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Dropped flyball helps Cardinals come back to beat Pirates

Starling Marte reacts after dropping the fly ball that helped the Cardinals back into Tuesday's game. [Jeff Roberson/AP]Starling Marte reacts after dropping the fly ball that helped the Cardinals back into Tuesday's game. [Jeff Roberson/AP]

The Pirates appeared to be on their way to winning a squeaker against the Cardinals on Tuesday night, but a funny thing happened on the way to the final out. Starling Marte's dropped fly ball with one out in the ninth inning led to the Cardinals scoring the tying run, and they ultimately won in the 14th, trimming Pittsburgh's NL Central lead to two games.

The Pirates had taken an early 3-0 lead against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who was uncharacteristically off his game, walking three batters in a start for the first time all season and serving up homers to Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer. Pirates starter Charlie Morton held the Cardinals scoreless through five innings before yielding a pair of runs in the sixth via four singles and a double play. The Pirates carried that 3-2 lead into the ninth and brought in Mark Melancon, who had converted all five save opportunities since taking over for the injured Jason Grilli in late July.

Melancon induced Pete Kozma to ground out, and then appeared to retire Daniel Descalso on a routine fly ball to left field … except that the ball clanked off Marte's glove for a two-base error. Here's the GIF from TheScore.com:

As the Cardinals always seem to do when given such an opening, they took advantage. Though Melancon recovered to strike out Matt Carpenter, he walked Carlos Beltran, and then Allen Craig — who came into the game hitting an ungodly .464/.500/.643 in 130 plate appearances with runners in scoring position — singled in the tying run. Beltran, however, got hung up between second and third and was tagged out, ending the inning with the game still tied at 3-3.

The Cardinals threatened to win the game several times in extra frames. In the 10th, they loaded the bases against Vin Mazzaro via a Matt Holliday walk, a throwing error by first baseman Gaby Sanchez on a fielder's choice, a sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk to load the bases with one out. Mazzaro came back to strike out Kozma, then got Descalso to fly out to left-center, with McCutchen conspicuously calling for the ball to ward off Marte.

The Cardinals had another chance to win in the 11th against Jeanmar Gomez when Carpenter singled, took second on a wild pitch and third on a groundout. Craig was intentionally walked, and then manager Mike Matheny allowed rookie pitcher Seth Maness, owner of all of two big-league plate appearances, to hit away. With a five-infielder configuration on defense, Maness hit a grounder that shortstop Clint Barmes awkwardly flipped to rightfielder Josh Harrison, who was covering second; he handled the low throw and then threw to first for the inning-ending double play.

Maness turned the tables by getting Harrison to ground into an inning-ending double play in the top of the 13th. McCutchen had singled and taken second on a wild pitch, then third on Pedro Alvarez's infield single. After a grounder advanced the latter to second, Clint Barmes was intentionally walked, and then Harrison grounded to Carpenter, who stepped on third and fired to first for the double play. In turn, Gomez and the Pirates used Maness as an escape hatch in the bottom of the 13th, following Carpenter's two-out double. Manager Clint Hurdle ordered both Beltran and Craig intentionally walked, the latter of which moved the winning run 90 feet closer but also brought the pitcher back to the plate. Maness took a ball, then fouled two pitches off before looking at strike three.

The Cardinals finally won it in the 14th. After Sam Freeman held the Pirates scorelesss in the top half of the inning, Jon Jay hit a one-out single off Jared Hughes, then stole second. Adron Chambers, who had entered the game in the 10th inning as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Edward Mujica, slapped a single to left field, and though Marte came up throwing, his peg was just far enough up the first-base line that Russell Martin couldn't sweep to tag Jay in time. Here's the video from MLB.com.

The Pirates (70-48) now lead the Cardinals (68-50) by two games in the NL Central, with two more games remaining in this series. On Wednesday, Francisco Liriano squares off against Shelby Miller in the latter's first start since being removed after just two pitches due to a comebacker off his elbow. On Thursday, A.J. Burnett faces Lance Lynn in the series finale.

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