Slide continues as Pirates lose to Twins 4-3 in 13 innings
PITTSBURGH (AP) — One-quarter of the way into what the Pittsburgh Pirates still believe can be a special season, the results are becoming ordinary. Familiar too.
Joe Mauer took an 89 mph slider from Antonio Bastardo and sent it just over the wall in right field to lift the Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 win over the Pirates in 13 innings on Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh is 0-6 in extra-inning games and has lost six of seven overall to fall a season-worst four games below .500 (18-22). Too early to panic, sure. But not too early to become concerned.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated,” Josh Harrison said.
It’s a growing phenomenon on a club that is struggling to find consistency.
Harrison went 3 for 6 while making a rare start in right field rather than his usual spot at third base. Andrew McCutchen added three hits, including a solo homer in the eighth inning off Blaine Boyer that tied the game.
The Pirates just couldn’t get the one break they needed to end a funk that has lingered for a week. Pittsburgh left nine runners on base, including two in the 13th.
“We missed a couple of opportunities late tonight to try and put this thing away,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We haven’t been able to have that knockout punch or find that separation punch when we have a little bit of a lead to stretch things out.
Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke gave up three runs in the first before gathering himself to get through six innings. The Twins went scoreless for 11 innings before Mauer hit his first home run in more than nine months.
Mauer’s fly ball to right reached the first row of seats, his first home run since Aug. 17, 2014. Torii Hunter went 3 for 5 with three RBIs for the Twins, who improved to an AL-best 13-5 in May.
Brian Duensing (2-0) picked up the win. Glen Perkins worked the last inning for his major league-leading 15th save.
Even though the Pirates trail first-place St. Louis by nine games in the NL Central, they’re actually ahead of last year’s pace, when they started slow but rallied to make the playoffs for a second straight season. It’s a nice sentiment, but not one Hurdle is relying on.
“I believe we need to stay focused on us, not us last year,” Hurdle said. “We’ve got work in front of us. We do some things well. We’ve got to do some things well consistently.”
One night after jumping to a 7-0 lead against former Twin Francisco Liriano, Minnesota again wasted little time getting to Locke.
Danny Santana led off with a double, Mauer singled one out later and Trevor Plouffe walked to load the bases with one out. Hunter brought them all home, slapping a double off the Clemente Wall in right field that took a weird bounce off the scoreboard away from Harrison, giving Plouffe time to chug around all the way from first.
Locke finally wiggled free without further damage but needed 36 pitches to get three outs. He regained his control and composure the rest of the way, working six innings while walking two and striking out six but remained winless in his last five starts.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu received a standing ovation before the seventh inning following a brief video tribute by the Pirates. It was the first public appearance for Polamalu since announcing his retirement last month after 12 seasons, including eight Pro Bowls.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton’s lengthy rehab from offseason hip surgery appears to be over. The 31-year-old is expected to rejoin Pittsburgh’s rotation sometime early next week. Morton struck out nine while giving up two hits and two runs in 6 1-3 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. Morton could start make his first major league start since last Sept. 16 against Miami on Monday.
Twins: Minnesota is off Thursday then begins a three-game set against the White Sox in Chicago on Friday.
Pirates: Pittsburgh continues an eight-game homestand on Friday when the New York Mets visit for the weekend. The Pirates took four of seven meetings with the Mets in 2014. Gerrit Cole (5-2, 2.40) is 0-2 with an 8.00 ERA in two career starts against New York.