Walker's miscue on basepaths looms large

Second baseman doubled off in 12th, stopping key rally

Walker's miscue on basepaths looms large

PITTSBURGH -- It was a slip Pirates fans aren't accustomed to seeing out of seven-year veteran Neil Walker.

But in a 13-inning contest that highlighted any and every detail, Walker's unfortunate break to second base was another missed opportunity PNC Park fans will remember in a 5-4 loss to the Reds on Thursday night.

The Pirates were in an advantageous position in the bottom of the 12th. Tied at 4, Andrew McCutchen led off the frame with a double laced to the right-center field wall, and Walker was then intentionally walked.

With runners on first and second base with no outs, Cincinnati was in trouble.

Jung Ho Kang had a chance to score the winning run on a base hit, or at the very least move the go-ahead runner to third base. But a line drive to Reds first baseman Joey Votto not only retired Kang, but also caught Walker instinctively bolting for second. Votto slapped the tag on Pittsburgh's second baseman, and the momentum was squashed.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the sequence was an "unfortunate circumstance" that his team can learn from.

"You're always working to get somewhat of a secondary lead. The positioning, I'm sure, he was aware of where [Votto] was because he was right next to him," Hurdle said. "That run obviously doesn't have the same importance as the run in front of you."

It certainly does not. In fact, the only real reason why the Reds intentionally walked Walker was because his run didn't matter, only McCutchen ahead of him.

Instead, they were trying to set up a double play. It wasn't a conventional 6-4-3 turn, but it was all the same for Cincinnati.

Of course, Kang and the Pirates could've bunted. That would have been playing it safe, and McCutchen said nine times out of 10, that's the call.

Instead, Pittsburgh gambled.

"That can happen," McCutchen said of the double play. "But there's also on the other side that he gets a hit, ball gets through the hole, and we score the winning run. It's roulette. Sometimes you play that game."

As the Pirates found out Thursday night, roulette isn't a game easily won.

John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.