PITTSBURGH — Pinch-runner Josh Harrison stood on second base in the eighth inning and pointed to Pittsburgh Pirates third base coach Nick Leyva.
“I told him to get that arm ready, because I’m coming,” Harrison said.
Moments later, Harrison was streaking toward home plate to give the Pirates the lead. Minutes after that, the Jolly Roger that has been a fixture on the Pittsburgh skyline all summer climbed up the flagpole again.
Harrison scored on Pedro Alvarez’s tiebreaking single yesterday, sending the Pirates to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that staked Pittsburgh to a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five National League division series.
Russell Martin followed with an RBI single against reliever Kevin Siegrist, who took over after Carlos Martinez (0-1) faltered.
The go-ahead single was the latest big hit by Alvarez, who homered in the first two games of the series and is 4 for 10 with four RBI in the three games.
“We’re continuing to surprise a lot of people, I believe,” Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “We’re continuing to show people that we’re not done, that we’re not just happy to be in the postseason.”
Heady territory for a franchise that had endured a record 20 consecutive years of losing coming into this season. Six months later, the Pirates are on the cusp of knocking out baseball royalty.
Mark Melancon (1-0) picked up the win despite allowing Carlos Beltran’s tying home run in the top of the eighth. Jason Grilli worked the ninth for a save.
Game 4 is today in Pittsburgh.
Beltran finished 2 for 3 with three RBI.
“It’s a must-win tomorrow for us,” Beltran said. “Hopefully we can come here, take care of business, win and go play the last game at home.”
Beltran’s homer temporarily silenced the crowd at PNC Park. It also set the stage for another dramatic win by the Pirates.
McCutchen led off the eighth with his second hit, a double to left. But he unwisely tried to advance on Justin Morneau’s grounder to shortstop and was an easy out at third.
Harrison ran for Morneau and moved up when Marlon Byrd walked. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny turned to a lefty in Siegrist to face the left-handed Alvarez.
“I knew it was going to be a tough matchup,” Alvarez said. “I’ve seen him a couple of times before, (and) I haven’t had much success. He’s a pitcher with good stuff — great stuff. He threw me a couple of fastballs out over the plate.”
One too many, as it turned out, and Alvarez singled between first and second. Martin then fouled off a squeeze bunt before lining a hit to left that gave Grilli more than enough cushion.