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By Josh, by jolly: Pirates' walk-off is wild

July 19, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Just when it seemed like the Pirates might be in for another long day, Josh Harrison brought things to a quick, decisive and wild close Tuesday night at PNC Park. Harrison led off the bottom of the ninth by ripping a triple into center field and completed the

PITTSBURGH -- Just when it seemed like the Pirates might be in for another long day, Josh Harrison brought things to a quick, decisive and wild close Tuesday night at PNC Park. Harrison led off the bottom of the ninth by ripping a triple into center field and completed the walk-off, Little League homer as the Pirates beat the Brewers, 3-2.
Before Tuesday's game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked to his team about Murphy's law, the adage that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Pittsburgh saw it play out throughout an injury-plagued, up-and-down first half. They saw a condensed version in effect Sunday, when a two-out, two-strike solo homer off rock-steady closer Mark Melancon led to an 18-inning marathon. And it looked like recent history might repeat itself Tuesday. Down to their last strike in the top of the ninth, the Brewers tied the game on a Hernán Pérez hit to center field off Melancon.
"We just talked about it today, having that adversity come your way the second half of the season. You've got to get all over it," Hurdle said. "You don't let it get you. You've got to go ahead and tackle it."
Harrison tackled it in characteristically aggressive fashion, needing just two pitches in the bottom of the frame to win it. Harrison motored to third on his hustle triple and trotted home when second baseman Scooter Gennett's throw struck Harrison and caromed into the Pirates' dugout.

"He's going to push the envelope," Hurdle said. "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."
It was Harrison's sixth career walk-off hit and his second in two years off right-hander Tyler Thornburg. In the 16th inning of that 18-inning marathon win on Sunday, Harrison saw the Nationals execute a perfect relay throw to nab Eric Fryer at the plate. He figured the odds, and perhaps Murphy's law, were in his favor this time.
"I never broke stride. I was going to make them make perfect relays," Harrison said. "The odds of that happening two games in a row, I was going to take my chances."
It was the Pirates' 10th victory in the teams' last 14 meetings at PNC Park. The Pirates have won 14 of their last 20 games overall.
The Brewers are going in a different direction. They have lost 11 of their last 15 road games, including consecutive walk-offs Sunday in Cincinnati and Tuesday here.
"I've never had that situation, two walk-off losses in a row," Perez said. "It's tough, but I think we have to keep battling."
Seemingly unfazed after a frightening moment on the mound, rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon breezed through six innings. Brewers rookie Junior Guerra continued to pitch well, holding the Pirates to two first-inning runs over six innings. Guerra allowed three hits and three walks while striking out six. But until the ninth, the Brewers only managed one run. Chris Carter doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on a groundout by Perez.
Close call: Taillon was struck in the back of the head by a 105-mph line drive off Perez's bat in the second inning. Stunningly, the 24-year-old -- who missed two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery and came off the disabled list earlier Tuesday -- got up almost immediately and remained in the game. He allowed one run on five hits and struck out three without a walk, needing only 65 pitches as he quickly cruised through six innings.
"To be honest, I was waiting for it to hurt when I was down, and I really felt good," Taillon said. "The biggest thing was fighting some adrenaline afterward. My pitches were up." More >

Brewers tie it:Ryan Braun walked and Jonathan Lucroy singled to start the ninth against Melancon, the Pirates' All-Star closer who was coming off a blown save on Sunday in Washington that snapped his 18-inning scoreless streak and a run of 23 consecutive saves. Melancon struck out Carter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and was within one strike of escaping the threat before Perez lined a single to center field that tied the game at 2. Brewers manager Craig Counsell called it "an everything-on-the-line at-bat."
"Anytime you're walked off twice in a row, it's just frustrating, because you know you're close," Counsell said. "It was a good ballgame tonight. We battled back. It was great to see us get a run off a really good closer, an All-Star closer." More >

Welcome back: Returning to the lineup for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone on June 11, catcher Francisco Cervelli continued the Pirates' first-inning rally against Guerra with a sacrifice fly to right field. Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte walked, Andrew McCutchen singled and David Freese drove in Pittsburgh's first run with a single to right.
"The ownership of the box was in a very good place," Hurdle said of Cervelli.

On the board: Carter's double leading off the fourth inning -- his team-best 41st extra-base hit -- positioned the Brewers for a big inning against Taillon. But the righty limited the damage by inducing a trio of ground balls, including Perez's run-scoring bouncer to third base, representing the first three Brewers batters of 12 in a row retired by Taillon and reliever Neftalí Feliz through the end of the seventh.
"He stayed in there and almost pitched better after getting hit in the head," Gennett said, "which is pretty incredible."

"It's a case of 'pitching comes from everywhere.' Obviously, Taillon is the guy with the pedigree, a high [Draft] pick, and has been talked about for a while. Junior is still performing at as high a level -- probably a higher level -- but from out of nowhere." -- Counsell, on Tuesday's pitching matchup
"I turned away. I'm not scared to see it; I just don't feel the need to." -- Taillon, on watching the replay of the ball that hit him
The Pirates have not had a starting pitcher record an out in the seventh inning since June 25, when Jeff Locke went seven innings against the Dodgers. Locke has Pittsburgh's last two six-plus-inning outings (also June 20) since Taillon threw an eight-inning gem against the Mets on June 14.
One batter after Perez's ball bounced off Taillon's head and into left field, Brewers right fielder Ramón Flores knocked a chopper up the middle. Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer was well-positioned, standing right on the bag, but bobbled the ball and lost it between his legs. The Pirates challenged the call, and a 49-second review showed that Mercer tagged Perez when he came off the bag at second.

Brewers:Chase Anderson finished the first half with two straight starts in which he matched his career high with five walks. He'll look to correct that in his second-half debut when the Brewers and Pirates meet Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. CT.
Pirates: Left-hander Locke's first half ended with a 2 1/3-inning relief appearance, but he'll return to the rotation Wednesday night to face the Brewers at PNC Park at 7:05 p.m. ET. Locke went 8-5 with a 5.38 ERA in his first 17 starts, but he was 5-1 with a 2.81 ERA in eight home outings.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.