look to create something. He created an opportunity for us to score with a double, then his head's down, he's coming. It's one of those, 'No, no, no! Yeah, yeah, OK, great!'
"At the end, he plays to win. He took a chance, forced a throw and it worked out really well."
Not for the Brewers. Each of their last two games have been walk-off losses. They lost a 1-0 game on Sunday in Cincinnati on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth.
"I think anytime you lose by one, especially on a walk-off and especially if you scored the game-tying run off an All-Star closer, it kind of stinks to lose that way," Thornburg said.
"It's not fun when you get walked off on," said Gennett. "But for the most part, we're playing good baseball. We're in these games. We've got to keep grinding and eventually we'll run into some win streaks."