Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Five Plays That Made the Difference in Comebacks

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Five Plays That Made the Difference in Comebacks

Article excerpt

Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco provided the highlights this weekend. But the Pirates' back-to-back, come-from-behind, extra- innings victories against the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals were made possible by a compilation of less memorable, but crucial, plays.

"We had grit all over," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday after the game.

Here's a look at some of the plays and moments that, while they didn't get the same attention as McCutchen's two-run, game-ending homer or Polanco's walk-off single, helped make the difference for the Pirates:

1. A.J.'s cool head

The drama Saturday night began early, when home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza ejected Hurdle and Francisco Cervelli in the second inning after a Mark Reynolds home run.

But while most of the attention was on Cervelli and Hurdle yelling at Carapazza, what happened on the side might have made the biggest difference for the Pirates. A.J. Burnett remained out of the fray, standing calmly in the middle of the diamond after surrendering the home run.

If Burnett had decided to get involved in the discussion and had been ejected, the Pirates would have been ill-equipped for the war of attrition that ensued in the final two games of the series. The Pirates bullpen had to cover 11? innings - 6? Saturday and 4? Sunday.

"He was the body of reason out there with emotion," Hurdle said. "Just kept pitching. A lot of different things that happened throughout his outing that could've twisted another guy, and none of them got to him."

2. Kang's hustle

Burnett was long gone by the 10th inning, when the Pirates trailed by a run. Jung Ho Kang led off the inning by rocketing a ball off the right-field wall that looked to be a double, but Kang turned the corner at second base, sprinting toward a triple.

"Kang thought he was invisible rounding second going to third," Hurdle said Sunday. …

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