Pedro Alvarez and the Pirates kept that Jolly Roger flapping high above Pittsburgh.
Alvarez hit a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning and the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in best-of-five NL division series.
Alvarez pulled a grounder into right field that scored pinch-runner Josh Harrison from second base. Russell Martin followed with a sharp RBI single against reliever Kevin Siegrist, who took over after Carlos Martinez (0-1) faltered.
The go-ahead single was the latest big hit by Alvarez. He homered in the first two games of the series and is 4 for 10 with four RBIs.
Alvarez also kept the Pirates’ famous flag flying high in October. “Raise the Jolly Roger!” is the rallying cry for this wild card team, now one victory from its first postseason series win since the 1979 World Series.
Mark Melancon (1-0) picked up the win despite allowing Carlos Beltran’s tying home run in the top of the eighth. Jason Grilli worked the ninth for a save.
Charlie Morton is set to start for the Pirates in Game 4 today against rookie Michael Wacha.
Beltran finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs. His 16th postseason home run moved him past Babe Ruth for eighth place in postseason history.
Beltran’s shot temporarily silenced a rocking crowd at PNC Park. It also set the stage for another dramatic win by the Pirates.
Andrew McCutchen led off the eighth with his second hit, a double to left. But the NL MVP candidate unwisely tried to advance on Justin Morneau’s grounder to shortstop and was an easy out at third.
Harrison ran for Morneau and moved up when Marlon Byrd walked. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny turned to the lefty Siegrist to face the left-handed Alvarez. The Pittsburgh slugger tied for the NL lead with 36 homers in the regular season, but hit just .180 against lefties.
Alvarez responded with his single between first and second. Martin then tried to drop down a squeeze bunt to score Byrd from third — he fouled it off, then lined a hit to left that gave Grilli more than enough cushion.
Martin’s sacrifice fly off reliever Seth Maness in the sixth gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead and turned the game over to Pittsburgh’s “Shark Tank” bullpen, one of the keys to the franchise’s first winning season and playoff berth in 21 years.
Tony Watson worked around a one-out single in the seventh before giving way to Melancon in the eighth.
Melancon stepped in capably for a while when Grilli, the All-Star closer, went down with a strained right forearm in July. But Melancon struggled down the stretch and his fourth blown save in the last three weeks came courtesy of Beltran, who knows a thing or two about delivering this time of year.
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano dominated the Cardinals during the regular season, going 3-0 with an 0.75 ERA in his three starts against the NL’s highest-scoring team. He was electric in Pittsburgh’s wild-card win over Cincinnati last Tuesday, shaking off a sinus infection and baffling the Reds with a series of changeups and sliders that ended Cincinnati’s season and manager Dusty Baker’s tenure.
The sharpness that fueled Liriano’s career-reviving year abandoned him after his first trip through the St. Louis lineup. He narrowly escaped the third inning when Matt Holliday lined to right with the bases loaded.
Liriano wasn’t quite as fortunate in the fifth. Jon Jay led off with a single and Pete Kozma followed with a walk. After Joe Kelly struck out trying to bunt, a double steal set up Beltran’s two-run single.
At 2-all, the Cardinals had matched their entire output against Liriano in their previous 28 innings.
Liriano was matched nearly pitch for pitch by the unflappable Kelly. The 25-year-old right-hander has been rock steady all season, even as he moved from middle reliever to starter in July.
Kelly welcomed the hostile environment, calling the sea of black-clad fans that awaited him one of the things a kid dreams about.
The reality proved a little more unnerving, at least early.
Nibbling at the corners, Kelly walked McCutchen with two outs in the first and Morneau followed with a line drive that smacked off the pitcher’s leg and rolled weakly behind the mound. Kozma’s rushed throw from shortstop skipped into the stands, putting runners in scoring position for Byrd.
The well-traveled outfielder — who played in 1,250 regular- season games before reaching the playoffs for the first time — has been a welcome jolt both in the lineup and in the clubhouse for the Pirates. He delivered again, hitting a two-run single that put the Pirates ahead.
Pedro Alvarez and the Pirates kept that Jolly Roger flapping high above Pittsburgh.
NFL: Dolphins shake off weather to beat Steelers
Considering everything the resilient Miami Dolphins have put themselves through over the last two months, a couple of snowflakes were hardly going to be a problem.
Not with Ryan Tannehill throwing and running like a guy who enjoys the white stuff. Not with Charles Clay muscling through the arm tackle of a likely Hall of Famer for the winning score. Not even with a Keystone Kops finale that ever so briefly appeared to be for real.
NFL: Pats score twice in final 61 seconds to beat Browns
Nearly everything had to go right for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to pull off their latest comeback.
Just about everything did.
Brady threw two touchdown passes and the Cleveland Browns committed two critical penalties in the final 61 seconds as the Patriots stormed to a 27-26 victory on Sunday.
BOYS BASKETBALL: McElhinny gets first Bulldogs win in rout
Asked how important it was getting the team’s first win of the season, Meadville’s head boys basketball coach Mark McElhinny blurted out the answer before the question was even finished.
“Huge,” he said.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Panthers just too much for Meadville
How defending Region 3 champion Saegertown will fare during the 2013-14 season is still a bit of a mystery.
But if Saturday afternoon is any indication of the effort the Lady Panthers are going to put into the season, they very well could be a title contender again.
BOYS BASKETBALL: East outlasts MASH to reach final
Unfortunately, Mark McElhinny’s biggest fear entering his debut as Meadville’s head basketball coach surfaced:
The Bulldogs’ youth factor came into play — at the worst time, in the fourth quarter.
Committing eight turnovers and showing fatique signs in the final period, the youth-laden Bulldogs were outscored 22-17 as Erie East spoiled McElihinny’s first game on the MASH bench with a 65-60 win in the opening round of the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament on Friday night at the House of Thrills.
BOYS BASKETBALL: Falcons move into title game
A youth-laden Conneaut boys basketball team had a well-seasoned Central Tech squad right within striking distance after one half. But the Falcons spread their wings in half No. 2 to claim a 56-34 victory over the Eagles during Friday night’s action at the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament at Meadville High School’s House of Thrills.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Slow start dooms Lady Bulldogs
It seems that the Meadville girls basketball team needed a couple quarters to get into the groove for the 2013-14 season.
In the second half of Friday night’s game at the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament at Meadville High School, the Lady Bulldogs actually beat Central Tech 21-14.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Seneca too tough for Panthers
There was no wading into the pool for the sophomore-stocked Saegertown girls basketball team.
The young Lady Panthers opened the season against a bigger, more experienced opponent. And it showed on the scoreboard, as Seneca downed the Panthers 59-35 in the opening game of the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament on Friday at Meadville High School’s House of Thrills.
COLLEGE WRESTLING: Fighting Scots just miss out on upset of Iowa
It was nearly 50 minutes prior to the start of the Edinboro versus Iowa NCAA Division I wrestling match on Thursday night and the stands at McComb Fieldhouse were already nearly full.
That crowd, however, later announced at a whopping 3,152, was relatively quiet in the early going. Then Edinboro All-American A.J. Schopp took the mat. Just two minutes in that crowd turned deafening.
NBA: Irving, Cavaliers snap Nuggets' win streak 98-88
Kyrie Irving scored 23 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped the Denver Nuggets’ seven-game winning streak with a 98-88 victory Wednesday night.
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