PITTSBURGH -- There would have been plenty of decisions to question, missed opportunities to dissect and moments to bemoan for the Pirates on Sunday afternoon, but Adam Frazier erased most of them from memory with one swing.Frazier helped the Pirates salvage a four-game series split against the National League Central-leading
PITTSBURGH -- There would have been plenty of decisions to question, missed opportunities to dissect and moments to bemoan for the Pirates on Sunday afternoon, but Adam Frazier erased most of them from memory with one swing.
Frazier helped the Pirates salvage a four-game series split against the National League Central-leading Cubs, blasting his second career walk-off homer to right-center field off reliever Brandon Kintzler in the 11th inning of Pittsburgh's 2-1 win at PNC Park.
The Bucs split the series despite only scoring five runs in 38 innings. They won on Sunday despite a series of costly mistakes on the bases. But they pulled it out nonetheless, moving back above .500 and six games of an NL Wild Card spot.
"Today was definitely one that would have hurt if we lost and feels good for winning," starter Jameson Taillon said. "You're never happy about splitting, but when you come back and salvage a split, it's a little bit different of a feeling. Today was a big one."
So there were some sighs of relief amid the usual celebration at home plate. Frazier got the green light and unloaded on a 3-0 sinker from Kintzler, rounded first base then pointed into Pittsburgh's dugout. Elias Diaz and Chris Archer emptied coolers to soak Frazier's jersey as the entire team bounced around him.
"Pretty exciting," the characteristically calm Frazier said. "Probably the most excited I've ever gotten going around the bases. It was pretty cool."
Taillon did his part, extending several series-long trends for the Pirates. Their starters only allowed four runs in four games, all of them on solo homers. Kyle Schwarber was responsible for the lone mark against Taillon, as he bashed a full-count slider into the right-field seats to put the Cubs ahead in the second inning.
But Taillon recovered after that and, like the three starters before him, gave Pittsburgh a chance to win with a quality start. Taillon scattered five hits, walked three and struck out eight over six innings to lower his ERA to 3.58 after 25 starts.
Pittsburgh's rotation compiled a 1.35 ERA over the series, and the bullpen pitched 11 1/3 scoreless innings.
"We pitched well this whole series," Taillon said. "Rotation gave us innings, deep starts. The bullpen threw the heck out of it all series."
Yet the Pirates had to settle for a split because they scored in only two of the series' first 37 innings. They tied Sunday's game in the sixth with a quick rally from their top-of-the-order outfield trio. Left-hander Jose Quintana had retired 10 straight before Corey Dickerson reached on an infield single, Starling Marte walked and Gregory Polanco ripped a game-tying double off the Clemente Wall in right field.
The Pirates then ran their way out of a perfect opportunity to pull ahead. Marte took off from third on David Freese's grounder to first base and was easily thrown out. With the bases loaded and one out, third-base coach Joey Cora held Polanco on Josh Bell's fly ball to left field. Polanco retreated to the bag even as Schwarber's off-line throw bounced away from catcher Willson Contreras, and he was stranded when Josh Harrison flied out to end the inning.
The Bucs' baserunning woes continued in the seventh, when Marte pulled a two-out double to left field and Cora sent Kevin Newman home. The relay from Schwarber to Javier Baez to Contreras was in time, and the out call was upheld after the Pirates challenged to see if Contreras violated the home-plate collision rule.
"We complicated things throughout the afternoon," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We had opportunities and we got in our own way a number of different times offensively or on the bases to handicap us."
But their mistakes did not defeat them, and the Pirates remain alive in the postseason race as they head into another stretch of games against the teams they're chasing.
"We had to have that win right there just to get some confidence going in against Atlanta," Frazier said. "The Cubs kind of had our number a little bit this year. That was a pretty big win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Addison Russell was at third base with one out in the 11th inning after a double to right (aided by fan interference) and a wild pitch by reliever Richard Rodriguez. Bench coach Tom Prince then put on a play the Pirates have attempted a few times this year. As Russell wandered too far from the bag, Diaz set up well away from the right-handed-hitting Contreras.
Diaz caught a 93.2-mph fastball from Rodriguez, sprung up and fired a perfect throw to third baseman Freese, who stepped in front of Russell and applied the tag for the critical out. The drama wasn't over, as Rodriguez walked the bases loaded before striking out Albert Almora Jr.. But there were a few exhales in Pittsburgh's dugout.
"That one showed up at a very pivotal point," Hurdle said.
The last time the Pirates allowed only four runs in a four-game series was July 30-Aug. 2, 1992, when they swept the Cardinals. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the most recent time two teams combined to score nine runs or fewer in a four-game series was Aug. 1-3, 1958, when the Pirates and Cardinals put up eight runs.
HE SAID IT
"We can do this no matter what the situation. We're fighting. Every man on this team can do something different. I trust all my teammates here. We can do this. You see Frazier, 3-0, he takes him deep. This is something special, man. We've got to keep playing hard and control what we can control."-- Polanco, on pulling out a win to split the series
Right-hander Archer, looking for his first quality start as a Pirate, will take the mound on Monday night at PNC Park against the Braves. Atlanta is starting its own Trade Deadline acquisition, right-hander Kevin Gausman. Archer's first career start against the Braves is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.