Pirates come back twice, but can't deliver knockout blow

Reynolds singles, doubles and homers, driving in five runs in seesaw battle

August 15th, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wil Crowe turned around, put his hands on his knees and watched. All he could do was hope. Hope that the wind would knock the ball down. Hope that Thairo Estrada didn’t quite barrel it up. Hope that Oracle Park’s vast dimensions would keep the ball from clearing the wall. But hope soon faded. Reality took its place.

Estrada’s walk-off, ninth-inning, two-run home run off Crowe was the final act of an exhilarating back-and-forth affair, one in which the Pirates fell to the Giants 8-7. The Buccos return to Pittsburgh from their three-city road trip having lost seven of nine games. What’s done is done. All the Pirates can hope to do now is move on.

“We have an off-day tomorrow,” Crowe said. “Everybody will get back, get some sleep, get some rest, some family time and then we'll get back at it on Tuesday. It's what we're here to do. Come to the ballpark, trying to win our game and just try to do it. It's behind us. There's nothing we can do about it now. You just move on, and that's what we've got to do. That's what we'll do."

It was a game that Pittsburgh, on multiple occasions, had an opportunity to win. That they had opportunities to win was a testament to their grit.

The Pirates fell behind the eight-ball early. The Giants put up a four-spot in the bottom of the second inning, headlined by LaMonte Wade Jr.’s three-run blast. Two innings later, Wilmer Flores’ RBI double extended the deficit to five runs. San Francisco looked on its way to an easy win, especially when Pittsburgh’s problems with runners in scoring position continued to crop up.

After going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Friday and 0-for-7 on Saturday, Pittsburgh began Sunday with no hits in its first four chances.

In the first inning, Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds reached base via a double and a hit by pitch, respectively, but were left stranded on the basepaths. Pittsburgh loaded the bases with two outs in the following inning, but Reynolds flied out and another opportunity faded away. The Pirates seemed destined for another one of those games.

But Reynolds intervened.

In the top of the fifth inning with runners on first and second, Reynolds pulled a double down the third-base line to drive in a pair. Reynolds advanced to third base on Michael Chavis’ flyout to right field, then scored on Ben Gamel’s groundout. The offense had a pulse; Reynolds was about to bring it completely back to life.

Two frames later, with two men on base, Reynolds sat on John Brebbia’s 1-1 fastball and sent the pitch sailing over the Pirates’ bullpen in center field. Reynolds didn’t just take a few seconds to admire his work, but he carried his bat three-quarters of the way up the first-base line, flipping it only when the ball finally landed.

"He's an All-Star for a reason,” Crowe said of Reynolds, who finished with five RBIs. “He's our best player for a reason. He's dynamic. He's electric. He's Bryan Reynolds. When he goes, we go, and he's a great player, and we all know that."

The Pirates, for the first time this series, had a lead. The energy was good. But not for too long. The following half-inning, the Giants tied the game, thanks to a defensive miscue.

Brandon Crawford’s popup should have ended the inning and allowed Eric Stout to escape trouble.

Oneil Cruz and Kevin Newman converged on a ball that sailed high into the windy San Francisco afternoon. The ball should’ve been caught; it was not.

Instead of the inning ending and the Pirates leading, the ball found green grass and Wilmer Flores scored. New game.

“We have to make sure that we’re going to assume that that ball is going to continue to drift, especially the way the wind was blowing out today,” said manager Derek Shelton.

The eighth inning came and went with the score still tied. To the ninth the game went. And the Pirates, as they had done two innings prior, threw their punch.

With runners on first and second and one out, Rodolfo Castro pulled a very weak grounder to the infield’s left side. Castro had a single, but third baseman Evan Longoria threw to first anyway. The throw airmailed first baseman Flores, allowing Reynolds, who singled to start the ninth, to score easily. Gamel was thrown out with feet to spare, despite a challenge that catcher Joey Bart blocked the plate. The sequence was ludicrous, but the Pirates only cared that they, once again, had the lead.

Then, Estrada. Curtains.

“We battled back twice and just didn’t finish the game,” Shelton said.