Pirates nip Cardinals in Game 3 of NLDS: Quick hits

Pirates catcher Russell Martin came up big in Game 3 of the NLDS. (USATSI)
Pirates catcher Russell Martin came up big in Game 3 of the NLDS. (USATSI)

In Sunday’s Game 2 of the NLDS in Pittsburgh, the Pirates won a hotly fought 5-3 game and pushed their series lead to 2-1. One more win, and the upstart Buccos advance to the NLCS. Let’s break it down …

Hero: We know Russell Martin mans the most demanding position on the diamond and mans it very, very well. On Sunday, his bat also helped the cause. First there was his first-pitch sac fly to deep center off ground-ball machine Seth Maness in the sixth. Then came his clutch single in the eighth that plated an insurance run. Martin, with his pitch-framing and pitcher-handling skills, would be an asset even if he barely ever hit, but on Sunday he did it all. 

Goat: Cardinals bullpen in the eighth inning. Carlos Martinez opened the frame. He recorded only one out but gave up a hit, a walk and the go-ahead run. It would’ve been an even rougher outing for Martinez had Andrew McCutchen (who crushed a leadoff double in the inning) not run into an out on the bases. Then came on Kevin Siegrist, who gave up a sharp RBI single to platoon-disadvantaged Pedro Alvarez (that was the aforementioned go-ahead run) and then a single to Martin, which, as mentioned, put a critical insurance run on the board for Pittsburgh.

Turning point: When Clint Hurdle pinch-ran Josh Harrison for Justin Morneau in the eighth, it was a prescient decision. Harrison hustled around to score the go-ahead run on Alvarez’s single. Morneau probably doesn’t get waved home on that play, or if he does he probably winds up as the second out of the inning.

It was over when: The Cards have a potent offense, and it was a back-and-forth game. So it wasn’t over until it was over -- when Pirates closer Jason Grilli retired Daniel Descalso, who represented the tying run, for the final out.

Next: Game 4 is Monday at PNC Park, and first pitch is slated for 3:07 pm ET. Michael Wacha will oppose Charlie Morton in what’s of course a win-or-go-home game for the Cardinals.

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