The Pittsburgh Pirates recorded a "win" last night. But they had to play 19 innings to get it.
In essence, they had to play two games, one of which was a 10-inning match, to win one.
What made this game so important was that the opponent was the St. Louis Cardinals, who were right behind the Pirates in both the wild card and National League divisional standings.If the Redbirds had won, they would have tied the Pirates in both categories. As it were, Pittsburgh remains two games ahead of St. .Louis.
A win for the Pirates was a loss for this opponent. That made last night's single game worth two.
Apart from the denouement, it was basically a pitching duel. The Pirates starter, Jeff Karstens, allowed two runs in the fourth when a double scored two base runners. The Bucs came back to tie it with two in the sixth against Jaime Garcia, with a sacrifice fly and a single scoring two base runners. The score was tied 2-2, going into extra innings, with both starters earning quality starts.
Both teams' relievers put up goose eggs until the 17th inning. Then the Pirates scored a run in the top of the inning with a bases-load single. But the Cardinals came back for one in the bottom of the frame, with two singles (runner to third) and a sacrifice fly, meaning that the game would go on for two more.
A marathon match sometimes features a sudden collapse. This happened in the top of the 19th, when St. Louis surrendered three runs, as many as they had given up on the preceding 18 innings. Unlike the 17th, there was no retaliation score—Pittsburgh was awarded the victory.
Last night, both the Cardinals and the Pirates used 22 players out of their roster of 25, including eight pitchers in the one game. One of the Red Birds, reliever Joe Kelly, went 5.2 innings, basically performing the job of starting pitcher.
The Bucs sent good-hitting pitcher, James McDonald, to the plate to pinch hit for Jared Hughes—he got a hit and scored the 17th inning run.
The Pirates are a young team. As such, they stand to gain more than most from "experience and morale boost." Having set back the Cardinals in an epic struggle, they stand to win at least second place in the National League Central (and probably the wild card), possibly enabling them to go on to bigger and better things.