Going into tonight's game, the Padres had gone so long without a walkoff win that our illustrious leader made a note of it this morning. Well, the reverse jinx worked and Derek Norris (who you should vote into the All-Star Game here) put the Friars on top with the team's first walkoff grand slam since 2010. But a lot of credit has to go to starting pitcher James Shields, who put up yet another solid start, holding the Pirates to a measly two runs in six innings.
Shields's one bit of trouble came in the third inning, starting with a leadoff bunt single by Gregory Polanco. Neil Walker followed that up with a single of his own to put Pirates on the corners with nobody out. Shields bounced back to get Andrew McCutchen to fly out to right. Oddly, Walker went to second on the play, but Polanco stayed at third. Instead, Polanco tried to take home when Starling Marte struck out on a wild pitch. Shields was at the plate to make the tag, and Pittsburgh was back to runners at the corners, now with two outs. But Jung Ho Kang got beaned to load the bases and Pedro Alvarez hit a single up the middle to put the Pirates up 2-0.
The Padres bided their time, and eventually made a move when Jared Hughes came in to relieve Francisco Liriano. Will Middlebrooks drew a leadoff walk on four straight balls, and Jedd Gyorko got a little rally started with an infield single. That brought up Abraham Almonte with nobody out. He showed bunt a couple times, but then he took a 2-0 sinker into the right center gap for a game-tying double. A sacrifice bunt moved him to third, but he got caught in a rundown on the very next play.
The bullpen kept the Pirates stuck at 2 with hitless appearances by Frank Garces, Dale Thayer, Joaquin Benoit, and Craig Kimbrel. That brought the game to the bottom of the ninth and the bottom of the Padres' order. Gyorko drew a walk to get things started, and then Almonte laid down a textbook bunt to put the winning run in scoring position. But a case of the yips put Almonte on base anyway when Rob Scahill spiked the throw to first. Now desperate, the Pirates issued an intentional walk to Cory Spangenberg and went to a five-man infield. And it almost worked for them; Alexi Amarista and Yangervis Solarte both hit easy grounders leading to force outs at the plate. That brought up Norris, who'd been having an abysmal night with four strikeouts. It didn't take him long to turn the night around. On the second pitch of the at bat, he straight up murdered the baseball, which died a glorious death in the home bullpen. He celebrated his walkoff grand slam in the traditional fashion.
Tyson Ross will try to harness that walkoff energy when he takes the mound tomorrow night at 7:10 PM.
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