A Jordy Mercer error on a routine grounder to shortstop opened the door for the Reds to score three runs in the ninth, and Joey Votto hit a go-ahead homer in the 10th as Cincinnati won in Pittsburgh 6-5 on Friday.
The result leaves the two teams with identical 88-66 records behind the soon-to-be 90-64 or 89-65 Cardinals in the NL Central.
The Pirates were up by three headed to the top of the ninth, but Mark Melancon couldn’t pitch around the Mercer error, which came with one on and two outs. Ryan Ludwick scored from second on the play and two more singles followed. The last, from Devin Mesoraco, went off third baseman Pedro Alvarez’s glove and bounced past Mercer at shortstop, allowing pinch-hitter Billy Hamilton to score the tying run from second.
Votto’s go-ahead homer off Kyle Farnsworth barely sliced over the low wall in left field, eluding Starling Marte.
It’s not in Pirates manager Clint Hurdle’s nature to use defensive replacements, but he might rethink that strategy in light of Mercer’s 14th error tonight. Clint Barmes, who shares time with Mercer, is still the Pirates’ best defensive shortstop. Mercer offers more offense, though pretty much all of his production comes against left-handers. Versus righties, the Pirates are likely better off with Barmes in there anyway.
Mercer, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI in the contest, ended up being removed from the game anyway, as Travis Snider was called on to pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the ninth.
The loss overshadowed a fine performance from Francisco Liriano, who allowed two runs over eight innings and picked up his 1,000th career strikeout.
The 2017 MLB award season officially drew to a close on Friday with the Esurance MLB Awards, handed out to the best hitters, pitchers, front office members and moments in the 2017 season. Jose Altuve was crowned the Best Major Leaguer overall, beating out fellow finalists Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, while two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber took home honors as Best Pitcher.
Here’s the full list of winners:
- Best Rookie: Aaron Judge
- Best Defensive Player: Nolan Arenado
- Personality of the Year: Adrian Beltre
- Best Postseason Major Leaguer: Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander
- Best Postseason Moment: Alex Bregman‘s 10th inning walk-off single in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
- Best TV/Radio Call: Joe Buck and John Smoltz call Jose Altuve’s game-tying three-run blast in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
- Best Play (Offense): Nolan Arenado completes the cycle with a walk-off homer (video)
- Best Play (Defense): Austin Jackson‘s over-the-wall catch in the Red Sox’ bullpen (video)
- Best Single-Game Performance: Anthony Rendon‘s six-hit, three-homer, 10-RBI game (video)
- Best Player-Fan Interaction: Joey Votto gives Walter “Superbubz” Herbert a bat and jersey (video)
- Best Fan Catch: Fan’s brother-in-law grabs Yasiel Puig home run ball and chucks it back on the field (video)
- Best Manager: A.J. Hinch
- Best Executive: Jeff Luhnow
No surprises here — the world champion Astros ran away with seven awards, including those for Best Manger and Executive and a dual award for Best Major Leaguer of the Postseason. Altuve added to an impressive run this offseason after earning a Silver Slugger, two Players Choice Awards, Hank Aaron Award and MVP Award for his outstanding work in 2017, while Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge continued to be a lock for all AL rookie-based awards after locking down the Rookie of the Year title earlier this week.