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Pirates score 2 in 9th, but comeback falls short

Bucs unable to score tying run from third in final frame
MLB.com @adamdberry

SAN DIEGO -- The Pirates did the hard part in the ninth inning on Saturday night. They snapped out of a rough night at the plate by scoring two runs against Brad Hand, the Padres' dominant left-handed closer, and put the tying run on third base with nobody out. All they had to do was get Gregory Polanco home.

But the Bucs couldn't finish what they started. Polanco was left stranded at third after two flyouts and a Starling Marte strikeout. Rather than celebrating a dramatic comeback victory, the Pirates left Petco Park with a tough 4-3 loss.

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SAN DIEGO -- The Pirates did the hard part in the ninth inning on Saturday night. They snapped out of a rough night at the plate by scoring two runs against Brad Hand, the Padres' dominant left-handed closer, and put the tying run on third base with nobody out. All they had to do was get Gregory Polanco home.

But the Bucs couldn't finish what they started. Polanco was left stranded at third after two flyouts and a Starling Marte strikeout. Rather than celebrating a dramatic comeback victory, the Pirates left Petco Park with a tough 4-3 loss.

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Elias Diaz and Austin Meadows began the ninth with back-to-back doubles off Hand, and Polanco pulled the Bucs within a run when he smashed an RBI triple to right field. Jordy Mercer then flied out to right field, likely not deep enough to score Polanco.

Video: PIT@SD: Williams whiffs Renfroe in the 2nd inning

What happened next quickly became a topic of conversation in manager Clint Hurdle's office. Jose Osuna hit a foul ball to right that traveled 208 feet from the plate, according to Statcast™. As Hunter Renfroe sprinted after the ball, Polanco shaded down the third-base line without attempting to tag up and score.

Polanco said he and third-base coach Joey Cora couldn't tell whether the ball was going to be fair or foul. According to Polanco, Cora told him not to tag up. Why?

"I have no idea. I just listened to what he said," Polanco said. "He told me the same the play before, when Mercer was hitting. He told me the same, like, 'No, no.'"

Renfroe has a strong arm and thought he had a chance to throw out Polanco even after chasing down the second out, but even he was expecting Polanco to tag up. Cora was not available for comment after the game.

Video: PIT@SD: Diaz drives in Harrison with a groundout

"I was fully expecting him to be running toward home plate," Renfroe said. "In that case, I don't know why they wouldn't. I don't know if he just messed up. For the most part, you're tagging no matter what there."

With Polanco still on third, Marte went down swinging at a slider for the final out and Hand survived a rare lapse. The lefty closer entered the game with a 2.75 ERA and 1.04 WHIP this season, and he'd held left-handed batters to only four hits with 24 strikeouts in 47 at-bats. So it was even more remarkable when Meadows doubled home Diaz and Polanco ripped a line-drive triple to right.

"Sometimes you don't get everybody out all the time. You don't make good pitches, you get hit, it doesn't matter who you are," Hurdle said. "Mistakes were made over the plate, and both of them barreled it up. It was good to see."

It wasn't enough, however. Padres starter Joey Lucchesi handcuffed a Pirates lineup that churned out six runs on Friday night. Pittsburgh drew four walks during Lucchesi's five innings but managed only one hit: David Freese's infield single in the fourth inning. In fact, the Pirates didn't force San Diego's outfield into action until the sixth inning.

Video: PIT@SD: Williams' dad, family show support at Petco

The Pirates fell behind early as Trevor Williams, making his first career start in his hometown of San Diego, allowed four runs over 4 2/3 innings. Left fielder Wil Myers did most of the damage. In the third inning, Myers smashed a low fastball from Williams to right field for a solo home run. With two outs in the fifth, Myers turned on a high fastball and pulled it to left field for a two-run double that ended Williams' night.

"It's a special day not only for myself, but for my family and friends as well. Unfortunately we didn't come out with that win there at the end, and I would have liked to pitch a little better," Williams said. "It's going to be a night that my family and I won't forget."

SOUND SMART
• This was a special start for Williams for several reasons. Most obviously, he pitched in front of a large gathering of friends and family -- including his father, Richard, a Padres season-ticket holder since 1991. And by starting at Petco Park, his hometown ballpark, Williams (who made his debut in September 2016) has now pitched in all 15 active National League ballparks.

• Polanco went 2-for-2 with two walks. He's hit safely in five straight games and is now batting .500 (15-for-30) with a .625 on-base percentage over his last 12 games.

Video: PIT@SD: Polanco drives an RBI triple to right in 9th

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Williams and reliever Tyler Glasnow were involved in nearly identical plays on the mound. Padres center fielder Travis Jankowski led off the game with a chopper that bounced off Williams' rear end toward Freese, who fired the ball to first baseman Josh Bell for the out. The same play unfolded for the final out in the seventh, with Glasnow taking a ball off the backside.

Video: PIT@SD: Freese nabs Jankowski twice off deflection

"It's kind of funny, getting that first out, just getting kind of kicked in the [butt] by baseball to say, like, 'Focus up and get in this game,'" Williams said.

HE SAID IT
"That's a conversation that we've just talked about briefly here. From our vantage point, obviously it's an easy read. We can see it. From there, I don't know if Joey's got the same read or Polanco's got the same read, if it's fair or foul, how close it is. You'd like to be on the base to be able to make a throw if you know it's in foul territory."--Hurdle, asked why Polanco didn't tag up on Osuna's flyout in foul territory

UP NEXT
Right-hander Jameson Taillon will start for the Pirates in their series finale against the Padres on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. ET at Petco Park. Taillon enjoyed a strong June, posting a 2.90 ERA over five starts. Right-hander Tyson Ross is scheduled to start for San Diego.

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

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