All the Bucs could get going in the third was a two out walk by Vanimal. The Reds got a leadoff knock from Kris Negron, but a soft fly and a 6-4-3 DP took care of that. Travis singled to start the fourth. Two outs later, Russ K'ed on a wild pitch; he made it first and Snider to third. Marte whiffed on a heater to strand them. worley worked his first clean frame.
Gaby, playing because Ike has the flu, drilled a first pitch cutter over the wall in left center to draw first blood in the fifth. Jordy was retired on a hard hit grounder, followed by K's of Vanimal and Josh. Zach Cozart singled off Jordy's glove and got greedy; he was cut down heading to second. An out later, Leake doubled and Negron singled him home to tie the game, going to second on the throw home. The pitcher barely slid under Cutch's throw home which was a bit on the first base side of the plate. Brayan Pena flew out to end the frame with the score knotted.
It was a 1-2-3 sixth for Leake. After a pair of swinging punch outs, Heisey doubled on a soft fly that Cutch had tick off his glove and a wild pitch moved him to third. A grounder closed the frame.
Russ walked to open the seventh. He gimped to first, and Chase d'Arnaud came in to run. Starling went down chasing a curve in the dirt. Gaby barreled up on a hook, but Heisey had his liner measured in center, then d'Arnaud was caught stealing to end the frame. Chris Stewart put on the gear to catch.
Barnhart rolled a single through the right side with one gone. Todd Frazier hit for Leake, and Clint yanked Vanimal - he's only at 74 pitches, but has surrendered nine hits - for Jared Hughes. Frazier whiffed, then Negron got his third hit when he gently rolled a slider that was way inside and at his shins to the left side for an infield knock, but another grounder ended the inning without any damage.
Pedro Villarreal took over in the eighth. After a bounce out, Andrew Lambo hit for Hughes and lined out to left center. Josh picked a slider almost off the dirt and rolled it into center. Travis got a fat slider that stayed in the middle of the plate and drilled it to right center for a double to plate Josh. Though it was crushed, it should have been caught - Jay Bruce either lost it in the lights or completely misread the liner. Cutch followed by ripping a 2-0 slider to center for another two bagger, scoring pinch runner Gregory Polanco. The Kid was walked intentionally, and it worked as Stew flew out foul in right.
Tony Watson climbed the hill against the heart of the Reds order. Phillips led off with an infield single to the right side when he fought off a tight sinker. After Bruce K'ed, Heisey sent a sinker to the track in left, but Starling was there at the wall for the grab. A pop out left the Bucs three outs from victory.
JJ Hoover got the call for the ninth. Gaby walked with one away. After a fly out, JT hit for Tony, and ran poor Gaby ragged, fouling off five straight 3-2 pitches with Sanchez in motion before he flew out to short right. Mark the Shark claimed the bump. After two easy outs, Jason Bourgeois hit and tapped out 6-3 as the Bucs kept on rollin'. What a difference from the 2011-12 Septembers.
The Bucs were outhit 11-6, but that's misleading. Pittsburgh had several well hit balls that turned into outs while the Reds had a handful of soft knocks. Give Vanimal credit; he kept throwing strikes and stranding runners, and the pen shut the door.
St. Louis and San Francisco are playing on the coast. The Pirates magic number to host a wild card game is one, and of this moment, they're just 1/2 game behind the Cards. Liriano and Cole are due up to pitch next, and it looks like the Bucs are going to go all in for the NL Central rather than set up post season matchups, so there are still a lot of scenarios and sidebar stories to play out this weekend..
Francisco Liriano is scheduled to face Alfredo Simon tomorrow afternoon.
- Josh Harrison has a personal best 14 game hitting streak; it's also the longest of the year by a Pirate. In fact, it's the longest since Neil Walker hit safely in 17 straight in 2012. Starling Marte's hitting streak continued too, and has reached 11 games.
- Vance Worley had his streak of 13-2/3 scoreless innings ended tonight.
- Cutch has 200 career doubles.
- The Pirates announced that Charlie Morton underwent surgery today to repair the labrum in his right hip. The surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Byrd in Nashville, and the estimated recovery time is 6-8 months.
- In other injury news, the media gang reports that Pedro will see a doc on Tuesday to evaluate his foot and determine when he can start baseball activities. The FO seems guardedly optimistic that it will be soon.