The Yankees were tantalizingly close to completing a three-game sweep of an interleague series against the Pirates to extend their winning streak to five games Sunday at Yankee Stadium. But Pirates outfielder Josh Harrison beat them at the plate and robbed them in the field to salvage a 5-3 win over the Yankees in the second game of a traditional single-admission doubleheader.
After a 4-3 win in the first game, the Yankees trailed by a run after Harrison's solo homer off reliever Alfredo Aceves (0-2) in the top of the seventh. Entering the second game as a pinch-hitter, Derek Jeter led off the eighth inning with a single. Yangervis Solarte, who homered in the sixth off Pirates starter Gerrit Cole (4-3) to tie the score at 3, came up and belted a hard line drive to left off reliever Tony Watson.
"I thought I had a double and that Jeter was going to score if the ball dropped," Solarte said. "I never thought [Harrison] was playing close to the line."
Racing toward the foul line, Harrison went into a full layout position to pluck Solarte's shot out of the air.
"Solarte put a great at-bat on him and hit a rocket," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "[Harrison] probably was playing 'no doubles' there, and he lays out. You don't see guys lay out 320 feet away, but he did."
Watson proceeded to strike out Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki to end the threat, and after the Pirates added a ninth-inning insurance run, closer Mark Melancon set the Yankees down in order to gain the split. The result still left the Yankees in first place in the AL East by a half-game over Baltimore.
Ultimately, Girardi had to be happy with the work of a pitching staff that grows more rickety by the day after the loss of injured starters CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova.
In the first game, starter Hiroki Kuroda (3-3) wasn't especially sharp, allowing three runs and five hits, including solo homers by Neil Walker and Tony Sanchez, but he at least lasted six innings.
He actually was outpitched by Pirates starter Charlie Morton (0-6), who allowed four runs in the first two innings on a two-run single by Mark Teixeira, a run-scoring single by Brian McCann and an RBI double by Brett Gardner in the second. Morton then faced the minimum 15 batters over the next five innings, allowing a single to Zoilo Almonte in the fourth and then picking him off.
But the Yankees' bullpen held up with David Robertson coming on for a four-out save.
"Robertson getting a four-out save did a nice job," Girardi said. "We got four runs early and made it hold up. Kuroda did his job."
In the second game, Yankees starter Vidal Nuño gave up one unearned run through five innings and had two outs in the sixth with a man on base when Starling Marte tagged a two-run homer to right for a 3-2 lead. Nuño got off the hook when Solarte hit his tying homer in the bottom of the inning.
"I just felt he had done a really good job up until that point, and I was going to give him a chance to get through six, knowing our bullpen was somewhat depleted," Girardi said of Nuño. "He gives up the two-run homer. It's unfortunate, but I thought he pitched a really good game."