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Jung Ho Kang's late blast lifts Pittsburgh Pirates over St. Louis Cardinals

By Shelly Anderson, The Sports Xchange
Jung Ho Kang's late blast lifts Pittsburgh Pirates over St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27). Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- Two outs. Ninth inning. One-run lead. St. Louis' Matt Carpenter at the plate.

That's what Pittsburgh closer Tony Watson faced Wednesday -- the same scenario as a night earlier.

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This time, Watson got Carpenter to fly out to right, ending the game and giving the Pittsburgh Pirates their first win in nine games, 4-3 against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park.

On Tuesday, Carpenter hit the first of three ninth-inning homers, sending Watson and the Pirates to 9-7 loss.

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Watson was happy to get a shot at redemption, and quickly.

"I've been in this situation before where you give up some and then you sit around for a couple days," said Watson, who picked up his 11th save. "It's good to get back out there. I remember, my first year in Toronto, I gave up two home runs and I got back out there the next day and it really helped settle things down. It's good to get back out there. It's good to get the win, most importantly, and end this losing streak."

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Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't hesitate to go back to Watson. In fact, he was determined to do so if the situation was right.

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"He was going to pitch tonight," Hurdle said. "If he had an opportunity to close, I had my mind made up as soon as he told me he was good to go.

"I saw him today. I said, 'How you doing?' He never even talked about the game. He talked about the family, his kids, school and everything else. He was all upbeat. I thought, the man's in a pretty good place."

The Pirates (68-69) were, too, after ending the eight-game skid. They moved to within 4 1/2 games of the Cardinals (73-65) in the chase for a National League wild-card spot.

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Jung Ho Kang homered in the eighth inning to provide the winning run. He has three homers in two starts since coming off the DL for a shoulder injury.

"Fresh legs, I think as much as anything," Hurdle said. "He's such a big utilizer of his lower half when he hits. He's absolutely charged."

The Cardinals noticed.

"He's a tough out against everybody," manager Mike Matheny said. "The guy's got some juice. He can put the ball in the seats. Some guys are dangerous and he's one of them."

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Right-hander Trevor Williams (1-0), a September call-up making his major league debut, pitched three innings of relief for the win. He allowed one unearned run and struck out three.

"I thought he was impressive all over," Hurdle said of Williams. "An unearned run. Toughest lineup he's faced this year -- goes without saying. And I really thought his command was good. He went out there with an edge and was very aggressive."

Williams, who had a lot of family members in town to watch, said he shared some tears and a hug with his father after his first outing -- one that started off with Yadier Molina reaching when right fielder Adam Frazier dropped a fly ball, thus the unearned run an out later when Randal Grichuk singled.

"You don't think you're going to throw your very first pitch and the guy's going to swing at it and then it's going to be an error," Williams said.

St. Louis trailed 3-2 after four innings but forged a 3-3 tie on Frazier's error and Grichuk's single.

That's the way it stayed until the eighth, when Kang led off for Pittsburgh with a homer into the visiting bullpen in center for a 4-3 lead.

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Cardinals Mike Leake, who was activated from the DL after a bout with shingles, started for the first time since Aug. 21. He allowed three runs and nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one.

"Not my best," Leake said. "I was struggling to locate the ball but I tried the best I could and tried to get as many as outs as I could."

Alex Reyes (1-1) took the loss, allowing Kang's homer in 3 2/3 innings.

Pittsburgh rookie Jameson Taillon gave up two runs on six hits in five innings but ran his pitch count to 95. He struck out five and walked one. Tony Watson pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

St. Louis' National League record-tying run of 25 games with a home run ended.

St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the first with three straight singles to start the game. The third one, by Matt Adams, drove in Matt Carpenter.

The Pirates responded with two runs in the bottom of the first, on Gregory Polanco's RBI single to right and Kang's RBI infield single, for a 2-1 lead.

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The Cardinals tied it in the second when Grichuk was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Jhonny Peralta's double to right.

Pittsburgh broke the tie in the fourth when Francisco Cervelli got on with a broken-bat bloop single, advanced on Jordy Mercer's single to right and Taillon's bunt, then scored on Josh Harrison's sacrifice fly for a 3-2 lead.

NOTES: Cardinals 2B Matt Carpenter, who was given a rest Tuesday but came off the bench to hit a two-out, game-tying homer in the ninth, was back in the lineup. ... St. Louis RF Stephen Piscotty was in the lineup after being hit by a pitch on the left wrist in the series opener. ... Pittsburgh LF Starling Marte was out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row because of back spasms. ... Pirates C Francisco Cervelli returned to the lineup. He left Monday's game and missed Tuesday's contest because of a left thumb injury. ... Pittsburgh RHP Neftali Feliz, who left Saturday's game with a sore arm, is not responding as quickly as the club had hoped and is not expected to be able to throw until at least next week. ... Pirates C Elias Diaz had leg surgery for cellulitis (bacterial infection). The team expects a full recovery, but his season is over. ... Entering the game, St. Louis pinch hitters had a collective .347 batting average, which would set a National League season record. ... Rain washed out the Pirates' outdoor batting practice, but it cleared up in time for St. Louis to get outside.

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