CINCINNATI – The Buccaneers aren’t ready to wave the white flag. not yet.
Despite the Reds finding a nine-run lead in the third inning, Pittsburgh came back to score 13 unanswered points and pull off a historic 13-12 win Saturday night at Great American Ball Park that avoided a losing record with seven games remaining.
It was a remarkable comeback — in fact, the biggest comeback the Buccaneers have made in the franchise’s 142-year history, according to Elias. Coming into the game, they were 0-819 when trailing by nine or more runs.
Pittsburgh’s win was a huge blow for the Reds, who fell 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs for last place in the National League Wild Card. Cincinnati holds the tiebreaker over Chicago and Arizona (which is three games back of the Reds), but the team also has to get a jump on the Marlins to advance to the playoffs.
“It feels good tonight. I’m really proud of our group,” Buccaneers manager Derek Shelton said. “I would say he’s right up there. … Getting out of the house is really special, but with this group, this late in the year, to do that, yeah, that ranks first.”
Things looked bleak early for the Buccaneers. Even the players admitted this. However, they never lost their confidence and moved away slowly but surely.
After getting the fourth inning back on an RBI single by Alfonso Rivas, the Pirates began the comeback in earnest once they chased down Reds starter Connor Phillips, who struck out nine batters over five dominant innings. Once Alex Young arrived, Ji Hwan Bae and Joshua Palacios lined up RBI singles to right before Bryan Reynolds crushed a three-run homer to the opposite field that cut the deficit to three in the sixth.
“It’s funny because [hitting coach Andy] “Hines was standing right next to me, and he said, ‘He hit a homer here, it’s going to get real,’” Shelton said. “He hit a homer, and it got real. I give them credit, man. They fought their butts off.
The Pirates’ lead picked up where it left off in the seventh inning, as the first four batters reached base, capped by Rivas’ bases-clearing double to tie the game. Although they did not take the lead in that half, the team took the air out of the crowd and felt like they regained their momentum.
The top of the eighth was largely the same, with six of the first seven hits reaching base, highlighted by RBI singles from Jack Sowinski and Rivas, as well as a double from Bey. This made it the second game during the team’s four-game winning streak in which the Buccaneers scored dozens of points.
Although the Pirates were mathematically eliminated from the postseason — they lost a tiebreaker to both the Cubs and the D-backs, both of whom already had 81 wins — they were encouraged by a recent run of strong play.
“We’re playing really good baseball right now,” said Reynolds, who increased his home run to 21 games. “But we’ve been doing it for a good while now, it seems. We’ll keep moving forward and keep improving and set things up well for what the future holds.”
The ability to score goals was clearly a key factor in the comeback, but what was missing from the box score was excellent defensive play.
Cincinnati was threatened in the eighth inning after cutting the deficit to two. With runners on first and second and one out, catcher Endy Rodriguez blocked a crucial ball in the dirt. That prevented the runners from getting ahead and put Bey in position to get stuck on a shot up the middle before turning it into a double play late in the second inning.
Rookie Rodriguez again showed off his veteran savvy in the ninth inning, when he came out to visit the mound with Carmen Mlodzinski after the Reds had plated their first two batters in the ninth inning. Although TJ Friedl pulled Cincinnati within a two-run double, Mlodzinski was able to finish off his first MLB save by striking out Elly De La Cruz and getting Jonathan India to fly out.
“I feel like this is the new culture we want to move forward with,” said third baseman Jared Triolo, who went 4-for-5 with three runs scored. “It was a really fun game, and probably fun to watch as well.”
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