Pirates avoid accidental intentional walk

Cervelli misreads dugout signal, calls for free pass in ninth

Pirates avoid accidental intentional walk

SAN FRANCISCO -- The intentional walk was on, then off, except it was never really on in the first place.

The Pirates' 4-3 win over the Giants on Tuesday night at AT&T Park ended in unusual fashion, as catcher Francisco Cervelli mistakenly called for an intentional walk with runners on second and third and one out, only for pitching coach Ray Searage to rush to the mound and call it off. Two pitches later, closer Tony Watson defused the jam and sealed Pittsburgh's third straight win.

"That happened real fast," Watson said.

But the question immediately after the game was: What, exactly, did happen?

With one out in the ninth, Jordy Mercer misplayed pinch-hitter Trevor Brown's ground ball. Joe Panik, the next batter, laced a double down the left-field line, sending pinch-runner Gregor Blanco to third base. All of a sudden, Watson was in his first true jam since taking over as Pittsburgh's closer.

"A base hit and the game is over," Watson said. "It's definitely different."

In this case, it also got a little confusing.

The Pirates coaching staff was calling for the infield to move in. Cervelli misinterpreted the sign from the dugout, thinking he saw four fingers held up to signal that he and Watson should intentionally walk Ehire Adrianza to load the bases.

"My mistake," Cervelli said.

Cervelli stepped aside and Watson threw a 75 mph toss into his glove for ball one. Manager Clint Hurdle and his coaches screamed from the dugout, trying to tell Watson to pitch to Adrianza, a career .218 hitter. But the sold-out San Francisco crowd was too loud for Cervelli to hear.

Out of the corner of his eye, Watson saw people waving papers in the dugout and knew something was off. His suspicion was confirmed when Searage bolted out of the dugout toward the mound.

"Ray sprinted out and reset the trap again," Hurdle said. "He was going to tackle somebody to stop the play."

Searage instructed Watson to go after Adrianza. Watson threw one pitch, and Adrianza popped it up to Josh Harrison for the second out.

"I think the play was good," Cervelli said. "He got too comfortable then popped out."

Watson threw one more pitch, the last of his six sinkers, to Denard Span, who grounded out to end the game and secure the left-hander's sixth save.

"If there's one dude you want in the ballgame there, it's Tony," starter Jameson Taillon said. "He's so calm, cool and collected. Slow heartbeat. ... Tough situation to be in, but he kept his cool."

As the Pirates' new closer, Watson is bound to find himself in unfamiliar situations -- but perhaps none more unusual than when he was asked Tuesday night to throw an accidentally intentional ball.

"Next time it happens," Watson said, dryly, "I'll be ready for it, I guess."

Not likely.

"We'll probably try not to use that again," Hurdle said.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.