PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco stepped to the plate a few minutes before midnight Friday at PNC Park, nearly three hours into a rain-delayed, back-and-forth affair between the Pirates and Padres. With one smooth swing, Polanco launched a three-run homer into the Allegheny River to kick-start a six-run seventh inning and send the Bucs to a 10-6 win.
Polanco's first career pinch-hit homer, a 434-foot shot off reliever Kirby Yates, gave the Pirates their second win in a row. It's the first time Pittsburgh has won consecutive games since July 21, the end of a 12-2 run that launched them back into the National League Central race. They followed that by dropping eight of their next 11 games, but Friday's victory and the Cubs' loss to the Nationals pulled Pittsburgh within 4 1/2 games of Chicago in the NL Central standings.
"We just kept battling. These are the games you need to win," said David Freese, who doubled and homered. "You can't be a .500 team and make it to the postseason. It's just not possible. When you win eight out of 10, nine out of 11, you've got to keep it going. We didn't do that the last couple weeks. We just need to string them together. As we all know, this division's still up for grabs. We just have to keep going."
Rain delayed the start of the game by two hours and five minutes and starters Ivan Nova and Travis Wood stalled both lineups for another four innings. The clubs then traded runs in the fifth and sixth, with pinch-hitter Adam Frazier's RBI single sending a tie game into the seventh.
But it would not be enough. The Pirates sent 11 men to the plate in the seventh inning. Polanco's blast was the biggest blow, giving the Bucs a one-run lead, but they kept the line moving.
"Just manufacturing some runs, then Polanco with the big blast. Huge pinch-hit opportunity, and he came through against a tough pitcher," Frazier said. "That was huge for us. We didn't really have a whole lot going until that point. Hopefully we can roll it into tomorrow."
With the bases loaded, Frazier -- batting .435 since the All-Star break -- tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly. Josh Harrison delivered two valuable insurance runs by lacing a single to left-center field off reliever Kyle McGrath.
"Bullpen has been sharp for a while. It wasn't as sharp tonight, of course," Padres manager Andy Green said. "It was just one of those days where it got away from us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Upon further review: The Padres homered in the fifth and sixth, but neither long ball came without a bit of controversy. Carlos Asuaje took Ivan Nova deep to center in the fifth, but the play was initially ruled a double -- and Asuaje was thrown out at third base trying to stretch it into a triple. The call was overturned after a crew-chief review, giving Asuaje a two-run homer, his second in the Majors. An inning later, Yangervis Solarte hit a fly ball deep to right-center. Jose Osuna leaped for it, but it fell into a front-row fan's glove. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle challenged for fan interference, but it remained a home run for Solarte.
"Infield guys swung the bats really well today," Green said. "It was good to see that."
Game of throws: The clubs traded runs in the fifth on a pair of errant throws. With Austin Hedges on second base after a walk and a wild pitch, Freese fielded Wood's sacrifice bunt and sailed a throw past first baseman Josh Bell. That allowed Hedges to score.
"You heave one every now and then. Travis was hustling," Freese said of his misplay, though he made up for it with a sixth-inning homer. "I wasn't in a good position to get on top. Obviously you just have to make that play."
Hedges returned the favor a half-inning later, chucking Nova's bunt over first baseman Wil Myers. Francisco Cervelli scored on the play.
"Today was special. After that big delay, you expect everybody to be down. No, the guys kept fighting. Kept their energy up. That worked big for us."--Nova, on the Pirates' big inning
"It's part of baseball. You can't think too much about it. And being in Pittsburgh, if you played here enough, you are used to them. It's something that you take in stride then move on." -- Wood, on the two-hour, five-minute rain delay.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Polanco's home run bounced into the Allegheny River, the second time he has reached the river. There have been 43 home runs smashed into the Allegheny by 29 different hitters since PNC Park opened in 2001.
WHAT'S NEXT Padres:Dinelson Lamet will get the call Saturday as the Padres continue their series against the Pirates at 4:05 p.m. PT at PNC Park. The rookie right-hander took a no-hitter into the fifth inning in his last start, which also came against Pittsburgh. He threw a career-high 104 pitches, working into the seventh for the second straight start as he struck out seven at Petco Park.
Pirates: After a dominant outing in San Diego, Gerrit Cole will face the Padres again on Saturday as they continue the series at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Cole held the Padres to one run on five hits while striking out eight in seven innings last Sunday. It was the finishing touch on a strong month for Cole; he posted a 2.25 ERA in July, and the Bucs won each of his five starts.