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Aug. 6 - Unlikely Hero Walks Off in Miami

September 29, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Aug. 6, 2013

Pirates 4, Miami 3

Turning Point in the game: Josh Harrison hits a walk-off homer - his first since high school - over the right-center field wall in the bottom of the ninth at PNC Park to give the Pirates the win over the Marlins. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen also made a diving grab with two on in the seventh to save two runs.

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For Josh Harrison, it didn't get any better than his walk-off home run on Aug. 6 to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins.

What made the hit even more interesting is that the last time Harrison hit a walk-off homer, he was a high school senior in Cincinnati. The game was played in front of a few dozen people on a spring afternoon. Still the only homer of his prep career remains ingrained in Harrison's memory.

Now it's got company.

The Pittsburgh Pirates utility infielder sent a fastball from Miami reliever Mike Dunn into the first row of seats in right-center leading off the ninth, the improbable homer lifting the Pirates to a 4-3 victory.

"I knew it had a chance," Harrison said after his second home run of the season. "I knew it wasn't caught off the bat. I was running, watching (Giancarlo) Stanton's reaction. I knew he wasn't going to catch it. I saw him pull up and it didn't kick back, I knew it was gone."

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle sent Harrison out to lead off the inning modestly hoping Harrison could find a way to get on base. Instead, Harrison provided another signature moment in a season full of memories for the Pirates.

A marvelous diving grab by centerfielder Andrew McCutchen with two on in the seventh saved two runs and reliever Vin Mazzaro narrowly escaped a bases-loaded jam moments when a liner from Jeff Mathis landed inches foul. Mathis eventually flied to left on a night Miami left 11 runners on base.

Minutes later Harrison was getting the pie to the face treatment.

"Those are little things that happen that make you go 'Yeah, something's going on,'" Hurdle said. "There's no doubt the more feel good you get, the more you feel good."

The win moved the Pirates to 68-44 at the time, 24 games over 500.

Dunn bailed Chad Qualls after Qualls loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth. He struck out Pedro Alvarez and got Russell Martin to hit into a double play but couldn't get the best of Harrison, a bench player who has spent most of the season shuttling between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis.

"Initially, I didn't think it was high enough to go out but it carried and it was a home run, Dunn said. "It was a good job on his part."

Bryan Morris pitched a perfect top of the ninth for the victory. Neil Walker had three hits for the Pirates. McCutchen had two hits, including a two-run double, for Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke provided a solid start, even though things started a bit shaky.

Miami turned three singles - none of them sharply hit - into a run in the second then added two more in the third behind four straight singles to start the inning. The Marlins, however, couldn't pile on and Locke eventually settled down. The left-hander allowed three runs on nine hits in 5 2-3 innings, walking three and striking out four.

"There are lessons to be learned for him," Hurdle said of Locke. "He's always got to be the predator and the aggressor. We're into August. We're into September. Everybody that gets that ball, you've got to be throwing aggressive punches off the mound with intent and conviction."

Locke left two runners on in the sixth. He also left with a no decision as Mazzaro retired Ed Lucas with two runners on to end the inning.

Henderson Alvarez handcuffed the Pirates in their previous meeting, limiting Pittsburgh to just two hits in six innings of a victory two weeks ago. The Pirates, however, briefly figured him out in the third. McCutchen doubled off the wall to drive in two runs and Pedro Alvarez followed with his first triple of the year to tie it.

The Pirates never threatened against the Miami starter again, and Alvarez left after seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits, striking out six while not issuing a walk.

That left it up to the bullpens and Pittsburgh's "Shark Tank" continued its dominance. Mazzaro survived the seventh and the Marlins went meekly in the eighth and ninth before Harrison stepped to the plate.

"I've never been around a group of guys that fights this hard the entire game," Locke said. "We load the bases in the eighth and Pedro comes up and we don't score and you see who comes up with nobody on and walks off. It's funny how the game works like that."

 
 

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