Travis Ishikawa and Jung Ho Kang both played a significant role in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 10-7 win over the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City yesterday. Ishikawa went 3-5 with 4 RBI, and Kang went 2-4 with 2 runs scored and 1 walk. The win was an important one for the Pirates, as they and the Royals are the third and second best teams in baseball, respectively, according to their records, trailing only the St. Louis Cardinals.
More importantly, the Pirates had lost three in a row to the Milwaukee Brewers to start the second half of the season after taking three of four from the Cardinals before the All-Star Break. The series vs. St. Louis helped them close the gap for first place in the NL Central, but getting swept dropped them back to 4.5 games. Starting off with a series-opening win against the second-best team in baseball was essential to getting the Pirates back on track.
The contributions started in the second when Kang singled and moved left fielder Starling Marte over to second. Two singles after that allowed Kang to move to third and score on an error by Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain. Ishikawa then doubled and drove in two runs, giving the Pirates a 4-1 lead.
Then in the fifth inning Kang doubled and scored on a two-run home run by Ishikawa, making the score 7-2. Although the Royals would score five runs total in the fifth and seventh innings to make the score 8-7 going into the eighth inning, Ishikawa lead off the top of the inning with a double. He would get thrown out at third after a bunt by third baseman Sean Rodriguez, but his double help set the tone for the inning as the Pirates scored two more runs.
For Ishikawa, it was his second consecutive start at first base and his third start overall (he started in left field on July 10) since his first game with the team on July 6. He previously had an RBI for the team on July 18, but it was his first home run since his walk-off, pennant-winning three-run home run against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS with the Giants.
He has seen action in every game he has been with the Pirates except one, either as a starter, a pinch hitter or a pinch hitter and then playing the field. “I don’t have a strategy. I couldn’t tell you why it worked tonight,” Ishikawa said, according to ESPN. “Tonight was just my night when the balls began to fall.”
Sean Rodriguez, who played third last night, had been the primary backup for first baseman Pedro Alvarez, starting 10 games at first coming into last night. However, Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer sprained his left MCL during Sunday’s game against the Brewers when center fielder Carlos Gomez slid into him at second. The injury means Kang, who had gotten the starting third base job after Josh Harrison went on the disabled list, will be the primary shortstop with Mercer out, and it means Rodriguez will split time at third base with infielder Brent Morel, who was called up from Triple-A. With Rodriguez at third it means Ishikawa might get more starts at first, and potentially the chance to keep hitting like he did Monday night.
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