SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants and Pirates engaged in a back-and-forth tilt that featured four lead changes and two ties Tuesday. And Jung Ho Kang's tiebreaking solo home run to straightaway center in the eighth proved to be the difference, as Pittsburgh outlasted the Giants, 4-3, at AT&T Park.
The hit came just after Giants catcher Buster Posey caught Andrew McCutchen stealing for the second out of the inning. But Kang quickly hushed the San Francisco crowd one pitch later and pushed the Giants out of first place in the National League West for the first time since May 10. The Pirates pulled into a tie with the Marlins, one game behind the Cardinals for the NL's second Wild Card spot.
"'That's a big swing for us' would be an understatement," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Kang, who has homered three times in the last four games. "To hit a ball out to center field in this park, nighttime, it's got to be well struck. Things are picking up for him."
San Francisco's Jeff Samardzija and Pittsburgh's Jameson Taillon finished their respective outings with identical numbers. Each pitcher lasted six innings while surrendering three runs on six hits, before handing the reins to their bullpens in a 3-3 tie. The Giants' relief corps proved to be the most susceptible, as Derek Law saw his streak of 19 consecutive scoreless appearances end because of Kang's towering blast.
"I just needed to make one more pitch, couldn't get the job done," said Law.
The Giants mounted a final comeback attempt in the ninth, putting runners on second and third with one out after a Joe Panik double. However, continuing with a theme that has been present for weeks, San Francisco could not take advantage. Pittsburgh closer Tony Watson worked his way out of the jam, forcing Ehire Adrianza to pop out to second and inducing a Denard Span groundout to preserve the win.
"They got the big hit; we couldn't," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. The Giants finished the game 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Speed kills: A night after running down a key out in center field, McCutchen hustled out a leadoff triple to right-center in the sixth inning. McCutchen scored on the next play, an RBI groundout by Gregory Polanco. The hit was yet another encouraging sign for McCutchen, for two reasons: He's at his best when he drives the ball to the opposite field, and he is an even greater threat with his legs backing up his bat.
"The only guy I'm talking to about McCutchen is McCutchen," Hurdle said. "He's confident in everything he does. The swing's getting off. He's seeing the ball and playing a good center field. He's aggressive on the bases. It's been fun to watch."
Posey's back: Posey, who had missed the previous two games with back tightness, quickly showed the Pirates what the Giants lineup missed in the series opener. With runners on second and third in the bottom of the first, the catcher hit a two-run double into Triples Alley to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. He then scored the game-tying run in the sixth, after racing from third on a Hunter Pence groundout. Posey, who entered Tuesday batting .306 in his last 17 games, finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored.
"I thought he swung the bat well; he had a pretty good game," Bochy said. More »
Feels like the first time: Taillon recorded his first Major League hit in the fifth inning, poking a one-out single to right field. The rookie pitcher had been 0-for-18 before that at-bat. Before Tuesday, his best chance to bump up his batting average from .000 came on July 30, when he knocked a hit to shallow right field but got thrown out at first base.
"It came to mind pretty clear, front and center. It was time to get a hit," Taillon said. "I wasn't going to let that happen again, that's for sure."
Quality performance: The Pirates jumped on Samardzija early, scoring two runs in the first two innings. But, the right-hander gathered himself and gave the Giants just their ninth quality start since the All-Star break. It was also Samardzija's first quality start since July 8.
"I felt like I got better as the game went on," said Samardzija. "Overall I thought I threw the ball well.
"We're getting consistent results with the pitches. When you know where they're going consistently, you can attack the game plan and get outs."
"We created this with our struggles more than anything; we know that." -- Bochy, on the Giants falling out of first place in the NL West. The club was 6 1/2 games in front of the Dodgers at the All-Star break.
"Ray [Searage] sprinted out and reset the trap again. He was going to tackle somebody to stop the play." -- Hurdle, on the Pirates pitching coach rushing to the mound to call off a misinterpreted intentional-walk sign in the ninth.More »
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pirates outfielder Starling Marte tied a career high by stealing his 41st base of the season, matching the mark he set in 2013. Marte is the first Pirates player with a pair of 40-steal seasons since Tony Womack, who swiped 60 in 1997 and 58 in '98.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Right-hander Ivan Nova, 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in his first two starts for the Pirates, will wrap up the three-game series at AT&T Park on Wednesday afternoon. Nova's last start wasn't pretty, as the Dodgers made a lot of hard contact and put the ball in the air, but the results were satisfactory: one run over 5 1/3 walk-free innings.
Giants:Matt Cain will take the mound Wednesday looking to regain the form he established while recording wins in back-to-back starts against the Nationals. The right-hander tossed a combined 10 scoreless innings against the club, but gave up 10 hits, tying a season high, to the Orioles in his last outing.