Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/18/14

The Pirates got some seriously dramatic ninth-inning heroics from Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen to avoid another frustrating loss to the Padres. It turns out that they just delayed it, as the Padres walked off in the tenth thanks to a series of maddening decisions by the Bucs.

Jones should have been the hero in this one. He hit two game-tying homers in the hardest stadium in baseball to homer in. The first one was great–a bomb in the sixth to even the score at 2. But with the Bucs down a run in the ninth and McCutchen at first with two outs, Jones got a fastball over the plate and somehow mashed it over the center field wall, where almost every fly ball goes to die. Garrett now has 21 bombs on the season, and none were bigger than the 21st. Enormous.

Jason Grilli came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth to try and keep the game tied. He allowed two singles with two outs, then served up what looked like the game winning blast to Everth Cabrera. It was a mammoth shot to right center that would’ve easily been out of most ballparks…but not Petco. McCutchen, who was shaded in the other direction, covered an insane amount of ground to run the ball down and make a game saving catch before slamming into the fence. Absolutely remarkable play, especially considering the situation.

But then the Pirates didn’t score in the enth and sent out Daniel McCutchen to pitch the bottom of the inning. You’ll recall that when McCutchen was recalled earlier in the day, I (and almost everyone else) thought the move made no sense and there were a bunch of better options. Well, McCutchen walked the leadoff man…and after a stolen base, he found himself behind San Diego’s best hitter Chase Headley 3-0. WHY NOT WALK HIM–A MEANINGLESS RUN–WITH THE BASE OPEN? Instead, McCutchen got two strikes and then served up a horrible hanging changeup that Headley hit about 900 feet for a walkoff homer. MADDENING.

Joel Hanrahan was not used. I think Chris Resop and Jared Hughes were “unavailable”, but they would have been perfectly decent options. Chad Qualls, who the entire baseball world knows is completely awful, was used in the 8th with the Bucs down a run and allowed a crucial insurance run. How did manager Clint Hurdle explain using McCutchen and Qualls?

Hurdle: “Daniel went through one of those last year,” referring to 19-inning #Braves game

— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) August 22, 2012


Hurdle said not concerned about Qualls. ““We’re seeing thing we like to see and we’ve seen it that past when he’s been effective.”

— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) August 22, 2012

Unbelievable. Not only are the Pirates failing to put their best available pitchers on the roster, they are also failing to use the ones that ARE on the team when they need them most.   McCutchen hadn’t appeared in a big league game this season. Qualls has a 5.36 ERA, and an ERA over 8 since joining the Pirates. Hanrahan’s one of the best relievers in baseball. We saw Hurdle use him on Sunday before a save situation happened. Why not tonight?

The reason the game was close enough to set up all the late inning shenanigans was A.J. Burnett‘s constant Houdini act. Burnett allowed 12 hits and 5 walks in 6.1 innings, but somehow managed to let just four of those 17 baserunners to score. He got two enormous double plays with the bases loaded and made some other big pitches as well. Still, this marks Burnett’s third bad outing in a row in terms of hits and runs allowed.

Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas both produced relatively well for the Bucs, each posting two hits including a double. Jones had the two huge homers I mentioned earlier, and McCutchen looked better at the plate despite going 1-for-5. He hit a laser lineout with two on in the fifth, and his sharply-lined single up the middle in the ninth enabled Jones to tie the game.

The Pirates have now dropped the season series (and this week’s series) to the Padres and trail the Reds by a season high 7.5 games. They still hold a half-game lead for the final wild card spot.

Padres 7, Pirates 5 / Box / 2012 Record: 67-56 / Next: Wednesday, at Padres, 6:35

MVP: Jones (+.606) / LVP: Burnett (-.543) / Key play: Jones’ HR


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