PITTSBURGH -- For the second time in three days, the Pirates staged a dramatic ninth-inning rally to surge past the Cardinals and keep their hopes of contending alive. Josh Bell began the key National League Central series with a walk-off homer Friday night, and Adam Frazier ended it Sunday afternoon
PITTSBURGH -- For the second time in three days, the Pirates staged a dramatic ninth-inning rally to surge past the Cardinals and keep their hopes of contending alive. Josh Bell began the key National League Central series with a walk-off homer Friday night, and Adam Frazier ended it Sunday afternoon by slapping a walk-off single to cap another comeback and lead the Bucs to a 4-3 win and a series victory over the Cards at PNC Park.
"I'm proud of the men. I'm proud of the fight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Good first series here to start the second half."
The Pirates' game-winning sequence on Friday came against Seunghwan Oh, and Bell's three-run homer -- his first career walk-off hit -- broke a tie in memorable fashion. On Sunday, the Cards turned to left-hander Brett Cecil with a one-run lead after Carlos Martinez's seven innings of two-run ball and Yadier Molina's go-ahead homer in the eighth.
"They had some big at-bats [in the ninth]. They made some big hits," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "[Cecil] has been extremely good lately, and that's why he had him in that situation … but those one-run ninths are hard anywhere, and they seem especially hard here."
Francisco Cervelli led off the ninth with a single to shortstop Paul DeJong, and pinch-runner Josh Harrison moved to second on Gregory Polanco's checked-swing tapper back to the mound. Up came Jordy Mercer, who pulled a game-tying double down the left-field line.
Cecil got pinch-hitter Jose Osuna to ground out before the Cardinals intentionally walked David Freese. That brought up Frazier, who set off the Bucs' second celebration of the series with a single to center -- his first career walk-off hit. The last time the Pirates walked off twice in the same series? It was also against the Cardinals: two thrillers on July 11-12, 2015.
"Any time you get two walk-offs in a series, it's pretty cool. We're playing well right now," Mercer said. "We've got each other's backs. We're not out of it until the end. It's nice to get two out of three and continue to move forward."
The Cardinals, attempting to find their footing, fell three games under .500 and 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Brewers. The Pirates pulled within four games of the break-even mark and sit seven games behind Milwaukee. With Trade Deadline decisions looming, the Bucs now must turn their attention toward the Brewers as they prepare to begin an important four-game series Monday night at PNC Park.
"Big win for us. Huge series win coming off the break against the Cardinals, then a big series coming up against the Brewers," Frazier said. "We've got a lot of work to do and a lot of games ahead. We'll take it one game at a time and get as many wins as possible."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Max power: Rookie third baseman Max Moroff entered Sunday with only four hits in 50 Major League at-bats, struggling mightily to translate his Minor League numbers -- including a career-high 13 homers in Triple-A this season -- into big league success. Moroff delivered in the fifth inning, smashing a center-cut fastball from Martinez off the right-field foul pole for his first home run, a solo shot. The ball came off Moroff's bat at 105 mph, according to Statcast™, and would have traveled a projected 387 feet had it not caromed off the pole.
"Hit the ball on the barrel for the first time in a while. It felt good," Moroff said. "Hopefully I can continue it." More >
Long-ago longball: Fresh off a home run in Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard in Miami, Molina launched a solo shot to give the Cardinals a one-run lead in the eighth. Molina's 10th homer of the season traveled a projected 400 feet, according to Statcast™. And it came off reliever Juan Nicasio, a rarity, as Nicasio had not allowed a homer all year. It had been 53 1/3 innings, more than 10 months and 222 batters since Joey Votto took Nicasio deep last Sept. 10.
"That's pretty much an outlier," Hurdle said.
"Feels pretty good. The best part is you don't have to go to extra innings and you win the game. To get it done right there is pretty big, pretty exciting." -- Frazier, on his first walk-off hit
"It's tough not to have roles because at that point, you have guys down there getting ready for three straight innings, but at the same time, it's kind of our fault because we haven't really solidified any roles for anybody. So we've just got to grind it out and get ready when the phone rings." -- Cecil, on the Cardinals not having a defined closer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Andrew McCutchen's first-inning RBI single was his 1,400th career hit. McCutchen ranks 17th in Pirates history behind Jason Kendall (1,409 hits) and Bill Virdon (1,431). Since 2009, when McCutchen made his debut, he ranks seventh in hits in Major League Baseball and first among all NL players.
Nicasio had not allowed a homer to a right-handed hitter since Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre took him deep on May 28, 2016.
Magneuris Sierra set a Cardinals record by notching hits in his first nine Major League games. More >
The last team to record multiple walk-off wins in one series this season was the Braves, who did so June 17-18 against the Marlins, as Brandon Phillips hit a pair of game-winning singles in Atlanta.
PITCHERS WHO RAKE
Pirates starter Trevor Williams recorded his long-awaited first Major League hit in the third inning, a leadoff single to right field that snapped his career 0-for-22 skid.
"I had a 'holy-cow' moment: I hit it. Then I had a, 'Holy cow, I'm going to get thrown out at first base if I don't run,'" Williams said. "It was good. I got to first base and forgot how to run the bases a little bit, but we survived out there."
Martinez delivered the bigger blow, knocking a game-tying single to center in the sixth off Williams. The righty's RBI hit came a day after Lance Lynn kick-started the Cards' two-out rally with a double to left-center.
"It feels good," Martinez said through an interpreter. "I tried to do my best in those situations like that one that I really need to focus when I have my at-bat to be able to help the team out. I knew the seventh inning was coming, so I felt like it was a good opportunity."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Polanco had a highly contested at-bat in the fourth inning. He bounced a long fly ball into the Allegheny River, which was ruled foul. The umpires reviewed and confirmed the call. Polanco then bounced a ball to shortstop DeJong and hustled to first base, where he was ruled out. The Pirates challenged the call, which was overturned. Polanco wound up with an infield single, but he was stranded at first base.
After booting a routine ground ball by William Fowler in the ninth, Mercer leaped to snare Jedd Gyorko's line drive and quickly fired to first base. The throw crossed up Bell, but he kept one foot on first base as he reached for Mercer's throw to force out Fowler. Fowler was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned -- resulting in a double play -- after a one-minute, 12-second instant replay review.
"It's a mistake. It happens," Mercer said. "I'm not looking to make up for it, though. It just happens. The next one that comes to me, I'm going to try to make a play and make something happen and get the out."
Cardinals:Adam Wainwright will start as the Cardinals begin a three-game series against the Mets on Monday at 6:10 p.m CT at Citi Field. Wainwright posted one of his best starts of the year in his last outing, giving up one run on five hits through 6 2/3 innings against the Mets. He is in the midst of a three-game winning streak, but he has struggled on the road this year (8.36 ERA).
Pirates: The Bucs will begin a critical four-game series against the division-leading Brewers at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday at PNC Park. Chad Kuhl gets the start. He finished the first half strong, allowing four earned runs in 16 innings over his final three starts, including an emergency spot start at Wrigley Field on two days' rest.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.
Jonathan Toye is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh who covered the Cardinals on Sunday.