Pirates on a roll, produce 4th win in a row

The Pirates scratched out four runs against the St. Louis Cardinals in a wacky fourth inning Saturday night that stood by game’s end for a 4-3 comeback win at PNC Park.

They did it with a makeshift outfield — twice slotting infielders into right field — and on another outing when the bullpen needed to come through big.

It was a fourth consecutive win for the Pirates, whose record crept up to 16-20, and insured a series win against their National League Central Division rival.

The Pirates will close out the series against the Cardinals in an 8:07 p.m. game today to be televised on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” a time slot they have not occupied since July 28, 1996.

“What a fun game to be a part of for everybody,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “To go seven [innings] of zeroes to finish it off, everybody did something, their job, they just handed the baton. … Just a gritty team win. We pushed.”

The Pirates trailed, 3-0, in the fourth when they loaded the bases, then tied the score, 3-3, without a single ball leaving the infield.

Pitcher Edinson Volquez and Jose Tabata had RBI groundouts, and Josh Harrison drove in a third run after legging out an infield single on a ball that caromed off one of pitcher Lance Lynn’s cleat.

Harrison advanced to second on a single by Neil Walker then scored when Pedro Alvarez singled up the middle to make it 4-3.

“We knew we had a chance and had guys on,” said Harrison. “We just wanted to take advantage of any opportunity. Sometimes it’s not a matter of how hard you hit it, or if you line it to the outfield, but placement. Baseball’s a funny game. You can score in many ways.”

The Pirates trotted out that interesting outfield after the fourth.

Andrew McCutchen already was absent from the lineup due to “left foot soreness.”

Gaby Sanchez entered the game to bat for Starling Marte, who started in center field in place of McCutchen but left the game with tightness in his back.

So Harrison shifted to left field, Tabata to center and Sanchez into right for the first time in his major league career.

Then in the eighth, Sanchez was pulled in favor of shortstop Jordy Mercer, who also made his first career appearance in right field. Clint Barmes entered the game at shortstop.

“I came up and gave Gaby my other outfield glove at 6:45 p.m. before the game,” said Harrison. “When they told him [Friday] night, depending on a short bench, pinch-hitting, we knew he needed the glove. He ended up having to use it.”

Hurdle said McCutchen and Marte had some discomfort after the game Friday so he with Sanchez about being available should a situation arise.

“It’s not like he went out and took 100 balls. We didn’t get on the field [earlier Saturday]. So it wasn’t like he had a chance to run around out there and acclimate himself,” said Hurdle. “Mercer’s athletic. We knew if he caught it he could throw it, strong arm. Go with what you got. They were ready to go. They were ready to play.”

Volquez left the game in the fifth with two outs and the bases loaded, just an out shy of being eligible for a win.

Jared Hughes induced a groundout to end the inning and Volquez finished his outing with 42⁄3 innings, giving up four hits, three earned runs, and four walks. He struck out four.

Then the bullpen locked it in from there — Hughes (11⁄3 innings), Justin Wilson (2⁄3 of an inning), Bryan Morris (1⁄3 of an inning), Tony Watson (1 inning) and Mark Melancon (1 inning) each kept the Cardinals from scoring.

Volquez had a rough second, giving up the three runs on two hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch, and wild pitch.

Volquez surrendered a single to Adam Craig to open the inning, then walked Matt Adams to put two runners on base.

Mark Ellis singled up the middle to score Craig before Volquez plunked Peter Bourjos to load the bases.

Tony Cruz grounded into a double play, but a run scored, then Volquez threw a wild pitch with Lynn up, which scored the third run.

“I was able to recover and make better pitches after that inning and give us a chance to tie the game and take the lead,” said Volquez. “You just want to stay focused. Keep the ball down and make good pitches.”

It was the only inning the Cardinals scored.

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

First Published May 10, 2014 10:49 PM

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