Sat May 15 6:45am ET
If the Pittsburgh Pirates have reached the point of looking for good signs for the future as much as they are looking for wins, then they should be in a good place going into Saturday's home game against the San Francisco Giants.
The Pirates are rebuilding but sparked some hope when they won 11 of 16 during a stretch of April. Now, they will have to make another strong run or three to get back on the fat side of .500.
But in Friday's 3-2, 11-inning win for a split of the first two games in the series, some of those promising signs popped up, including strong pitching and defense.
The biggest, though, came from right fielder Gregory Polanco, who has struggled at the plate (hitting .204) and, at times in the field. His sacrifice fly in the 11th gave Pittsburgh the walkoff win.
"It was amazing," Polanco told AT&T Sportsnet. "We've been fighting. Especially me. I've been fighting every at-bat.
"Let's keep winning."
Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington earlier Friday called out Polanco and others who might find themselves no longer with the Pirates.
"We want to see improvement over time (from) that entire group, and Gregory's one of the guys in that group," Cherington said, adding that "there's no magic date" for giving up on some players.
Perhaps Friday was a reprieve.
For the Giants, who had their three-game winning streak halted, the loss Friday wasted an outstanding start by Kevin Gausman, who pitched into the ninth and struck out 12.
But San Francisco has its Brandons back -- shortstop Brandon Crawford, out Thursday because of COVID-19 vaccine side effects, homered Friday, and first baseman Brandon Belt (side tightness) played for the first time since Tuesday.
The Giants will need to win Saturday and Sunday to collect their first series win in Pittsburgh since 2017.
San Francisco right-hander Johnny Cueto (2-1, 3.52 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh left-hander Tyler Anderson (3-3, 3.05 ERA) on Saturday.
Cueto is coming off his toughest outing, Sunday against San Diego in an 11-1 loss. He gave up five runs and eight hits, including two homers, in three innings, with one walk and two strikeouts.
He had not pitched since April 14, when he strained his left lat. The injury wasn't the cause of the trouble on the mound.
"I felt really good (physically)," Cueto said through an interpreter. "I was a little worried about the injury, but I'm happy that everything was fine."
He noted that "there's a lot of baseball left," and Cueto's manager seemed to concur that overall it was a good first step back.
"We saw a healthy pitcher. We saw a pitcher that had life on his stuff," Gabe Kapler said.
Cueto is 21-4 with a 2.13 ERA in 31 career starts against Pittsburgh -- his highest number of outings against any team.
Anderson had to wait an extra day to face the team he pitched for last year. He originally was scheduled to start Friday, but the Pirates opted to bring up rookie Miguel Yajure and give him the start and push everyone back a day.
That means Anderson will be going six days between starts, since he allowed two runs and four hits in eight innings, with one walk and six strikeouts, in a win against the Chicago Cubs.
Against the Giants, Anderson is 1-3 with a 4.07 ERA in seven career starts.
--Field Level Media
Rotate for more data.