PNC Park in Pittsburgh was rocking again on Friday night as the Pirates were looking to extend their winning streak to five games and regain sole possession of first place in the NL Central. However, just like Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs weren't very accommodating early on, grabbing a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning following Brian Bogusevic's two-run homer.
The Pirates were going to have to rally to secure win No. 86, and their comeback attempt could not have started in a more unusual way.
After Andrew McCutchen and Justin Morneau were retired quietly to start the next half inning, NL home run leader Pedro Alvarez would step to the plate and crush a towering flyball to right center that appeared to hit off the wall and carom back into play. Upon further reivew, it probably should have been ruled a home run on the field because the ball appeared to bounce off the hands of a fan in the first row. It wasn't, and it actually didn't matter, because Alvarez ended up hustling around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. It was his 33rd of the season.
But that was just the beginning of the fireworks. Before the 35,962 in attendance had stopped buzzing about Alvarez's big play, Russell Martin hammered the first pitch he saw into the left field seats for his 14th home run. That cut the deficit to 3-2. The next batter was Garrett Jones, and on the 0-1 pitch from Jake Arrieta, he followed suit by depositing a home run in the center-field seats. That tied the game at three, and the figurative roof was officially blown off PNC Park.
The momentum stayed on the Pirates' side into the sixth inning when they finally captured the lead on Brooks Raley's fielding error. It wouldn't last, however, because the entire game was turned around again in the top of the seventh when Anthony Rizzo hit a splash down two-run homer off the recently activated Jason Grilli.
Grilli, an All-Star for Pittsburgh and one of the most dependable closers in baseball during the first half, was sidelined for six weeks with soreness in his forearm. It was only his fourth appearance since being activated at the beginning of the month, but this is the third time he's been scored upon. He's rusty, and manager Clint Hurdle is likely to continue easing him back into the mix.
Rizzo's home run ended up as the decisive blow in Chicago's 5-4 win. With St. Louis rallying late to knock off the Seattle Mariners in extra innings, the Pirates rollercoaster night ended with them one full game back in the division race. That's definitely a downer after it looked like their thrilling rally was going to push them to victory, but just the fact that they're in a position to feel pain in September has to make it a little easier to recover.
Another piece of good news for Pittsburgh. They won't be playing on Friday the 13th again this season. They've now lost 11 straight games on that ominous date, and that's a major league record.