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The Strike Zone

Pirates rally to beat Angels in rare West sweep

Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez have been huge assets to the surging Pirates, who are now 16 games over .500. [AP] Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez have been huge assets to the surging Pirates, who are now 16 games over .500. (AP)

The Pirates’ charmed season continued with one of the wilder late-game sequences of the year.

Trailing 6-3 in the top of the ninth, Pittsburgh scored three runs to tie the game, then added four more in the top of the 10th -- only for the Angels to score three in the bottom half of the inning before losing 10-9 when Mike Trout struck out with two men in scoring position.

Entering play on Sunday, there were 61 instances this season in which a team scored three or more runs in either the ninth or 10th innings, and this game added three more to that tally.

While the Pirates have had one of the game’s best bullpens this season (2.94 ERA, fourth-best), the Angels’ relieving corps rank in the bottom half of the majors (3.88 ERA, 18th). Ernesto Frieri, who had retired 22 straight hitters before this game, blew his second save of the year with three runs allowed in the ninth; Kevin Jepsen took the loss after allowing four runs in the 10th.

Pittsburgh, which is now 46-30, has scored more runs in the eighth inning this year than any other frame, so rallying late was nothing new. The Pirates have now won 13 games when trailing entering the sixth and seven games when losing after seven innings.

What was new was the series sweep. Pittsburgh, according to MLB.com, had never swept an interleague road series or finished a sweep in a West Coast city since 2007.

Pittsburgh’s Jason Grilli, who is 26-of-27 in save chances, gave up the three 10th-inning runs before striking out Trout. One silver lining for L.A. was their progressive lineup structure is working to give Trout more chances to swing the bat. The Pirates pitched to Trout even though first base was open because Albert Pujols stood on deck, a perk of batting Trout No. 2 instead of leadoff, a luxury the Angels enjoy now that Peter Bourjos is off the DL and back batting leadoff.
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