Polanco leads charge as Pirates topple Giants

Polanco leads charge as Pirates topple Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gregory Polanco stung the Giants with a home run and four RBIs on Monday while center fielder Andrew McCutchen stunned them with a breathtaking catch that halted a seventh-inning rally as the Pittsburgh Pirates bested San Francisco, 8-5.

Pregame storylines revolved around the starting pitchers. Pittsburgh's Ryan Vogelsong was overwhelmed by emotion but won in his return to AT&T Park, where he was a popular figure from 2011-15. And Matt Moore made his first home appearance for the Giants. But Polanco, the Pirates' regular cleanup hitter dropped down to eighth in the order against the left-handed Moore, emerged as the evening's dominant figure with a two-run single in the fourth inning and a two-run homer in the sixth.

"That guy that hit double-cleanup tonight did pretty good," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You don't expect that down there, but he was able to drive in four runs. Guys got on base in front of him. The way you lay things out, sometimes there's fruition to it."

Trailing, 7-4, the Giants brought the potential tying run to the plate in the seventh inning. But with two on and two outs, McCutchen raced into left-center field and dove to snare Eduardo Nunez's liner, which likely would have been a two-run single.

"McCutchen's play is as good of a play as I've seen in a long time," Hurdle said. "Fantastic play."

Summarizing the impact of McCutchen's catch, Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated it renewed the disappointment of his club's 8-7 loss to Baltimore on Sunday, when San Francisco blew a 7-1 lead.

"That definitely changed things," Bochy said, referring to McCutchen's gem. "You're coming off a tough loss, you're hoping to get back on track, and they made a great catch."

San Francisco's lead in the National League West dwindled to a half-game over the idle Dodgers, while the Pirates remained a game behind Miami and St. Louis for the second NL Wild Card.

• Pence falls on rear, makes catch of year?

C(l)utch: After putting one run on the board in the seventh, McCutchen kept two off it. With two on and two outs, Nunez ripped a line drive to center field off Neftali Feliz. McCutchen sprinted to his right, laid out and reeled in the ball just before it touched the outfield grass, preserving the Pirates' three-run lead. According to Statcast™, McCutchen covered 57 feet with a route efficiency of 96.8 percent and reached a top speed of 18.8 mph.

"Speed kills, man," McCutchen said.

Said Nunez, "He can make a catch that a lot of guys can't make in that kind of situation. That's why he's one of the best."

McCutchen's clutch diving catch

No magic for Moore: Moore allowed five runs and six hits in six innings, ending his Major League-high streak of eight consecutive quality starts -- a distinction he shared with Washington's Max Scherzer. Moore was critical about numerous aspects of his performance, from the three singles in a row Pittsburgh strung together in its three-run fourth to Polanco's homer.

"I'm a lot more capable of better things than what happened tonight," Moore said, adding that the first-pitch fastball Polanco drove for his homer was his biggest mistake.

"It was supposed to be up and away, not a strike," Moore said, observing that the pitch ran back over the heart of the plate. Noting that he's left-handed and so is Polanco, Moore said, "I'm capable of getting him out more times than not and especially keeping him in the ballpark."

Polanco's two-run smash

Opportunities missed: The Giants squandered chances to establish command early. They loaded the bases with one out against Vogelsong in the first inning before Hunter Pence broke his bat on a looper to third base. Joe Panik's bases-loaded walk in the first forced in a run, but Nunez grounded out to end the threat. Trevor Brown was thrown out at home plate one inning later. Pence ignored third-base coach Roberto Kelly's stop sign in the third and was tagged out as he tried to return to the bag.

Bochy said Brown froze briefly on Denard Span's single, which may have prevented him from scoring. Pence, said Bochy, was "a little aggressive" as he rounded third.

Pirates nab Pence

Bloop, there it is: With the Pirates' lead cut to one in the seventh inning, McCutchen tacked on a valuable insurance run against righty reliever Sergio Romo. McCutchen saw five straight sliders, falling behind 0-2 in the count before taking the next two. He popped up Romo's fifth pitch and carried his bat down the first-base line, only to watch it land in shallow center field and drive in Josh Harrison from third base.

McCutchen's second RBI single

"There's moments in these games that you want to hold on to and remember for the rest of your life. Tonight was one of those for me." -- Vogelsong

Vogelsong exits to ovation

The Pirates have won eight consecutive games against a left-handed starter. They are 18-8 against lefty starters this season.

With two on and one out in the seventh, Starling Marte ripped a double down the left-field line. The ball veered into foul territory, and a fan reached onto the field to scoop it up. Jordy Mercer scored on the play, and McCutchen could have scored from first base. But with fan interference called, McCutchen was stopped at third base and Marte stayed at second. The Pirates asked for a review, but the runners remained at second and third.

Marte's RBI double

Pirates: Rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon's last start was an eight-inning gem against the Padres, an outing he'll look to replicate when he takes the mound at AT&T Park on Tuesday night to face the Giants. The Pirates have won six of Taillon's last seven starts, and he's thrown at least six innings in each of his previous six assignments.

Giants: Jeff Samardzija, scheduled to start Tuesday's rematch against Pittsburgh, will strive to improve upon his previous encounter with the Pirates. That occurred June 22, when Samardzija yielded six runs and six hits in three innings, his shortest outing of the season.

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.