During the Pirates’ 3-2 victory Friday night against the San Francisco Giants, the winning team struck out 17 times and only four of its 13 batters hit safely.
Second baseman Adam Frazier made what looked like the defensive play of the game – in left field – until he was upstaged by first baseman Will Craig, who started the season in the minors.
And the decisive blow – a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th inning – was struck by a struggling Gregory Polanco, who is hitting .204, but was smiling after the game like a .300 hitter.
“I just want to keep playing hard every day, no matter what happens,” Polanco said. “You can’t do nothing but work hard, move on and keep fighting, keep swinging. That’s how you get out of a slump.”
There was plenty of weirdness associated with the 11-inning victory before 6,743 people at PNC Park. But the outcome felt good to Polanco and Pirates (16-22) for many reasons, not the least of which was it only their fourth victory in 13 games this month.
“Nice victory,” manager Derek Shelton said. “Really good victory.”
The game started with 23-year-old Miguel Yajure, one of four players acquired from the New York Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade, throwing five scoreless, one-hit innings.
It ended with relief pitcher Luis Oviedo, who is more accustomed to starting, calming himself down in a tense situation long enough to earn his first career victory on the day before is 22nd birthday.
“In situations like that, I get a little shaky and feel the pressure,” Oviedo said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “The biggest part is just to maintain the focus and concentration of the game and not allow the game to get away from you.”
He allowed a single that broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the 11th and walked a batter. But the deficit remained at one run, thanks in large part to Craig’s diving stop of Mike Tauchman’s groundball that appeared headed for the right-field corner and more trouble. A more conventional groundball out by Mike Yastrzemski ended the inning.
“I was able to remain myself, take a deep breath and focus and maintain my concentration,” Oviedo said.
“That’s not an easy spot for a 21-year-old kid,” Shelton said. “We talk about a sign of growth moving forward and that was a big sign of growth.”
No one stood any taller than Frazier, who had four hits and triggered rallies in the ninth and 11th with a single and triple. He now leads the National League with 47 hits and is hitting .315.
He also tracked down Brandon Crawford’s long fly ball in left field to end the top of the 10th after Shelton moved him there during some late-inning lineup juggling. It was his second time in the outfield this season.
After the game, Shelton paid Frazier what is considered the ultimate compliment in major-league clubhouses.
“The best way to describe Adam Frazier is he’s a baseball player,” Shelton said.
Yajure was in total control while throwing only 57 pitches, the fewest by a Pirates starter this season. Shelton pulled him after five innings because that was the plan.
“We went into the game knowing he was only going to throw five,” Shelton said. “The fact that he was as efficient as he was was extremely impressive. That’s a good lineup. Best record in the National League (23-15, tied with the St. Louis Cardinals).”
Yajure was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis late Thursday night so he could pitch Friday, and Shelton didn’t commit to giving him another chance before he rejoins his minor-league team.
“That’s something we’ll talk about,” he said. “I don’t know if we made that decision yet.”
Yajure started a game earlier this season, a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers in which he allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings
“The only difference was I felt a little bit more confident (Friday) and (had) more conviction behind my pitches,” Yajure said through Gonzalez. “I was able to maintain calmness the whole game. It felt great being out there. Looking forward to the next one.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .