Late HR downs Pirates again

ST. LOUIS -- Gregory Polanco stood on the warning track and watched. He broke for the wall when the ball left Kolten Wong's bat, but quickly ran out of room.

(Tom Gannam/Associated Press)

One night earlier, Josh Harrison did the same thing. Harrison, who started in right field Monday, could only watch after Matt Adams hit a ball into the seats.

Wong replicated Adams' performance, hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday to send the Pirates to a 5-4 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The loss, the Pirates' second in a row, dropped them to fourth place in the National League Central and 11/2 games behind the Cardinals.

Ernesto Frieri, who had allowed a run in five of his past eight outings entering Tuesday's game, entered in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied, 4-4. He got two outs before facing Wong.

"Honestly I was trying to keep the ball down," Frieri said. "I know they were going to try to put a good swing on the ball. The whole at-bat I was pitching really good. I missed the last pitch."

Frieri got ahead of Wong, 0-2, on two fastballs. He threw another one for a ball, then tried to get Wong to chase a changeup. He didn't, and the count evened.

"I give him credit," Frieri said. "It was a really good at-bat, especially when you have two strikes."

Another ball ran the count full. Russell Martin set up low and away, but Frieri's fastball ran over the middle of the plate and belt-high.

"I didn't want to walk him," Frieri said. "I don't want to put the winning run on base."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle opted for Frieri, who has now allowed 18 hits and 15 runs in his previous six innings pitched across nine games, instead of closer Mark Melancon, who had not pitched since Saturday.

"We actually were going to use [Melancon] the next inning through the middle of the lineup," Hurdle said.

The Pirates traded for Frieri, sending Jason Grilli to the Los Angeles Angels, hoping they could help him rediscover the form that made him an effective closer the previous two seasons.

"I'm going through a lot of crazy things right now," Frieri said. "I feel pretty good. I'm healthy, my arm feels really, really good. I got to keep working."

In a season-high six innings, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez allowed four runs on two two-run home runs to Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen. Alvarez hit his 100th career home run. The Pirates still do not have a hit with a runner in scoring position in the series, going 0 for 7 Tuesday and 0 for 10 Monday.

"We've come off five, six, weeks of good offensive baseball and we're just not getting the hit to pop something loose and to add on runs," Hurdle said.

Martinez showed what he could do in the first inning. Polanco singled, stole second and went to third on Starling Marte's fly ball, bringing McCutchen to the plate. Martinez struck out McCutchen swinging at three consecutive fastballs that registered 98, 99 and 99 mph.

Pirates starter Vance Worley allowed four runs in five innings, giving up nine hits He did not walk a batter and has issued only five walks in 322/3 innings this season. Two two-run doubles allowed to Wong in the second inning and Matt Holliday in the fifth cost him.

"For the most part it was just the two pitches," Worley said. "Both doubles, the runs came in on that. I didn't see them hitting the ball that hard off me and it was just timing."

Alvarez tied the score in the fourth. Martinez walked Ike Davis, but got ahead of Alvarez, 0-2. He threw a two-strike curveball, but left it high enough for Alvarez to square it, and he hit it out to right-center for his 14th home run of the season.

McCutchen followed suit the next inning. After Polanco's third hit of the game, McCutchen hit a first-pitch fastball into the Cardinals bullpen in right to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead.

Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG.

First Published July 8, 2014 11:18 PM

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