The Pirates got a couple more runners aboard in the second when Russ Martin blooped a single with one gone and Pedro followed with a walk, but JT ended the hubbub with a custom made 6-4-3 DP. The Rangers got two hits, both decidedly soft, a flare off the end of the bat and a bunt single that was a bounce away from going foul before Tony Sanchez grabbed it, and they were stranded.
Pittsburgh kept piling up hits, and in spite of themselves scored a run in the third. Tony Sanchez doubled to open and an out later Mercer lined a single to left. Cutch banged one of Perez; he stayed with it and went home, too late. The ump called Tony Sanchez safe, even though he actually landed on AJ Pierzynski's foot rather than the dish and went flying over home, so the Black and Gold got a call. The ball skipped away and Mercer advanced to third. And as happens ways too often, stayed there. Marlon Byrd tried to put one through the wide open right side, but hit a soft hump backed liner that Ian Kinsler ran down, and Gaby flew out to right. Still, at least it's 1-0. For Texas, Elvis Andrus singled with an out, but Liriano caught him breaking to second and he was tagged in a rundown. Rios hit a lazy fly to center, and that ended the third.
Perez tossed a clean fourth, thanks to Kinsler climbing the ladder to pull in JT's liner. Beltre drew a 3-2 walk to start Texas, but Gaby made a fine play on Pierzynski's chalk-kissing grounder up the line, tapped first and tossed to second for the tag out DP; Beltre, with the play behind him, gave himself up as if it were a force.. Ron Washington came out to beef - about what, we're not sure - and after a couple of wasted minutes returned to the dugout to watch Jeff Baker K.
Two out lightning struck Perez in the fifth. Mercer banged one up the line and into the corner for a double and took another sack when Craig Gentry bobbled the ball. Cutch bounced one through the left side to score him, and Byrd hopped a seeing eye single between 3B and short. Gaby lined a single to left to plate Cutch and move The Byrd to third, where he scored on a wild pitch. Martin had the green light on a 3-0 pitch, but was late and flew out to right, ending the at-bat with the Bucs up 4-0.
Liriano, who hasn't been as sharp as we've seen him, walked Joey Butler on four pitches and fell behind Gentry 3-0, but came back to get him. A hopper moved Butler to second, and he came in when Kinsler hit a liner to center; Cutch slid for the catch, but it hit the thumb of his glove and fell in for a double to make it 4-1 after five.
Pedro walked to start the sixth, and that was it for Perez as Washington called for Alexi Ogando. JT bunted El Toro to second, then Tony Sanchez waved at three pitches. Neil Walker hit for Josh Harrison, and almost got enough, taking a ball the other way but a couple of steps of the wall, where Gentry gloved it in the corner. Beltre slammed a hanging change into left center for a one out double, but Frankie came back with a pop and K to leave him standing.
Ogando pitched a routine seventh, and Justin Wilson came on for Pittsburgh. Frankie did a great job, as he was laboring with his command, especially of his off speed stuff, but soldiered through and was just one catch away from six scoreless frames. Wilson lost Butler on a 3-2 pitch after not catching the call on the corner for the prior delivery. He got over it with a swinging K and a soft roller up the middle that Mercer turned into a 6-3 DP.
Jason Frasor took the ball in the eighth. Gaby singled, and an out later, Starling Marte came in to run and stole second on the first pitch; we wonder why Hurdle didn't pull Sanchez after his hit instead of waiting. Pedro rolled out to second, moving Marte to third. Justin Morneau grabbed a stick, and was intentionally walked to get to Tony Sanchez. He hit the first pitch on the nose, but to straight center where it was corralled.
And whoa - Jason Grilli took the bump, a little sooner than we expected for him to get into a back end outing. With two down, Rios took a heater out and on the knees to right for a double. After a long battle, Beltre fought off a two seamer and dropped it into right to make it 4-2. That brought Tony Watson on. It got hairy when Pierzynski yanked a 1-2 sinker on the outside half into the right field corner; great hustle and a quick throw in by Byrd held Beltre at third. Jeff Baker battled Watson, but Tony finally whipped some high heat past him to finish the frame.
Lefty Robbie Ross started the ninth, and walked The Kid. That was it for him; Joakim Soria came in. The Bucs got a break when Mercer bunted up the first base side, catching the Rangers in a DP defense, and his sac turned into a knock when first ended up uncovered. Cutch, with a wide open right side, cued a pitch away through the hole to score Walker. Then Soria got serious and got a pop up and two whiffs, using his hook to put the Bucs away, but it was 5-2 as they got the run back.
Mark the Shark came on, and after two K's, things got hot. Leonys Martin broke his bat, but got enough to bleed a single. He took second on defensive indifference and came in when Kinsler, ahead 3-1, lined a meatball into center. Andrus chopped one in front of the plate; it took a hop past Pedro to bring the winning run to the plate. Rios, who has everything hard the last two days, lined a single up the middle to make it 5-4 and put Rangers on the corners. Lotta drama going on, but it ended quietly; Melancon K'ed Beltre on three pitches.
It was edge-of-the-seat stuff, but Frankie got his 16th win and Mark the Shark his 13th save. And this is the way games play out in September among contenders, something we haven't seen for quite awhile. The Bucs could have made it easier on themselves by cashing in on a couple of their chances, but hey - two outta two ain't bad, especially against a team that's also involved in a red hot race. The Bucs have had big problems lately closing out series; they've lost the last game nine sets in a row. Tomorrow would be a good time to reverse that trend.
AJ Burnett faces Matt Garza in the finale tomorrow afternoon.
- Pittsburgh's 2 through 5 hitters had 10 hits; Texas first four batters had 10 hits.
- Cutch's hitting streak is now at nine games.
- Jordy Mercer went 4-for-5, his first four hit game in the majors.
- Francisco Liriano is the first Pirate LHP with 16-win season since Zane Smith in 1991.
- Texas had been successful in 19 straight steal attempts until Liriano picked off Andrus in the third.
- The Cards won and the Reds lost; the Bucs are still a game back of St. Louis and two ahead of Cincinnati. The Cubs have beated the Reds two straight, and that's the team the Bucs face when they come home.
- Though the news on Charlie Morton's foot injury is good, he's still not certain to make his scheduled Friday start against the Cubs.
- Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura took in the game.
- Mike Zagurski joined the NY Yankees, a club that was said to have interest in him when he was pitching for Indy earlier in the year.