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Back Against the Wall? No Problem for Pirates Yet Again



Carlos Santana, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — It looked like the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2023 season was quickly going off the rails.

Prior to their current homestand, the Pirates had dropped 12 of their previous 13 contests and slipped from first place in the National League Central all the way down to fourth.

But then, the Pirates returned to PNC Park and it seems like some magic — along with some smoke — has been in the air.

The Pirates capped off a three-game sweep over the San Diego Padres on Thursday afternoon with a comeback win over the Friars. It was the second game in that series that the Pirates had to rally to walk away with a win.

They worked their magic again on Friday night against the Brewers.

Trailing by two runs entering the bottom of the ninth after twice having trailed by four, Carlos Santana hit a walk-off, two-run homer for the Pirates to cap off yet another come-from-behind victory.

“I felt great for that at-bat,” Santana said. I didn’t try to do too much and tried to get my pitch. I had a good swing, hit a home run and won the game.”

For Santana, his 431-foot walk-off blast put an exclamation point on what has been a strong stretch with the bat.

Over his last four games, Santana has recorded six extra-base hits — three doubles and three home runs — as it seems as though he has found new life at the halfway point of the season.

“Really consistent at-bats, using the entire field. Not just pulling the ball but driving the ball to left field. All kinds of hits. But having the barrel of the bat out front,” manager Derek Shelton

The Pirates have shown resiliency not once, not twice, but thrice during this homestand —  just when it seemed as though they were down and out.

“Right now it’s just letting the game come to us a little more, keep applying pressure on the base paths,” Andrew McCutchen said. “Next guy up right now. That’s what we’ve done these last four games or so. Shows what we’re capable of doing, and the pitching also keeping us in the game to give us an opportunity.”

McCutchen, too, had a big hand in the win. The savvy veteran finished the game 3 for 5 with a home run, a double and three RBIs, He brought the Pirates within one with an RBI-double in the ninth inning, one at-bat prior to Santana’s game-winner.

The Pirates seemed to have their season back on track, at least for the time being. It says a lot about this current club to show the resiliency they have after coming off such a brutal stretch — especially on offense.

During their current four-game winning streak, it has been the offense that has brought them back to claim wins three times.

“It’s been good,” said Shelton. “And we’ve done it in different ways. We’ve continued to grind. We’ve continued to have good at-bats. Knowing their bullpen situation today with how they had used their bullpen, just keep clawing and played a bullpen game with ‘em.”

In a mediocre division, anything seems possible at this point. If the Pirates can continue to show they can hang around, who knows how things might shake up?

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