Cardinals on brink of elimination
One of the Pittsburgh Pirates' greatest strengths in their turnaround season has been resiliency. They showed it again Sunday night.
Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin hit consecutive RBI singles in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Pirates to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at PNC Park.
The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series and will try to close it out Monday afternoon in their home ballpark.
The Pirates held a 3-2 lead entering the eighth inning but Carlos Beltran's leadoff home run off All-Star set-up reliever Mark Melancon tied the game.
Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the eight with a double to whip the PNC Park-record crowd of 40,489 into a frenzy. However, the ballpark quickly fell silent when McCutchen inexplicably took off for third base on Justin Morneau ground ball to shortstop Pete Kozma and was throwing out easily.
However, the Pirates, in the postseason for the first time since 1992, kept coming at rookie right-handed reliever Carlos Martinez.
Marlon Byrd walked and Alvarez followed by greeting left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist with a ground single into right field that scored pinch-runner Josh Harrison with the go-ahead run. Martin followed with a run-scoring single to make it 5-3.
Byrd had two hits and two RBIs for the Pirates, Martin drove in two runs. McCutchen had two hits and walked twice.
Beltran drove in all three Cardinals' runs. The home run was his second of the series and 16th postseason shot in his career.
Melancon ended up as the winning pitcher and Martinez took the loss. Jason Grilli pitched a perfect ninth inning for the save.
Neither starting pitcher factored in the decision after going 3-0 against their opponents in the regular season.
The Pirates' Francisco Liriano gave up two runs on three hits in six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. The Cardinals' Joe Kelly went 5 1/3 innings and allowed three runs and five hits while striking out five and walking four.
Martin's sacrifice fly gave the Pirates' their 3-2 lead in the sixth with a bases loaded drive to center field. Alvarez was walked intentionally to fill the bases for Martin.
The Pirates broke on top 2-0 on Byrd's two-run single in the bottom of the first inning. Beltran answered with a two-run single up in the middle in the fifth to tie the game at 2-all.
NOTES: Alvarez, Byrd and Martin have driven in 11 of the Pirates' 14 runs in the series. ... Game 4 is set for 3:07 ET Monday afternoon with St. Louis rookie RHP Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 in the regular season) facing Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.26). Wacha was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two games (one start) against the Pirates in the regular as he pitched nine scoreless innings. Morton was 0-2 with a 7.90 ERA in three starts against them in the regular season and is 2-9 lifetime. … Pirates SS Clint Barmes returned to the lineup after INF Jordy Mercer started at shortstop in Game 2. Manager Clint Hurdle wanted a better defensive shortstop in the game with the Liriano, a sinker-slider pitcher, on the mound. … Kevin McClatchy, the principal owner of the Pirates from 1996-2006, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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