PITTSBURGH -- For the second time in a three-game span, the Pirates used a seventh-inning rally to fuel a victory at home. But to get there, it took a bit of help from one of the team’s most consistent hitters.
The Pirates began a stretch of 20 games without an off-day with a 6-3 win over the White Sox, but unlike the last late rally the team produced, this one came with the small ball.
Down by a run after Yasmani Grandal’s pinch-hit homer off Tyler Anderson in the top of the inning, Gregory Polanco, Phillip Evans, Kevin Newman and Erik González hit singles in succession without making an out to go ahead by two runs. Bryan Reynolds added insurance with the fifth hit of the inning on yet another single.
“Giving up that hit sucks,” Anderson said of the homer, “but it sucks even worse when you give up the lead because of it. But then when you come in and they get it right back, it kind of lifts that weight a little bit."
In order to get to the rally, the Pirates had to get to the White Sox’s bullpen. They were able to score two runs off Lucas Giolito, but he’s a stingy pitcher with good pitches. Just look at what happened last season, when he no-hit the Pirates, for confirmation.
One easy way to make sure a strong starter like Giolito doesn’t work too far into the game is to get his pitch count up, and Adam Frazier made it look easy. Though the Pirates’ second baseman struck out in his first at-bat, he saw eight pitches.
Then, in the third inning, Frazier lifted only his third home run of the season on the 10th pitch of the at-bat against Giolito. With his signature short, compact stroke, Frazier drove a rare changeup down the pipe from the White Sox righty a Statcast-estimated 362 feet over the Clemente Wall in right field.
“His heater is paired with his changeup, and it's not really easy to get on both of those pitches,” Frazier said. “So I guess he gave me a couple. I fouled them off, and then after that, it's just fight, protect and do what you can, and then hopefully, he makes a mistake. I guess I got one of them.”
Frazier’s third at-bat against Giolito went seven pitches, as he drew a leadoff walk in the sixth inning and came around to score on the first of Reynolds’ two RBI singles.
“He stays committed to his approach throughout the entire at-bat and never really gives at-bats away,” manager Derek Shelton said of Frazier. “I think it’s a testament not only to his short stroke, but his game plan going into that at-bat or any at-bat.”
Newman, whose sacrifice-turned-squeeze bunt led to a throwing error to score the tying run in the seventh, said he was talking on the bench with some other Pirates batters about how crucial Frazier’s approach will help them down the stretch, not just on Tuesday.
“It’s big,” Newman said. “This is only a two-game series, but when you have the three- and four-game series, and your leadoff guy is seeing almost 10 pitches per at-bat, it helps us get to the bullpen sooner. That helps us later on.”
Frazier is both a trade candidate for the Pirates approaching next month’s Trade Deadline and one of the leading vote-getters in the National League among second basemen for a starting spot in the All-Star Game. By nature of both those facts, his game performances are magnified over this stretch of 20 games in 20 days.
But of course, the team can’t do it all with its leading hitter, who has had long stretches leading the Majors in hits. As much as the Pirates were aware of his bulldog approach, Frazier noticed that grit from the bottom of the lineup on Tuesday as well. It just turned out that instead of foul balls, the unit’s aggressive swings went for hits.
“The guys are just still working hard, and putting together tough at-bats. We found a couple of holes there,” Frazier said. “... Just at-bat by at-bat and guys not giving in, and doing their best.”