Gregory Polanco turned boos into cheers with the decisive two-run double during an eight-run seventh inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied for an 11-7 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.
Polanco’s double put the Pirates ahead for good at 9-7 and was one of six straight hits off reliever Genesis Cabrera.
Down 7-3 going into the seventh, the Pirates tied it with two-run singles by Bryan Reynolds and Wilmer Difo. Polanco then one-hopped the left-center field wall with his double before pinch-hitter Yoshi Tsutsugo capped the outburst with a two-run home run.
It was Tsutsugo’s third pinch-homer since joining the Pirates as a free agent Aug. 16 following his release by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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“Our guys just kept coming,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “They left some balls in the middle of the plate, we didn’t miss them, and we continued to go.”
The Cardinals led 7-1 midway through the third inning.
Polanco has been booed regularly at PNC Park recently. He entered Thursday hitting .205 and made a pivotal error in a loss to Arizona on Wednesday night.
The highest-paid player on the team with an $11.6 million salary, Polanco was placed on waivers last weekend but went unclaimed. The 29-year-old said prior to Thursday’s game that he was saddened by the treatment he was getting from fans.
“It’s tough. It’s not nice,” Polanco said. “They have to understand that I’m a human being, too. This is my work. This is my job. I don’t want to do bad. I eat because of baseball. That’s how I get paid, so I want to do great every time. That’s not nice to hear that, the fans like, ‘Oh, release him. DFA him. Send him back.‘”
Polanco had three of the Pirates’ 17 hits in helping last-place Pittsburgh win for the fifth time in seven games. Polanco doubled twice and said afterward the boos from Wednesday motivated him a night later.
“Every time people doubt me and say I can’t do something, I know I have to just keep working hard, try to do my best every day and go out and compete and prove myself,” he said.
First baseman Colin Moran said he and his teammates were happy to see Polanco have a big night.
“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with,” Moran said. “He works as hard as anybody. He has as much talent as much talent as anyone. Any time he does great, you feel great for him.”
Michael Chavis had the second four-hit game of his career, the other coming with Boston in 2019 as a rookie. Moran also had four hits, including a two-run homer in the fourth off Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas. Difo added three hits.
Chad Kuhl (4-6) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win. Cabrera (2-5) was charged with six runs while not retiring a batter.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt would not second guess his decision to leave Cabrera in for so long.
“He’s really good,” Shildt said. “At some point, if you took everybody out after a couple hits, you’d never have anybody left to pitch.”
Shildt also said he felt Cabrera was tipping his pitches. Three of the Pirates’ six hits off the left-hander came on pitches outside the strike zone.
Nolan Arenado and Edmundo Sosa hit two-run home runs off Pirates starter Mitch Keller.
Arenado connected in the first with a drive high off the left-field foul pole. Sosa hit a blast deep into the right-center field seats in the third.
Tommy Edman had a two-run double in the second inning for St. Louis, which dropped 4 ½ games behind Cincinnati in the race for the second NL wild card.
Keller was tagged for seven runs in 5 1/3 innings. Mikolas gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings in his second start since missing nearly three months with a strained forearm.
KIM RETURNS TO ROTATION
Left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim will start Sunday for the Cardinals. He takes the place of ace Jack Flaherty, who was placed on the inured list Wednesday with a right shoulder strain.
Kim has made 19 starts this season. However, he was used in relief Tuesday against Detroit after spending two weeks on the injured list because of left elbow inflammation.
Cardinals: LF Tyler O’Neill (lower back tightness) missed his second straight game but is likely to play Friday. … LHP Wade LeBlanc (strained left elbow) did not respond well to his bullpen session Tuesday and has been shut down indefinitely. … RHP Justin Miller (right elbow nerve irritation) has started playing catch.
Pirates: RHP Blake Cederlind (Tommy John elbow surgery), who made his MLB last season, is playing catch at 75 feet.
Cardinals LHP J.A. Happ (7-6, 5.88 ERA) will face LHP Dillon Peters (0-1, 1.86) on Friday night. Happ is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts since being acquired from Minnesota in a trade. Peters will be making his third start since being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis.