Polanco, Pirates beat Padres 5-4 for 8th win in 9 games
PITTSBURGH ( AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates weren’t expected to contend in the strong NL Central this season, especially after trading stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole in January.
Yet the Pirates are on top of a division in which four of the five teams are at least four games over .500.
Gregory Polanco led off the seventh inning with a double and scored the go-ahead run on an error, leading the Pirates over the San Diego Padres 5-4 Thursday night for their eighth win in nine games.
Polanco took third on Francisco Cervelli’s deep flyball, then came home when rookie third baseman Christian Villanueva misplayed Corey Dickerson’s two-out grounder.
Pittsburgh ( 26- 17) moved nine games over .500.
“You really can’t predict baseball,” Dickerson said. “Every year you have teams that have good seasons when they aren’t expected to, players who no one knows about who end up having big years. You just never know in this game. We’re playing very well, and we feel like we have a very good team.”
Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell and Sean Rodriguez each had two hits.
Eric Hosmer drove in three runs for San Diego. Freddy Galvis had two hits before being ejected by home plate umpire Will Little after taking a called third strike from Michael Feliz to end the eighth inning.
Rookie Edgar Santana (2-0) retired the only batter he faced, getting Jose Pirela to ground out to end the seventh with a runner on second. He was credited with another win a day after notching his first major league victory against the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s fun to get a chance to pitch in those situations,” Santana said. “The hitters are up looking for RBIs and you know they are going to try a little extra hard to drive in the run. I try to use that to my advantage and stay calm.”
Felipe Vazquez worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save in as many opportunities.
Matt Strahm (0-1) took the loss.
“He did everything he had to do to get the groundball to get out of that inning,” San Diego manager Andy Green. “We didn’t make the play for him there.”
Both starters were chased in the fifth inning as Padres rookie lefthander Eric Lauer and Chad Kuhl allowed four runs and six hits each.
“I had some trouble pitching out of the stretch and that hurt me,” Kuhl said.
The Pirates tied the score at 4 on Bell’s RBI single in the fifth. Hosmer hit a two-run double in the top of the inning.
The Padres opened the scoring with a two- run third as Travis Jankowski hit an RBI single and Hosmer drove into a run with a grounder.
The Pirates answered with three runs in the fourth. Dickerson doubled in a run, David Freese hit a sacrifice fly and Rodriguez capped the inning with an RBI double.
Pittsburgh Pirates’ Sean Rodriguez (right) slides into second with a double ahead of the tag by San Diego Padres second baseman Jose Pirela during the fourth inning of a baseball game Thursday in Pittsburgh. Rodriguez drove in Corey Dickerson with the...