Bucs’ Stallings delivers game-winner

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Jacob Stallings has 19 hits in parts of three major league seasons, and the rookie third-string catcher has made a some of them count.

Stallings hit a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning to rally the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.

It was Stallings’ second career game-ending hit. The catcher also had one on Sept. 23, 2016, against Washington as a pinch hitter.

After Jordan Luplow grounded into a double play, Kevin Kramer walked and moved to second on Kevin Newman’s single. Stallings then singled into left field off Ben Lively (0-3) for his third hit of the game, scoring Kramer.

Stallings was not in the original lineup. He was told 2¢ hours before the game he would be subbing for ailing Francisco Cervelli.

“It was pretty similar to my other one, same spot and same kind of pitch,” Stallings said. “It was good to help the team on short notice. It was fun to come through for the guys.”

Stallings has spent the last three years shuttling between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis while stuck on the organizational depth chart behind Cervelli and Elias Diaz.

“The biggest thing for me is staying ready,” said Stallings, whose father, Kevin, was the University of Pittsburgh’s basketball coach for two seasons before being fired in March. “On a day like today, when I’m not ready to play, I’m still ready. You get paranoid because you never know what might happen.”

Stallings has made a good impression on Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

“He puts his foot down early and hits the ball hard where it’s pitched. Old-school hitting,” Hurdle said. “He’s done a very professional job on everything he’s done.”

The Pirates scored twice with two outs in the eighth inning to tie the game at 6-all. The first run scored when first baseman Ryan O’Hearn failed to handle a throw from third baseman Hunter Dozier on a grounder by Pablo Reyes. Starling Marte followed with an RBI triple.

Newman had three of Pittsburgh’s 16 hits as the rookie shortstop extended his hitting streak to six games and helped the Pirates win for the ninth time in 12 games.

Edgar Santana (3-3) pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

O’Hearn led off the top of the eighth inning with his 11th home run in 36 games since making his debut July 31 and gave the Royals a two-run advantage.

Josh Bell drew Pittsburgh to 5-4 in the seventh with a run-scoring single.

O’Hearn’s RBI double capped a four-run fifth inning and put the Royals on top 5-3 following consecutive run-scoring singles by Adalberto Mondesi, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez.

Gordon doubled in the game’s first run in top of the third inning and Corey Dickerson countered with an RBI single in the bottom half. Adam Frazier’s two-run single in the fourth gave the Pirates a short-lived 3-1 lead.

Kansas City’s Brad Keller allowed four runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings. Pittsburgh’s Joe Musgrove also pitched six innings, giving up five runs and eight hits.

Keller got his first major league hit when he singled off Musgrove to lead off the fifth inning. It came in Keller’s second career at-bat after he struck out in the second.

Keller was in line for his team-high ninth win until the Royals squandered the lead. He was selected from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 Draft in December after having never pitched above Class A.

“He got us into the seventh and did a great job of doing that,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He threw the ball really, really well. He put us in position to win.”

O’Hearn’s homer to right field off Steven Brault was the first allowed by the left-hander in 117 career plate appearances against left-handed batters.

Remember him?

Royals 2B Whit Merrifield played his first game in Pittsburgh. Merrifield’s father, Bill, was called up by the Pirates for one day late in the 1987 season then sent to instructional league to make the conversion from third baseman to first baseman. Bill Merrifield did not appear in a game and never returned to the major leagues.

In his honor

A moment of silence was held for rapper/singer Mac Miller, who died last week. Miller was a Pittsburgh native and Pirates’ fan.

On deck

Tonight: Kansas City at Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.

Pitching matchup: Royals LHP Eric Skoglund (1-5) vs. Pirates RHP Jameson Taillon (13-9)

TV: AT&T SportsNet

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