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J-Hay's RBI triple in 12th sends Bucs past Reds

Reliever Crick escapes jam to record first MLB save
May 23, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Playing in front of friends and family in his hometown, only a few days removed from a frustrating stint on the disabled list, Josh Harrison capped his four-hit night by ripping a game-winning triple to right field in the 12th inning of the Pirates' 5-4 win over the

CINCINNATI -- Playing in front of friends and family in his hometown, only a few days removed from a frustrating stint on the disabled list, Josh Harrison capped his four-hit night by ripping a game-winning triple to right field in the 12th inning of the Pirates' 5-4 win over the Reds on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park.
"It's almost a perfect storm for him, isn't it?" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Big-time players make big-time plays."
The same could be said for Jordy Mercer, who slid home to score the winning run on Harrison's hit. And for reliever Kyle Crick, who left the bases loaded to record his first career save, redeeming a late-inning bullpen meltdown and ending the Bucs' four-game losing streak.
The game should have been in hand by that point. After six strong innings from starter Chad Kuhl, Hurdle gave the ball to the back end of Pittsburgh's bullpen to protect a three-run lead. Edgar Santana delivered a scoreless seventh, but setup man Michael Feliz loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. Eugenio Suarez launched a sacrifice fly to left field, cutting the Pirates' lead to two.

In came closer Felipe Vazquez, looking for the four-out save. But pinch-hitter Alex Blandino knocked an RBI single to shallow left, and Jose Peraza tied the game with a line-drive single to center. Vazquez eventually got out of the eighth and worked a perfect ninth, sending the game into extra innings.

Left-hander Steven Brault pitched two scoreless innings to preserve the scoreless tie, though there was some drama in the 11th. Peraza drew a leadoff walk and seemed bound for second base on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Dixon, but Dixon was ruled out for running inside the baseline, and Peraza returned to first.

With two outs, Brault clipped Jesse Winker with a fastball before striking out Tucker Barnhart.

With two outs and Mercer on first in the 12th, Harrison blasted a sinker from reliever Dylan Floro into the right-field corner. The Cincinnati native missed more than five weeks with a fractured left hand, but his timing evidently returned when he did on Sunday, as he is 8-for-15 in three games since then.
"Right man, right spot. Just happened to be at home for me," Harrison said. "I'm in a good spot, ready to hit. Anything out over the plate, anything on the plate, I'm ready to hit. Didn't miss it."
And Mercer didn't miss the plate in a nice slide into home. The shortstop sped around from first base intending to score, rounded third and started picking his lane. He slid around Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, slapped the plate with his left hand and pumped his right fist as he leapt back to his feet.
"If it's going to be close, I try to get away from the catcher so he's got to at least swing or something to make a play," Mercer said. "If I can stick my hand in there, the only thing he can touch is my hand, so it's got to be a perfect tag. It's worked in the past."
It worked again, but it didn't guarantee a victory. Hurdle handed the Pirates' one-run lead to Crick, a former starting pitcher prospect-turned-reliever with no Major League saves to his name, to face the middle of the Reds lineup. Crick was so anxious, he fired 98-mph fastballs to bench coach Tom Prince while warming up.
"I think he told me to take it easy," Crick said. "He was not happy."
Crick gave up a double to Joey Votto and a single to Scooter Gennett, then walked Peraza to load the bases with two outs. Pitching coach Ray Searage came out to chat with Crick, giving him the game plan for Dixon. Two pitches later, Crick got the grounder he wanted, Mercer scooped it up, and first baseman Josh Bell caught the ball that will now be a part of Crick's personal collection.

"A lot of experience gained for him out there in that part of the game," Hurdle said. "To get a save, that's good for him, and really it was good for us."
That's Amore: After a hot start to the season, Francisco Cervelli cooled considerably over the last 10 days, recording one hit in his last 13 at-bats. He got back on track right away Wednesday night, however, launching a two-run homer off Reds starter Homer Bailey into the left-field seats in the first inning. It was Cervelli's seventh home run of the season, tying the career-high mark he set in 2015, his first year with the Bucs.

"It's playing out better than I've seen it play out before," Hurdle said.
Cervelli had to exit the game early, however, due to right hand/finger discomfort, which he sustained while blocking a pitch in the dirt in the bottom of the 10th. Cervelli missed a game last week after jamming the same finger, his right ring finger, while diving back into a base. Cervelli did not have the finger wrapped or taped after the game, but it affected his grip enough to force him out of the game.
Right move: Brault retired Votto and Gennett to begin the 10th inning, then the Pirates decided to intentionally walk the righty-swinging Suarez with two outs. That brought up reliever Michael Lorenzen's spot in the order, and the Reds countered by pinch-hitting catcher Tony Cruz, their last available position player. Cruz flied out to end the inning.
"It's not like it's genius," Hurdle said. "You've got a card that shows you how many players they've got. They're out of players. They've got to hit the catcher. We can't let Suarez beat us."
But the real payoff might have come in the 12th. With runners on the corners and one out against Crick, Floro's spot in the order came up and the Reds didn't have a pinch-hitter to deploy. Crick struck out Floro for the second out, creating an easier escape route out of the inning.
With Austin Meadows on second base and Mercer on first, Kuhl came to the plate with nobody out in the sixth inning. Kuhl entered the night tied for the Major League lead with five sacrifice bunts, and there was little question he would try to advance both runners that way. But his bunt bounced past Suarez and into open grass for a single.

"Really just trying to put it between them," Kuhl said. "It ended up being harder than I expected, but it worked out perfectly for me."
Pirates third-base coach Joey Cora aggressively sent Meadows, recognizing there was no defender around to pick up the ball, and Meadows scored from second on Kuhl's first RBI of the season.
"Joey's a heads-up ballplayer -- he was on the field, he is as a coach. He doesn't miss anything," Hurdle said. "He's a very good third-base coach with very good awareness of the game. We're fortunate to have him."
"They're right outside waiting on Daddy. … We [brought] the fans. We needed them, too." -- Harrison, on his personal cheering section -- a group that included his young daughters, Mia Jade and Kinsli Rose -- which he met outside the visitor's clubhouse following the game

"I thought more of hitting bombs as a kid. I was that guy. I thought I was going to come hit bombs in the big leagues. It's just as good. I'll take this over a bomb."--Crick, on what it meant to record his first save
Ivan Nova will attempt to build on his last outing -- a six-inning quality start on Friday in a loss to the Padres -- as he starts for the Pirates in Thursday's series finale against the Reds. Right-hander Luis Castillo will start for Cincinnati at 12:35 p.m. ET.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.