PITTSBURGH -- David Freese figured the ball wouldn't get out. But as he ran down the first-base line after launching Seunghwan Oh's fastball to deep center field, the ball kept carrying toward the wall in front of the Cardinals' bullpen. It landed just shy, in the glove of Tommy Pham,
PITTSBURGH -- David Freese figured the ball wouldn't get out. But as he ran down the first-base line after launching Seunghwan Oh's fastball to deep center field, the ball kept carrying toward the wall in front of the Cardinals' bullpen. It landed just shy, in the glove of Tommy Pham, for a sacrifice fly that pulled the Pirates within a run.
"Made it exciting," Freese said.
So did the Pirates' seven-run rally against the Cardinals on Friday night at PNC Park, a rousing display that ended a potential rout. But it wasn't enough, as they came up short in an 11-10 loss.
So, too, have the Pirates made this season interesting at times over the past month. They were a game over .500 and two games out of the division lead on July 21. They were back at .500 and three games out of first place on Aug. 11.
But close hasn't cut it there, either. Friday's loss, their sixth in a row, dropped the Pirates 6 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central standings.
"We're fighting, but you've got to win," Freese said. "We're just not doing enough collectively to get W's on the board. When you play teams like this that are fighting, that aren't going to quit, you've got to show up from the start."
That was the issue for the Pirates on Friday night. Trevor Williams wasn't finding strike calls at the bottom of the zone, where he excels, and paid for pitching up in the zone. He allowed eight runs on seven hits, including three homers, in three-plus innings. Lefty Steven Brault surrendered two runs on four hits in four innings, and Daniel Hudson gave up a run in the eighth.
Down by eight runs with two turns left to hit, manager Clint Hurdle removed Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison to rest them. But Max Moroff, Harrison's replacement, kick-started the rally with a two-run homer that landed in the Allegheny River. Josh Bell followed with an RBI double, and Elias Diaz doubled in two more runs.
"That was nuts," Moroff said. "It shows we're never out of the game."
The Pirates made it a one-run game without recording a hit in the ninth, scoring twice on three walks, a hit by pitch and Freese's sac fly. That put the tying run at third and the winning run at second for Diaz, who struck out against Oh to end the comeback effort.
"We came up a run short at the end of the night. That's never the goal," Hurdle said. "The goal is to go out there and lay everything on the field, and they left everything out on the field tonight."
That much was evident in Freese's performance. Even with McCutchen and Harrison out of the game, seemingly an acknowledgement it was out of reach, Freese hustled to knock down a sharp grounder in the seventh inning, scrambled to his feet and put his entire body behind a throw to first base to force out Randal Grichuk.
The effort was there, enough to make it interesting. The end result was not.
"You're there to win and do what you can. You put on the uni, you've got to go out there and play hard," Freese said. "Obviously, sometimes it may not look like we're giving our best effort, but we are, man. This game's tough. We just fight. We fight all nine. You just have to play well enough to win."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.