It rained for a second consecutive game Thursday afternoon, and the batter’s box was wet by the 12th inning. Three additional innings of baseball and a downpour that stopped the game for 35 minutes will do that to infield dirt.
The last thing Russell Martin wanted to do was swing at a good pitch from Cincinnati Reds reliever Tony Cingrani and pop it up. Cingrani was struggling with his control; he had just hit Clint Barmes to load the bases, and was missing high and low.
“I was going to make him throw at least three strikes to me,” Martin said.
Martin took ball four, low and outside, to force home the winning run in the Pirates’ 4-3 win against the Reds in 12 innings at PNC Park. The win stopped a three-game losing streak and the Pirates avoided a series sweep.
The win also bailed out closer Jason Grilli, who allowed a ninth-inning home run in his second consecutive appearance.
Gaby Sanchez singled in the bottom of the 12th. Cingrani balked, the second Reds balk of the game, to send Sanchez to second. That vacated first base, so Cingrani intentionally walked Josh Harrison. After Jordy Mercer struck out, Cingrani hit Barmes to load the bases for Martin.
“I was looking for a good pitch to hit early in the count, and then when he fell behind in the count, I was going to make him throw strikes,” Martin said.
Ball four just missed low and away and might have caught the edge of the strike zone, Martin said.
“I saw on the pitch tracker, it had it being a strike on the pitch tracker on TV,” Martin said. “There were multiple balls at guys’ necks and ankles. When you’re that wild, you typically don’t get those borderline calls. I think that’s what happened.”
Grilli entered the game with a 3-2 lead in the ninth, but allowed a one-out home run to Devin Mesoraco that tied the score. Grilli also allowed a tie-breaking home run in the ninth Tuesday and has given up a run in three of his past four outings.
Asked if he would consider making a change to the closer’s role, manager Clint Hurdle said: “We always huddle up after games. Talk to who I need to talk to. Coaches involved. [General manager] Neal [Huntington] involved. And we’ll make a decision when we feel, as we always do, what’s best for the ballclub.”
Jared Hughes pitched two scoreless innings, and Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Justin Wilson added one each.
Jeff Locke pitched another efficient start, his third since joining the rotation June 8. He allowed two runs, both on sacrifice flies, and three hits in six innings.
“Really just keep mixing the fastball in, fastball out, changeup, flip some curveballs in there, too,” Locke said. “Just try to keep them off balance.”
Reds starter Homer Bailey was perfect through his first three innings, but the Pirates solved him in his final three frames. Bailey helped them start a three-run rally in the fifth. Barmes and Chris Stewart singled with one out. Locke’s bunt resulted in a forceout at second, and the Pirates had runners on the corners.
On a pitch to Gregory Polanco, Bailey did everything but throw to the plate after something threw him off. That resulted in a balk, scoring Barmes from third and sending Locke to second. Polanco, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen hit consecutive singles to score two more runs and give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
“At that point in the game, he’s throwing well, he’s hitting his spots and we were just trying to get guys up to the plate and get things rolling,” said Barmes, who went 4 for 5. “In that situation, at that point in the game, to get that first run on the board I think definitely was a big part in the momentum changing.”
Marte extended his hitting streak to 10 games and Polanco has a hit in his first nine major league games.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 19, 2014 12:00 AM