Clutch DP sets stage for Harrison's heroics

With runner on third in 11th inning, Pirates turn league-leading 163rd double play

Clutch DP sets stage for Harrison's heroics

PITTSBURGH -- Left fielder Josh Harrison had broken back on Jean Segura's shallow fly with one out in the 11th, which thus found grass for a single to put men on first and third with one out in a tie game Sunday at PNC Park.

In that situation, 29 of 30 Major League infields would have played in for the long-shot chance to cut off the go-ahead run at the plate. But the other 29 do not lead the Majors in double plays. The Pirates do, so their infielders were told to stay back. One pitch later, they had DP No. 163, and a few minutes after that, the Bucs had a 7-6 win over the Brewers.

So before he was a hero with the walk-off single that rescued the Pirates, Harrison was a victim rescued by his teammates. "We got each other's backs" in action.

Harrison's walk-off single

"That's what makes it so good. We pick each other up," said Harrison.

As the Pirates trotted off the field at the conclusion of the top of the 11th, Harrison was the one getting teammates' pats on the back. Not second baseman Neil Walker and shortstop Jordy Mercer, who had turned the difficult, clutch, game-saving double play.

"A beautiful play to see right there, absolutely," said Clint Hurdle, the manager who had shown faith in his keystone combo. "You're gambling. You got a game on the line. You got a sinkerball pitcher on the mound. We decided to play back for two."

"The coaches have our backs. They know we've turned the DP well all year, and in big situations, and that was another one," said Mercer, whose first thought upon seeing the stay-back waves from the dugout was, "If there's a ground ball to me or Walker, we gotta turn it, otherwise a run scores."

The man at the plate was Scooter Gennett, a left-handed batter to ratchet up the odds two ways: He starts out two steps closer to first base; being a pull hitter, he has to be played by Walker in the hole, farther from the second base bag.

"You trust your guy to throw a sinker. He's got to make a pitch," Hurdle said.

Jared Hughes made his pitch. Gennett hit it hard to the left of Walker, meaning it carried him even farther from the bag.

"Where I am, I should get that ball," Walker said. "But the tough part is being so far away, so you try to be as accurate as you can with the throw. My job was just to get the ball to Jordy as quickly as I could."

Walker gloved the ball and did a 180 for a hard throw to Mercer, who then did the relatively easy job of firing a strike to first baseman Aramis Ramirez.

"Walker gets the turnaround throw to me, and I was able to execute and get the momentum back on our side, get us back in the dugout," Mercer said. "It was awesome."

"Hughes made a great pitch ... Walker made an even better play," said Harrison, whose quick adjustment on Segura's blooper actually set up the play. "It was too late in the game for me to try to make a dive and maybe let the ball get by me. So I just wanted to keep it in front of me [to hold Segura at first] and keep the double play in order."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.